Communion Services Discouraged

I run errands in a nearby city, and usually try to pop in for noon Mass at a large church when I have the opportunity.

These days, the priest isn’t able to be there as often as previously. So while, say, 10 years ago, they offered daily Mass M-Fri, they do a Liturgy of the Hours on some days, and daily Mass on others. But occasionally, like in the case of scheduling issues or Diocesan retreats, the priest isn’t able to make it for a normally-scheduled Mass. So sometimes it’s with zero warning (ie, being called away for an emergency) and other times, it’s with warning (ie, the retreat’s on the calendar).

So these days, when the expected Mass doesn’t happen, we do the readings, a meditation, and some closing prayers, and get on with our day.

10 years ago, we would have done a Communion Service (for a scheduled absence).

So, knowing this latest occasion was a scheduled absence, I asked the sacristan, “Hey, do y’all do Communion Services at your church anymore, or is this a Diocesan-wide sort of thing?” Because I had noticed we didn’t do Communion Services at our church, either, although we’re a teeny tiny little rural parish, and have changed priests, and the usual people who would have been entrusted with such things in the past are no longer with us, and the priest who would have trusted certain people to do things correctly is also no longer with us.

“The Bishop has discouraged all the churches in the Diocese from offering Communion Services,” they said.

We got a new Bishop installed back in 2014, so that fits in with the-last-time-I-saw-a-Communion-Service.

So-- I was wondering if that was part of a movement across all the Diocese in the US, to move away from offering a Communion Service when a priest wasn’t available for Mass— or if that’s just a local preference.

You’re in a different environment and the old rules don’t apply. With greater demands for security in church, it may not be possible to have enough people to even have a communion service. All the parishes in my diocese seem to have just one priest, so cancellations are frequent

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When our Archdiocese issued guidance about this, they reminded parishes that the Communion Service was intended to be an option for communities missing Sunday Mass when a priest wasn’t available, not weekdays due to convenience or the priest’s hectic schedule. Most parishes now schedule weekday Masses accordingly such that a neighboring priest can cover or they’re replaced by a rosary or LOTH. Only one parish in a city an hour away that I’m aware of still does Communion Services, seemingly defiantly, and they don’t follow the appropriate rubrics for those, but no one’s intervening.

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This is from the newsletter of the Office of Divine Worship of the Archdiocese of Portland
https://archdpdx.org/documents/2018/5/DWNL%20Issue%208.pdf (Chapter 6)
Substitution of communion services for Holy Mass is also being discontinued in our archdiocese outside of true pastoral necessity.

… It is important to make the distinction between the celebration of Holy
Mass and the reception of Holy Communion outside of Mass. It is clear
that the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacrament of the Eucharist cannot
be separated theologically and are only separated temporally due to
pastoral necessity.
With regard to the separation of the Sacrifice and the Sacrament of the
Eucharist, Pope Paul states: “The few things that we have touched upon
concerning the Sacrifice of the Mass encourage us to say something
about the Sacrament of the Eucharist, since both Sacrifice and Sacrament
pertain to the same mystery and cannot be separated from each other.
The Lord is immolated in an unbloody way in the Sacrifice of the Mass
and He re-presents the sacrifice of the Cross and applies its salvific
power at the moment when he becomes sacramentally present — through
the words of consecration — as the spiritual food of the faithful, under
the appearances of bread and wine.” (Mysterium Fidei, 34)
In the same encyclical Pope Paul makes a distinction between the
celebration of Holy Mass and the reception of Holy Communion: “For
such a Mass brings a rich and abundant treasure of special graces to help
the priest himself, the faithful, the whole Church and the whole world
toward salvation—and this same abundance of graces is not gained
through mere reception of Holy Communion.” (Mysterium Fidei, 32)
It is the expectation of the Church that: “The faithful should normally
receive sacramental Communion of the Eucharist during Mass itself, at
the moment laid down by the rite of celebration, that is to say, just after
the Priest celebrant’s Communion.” In fact the Second Vatican Council
refers to it as the “more perfect form of participation in the
Mass.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 55)

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They seem pretty rare around here, but I have been to a couple of them in the past year. In both cases, the regular priest suddenly had to take a health-related leave of absence, so if they could get a substitute priest they would have the regular weekday Mass, and if they couldn’t get the substitute priest they would have a communion service run by lay ministers.

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Hi Tis, for the sake of this non-Catholic would you describe what this communion service would look like? I have never heard of a Catholic Communion service without Mass. Are the same wine and hosts consumed? If there is no transubstantiation are the emblems eaten in a symbolic gesture? I am quite curious, this is something new to me.

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Hosts from a previous Mass are used.

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Meaning consecrated hosts, right?

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Our parish has Communion Services every Monday and whenever our priest is out of town.

Can you answer my questions I asked Tisbear above?

Yes. Previously consecrated Hosts.

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Communion services typically consist of a lay lector reading some Scripture, we say a couple of prayers and then the EMHCs distribute previously consecrated hosts they remove from the tabernacle. The service is quite short. There is no transubstantiation occurring at the Communion service because there is no priest present. The hosts were previously consecrated by a priest at some previous Mass, and kept in the tabernacle to be used for taking Communion to the homebound/ sick, and for communion services if the priest is suddenly absent.

