How many times?

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  When you receive the question about number of times a lay person/deacon can receive Communion on a given day, what is your typical answer? Is it something like:  Normally once, but he/she may receive Communion again if at a different Mass and not receiving Communion out of superstitious reasons or a kind of scrupulosity?

Some other circumstances:

  • Do you think it is appropriate for a lay person /deacon who takes Holy Communion from Mass and leads a “Communion service” at a nursing home to receive Communion again prior to distributing Communion to the gathered group of people?  While he/she has already received at Mass, is the sign value/example of receiving Holy Communion with this gathered community greater than the concern about # of times and the fact that it is not during the celebration of the Eucharist?
  • If a deacon preaches at three Masses because there is only one deacon in the parish, is it appropriate for a deacon to receive Communion a third time?
  • Also, can a musician who plays at three Masses receive at each of those Masses with those gathered? In these types of circumstances, lay leaders of Communion services, deacons, and parish musicians are serving in a liturgical leadership role. Would there be any room for a broader interpretation of Canon 917?

Thanks for your thoughts on this!

A:  Your question veers into canon law, where I always get a little nervous. I can follow the liturgical documents, but a canonist should weigh in on this one.

This much I can tell you – the liturgical documents on distributing communion outside mass do not presume that the presider receives. This can be seen even in the rite of matrimony outside mass. I suppose the presider could receive, but the rubrics do not ask him to.

So, I’d say that someone who receives communion at mass and also leads a communion service need not receive the second time, and probably shouldn’t.

Regarding a deacon preaching at all three masses (or a musician singing or playing), I’d say yes he/she should receive communion all three times. I can’t back that up with any legislation. But the experience of Sunday mass is unique for each congregation. And the prayers of the mass – especially the prayer after communion – presume that everyone here is receiving communion.