Thursday, July 21, 2011

Holy Communion Twice in a Day... Not Ordinarily Says Rome

Can. 917 – Qui sanctissimam Eucharistiam iam receipt, potest eam iterum eadem die suscipere solummodo intra eucharisticam celebrationem cui participat, salvo praescripto can. 921, § 2.

Can. 917 – He who has already received the most holy Eucharist, is able to receive it again on the same day only within a eucharistic celebration in which he participates, without prejudice to the provision of can. 921, § 2.

Catholics are often told that they can receive Holy Communion twice in a day without qualification. It seems to be a “right” to receive Holy Communion twice in one day, no matter what the circumstances may be. Looking into the Church’s law on this question reveals something altogether different however. First, the Code of Canon Law is basing Can. 917 on a document from the then Sacred Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments entitled Immensae caritatis, which in English begins “The witness of immeasurable charity (immensae caritatis) which Christ the Lord left to his Church, his bride…” (Acta Apostolica Sedis, 65 [1973] 267 – 268) This document discusses highly important matters of Church discipline surrounding so august a Sacrament; Matters such as the distribution of Holy Communion by extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, a wider faculty – not unrestricted and limitless – for the reception of Holy Communion twice in one day, the mitigation of the Eucharistic fast for the infirm and the elderly and finally, the piety and reverence toward the Most Blessed Sacrament when the faithful receive the Host in the hand. Weighty matters and unfortunately I am not able to treat of them all. However, we now turn to the question of receiving twice in one day and will leave the rest for another day.

Lest I impose my own ideas on the matter, permit me to quote in full from an important paragraph of Immensae caritas,

“Like a provident mother, the Church has established from centuries-old practice and has received into its canon law a norm according to which it is lawful for the faithful to receive communion only once a day. That norm remains unchanged and is not to be disregarded simply for reasons of devotion. Any ill-advised desire to repeat communion must be countered by the truth that the more devoutly a person approaches the holy table the greater the power of that sacrament which feeds, strengthens, and expresses faith, charity, and the rest of the virtues. 6 (Cfr. S. Thomas, Summa Theol. III, q. 79, a. 7 ad 3 et a. 8 ad 1.) For the faithful are to go forth from the liturgical celebration to do works of charity, religion, and the apostolate "so that what they have received by faith and sacrament in the celebration of the eucharist they will hold to by the way they live." 7 (S. Congr. Rituum, Instr. Eucharisticum mysterium, 25 maii 1967, n. 13: A.A.S. 59 (1967), p. 549.)
First it must be clearly stated that there is an age old practice in the Church of receiving Holy Communion only once a day; this remains unchanged according to the Magisterium of the Church. Saint Thomas is instructive on this point:
“Reply to Objection 3: Receiving is of the very nature of the sacrament, but offering belongs to the nature of sacrifice: consequently, when one or even several receive the body of Christ, no help accrues to others. In like fashion even when the priest consecrates several hosts in one mass, the effect of this sacrament is not increased, since there is only one sacrifice; because there is no more power in several hosts than in one, since there is only one Christ present under all the hosts and under one. Hence, neither will any one receive greater effect from the sacrament by taking many consecrated hosts in one mass. But the oblation of the sacrifice is multiplied in several masses, and therefore the effect of the sacrifice and of the sacrament is multiplied.”
A serious need is required to receive Holy Communion a second time during the period of one day. The Holy See lists some examples:
“1. at ritual Masses in which the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, anointing of the sick, orders, and marriage are administered, as well as at Masses in which there is a first communion;
2. at Masses for the consecration of a church or an altar, for a religious profession, for the conferral of a "canonical mission";
3. at the Masses for the dead on the occasion of the funeral, news of the death, the final burial, or the first anniversary;
4. at the principal Mass celebrated in a cathedral or parish church on the solemnity of Corpus Christi and on the day of a pastoral visitation; at a Mass celebrated on the occasion of a major religious superior's canonical visitation to a particular religious house or chapter;
5. at the principal Mass at a eucharistic or Marian congress, whether international or national, regional or diocesan;
6. at the principal Mass of any kind of meeting, pilgrimage, or people's mission;
7 at the administration of viaticum, when communion may be given to the members of the household and the friends of the sick person who are present.
8. Over and above the cases already mentioned, the local Ordinary is allowed to grant for a single occasion the faculty to receive communion twice on the same day whenever, because of truly special circumstances. a second reception is warranted on the basis of this Instruction.”
The last paragraph is instructive because to receive a second time during the course of a day requires the faculty of the Local Ordinary if it is not one of the above mentioned circumstances or another circumstance made local law by the Local Ordinary. Further, the phrase “special circumstances” is a rather interesting translation of the “peculiaria adiuncta” which would be “peculiar circumstances.”
The lesson from all of this is that Catholics should stop receiving Holy Communion twice during the course of one day unless they are in one of the above mentioned circumstances or they have received the specific faculty to do so from the Local Ordinary.


