QUAERITUR: People who arrive at Mass really late and then go to Communion

From a reader:

During the Agnus Dei at Mass this morning, two unfamiliar teenage
girls and a man, who I suspect to be their father, entered our rather
small church and made their way to a pew.
I was saddened to see as I returned to my seat after receiving Holy
Communion that the aforesaid trio were presenting themselves to
recieve, and that even though our priest knew they’d arrived late, he
went ahead and distributed the Eucharist to them.

So my question is this: Should the priest have quietly explained to
them that they couldn’t receive as they reached the front of the
“queue,” or should he have distributed HC, and sought them out
immediately after Mass with a view to correcting them in private?

How do you see the laity’s role in all this?

There are several points here to consider.

Many people are poorly catechized. The don’t realize that they should not receive if they are not properly disposed. They are not receiving in a sense of defiance of the Church’s good order.

We have to balance our desire to pursue the perfect with a need in prudence to achieve slowly but surely what it possible, always with an eye on the restrictions of fraternal correction.

What is the role of the laity in this regard?

I would say pretty close to ZERO.

If a person is well-known, doing this often, and is a friend, then perhaps bring it up.  Otherwise, leave this sort of thing to the priest and the person involved.   We usually can’t make a good guess at the individual’s disposition to receive.  Normally, people complete their preparation for reception by their participation during Mass.  But, that isn’t always the only way.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Joshua08 says:

    Heck, it worries me that the person here assumes that they shouldn’t receive. Especially if it were a daily Mass…I remember once I left my home at my usual time. Normally I was there 30 minutes before Mass. This time traffic stopped me and I got there during communion. I went up and received. Indeed an older man came in right after and went to the priest after Mass and received outside of Mass following the rite for that.

    Even if it were a Sunday, there are multiple possibilities. One could be that they attended an earlier Mass but were unable to receive. I have also done that. Had severe hiccups during communion (random and unprovoked…neither drank nor ate anything prior that morning). Came in during the next Mass, gave myself time to pray and received communion.

    It could also be that they were traveling and though it important to attend Mass, but as travelers got there late. I have stopped at random Catholic Churches not knowing the times during travel, and was doing the best I could. Or again, maybe they were simply late from whatever reason and planned to attend another Mass later. Nothing prohibits them from communion at the earlier Mass.

    I have a friend who usually cannot make it to a daily Mass except for about 5 minutes before communion and 5 minutes after. They go for what they can

  2. pablo says:

    Most Catholics would be shocked to find the Priest comes out of the Sacristy, and goes back in after Mass.

    Shocked. Sometimes even horrified.

    They are the latecomers, and early leavers.

    People pretend they only have the narrowest of windows to attend Mass, but wait in line overnight for the latest computer garbage on sale, or to watch a new Harry Potter Movie.

    In my pre-everything catechism, we were taught you could receive as long as you got there before the sermon was over.

    And you could leave after the “Ite Missa Est”in your car driving away from all those sinners

    I recommend to those that are easily scandalized to look upon the cross on the altar and do not look to either side. When going and coming to communion, look down in recognition of the shame your stupidity should cause you, and don’t look up again until you are driving away from all those sinners.

    And watch out for people like me; I catch the bus, the light rail, then another bus, and finally walk to Mass.

    In the olden days, this was known as a penance.

    Leave the car at home and show some remorse for your sins.

    Deo gracias.


  3. rfox2 says:

    Fr Z: What is the role of the laity in this regard? I would say pretty close to ZERO.

    With all due respect, I have to disagree with this. It isn’t the responsibility of the laity to pastor those around us, in the sense that a priest is our pastor. However, it is a spiritual act of mercy to instruct the ignorant and to correct those who are in error. We all have that obligation, whether priest or laity.

    The more important concern that I have about this, though, is that this seems like a legalistic approach to this issue. Notwithstanding a person’s relative ignorance, we don’t attend Mass only to receive Holy Communion. We also go to make an act of worship, in the context of the Sacred Liturgy. We do this out of respect and love for God, and to receive actual graces, as well as to be instructed in the Faith, etc. The Mass isn’t simply a delivery mechanism for the reception of Holy Communion, as important and laudatory the reception of Holy Communion is. If one is properly disposed, and does receive Holy Communion, all the better because then they will also receive sanctifying grace. I’m not suggesting that we can see into the hearts of men, but if someone is treating Mass like McDonald’s, then I wouldn’t assume that they are also properly disposed and thus receiving sanctifying grace when they approach the altar for Holy Communion.

  4. nmoerbeek says:

    I find that the poor catechism normally is not for the people coming in an receiving communion without hearing mass, it is the people who are judging them for it.

    People should consider the following
    1) It is common to receive communion after having a confession heard (especially if you have been away from the sacraments)
    2) There are communion services (the priest at a local church does one daily at 6:20am for people who cannot stay for the 6:30 am mass)
    3) You do not have to hear mass before receiving holy viaticum.

    It is a sin to judge others interior disposition.

  5. Margaret says:

    if someone is treating Mass like McDonald’s

    –but how could a random stranger make that determination? As Joshua08 pointed out, there can be any number of reasons that have nothing to do with ill-will, casualness, etc. that can bring a person to Mass quite late. For all we know, these teens and dad had just spent a rough night in a hospital waiting room pending news of their critically injured mother, and took a brief respite to be with Our Lord. Barring some extreme case like a person walking away with Our Lord at communion instead of consuming, I don’t see it as our place to start “instructing” them.

