Sancta Missa - Rituale Romanum (Roman Ritual) - Holy Eucharist - General Rules




Revised according to the Constitution "Christus Dominus" of January 6, 1953; and the "Motu proprio" of Pius XII, March 19, 1957.

1. The greatest solicitude is to be observed so that all-sacraments of the Catholic Church will be dispensed with reverence and exactitude. Particularly is this true of the administration and reception of t he most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, than which there is nothing more sublime, nothing holier, nothing more wonderful in the Church of God. For in it is contained the highest of God's gifts, Christ, the Lord Himself, author and source of all grace and holiness.

2. Therefore, let every pastor attach the greatest significance thereto, that not only he himself handle, watch over, and dispense this adorable sacrament with becoming reverence and fitting worship, but also that the people committed to his care will devoutly adore it, and receive it worthily and frequently, especially on the higher feast days.

3. Hence he will frequently remind the people that this divine sacrament is to be approached with proper preparation, with fervor and piety, and with an outward bearing of humility; likewise, that sacramental confession should precede it if necessary and that the eucharistic fast is to be observed; and that at the moment of communion they should kneel on both knees, receiving it in humble adoration and with reverence, the men separate from the women, if possible.

4. As for the eucharistic fast:

(a) Natural water does not break the eucharistic fast. If on account of exhausting work, the long distance they must travel to church, or the late hour of Mass, the faithful, even if not infirm, cannot approach the eucharistic table fasting, they may take some quick nourishment, except alcoholic beverages, up to one hour before receiving communion. These aforesaid reasons of grave inconvenience can prudently be decided by their confessor. N.B. The privilege of taking non-alcoholic liquid nourishment one hour before communion was extended without restrictions as to inconvenience by the later "Motu proprio" of Pius XII, March 19, 1957.

(b) The faithful who receive holy communion at evening Masses, whether in Mass itself or shortly before or immediately after, may at supper beforehand (which is allowed up to three hours before holy communion) take the accustomed moderate amount of alcoholic beverage with the meal, excluding strong liquor. But as for liquids that may be taken up to one hour before communion any kind of alcoholic drink is excluded.

5. Moreover, the communicants should be admonished not to leave church right after receiving; not to engage in idle conversation nor to violate custody of the eyes; and neither immediately to read prayers from a book nor to expectorate, lest the sacred species fall from the mouth. Rather, as befits devotion they should spend some time in mental prayer, thanking God for this singular favor and at the same time for the Savior's sacred passion, in memory of which this mystery is celebrated and received.

6. The priest will see to it that a sufficient number of consecrated particles, for communion of the sick or other faithful, will at all times be reserved in a ciborium of solid and suitable material, kept clean, with tight-fitting lid, and covered with white silk; and as far as circumstances allow, the ciborium is to be reserved under lock in a finely wrought tabernacle which is immovable and located in the middle of the altar.

7. The tabernacle ought properly to be covered with a canopy, and nothing else kept therein. It should be placed on the main altar or on another where it can be viewed readily, so that due worship may be rendered this great sacrament, yet so that it in no way interferes with other ecclesiastical offices and solemn ceremonies. At least one lamp must be kept burning before it day and night, which is to be fed with olive oil or beeswax. In places where olive oil is not obtainable, it is left to the judgment of the Ordinary to substitute other vegetable oils as circumstances dictate. The pastor shall see to it that all appurtenances set aside for the cult of this sacrament are kept clean and in good repair.

8. The sacred species are to be renewed frequently. The hosts to be consecrated should be fresh, and after they are consecrated the older species should be distributed first or else consumed.

9. All the faithful must be allowed to receive holy communion, except those excluded for a valid reason. Prohibited in particular are those who are known publicly to be unworthy, such as the excommunicate, those under interdict, and the notoriously infamous, unless there be evidence of their repentance and amendment, yet not until they have first made satisfaction for scandal publicly given.

10. Occult sinners who request holy communion in private must be refused by the minister, when he knows for certain that they have not amended; but he may not do so whenever they request it in public, if it is impossible to avoid scandal by refusing them.

11. The feeble-minded or the insane are not permitted to communicate. However, if they at times have lucid intervals and manifest the proper piety, they may be allowed to receive while in this state, provided there be no danger of irreverence.

12. Holy Eucharist is not to be administered to children who have not yet reached the age of reason, and who have neither understanding nor appreciation of the sacrament.[1]

13. The ordinary minister of holy communion is a priest exclusively. The extraordinary minister is a deacon to whom this privilege may be granted by the Ordinary or the pastor, but only for a good reason. In case of necessity the permission can lawfully be presumed.

14. Every priest may distribute holy communion during Mass; and, when celebrating a Mass privately, also immediately before or after, yet subject to the rule contained in rubric no. 18 below. Even apart from Mass, every priest who is from another place enjoys the same faculty provided he has at least the presumed permission of the rector of the church.

15. A priest may administer holy communion either in the form of unleavened bread or leavened bread, according to the rite of which he is a member. But if an emergency arises where no priest of another rite is available, a priest belonging to an Oriental rite (which makes use of leavened bread) is permitted to administer the Eucharist in unleavened form; and similarly a priest belonging to the Latin rite, or to one of the Oriental rites which makes use of unleavened bread, is permitted to administer the Eucharist in leavened form. Yet each one must follow the ceremonies of his own rite during the actual administration.

16. All the faithful, no matter which rite they belong to, are allowed to receive the Eucharist in any rite whatsoever as an exercise of piety. But all should be persuaded to fulfill the Easter duty each in his own rite. Holy Viaticum should be received by the dying in their own rite, but in an emergency it is lawful to receive it in any rite.

17. The holy Eucharist may be distributed on any day. On Holy Saturday communion may be distributed to the faithful only during Mass, or immediately after the conclusion of this solemnity. Holy communion should be distributed only during the hours when Mass may be offered, unless there is a valid reason for doing otherwise. But holy Viaticum may be administered any time of the day or night.

18. During Mass the priest who is celebrant is not permitted to distribute communion to any of the faithful who are so far away that he himself would lose sight of the altar.

19. Holy communion may be distributed in every place where Mass is allowed, even in a private oratory, unless the Ordinary forbids it in a particular case for a good reason.


1. Pope Paul VI on May 24, 1964, gave communion to 34 children, many them deformed and one four-year-old already dying of cancer.

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