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Why so many extraordinary eucharistic ministers August 24, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, North Deanery, silliness.

A writer for the Daily Telegraph in Britain wants to know:

The thing I really noticed, though, was the sheer number of people who stand around giving out Holy Communion in some Catholic parishes. In the Church of England, they’re called “Eucharistic ministers”. Now Catholics seem to have adopted this term, and the practice as well.

What’s the point of all these assistants? The Catholic Church does allow for what it calls an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, in cases when the priest is not available. But there is absolutely no need to have five extra ministers, giving Holy Communion under both kinds, as I saw this morning in an ordinary parish church, two thirds full, with a perfectly capable parish priest.

I can’t help thinking all these ministers are there just to give the more assertive parishioners something to do – so that they feel as though they’re joining in. I should think the priest is often bullied into allowing it, and daren’t refuse. As for ordinary Catholics, most of them probably find the extra helpers irritating, but are too polite to say.

Parish priests should resist this expansion in ministers of Communion.

I have seen, at some local parishes, as many as 16 “extraordinary” ministers of Communion.  When the Vatican first allowed an indult for this practice, and still today, it saw it as an emergency (an extraordinary) provision for situations where there were either so many people that the priest (and deacons) could not provide Communion in a reasonable timeframe, or where the priest was unable for some reason to serve.  In virtually every parish in the United States today, however, the use of these “extraordinary ministers” has become ridiculously ordinary, to a point where people seem to insist they have a right to serve Communion, even if there are so many that half of them never hand over a single species of the Blessed Sacrament. 

A side issue to this: at daily Mass, would it be better to forego the Precious Blood rather than have extraordinary ministers serve it?  I guess what I’m getting at is, is this continued regular use of “extraordinary” ministers a good for the Church, long term?  What goodo does it provide?


1. Subvet - August 25, 2010

Is it a good thing in the long run? Probably not. Familiarity breeds contempt and I believe that is happening.

Can it be stopped? I don’t see any way, at least at St. Jude in Allen where I attend Mass. There are so many people receiving that if only the pastor, parochial vicar and deacon distributed the Host and no Blood, the time it takes would still triple.

Often at this point I’ll get a reflexive response of “put the altar rails back, that’ll solve everything”

Not even close.

I grew up pre Vat II, so I saw it when only priests would distribute the Eucharist and only the Eucharist and it was done at the altar rail. It was entirely different then, for one thing there are a heck of a lot more folk receiving now. Whether that’s good or bad can be debated I’m sure, because the question can be asked if there are really that many folk in one Mass whose spiritual life ennables them to receive.

But I’m losing focus, sorry. The point I was trying to go for was that even in a large church packed with worshippers back then you could bet a fair number would NOT go to the altar.

With almost everyone attending a Mass that has anywhere from 500 to 1100 pewsitters receiving or at least getting a blessing (IMO, stupid practice) the large number of EEM’s are needed.

I suppose if there were more priests available that wouldn’t be a problem. But that thinking only puts us in “If we had some ham we could have some ham and eggs, if we had some eggs.” territory.

And FWIW, we should get rid of distributing the Precious Blood. I don’t see what that really does when the only REQUIRED specie is the Host.

2. Mary - August 25, 2010

Since VatII, our Church has seen a reduction in priests, and I believe it was in part because of all the lay people becoming involved and reducing the importance of the priest and the alter.

In my opinion, too many lay people at the alter diminshes the sacredness of the alter (anyone can be up there) and the priesthood as well (anyone can do his job). I understand SubVet’s concern about the time it could take to distribute communion; but we would also have to take into account the added time for all the EMs to gather round the alter, receive, and place themselves around the church. And is extra time in prayer before/after communion really bad (w/o the blaring music of course)?

But I guess the #1 reason/issue I see is – this is JESUS; and are we as lay people really ‘qualified’ to touch or give Jesus to others???
My dad told the story that when VatII took place almost overnight, the lay people were very haphazard with Jesus…

I think it diminishes JESUS and the Sacredness of the Mass.

Subvet - August 25, 2010

Mary, with the exception of added time for the EEM’s to gather, receive and position yourself, I agree with your comments.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad thing if we were all forced to spend more time in Mass. We can’t place God on a time clock and should try getting over our cultural mindset of “faster is better”. Wonder how many folk would leave the Church over something as mundane as an extra 20 minutes or so to spend kneeling at Mass?

After all, Catholics are known for getting out of the church asap. My wife (converted a year ago this past Easter) was outraged the first time she attended Mass with me and saw everyone who headed for the doors after Communion. She’d been Methodist and felt such behavior was flat disrespectful towards God.

I still stand by the point of the EEM’s are needed to insure a quick distribution of the Eucharist. But perhaps that isn’t necessary or desirable, especially if we want to be truly countercultural in unhurried adoration of our Lord.