  6. jesusthroughmary says:

    There is no requirement that a person actually attend a Mass in order to receive Communion at that Mass, unless it is the person’s second time receiving Communion in the same day. The writer seems to be confusing the rules for what constitutes the fulfillment of one’s obligation to attend Mass on the appointed days with the rules on when one may receive Holy Communion.

  7. Roger T says:

    It isn’t clear from the letter whether this happened during a weekday or Sunday Mass. Is it not permissible for a person who is properly disposed and with valid reason to receive the Eucharist at any time that is not unreasonable? Perhaps this was the time they had available and were in spiritual need of God’s grace. While Communion in this manner would not fulfill our Sunday or Holy Day obligation to attend Mass, could it be that there is no real problem here?

  8. asperges says:

    This is in danger of becoming rash judgment and quite different from a known situation. These people might have been travelling with the sole desire to receive Communion, but were delayed or have some other perfectly valid excuse. Unless it was a Sunday, they are not obliged to attend the whole Mass. There is no reason on the face of it why the priest should have refused them Communion. (Had he been celebrating ad orientem he wouldn’t have seen them anyway.)

  9. Hmmm. Careful here. Before anybody admonishes anybody, makes sure your know the rules. Participation in the liturgy, as a requirement for reception of holy Communion, impacts the faithful ONLY on a second, and certainly a third, reception oft he Sacrament on the same day. See Canon 917, et auctores probati.

  10. Nathan says:

    I have really struggled to combat the temptation to become a “liturgy critic” at Holy Mass, especially a habit of watching others receive Holy Communion with a tacit desire to find fault. How I have offended Our Blessed Lord by doing so!

    I’m not sure it applies in this situation, but I have tried to make reparation and prevent relapses into this sin by a few measures:
    1) Sit at the front of the church so I can’t see people coming in late;
    2) Make an effort to keep my eyes on the Divine action occuring on the Altar, often times by watching at the EF (visual cues) and by closing my eyes at the Novus Ordo (oral cues);
    3) Unite myself spiritually with all those in the church, and try to emulate the silent, unknown saints that are in my midst;
    4) During the Offertory and especially the Canon, create a mental Ikonostasis with Christ offering Himself and the saints in heaven in attendance;
    5) Close my eyes and look at Our Lord’s Eucharistic Face after receiving Holy Communion, trying hard not to open them until the Postcommunion prayer.

    The method has been helpful, and has also been a way for God to let me know how little I need to be and how far I have to go to get there.

    In Christ,

  11. Supertradmum says:

    I was taught a long time ago that if one was not present for the beginning of the Mass of the Faithful, now called the Liturgy of the Eucharist, one should not receive Communion. In other words, if one comes in just before that part of the Mass, one can receive Communion. The dear nuns taught me this as part of Holy Communion preparation, dare I say it, in 1957. If this guideline has changed, I would like to know. My parents always told us children the same thing–if we missed the Gospel, but came in immediately afterwards, we were OK to receive.

    This has been my rule, and I know others in my generation, from other states and dioceses, were taught the same thing, as I have had discussions with people on this point.

    I think the laity can help people understand why such a guideline would be important only if a person does this regularly. There are sometimes circumstances, such as traffic, or one of the kids not finding his socks, which would and could cause someone to be late once in awhile. A habit of such lateness indicates a lack of understanding. Some of the priests in my old diocese, because of the number of immigrants who were coming in late, did address the problem when many people complained of the disruption to the Masses. I do not mean to stereotype, but in some countries, coming late is not considered a problem at all, but is also a need for catechesis.

    Also, late may mean many things to many people. My dad always taught us to come early by getting us to Church at least 15 minutes beforehand to pray. He and Mom still do that and they are in their 80s. Maybe good example is all we need.

  12. Imrahil says:

    It is perfectly possible to enter the Church the very moment Communion service begins and receive Holy Communion. Negative point, this way at least one fulfils no Sunday obligation. But you could do it even on a Sunday, if you are sure enough still to fulfil the obligation, i. e. in a later Mass.

    It is grave sins that oblige us to stay away from Holy Communion. Arriving late for a Mass which you are not even obliged to assist at is no sin at all.

    I beg the reader not to impose rules of perfection, honorable though they may be, on others. When it comes to judging others, if allowed at all, a “legalistic approach” from an antirigorist perspective (as called by dear @rfox2) is the utmost we should do. It is not without significance that the founder of present-day moral theology had been a defense attorney before becoming a priest.

  13. Joshua08 says:

    With due respect to those nuns in 1957, they were wrong.

    For one thing, there has never been an official guideline about how late you can be to Mass and still fulfill your obligation. The obligation is for the whole of Mass of course, and so to willfully without any good reason to miss any part is sinful, at least venially.

    Prümmer, OP suggests that missing anything before the offetory, without cause, is a venial sin and one is held under a light obligation to attend another Mass up until the point missed. A light inconvenience excuses. To miss anything beyond that point but before the Consecration (which is the essential act of the Mass) is a grave sin without cause. One is bound under grave obligation to supply the missed parts by attending another Mass up to the part missed, with only a grave inconvenience excusing. To miss even the consecration means the obligation is simply unfulfilled and one must attend another Mass entire if one is able. This has made sense to me, but again this is a moral theologian citing other moral theologians and not a rule established by the Vatican. Now the copy of Prümmer I have is from the 1950’s. He also clearly states that you can receive communion without attending the whole Mass, and this is also implied from only having to supplement the Mass up until the point missed by attending another Mass. And of course that only applies to days of obligation!

