QUAERITUR: Novus Ordo formula of Communion distribution during TLM

From a reader:

Dear Father, one of our in-residence priests assisted with the
distribution of Holy Communion at the TLM this week. He was very rushed and used the Ordinary Form words and manner — “Body of Christ”, in English, and didn’t cross us as the celebrant priest always does. Is this a “liturgical abuse” or does he have the right to change the words & rubrics? [P.S. he does know the Communion Form.]

First, I suppose, yes, this would be a liturgical abuse.  This is not among the huge abuses, but it is still wrong not to use the proper formula.

The Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, which clarifies some points of Summorum Pontificum, says that we stick to the practices in force in 1962.

24. The liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria are to be used as they are. All those who wish to celebrate according to the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite must know the pertinent rubrics and are obliged to follow them correctly.

28 Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu ProprioSummorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.

So, in the TLM we don’t have altar girls, we don’t have Communion in the hand, and we priests must stick to the older, full formula for distribution of Communion rather than use the simple Novus Ordo form.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, Universae Ecclesiae and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. This sort of thing may not be a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but I personally would be disappointed if I couldn’t receive Communion according to the traditional formula during the TLM. The miniature benediction and the prayer at Communion are one of my favorite parts of the TLM. I’ll never understand why any liturgists found it worthwhile to expunge that from the Mass.

  2. monmir says:

    Fr. Z: One of our priests during the TLM turns to the people and read the lesson and read the gospel in English (do not read in Latin facing the altar before), according to #24, this is an abuse as well I suppose.
    How bad? [This is not a general question box entry, btw.]

  3. Stephen Matthew says:

    I thought that technically speaking the people’s communion is not a part of the liturgy in the EF, being something like the way the sermon is within, but not actually a part of, the liturgy. If there is no rubric specifically for this, and instead the rubric for communion outside of mass is used, it seems then that a priest would be able to distribute communion to the laity using any legitimate formula. This isn’t quite the spirit of the instructions, but it would seem to fit within the letter, as the communion of the people is more or less an extra-liturgical function in the EF, where it is instead a part of the liturgical rubrics of the 1965 and later missals. So one priest happens to have taken a pause from saying the 1962 mass to distribute communion using one rubric, where another priest happens to be in the same building distributing communion according to another rubric, and neither strictly speaking are doing anything directly pertaining to the mass that is awaiting completion.

    Or not?

  4. chantgirl says:

    I experienced this at an EF Mass while I was on vacation. The priest was elderly, and this was not an EF-only parish, so I assumed Fr. just didn’t remember. It still felt odd, though, and every time I hear “Body of Christ”, I want to say “Amen”, which we also don’t do in the EF.

  5. chantgirl, perhaps it could be argued that, if the priest just says “The Body of Christ”, or even if he just says it in Latin as “Corpus Domini” without saying the “Amen” for you–as he does with the traditional formula–then you should indeed supply the “Amen” yourself. Hmm . . . I wonder if this falls in the category of “One bad turn deserves another.”

  6. @monmir: Summorum Pontificum as authentically interpreted by Universae Ecclesiae allows reading Epistle and Gospel in the vernacular alone in Low Mass; they need not be read in Latin.

    As foreseen by article 6 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the readings of the Holy Mass of the Missal of 1962 can be proclaimed either solely in the Latin language, or in Latin followed by the vernacular or, in Low Masses, solely in the vernacular. (Universae Ecclesiae, n. 26)

    @Stephen Matthew: I don’t have a definite opinion, but tend to agree with you. In 1962, many things were determined by particular decrees and by custom, yet were not in the liturgical books. Summorum Pontificum decrees that the liturgical books are to be followed, and that provisions of law made after 1962 do not impact the celebration of the rites according to the the liturgical books in effect in 1962, but does not seem to formally require the following of all decrees and customs in force in 1962 which were not in the liturgical books.

  7. CatholicPhilosopher, there might remain a small question whether it is proper for the priest to turn toward the people to for the readings (rather than reading them facing the altar)–especially if one accepts the traditional view that the readings are directed to God in worship, rather than to the people for instruction.

