QUAERITUR: Communion outside Mass for the sake of First Friday and Saturday

From a reader:

I know Catholics can receive communion outside of Mass for certain reasons such as being sick and unable to attend Mass on Sunday, or as Viaticum, etc.

I’m wondering if it’s possible for Catholics to receive communion outside of Mass in order to fulfill the communion reception requirement for First Fridays and First Saturdays when attending daily Mass isn’t an option because it conflicts with their work/school schedule? If so, how does one do so? It seems difficult to ask to receive something rather than to be offered it knowing our unworthiness.

Sure.  It is possible.

At the same time… Father might be pretty busy.  If he can fit your reception of Holy Communion outside of Mass into his schedule you might bake him a cake.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. JARay says:

    If anyone were to ask me, in such a circumstance, I would have no difficulty in taking Holy Communion to them. I am retired, at home most of the time, and I am an Instituted Acolyte. I am able to have access to the tabernacle in my parish church during most of the day. Of course I would not just go and do this, without informing my Parish Priest what I was doing, and why I was doing it.

  2. There are priests who are more than available for this kind of thing. I once attended low mass with the whole family, and our young children were really acting up. It so happens that we had not respected the eucharistic fast, so we were unable to partake in communion. The priest assumed that it was our kids who had kept us from taking communion, so as soon as he finished unvesting he ran after us in the parking lot to offer us communion. This is the kind of priest we are blessed with at the FSSP.

  3. frjim4321 says:

    Ouch. It would seem to me that removing the reception of communion from its context within the Eucharist is very serious business, only to be done in the case of great necessity such as being sick or home bound.

  4. Paul M. says:

    Father Jim: I know that you are merely expressing your own opinion on the matter. However, for your information, the Holy See merely requires a just cause, not a serious cause, for the administration of Holy Communion outside of Mass. See e.g. Canon 918.

  5. At my former (I moved when I got married) FSSP parish, the priests hold a Communion service at 5:45 every morning. There is a 6:30 AM Mass, but if, as I did (and as many shift workers do), one starts work at 7 AM a 6:30 AM Mass is out of the question. Being able to get to Mass on a daily basis would have been wonderful, of course, but I quite understood that a 5:30 AM Mass would have been impractical in the extreme. To be able to receive Our Lord as a start to my day despite my odd work hours was wonderful; I thought this Communion service was a brilliant idea, and appreciated it more than I can possibly express.

  6. heway says:

    In the 40’s and 50’s, my father would got to church and the priest would distribute communion before Mass!…for those who had to catch a bus a few minutes after Mass began.
    This was a 6:30am Mass, the first one of the day.
    Oddly enough in the 70’s and 80’s this practice dissappeared and I was unable to start my workday with the Eucharist.

  7. As I recall, any Catholic, properly disposed, can request to receive communion outside of Mass, and I would always honor it. If one were not sick, I would invite that person to church, rather than bring communion to the home of someone who is not sick.

    That said, where this creates a little uneasiness is the thought that we are heading toward a “communion service” mindset, and that I do not favor.

    But here’s the thing. As I recall, the First Saturday devotion is satisfied by holy communion received on Saturday EVENING and even on Sunday. So, while I wouldn’t want to be difficult about it, I’d see if those times worked. I don’t know if the First Friday devotion is similarly flexible, but I bet it is.

  8. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Paul M,

    and of course the will of a faithful Catholic able to receive Holy Communion, who has fasted for the hour he is obliged to do so and has not received Holy Communion on the same day, is always a just cause. Indeed what else sense can you make of the rule, “no second Communion unless within Holy Mass”?

    Rev’d dear @Fr. Jim,

    while the Church was right move the common moment of reception of Holy Communion back into Mass, we should not look down onto past centuries where receiving Holy Communion outside Mass even on purpose was fairly common.

    As for me, I have always thought of receiving Holy Communion when late to Mass as at least on par with receiving it outside Mass (remembering that the Mass obligation, where it does exist, refers to a complete Mass). That line of thinking often allowed me the joy of receiving Our Lord.