Matt said...

Alright, I am a minister of sacred music at my parish here in Nashville. I play bass for the 5pm Saturday mass, as well as the 9am and 11am masses on Sunday.

How does this affect me? I've been curious to know for a long time.

Carlos said...

Under normal circumstances, wouldn't the liturgy for a christian be celebrated only once, with the rest of the Holy Hours filling in the liturgical day?

Pachus said...

The past reticence of the Church to expand permission to receive Holy Communion a second time is interesting. But the Code of Canon Law is now in force, trumping the more restrictive norm of Immensae Caritatis. The Code expanded the permission without any other qualification than that the second reception of Holy Communion be at Mass (not counting the very special situation of viaticum in danger of death, which is always permitted). The kind of Mass it is no longer factors in.

While anyone proposing to receive the Eucharist ought to examine his/her conscience as to proper motivation, of course, the law of the Church now permits ordinary reception twice a day.

Anonymous said...

I am the Catholic Church Pipe Organist, and I play for two Masses on Sunday morning....with an hour break of coffee, between the Masses.
I guess since I have been drinking coffee right before the next Mass which I'm playing for, this would exempt me from receiving communion for the 2nd Mass...
I think I answered my own question. However, there have been times which I have wanted to receive communion at the 2nd Mass, but did not take it.
I always receive the communion for the first Mass.
What is your take on musicians who are Catholic and play for numerous Masses at a sitting?

Kristina in Louisiana

Anonymous said...


I would caution against an overly positivistic reading of the Code. While the Code is one source of the Church's law, it is not the only source of the Church's law. Immensae Caritatis is still in vigore (cf. Can. 2 of the present Code).

Finally, it is important to read the Code within a "Hermeneutic of Continuity" apropos the entire theological and juridical tradition of the Church. (cf. Can 6. 4 § 2)

This whole question is treated quite thoroughly by the Gratian Series Commentary on the Code of Canon Law from the University of Navarre.

As for those asking about their particular situations, I would only repeat what I said in the post; if your situation doesn't fall within those mentioned in Immensae Caritatis then it is best not to receive a second time during a day unless there is a faculty for the specific situation given by the Local Ordinary. It is the intensity of our charity and openness to God that makes the Sacrament fruitful in our lives, not the number of times we receive on a given day. My advice would be to prepare yourself for Mass by a life of prayer and charity and receive the Lord Jesus with great love and devotion once a day and only twice when permitted.

Jerry Bartholomew said...

Isn't Can 917 stating a necessary condition for receiving the Eucharist a second time in one day ("only within a eucharistic celebration in which he participates") without stating what are the sufficient conditions for receiving a second Eucharist? It seems to me, Father, that you have provided what are the sufficient conditions from other sources of Church law.

Thomas said...


Immensae caritas lists other, less-rare examples, does it not (such as, going to Holy Mass in Saturday morning, and then again at the Vigil)?

Bridgetta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bridgetta said...

The new Code of Canon Law came after Immensae caritas and it says we can receive twice without listing a special circumstance. How many times we receive communion seems to be a law thing not a doctrinal thing.

Immensae caritas says, " But the oblation of the sacrifice is multiplied in several masses, and therefore the effect of the sacrifice and of the sacrament is multiplied." What if I go to two different Catholic Churches for mass in the same day? I will hear a different homily and probably sing different hymns. The liturgical calender repeats itself. Does this mean that when we come back to the same readings it's the same mass so I get no more grace? If it were just a matter of digesting Jesus I could digest Him once and receive Him later again the same day.

.....I need clarification......

Anonymous said...

Most priests, seem to think it is fine to receive Holy Communion twice in one day (as long as the second time is in Holy Mass) and so far I agree with them. If it was only permitted under certain circumstances that wouldn't the actual Canon law say that? The old discipline was to recieve only once except in special circumstances, and it seems to me, and many priests, that the new discipline is that one may recieve twice in one day if one would like(as long as the second time is in Holy Mass).

Anonymous said...

I recieve Communion daily at the morning Mass, but now in Lent, can I recieve a second time at the Station of the Cross, that are celebrated in the evening?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

anonymous (March 18),
clearly it is not permitted.

Jeanne Marie Scroggs said...

Thank u father. This clarification and caution makes the issue clear for me.

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