From a reader:
My son served for Daily Mass yesterday, and we had an awkward moment. We’d like your advice on how to best handle this type of situation, should it ever happen again. I’ll set up the scene.
The priest was filling in for our dear Monsignor, who likes everything to be Just As It Should (you know–Say the black, do the red). [Hmmm... who likes things "just so"? The "dear Monsignor" or the guest priest?] The servers are all very well-trained young men who take their role at the Altar very seriously. They strive for piety and reverence, and are doing a great job.
When it came time for Holy Communion, there was a woman who came barreling up to the Altar, snatched the key to the Tabernacle, grabbed the Ciborium, and stood there to distribute Our Lord. It was completely unnecessary; the Mass was not taking any great length (it was, actually, going a bit faster than perhaps it might have), there were not more than maybe 70 souls in attendance, and there was only one server with a Paten–which brings me to our dilemma.
There stood my poor son, wondering what to do! On the one side, a priest, placing Our Lord reverently on the tongues of the communicants. On the other side, this woman, acting like she was saving the day by lending a hand. Is there protocol for whom my boy should stick to? I told him that my instinct says, "Stick with the priest." Is this right?
Go where the priest tells you to go.
What is unclear from this… highly unclear… is whether or not there is a regular practice in that parish of having lay people "barrel, snatch and grab".
I am left with the impression that this barreling, snatching and grabbing took everyone by surprise. Perhaps the barreler, snatcher and grabber took it on herself to do this for the visiting priest whereas she would have have done this were the regular priest there.
If that is the case… let the visiting priest handle it.
Otherwise… otherwise… if the paschal candle stand isn’t too heavy, perhaps your son could heave it up and beat the invader with it until she leaves the sanctuary? … of course taking the ciborium away before hand… all things in the right order, after all.
If there is more than one altar boy, they could together use the sedilia… or the ambo….