Hey, Father! How many times can I receive Communion each day?

Recently I attended morning Mass and later that day a funeral Mass. I received Communion at both Masses. Then I remembered that I was told years ago that you are not allowed to receive Communion more than once in a 24-hour period. Is this true?                                                                         

Margie in Jerseyville

Hi Margie! Your question is one that I have been asked dozens of times as a priest, so I’m sure many readers have had the same question. You were totally fine to receive Communion twice in the same day. The Church allows us to receive holy Communion two times per day, as long as the second time is in the context of a Mass. However, it may be the case that you are remembering correctly from your childhood. The current guidance from the Church comes from the 1983 Code of Canon Law. So, Catholics who were catechized before 1983 were taught to receive only once per day, which at the time was the law in force. This is an example of a discipline of the Church which can change over time, as the Church deems appropriate. Jesus didn’t give us any guidance about how many times to receive Communion per day, so this is left to the prudent judgment of the Church.

As Catholics, we know that the Mass and the Eucharist hold a central place in our relationship with God, because the Eucharist is God Himself! However, this does not necessarily mean that more is always better when it comes to receiving the Eucharist. In the past, some people have gotten things a bit out of balance and received Communion many times per day, thinking that more Eucharist automatically meant more holiness! However, it is important that we have the proper preparation and disposition for the reception of the Eucharist. This is why the Church allows us to only receive once or twice per day, and the second time only during a Mass. To receive Communion too many times per day could cause us to easily forget how amazing and special the Eucharist is, and that we should not take it for granted.

There are several occasions when we can receive the Eucharist outside of Mass. People who are homebound or in the hospital can ask to have holy Communion brought to them, and this is especially fitting because Jesus desires to nourish us with his Body and Blood when we are sick or discouraged by loneliness. In the absence of a priest, it is sometimes allowed to have a deacon or a lay person lead a Liturgy of the Word service which then includes holy Communion. As long as we are properly disposed and it is our first Communion of the day, it is good to receive the Eucharist whenever we are present at such an occasion.

Even though it is possible to receive the Eucharist outside of Mass, the best place to receive Communion is during Mass. When we attend Mass, we are present in a mysterious, sacramental way at the Last Supper, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus, all at the same time. The separate consecration of the Body and Blood of Jesus on the altar by the priest re-presents the sacrifice of Jesus’ Body and Blood on the cross, without Jesus dying again. This is why all Catholics are required to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation — but not necessarily to receive holy Communion. If we are conscious of a grave sin, we should continue to attend Mass, but refrain from receiving Communion until we have received the sacrament of reconciliation. Attending Mass is an act of worship of God. We unite the sacrifice of our lives to the sacrifice of Jesus on the altar as it is offered to God the Father.

Since the Church’s rule is that we can receive Communion twice in a day, we also need to know what the Church considers to be a “day.” In this case, a day is from midnight to midnight. Sometimes a liturgical feast is longer than 24 hours, such as when we anticipate the Sunday Mass on a Saturday evening. The same rule of twice per day still applies. For example, even if you attend a Saturday evening Mass, you would be allowed to receive Communion twice on Sunday, because it is a different day, even though the liturgical celebration is the same.

As Canon 898 of the Code of Canon Law says, “The Christian faithful are to hold the most holy Eucharist in highest honor, taking an active part in the celebration of the most august sacrifice, receiving this sacrament most devoutly and frequently, and worshiping it with the highest adoration.”

We have received an incredible gift from God in the Eucharist. The more we come to realize this, the more we will be transformed by frequent partaking in Christ’s Body and Blood. 

Father Dominic Vahling is in residence at the Cathedral of the Immculate Conception in Springfield and teaches theology at Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in Springfield.