    Now, it is still a further difference in that what is required to have attended Mass and what is required to receive communion are different things. I referenced a priest giving communion to a man after Mass who had arrived at the Mass after communion just finished. Now he didn’t manage to attend Mass, but it wasn’t his fault. It was also the last Mass of the day. He explained to father what happened and he gave him communion. And this priest, mind you, is notoriously strict and traditional…heck I don’t think he has ever even said the new rite of Mass (he has attend in choro at the cathedral). But he had no issue giving communion.

  14. albinus1 says:

    However, it is a spiritual act of mercy to instruct the ignorant and to correct those who are in error. We all have that obligation, whether priest or laity.

    It can also be a spiritual act of mercy to mind one’s own business when one doesn’t know the people or the circumstances involved.

    This reminds me of the thread about lay people taking it upon themselves to “correct” newcomers at the TLM for wearing the “wrong” colored chapel veil, making audible responses, etc. Of course receiving Holy Communion when not properly disposed is a far more serious matter, but if one doesn’t know the individuals or their circumstances, I think one should butt out.

    I was taught a long time ago that if one was not present for the beginning of the Mass of the Faithful, now called the Liturgy of the Eucharist, one should not receive Communion./i>

    I was taught a long time ago that in order to fulfill one’s Mass obligation, one had to be present for a) Offertory, b) Consecration, and c) (priest’s) Communion. (And that this had nothing to do with whether or not one should or should not receive Communion, which was a separate issue). For a long time I interpreted that as license to come late and skip the whole first part of Mass if I wanted to, with a clear conscience. Then it occurred to me that perhaps that was a very legalistic and self-serving way of looking at things, and probably not a good idea.

    I suspect that a great many of us were taught things by our parents, and even by the good Sisters, that are little more than old wives’ tales with no basis in actual Church policy.

  15. Imrahil says:

    Just for clarification, you are here discussing the Sunday. Of course you can do that, but let there be no intermixtion.

    An addition to my previous comment: There were legitimately Communion Services where one could communicate without hearing Mass. If this was legitimate, the people can also receive Holy Communion at Mass, this being the opportunity where Holy Communion is distributed, while not (strictly speaking) participating in the Holy Mass itself.

  16. albinus1 says:

    Ugh. Sorry about that. Evidently I was careless with the close-italics command.

  17. Mundabor says:

    I’d have thought that if I arrive very late at Mass that can’t be considered fulfilling of the mass obligation, and that the impossibility of taking communion is then a matter of just not having been to Mass. Unless I am wrong and one is allowed to take communion, say, in the morning and fulfill his mass obligation, say, in the afternoon.

    Personally, I give myself a maximum of 5 minutes over a mass which goes on for 80 minutes. If traffic etc. cause me to show up six minutes late, it’s the next mass. It doesn’t have to be 5 minutes of course; but at one point one must, methinks, draw a line.


  18. Allan S. says:

    As someone who has himself been reproached by zealous self-appointed members of the Church Police, I would caution the writer to reflect on how unwelcome any intervention would make the new family feel. I myself felt most unwelcome when I was reproached in the pews on a first visit to an EF mass with my son. It left me with the feeling that I was a trespasser at a private, members only function.

    I agree with Father Z ‘s advice except for the “pretty close” part. If the writer is really put out by the late arrival of this new family, he or she should just offer it up – and button up!

  19. DFWShook says:

    I always remember what Sister Jude taught us in first grade that the Mass is like a birthday party:
    1. You don’t arrive at a birthday party late;
    2. You don’t arrive at a birthday party without a gift;
    3. You don’t arrive at a birthday party right before the cake is served; and
    4. You don’t leave a birthday party as soon as you have eaten your cake.

  20. greg the beachcomber says:

    The strolling in late thing has always bothered me, too. I’m thinking if we installed a timeclock in the vestibule and made everyone clock in, and required them to show their timecard to the priest before receiving Communion, we could sort this right out. And if we distributed Communion according to your timecard, it could eliminate that pew-by-pew thing that bugs some people. Maybe you’d have to fork over your keys to clock in, and the time clock wouldn’t be accessible until after the choir finished the recessional hymn, and we could take care of people leaving early, too. Throw in an Extraordinary Minister of Punctuality and Decorum to man, I mean, person the time clock, and make it so they only hand out time cards to people they think are dressed appropriately. Hey, I just fixed four problems with one solution!

  21. DFWShook says:

    Of course these are rules that I live by and certainly don’t expect anyone to follow. I share this advice only when the topic of “How late can I arrive to Mass and still recieve Communion” comes up.

  22. “I was taught a long time ago that if one was not present for the beginning of the Mass of the Faithful, now called the Liturgy of the Eucharist, one should not receive Communion.”

    As I recall, this was universal teaching in pre-Vatican days. Although perhaps the alleged requirement was to arrive before the end of the Gospel. (Actually, being there to hear the Epistle and Gospel may not have been considered as important as being there for the offertory rite.)

    However, I suspect this universal teaching by good nuns (and others) everywhere may have been based on the assumptions that (1) they were talking about the obligatory Sunday Mass, (2) if you weren’t there in time for it to “count”, then that was a mortal sin, (3) which would then preclude the reception of communion, assuming that confessions stopped after the Gospel, so you then had no chance to be shriven before communion time. Some people may have heard of the possibility of making up the missed part, and the firm intent to do that–perhaps at early Mass the following Monday morning–might have ameliorated the sin, but people in those days did not mess around with vague assumptions or understandings; if upon examination of conscience you didn’t feel sure of your state of grace, then you stayed away from the communion rail.

  23. Supertradmum says:

    I do not think the nuns and parents were wrong. cf Henry Edwards. This was, as I noted, known to many of my peers, and we can remember this being taught in several States, even by different orders. So, my thinking is that it was a Church guideline, promulgated somewhere and should be done again.

  24. SimonDodd says:

    We are required to attend Mass every Sunday. We are required to receive communion at least once every year. We aren’t obliged to receive at every Mass, and that juxtaposition suggests to me that we might think twice before receiving. When one takes into account 1st Corinthians 11:29, it strikes me that the best advice is “when in doubt, keep your pew!” Better to skip communion for a Mass or two than to receive unworthily.

  25. jesusthroughmary says:

    Again, we’re not talking fulfilling an obligation to attend Mass. We don’t even know if the original question was referring to a day of obligation or not. We’re talking about receiving communion. There is no law that states one must attend a Mass in order to receive Communion at that Mass, unless one has already received Communion earlier in the same day.

  26. Imrahil says:

    Dear @SimonDodd,

    yes, when in doubt. Arriving late on a weekday is no case of doubt. Besides, being unable to communicate is painful enough that you do not want to doubt more than neccessary – and I mean not the looks of others, who happen to be quite understanding, but the feeling within oneself. Which doesn’t take away the need of moral certainty of not having sinned gravely.

  27. Supertradmum says:

    From an EWTN link on a Zenit note, this comment:”… there are some objective elements to be taken into account besides the reason for lateness. Someone who arrives after the consecration has not attended Mass, no matter what the reason for his belatedness. Such a person should not receive Communion, and if it is a Sunday, has the obligation to attend another Mass.”


  28. Folks, doesn’t anyone read earlier combox posts on topic? Or is the combox just a place to put one’s reactions (however ill-informed) to the original article? I thought it was more like a conversation, in which what was said earlier should influence what was said later. My mistake, I guess…. :(

    ps: I used to respond to inaccuracies I found in ZENIT’s liturgy Q-A, but there got to be too many for me to keep up with anymore. The opinion supertradmum links to above is one more example of a muffed answer therein. Sigh.

  29. SimonDodd says:

    Dr. Peters, canon 917 may allow it by implication, but my conscience would not—and canon law, wise and erudite canonist has pointed out, “is not the only source of rights and obligations in the Christian life.”

    Imrahil, trust me when I say that you don’t need to tell a convert that remaining at one’s kneeler while everyone else goes to receive communion is painful. ;)

  30. Supertradmum says:

    Dr. Peters,

    Can you share a respectable guideline on this subject? I would find it hard to believe Holy Mother Church does not have a specific rule on Church attendance and time of arrival. If one has not met one’s obligation, one should not receive Communion. Or, if one wants to receive after coming late, one would have to go to Mass again to fulfill the obligation. I would like to see something similar to the old rules, which were clear and followed, as Henry Edwards noted and I remembered and still abide by out of courtesy to Our Lord.

  31. Joshua08 says:

    You might find it hard to believe, but there isn’t a firm guideline. I have read Tanquery, Jone, Prümmer—all very popular and influential manualists from before Vatican II. The only points of absolute consensus are 1) the obligation is for the whole Mass 2) if you miss the consecration, you have missed Mass altogether. The division Prümmer has is well argued in my opinion, but there isn’t a consensus…his teaching that, as long as you arrive before the Consecration, you should supplement the Mass by attending another one up until the point you missed isn’t found everywhere. People have been told different things by nuns after all…you say Gospel, my father says offertory, my grandmother says the Gradual/alleluia. And all this merely addresses what is necessary for the Sunday obligation. cf Manuale Theologiae Moralis, Dominicus Prümmer, Herder 1958 pages 390-397 (NB some of it out of date as far as canonical requirements go)

    Now where you will find universal consensus is what is necessary to receive communion

    1. You cannot be excommunicated or under interdict
    2. You must be free from mortal sin- though note there are circumstances where one can strive to make an act of perfect contrition and receive the Eucharist, intending to confess later
    3. Proper dispositions which are

    a) Becoming dress…one cannot present themselves dressed immodestly (NB there was a decree, perhaps no longer in effect, in the 1930’s saying that those immodestly dressed should be denied communion and if grave enough barred entry into the Church). At least as Prümmer explains it, this isn’t an extremely high standard…
    b) Uncleanliness of body (I will spare details here, and it seems some of the details are linked to liturgical laws that may no longer be operative)
    c) Fasting, in according with the law of the Church—excepting viaticum, avoiding scandal, avoiding profantion etc which excuse from fasting
    Prümmer, volume 3, pgs 141-147

    Now unless you wish to argue that by arriving late they mortally sinned, I see nothing here that prohibits communion. Of course, the very practice of communion outside of Mass argues on their behalf as well. Tell me, if a working man can catch only part of a daily Mass, say from the consecration through communion, should he give up being a daily communicant? Why impose restrictions that the Church does not?

    The burden of proof is on those who say they cannot receive communion. And quoting anecdotal experiences from nuns does not come anywhere near showing that. I am open to correction. You know the Acts of the Holy See are online now.

  32. jmgazzoli says:

    The Sunday obligation question is, I believe, a red herring. The question at hand is whether one can receive Holy Communion during Mass without attending said Mass. Canon law, as Dr. Peters has pointed out, is quite clear that one can verily receive Holy Communion, provided he has not received earlier that day.

  33. Ralph says:

    Re: laity responsibility close to zero

    I must agree with you Father. I have an example in my own life that shames me to repeat. Several years ago there was an elderly woman who would come in fairly close to the time of the Eucharistic Prayer and exit as soon as she received. I was rather annoyed. I never actually mentioned it to our Pastor, but I truly harbored unkind thoughts about the lady. I’m sure I gave her a dirty look. And I am also certin I wan’t the only one to do so.

