QUAERITUR: EMCs, “leftover” Hosts after Communion calls

From a reader:

But I can’t post to your forum.  I am an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist for my parish, serving the homebound.  I receive communion at mass, then take the Eucharist to those who are sick.  Sometimes they cannot receive, so I am left with the Host, and the church is often locked preventing my returning the Host to the tabernacle.  Is it licit to consume the Host?  This being a second reception in a day, outside of the Eucharistic Celebration.  If not, what do I do with the Host?

 

Actually, you are not an "extraordinary minister of the Eucharist".  You are an "extraordinary minister of Communion" (EMC). 

What you are describing is, in effect, self-communication.

This is a good question, since I imagine this happens to EMCs with some frequency.

Your diocese may have specific directions for EMC’s in these situations.  Ask your parish priest.

In the absence of clear direction from the diocese, my strong suggestion is that you return immediately with the Host to the parish and leave the pyx for the parish priest or give it to him directly.  If you can’t reach your priest (you should have contact information!), perhaps there is another parish where, after some contact in advance, you can get some help.

Don’t simply go home with the pyx and Host or run errands.  First things first.  I would say if you are truly in a bind (no priest anywhere, no access to a proper place to leave the Host, no options), then consume It.

It may be that the diocese will have a policy that, in these situations, you are simply to consume the Host. 
Follow their policy if you cannot do this in the better way, that is, return to the parish with the Host and give It to the priest to care of. 

It is true that pastors, parish priests, are pretty busy, especially if they are alone.  Yet the Code of Canon Law describes as one of the main duties of the parish priest to care for the Blessed Sacrament.  I think this falls under that canon.   He ought to make it sufficiently easy for you to deal with something that is beyond your ordinary role.

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15 Responses to QUAERITUR: EMCs, “leftover” Hosts after Communion calls

  1. FrCharles says:

    There are a couple of issues here. When I was taught ‘the theology of communion calls’ somewhere along the way, I was told that the EMoHC ought to also self-communicate for the sake of a so-called ‘fuller experience’ of what the communion was supposed to mean. So this doctrine is out there, eroding awareness of the problem of self-communication.

    Pastors who utilize extraordinary ministers for the communion of the sick and homebound need to make themselves or another priest available and on duty for the return of the Blessed Sacrament if necessary. Such ministers need to be made comfortable with calling at any time of day or night.

  2. PS says:

    I think Fr. Charles is right. After all, you aren’t just doing the homebound and sick a favor, you are also doing the Priest a favor as well. He may be incredibly busy (they usually are), but without your help they would be even busier.

  3. DWB says:

    I am involved with our Diocesan jail/prison ministry. Through the Diocese, we are directed once a week to a jail or prison for a Communion Service. Inmates that wish to participate are required to sign up ahead of time (using a government promulgated request form), so we usually have a good idea of the numbers that will attend the Communion Service. We do not, however, know ahead of time how many will present themselves for Communion. Many do not. (Interestingly enough, those that do, to a man, receive Holy Communion on the tongue). We (the EMCs) make an estimate of the number of communicants that we will have, so as not to have more Hosts than communicants. We tend to ere on the side of underestimating, and will break a Host if we do not have enough. On a rare occasion there will be a small number of Hosts remaining, and we consume this immediately. Although we generally have more than one EMC at each Communion Service, only one distributes Holy Communion to the inmates. I have a couple of questions regarding this.

    Are we permitted to break a Host if there are an insufficient number of whole Hosts for the number of communicants?

    If there are Hosts remaining, should the EMC that distributes Holy Communion not receive to avoid self-communicating (I assume that there are no such issues for the EMC that does not distribute Holy Communion)?

    Thank you.

  4. worm says:

    But if this is a communion service with multiple people participating, couldn’t you just give the last couple of communicants multiple hosts?

  5. MikeM says:

    Are there any sort of rules or guidelines limiting the number of consecrated hosts one can receive at communion?

  6. ssoldie says:

    And we don’t have a crisis in the Church, this is our Lord we are talking about and the I for one want the hands of the priest at my confession, and then recieving from those consecrated hands, Jesus.

  7. mfg says:

    Yes,ssoldie. And this is just another startling reason we should all pray for good Catholic marriages, , good large Catholic families, so we will hopefully soon have many new good priests in order that this whole unnerving, offputting, shocking EMC thing is soon of the past, dead, buried, done. Please God.

  8. Melody says:

    I’m confused why something must be done with the Host in this situation, should the parish be closed up. I certainly wouldn’t leave the Eucharist somewhere like a piece of mail for the priest.
    Were I in this situation, I would go home and place the Eucharist is a respectful place in my home next to my icons and statue of the Virgin, and pray before it, then I would go about my business, and return the Host first thing the next morning.
    Respectfully, what exactly would be wrong about doing this?

  9. “Actually, you are not an ‘extraordinary minister of the Eucharist’. You are an ‘extraordinary minister of Communion’ (EMC).”

    I can remember just a year or two ago, in such a venue as this, being told the exact opposite. Indeed I was, because I remember that “EME” acronym being hammered home just as adamantly. I’d just as soon do away with about 95 percent of them anyway, whatever we decide to call them, but until that happens, can someone please tell me the difference?

  10. robtbrown says:

    I think Fr. Charles is right. After all, you aren’t just doing the homebound and sick a favor, you are also doing the Priest a favor as well. He may be incredibly busy (they usually are), but without your help they would be even busier.
    Comment by PS

    A priest who died a few years ago once told me how much he lamented that Communion calls were no longer the province of the clergy. The more I thought about it, the more he made sense. Priests might be “incredibly busy”, but what is more important than the Eucharist, including Communion calls?

  11. robtbrown says:

    I can remember just a year or two ago, in such a venue as this, being told the exact opposite. Indeed I was, because I remember that “EME” acronym being hammered home just as adamantly. I’d just as soon do away with about 95 percent of them anyway, whatever we decide to call them, but until that happens, can someone please tell me the difference?
    Comment by manwithblackhat

    Only priests can be ministers of the Eucharist because only they can celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice. That you were told that the laity can be ministers of the Eucharist is merely another example of the Mass as Meal pandemic in the Church.

  12. “Only priests can be ministers of the Eucharist …”

    In the ordinary sense, yes I knew that already. That wasn’t my point. I’ll ask again: What is the difference between “extraordinary minister of the Eucharist” and “extraordinary minister of Communion” that makes one term more appropriate than the other? Please note that the word “extraordinary” appears in both. Also note that I’m the same guy who said that “I’d just as soon do away with about 95 percent of them.”

    Now, discuss.

  13. Frank H says:

    manwithblackhat – Here is the relevant section from the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship web page:

    “Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at Mass

    In every celebration of the Eucharist, there should be a sufficient number of ministers of Holy Communion so that it may be distributed in a reverent and orderly manner. Bishops, priests and deacons distribute Holy Communion in virtue of their office as ordinary ministers of the Body and Blood of the Lord. (1)

    When the size of the congregation or the incapacity of the bishop, priest, or deacon requires it, the celebrant may be assisted by other bishops, priests, or deacons. If such ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are not present, “the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, i.e., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the priest may also depute suitable faithful for this single occasion (GIRM 162).”

    Thus I think robtbrown is correct in that “Eucharist” refers to the celebration, really the whole Mass (or at least the Liturgy of the Eucharist part), whereas “Holy Communion” refers to the act of receiving the consecrated species.

  14. So, it’s “extraordinary minister of Holy Communion” then. Whew!

  15. Melody says:

    Um, I really was honestly curious when I asked before, not trolling. Anyone have a moment to answer my question?