D. of Madison’s newspaper’s explanation of EMHC’s giving blessings as if they were priests

In The Catholic Herald of the Diocese of Madison, where the great Bishop Robert Morlino exercises oversight, there is a great article on an issue we have addressed here many times: Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion giving blessings to non-communicants as if they were priests.

The whole thing deserves a reading here and there is no combox over there.

My emphases, though I put the headers in bold.  My comments.

Can lay ministers give blessings during Communion?
Guest column

Written by Paul M. Matenaer
Thursday, Sep. 22, 2011

If you took a vacation this summer and had the joy of participating at Mass in a church other than the one you usually attend, you may have noticed that since we belong to a universal Church, there was an incredible similarity between the Mass you attended on vacation and your usual Mass back home.

On the other hand, you may have also noticed slight variations between the two. My intention in this present article is to examine the legitimacy of one common variation, namely, the practice of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion giving blessings during Mass. As in all of my articles, I do not wish to give a complete historical overview or to exhaustively treat the theological reasoning behind such practices. Rather, I hope to simply and clearly explain the ius vigens, that is, the law presently in force.

What is an EMHC?

In order to properly understand the issue, we must first examine the role of the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion (hereafter abbreviated EMHC). An EMHC is a lay person who has been commissioned — typically by the bishop or vicar general — to distribute Holy Communion to those present at Mass when needed. The 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), the official instruction manual of the Mass, describes the function of EMHC’s in articles 162-163.

To summarize, the EMHC’s first approach the altar only after the priest has received communion. After receiving communion themselves, they then receive from the priest the proper vessels containing the Most Holy Eucharist and in turn distribute Holy Communion to the faithful gathered for Mass. When the distribution of communion is finished, they return the sacred vessels to the altar where the priest is to purify them and the EMHC’s return to their spots in the congregation.

When can EMHCs be used?

Lay persons who are called upon to distribute Holy Communion during Mass are not actually called “lay ministers” as the title of the article may lead you to believe. On the contrary, they are properly referred to as “extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion,” which happens to be a very descriptive term.

As we have already seen above, EMHCs are indeed ministers of Holy Communion, but there is more to it than that. They are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. The presence of this necessary adjective is not intended to communicate that they are wonderful people, even though most of them are. Rather, this word “extraordinary” is meant to distinguish them from the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion, who are priests and deacons.

As those who have been ordained in order to serve the Christian faithful, priests and deacons are the ordinary ministers, that is, servants of Holy Communion. Priests and deacons have been set apart by the Sacrament of Holy Orders to serve the rest of the Body of Christ, especially at the altar.

In 2004, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments promulgated an instruction entitled Redemptionis Sacramentum, which clarified certain matters regarding the Eucharist. In paragraph 88, it states that it is “the priest celebrant’s responsibility” to distribute Holy Communion, perhaps assisted by other priests or deacons who are present. Paragraph 157 of that same document notes that if there is a sufficient number of ordinary ministers present, then EMHCs should not be used.

However, article 162 of the GIRM indicates that if there are no other ordinary ministers present and there is “an exceedingly large [valde magnus] number of communicants,” the priest celebrant may then call upon EMHCs to assist him. Paragraph 151 of Redemptionis Sacramentum explains further that these EMHCs are to be used “only out of true necessity” and that when they are used, “special urgent prayers of intercession should be multiplied that the Lord may soon send a priest for the service of the community.” [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]

Thus, paragraph 158 summarizes that EMHCs may only be used when the priest is impeded (e.g. old age or sickness) or when “the number of faithful coming to communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged.”

Can EMHCs give blessings?

With this proper understanding of the role and usage of EMHCs, we can now begin examining the question at hand. As noted in the introductory paragraph, this is one of those practices that seems to vary by community. In some places children and non-Catholics are instructed to come up with their arms crossed in order to receive a blessing from the EMHC, whereas in other parishes, they are asked to remain seated. Even the blessing given varies greatly from place to place. Whatever the practice may be, [QUAERITUR:] let us now ask whether EMHCs are permitted to give blessings during communion.