    Then one day our Pastor and I had a conversation about making our parish more accessable to the elderly and handicapped. (We were building a ramp and opening up the entrance to the restrooms to accomidate a wheel chair.) Father mentioned that not all disabilities are physical. Some struggle with mental issues that make it hard to get to mass. For example, he said, he was working with a very nice elderly woman who had severe social anxiety. She could barely get out of her home. But she would come to mass, so long as she only physically had to be “in the crowd” for a few moments. For the rest of the mass she followed along in a place of solotude (and mental safety too I suppose).

    After Father told me this I was very ashamed. This woman was truly making a sacrafice to come to mass, even if she could only bare it for a short time. It was wrong of me to judge her. I assumed she was cavalier. She was actually in misery.

    It is for this reason that I agree with you, Father. We in the laity don’t always know the entire story. Perhaps this family has a story similar to the elderly woman in mine? We will never know, but we must trust that our priests are doing the best they can and are making the best decisions with the information they are privlidged to know.

  34. Imrahil says:

    Dear @SimonDodd,

    two points: your conscience, as such, is supposed to judge exactly one person, which is – guess what – yourself.

    And the task of well-teaching one’s own conscience can include finding out something you used to think an obligation which really is none. Needless to say, that’s generally quite a refreshing thought when it occurs.

  35. HyacinthClare says:

    Maybe ten years ago, I missed mass because my “replacement” in adoration didn’t come, and I was very happy to “cover” for her and stay an extra hour. I went up to the priest after mass, explained the situation, and asked if I could receive. I was told under NO CIRCUMSTANCES. If I hadn’t attended mass, I didn’t get the Lord. That priest has gone on to leave the priesthood, but he certainly made an impression that day.

  36. HyacinthClare says:

    UH… conscience pangs. I do not KNOW he has left the priesthood. I heard he had. Might very well be untrue.

  37. SimonDood, what Imrahil said.

    Everybody, the Mass attendance obligation, and the Communion receptions rules, are two entirely different things.

    Supertradmum: read cc. 844, 912, 915-919, and see if, (a) I left out any relevant canon, and (b) there is anything like a canonical requirement to attend the Mass at which one’s first reception of the day is to occur.

    HyacinthClare, no matter, if the priest who told you that had instead gone on to be a great cardinal, he’d still have been wrong.

  38. Mike says:

    Hmm. Once, at daily Mass at our school, I didn’t receive as I broke the fast by having coffee with my wife. Later, mentioning this to our chaplain, he said, well, you can receive now. We went down to the Tabernacle, he with surplice and stole, said the Pater Noster and some other prayers, and I received.

    As well, I have recently read on Canonlawonline that if one is late, but OTHERWISE able to receive, one may receive.

  39. Random Friar says:

    There is a time and place for the babushkas. This is probably not one of them. If this starts to get out of hand, then perhaps a call to try to get to Mass on time from the ambo. My 2 cents’ worth.

  40. “laity responsibility close to zero”

    Unless the one supposedly needing correction is a priest. Right?

  41. Tom T says:

    How indeed fortunate we are to have a well known and respected canonist amongst us commenting, and from a great Seminary. Dr. Peters I enjoy reading your blogs and generally agree with most of your opinions, particularly, the one about public reception of Holy Communion when the question came up about the New York Governor. Pax

  42. Ashes says:

    I would like to make a comment to help anyone who is tempted to judge other people’s lateness and other behavioral issues at Mass, a temptation I myself have succumbed to on various occasions and which I repent of.

    Allow me to present you with a scenario. I often arrive late at weekday Mass. I sometimes wear heavily soiled and/or ripped clothes. I sometimes struggle to concentrate fully and maintain a good posture when sitting and kneeling. To make matters worse I am often accompanied by other young men who are dressed even more shabbily than myself. They frankly smell quite badly much of the time. These chaps often behave like children during Holy Mass and have to be gently corrected and encouraged. To top things off they mess up the responses and take great delight in not only shaking hands with their neighbours at the sign of peace but of hugging anyone who is willing to embrace the poor Christ in their midst.

    It would be easy to judge us as lazy, disrespectful and lacking in reverence. Worse still going by some of the comments expressed some would prefer that we be barred from communion with our Lord, Master and Saviour due to our late entry to Mass.

    However the truth of the matter is that I am often in a bedraggled state because I have been working hard in my family construction business and have not had chance to wash before the only Mass of the day that I can get too. I am late because of driving 30-45 minutes to Mass often through heavy traffic. I am also sometimes late because those other guys I talked about need tracking down and picking up and have very little sense of time. They smell and are scruffy because they are either homeless or have a history of homelessness and poverty. They do not know how to behave because they have never had a father to teach them (until they come “home” to the Church that is!). They delight in the sign of peace because they crave the human contact and love which they are starved of in their lives.

    Now make no mistake about it come the Saturday Vigil and Sunday Morning we all love to spruce ourselves up to the best of our ability and get to Mass in plenty of time ready for the big celebration with our church family and with God, the highlight of the week! However next time we are tempted to judge someone who is late for Mass or who breaks some other law of righteousness we have constructed in our sinful minds we should all consider what sacrifices that person may have made just to get to Mass. What agonies they may have endured in their lives that cause their behavior to seem a little odd. And most importantly, infinitely more importantly, rather than judging others worthiness to receive we should gasp in humble awe and wonderment when we consider the divine delight of the heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ as he welcomes a poor soul to Communion with himself.

    God bless you all!

