Requiem Masses on Sundays of Advent

And More on Children at Communion Time

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ROME, DEC. 7, 2010 ( Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: With the coming of Advent, if I am correct, on Sundays even a funeral Mass is prohibited. Therefore, can a priest from outside come and celebrate an anniversary requiem Mass on a Sunday, say, at 11 a.m.? — F.J., Puduchcheri, India

A: Effectively, the Sundays of Advent, like those of Lent and Easter, are among the highest level celebrations in the liturgical table of precedence. For this reason, practically no other Mass may be celebrated on these days, including ritual and funeral Masses.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), No. 380, says: «Among the Masses for the Dead, the Funeral Mass holds first place. It may be celebrated on any day except for Solemnities that are holy days of obligation, Holy Thursday, the Easter Triduum, and the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and Easter, with due regard also for all the other requirements of the norm of the law.»

Only solemnities which are also holy days of obligation are higher on the liturgical table than these Sundays. Thus, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in Spain and Italy takes precedence over the Sunday of Advent.

That the ritual Masses are forbidden does not necessarily preclude the celebration of some rites. A rite that is usually inserted into a specific part of the Mass, such as an ordination or a religious profession, may be held on a Sunday of Advent, but the prayers of the Mass and the violet or rose color of the vestments all correspond to the Sunday.

Since the funeral Mass has unique characteristics in several parts of the celebration, it cannot be so easily accommodated into a festive liturgy. If it is impossible to delay a funeral until the following Monday, then the Funeral Liturgy Outside of Mass should be used on the Sunday itself (See the Order of Christian Funerals, No. 178).

If this is the case for a funeral, then it is much more so for an anniversary Mass. Indeed, anniversary requiem Masses are much lower down the liturgical table of precedence and, apart from the cases already mentioned in GIRM 380, may not be celebrated on the following days: solemnities, All Souls’ Day, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, Easter Octave, all other Sundays and feasts.

In conclusion, it is not possible for a priest to come and celebrate this anniversary requiem Mass on a Sunday of Advent.

He may come and celebrate a Mass whose intention is the repose of the soul of a particular person. He may mention this intention in commentaries, the homily and the prayer of the faithful. The prayers and readings, however, must be of the day.

For very serious motives, exceptions can be made to these rules. For example, after the earthquake at L’Aquila, Italy, last year the Pope permitted a funeral Mass for all the victims together on Good Friday, a day in which the Church does not celebrate the Eucharist.

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Follow-up: Eastern-Rite Children and Holy Communion

Related to the question regarding Eastern-rite children receiving Communion (Nov. 23), a question on file addressed the situation of those unable to receive.

The reader wrote: «Twice I have heard a priest preach a homily in which he chides the congregation for joining the Communion procession (the moment at which everyone lines up to receive Communion) if their intent is not to receive Communion. He says it is not acceptable to approach with one’s arms crossed over one’s chest, seeking only a blessing, for a blessing is given to everyone present at the end of Mass. He also says it is not acceptable for children to be in the line if they are under the age at which they may receive; if they must come for practical reasons, their parents have the responsibility to make it evident that their children are not there to receive. He says that joining procession for any reason other than to receive Communion detracts from the sacred nature of the procession, causes confusion for the minister, and often creates a need to have a clarification conversation, which should never happen at the moment when Communion is being distributed.

«I was always taught that, on the contrary, it is a beautiful thing to approach in the Communion line even if you cannot receive, for it is a moment during which you may receive a special blessing. I also was taught that children are welcome and encouraged to approach, even if they are too young to receive Communion, again because of the special blessing they can receive. Could you please provide some clarification? Thank you.»

We wrote on several occasions as to whether it is appropriate to impart blessings at the moment of communion (May 10 and 24, 2005; March 24 and April 21, 2009). As we observed, the situation is confused with contrary indications being given even by bishops. We also pointed out that the Holy See seems to be tending toward a negative view of the practice but has yet to publish a definitive decision.

Whether or not a blessing is imparted, I personally would not agree with the priest that young children should not accompany their parents in the line to receive Communion.

I say this, first of all, because this is not a solemn or structured procession but simply an ordered approach to the altar in which ideally the faithful randomly leave their pews and go to the nearest point of administration of the sacrament.

In places where the communion rail is still in use there is really no procession as such. In many large parishes the sacrament is administrated from several places resulting in sundry simultaneous processions.

The second reason why I believe that they should not be discouraged is because I think that, for children, the example of seeing their mother and father reverently receiving Communion is probably a more efficacious catechesis than many academic lessons.

In order to avoid confusion with respect to children who are close to the age for first Communion, the priest is correct in saying that it is incumbent upon parents to make it evident that their children are not going to receive.

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Readers may send questions to Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

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