When do you receive Communion?
  • I'd like to know when I, as an organist/choir director located in the Gallery, am supposed to receive Communion, given:

    "Sing to the Lord" Paragraph 189: "While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant (or song) is begun........... The singing begins immediately and continues "for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful."(158)

    Footnote 158 references GIRM #86: " 86. While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant is begun. Its purpose is to express the communicants' union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the "communitarian" nature of the procession to receive Communion. The singing is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.74 If, however, there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion chant should be ended in a timely manner.

    Care should be taken that singers, too, can receive Communion with ease."

    Mary T., Organ Performance student
  • To me this is a major reason for singing the antiphons with Psalms. That provides the time for everyone to receive and the music to continue.
  • Sounds to me like a perfect justification for hiring non-Catholic organists! :-)

    When I cantor, the organist and I receive along with the First Extraordinary Ministry Battalion, then start the communion hymn before any of the people have started moving. When the choir is present, the song leader and organist receive in the same way and the choir lines up to be the first to receive (books in hand). I don't know of any church here that truly starts music as the priest receives.

    At a recent presentation by a visiting liturgist, we were very emphatically told that we MUST start music immediately, but she had no practical solution. When I offered that a small schola might sing the Communio either in Latin or using English text such as By Flowing Waters I felt like I was standing at ground zero during a nuclear blast. Her take was that this is no time for choral grandstanding, but that the people should be involved from the start.

    I presume that we will simply continue to ignore the directives.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    GIRM 86 just seems wrong to me. If music during communion is supposed to express the unity of the communicants, why has the Church appointed texts such as "The Lord spat on the ground and anointed my eyes" or "You are Peter: and upon this rock I will build my church" or "Andrew said to his brother Simon: We have found the Messiah, called the Christ: and he brought him to Jesus"? If you look at the Communion, you find that is rarely eucharistic in nature. With the exception of "Ubi caritas" (which is designated as an option for communion in the Graduale Simplex), I can't think of a Communion with a text that is intended to express unity. I think this is a case where the GIRM is being descriptive rather than prescriptive.

    To answer your question: if you don't have enough people in the choir so that you can have at least two people singing the antiphon and at least one person singing the verses while the others receive, I suggest two options. Either extend the communion with an unaccompanied chant hymn or organ music so that the choir or organist can receive, or have the musicians receive after Mass. Receiving after Mass does not affect the sacramental nature of the eucharist.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I do not any longer receive, but when I did I simply did it first. 20 seconds of silence won't kill anyone! Also, I would tell cantors to commune at another service and choristers to commune while the cantor sings the psalm (as I did at my former church) Otherwise the music would wait until the choristers had communed - again, a minute of organ music before the chant won't kill anyone!

    One thing I tried to stop, although you might like it, was that it was traditional for a chorister who was also an Ex. Minister to go down and get the hosts and then bring them up for the choir for after the music. I reasoned that singing in the choir is NOT an extraordinary situation, so there was no need for an extraordinary minister! Of course, if you feel it is an extraordinary situation, this could work for you. There's no set rules on it, except at the EF which (presumably?) doesn't have extraordinary ministers.
  • I rarely Holy Communion at Masses where I'm playing or directing. Sometimes it's a function of logistics (right now I'm in a big old church with a loft half a city block back from the altar rail. More often it's that I can't change gears from my "musical" state of mind. The good thing about being a Catholic is that there are lots of opportunities other than those Sunday Masses.

    I've quibbled with choirs about when they should receive. I prefer that they go first. If there's a mania for singing, I can start it. When the choir receives at the end, I know they're always watching the lines and not me. (Well, no one ever watches the director anyway.)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,943
    A minister does come the half-block up to the loft to bring communion to the choir. Some of them are elderly and don't want to trek down the stairs, to the front, to the back, and up the stairs again. I don't receive for several reasons. 1.) I am working, not worshipping. 2.) My mind is on what I am doing, and not focused on Christ to the degree he deserves. 3.) I am ready to strangle someone over something that went wrong and am thus not in the right frame of mind to receive. 4.) I am not Roman Rite and will receive later at the Byzantine liturgy when my mind will be on worship, not work.
  • ISTM that for liturgical music ministers in a tribune, loft, gallery, whatever you want to call it, there are three alternatives: 1) request that a designated Extraordinary Minister come up to the loft, 2) have members of the choir, etc., trundle up and down the stairs in shifts, or 3) receive immediately after Mass.

    If you're of an orthopraxis mindset, option 1 doesn't really work. Option 2 is noisy and distracting. Option 3 makes great sense to me, although I've never been in a situation where that has been done.

    I share CharlesW's point of view on this. I'm often not properly disposed to receive the Blessed Sacrament, as the Church requires, and so I more often than not cannot receive.
  • I must say that this question gives yet another reason why the mania for continuous singing during Communion is a terrible idea and worse practice. Like many of the revisions of the Mass, it exists in part to subvert traditional devotional practices and forcibly substitute something newly-designed by 'experts' based on their spurious historical interpretation of the so-called Early Church. This one is meant to interrupt any consistent opportunity for individual prayers of preparation, adoration, and thanksgiving at Communion. (The insistence on Acclamations during the Prayer of Consecration was likewise intended to interrupt the priest's sacerdotal role and imply that its effectiveness requires 'ratification' by the 'assembly'.) What ever happened to silence, recollection, and prayer?
  • henry
    Posts: 242
    When I am alone without a choir, I receive after Mass. I like this because it gives me plenty of time to make a thanksgiving after receiving. When the choir is present, a Eucharistic Minister brings Holy Communion to the choir loft. I tell the choir to begin receiving Immediately so as not to keep the Minister waiting and so that he/she can return the Hosts to the tabernacle before Communion is finished.
  • If I am the organist, I usually end the organ music early enough that I can go receive.