  43. Miriam says:

    I go to daily Mass and this week I was late to one. I almost didn’t go because it was so late and I figured I would not be in time for the consecration. But I was in time and I did receive and was grateful to have the opportunity.

    I certainly am glad that some of the posters here aren’t part of the daily crowd at my parish.

  44. David2 says:

    With all due respect to the “Magisterium of Nuns” (1957 version), one doesn’t need to communicate at every Mass, and one doesn’t need to attend Mass to communicate.

    It puzzles me that some here would reflexively assume that (a) attendance at Mass is a necessary pre-condition for Communion (as Dr Peters points out, that is only the case when one is communicating for the second time in a day) and that (b) a person arriving late at Mass is necessarily poorly disposed to receive.

    The question of fulfilment of one’s Sunday Obligation is a different issue entirely, and in the context of this discussion, a red herring.

  45. SimonDodd says:

    Imrahil says:
    Dear @SimonDodd, two points: your conscience, as such, is supposed to judge exactly one person, which is – guess what – yourself.”

    I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, Imrahil, and the same goes for you, Dr. Peters, to the extent you endorsed Imrahil’s comment. To read your reply, one might think that I suggested that people who arrive late shouldn’t be allowed to receive, but I said absolutely no such thing. I said that no one is obliged to receive at every Mass (which is canonically true); that receiving unworthily is bad (which is biblically true); that it’s therefore better not to receive if you have doubts about whether you should receive (which seems like a fairly obvious conclusion given the two previous truths; obviously that goes a fortiori if you’re sure that you aren’t, which makes your 15:25 comment even more bizarre); and that as a matter of conscience, I personally wouldn’t receive if I arrived significantly late. Now: Did I implicitly commend that as a standard for others to consider? Sure. But I in no way implied support for any kind of rule to that effect, any kind of intent or desire to bind anyone else to my conscience in the matter. Every inch of the mile after mile between what I said and what you seem to have inferred is, well, your mileage.

  46. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Ashes, I would love to sit next to you and your noisy smelly friends. In the front row of course. That’s where I sit so I can see and hear everything and read lips if I have to.

    I know people who listen to the Mass in the narthex on the speaker because they are afraid. I don’t know if they get to take Communion. I hope they do.

    Maybe part of the problem today is with these gigantic parishes where nobody knows anybody else.

  47. Inaestimabile Donum
    Instruction Concerning Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery
    Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship

    Approved and Confirmed by His Holiness Pope John Paul II April 17, 1980

    a) The Mass
    1. “The two parts which in a sense go to make up the Mass, namely the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist Liturgy, are so closely connected that they form but one single act of worship.”(10) A person should not approach the table of the Bread of the Lord without having first been at the table of His Word.(11) Sacred Scripture is therefore of the highest importance in the celebration of Mass.

  48. Jennyfire says:

    I guess we can all agree not to judge others at Mass. We really don’t know a person’s heart or what’s going on. For example, we moved a couple months ago and between juggling my little ones and trying to judge how much time I needed to give myself for travel from our new home, I was late to our EF Mass about four times in a row. I didn’t arrive until the homily each time. I was really annoyed with myself because I’m not usually a late person and it kept on happening, it wasn’t just a one time occurrence. Ugh, I think with each baby one has, you need to give yourself an extra ten minutes or something. Anyway, let’s close our eyes at Mass more, shall we? My husband sometimes asks me if I saw this or that at Mass or if I saw this person at Mass and when I say sorry no, he says he’s not surprised since I usually have my eyes closed. Well, at the OF anyway. I still need to pay closer attention at the TLM, still learning it. I know it can be so hard. I’m at a point where I just want to yell at the next woman I see scantily clad, wherever that may be, in church or in the street, I’m just so sick of it, it’s not part of my world and I don’t get it. Let’s just close our eyes at Mass and listen to the prayers if we are tempted to pay too much attention to those around us. And who isn’t ever? God bless.

  49. catholicmidwest says:

    I agree with Fr. Z. I’m not sure it’s anybody’s business what the personal spiritual ramifications of people walking in late are. Most people have all they can do to keep their “own noses clean,” to use an old by perfectly applicable phrase.

    There is one thing that matters more though, and isn’t getting a lot of attention here. When a person walks in late, it distracts people. Most people, when they come in late have enough sense to be quiet and go to the back, but not everyone does. This is a practical matter and probably does matter when people are careless or noisy about it.

  50. TKS says:

    I am amazed by people who come to daily Mass late – and since I’ve been there, I know they’ve been doing it for many, many years. They all have cars and big bucks and live not far. But I really laugh when they manage to be early when they are EMHCs. Tells me they are very capable of being on time.

  51. Supertradmum says:

    It seems to be that the letter of the law here is lax as to the needed preparation and spiritual attention of any of us attending Mass. The earlier stipulations helped one focus on the Mass, and specifically, the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Lateness for a Sunday Mass obviously should be a rare thing, and may demand that the person finds another Mass to meet the obligation, which does not seem to be set in a clear way for all to follow. Unless one is in a rural area, I am sure there are multiple Sunday Masses for choice and Sunday obligation.

    As to Daily Mass, I would not think the guidelines, if there were some, should be different. To go just for Communion seems to me not a good preparation for reception. I would also like to comment that pre-Vatican II rules were not Magisterium of Nuns, a rude phrase, but seemingly a nationwide guideline, as I tried to point out. It seems that the change to the NO also caused a lack of reverence regarding the approaching of one for the reception of the Eucharist. I would go back to the birthday party analogy. Who are we to receive Christ is a rushed and scattered manner? In fact, if we look further into this, the reception of sanctifying grace is totally dependent of the interior disposition of the receiver. If one is merely coming in and receiving Communion, without the proper disposition, the ability to receive grace is diminished. Receiving Our Lord is not a magical event, but one of great solemnity and perspective.

