Communion service does not fulfill Mass obligation


The first aspects of Ministry 2025, pastoral planning for the Diocese of Sioux City, were implemented in part last month with changes in – or the elimination of – Mass times.

With those changes, some of the faithful have proposed the priest consecrate an extra number of hosts at Mass so a deacon or extraordinary minister of holy Communion could distribute them at another service; thus, enabling them to receive the Eucharist.

Sister Esther Mary Nickel, associate director of the diocesan office of worship, explained that approach is “not proper,”

Sister Esther Mary Nickel

Sister Esther Mary Nickel

nor does it fulfill the obligation to participate in the celebration of the Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.

“We are bound to participate in divine worship, the entirety of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist,” she said. “The reception of holy Communion is the culmination of the celebration of the Mass.”

Sister Nickel acknowledged some individuals are looking for “expedient answers” to suit their perceived needs.

“So, to receive Communion and not participate in the Mass is taking a huge short cut,” she said. “When I have seen people attend a Communion service, when they could attend Mass, as they take off out the door, it seems a fitting response is that they are the ‘eat and run’ crowd.”

What many Catholics may not understand – or have overlooked – Sister Nickel noted, is the proper way of speaking about the Mass is to use the phrase, “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

“Sometimes we do not realize that in order for us to receive the Body of Christ, a price has been paid, there has been an offering and a sacrifice,” she said.

At the offertory, the faithful are addressed by the priest who invites them to, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.”

To which the congregation responds: “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy church.”

“We need to pause and ask, ‘What are we saying when we say these words?’” Sister Nickel asked.

“The priest celebrating the Mass is acting in the person of Christ,” she continued. “When he invites us to participate in the offering, he invites us to full, active and conscious participation – to offer with him ourselves in union with the redeeming sacrifice of Christ on Calvary.”

Father James Thermos, spirituality year director at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, Denver, Colo., pointed out that each Mass occurs “in real time and place.”

Father Thermos

Father Thermos

“The people of God, led by their priest who serves as the person of Christ, gather in a place, offering worship to the Father – in, with and through Christ,” he said. “The Holy Spirit makes possible that this worship of the Father is joined to the actual, historical event, or time and place, of the paschal mystery, or death and resurrection of Jesus. So, something real is going on at the time and in the specific place of The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

Father Thermos stressed this is very different than a Communion service.

“At a Communion service, the faithful partake of the resurrected body and blood of Jesus, but they do not partake in the event of joining the offering of their whole self to the perfect offering of Jesus to his heavenly father,” he said.

Father Gary Selin, formation advisor and assistant professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, provided an analogy to further elucidate the importance of the faithful receiving the Eucharist at a Mass.

“A priest cannot give absolution validly over the telephone or the internet. He has to be physically present in some way,” he said. “And so it is the same concerning the need for the priest to be present physically for there to be a real Mass.”

Father Selin

Father Selin

Father Selin explained the Eucharist is a twofold reality: the sacrifice and the fruit of the sacrifice or holy Communion.

“The separate consecrations of bread and wine not only represent, but also actually bring about, the sacramental death of Jesus, as a ‘mystical sword’ separates his Body and Blood,” he said. “The redemptive sacrifice on Calvary is re-presented and perpetuated by Jesus Christ as he offers himself to his father in the Holy Spirit. The church (the faithful as the Mystical Body of Christ), in turn, offers herself with the priest.”

Father Thermos acknowledged that Communion services are acceptable when the Eucharist is brought to the sick or homebound.

“However, Communion is not to be consecrated in one place and then brought around to other churches,” he said. “The faithful are to make heroic efforts to participate in the fullness of their baptism by their full and conscious participation of themselves at the Mass.”

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