    But if there is a choir loft, then yes, I think having an EMHC minister to the choir is a good idea. The presumable loss of communion under both species is lamentable, though.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,072
    When choir is in session, we customarily use the chorister-as-EMHC option (there are 1001 other EMHC's anyway). When that is not the case, or for school masses during the week, it is my practice to receive immediately after mass from a priest or deacon, if possible. I actually prefer this option because (at least in my mind), it cuts down on the number of EMHC "needed".
  • paul
    Posts: 60
    I rarely receive when I have a choir to conduct and/or am at the keyboard. Although I'm participating, having to constantly be on guard and putting out the little fires that come up so I'm rarely in the proper frame of mind to receive. After all my masses are over, I prefer to attend mass somewhere else. This has been very important for my spiritual life. While we can quibble about our rubrics, they're the ones we have, and until they're changed, they're part of our job description. The communion song HAS to start while the priest receives and last until the rite is completed. If you have a choir with enough singers, have half of them sing (men for instance) while ladies receive, then alternate when the ladies are ready to take over. If you can't do that, have a cantor take over while the can receives (believe it or not this is a great way to get good singers into your choir) have someone else (this is scary, but ultimately, also very good for your program) conduct an a capella verse while you receive. The bottom line is, if you decide to follow the rubrics, you will think of a way that works for you.
  • Thanks to all for responding. Here's "the rest of the story":

    I started my organist job earlier this year. I was also asked to start a choir, which I have done. The choir is young, consisting of college students and younger. They are talented, but not yet confident. This means I can't leave them alone to chant/sing a capella. (I did once and it wasn't pretty.)

    We tried receiving Communion first as a group, but the quick trip from the front of the church to the choir loft, including the steps, leaves one a little breathless. That's a problem when trying to sing.

    I am trying my best to comply with both Universal Church USCCB documents, which means that I am now starting the Communion antiphon or hymn when the priest Communicates. I watch the lines, and signal to the choir when they should stop singing and head downstairs.The best solution I've found so far is to end the music a little early and sprint to the front of the church; unfortunately, the timing has worked one out of ten times.

    So far, I've been properly disposed to receive the Sacrament, and I sure do NEED the graces. There's no other Mass to attend after this one on Saturday night, and I don't live close to the church. I have occasionally returned on Sunday morning, but it isn't practical (sounds bad, but it's the truth.) I have other duties -- I'm a full-time student, a wife, and a homeschooling mother of four children. Cut me some slack!

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought it wasn't permitted to receive Communion regularly outside of Mass. Also, it makes me nervous to think of an EMHC bringing Communion up our steep steps.

    I will send this thread to my priest (who asked me to post this question), and I hope we come up with a workable solution.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I thought it wasn't permitted to receive Communion regularly outside of Mass

    I'm not sure where this idea comes from. Communion is regularly brought to the sick outside Mass. From my understanding, communion may be given at any time, except during Triduum when there are more restrictions. Regardless of when communion may be given outside Mass, I don't think that really applies in the case of a choir member who has participated in the Mass but receives a few minutes after the rest of the congregation. They have still participated in the Mass.
  • What happens in my parish is that the choir receives first (including the musicians) and then they begin the song. What is done in school choirs is that half of them go to Communion and when they return to their place, the other half goes. Maybe you might consider that option.
  • Okay Incantu - your comment spurred me on to find an actual reference to confirm or refute my statement. This is what I've found, from the 1983 Code of Canon Law:

    "Can. 918 It is most strongly recommended that the faithful receive holy communion in the course of a eucharistic celebration. If, however, for good reason they ask for it apart from the Mass, it is to be administered to them, observing the liturgical rites. "

    Is trying to comply with the rubrics a "good reason"? (Rhetorical question.)

  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I realize this is more a matter of opinion than legislation, but I don't think the GIRM means that we must NOT have silence while the priest communes. I think that the relevant passage implies that the action known as the "Communion" is when the priest communes, and that suitable music (namely from the Graduale) should be used during the action, which extends from the priest's communion to the cleansing of the vessels. Silence is hardly inappropriate at that point, I would say - whether intentional or unintentional! I always waited until directly after the priest had wiped the chalice after drinking the Blood. Immediately after that I would start music.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    One problem with waiting to start the Communion chant (or other music) is that it make it appear that something special is happening when the priest receives, and that we should be watching. This has led to priests even saying out loud "May the body of Christ bring us all to everlasting life" and the people responding "Amen." This is repeated with the cup. Often, people also observe the extraordinary ministers receiving as well. Why?

    People learn the liturgy by doing it and by observing it. This practice was so accepted in my parish that people at first criticized me for "not waiting" until the priest received to begin the music. This just demonstrates a lack of understanding of the liturgy.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Really, Incantu? Nothing special happens when the priest communes? (I'm just kidding, I know what you meant!)

    I think we can agree this particular issue is up there with a "pink rather than rose" vestments - yeah maybe preferably the vestments should be closer to red. But yet at the end of the day, a priest who knows the difference between pink and rose is probably a bit more feminine than I'd like to see a priest be.

    I admit liturgical ignorance in this, but it seems to me the communion of the priest is distinct from that of the congregation. You can have Mass without the congregation receiving; I'm not sure if you can do it without the priest communion, however. Again, I find this issue to be minutiae and I'd say getting the musicians to commune is a fine reason to wait out the music.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,171
    In the EF, rubrics direct that the Communion chant begin when the priest receives the sacrament.
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    Since the choir, organist and director is a part of the congregation, it's important they receive communion during the Mass. Why are we so
    afraid of a few minutes of silence. I think of it as allowing the Mass a little time to breath. (And the STTL is only a guideline).
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    Opps.....'choir, organist and director ARE...'