  9. Imrahil says:

    Reverend dear @Fr Fox,

    on a Sunday? really? Never knew about that.

  10. iPadre says:

    Weekdays is one thing, but, let us remember that on Sundays and other days of obligation, the obligation is to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and not to receive Holy Communion. When I was away on vacation, a priest failed to show up for a Sunday Mass and my deacon was pushed to do a Communion service. I warned him not to do it again. He is to remind the congregation of the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and let them know the times of Masses in the many parishes located within a 5 mile radius. Upon my return, many people told me what a beautiful “Mass” the deacon did. I also reminded the deacon that on weekdays, if he does a “Communion Service,” he is to remind the people that it is NOT a Mass.

  11. Paul M. says:

    Imrahil: “and of course the will of a faithful Catholic able to receive Holy Communion, who has fasted for the hour he is obliged to do so and has not received Holy Communion on the same day, is always a just cause.”

    I wouldn’t go that far. Consider, a person meets all of the criteria that you suggest, but Mass is in 5 minutes and the person is able to assist at Mass without inconvenience. It seems to me that a just cause would not be present in that case. But I admit that I could be wrong about that.

  12. PhilipNeri says:

    Fr. Z., normally, I agree with you. . .on just about everything. But on this issue you are flat wrong.

    Asking Father to give one communion outside of Mass for the purposes of satisfying the requirements of the First Friday devotion demands that Father receive a pecan pie.

    And a big pecan pie at that. And maybe a nice bottle of good bourbon to go with it.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  13. VexillaRegis says:

    PhilipNeri: and free dental care for at least half a year after all that sugar ;-)

  14. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Paul M,

    okay, okay…

  15. PhilipNeri says: …on this issue you are flat wrong.

    Perhaps you would, however, admit that seasonal and regional considerations are important?

    An autumnal Communion request could merit a pumpkin pie… carrot cake… Christmas season could merit a Christmas pudding!

    For potables, I would not object to a 16-year Lagavulin.

    I am actually quite a liberal.

  16. APX says:

    Ah, but what do you give a priest who is perpetually paranoid about his waistline and becoming 200 kilos

  17. robtbrown says:

    Fr Martin Fox says:

    That said, where this creates a little uneasiness is the thought that we are heading toward a “communion service” mindset, and that I do not favor.

    Some years ago there were actually published advocates of that as a future model. It was, IMHO, a consequence of the Eucharist as Meal theology.

  18. deliberatejoy says:

    APX- gift certificates for online bookstores or Mystic Monk Coffee!

  19. BLB Oregon says:

    Well, my opinion is that parish priests, heroes that they are, ought to be lubricated with pies, cakes, and bourbon as often as the boundaries of maintaining their good health and the virtue of temperance allows. Mark 10:29-30s should be a positive promise, and not just a warning, especially in the multitude of mothers department! (Anybody with as many mothers in his life as a parish priest typically has ought to feel there is a definite up side to it…)

  20. deliberatejoy says:

    That being said… I’m writing a novel about a young Franciscan friar/priest in training. His church community nearly goes catatonic with stress when he develops Type 1 brittle diabetes and they’re not allowed to offer him sweets, liquor or worst of all, coffee cards as gifts anymore. :) The grannies in the parish are only consoled by the fact that he’s forbidden to wear sandals outside any longer (bad for the feet) and go on a sock-knitting binge. It becomes quite the competition…

  21. Giuseppe says:

    I believe we have found an excellent use for EMHCs. Have them on-call on First Fridays and First Saturdays to assist Father for this very purpose. It could even foster the FF or FS devotions.

  22. APX says:

    I still don’t think this is a good use for EMHC’S. It seems to risk the safe guarding of the Blessed Sacrament. Too many opportunities for them to not go from point A to point B with it.

    I would think if there is such a demand for it, it would be sign to schedule an additional Mass at a more convenient time.

