Odd problem with choir members (advice needed)
  • So when my choir sings at Mass, one of the lay ministers brings Communion up to the choir loft for us. We've been receiving Communion first and then we sing the Communion Antiphon after that, and it's been working well, especially since a couple of choir members are older and can't climb stairs easily.

    Anyways, yesterday at Mass we were waiting for the person to bring us Communion and two choir members come up to me and ask me if they can go downstairs to receive Communion because they want to receive from the priest (side note: I've noticed that this particular family always receives Communion from the priest, even if that means switching lines). I told them to just slip out at the very end so they could still sing most of the Communion antiphon. It worked out alright, but it was awkward to be missing two choir members in the middle of singing something.

    Should I just let it go? I don't agree with their line of thinking, but I also don't want to make a big deal out of it, either. At first I had told them to just go down to Communion first before we started singing, but they didn't want to do that because it made them feel awkward to cut in front of everyone. Has anyone else dealt with this sort of problem? It took me off guard because I never really think about who I'm receiving Communion from, I'm just happy to be able to receive.
  • TCJ
    Posts: 832
    Let them go. I've never received Communion from an EMHC before (and I cross lines) so I entirely sympathize with them. I just have most of my choir go down while a couple of them stay up for the Communion proper and then they switch when the first group returns.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • We don't have anyone to bring Communion to the choir/schola for our Masses. What we do is receive after Mass. It works well. I don't know if this would work with your priest, but it wouldn't hurt to ask!
  • At my church, the choir and/or cantor waits until the congregation is finished or almost finished receiving communion. There aren't any stairs to contend with there, however, so maybe that's why this setup works?
  • Receiving after Mass would definitely be my preference, but unfortunately there are time restraints for the priest because he has another Mass to celebrate after this one.
  • Bobby Bolin
    Posts: 406
    Yes, this seems to fall into the "choosing your battles" category. Probably best to not make an issue of this one.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,605
    And GIRM 86, in the context of the administration of Holy Communion during (rather than after) Mass, directs that care should be taken so that the choir may receive Holy Communion with ease, which I would read to strongly discourage any direction for them to receive after Mass (they could *choose* that if a minister was ready and willing, but I don't think that's for anyone else to direct them to do).
  • one of the lay ministers brings Communion up to the choir loft

    Although I do not know the shape and size of your church this seems to me not a good idea no matter who distributes the Communion. Merely for the sake of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament it would be good to avoid climbing stairs with it.
    I told them to just slip out at the very end so they could still sing most of the Communion antiphon

    In our schola (and in some others) those who want to receive Communion are 'slipping out' in turns in different moments during the distribution so that there is in every moment somebody singing. Of course, if you sing something in parts it is more difficult.
  • Although I do not know the shape and size of your church this seems to me not a good idea no matter who distributes the Communion. Merely for the sake of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament it would be good to avoid climbing stairs with it.


    Yeah, it's not really the most ideal situation, but I'm not sure what would work better. What we used to do is just have the choir go downstairs right at the very beginning of Communion, and then we would get back upstairs pretty quickly and be able to start singing. However, it's gotten harder with a couple of older members who can't climb the stairs very well.

    It seems like it's always a difficult/awkward situation no matter what. For me personally, it has made things easier to have someone bring the Blessed Sacrament to me, because 1) I have asthma and after climbing up and down the stairs I have trouble singing well, and 2) I'm pregnant, which means my lung capacity is further reduced and it's getting harder to waddle up and down the stairs, haha... It kind of makes me laugh that the GIRM talks about the choir receiving Communion with ease, because I'm like, "is that ever possible?"

    I'm thinking after Easter what I'm going to do is have the choir sing the Communion Antiphon and then I'll just play something instrumental on the organ for the rest of the time, and then everyone can receive Communion however they want and it won't be a big rush to hurry up and receive Communion so we can start singing. When I'm sitting in the pew, I prefer instrumental music to people singing, anyways.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,099
    Warning: Slight side-note:

    I think that it can be good to remind people that no one must receive Communion at every Mass they attend for them to fulfill their obligation of hearing Mass on days of precept; and that not receiving Communion at a particular Mass is not an indicator that they are bad Catholics or in a state of mortal sin--there are some situations where it is, in fact, better not to receive--and I think that being in the choir can often be one of those situations. I have see choir-member/cantors receive Communion, go back to their spot, and wash the Sacred Species down with a glass of water, then start singing. In that case, it could be better not to receive and make a brief "spiritual communion" instead.