  52. Banjo pickin girl says:

    “It seems that the change to the NO also caused a lack of reverence regarding the approaching of one for the reception of the Eucharist.”

    This implies that the Ordinary Form of the Mass causes sin. The H word here.

  53. Banjo pickin girl says:

    TKS, maybe they are late at daily Mass because they have people to take care of, employees, etc. hence the “big bucks.” Isn’t this entire post all about judging people by their appearances? I know traditionalists scoff at the phrase what would Jesus do but really, what would Jesus do?

  54. Supertradmum says:

    There can be no doubt that the lack of reverence in Church, such as latecomers, people moving around at the outside Masses, talking, etc, came about after the Latin Mass was replaced by the NO. That is simply the Truth about the different attitudes people take to the Mass, as proof of TLM attenders not talking, not coming in late, etc. There is a substantial difference in the cultures surrounding the Masses. I am sorry if people are offended by this, but this fact is demonstrable, in addition to causing the type of confusion about when a person should find another Mass when late, or even receive Communion. I would never judge a late person, but actually have found other Masses if this has ever happened to me, as this morning, for example, walking another mile or so rather than go in at Communion and just receive. But, of course, there was another Mass within that mile of walking distance.

  55. chonak says:

    Sometimes choir members do not receive the Sacrament at a Mass at which they sing and at which they fulfill the Sunday obligation. They might well approach Holy Communion at some other Mass on the same day, even without attending that entire Mass.

  56. David2 says:

    There is, however, no sin in simply receiving, if one were to arrive at Church simultaneously with the Communion Rite at Mass.

    Unlike protestants, we believe in transubstantiation, and that the Blessed Sacrament remains the Blessed Sacrament for as long as the incidents remain. Not for us this notion that gathering around the “table” for the “banquet” or “Supper” is what the Eucharist is all about. Hence the Blessed Sacrament may be worthily and fruitfully received in or outside of Mass.

    Attendance at Mass is not a pre-condition to reception, unless one has already received that day, and even then Viaticum constitutes a further exception to that. Those laws exist to prevent superstitious multiple-Communions, not to safeguard reverence.

    I don’t think that there is anything new in that.

    Proper disposition in this case is (perhaps analogously to “active participation”) a matter of interior disposition, not “external busy-ness” at Mass. Notorious public sinners aside, we have no way of assessing anyone’s devotion or disposition to receive. So we shouldn’t.

  57. florin says:

    Catholic politicians who support and advocate for abortion here and in other countries are permitted to receive the Eucharist so arriving late at Mass seems so inconsequential compared to publicly advancing the abortion agenda. Some Catholic politicians receive huge sums of money of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. And yet, they are considered Catholics in good standing and are thereby permitted to receive the Eucharist. There are many reasons why a person or a family may arrive late for Mass. There is no reason for Catholic politicians to advance the abortion agenda which is the termination of human life.

  58. Joshua08 says:

    “I would also like to comment that pre-Vatican II rules were not Magisterium of Nuns, a rude phrase, but seemingly a nationwide guideline, as I tried to point out.”

    Nope, there wasn’t one. All there was was you quoting some nuns. I can do that for different results! Gratis assertitur, gratis negatur…what is asserted freely, may be denied freely.

    But I will be fairer than that. National guideline? I look in vain in any of the 3 Plenary Councils of Baltimore. I do find, for instance, a latae sententiae excommunication for Catholics who divorce and attempt remarriage (this was lifted in 1977) and all sorts of things that aren’t in universal law, but nothing about this. Oh, the 2nd Plenary Councils says that one does not need permission of his confessor to communicate. That is good.

    One should prepare themselves and offer thanksgiving. That point is valid enough. How much is enough? 5 minutes? 10 minutes? 15 minutes? How about 14.5?

    Listen, the Church herself gives communion outside of Mass, with minimal ritual (in the Old Rite we have the Confiteor, the Ecce agnus Dei and Domine non sum dignus…in fact all three of these were not original in the Mass, but were added from the rite outside of Mass). There are a few extra prayers in the new. It is not essential that one participate at Mass to be properly disposed. This should suffice also for the person misrepresenting “Inaestimabile Donum” above, which is talking about the unity of the Mass.

  59. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of charity in many comments.

    What if they were on vacation and were not precisely sure where the church was? What if they had a flat tire along the way and were unavoidably delayed, but determined to come anyway? Mom was missing, they could have just left her bedside at the hospital. Maybe she died recently and this is their first time back since the funeral. There might have been all sorts of family discord but the dad finally got his daughters to attend Mass (I know, there could be a serious disposition issue on this possibility). What if…

    The point is, we don’t know from the story.

  60. jesusthroughmary says:

    @ George – The point is actually that it doesn’t matter, because there is no law from which exceptions may need to be made, in charity or otherwise. A person is perfectly entitled to simply walk into a Mass at Communion time and receive. It is up to that person to know whether he is properly disposed to receive, but having attended or not attended the Mass in no way impacts the person’s disposition to receive. I don’t know why we’re still going around in circles about this.

  61. Gwen says:

    Why do people assume that someone who walks into Mass late is not properly disposed? How can we assume anything about anybody’s disposition?