In 2008, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments received a letter asking precisely this question. The congregation responded in a private reply with five observations on why this practice is not permitted. [NOT]

But first, let me note that even though private replies do not have the force of universal law, they typically (and this one especially) contain an excellent analysis and resolution of the issue, giving us a unique look at the practice of the Roman Curia. In other words, this private reply is persuasive not by reason of authority but by the authority of right reason, to which every well-intentioned Catholic should submit. Here are their five observations:

Blessing given at end of Mass

[1] The Congregation for Divine Worship points out in their first observation that the liturgical blessing of the Mass is given to everyone gathered in the church just a few moments after the distribution of Holy Communion. This occurs when the priest, making the sign of the cross, says, “May Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

In other words, there is no need to bless only some members of the congregation (e.g. children and non-Catholics) during communion, when the entire congregation is blessed by the priest just moments later.
Laity unable to bless at Mass

[2] In the second observation, we are reminded that within the context of Mass, blessings are the competency of the priest, not lay persons. Article 18 of the Book of Blessings [ugh] notes that even though lay persons may give some blessings, “whenever a priest or deacon is present, the office of presiding [over a blessing] should be left to him.”  [And at Mass there is always a sacerdos present.]

A 1997 instruction, Ecclesia de Mysterio, on the collaboration of the lay faithful further indicates that the laity should never say prayers or perform actions during the Mass which are proper to the priest, as this may lead to a confusion of roles. Since the blessing of the congregation during Mass is reserved to the priest, lay persons must avoid doing so.

Laying on of hands discouraged

[3] The third observation addresses the practice in some places where the EMHC lays hands on a member of the congregation as a sign of blessing. The private reply states that this practice “is to be explicitly discouraged” because the laying on of hands has its own “sacramental significance” which is inappropriate here. The Catechism notes that since this specific sign commonly accompanies the administration of sacraments (e.g. Confirmation) and the succession of the apostles, the laying on of hands must not be used here.

Some prohibited from receiving blessings

[4] Finally, in the fourth and fifth observations, the private reply notes there are some who should neither approach Holy Communion nor receive a blessing. This would include non-Catholics and those mentioned in canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law, such as those under the penalty of excommunication and those persisting in manifest grave sin. [!] Giving a blessing to these persons might give the impression that they are in full communion with the Church or have returned to good standing. In order to avoid the possibility of scandal, EMHCs should not give blessings.

Additions to the rite prohibited

[5] Finally, even though the private reply does not specifically mention this, we ought to recall that “no one may on a personal initiative add to or omit or alter anything in [liturgical] books” as canon 846 of the Code of Canon Law clearly states. Nowhere in the Roman Missal or the GIRM are the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion instructed to bless those unable to receive communion; therefore, this practice of blessing is one of these additions to the rite which is strictly prohibited.

Making use of the sacramentals

Sometimes we may be tempted to think that since something is not part of the Mass it has no spiritual importance. But this would be to neglect the power of the sacramentals, such as blessings, which are liturgical actions signifying spiritual effects obtained through the intercession of the Church. Done properly and in the right context, these blessings better dispose us to receive grace and sanctify various occasions in life.

[NB] One such sacramental that lay persons may administer is the blessing of sons/daughters, which can be as simple as praying over your children: “May the Lord keep you and make you grow in his love, so that you may live worthy of the calling he has given you, now and for ever. Amen.”

Therefore, even if EMHCs are not permitted to give blessings during Mass, the desire to bless is good nonetheless and can become a fruitful aspect of our faith when done in accordance with the Church’s rites. As a parent, I have always enjoyed the practice of blessing my young children before bed and teaching them to reverence the Eucharist with a simple bow of the head as they walk past the minister of Holy Communion at Mass.

Paul Matenaer holds a M.T.S. from Ave Maria University, teaches for the Seat of Wisdom Diocesan Institute in the Diocese of Madison, and is currently studying canon law at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario, where he lives with his wife and three children.

We have seen Mr. Matenaer’s excellent work before on the posture and manner of receiving Communion.

This is a good and comprehensive explanation.

D. of Madison’s newspaper’s explanation of EMHC’s giving blessings as if they were priests
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37 Responses to D. of Madison’s newspaper’s explanation of EMHC’s giving blessings as if they were priests

  1. pseudomodo says:

    Father Z,

    Would you say that the principle of a blessing is that it is given by one who has spiritual authority over another? ie: clerics over the laity, Bishops over priests, parents over children, and religious superiors over thier communities? The last one I am thinking of an Abbess who may give a blessing to the charges in her convent?

    This seems to me to be the proper response as to why an EMHC cannot bless is that the communicants are not under thier spiritual authority.