Having been in the southern part of Europe I can say that nothing will label someone as “American” more quickly than seeking to make things faster and more efficient.

But boy, that extra 20 or so minutes would definetly require a major shift in attitudes!

3. George - August 25, 2010

I have been to a mass where the deacon comes out only to give the Homily. He leaves after that and does not give out communion. Instead, we have a number of Eucharistic Ministers giving out communion. Many parishes have taken far too many liberties with EMs. I believe the position should be eliminated. Let us spend extra time in prayer and reflection with Jesus after we receive Holy Communion. Maybe it would be a benefit.

tantamergo - August 25, 2010

George, you’re my kind of guy. I think the extra amount of time spent offering Communion could be very well spent.

4. thewhitelilyblog - August 25, 2010

When I was a ‘Eucharistic Minister’ (1999) I took communion for over a year to a woman before she died, and this topic, the so-called ministry to the sick, hasn’t been mentioned yet but many EM perform this function and have replaced the priest entirely. It was a disaster. First, although it was not part of my original understanding, I found that I had entirely replaced the priest. Then, I found out that she was going to the mall and other excursions using her portable oxygen equipment. And I found out that her daughter, for whom I had been asked to bring communion as well (the priest in charge of us said it was ok), hadn’t been inside a church in many years and actually hated it, although she liked the idea of receiving the host privately, from stupid me. Then the woman died without confession, although I had asked her several times if she would like to confess. When I brought this up at a meeting later, the priest in charge laughed and asked me if I seriously believed ‘old people’ could commit sin! So that taught me a little lesson. Later, visiting Mexico, I went with a friend to visit someone who had some silver rosary crosses I wanted to book at to buy, to make rosaries. This someone lived directly across the street from a large, active Catholic church, and was quite spry, although old–as old as me!–and he excused himself during our visit to go to the living room where a Mexican eucharistic minister had brought him communion. When he returned, I questioned him, why was communion being brought to him when he could have gone to mass in half an hour across the street and received communion there? “He likes doing it,” the man told me, referring to the minister. Indeed! I’m sure!

Redemptionis Sacramentum said work with the sick is the priest’s work, and that a brief prolongation of mass is no reason for the use of ministers–but there was no enforcement, just as there has been none for any pronouncement of Rome, since Vatican II. It must be a secret agenda, a new custom written between the lines, like so much of the implementation of Vatican II. I don’t know what we shall do about this, but it explains the situation, it seems to me.

Why don’t you try making some phone calls, making some noise? I go to a traditional chapel now, for Sunday (no ministers, quiet, wonderful communion time), but we don’t have daily mass. The church close to me has a new priest. I think I’ll call and see if anything will change, and try to put in a word for those of us who won’t receive from a minister (I won’t go anymore where I can’t kneel to receive, either–I used to get up and down from the bare floor and that was okay, but I can barely do it now, so just don’t go, but I love daily mass so much, I wish the new priest would tell me they’re changing.

tantamergo - August 26, 2010

Whitelily, I have made so much noise in this diocese that I’ve sort of worn out my welcome. But, if my readers want to call and make noise, I think that would be great, and they are less likely to get the door slammed in their face! We can kneel for Communion at most of the churches in the Dallas Diocese, although there are occasional problems, but you are doing it on your own and on the floor. Although, in one local church, I have seen a kneeler mysteriously appear near the sacristy, so, pray God, they may start using that at Mass. I do understand that kneeling on the hard floor is very difficult for some folks.

Ah, who cares how mad they get at me. I think I’ll blog about churches adding 1-person kneelers. Thanks!

5. Mary - August 26, 2010

A question that crossed my mind –
Do you think the use of EEMs has helped in reducing our reverence for Christ – if ordinary Sue or Bob can give communion, what’s so special about it??? We’ve become casual at Mass, casual in how we reverence Christ, casual in attire, casual-looking churches…
Does this lead people to wonder what’s so different between our Catholic Faith and some protestant or Evangelical church…
(Of course, false ecumenism helps this too)

tantamergo - August 26, 2010


6. George - August 26, 2010

It also further reduces the priest’s role at Mass. Lay people help distribute communion, the married deacon gives the homily. A lay person reads the readings, psalm, and petitions.

Last Sunday at the evening mass, you hardly notice the priest is even there. He also went with the shortest Eucharistic prayer.

At the Tridentine Mass I find such a major difference. The priest is completely engaged, and this helps focus attention where it belongs, on Jesus Christ.

tantamergo - August 26, 2010

Are you a local DFW guy, George? I agree on the Latin Mass, although we are fortunate to have a priest who celebrates Novus Ordo Latin Mass in a very Christ-centered, reverent manner. I am growing to like the TLM more and more. I think we’ll celebrate TLM again this weekend.

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