    This, might I add, was not an issue in the "good old days" when most people made a sacramental communion only once a year (during Easter-tide), and this was the situation during the time when the older churches in this country were built. (BTW, even after various Popes in the 20th century allowed for more frequent reception of Communion, many people continued to follow older practice.)

    YMMV.
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,605
    I would strain to avoid saying that being in the choir is one of those situations - there's no basis for that in what the Church teaches. It's one thing to periodically remind people they are not obliged to receive. It's quite another to effectively recommend non-reception without basis. The logistical preferences of the music director in that regard aren't sufficient to make such a recommendation other than the music director's self.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,864
    I've seen the "EMHC to the loft" thing done, and it it seems chaotic and borderline sacriligeous.
    FWIW, practice where I am now has been for the choir to leave for Communion after the Agnus, I and whoever isn't receiving sing the antiphon and a psalm verse or 2, by which point everyone is back up and we sing the anthem.
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 756
    We receive from an EMHC in the choir loft - many in choir would have difficulty with the stairs, and communion would be over by the time they went down, received, and returned.
    While care should be taken with carrying a ciborium, stairs should not IMHO constitute an insuperable barrier.
    While I don't switch lines to receive from a priest, I appreciate that the choir loft is the only place where I can receive kneeling without causing a fuss.
    When on occasion the EMHC has forgotten to come to the loft, we have received after Mass. And once or twice not at all, but I think this is hardly to be recommended.

    with respect to the original posters question, I think - choir members should be encouraged to receive if they wish to , as communion with the Lord is more important than service in ministry. and secondly, if it is a matter of conscience for them, then let them go to a priest, in whatever way is practicable. This seems to me a simple application of 'considering the needs of others'.
  • Also, as a sort of side note:

    There is no reason to fill the time of Communion with music.

    If there is no space of silence, in the NO, for example before music serving as the communion reflection, it all just becomes background music...
  • It seems that with ever increasing age of choirs, that the old lofts, often with steep, narrow, winding stairs, are becoming increasingly unserviceable (sometimes even the organists and music directors are finding it difficult, between injuries, disabilities, and the general obesity epidemic). While some may be able to make the trip up for the mass, to make the extra trip down/up for communion is very often asking far too much of old knees and the like.

    Yet, some option to reverently receive communion is imperative, be it during the mass, or in a dignified way after mass (which would be nearly impossible in the very "social" environment of many parishes after mass).

    I wonder if really the better long term solution is not in fact architectural/engineering in nature? Most of us are seeing fewer Catholic worshipers than ages past, so I wonder if converting the back few pews into choir stalls on a slightly elevated position, with the organ console relocated to be with the singers, might not be something worth considering. (The impact of this on acoustics would need to be very carefully considered, and might be inadvisable.) I do in fact know of a number of churches and chapels that removed the choir lofts completely, though at least one now wishes it had the extra seating capacity back. Alternatively, there is always the possibility of installing an elevator. (If building new, and on a large scale, a chancel choir would be the option I would most prefer, but that is difficult to retrofit and unsuitable for small churches.)
    Thanked by 2Liam CHGiffen
  • choir members should be encouraged to receive if they wish to , as communion with the Lord is more important than service in ministry.


    That's a good point, Bonnie, thank you. I think sometimes as a musician it's so easy to be putting so much thought into the music that the reason you're at Mass in the first place kind of takes a back seat (I know I'm definitely guilty of this sometimes).

    And Noel makes a good point about the music during Communion just becoming background music. I guess I've always thought that there has to be some kind of music going on during Communion, and if there isn't it's just dead silence. But maybe more silence in our noisy, busy, fast-paced world isn't a bad thing after all.
    Thanked by 1bonniebede
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    In the average Catholic parish, silence would not be the result of not singing during the distribution of Communion.
    Thanked by 3bonniebede Gavin G
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    Also...

    Why not sing the Communion antiphon first, beginning shortly after the priest receives, and singing a few psalm verses to cover the EMHCs and the first few rows of congregants. Then transition into a hymn once there are some people who might sing it back in their seats (or just organ music if you don't have a lot of congregational singing).