    What do you think?

  2. New Sister says:

    O how we needed that “year of the priest” in 2009-2010! We need to revere, love, and honor the Priesthood if we are to understand anything else about our Faith!
    At the Rue du Bac chapel in Paris [Chapelle de Notre Dame de la Medaille Miraculeuse], the nuns/sisters working there will bestow a blessing upon the Medals — and there, there is never a shortage of priests to do this. One nun even told a friend of mine that she [my friend] could bless it herself! At the chapel of the Visitation [Paray le Monial], where Our Lord revealed His Most Sacred Heart to Saint Margaret Mary, the sisters running that place will take the Most Blessed Sacrament from the Tabernacle, place It in a monstrance, then upon the Altar for Adoration.
    May the Holy Cure of Ars pray for us, terribly confused sheep!

  3. pelerin says:

    The strangest blessing I saw once was from a Priest at the end of Mass. He used the words ( in his own language) ‘may God bless US’ and made the sign of the cross over himself and not the congregation. I think the writer talking about ‘slight variations’ between Masses in different churches is being polite.

  4. RobertK says:

    Quote: “However, article 162 of the GIRM indicates that if there are no other ordinary ministers present and there is “an exceedingly large [valde magnus] number of communicants,” the priest celebrant may then call upon EMHCs to assist him. Paragraph 151 of Redemptionis Sacramentum explains further that these EMHCs are to be used “only out of true necessity” and that when they are used, “special urgent prayers of intercession should be multiplied that the Lord may soon send a priest for the service of the community.” [Do I hear an “Amen!”?]”

    An “exceedingly large number of communicants” means more than five people in practically every parish Iv’e been to here in Philly Archdiocese.

    In other words these rules (GIRM) mean absolutely nothing to most Bishops and priests. They will allow whatever they and the “laity” want. And the general consensus is EMHC (male and female) in every parish no matter what the number is!. And the Pope or GIRM will never have the power to stop this trend.

    Which in my view is one of many things that has literally driven me to Eastern Christianity.

  5. DFWShook says:

    Fr. Z: I have a quick question. I used to attend Mass at the Church of the Parish in which I live. While attending Mass there, EMHCs stood behind the Altar prior to the Agnes Dei and the Priest’s Communion; often the vessels weren’t sanctified by the Priest at the Altar; the Priest encouraged those unable to receive Communion to come up for a blessing instead (part of the “All are Welcome” slogan of this particular Parish); and EMHCs were instructed to give blessings to those who came up for Communion with their arms crossed. Over the years, I have alternated between this Church and attending Mass at the local FSSP Parish. Since this past Easter I have been attending Mass at the FSSP Parish exclusively and have no plans of returning to my “old” Church in the Parish in which I live. My question is, should I politely point out to the Pastor at the “old” Church these “practices” are in conflict with GRIM and the 2008 reply from the CDW or should I let sleeping dogs lie since I no long attend Mass there?

    Thank you so much for all that you do. I include you and your intentions in my daily prayers.

  6. sea the stars says:

    Father,

    may a husband legitimately bless his wife in the same way he blesses his children?

  7. Diakonia says:

    There is also a concern with the actual method of the blessing that an EMHC might give (improperly.) The EMHC is repeatedly touching the Blessed Sacrament while distributing Holy Communion. Oftentimes very small particles remain on one’s fingers. Those particles of the Blessed Sacrament could be transferred to the other person’s forehead, head, shoulders, etc., depending upon how the blessing is given.

    The best practice is for one’s fingers to remain over the ciborium and/or altar server’s paten to always catch such small particles that way. At every Mass, one or more of the servers’ patens contain some very small particles after the distribution has been completed.

  8. KAS says:

    I’d like to know HOW to avoid a determined EMHC who is so determined to bless my infant that she nearly dumps the Eucharist as she struggles to bless my child as I am turning away after receiving in the hope of AVOIDING this liturgical abuse?

    I could use advice, so I say something to the priest?

    I cannot leave the baby in the pew but I am deeply offended by ANYONE other than the priest or deacon attempting to bless my kid– likely because I know too many new agers/wiccans/etc. and would rather not go there with any layperson.

  9. Central Valley says:

    Another great posting. The See of Fresno is vacant and I pray God the Holy Father sends us a bishop like this. I had addressed this issue with the Fresno diocese but to no avail, the abuses continue. In some parishes here the faithfull and the priest give the final blessing to a body at funerals.

