Communion under Both Species for Choir
  • A choir member from my former parish e-mailed me asking my advice on whether she should contact the diocesan office of worship. She is devastated that the pastor has insisted on the choir's reception of Holy Communion in the choir loft from an extraordinary minister. The choir no longer has the option of receiving from a priest or under both species. The pastor's reason is that it unnecessarily lengthens the Mass when the choir goes to Communion downstairs. I don't want to argue about whether or not lengthening the Mass is necessarily a bad thing, but I believe the pastor is mistaken. When I was there, the Communion ministers at the front of the church (where the choir was receiving) generally finished one to two minutes before those at the middle of the church, regardless of the number of choristers receiving.

    I don't know that anyone has a right per se to receive from an ordinary minister versus an extraordinary minister, but the GIRM says the following:
    283. In addition to those cases given in the ritual books, Communion under both kinds is permitted for:
    a) Priests who are not able to celebrate or concelebrate Mass;
    b) the Deacon and others who perform some duty at the Mass

    Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America:
    46. It is the choice of the communicant, not the minister, to receive from the chalice.

    GIRM 103 says that the choir and other musicians exercise a liturgical function. Is this equivalent to "performing some duty at Mass"? Is it legitimate (i.e., necessary for "the orderly and reverent distribution of the Body and Blood of the Lord" [norm 28]) to prevent the choir from receiving Communion under both species at Masses where the rest of the congregation is permitted to do so?

    Finally, it should go without saying that sending an extraordinary minister up to the choir loft necessitates the use of an additional extraordinary minister. "When recourse is had to Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion . . . their number should not be increased beyond what is required for the orderly and reverent distribution of the Body and Blood of the Lord" (norm 28).

    There are older discussions about the best location and procedure for the choir's reception of Communion here, here, and here. I don't wish to revive the discussions in those threads or spark a debate about reasons for or against receiving under both species in general. My specific question is as follows:
    Is it legitimate to deny Communion under both species to the choir when the rest of the congregation has the choice of receiving from the chalice?
  • WGS
    Posts: 279
    The pastor is saying that an extraordinary minister of holy communion will be available at communion time to provide the Body of Christ to communicants in the choir loft.

    If a choir member chooses a different arrangement, he can receive communion whenever and wherever he chooses, albeit inconveniently for him and perhaps inconveniently for the choir director.

    Live with it.
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • He said he doesn't want the choir coming downstairs because it takes too long. There is no choice being offered. Fortunately, it's not mine to live with ;)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,677
    I have a better reason for not sending the choir downstairs to walk half a city block to receive. Most of them are too old! However, it is up to the priest as to how this is handled. Yea, verily, I know what the sacred and hallowed documents say. The documents can't fire you if you tick them off. The pastor can.
  • Reval
    Posts: 164
    Well, MadOrganist, could you just let the choristers who strongly want to receive from the priest just go up on their own, while the rest of the choir keeps singing?
  • I'm going to try a different tack than I usually do on this point.

    Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion can't be required, so mandating that people receive from those who may not even be present seems, at best, awkward.

    No one can be required to receive Holy Communion at any given Mass. Is there a Mass at which the choir doesn't sing... and could the choir members receive Holy Communion then?

    How would anyone feel if you worked out a situation such that the choir could receive in shifts? That is, if you sang something which didn't require the entire choir during the distribution of Holy Communion, is Father still going to require that the choir receive in the loft from an Extraordinary Minister, or did you solve the problem?

    Unless you're in a diocese in which the chancery is in Catholic hands, appeal to the Office of Worship is a surefire way to lose.
  • The GIRM also emphasizes the importance of facilitating sacramental participation by the choir and musicians in the Mass at which they serve. I don't think making them attend a second Mass would be in line with this directive. Again, this is not my problem. It's a former choir member of mine and her current director's. The pastor made it known that he does not want the choir going downstairs for Communion at all. The only exception is for the occasional EF Masses there.
  • "Facilitating participation", at what cost? Let them receive Holy Communion at the hands of a priest, just like everyone else, rather than relegating them to depending on an emergency (which is when "Extraordinary Ministers" are supposed to be used.)
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    I find this so strange. We have a large church. It takes a good while to get down the stairs and to the front of the altar. The entire choir is able to get downstairs and the singing never ceases. The men begin with the chant, the women receive. The women come back and sing a hymn and the men receive. The flow never stops, the singing never stops.
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • Our normal procedure, which seems to work:

    1. Communion Proper (normally from a cantor)
    2. Choir sings
    3. Organist plays quietly (typical ad lib.) while choir goes down to receive
    4. Choir returns and sings again
    5. (occasionally) more organ, ad lib.

    (Congregation is receiving during 2-4.)

    By the time we've gotten through 1-5, communion is just ending. No delays in anybody's appointment at the donut shop. (Heaven forbid!)
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,259
    So, it was before the Communio was sung at our church, but our men's choir used to just get down from the choir loft during the Our Father, and they would simply come forward as they (and we) sang the Agnus Dei/Lamb of God.
    They received immediately after the servers, and had time to get back up to the choir loft in time to start singing the Communion hymn. I always thought this was great, and wish that we could do that, nowadays, though nobody can FORCE anyone to stay in the choir loft if they don't want to.

    At our EF Masses, we leave the choir loft immediately after the Agnus Dei (or at the other church where I lead a smaller schola we simply go to kneel from having been in the back pew), are able to be kneeling at the back of the pews in time for the Elevation and "Domine, non sum dignus," following which we immediately go to the "front" (read: sanctuary), kneel, receive after the servers, return to the choir loft and begin the Communio.

    There's no reason that this shouldn't be an option, or even be the norm, since EMHC's are usually completely unnecessary.
    I don't know about the receiving under both species part. I don't see why one wouldn't be perfectly grateful to just receive the Host, since in "it" you are already receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, & divinity of Christ.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,921
    Is this perhaps another case in which the documents mention a schola cantorum or chorus, but the presupposition is that they are located within the sanctuary?
  • Do any of the OF documents presume a schola or chorus situated in the sanctuary? I had the impression that was contrary to the notion of the choir as part of the "assembly" as opposed to taking the place of a clerical choir. Maybe I'm mistaken, but I thought that was strictly "pre-Vatican II"/EF.
    105. A liturgical function is also exercised by:
    a) the sacristan [. . .].
    b) the commentator [. . . ].
    c) those who take up the collections in the church.
    d) those who, in some regions, welcome the faithful at the church doors, seat them appropriately, and marshal them in processions.

    The acolytes/servers, lector/reader, and psalmist are mentioned as the other persons exercising liturgical functions.
  • Chonak,

    When there is a quire, this is less of an issue. When there is an organ loft, one needs to be unwilling to rush the Mass.

    Thanked by 1chonak