QUAERITUR: Can choristers receive Communion after Mass?

From a reader:

Our choir is in a loft at the back of the church. [That’s where the choir belongs!] We have always come down after the mass and received the precious host kneeling at the alter rail from deacon or a priest. Our new rector has decided that that is wrong and the choir is required by the “rules” to receive communion in the loft in the middle of trying to sing the communion antiphon and a piece of appropriate communion choral music. [?] I understand that the CDW addressed this with US bishops in a letter around 2004 allowing choir members to receive after mass; I have searched everywhere but could not find it. Can you assist me please?

I am not aware of a 2004 letter of the CDW to the USCCB in which Communion for choristers is clarified.  If someone can dig it up, I’d like to see it.

This, however, is what I gleaned from the GIRM:

86. While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant is begun…The singing is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful. If, however, there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion chant should be ended in a timely manner. Care should be taken that singers, too, can receive Communion with ease [? “ease”?]. (Curetur ut etiam cantores commode communicare possint.)

As far as I know, that is about all we have on this question.   It is vague (which is good).  There is nothing herein that requires the choir members to receive at a specific time.  There is nothing herein that demands that choir members receive in a specific place.

Nor does the Latin say that they should be able to receive “with ease”.  That is what the translator made out of commode, an adverb which is “duly, properly, completely, rightly, well, skilfully, neatly”.  To get “with ease” out of that, you have to cover one eye and tilt your head and squint until the letters blur.

Let’s us practice some mutual enrichment through the provisions of Summorum Pontificum.  

Let’s see if there is help from the Extraordinary Form, which solved problems like these for centuries before the artificially created Ordinary Form was even a thought.

In the Extraordinary Form, it is fairly common for choir members to receive after Mass.  There is a rite for distribution of Communion after Mass which is both reverent and brief.

So, if the Ordinary Form Mass is over, then Mass is over, if those of you in Columbia Heights get my drift.

There is no reason why the Extraordinary Form rite for distribution could not be used after the conclusion of Mass in the Ordinary Form for the benefit of the choristers.  You aren’t mixing the forms or rites.

It would be “commode” to use it.


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  1. Sword40 says:

    And that’s why I rarely go to an OF Mass. In a couple of weeks I’ll be going to an OF Mass with the Archbishop present (a morning Mass). I won’t receive communion there but hold off for the afternoon EF Mass.

  2. ghp95134 says:

    Fr. Z sez: It would be “commode” to use it.

    So …. you would accomodate the choir?


  3. Jack Hughes says:

    At the FSSP Church where I used to go before my own PP started saying the TLM the Choir came down for the 3rd Confiteor and received before everyone else.

  4. jaykay says:

    Our choir always receives after Mass… although it’s invariably from an EMHC as the priest is outside at the front door. And we’re also in the gallery at the rear.

    Reading the extract from the “Ritual” for communion outside Mass in the OF, I noticed that the format is exactly what was introduced in the mid-60s and still continues in force i.e. “Corpus Christi” and the response by the communicant “Amen”, different to the OF format for communion within the Mass “Corpus et sanguis” etc. and the Amen said by the priest. A foretaste of things to come. Praegustatum.

  5. Lepidus says:

    Interesting. I did not realize that the music was supposed to start immediately. When I was younger, the organist / choir would come down and be the first people in line to receive, then return to the choir loft and begin. I always thought that this was an appropriate method since it gave everybody else in church a chance for quiet prayer before receiving AND it gave authentic prayerful silence instead of the “sit there and count to 60 while the people wonder if you fell asleep” silence jammed in at other locations. I guess not….

  6. capchoirgirl says:

    Our choir also sings from the loft. They go down to receive as communion is starting–the ushers let them go first–while the organist plays. Then they return to the loft and sing the communion anthem, if there is one. They don’t sing every week, and sometimes we have a priest distributing at the back of the church if it’s very crowded, and they receive from him.

