Monday, March 19, 2018

Instruction Sheet for Clergy Assisting with Distribution of Communion at the EF

In the ever-growing number of places where the traditional Roman Rite of the Mass is being offered, a situation often arises where a priest who is not already trained in the usus antiquior is nevertheless called upon to offer assistance with the distribution of Holy Communion, particularly on occasions when a large number of the faithful are expected to be present. Sometimes clergy are confused and flustered at such moments because they have not received proper instruction ahead of time. It therefore seemed a good idea to share with NLM readers a handy one-page instruction sheet that explains how clergy should assist in these situations. If the document contains any mistakes, I would be grateful for corrections from rubrically well-instructed readers.

First, the text below, and then an image of a formatted version of it.

Instructions for the distribution of Holy Communion by an assisting priest at the Vetus Ordo

1) Having vested in cassock, surplice, and stole of the day’s color, the minister enters the sanctuary when he hears the celebrant beginning to say “Domine, non sum dignus.... (bell ring)” three times.

2) He kneels at the side of the altar during the servers’ Confiteor and the celebrant’s “Ecce agnus Dei,” and stands afterwards.

3) The minister receives the ciborium from the altar and proceeds to the communicants. (If the ciborium is in the tabernacle, he goes to the tabernacle, opens it, genuflects, and closes it without locking it; he genuflects again after opening the ciborium on the altar.)

4) The minister says, while making the sign of the cross with the host, “Corpus + Domini Nostri Iesu Christi [nodding his head at the Holy Name, and placing the Host on the tongue of the communicant] custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen.
a) The priest should not go to the communicants without the server.[1]
b) The whole formula should be pronounced for each communicant.[2]
c) Communion must be received on the tongue and kneeling.[3]
d) Formal blessings to non-communicants are not permitted by the liturgical books of 1962, and sacred ministers exercising their ministry at the Usus Antiquior are bound, as per Universae Ecclesiae 28, and Sacrosanctum Consilium 22§3, not to import extraneous blessings.[4]

5) When all communicants have received Our Lord, the minister, taking care to keep his thumb and forefinger together, takes the paten from the server and ascends to the altar by the front steps, and places the paten on the corporal, leaving it there for the celebrant to purify.

6) He returns the ciborium to the tabernacle, taking care to keep thumb and forefinger together; opens the tabernacle; puts the ciborium into the tabernacle; genuflects; and closes the tabernacle.

7) After closing the tabernacle, the assistant priest washes his fingers with the water in the ablution cup (a small bowl-like container placed to the side of the tabernacle). He dips his thumb and index finger into the water and wipes his fingers on the accompanying purificator before returning to the sacristy.


[1] “Not. 1 Ne sacerdos praecipitanter S. Communionem distribuat, est enim ministerium sanctissimum, omnique possibili attentione et devotione pertractandum.” Sacrae liturgiae praxis juxta ritum romanum v.1. 272.

[2] “Not. 8 Non obstante magno communicantium numero, ad quemque illorum integra forma pronuntianda est, et crux cum S. Hostia exacte et reverenter formanda non autem praeceps manuum gesticulatio, ut distributio acceleretur.” Sacrae liturgiae praxis juxta ritum romanum v.1. 272.

[3] “Praeterea, cum sane de lege speciali agitur, quoad materiam propriam, Litterae Apostolicae Summorum Pontificum derogant omnibus legibus liturgicis, sacrorum rituum propriis, exinde ab anno 1962 promulgatis, et cum rubricis librorum liturgicorum anni 1962 non congruentibus.” UE §28.

[4] “Quapropter nemo omnino alius, etiamsi sit sacerdos, quidquam proprio Marte in Liturgia addat, demat, aut mutet.” SC Normae Generales 22 § 3. RS 186 :“Quisque enim semper meminerit se esse sacrae Liturgiae servitorem.” Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis, n. 24. Cf. also the ceremonies for coram Sanctissimo, which praxis demonstrates that, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, blessings are not imparted other than that of the prescribed Benediction with the Blessed Sacrament. It is the general rule that priests do not give blessings before the Eucharist when our Lord is not residing within the tabernacle – whether these be blessings of the incense, or of people, etc.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: