When exactly are the faithful supposed to approach the Communion rail?

Immediately after the priest genuflects after receiving the Host, immediately after he genuflects after receiving the Precious Blood, at the second Confiteor, immediately after the Misereatur vestri, or immediately after the Ecce Agnus Dei…Domine non sum dignus?

I've seen choristers approach it immediately after he genuflects after receiving the Precious Blood, elderly people approach it immediately after the Misereatur vestri (because it takes them longer to walk to the rail), and all other parishioners immediately after the Ecce Agnus Dei…Domine non sum dignus. Surely there are rubrics on when the faithful should approach the rail, aren't there?

John Nolan commented on a "Fr Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment: The Roman Rite of 1965" blog post:

No-one ever approached the rail until after the Ecce Agnus Dei. From 1967, when the Ecce preceded the priest's Communion (as in the Novus Ordo) a bell was rung to signal the people to approach the rail. That is probably why some people nowadays interpret the three bells at the priest's Domine non sum dignus (wrongly) as a signal to come forward.

  • I'll describe what I've seen, but I don't know how universal it is. Except for the choir, we remain kneeling during the "Ecce Agnus Dei ... "Domine non sum dignus ..." and then begin lining up to approach the communion rail. The choir begins coming down from the choir loft after singing the Agnus Dei, but those who have not yet reached the communion rail at the "Misereatur ... Indulgentiam ..." after the Confiteor stop and kneel in the aisle at that point. I think the "choir first" system is merely a practical matter of getting them back to the choir loft promptly to resume singing. Oct 25, 2021 at 0:28
  • FWIW, we don't have a communion rail. A nearby Lutheran church does, and I've seen one at another RCC church.
    – Maverick
    Nov 7, 2022 at 14:00

1 Answer 1


Rev. J. B. O'Connell, The Celebration of Mass: A Study of the Rubrics of the Roman Missal (1962), p. 315:

  1. If there is anyone to receive Holy Communion, the server rings the bell (once) shortly before the time for Communion, say during the prayers that follow Agnus Dei. As Confiteor — which used to be [in the 1958 or earlier missals] the signal to the celebrant that there were persons for Communion — is no longer said [?], and as the new rubric of R. X, 6* directs the server "to warn" the communicants by ringing the bell "a little before" Communion:
  • the bell should no longer be rung at the priest's Domine, non sum dignus (this was never ordered by any rubric, it was merely a usage);
  • when there are communicants it should be rung as a warning to them to approach the altar. Since people should not, if possible, be moving about during the celebrant's Communion, it would seem that the bell should be rung shortly after Agnus Dei; the people must now be trained to approach for Communion sooner than they usually do;
  • shortly after having rung the warning bell for the people, the server should go to the Epistle corner of the altar and kneel on the lowest step, if there is anyone for Communion; if not, he takes the cruets and waits at the foot of the altar until after the celebrant's Communion. This is an indication to the celebrant that there is no one to communicate.

*Ritus Servandus in Celebratione Missæ (found at beginning of the [1962] Missal) X, 6:

  1. Si qui sum communicandi in Missa, paulo antea ministrans campanulas signo eos moneat. […]

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