Skip to comments.EUCHARISTIC MINISTERS
Posted on 07/08/2002 5:14:57 PM PDT by NYer
In response to the question: "What is the church's teaching on Eucharistic Ministers? Are women allowed to be Eucharistic Ministers?
Bill offers the following response:
In 1969 the Holy See ruled that "a woman of outstanding piety may be chosen in case of necessity, that is, whenever another fit person cannot be found." In 1973, the role was expanded to be as open to women as to men; the document "Immensae Caritatis" makes no differentiation between men and women as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.
Pope Paul VI's January 29, 1973 decree permitting non-ordained persons to distribute Holy Communion (Instruction on Facilitating Communion in Particular Circumstances) and the 1983 revised Code of Canon Law (Canons 230 and 910) describe in very specific language the circumstances that could make the use of Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist advisable. There are three-- (1) The lack of an Ordinary Minister of the Eucharist; (priest, deacon, or ordained acolyte) (2) The inability of an Ordinary Minister to function because of ill health or advanced age; (3) An unwieldy number of communicants with an insufficient number of Ordinary Ministers.
It is clear that Pope Paul VI and the revised Code of Canon Law had good intentions--but the lived reality in the United States has had negative consequences. The above clearly defined circumstances notwithstanding, it has become routine in most parishes to have Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist assist with the distribution of Holy Communion, regardless of the number of communicants or available clergy--even for small daily Mass congregations. Because of the extensive use of Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, many parishioners see their priests only when they are celebrants at Mass. This means that priests are absent from their people at the peak moments of parish life. Often priests are available to greet people before and following Sunday liturgy--but are not available to distribute Holy Communion.
The newsletter of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Liturgy stated in its February 1988 issue: "When ordinary ministers (bishops, priests, deacons) are present during a Eucharistic celebration, whether they are participating in it or not, and are not prevented from doing so, they are to assist in the distribution of Communion. Accordingly, if the ordinary ministers are in sufficient number, special ministers of the Eucharist [Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist] are not allowed to distribute Communion at that Eucharistic celebration." This decision was approved by Pope John Paul II.
Prior to Vatican II, only the priest was allowed to touch the host.
Vatican II introduced the concept of the Eucharistic Minister
One of our female Eucharistic Ministers has been married and divorced twice. She has just moved into a new home that she and her future (3rd) husband are building.
the lived reality in the United States has had negative consequences. The above clearly defined circumstances notwithstanding, it has become routine in most parishes to have Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist assist with the distribution of Holy Communion, regardless of the number of communicants or available clergy--even for small daily Mass congregations.
We have a visiting seminarian this summer. Not even he is allowed to distribute communion. Only the Eucharistic Ministers.
For our non-Catholic friends, those are the proclaimations that the priest or Eucharistic gives to each person who receives Communion respectively for the bread (hosts) and the wine.
Also at our church everyone is encouraged to be very reverent and to nod in reverence to the Holy Eucharist (not the priest or the person distributing the bread or the wine), but to the true presence of Christ in this Sacrament of Holy Eucharist.
Think how you would greet Christ if he were there in person!
Also, for our non-Catholic friends, all Catholics used to kneel down at a Communion rail that separated the priest from the congregation before Vatican II.
So therefore, a nod of respect and reverence is definitely called for. If we can be the examples of this in our parishes it would be great.
This show of reverence has come down in a mandate from the Holy See through the USCCB - a letter from Bishop Wilton Gregory on the proper procedures surrounding the celebration of the Mass. Mention it to your priest, and if the reverence is not occurring in your parish, ask him to check out the letter and think about it. (BTW, if I had a scanner, I would scan the letter in, because I have a copy of the whole thing, Latin letter, English letter from the Vatican and the letter and list of instructions sent out by Gregory.)
St. Sixtus I (circa 115)
"The Sacred Vessels are not to be handled by others than those consecrated to the Lord."
Pope St. Eutychian (275-283)
Forbade the faithful from taking the Sacred Host in their hand.
St. Basil the Great, Doctor of the Church (330-379)
"The right to receive Holy Communion in the hand is permitted only in times of persecution." St. Basil the Great considered Communion in the hand so irregular that he did not hesitate to consider it a grave fault.
The Council of Saragossa (380)
Excommunicated anyone who dared continue receiving Holy Communion by hand. This was confirmed by the Synod of Toledo.
Pope St. Leo the Great (440-461)
Energetically defended and required faithful obedience to the practice of administering Holy Communion on the tongue of the faithful.
The Synod of Rouen (650)
Condemned Communion in the hand to halt widespread abuses that occurred from this practice, and as a safeguard against sacrilege.