  23. Regarding the deacon leading a Communion service because a priest didn’t show up:

    From the catechism: 2183 “If because of lack of a sacred minister or for other grave cause participation in the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible, it is specially recommended that the faithful take part in the Liturgy of the Word if it is celebrated in the parish church or in another sacred place according to the prescriptions of the diocesan bishop, or engage in prayer for an appropriate amount of time personally or in a family or, as occasion offers, in groups of families.”

  24. votefassino24 says:

    Paul M said… “I wouldn’t go that far. Consider, a person meets all of the criteria that you suggest, but Mass is in 5 minutes and the person is able to assist at Mass without inconvenience. It seems to me that a just cause would not be present in that case. But I admit that I could be wrong about that.”

    I am loving your comments. It seems like you know a fair amount about canon law… are you a canon lawyer? If so, where did you study? Can you recommend a few books for those of us who need a quick reference?

  25. APX says:

    Deacon Greg Kandra,

    Redemptionis Sacramentum states that on Sundays, the faithful are required to participate at Mass, and that if there is absolutely no priest available to celebrate Mass, then the faithful are to be instructed to attend Mass in another parish. This includes Eastern Rite, Anglican Rite, the OF Mass for those who are overly attached to the EF rather than going off to your local SSPX chapel to fulfill your Mass preference, etc. Only, and only in such circumstances where there is ” real impossibility” for the faithful to attend Mass because of there being no priest available, and the Bishop has approved having a Liturgy of the Word (with or without Communion reception), may a deacon take it upon himself to hold such a liturgy.

    There has become an abuse of this type of Liturgy in which parishes will still hold one or more of these services because the priest is away on holidays, yet there are umpteen other parishes within less than 10 kms radius of the parish where Mass could easily be attended. Even worse, there is no annoucement made that such services don’t fulfill one’s Sunday obligation to attend Mass.

    Before my former parish moved into the new Cathedral, and thus under the close watchful eye of the Bishop, whenever the priest would leave for the weekend, rather than get another priest to fill in for the Saturday Vigil Mass and three Sunday Masses, or tell the faithful they need to attend Mass at one of the other nearby parishes (including the Ukrainian Catholic Church across the school yard from the Church), they switched up all the Mass times for Liturgy of the Word with Communion Services led by the Deacon. No mention whatsoever that such did not fulfill the Sunday obligation that still remained for the faithful. Interestingly enough, as soon as they moved in to the Cathedral there was no problem finding another priest to cover for Mass.

    To make matters worse, now they have people at the parish honestly believing that such services are the equivalent to Mass. It’s as if they could not care less about the consecration and the actual Mass (to them it’s like the equivalent of making and baking cookies), but are more concerned with receiving communion (ie: eating the cookies). It angers me. One person from this parish went so far as to tell me that I should be discouraging my friend from becoming a priest and just becoming a deacon so that he can get married. When I said a deacon was not a priest and that a deacon could not offer Mass and consecrate the Eucharist, I was told that he could still hold a communion service. I got annoyed and said X doesn’t want to get married and hold communion services. He wants to offer Mass and absolve sins! Yeesh! The faithful is too dumb in the faith and liturgy to handle these types of services. Sorry, I’m beginning to rant.

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  27. KosmoKarlos says:

    I would hate to ask a silly question,
    But what is the First Friday/Saturday devotion?

  28. Indulgentiam says:

    @kosmokarlos–it’s not at all a silly question. Follow these links to read all about it. :)



    Enjoy these excellent devotions :)
    The Lord bless you and keep you,…
    Our Lady guard you and guide you.

  29. Just to be clear, and for context, here is the relevant portion of Redemptionis Sacramentum.

    For their part, the lay faithful have the right, barring a case of real impossibility, that no Priest should ever refuse either to celebrate Mass for the people or to have it celebrated by another Priest if the people otherwise would not be able to satisfy the obligation of participating at Mass on Sunday or the other days of precept.