  8. Minnesotan from Florida says:

    Strictly speaking, this is irrelevant, since the rite to be followed is that of 1962. But it is the fact that the use of (Latin) “Corpus Christi” to which the communicant responded “Amen” began while the Mass was still entirely in the older, traditional, or Tridentine form – in September, as I best recall, 1964, two months or more prior to the day of the Big Change (though only initial change and rather Small in comparison with the full-blown Novus Ordo, which in the Archdiocese of New York was, as I recall, begun on Palm Sunday 1969) on the First Sunday of Advent, November 29, 1964. “Corpus Christi” remained in Latin for some time after November 29, 1964, although I thinked it was Englished before the introduction of the full-blown Novus Ordo.

  9. Chrisjvsmith says:

    When it comes down to the little things, I think that we lay people should just be glad to attend the extraordinary form. This isn’t to say that anything goes, but I think TLM folk get a bad rap, because sometimes love of liturgy turns into legalism.

    Our priests need our prayers, positive words and support… not an army of little lay liturgists and wanna be canon lawyers.

  10. disco says:

    We had a priest at Holy Trinity (German) Church in Boston who used to do things like that (I’m convinced) just to antagonize us. He would impose ashes using the “turn away from sin..” formula and just say Corpus Christi to communicants.

    Now if a visiting priest who may not be familiar with the usus antiquior says “corpus Christi” I will forgive his ignorance, but straight up English is right out.

  11. pelerin says:

    I agree with Miss Anita Moore – I would love to hear the words said by the Priest before giving Communion in the EF, used in the Novus Ordo in English or Latin. I too cannot imagine why they were shortened – I am sure we were not told at the time. It was another change which just happened. Could it really have been to shorten the Mass as more people were receiving Holy Communion at that time or was there a liturgical reason?

  12. Minnesotan from Florida says:

    Incidentally, it used to be the case that it was required that the Gospel be proclaimed in English [Not the topic here.] on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation (if, I suppose, a considerable lay congregation was present). This was always done, in most of my pre-Vatican II experience, as an entirely separate action from the reading in Latin, with a continued or even “renewed” standing-up on the part of the congregation, although later it was sometimes simultaneous with the Latin. I take it from something quoted earlier on this thread that it is now permissible for there to be no proclamation in English. Is this so? (If so, a BAD thing, in my opinion.)

  13. jhayes says:

    So, in the TLM we don’t have altar girls, we don’t have Communion in the hand, and we priests must stick to the older, full formula for distribution of Communion rather than use the simple Novus Ordo form.

    Are female altar servers and communion in the hand incompatible with the liturgical books of 1962?

    I think only if the Code of Canon Law is considered a liturgical book. The restriction on women altar servers was in the 1917 code but is not in the 1983 code, which talks of “laici”, not “virii laici”

    Thus, female altar servers are incompatible with the 1917 code of Canon Law, but is that the same as being incompatible with the “rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962”?

    Of course, it is up to each bishop to decide whether female altar servers are allowed in his diocese and under what conditions.

  14. Minnesotan from Florida says:

    Catholic Philosopher quoted an official document about languages used in proclamation of readings, and my comment was on that subject. If it was not the topic for my comment, it was not the topic for that comment either, or the one to which that comment was replying.

  15. robtbrown says:


    If memory serves, this problem was already addressed by Ecclesia Dei. The 1962 Missal is to be said according to the liturgical law of that day. Thus, the bishop would have no say re permitting altar girls or Communion in the hand for mass acc to the 1962 Missal.

  16. Well, I remember as a kid (1960-63 period) priests rushing through Communion at the early Low Masses when there were lots of communicants, reciting the formula over and over, not in synch with any act of giving communion. I think the use of Corpus Christi (or even Body of Christ) is probably better than than. But neither seems a good approach to shortage of time. Shorten the sermon is time is short, and that goes for the Ordinary Form too.

    That said, when distributing at Dominican Rite Masses around my own Western Dominican Province it seems inevitable that at any celebration there will be someone (usually elderly and looking confused) standing with the hand out and mouth closed. As the communion rail is not the place for corrections, I simply use the Ordinary Form formula and give them communion in the hand. Just as I think it wrong to correct people at the rail for kneeling in the OF, reception correction at the rail is bad in the EF. Much of the time, if not virtually all of the time, these people just don’t understand what they are supposed to do–even after it is explained carefully.

    None of our parishes are “Old Rite Only” places, so it is inevitable that people drift into the traditional Mass without any special preparation or rubrical knowledge.