The Sixth Ecumenical Council, at Constantinople (680-681)
Forbade the faithful to take the Sacred Host in their hand, threatening transgressors with excommunication.
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274),br> "Out of reverence towards this sacrament [the Holy Eucharist], nothing touches it, but what is consecrated; hence the corporal and the chalice are consecrated, and likewise the priest's hands, for touching this sacrament." (Summa Theologica, Part III, Q. 82, Art. 3, Rep. Obj. 8)
The Council of Trent (1545-1565)
"The fact that only the priest gives Holy Communion with his consecrated hands is an Apostolic Tradition."
Pope Paul VI (1963-1978)
"This method [on the tongue] must be retained." (Memoriale Domini)
Pope John Paul II
To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained. (Dominicae Cenae, 11)
"It is not permitted that the faithful should themselves pick up the consecrated bread and the sacred chalice, still less that they should hand them from one to another." (Inaestimabile Donum, April 17, 1980, sec. 9)
As reported by Fr. George Rutler in his Good Friday sermon at St. Agnes Church, New York in 1989, when Mother Teresa of Calcutta was asked by Fr. Rutler, "What do you think is the worst problem in the world today?" She more than anyone could name any number of candidates: famine, plague, disease, the breakdown of the family, rebellion against God, the corruption of the media, world debt, nuclear threat and so on. "Without pausing a second she said, 'Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand.'"
The following explanation is based on the current liturgical law. At the end is shown how the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), not yet in effect, simply repeats the current law.
Liturgical Law. In the document Eucharisticum mysterium (Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery), the Sacred Congregation of Rites (called today, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments) established that,
In accordance with the custom of the Church, the faithful may receive communion either kneeling or standing. One or the other practice is to be chosen according to the norms laid down by the conference of bishops .... When the faithful communicate kneeling, no other sign of reverence toward the most holy sacrament is required, because the kneeling itself expresses adoration. When they receive communion standing, it is strongly recommended that, approaching in line they make a sign of reverence before receiving the sacrament. This should be done at a designated moment and place, so as not to interfere with the coming and going of the other communicants (34). [my emphasis]
This directive has been reaffirmed in subsequent documents (General Instruction on the Roman Missal, 244c, 245b, 246b, 247b; Notitiae 14, 1978, 535-536, no. 11).
According to the US Appendix to the General Instruction on the Roman Missal, the bishops of the United States chose standing as the norm for this country, as it is in most countries of the world, and left the communicant free to determine what sign of reverence to give to Our Lord, if any. As recently as the November 1995 meeting of the NCCB the bishops voted against changing this norm, leaving the nature of the reverence up to the person receiving Communion.
The Holy See having conceded to the bishops' conferences the decision as to the manner of receiving Communion, and the NCCB having refrained from restricting the freedom of the communicant in the matter of the reverence any further than Rome does, it would seem to be beyond the competence of others to restrict this freedom. In such matters the dictum of St. Augustine is apropos: In necessary things unity, in optional things freedom and in all things charity. Hopefully, pastors and communicants would respect each others freedom in such matters without judging motives.
Most Fitting Sign of Reverence. Since the laity have this freedom, the question becomes "what is a fitting sign of reverence" prior to receiving Holy Communion? Keeping in mind that there is no adequate human adoration of God, the Church has established customary gestures in keeping with the humility we should have before Him.
In the Catholic Church two liturgical signs of reverence stand out. In the Eastern Church (Byzantine Rites), a profound bow (from the waist) is the traditional sign used before the Blessed Sacrament and throughout the liturgy at solemn moments, such as the Consecration. In the Western Church (the Roman Rite), genuflection is the tradition. This is reaffirmed in all the liturgical documents, in fact is required of the principal celebrant at the Consecration and before he receives Communion. Concelebrants are required to make a profound bow at the Consecration and genuflect before receiving Communion (GIRM 233). In this way, the Church herself gives us the example of a fitting reverence, an example which includes the Roman preference for genuflection prior to receiving Communion.
This is the reason many today choose to genuflect before receiving Communion, doing so when second in line so as not to delay the procession. Certainly other gestures are possible (bow, sign of the cross), since in fact none is actually required. Yet, the Church's "strong recommendation," and clear example, ought to move Catholics to manifest their love of the Eucharist in the way most suitable to our Latin tradition.