    [164.] “If participation at the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible on account of the absence of a sacred minister or for some other grave cause,”[269] then it is the Christian people’s right that the diocesan Bishop should provide as far as he is able for some celebration to be held on Sundays for that community under his authority and according to the Church’s norms. Sunday celebrations of this specific kind, however, are to be considered altogether extraordinary. All Deacons or lay members of Christ’s faithful who are assigned a part in such celebrations by the diocesan Bishop should strive “to keep alive in the community a genuine ‘hunger’ for the Eucharist, so that no opportunity for the celebration of Mass will ever be missed, also taking advantage of the occasional presence of a Priest who is not impeded by Church law from celebrating Mass”.[270]

    [165.] It is necessary to avoid any sort of confusion between this type of gathering and the celebration of the Eucharist.[271] The diocesan Bishops, therefore, should prudently discern whether Holy Communion ought to be distributed in these gatherings. The matter would appropriately be determined in view of a more ample co-ordination in the Bishops’ Conference, to be put into effect after the recognitio of the acts by the Apostolic See through the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. It will be preferable, moreover, when both a Priest and a Deacon are absent, that the various parts be distributed among several faithful rather than having a single lay member of the faithful direct the whole celebration alone. Nor is it ever appropriate to refer to any member of the lay faithful as “presiding” over the celebration.

  30. Imrahil says:

    Honorable dear @Deacon Kendra,

    but… coming to the point of the issue… are such conditions fulfilled (or rather, should they be assumed fulfilled?*) in the usual Catholic Europe/American big city setting, when indeed no Mass can be hold at a parish, but the next parish, with a Mass, is less then x kilometres away? (x to be determined.)

    [*Mass attendence, despite being the deeper sense of the 3rd commandment, is as such of positive law; the Easterners can fulfill their obligation with the Lauds. For this reason I tend to assume a doubtful obligation to still attend Mass, and hence, no obligation, for those who have attended such a service. Nevertheless this is not the point; the point is whether this is a situation we wish for, or, whether these doubts if existing should be removed by official clarification.]

  31. Laura Lea says:

    I have a question about receiving communion outside of mass if anyone is still reading this thread. Unfortunately on occasion a priest forgets that he is scheduled for mass at the prison where I am a volunteer and actually coordinate the ministry. When this happens we dash out and procure the Eucharist for the ladies and have a communion service. I’ve already received communion at mass earlier in the day but since I lead the communion service would it be wrong to receive communion in these circumstances? Or are we supposed to receive communion in order to set the example for the rest of the group?

  32. APX says:

    Laura Lea, yes, such would be the case. Catholics may receive communion at the very maximum 3x’s a day under the following circumstances:

    -The third time MUST be received as viaticum
    -The second time MUST be received in the context of a Mass (not communion service) OR as viaticum
    -The first time may be received either during or outside of a Mass

    On a side note, are you sure you’re allowed to take it upon yourself to go into the Tabernacle, remove the consecrated hosts, not only from the Tabernacle, but from the actual church? At my parish, the laity aren’t even permitted to open the Tabernacle. Besides, would it not be more adventageous to have a priest present when offering communion just in case some of the women want/need to go to confession before receiving?

  33. Laura Lea says:

    Dear APX, Eucharistic ministers are permitted to remove the Eucharist from the tabernacle for the homebound, nursing homes and prison ministry in our diocese. We only have a communion service at the prison when a priest forgets to come or a priest is unavailable to come. Every effort is made to schedule a priest but on a rare occasion we are not able to have a mass. The prison is an unusual enviornment for our Catholic faith and it is not always possible for priests to hear confessions before mass starts. We regularly schedule confessions with the priests when their schedule can accommodate it. Of course new inmates are strongly encouraged to make a good confession before receiving communion. We have a number in our RCIA program who of course do not receive communion …

    So, it sounds like we should not receive communion while leading a communion service at the prison if we have already been to mass earlier in the day. If we haven’t been to mass then I assume it is ok to receive communion then?

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