Tuesday, August 24, 2010
EXTRAORDINARY MINISTERS OF HOLY COMMUNION: TO BE OR NOT TO BE?
I saw an article on Extraordinary Minsters of Holy Communion in the London Telegraph. The reporter wasn't too keen on the use of them. I didn't agree with all of his sentiments but I do have my own take on it.
I think it is wonderful to have laity who are able to bring Holy Communion to the sick and home bound. They need to be trained not only in the reverence required of such an awesome ministry but also how to visit the sick and be pastorally sensitive and professional. It is a great blessing for the home bound and sick to be able to receive Holy Communion frequently. If only priests and deacons could do this, most home bound would be able to receive only monthly if at that.
In terms of the Mass, it is wonderful that the laity can assist in this fashion when there is truly a need. But I have changed my attitude from the liberal use of EM's to a more modified form of it during Mass. You may or may not agree with me.
When our bishop asked parishes to cease having the common chalice at Mass due to H1N1 concerns, I saw something rather marvelous. In the past we would have at least six, sometimes eight EM's come forward at the Sign of Peace. Usually some who were scheduled did not show up. This meant that others in the congregation would have to crane their necks to see if they were needed, thus distracting them at this point in the Mass and creating some confusion when too many came forward to replace the ones that didn't show up. The process of giving all the EM's their Holy Communion was more cumbersome too.
When we only need two EM's for Mass, these always show up, and it is very simple to give them Holy Communion and for us to go and distribute Holy Communion. It is more prayerful and less chaotic.
When the bishop asked that we stop offering the common chalice (we had six chalice stations)it was the first time that anyone officially acknowledged that there is a possibility of contracting a virus or some other virulent germ from the common cup. In fact most of us know that if the Catholic Mass came under the laws of the state in terms of the consumption of "food and drink" in an establishment, that the Church would be shut down for our relatively recent practice of the common chalice with up to 40 people drinking from the same cup. It is not sanitary and in the eyes of state law could create a health risk for those who do it.
Apart from the laity contracting a disease or illness from the common chalice, the priest, deacon or instituted acolyte who alone may cleanse and purify the chalices must first consume what remains of the precious blood and whatever saliva it contains, then place water into the chalice that some 40 people have shared, consume that and then thoroughly wash the chalice (hopefully).
I cannot in good conscience do it myself or ask any other poor soul, deacon or acolyte to do it. In fact a permanent deacon not far from here who is a medical doctor of the colon, contracted a bacteria that lodged in his colon and nearly killed him. He firmly believes that he contracted the bacteria from the chalices used for common sharing that he meticulously and properly cleanses after Mass according to the norms of the liturgy.
I have not returned the parish to the common chalice. I cannot in good conscience for health concerns.
On the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, I did experiment with intinction. I reminded our congregation that if they desired to receive an intincted host that they could not do so by receiving in the hand but must receive on the tongue. If they chose to receive in the hand, they would not receive an intincted host. Nearly 98% of those receiving from me received an intincted host. For many it was the first time in years that they had received on the tongue. I asked for comments after Mass and everyone was very positive about this method of distribution and hoped we would establish it regularly. They felt it much more sanitary too.