From a reader…
I am really confused. Our parish priest told us that we can receive communion two times a day, however, I have been reading where two times a day is not always correct. Two times a day is for special circumstances, such as a wedding or a funeral and Mass. I also wonder about receiving communion at the vigil Mass on Saturday and then two more times on Sunday. Is that correct? I don’t think so. Do I understand correctly?
Catholics in the state of grace can receive twice in one day.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law says:
Can. 917 – Qui sanctissimam Eucharistiam iam recepit, potest eam iterum eadem die suscipere solummodo intra eucharisticam celebrationem cui participat, salvo praescripto Can. 921, § 2.
Someone who has already received the Most Holy Eucharist can receive it again (iterum) on the same day only within the Eucharistic celebration [i.e. Mass, not a Communion service] in which the person participates, with due regard for the prescription of can. 921 § 2.
That iterum does not mean “again and again”, but merely “again, one more time”.
Can. 921 § 2 says that if a person is in danger of death, he may receive Communion even it is not in the context of Mass. That is Viaticum.
Also, that “Eucharistic celebration” in the canon does not mean just any service involving Communion. It means Mass. That was cleared up by the Holy See in an official response to a dubium, an officially proposed question.
So, say in the morning you attend a Novus Ordo Communion service wherein you receive Communion, or you went to a Mass in either Form. Later in the day you stumble into a church where Mass about to be celebrated and decided to stay for it. At that Mass you can receive Communion again (iterum). This would be even if you were, say, visiting a Maronite Catholic Church, or a Ukrainian Catholic Church and their Divine Liturgy was about to get under way.
However, if you were at Holy Mass in the morning and then stumbled into a Communion service at a priest-less parish in the afternoon, you could NOT receive again because a Communion Service isn’t Mass. If you were at Mass in the morning and then in the afternoon when you were visiting your auntie in the hospital when the chaplain came, you could not receive even if the priest invited you to do so (which in my opinion he should not). However, if you stayed for another Mass immediately following, you would be able to receive.
Canon 917 tries to walk the line between promoting frequent reception of the Eucharist and a superstitious or excessive frequency, which – I can assure you – some people fall into.
The key here is that the second time must be during a Mass, and you may not enter the Mass at some late point merely in order to receive.
Viaticum, which is Communion in the context of Last Rites for someone in danger of death, is a separate issue. Even if a person has received twice in a day, if the person is in danger of death, he can – of course – be given Viaticum.