Possible liturgical abuse or error?

Today I attended mass at a neighbouring parish and during communion
the priest did not say, “Body of Christ” once and instead chose to
sing a song. This also meant that no one receiving communion said
‘Amen’.

I was very bothered by what the priest was doing and I changed lines
and received communion from someone who did say ‘Body of Christ’.

An additional problem I had with the singing was that it didn’t allow
for a quiet time of reflection after receiving the communion.

Is this a liturgically correct option? Personally, it is the first
time I’ve ever seen it.

I don’t understand – he sang a song while distributing Communion? Or he just didn’t say anything while distributing Communion, and then sang a song afterward? The priest is required to say “The Body of Christ” (or “Blood” or “Body and Blood,” as appropriate), and his failure to do so would be an abuse of the liturgy, unless he had some justifiable reason like a throat ailment (but then he wouldn’t be singing a song, would he).

On the other hand, I think it would be permissible (if unusual) for the priest to lead a post-Communion hymn. Normally a post-Communion hymn or motet would be done by a choir, or a soloist, or led by a cantor, but I don’t know of anything that would actually prevent a priest from doing it.

From the 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) approved for the USA, which can be accessed from romanrite.com/girm.html :

“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.”

“161. If Communion is given only under the species of bread, the priest raises the host slightly and shows it to each, saying, Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ). The communicant replies, Amen, and receives the Sacrament either on the tongue or, where this is allowed and if the communicant so chooses, in the hand. As soon as the communicant receives the host, he or she consumes it entirely.”

The priest did not once say “Body of Christ”.

Instead, he led a song WHILE distributing communion.

I was afraid I was overreacting but I felt that it was so out of touch with the spirit and intention of the liturgy.

This is the relevant paragraph … thanks for the info!

Now I don’t know if I should pass along a little note to the parish priest about what happened. The priest in question is the regular for that parish and was just filling in.

I see. Was he just singing a solo, or was he trying to lead the congregation in a hymn? In a situation, for instance, where your cantor or music leader doesn’t show up, I can understand how a priest might think, as an exceptional circumstance, that he ought to lead the Communion hymn that day. It wouldn’t be correct, but it would at least be well-intentioned and understandable. If he was just singing a song on his own because he likes the sound of his voice, that’s quite a bit less understandable.

I have a similar priest who loves to sing, but is also very strict with the rules and rubrics. I know during offertory when there is no choir (the Saturday anticipated Mass choir is notorious for being absent because the members aren’t full time parishioners and attend other parishes to sing as well) so when there is none he would sing. But not during Communion. He does so in almost any other time that doesn’t require him to be doing anything, like during collection, or when he can also actively participate in the hymn, like The Great Amen.

My suggestion here is speak with the priest. In any instance that we seek to correct someone, we should never approach as being the more knowledgeable one lest we offend the other one’s pride. Be inquisitive first, ask questions like, “Father, I thought it was required for you to say, ‘The Body of Christ,’ and for the communicant to respond, ‘Amen’.” And if he gives an answer and you’re not happy with it, keep leading with questions.

It was difficult to tell … It seemed to me that he was trying to lead the congregation but they appeared to be confused and most did not reciprocate.

The song bothered me for two reasons. One, it meant that he could not say “Body of Christ”. Two, because there was no peace and quite for personal reflection.

You’re definitely right that he ought to have been saying the prescribed words, not singing a song or leading a hymn. But since, as you say, you’ve never seen this before, it’s best to give this priest the benefit of the doubt that he was trying to cope with someone’s unexpected absence or something. ConstantineTG is right that you may want to mention it (I know you said this isn’t your own parish), but in a charitable light you ought to begin by asking why he did what he did, rather than assuming that he just cavalierly decided to dispense with the rubrics.

As to silence, there actually should not be silence during the reception of Communion. The GIRM explains:
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. If, however, there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion chant should be ended in a timely manner.
It also explains the proper time for silence:
88. When the distribution of Communion is finished, as circumstances suggest, the priest and faithful spend some time praying privately. If desired, a psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the entire congregation.

This has happened to me every time we get the same priest as a substitute in my parish for daily Mass. He starts chanting a hymn and will sing instead of saying “Body of Christ.” I told my parochial vicar about this and he was not at all pleased. When the priest in question gave me Holy Communion, I stood there and said “Amen” and then received. I suspect that my parochial vicar will be talking to my pastor about this. As far as I know, the priest in question has not returned to our parish.

The bottom line is this: the celebrant needs to do the red and say the black. He needs to concentrate on the first order, that is, to distribute Holy Communion to the faithful using the prescribed formula. In lieu of singing a hymn, what we have done, in my parish, is to recite the Communion anitphon during daily Mass. We recite it as the priest is communicating. Now, when my parochial vicar is celebrating Sunday Mass, sans choir, he will pick a Communion hymn but, I will help lead it and sustain it so that he can do what he needs to do.

I’ve given a lot of thought as to what was happening during the mass and I now am sure that there was no singing during communion which is probably what prompted the priest to break out in song rather than recite, “Body of Christ”.

So which is more important? It would seem to me that properly administering the host trumps music.

Any thoughts?

It would be more important for the priest or any minister of Communion (ordinary or extraordinary) to say “Body of Christ,” and for the communicant to say “Amen.” This is an important part of the Pauline Mass where the person receiving the Body of Christ to profess his faith that he indeed believes that what he/she is receiving is in fact the Body of Christ. And that profession of faith is why the communicant must reply, “Amen.”

I’ve had priests who love to sing and would lead the congregation in singing when he’s not supposed to be doing something else (like during collection and before the procession of gifts). If he wishes, he may lead the congregation with a song after he’s done distributing.

What you can do is to suggest that the faithful recite the Communion antiphon as the priest is consuming the Body and Blood of Christ. It is, after all, the first option. If the antiphon is recited, then, there is no need for a Communion hymn. Most misallettes already have the antiphons printed inside.

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