  7. One option is to have part of the choir – specifically all or some of the male voices – begin the chants while the rest of the choir goes first among the congregation to Holy Communion. Then when the choir returns and begins a suitable hymn, the rest can be among the last to receive. In our EF parish, the whole choir (being rather small and not in a loft but at the back of the loft-less church), having chanted through the priest’s Communion, goes to the Communion rail first when the priest begins the people’s Domine Non Sum Dignus, which to me is suitably (whether or not correctly) without music.

  8. mschu528 says:

    The Rite for Communion outside of Mass is indeed brief, yet reverent. I served once for a TLM Nuptial Mass after which this rite was used. Father wanted others to be able to receive Holy Communion, but didn’t want to force the bride and groom out of the way during the Mass. It worked very well, and it would certainly work well for the choir too. Probably easier than the choir members singing the antiphon, then rushing down the stairs to be first in line, then rushing back up to sing their communion hymn or motet…

  9. gloriainexcelsis says:

    At my former EF parish the choir came down last to receive after having sung the Proper and a hymn. It’s a large parish, so there is plenty of time. Only occasionally did they need to come down after Mass finished. Father always accommodated them. In my current EF parish, when we have sung Mass, the choir comes down (small parish – all of seven choir members tops) after singing the Agnus Dei. We line up in a side aisle and kneel at the communion rail in time for the Confiteor. After receiving we return to the loft to sing the Proper and a Communion hymn while the congregation receives.

  10. Supertradmum says:

    Thank you for reminding people that the choir should be in the back-schola choirs as well.

    In TLM parishes where there is more than one priest, I have seen one go back and give Communion to the choir. In smaller TLM parishes, like where I am going now, the men’s choir sings the Communion Chant first, and then comes down quickly to the “rail” (there is none). But, the church is very small, more like a chapel.

    I think when choirs and priests are trained through St. John Cantius in Chicago, they learn the real deal on the timing.

  11. TimG says:

    Similar to capchoirgirl, our choir receives Communion first and then goes back to the loft…

  12. acricketchirps says:

    I can’t see why no one has hit on the obvious solution–Protestant Choirs! No Communion problems and they sing better than Catholics too!

  13. Stephen Matthew says:

    In my home parish the choir receives between singing their first and second communion hymns. One or more of the choir members are EMHC and are sent to the altar to receive the Eucharist and bring it to the choir. We have many older members who have limited mobility, so this is of great help to them. The trouble is that often the vessels, and thus the Lord, are simply set aside in some convenient place while the EMHC takes her place in the singing for a while, which is not at all appropriate it seems. I am afraid that the modern litrugical sensibility will be very strongly against the choir receiving after mass, why that would probably be frowned upon as much as communing from the tabernacle during mass, and certainly some would object that this sets the choir apart from the congregation (which somehow the liturgical documents of the moment for the OF call for the choir to at once be seen as being a part of the people and yet also as filling a distinct function which seems contradictory).

    The other trouble is that the choir sings a congregational hymn first and then a choral meditation without the congregation, both of which it is forced to wrap up as quickly as possible after distribution, no time being given for either a silent period of prayer nor a hymn of thanksgiving.
    It seems that in the OF if there is a congregational hymn at communion the GIRM calls for it to be after the procession with the option of either a time of silence or a hymn. I know the “post communion meditiation” music is a rather traditional sort of practice in these parts, but it seems that the GIRM would actually place it the other way around, with the choir singing a chant for the procession and then the entire congregation singing some sort of song of thanksgiving after distribution is complete (assuming the often superior option of a period of silence is not used). If I had it my way (and is “me, myself, and I” and “I want it my way” the primary watchwords of all things liturgical?) there would be a chanted communion antiphon during the procession, a period of silent prayer of at least a few minutes, and then some appropriate hymn (gladly dropping the “recessional hymn” to compensate since half the congregation slips out before the priest does and replacing it with an organ postlude).

