QUAERITUR: Reception of Communion twice in one day, revisited.

From a reader:

The seminarians of ___ are assigned a parish for the summer (as most are, I presume). Sometimes the seminarians serve at more than two Masses. Can they receive Holy Communion more than twice?

No. Unless they are about to die, they may receive twice only during one day.

Not only can seminarians receive twice in one day, everyone who is Catholic and in the state of grace can receive twice in one day.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law says:

Can. 917 – Qui sanctissimam Eucharistiam iam recepit, potest eam iterum eadem die suscipere solummodo intra eucharisticam celebrationem cui participat, salvo praescripto Can. 921, § 2.

Someone who has already received the Most Holy Eucharist can receive it again (iterum) on the same day only within the Eucharistic celebration [i.e. Mass] in which the person participates, with due regard for the prescription of can. 921 § 2.

Can. 921 § 2 says that if a person is in danger of death, he may receive Communion even it is not in the context of Mass.  That is Viaticum.

That iterum does not mean “again and again”, but merely “again, one more time”.

Also, that “Eucharistic celebration” in the canon does not mean just any service involving Communion.  It means Mass. That was cleared up by the Holy See in an official response to a dubium.

So, say in the morning you attend a Novus Ordo Communion service wherein you receive Communion, or you went to a Mass in either Form.  Later in the day you stumble into a church where Mass about to be celebrated and decided to stay for it.  At that Mass you can receive Communion again (iterum).  This would be even if you were, say, visiting a Maronite Catholic Church, or a Ukrainian Catholic Church and their Divine Liturgy was about to get under way.

However, if you were at Holy Mass in the morning and then stumbled into a Communion service at a priest-less parish in the afternoon, you could NOT receive again because a Communion Service isn’t Mass.  If you were at Mass in the morning and then in the afternoon when you were visiting your auntie in the hospital when the chaplain came, you could not receive even if the priest invited you to do so (which in my opinion he should not).  However, if you stayed for another Mass immediately following, you would not be able to receive.

Canon 917 tries to walk the line between promoting frequent reception of the Eucharist and a superstitious or excessive frequency, which – I can assure you – some people fall into.

The key here is that the second time must be during a Mass, and you may not enter the Mass at some late point merely in order to receive.

And the issue of Viaticum, Communion for someone in danger of death, is a separate issue.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Phil says:

    I have thought about this recently too, as I am a seminarian assigned to a Parish with three Masses on Sunday. I receive at all three Masses, although I have seen this post by Fr. Z before. I suppose I justify it because priests are given permission to trinate, and they must receive at every Mass. This is an example of priests “profaning” the law and yet remaining guitless (Mt 12:5). Also, it might be the case that a seminarian not receiving might be cause for scandal if the faithful infer that there is some serious reason for his not receiving. Just some thoughts.

  2. pelerin says:

    Am I right in thinking that the ‘not’ in the last line of the 4th paragraph from the end should read ‘now?’ Otherwise it seems to be confusing.

  3. BLB Oregon says:

    My son asked me about this yesterday. He had served at the 8:30 Mass and then we stayed for the 10:30 Mass, which was the first Mass of a priest we know who was just ordained the day before.

    He asked me why the rule is what it is, and I said that I could guess, but I’d just be making it up. I only knew that this is what the rule currently is. So if Father knows the history of the question and could supply additional details about why this is, we’d be interested to hear what they are.

    To Phil: This is just me and I don’t have any authority over you, but I don’t think the fear of rash judgement is a compelling reason to ignore the rule instead of follow it. After all, you are just as likely to give scandal to someone who realizes that you receive three times in a day, showing that you either don’t know the rule or incorrectly think it doesn’t apply to seminarians like yourself.

    The priests need a serious reason to offer Mass (and receive) three times in a day, such as our serious shortage of priests. You’ll be in that serious situation soon enough, I’m afraid, but you’re not there quite yet.

  4. MJ says:

    To Phil: I too do not wish to tell you what to do, but I do believe you might want to re-think receiving three times in the same day. The rules do not allow it, unless you are in danger of death.

  5. NDPhys says:

    This question came up among some friends and I this past Lent. Some of them are members of the Eastern Rites, and like to share their traditions with us Latins. In many of the Eastern Rites, they do not celebrate the Divine Liturgy on weekdays, but instead have the Liturgy of the Presanctified. The Latin Canon doesn’t mention “Mass” specifically, but does say “Eucharistic celebration”. So, if a Catholic were to find himself at a Liturgy of the Presanctified after having already been to Mass that day, could he licitly receive the Blessed Sacrament in that context?

  6. I once had a priest tell me that if you receive Holy Communion twice in one day, the Eucharistic fast does not apply the second time. Is this true (barring reception as Viaticum)?

  7. Alice says:

    Seminarian Phil,
    I am an organist. When I got my first job, I was young (probably quite a bit younger than you are) and the pastor of my home parish took me aside and told me that, like a priest, I would spend so much time in House of God that I would be tempted to let that familiarity breed contempt. As an antidote, he told me to never, never, never let myself grow lax in my respect for the Most Blessed Sacrament. It seems that you may be having this problem already. Instead of humbly following the Laws of the Church that are meant to protect the Blessed Sacrament, you are breaking them because you find yourself in church so much.