  17. bookworm says:

    This is a bit off topic and may have been addressed before on this blog, but I’m curious because there is a VERY slight chance I MAY get to attend an out of town TLM this weekend if I can talk my husband into letting me go. If you attend a 1962 TLM and intend to receive Communion, do you have to observe the Eucharistic fast that was in effect in 1962? If so, was it 3 hours or still all the way from midnight then? Also, are women who attend a TLM expected to wear veils (I don’t have one and would have to make do with a headband and Kleenex or something)?

  18. New Sister says:

    Having a profound love of the TLM, any deviance like this would be (is) painful. It may seem like a slight matter, when one is blessed just to have access to this holy liturgy (so many do not), but then I recall the words of Teresa of Avila, “‘[to defend] the slightest ceremony of the Church…I would die a thousand deaths”. (Life 33:5)

  19. The Cobbler says:

    Huh… it’s possible I was at that Mass; at the time I assumed the priest in question was less familiar with the older form, as it wasn’t the celebrant but just a priest I don’t recall seeing except assisting in the distribution of Communion.

  20. Ana says:

    Maybe a bit of leeway is needed. Is the priest new to the EF? Maybe he was rushed and fatigued? Yes, the correct form should be used, but if he normally uses the correct form and this is not habitual I wouldn’t make a big fuss. We’re all human and make mistakes especially while learning something new or when rushed or fatigued.

  21. Fr.WTC says:

    “(U.E.,28 )Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu ProprioSummorum Pontificum derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.”

    Would the Spelman indult of 1964 permitting the use of the vernacular in the context of the typical edition 1962 of the liturgical books, still be in effect according to #28 of U.E.? It seems to me that given the long history of limited toleration of the vernacular (the collectio for example) within the Roman Rite, an indult such as the 1964 indult would not be incomparable with the logic of the 1962 rubrics.

  22. AnnAsher says:

    It would be a shock to my senses to be at TLM and hear “Body of Christ” in fact even at Novus Ordo I find it jarring. It is so abbreviated. It expects a response, also, and feels hurried. Although I have also seen a priest in TlM using the proper form but nearly running down the line of communicants and in effect communicating 3 people with every “Corpus Christi custodiat ….” So, I think my issue would be over all to be opposed to hurried communion.

  23. StWinefride says:

    Fr Z covered this in a blog entry on 5 June 2011 entitled “Update: Altar Girls and the Extraordinary Form – the PCED clarifies the situation”


  24. JonPatrick says:

    @bookworm, I am no canon lawyer but I do not believe you are required to follow the 3 hour fast nor the need to veil, although many traditional Catholics do both. With regard to the latter, many TLM’s that I have been to have spare veils available at he back of the church for those who did not bring one. I hope that you will be able to attend and do not let these things discourage you.

  25. Imrahil says:

    Dear @bookworm, no and no. The fast is demanded by the Church’s law and the Church’s law is that of 1983. And it is not uncommon that there are unveiled women at TLMs.

    And even if you wish to cover your head, you need no veil; you can also use a hat. That was legitimate back then too; coming to think of it it is even seen often in OF Masses with women.

  26. James Locke says:

    I was a TLM lasty week and I saw a lady kneel down and put her hands out to receive. The Altar boy placed his paten squarely above her hands and the priest gave her communion on the tongue. I could not help but think that they did a good job with it.

  27. moon1234 says:

    It has been my experience that low Mass, weekday anyway, does NOT have any vernacular at all unless Fr. Gives a Homily (rare).

    I am just fine with this. Almost everyone has a missal. Some have Spanish missals and some have English. We ALL get to follow along not feeling like we have a language barrier.

    The better way of approaching this is to offer to print the readings for the parish and have them available in the back of Church. If you are really generous than scour e-bay and offer missals in the back of Church right next to the throw away missalettes that are in so many parishes now.

  28. wolfeken says:

    Father Augustine Thompson, you disappointed me greatly with your above post. There will always be guests who will stick out their hands at communion time. Keep calm and carry on with the rubrics. I see altar boys all the time who put the paten above their hands followed by priests who motion that communion is going on the tongue. It doesn’t take more than three seconds to make that non-verbal correction. And it avoids scandal. On the novus ordo “Body of Christ,” I never did understand why the 1960s reformers changed a complete sentence into a verb-less Tweet. Moreover, if a priest is unable to recite — “Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternum. Amen.” — perhaps he could write it down and carry the cheat sheet in his palm? These are not difficult things.

Comments are closed.