    Keep the EMHC coming up to the loft, but if choir members slip out during hymn singing, no biggie.
  • That's a good idea, Adam. I think I will try that next time and see how it goes.
  • donr
    Posts: 969
    Right now we sing the Comm Antiphon right after the priest receives, I sing the verses while the choir recieves. When the antiphon and all verses are completed and there is still time the accompanist will either play something soft or there will be silence or short motet. Then as the celebrant is "cleaning the dishes" we sing the Marian Antiphon of the season.
    In our new church (just broke ground last week) we will have an elevator for the loft.
  • I play at a very small, beautiful, old church that has a loft and narrow stairs. I am a new Catholic (2 1/2 yrs) and play/cantor. I participated in Traditional Mass a few times early on, and attended daily Mass with some trads, so was accustomed from almost my first Mass to receive by tongue. Now, it seems sacrilegious to me to receive any other way (others think differently, and that's fine). So the priest, knowing my preference, has me go up to the front while Eucharistic ministers receive, and I receive before any of the congregation, so I can get back upstairs to begin the music. It seems to work in this place. Lack of music doesn't seem to take away from the reverence. And I like to say "amen" loudly enough to be heard since few people have been doing this.

    Does anyone else have the same situation?
  • Jani
    Posts: 432
    It's basically the same in my parish - the cantor may approach the sanctuary before the congregation does. It is a short distance and no stairs, so no biggie. When I am cantor I sing the antiphon and then the hymn, ending it so I can receive last.

    The 'amen' should be loud enough for the priest to hear, but everyone else doesn't need to hear it.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,099
    I have been doing for a few years what AW suggests, it works very well.
  • Then as the celebrant is "cleaning the dishes" we sing the Marian Antiphon of the season.


    That is such a great idea--I would love to start doing that. My choir sang the Alma Redemptoris Mater after Communion in Advent and it was really nice.

  • bonniebede
    Posts: 756
    I agree with Adam, while communion is still being distributed, the church is not silent, so music is useful. I do think there should be silence - but after the communion distribution, after the ablutions, when the priest can sit in his seat again, and communicate by body language that this is not just a random pause, but a deliberate time of silent contemplation. Sort of a John Cage moment :-)
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • So last night at Mass what we did was sing the Communion Antiphon immediately after the priest received Communion, then we were done by the time the lay minister brought the Blessed Sacrament to us. After we received, we sang Panis Angelicus and then there was just silence after that, which was nice. The choir members who wanted to receive from the priest just slipped downstairs towards the end so they weren't able to sing Panis Angelicus, but it worked out just fine.

    What I'm thinking about doing is have everyone sing the antiphon before we receive Communion, and then I will just play an instrumental piece on the organ after that, because then the choir members will have a chance to pray after receiving Communion. I sort of feel bad when people have to start singing immediately after receiving. I'm going to poll the choir members at practice tomorrow and see what they think.
    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 756
    singing is praying :-)
  • veromaryveromary
    Posts: 150
    I thought it was pretty standard for the choir to go up to communion first, walking up after the the Agnus Dei and kneeling for the Lord I am not worthy.
  • Veromary, that is what we do at both EF and OF. I'm the asthmatic, so the two college-aged gentlemen usually start the Communio without me, and since they chant the verses and any women come back in on the antiphon, it's rather seamless. Then we sing a motet, then the Marian antiphon, then have silence. It works quite well. At Low Mass, we normally chant a Eucharistic/Blessed Sacrament chant or Communio from a different Sunday that is also appropriate instead of the Communio of the day.

    Silence is preferred by many communicants, anyway--my own husband, chant-lover that he is, included!
  • Torculus
    Posts: 44
    I've never liked the idea of singing immediately after receiving. I am concerned some particles may be expelled from my mouth.
  • Torculus, that is one of the reasons I always take a drink of water after receiving and before singing, pace Salieri; I'm not being disrespectful of the Sacred Species, but quite the opposite. I also have severe dry-mouth due to medications, so particles of the Species are always stuck in my throat. Better safe than sorry. Fortunately, being in the loft, no one observes this, and my pastor already knows that I do this and why.
    Thanked by 2Torculus SBCpianoman
  • Patricia, I'm the same as you--I have to take medication that makes my mouth dry, too. I have to have water to sip on throughout Mass when I'm singing or else I sound like a frog by the end...
  • Torculus
    Posts: 44
    All of this describes another reason why I have never been a fan of encouraging congregational singing during communion.
    Thanked by 1SBCpianoman