ROME, 23 OCT. 2007 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father
Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum
Q: My parish priest made a regulation that anyone who arrives in Mass
after the Gospel is not allowed to take Communion. According to him, the
reason is that Jesus is "the Word made flesh." Therefore we must
recognize Jesus in the Word before we recognize him in holy Communion.
Another priest, who is a professor of liturgy, has another opinion. He
said that people who arrive late in Mass with a valid reason (for
example, an unusual traffic jam, attending sick children, etc.) should
not be denied Communion. Could you please give a clarification on this
B.E., Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
A: We dealt with the question of late arrivals at Mass in one of our
first columns, on Nov. 4 and Nov. 18, in 2003.
Then as now, I would agree more with the second priest: that someone who
arrives late out of no fault of their own should not be denied
I also consider it unwise to set any barrier point; I continue to insist
that the faithful should assist at the whole Mass.
It is quite possible that some members of the faithful could begin to
see the Gospel as the cutoff moment and feel comfortable in habitually
arriving for the second reading, thus assuring that the Mass is "valid."
It is true that the Mass is a whole and that we must first recognize
Jesus in the Word before we recognize him in the Eucharist. But this
would include the entire Liturgy of the Word and not just the Gospel.
Also, while there is some certain logic in choosing the Gospel as such a
moment, the reasons given are not sufficiently well grounded from the
theological, canonical and moral standpoints to support such a blanket
impediment to receiving Communion.
The pastor has a duty to direct and inform the consciences of the
faithful entrusted to him. And while I disagree with his suggesting the
Gospel as a demarcation point for receiving Communion, it is at least
clear that he his trying to perform his sacred duty.
Therefore, the onus of the decision whether or not to receive Communion,
in this particular case of a late arrival, falls primarily upon the
individual Catholic rather than upon the pastor who can hardly be
expected to be attentive to every late arrival.
It is therefore incumbent on those arriving late to examine their
conscience as to the reason behind their tardiness. If the reason is
neglect or laziness, then they would do better attending another full
Mass if this is possible. Even those who blamelessly arrive late should
prefer to assist at a full Mass although they would be less bound to do
so in conscience.
At the same time, there are some objective elements to be taken into
account besides the reason for lateness. Someone who arrives after the
consecration has not attended Mass, no matter what the reason for his
belatedness. Such a person should not receive Communion, and if it is a
Sunday, has the obligation to attend another Mass.
It is true that Communion may be received outside of Mass, so Mass is
not an essential prerequisite for receiving Communion. This would not,
however, justify arriving just in time for Communion at a weekday Mass,
as all of the rites for receiving Communion outside of Mass include a
Liturgy of the Word and one should attend the entire rite.