The Problem of Extraordinary Ministers

[Read Part 1]

Only The Priest’s Consecrated Hands

Traditionally, lay people including altar servers were forbidden to touch the sacred vessels, including the chalice. If they had to touch the paten, they would hold it with a purificator or wear gloves. Likewise, they were only to carry the chalice by touching the chalice veil covering it. This has a historical basis at least as far back as the order of Pope St. Soter, around 170 AD. Yet, we know that Communion in the Hand and Extraordinary Ministers began to infiltrate Catholic worship immediately after Vatican II and the imposition of the Novus Ordo.

However, the use of “Extraordinary Ministers” is often – if not always – in direct violation of the Vatican’s own directives. Many of these people incorrectly refer to themselves as “Eucharistic ministers,” “Special ministers of Holy Communion,” and “extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist” in violation of paragraphs 154-156 of Redemptionis Sacramentum. As further stated in “Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests”:

“Extraordinary ministers may distribute Holy Communion at Eucharistic celebrations only when there are no ordained ministers present or when those ordained ministers present at a liturgical celebration are truly unable to distribute Holy Communion (99). They may also exercise this function at Eucharistic celebrations where there are particularly large numbers of the faithful and which would be excessively prolonged because of an insufficient number of ordained ministers to distribute Holy Communion” (100).

A similar statement can be found in General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), 162. Such statements cover the Novus Ordo Mass and not the Tridentine Mass, which never permits Communion in the hand.

The Sanctuary Desacralized

Nearly all Novus Ordo Masses see an “army” of extraordinary ministers at Sunday Mass when they are gravely unnecessary. As in the pre-Vatican II era, the priest today could easily distribute Holy Communion to a large congregation. The additional time in the distribution of Holy Communion would be beneficial for the faithful since they could kneel longer in contemplation and thanksgiving for receiving the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

The sanctuary remains the location of the Holy of Holies – God Himself. Too often people wearing jeans, shorts, or even strapless tops are nowadays allowed into the sanctuary. The loss of reverence to the Eucharistic Lord is at an all-time high. Only ordained ministers and altar boys should enter the sanctuary.

If you are an “extraordinary minister” of Holy Communion, I suggest that you resign immediately. The practice of the laity touching the Eucharist with their hands should never be encouraged unless grave necessity (e.g., preventing Eucharistic desecration) requires it. As St. Thomas Aquinas stated: “Out of reverence towards this Sacrament, nothing touches It but what is consecrated” (Summa, Pt. III, Q. 2, Art. 3). And we know that the hands of a priest are consecrated for this purpose, but the hands of laymen are not.

Communion on the Tongue Supported by Traditional Latin Mass

The beauty and spirituality of the Traditional Latin Mass in support of Communion on the tongue is clearly demonstrated here by David Joyce, Latin Mass Society of England and Wales:

“…when the faithful themselves receive Communion, they receive It kneeling at the altar rail, and directly onto their tongue. This is very significant. Receiving Communion whilst kneeling means that the faithful line up in a row before the sanctuary, and thus have time to prepare themselves for this most sacred of events: coming into spiritual and substantial union with Christ Himself. The communicant kneels down, and whilst he waits for the priest to make his way around, he can settle himself, concentrate on the upcoming Communion with our Lord praying intensely. When it is his turn, the priest says the prayer: ‘May the body of Our Lord Jesus Christ keep your soul until life everlasting. Amen’.”

“This means, besides the beauty and the significance of the words themselves, that the priest says the word ‘Amen’ so that the communicant need not invoke his voice to receive the King of Kings, allowing a constant stream of prayer and thanksgiving to flow from soul to Savior. The communicant simply needs to expose his tongue, and his side of the proceedings is complete. Upon receiving Christ, he can continue praying for a little while, and only then does he need to return to his seat, leaving room for the next communicant.

“Moreover, having the priest come over to the communicant signifies that Christ comes to us, feeds us with His own divine life, whilst we wait kneeling and unmoving like little children totally dependent on His love, mercy and compassion. This is the message of the Gospel: to become like little children, submitting our wills to His and depending totally on Him for everything. We cannot even feed ourselves without Christ’s help, and the action of Communion in the traditional manner demonstrates this in a very vivid manner.”

Pray and Do Penance for an End to This Sacrilege

Word made flesh, dwelling among us, have mercy on us.

Through Thine Institution of the Most Holy Eucharist, Deliver us, O Jesus.

From an unworthy reception of Thy Body and Blood, O Lord, deliver us.

O God, Who in the most Blessed Sacrament has left us a memorial of Thy Passion, grant us the grace, we beseech Thee, so to venerate the sacred mysteries of Thy Body and Blood, that we may constantly experience within ourselves the fruit of Thy redemption. Who livest and reignest forever and ever. Amen.

A Fatima Center Special Report:

For more on the grave problems associated with Communion in the hand, we strongly encourage you to read “Special Report: The Truth about Communion in the Hand” by John Vennari (+ 2017).

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