    Last summer, I was on a long road trip across the Western U.S. I planned my trip to attend daily Mass, as I do at home. I left home at 4:00 a.m. (Thursday) so that I could make it to a 7:00 a.m. daily Mass at a rural parish about 2 hours and 30 minutes east of home. I had called the parish the day prior to confirm (usually mass times.org isn’t so good for daily Mass schedules) times. I arrived at 6:30 a.m., checked the sign on the front of the church (which confirmed a 7:00 Mass). I went into the open church to pray the Rosary and prepare for Mass. 7:00 came and went, no priest, no sacristan, no Mass. At 7:20, I realized that I would have to either miss Mass that day or travel about 3 hours out of my way. Saddened, I left the church. I saw an iron gate next to the church was open and went through, thinking that I might find a restroom. What do I see but people moving about in a room in a temporary building. I went closer, and yes, it was the priest preparing to distribute communion to four daily Mass-goers. I felt more than prepared, so I received. After Mass, I advised the sacristan that it might be a good thing to put a sign on the church if Mass was to be held in a place other than the church.

    The four congregants were overjoyed to see someone who had come to visit their tiny church, well off the beaten path. I’m glad that many of the commenters on this blog weren’t there, as I’m sure I would have been on the receiving end of many ugly glares.

    Please don’t ever assume that you know what is the state of someone else’s soul, or how well they are disposed to receive our Lord. I personally find that my hands are full figuring out my own disposition, without the task of discerning the disposition of others.

  62. I’ve long thought that much (not all, but much) of what appears to be “uncharity” in comboxes is actually blustering frustration at some much errant nonsense being expressed on what happens to be a religious topic. So much substitution of feelings for fact, of sentiment for law, and so on. It causes some folks to erupt at the shallowness of the thoughts expressed and not at the expressor of the opinions (as would be required for the act to violate charity). But it’s not easy to tell the difference sometimes, I grant. Anyway, I’ve cited the rules that answer this question, completely. If folks still disagree, their complaint is for a higher office than the one I occupy.

  63. Hello All! I wouldn’t comment on this string….except for the mention of the roll for laity.

    We have a problem with gum chewers at our Cathedral. I know a woman who has gotten into a genuine confrontation for correcting a man twice her size about him munching on gum during Mass. Sometimes the gum chewers saunter up for Holy Communion! Shouldn’t laity do something?

  64. Imrahil says:

    Dear @SimonDodd,

    if you say: “It is better to hear the whole of Mass as amongst other things preparation for Holy Communion”, then we all agree.

    If you proceed: “For this reason, I personally follow the practice never to communicate after being late, so that I have motivation to be early, and because after all we don’t have to, and then I experience more fruitful Communions when I do approach”, you’re (in my view) on a safe path, but, as seen, on a personal-decision level.

    If you however say: “Because even a doubt about one’s worthiness for Communion hinders us to communicate, I do not when I’m late”, then even if you have no intention to bind others to your decision, you do so (which itself is no blame; conscience always does, at least implicitly, when arriving to moral conclusions) by implying that being late is, possibly at least, unworthiness. Which is not the case.

  65. rfox2 says:

    In response to the stupefaction directed at comments regarding whether or not one ought to “judge” someone else, we should realize that the admonitions that Jesus gave about judging do not restrict us from making moral judgments. In fact, we make them automatically based on our knowledge and disposition. It’s up to us to make sure that we’re as well informed as possible before making those judgments, but we will make them. The combox thread on this topic proves that.

    The point I was trying to make was not that we should fly off the handle or have an apoplexy every time someone comes in late to Mass and receives Holy Communion. I wasn’t recommending that we be irrational. Father Z said that laity have absolutely no role whatsoever in a situation like this, and I respectfully disagree, depending on the situation. I’m not claiming that we have the ability to read souls (unless you’re a saint, which I’m not so I can’t comment on that ability). However, if we see someone habitually doing things that indicate a lack of religion (and by that I mean lacking the proper sense of what it means to be a Christian) or instruction, then all Catholics have the obligation to instruct that person. How that is done, as long as it is done in charity, is up to the person in their situation. But, it shouldn’t be avoided. Also, I wasn’t suggesting that we be insulting or rude. It doesn’t need to be done that way.

    Also, out of charity, we need to assist one another in learning to love the Lord more and more. If we are informed, have prayed about the situation, and know the circumstances, it’s important to encourage people even if we don’t know them well to attend the entirety of Mass in order to grow in the supernatural virtues. When we talk about the “obligations” related to receiving Holy Communion, that isn’t an expression of the fullness of charity that God wants for us. There are, of course, circumstances where someone is not able to attend the entirety of Mass for various legitimate reasons, and that’s not what I’m addressing. There are an equal number of people that hurry to leave Mass just after receiving Holy Communion, and that seems to be just as perplexing. If you’ve stayed until Communion, why not stay until the final blessing? After all, we receive grace from that too!

  66. biberin says:

    I was once in and out of Mass because I had a baby with me, and was deeply saddened to be unable to receive our Lord. It delighted me that our beloved deacon approached me after Mass and invited me to receive in front of the tabernacle. I’m sure that I had been a distraction to some during Mass, and others probably thought I shouldn’t receive since I was not present for a chunk of Mass.

    That said, let me suggest to those who wish to admonish sinners and instruct the ignorant, that you might consider asking others to do only what you are willing to help them do. There was a time in my life not so long ago when a number of people felt the need to challenge me about some behaviors of which few beyond my pastor and spiritual director had complete knowledge. I did not mind, and in fact welcomed, gentle inquiries from humble people who only wished to be of service to my soul. I was hurt and angered by those who just wanted to tell me what I was doing “wrong,” without any willingness to put a shoulder under my (considerable) cross.

Comments are closed.