GIRM (3rd edition, 28 July 2000)
Some suggestion has been raised that because the new General Instruction speaks of not having to genuflect before the Tabernacle when crossing in front of it in procession that Catholics who wish to show reverence to the Lord by genuflecting before receiving Him in the Communion procession will be in disobedience of this norm. This opinion is in error for three reasons: 1) the norm of paragraph 274 refers to genuflections that are obliged of the congregation when they pass before the Blessed Sacrament contained in the Tabernacle, as is clear from the context, 2) the norms for Communion in paragraph 160 simply repeats the current law, including the recommendation of a sign of reverence, and 3) the U.S. Bishops have explicitly chosen not to go beyond the general recommendation of Roman law, not exercising their right as a Conference to require a specific reverence. This leaves the communicant free.
1. Genuflections. The applicable portion of #274, after providing the norms for the priests and ministers with respect to the Lord reposed in a Tabernacle, states of non-ministers (the congregation),
"all who cross before the Blessed Sacrament genuflect, unless they are involved in procession." (my emphasis)
So, communicants going up to or returning from Communion are in procession and if they pass the Tabernacle located on the main altar, a side altar, or in a Chapel, they do not genuflect toward it. However, as an individual passing the Tabernacle in the course of the Mass they are to genuflect.
2. Before Communion. The norm for receiving Communion is treated separately and repeats the legislation cited above for the current GIRM. In the new GIRM #160 states,
"the faithful may communicate standing or kneeling, as established by the Conference of Bishops. However, when they receive standing, it is recommended that they make an appropriate gesture of reverence, to be laid down in the same norms, before receiving the Sacrament."
This text includes in the GIRM the norm which was previously contained in a separate document Eucharisticum mysterium, in which Bishops Conferences were given the authority to choose the method of Communion and establish a suitable reverence when it is received standing. It does not specify the reverence before receiving Communion, as opposed to crossing before the Eucharist, leaving that decision to Bishops Conferences, or by default to the communicant.
3. U.S. Norm. To date the U.S. Bishops have not exercised this grant of authority to establish a uniform norm for the recommended reverence before Communion. At their November 1996 Plenary Assembly in Washington, D.C., it was specifically decided not do so. Bishop David Foley offered a norm which would have set a common sign of reverence. The Bishops Committee on Liturgy recommended that since Rome had not established a particular gesture neither should the NCCB. This recommendation was accepted by the assembled bishops. The communicant is thus free to express adoration in the way he or she prefers, but in keeping with Roman norms that "this should be done at a designated moment and place, so as not to interfere with the coming and going of the other communicants" (EM 34). Having ample experience with genuflecting communicants I can attest that this sign fully complies with this norm.
Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL
Oh, smedley, I hope RnMomof7 doesn't see this post. She has spent all weekend attacking Mother Teresa, as a poor example of christianity!
When they receive communion standing, it is strongly recommended that, approaching in line they make a sign of reverence before receiving the sacrament.
Someone needs to send a directive to the bishops and down to the priests that this instruction be given to the congregants, with monthly reminders until they get it right. I have seen but a few in my parish show any sign of respect for the Eucharist. Oh, wait, I forgot .... this is Albany, home to one of the most liberal bishops in the USCCB! Mea culpa! /sarcasm off>
Keep trying! We never know who our example will touch.
ROFLMAO!! I'm sorry but that reminds me of this post DYING PRIEST which addresses the effects Vatican II had on the clergy. In an instant, the sanctity of the priest was converted into an odious task.
Where is our church headed? Can it be redirected? Is it too late?
You are truly a gentleman, Antoninus! You meant to say "a fat bully".
Before moving to the "liberal" diocese of Albany, I resided in a more conservative one. I recall that several congregants would wait for the lines to shrink before going up to receive communion, kneeling before the priest. From what I understand, they too were admonished for "drawing attention" to themselves. Oh yes, the women who participated in this "practice" insisted in wearing chapel veils on their heads.
How truly sad that what was once expected is now considered ostentatious.
If memory serves, V2 doesn't say anything about them. The concept of "extrordinary ministers" started cropping up without permission in the '70s, I think, alongside communion in the hand, also without permission. Then both eventually became regularized, and soon enough the "extraordinary" ministers became commonplace.
SmedleyButler, thanks for that list!
With nothing to hold on to? They have better knees than I do!
When I was in high school, I used to go to the local Lithuanian church for daily Mass. They had a practice at communion that I never saw anywhere else: when people approached the communion rail, they knelt on the lower of the two steps until after the "Ecce Agnus Dei" and then moved to kneel on the upper step to receive. I liked the practice very much.
Ya shoulda decked him. ;-)
This kind of discussion is always interesting because individual personalities get to "shine."
Since Rome has decided that either practice is permitted, we each have a choice. For me, it's a moot point. I receive the Blessed Sacrament on the tounge from the consecreated fingers of a priest while kneeling at the altar rail during the Tridentine Mass.
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