    While the rash judgment of our fellow church goers is certainly annoying (and my cantor husband was occasionally asked why he didn’t receive Holy Communion at the last Mass of the day), please realize that by breaking the law, you scandalize those that notice. In the parish where I worked, that would have been me, the sacristan, our deacon candidate (and his wife and children), the cantors, and whoever else needed to go to Mass multiple times. Because our, for lack of a better word, ministries required that we be at Mass multiple times, we knew the law and it would have really bothered us to see someone on the road to Ordination who didn’t care enough to follow it.

  8. Lucia Maria says:


    When I was at a Mass a couple of Sundays ago, I received Holy Communion as per normal. But because of a disruption in the line, I happened to notice another person hiding their host in their hands as they walked away from the line (they had put the host in their mouth and then taken it out again). I watched this person go all the way to the back of the church, and appear to show her friends something in her hands. So I went to check, found that she did indeed have a host. The girl she had passed her host to happily gave it to me when I asked to take it – her hand was shaking as she did so. As I was walking away with the Lord, the only thing I could think to do with Him was to consume him myself.

    Did I do the right thing, as I basically received Holy Communion twice within the same Mass? [I believe you did the right thing. Thank you.]

  9. Fr. W says:

    We have people in my parish who go to two Masses a day, every day. They try to receive twice a day to ‘get the graces.’ I have been told that some very holy people have recommended this.

    I question this practice. I have even told people that they might consider – even if they have no mortal sins – if they are not living the gospel well on a given day, or had an argument, or were not so generous with the Lord – to consider NOT receiving that day. To choose only to receive Jesus Christ when one is really loving him. I always emphasis that this is my opinion.

    This Union-in-one-Flesh with Christ is not unlike couples giving themselves to each other in marital love. Does not over-use make it less meaningful? Is it wise to have marital love when love has not been lived well that day?

  10. Alice says:

    Fr. W,
    When I was a child, the priest told my family that we should only receive once per day unless we were at Mass for a different reason the second time. For instance, if we went to morning Mass and received Holy Communion, we should abstain if we went to Mass again in the afternoon, but if we went to First Saturday Mass and then to Mass in anticipation of Sunday, we could receive both times. I know that’s just this priest’s opinion, but it’s what I do.

  11. Elizabeth D says:

    On Sundays I attend an EF Mass at 7am (where I am in the Schola which sings twice a month) then go home and have breakfast before attending 10am Novus Ordo Mass at my own parish where I go to Mass every other day of the week. I have gotten into a pattern of receiving Communion at the EF Mass but not at the NO. I ask for advice about whether it might be better to receive twice (to the best of my knowledge I am in the state of grace, or “if I am not then may God put me in it” as St Joan of Arc said when interrogated whether she was). My reasons for not receiving Communion at the second Mass include not liking receiving from EMHCs (though my pastor allows me to go get in his line), having eaten breakfast (though that was usually an hour before Mass started), and a possibly misguided idea of wanting to give an example that one need not habitually receive Communion at every Mass, or a kind of solidarity with those who abstain for one of the various reasons why someone may not licitly receive. I try to make a spiritual Communion. But I do not feel perfectly confident about this choice, and I wonder if I am making Jesus sad, I don’t feel like I’ve sinned but I feel a little confused each time, I am not sure it is the right choice to receive in the parish that I don’t belong to but abstain in my own parish, and I am aware that sometimes others are confused by my abstaining (for instance they cue people row by row to come for Communion and when I ignore the usher they come and poke me and I feel like I have to give a reason… on the other hand partly my intention is to train the ushers not to do this to people since sometimes even someone they know has a reason not to go to Communion). I would appreciate if anyone else has suggestions about how to think about this, my heart wants to receive at both Masses.

  12. cwillia1 says:

    The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is a communion service and not a “mass.” We abstain from celebrating the eucharist on Lenten weekdays but not from receiving communion. The service is done mostly on Wednesdays and Fridays – which are days of more intense fast and abstinence and the traditional practice is to fast from noon. Communion in the presanctified gifts is “food for the jouney,” which we need during Lent whereas the character of the Divine Liturgy – a victory celebration – is considered to be incompatible with the asceticism of Lenten weekdays.

  13. cwillia1 says:

    Another thought. Unlike a communion service the Liturgy of the Presanctified is not a substitute for a mass. It is the liturgy of the church for certain days in Lent. It requires a priest. The more priests there are in a parish, the more likely the service will be done. I’ll leave it to others to figure out how Latin canon law should be applied in this case.

    But everyone should try to attend this service at least once.

  14. dans0622 says:

    Elizabeth D: It is entirely up to you and you should do as you wish. Further advice would have to come from a confessor/spiritual director. Either way, I don’t see how the Lord would be sad. Practically, I guess you should try to sit in a spot that doesn’t cause problems if you are remaining at your place at Communion time.

    cwillia1: There is no comparable law in the Eastern Code. I don’t know if any of the Eastern Churches has such a norm in their particular law. Anyway, for a Latin Catholic who had already received Communion and was attending this “Liturgy of the Presanctified,” I would say he could not receive. If I understand you, there is no consecration at this Liturgy; it would seem to me that if there is a consecration, it is a “Eucharistic celebration,” as meant by c. 917. Otherwise, it is not and a Latin Catholic can’t receive a second time at that Liturgy.

  15. Father G says:

    I was away on retreat so I am several days behind in responding but I wanted to put my two cents in regarding this topic.

    When I was a seminarian my canon law professor instructed us that if we were serving more than two Masses in one day, then we could still receive Holy Communion. I will have to check my class notes, but I believe one of the reasons for this was to avoid scandal from people wondering “why the seminarian didn’t receive Holy Communion at Mass”.

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