    I will second the suggestion of in a mixed choir having some go for communion first and some last, I especially like the idea of the men chanting.

  14. For what it is worth, the schola at the extraordinary form Mass nearest to me receives Holy Communion before everyone else at the altar rail (or, I should say, what is left of it) and then returns to the loft. From this I gather the point that the Communion hymn need not begin immediately after the priest receives. I suspect that some pastors object to the idea that the choir might seem privileged by receiving first, and some music ministers might object that it delays the start of the Communion hymn, but it seems to work okay in my estimation. I will also observe that the norms that Father quoted envision a chant as preferred to a hymn, and if a chant is slightly delayed it is still effective, and a bit of silence at the start of Holy Communion may not be all that bad either.

  15. Elizium23 says:

    Perhaps this is slightly off-topic, but I’d just like to pipe up (get it?) and mention that there is no such thing as a “Communion meditation hymn”. This is a myth perpetuated by basically every liturgical music director I know, but it is not supprted by the rubrics. If you read the GIRM carefully you will see that the Communion chant can be sung by the choir alone as an option, but after the distribution of Communion has finished, a second chant, if used, is to be sung by all the people together with the choir. There is no wiggle room left for the common practice here, so I am baffled as to how it emerged. I guess it’s possible that an older GIRM envisioned it, but odds are that it’s probably just another “Spirit of Vatican II” innovation.

    My opinion as a mere choir member isn’t worth much. Every time I bring it up and try to correct a new director, they nod and smile and continue with their “meditation” practice.

  16. dominicop says:

    I certainly get the frustration which comes with simply inserting some non-existent category into Mass, but I don’t think that the real problem with the whole “Communion Meditation” is that it’s not in the books, or even that it’s a non-antiphonal musical piece (which is, therefore, foreign to the rite as such). In my experience the problem with Communion Meditations is that they’re designed to let the choir show off, albeit subtly, and often wind up distracting as much as helping people pray.

    I wouldn’t get to wound up over who’s singing, however. Getting people to sing at the right time and not sing at the right time is an often Herculean feat. Think of all the times the cantor intones the Alleluia, loads of people (often including the priest) will join in almost immediately, and then everyone seems confused that they’re repeating it again before the verse. Post-communion is especially a time that I’ve noticed that people often refrain from singing, even if the assembly is invited to and is given the music. Why? Because I think they intuit that this is a better time to be silent. Also, timing can be a bit tricky here. If you’re lucky enough to have the antiphon and verses sung then coordinating that with the reception of communion and cleansing the vessels can be tricky. Sometimes communion doesn’t take as long as a choir director has planned; other times it takes far longer. The key to me seems to be whether whatever the director is proposing actually seems to jive with the liturgy itself.

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  18. About ten years ago, when I visited the parish where I grew up, one of the choristers would ask the priest for extra Hosts while receiving himself, so he could take them back up to the loft. I don’t know if this is still being done, as there is now a different pastor. I certainly hope not.

    Honestly, if they could accommodate them “back in the day,” there’s no reason why they can’t do it now.

  19. MAJ Tony says:

    @acricketchirps: I doubt you’ve heard Holy Rosary’s choir here in Indy. Find a protestant choir that can perform Mozart’s Requiem. BTW, we typically have the rest of the choir receive while the schola chants the Communio. Then we sing a motet of some sort.

  20. James says:

    Bravo, Father! And many thanks!

    This has been a question among our choir as well, as we are located at the back of the Church.

    (An aside for fellow musicians: If you are stuck up at the front of the Church, you should ask – BEG, even – your pastor to allow the choir to move to the back. Even if a loft doesn’t exist, the rear of the Church is a far better place to serve from in music ministry. Less of a show, less of a distraction to others. And you don’t have to worry about everyone staring at you while you fiddle with your folder to try and find that Communion Antiphon that seems to have gotten lost between other pages.)

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