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Sure, Wannano. In a Communion Service, you get the same readings as a Daily Mass, which is 30 minutes in our parish. One of the Deacons is in charge of it and calls everyone together with the Sign of the Cross and a prayer.

He or another member of our parish then reads the Daily Readings. After that, we prepare to receive the Eucharist. Our Deacon prays thanking Jesus for the gift of the Eucharist. Everyone prays the Our Father (aka as The Lord’s Prayer) and our Deacon distributes hosts which have previously been consecrated and removed from the Tabernacle. He concludes the Communion Service with a prayer and we are dismissed.

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From what I’ve been told, the Communion Service was originally only intended for Catholic Churches in places that lacked a full time priest.

For example: before cars, a mission Church in a remote location where a priest only came one Sunday every 3 or 4 weeks. So during the Sundays & Holy Days the priest was not there, they would have a communion service.

It was never intended to be used for weekly mass, as weekday mass is not an obligation.

But after Vatican II, it seems there was a trend (at least in the United States) to use Communion Services in some parishes when daily mass was possible. However, I don’t think this started right after the Council, but rather when some parishes started having fewer priests.

However, sometimes for pastoral reasons, a communion service might become a regularly scheduled event during the week at a parish.

For example: at my parish, we were without a 2nd priest for a few months when the vicar wanted to reassigned. So until we were given a 2nd priest, one of our two daily masses was converted to a communion service with a Deacon so the parishioners would not loose the habit of going to Church during the week. It was only for a few months (2-3 at most). However, he also canceled the Saturday daily mass, he did NOT replace it with a communion service, as there are plenty of other parishes close by for Saturday mornings.

I hope this helps.

God Bless

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I believe one of the parishes in my diocese does a daily communion service (super-early) then a daily mass (early but not super-early), is that a problem? Or a case by case situation that is private? Should a random stranger who never set food on their parish speak up or is that a specific instance that may be done due to pastoral reasons (aka none of my business).

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Um, why would you want to tell the church how to run its business when you don’t even attend there or know anything about why they are having a communion service? For all you know, they asked and received special permission from the Bishop to have the communion service.

My guess is that they have some group of regular attendees who need to come super-early for work reasons, but they don’t have a priest available for a Mass that early.

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It’s been about five years since I’ve been to one, but it basically boils down to the fact that there is no priest, therefore there is no consecration, therefore Communion is under one species, and is taken from the previously consecrated hosts kept in the tabernacle. So with no consecration, we keep the first part of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word, but we have to omit the Liturgy of the Eucharist— we skip pretty much from the Creed to the Our Father.

Everything else is pretty much the same as a usual daily Mass, except it’s all conducted by a knowledgeable, trusted layperson, like the sacristan. So you have your entrance antiphon (spoken) or opening hymn (sung), you have the Collect, you have the normal readings and the normal responsorial psalm, you have a commentary upon the gospel or one of the readings, you tend to have a bit more of a silence to think about things, you have your Creed. Then you jump straight to the Our Father. Then the person goes to the tabernacle and removes the ciborium, and you have your Agnus Dei, have your “This is the Lamb of God…”, followed by the “…only say the word and I shall be healed” response, have Communion under one species and the Communion antiphon, have more silence afterwards, have closing prayers, and maybe some sort of a closing hymn.

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For the benefit of Protestants, I just want to point out “previously consecrated” hosts, in Catholic belief Christ is equally present even after the Mass is ended. It doesn’t matter if the congregation has gone home. It doesn’t matter if if there was no one else at the Mass besides the priest. Christ is equally, permanently present.
Within Protestantism there are varying interpretations.

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Absolutely.

So-- for the viewers following along at home. :wink:

So, say you’re at Mass. The unconsecrated hosts get brought up during the Offeratory. They’re ordinary unleavened bread. You can buy them in religious supply stores online or from bricks-and-mortar shops.

You start your Liturgy of the Eucharist-- they’re still bread at this point.

You get to the Consecration. Then they become the body/blood/soul/divinity of Jesus. They still look like bread, and taste like bread, and act like bread but they’ve been transubstantiated. From this point, they can be referred to as “consecrated hosts”.

Depending on various circumstances, the priest may consecrate exactly as many hosts as is needed for that Mass, fewer hosts than are needed for that Mass, or more hosts than are needed for that Mass.

In the tabernacle, we keep extra consecrated hosts that were not consumed at a previous Mass. So if, say, 50 extra people come in to church late, and there weren’t enough hosts set aside to be brought up, then the priest can take the ciborium–

out of the tabernacle–

where the consecrated hosts are kept.

Likewise, if more hosts are consecrated than can be consumed at that Mass-- like, say, if they want to consecrate extras in anticipation of a Communion Service or Good Friday-- then the additional consecrated hosts are placed in the ciborium, in the tabernacle, for future use.

But generally, the priest avoids having too many extra consecrated hosts.

At the same time, you also consecrate the wine, but consecrated wine is never retained anywhere, and is always entirely consumed at Mass.

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When I was going to campus ministry, communion services were regarded as a great opportunity to expand lay ministry. On the priest’s day off, we would go there rather than to Mass at the neighborhood parish across the street.

On the other hand, there are rural parishes with no Mass on certain days within a long distance. So, some allowance might be made, perhaps only with a permanent deacon.

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