  10. jhayes says:

    Regarding the statement in the article that “Lay persons who are called upon to distribute Holy Communion during Mass are not actually called “lay ministers”

    They are one of he groups categorized as “lay ministers” in the GIRM:

    100. In the absence of an instituted acolyte, there may be deputed lay ministers to serve at the altar and assist the Priest and the Deacon; these carry the cross, the candles, the thurible, the bread, the wine, and the water, or who are even deputed to distribute Holy Communion as extraordinary ministers.[84]

  11. As co-author of the letter to the CDWDS back in 2008 that garnered the thorough and well-reasoned response, I am grateful that it is proving helpful to others!

  12. Marcin says:

    If you took a vacation this summer and had the joy of participating at Mass in a church other than the one you usually attend, you may have noticed that since we belong to a universal Church, there was an incredible similarity between the Mass you attended on vacation and your usual Mass back home.

    This observation, made by otherwise excellent author, defies my senses and offends my intelligence.
    There were few things more dissimilar (to the point of incredibility) than Masses I attended on vacation and my usual Masses back home. Each time I go on vacations I wonder what awaits me next Sunday. It’s a gamble, and a spiritually risky one.

  13. Carolina Geo says:

    If you took a vacation this summer and had the joy of participating at Mass in a church other than the one you usually attend, you may have noticed that since we belong to a universal Church, there was an incredible similarity between the Mass you attended on vacation and your usual Mass back home.

    Clearly the author assists only at the Traditional Latin Mass.

  14. Scott W. says:

    There were few things more dissimilar (to the point of incredibility) than Masses I attended on vacation and my usual Masses back home. Each time I go on vacations I wonder what awaits me next Sunday. It’s a gamble, and a spiritually risky one.

    This is why when I am going out of town and plan to attend mass, I hop over to catholic.com forums, start a new topic titled with the name of the place I will be and in the text ask specifically for recommendations of a parish with non-loopy liturgy. It has worked well for me.

  15. Tina in Ashburn says:

    That this has to be explained is yet another symptom of the modern-day confusion on the role of priest vs. laity.

    The same goes for people who tell priests “God Bless you”. Back in the day, a lay person ‘blessing’ a priest was never, never heard. This might have been considered wild arrogance. When a priest says “God Bless you” a lay person can reply ‘thank you Father’.

    The laity should be encouraged to ASK for a priest’s blessing when they part company.

    I too have never learned many of the ‘etiquette’ details when dealing with clergy, such as what titles to use with specific hierarchy, genuflecting, or kissing hands and rings. I recently learned that in closing a letter to a priest, one can say, “Begging your blessing” after typing out a note on behalf of my 90+ mother. This kind of stuff just isn’t taught anywhere!

  16. KAS: seat yourself in such a way as to be able receive Communion from the priest or deacon. Or — if you have the option, and I would that I had — attend the TLM. No EMHCs in the TLM.

  17. jacobi says:

    An interesting and important question.

    EMHC’S are not Catholic ministers in any sense and it is a pity that this misleading term is used. I suggest that Extraordinary distributors, edHCs would be better.

    Personally I do not receive from them, only from a priest or deacon, and I only receive by mouth. The reason is simple and is no way personal, since they are all well intentioned people. It is that my hands have not been annointed or blessed to handle the Sacred Species – and nor have their’s

    I am not aware that this rule of the Church for handling, like so many other liturgical changes has ever been formally cancelled, but rather subsequently tolerated, which brings their use, except in extreme circumstances, into question.

    The simplest and most tactful way to avoid their blessing is to check well in advance and make sure you are in the queue for the priest. I know at least one edHC who was offended by a last second change of line on my part. When there was no priest, as once happened, I did not receive. A Spritual Communion would, I think, then be appropriate.

    Are acolytes not supposed to be preferred to edHC’s, if available?

  18. Tina in Ashburn says: The same goes for people who tell priests “God Bless you”. Back in the day, a lay person ‘blessing’ a priest was never, never heard. This might have been considered wild arrogance. When a priest says “God Bless you” a lay person can reply ‘thank you Father’.

    You mean I shouldn’t say “God bless you” to a priest when he sneezes?

    I don’t see how saying “God bless you” to a priest is a usurpation. It is not me making the sign of the Cross over the priest and purporting to bestow a blessing on him; nor do I purport to exercise the authority of the Church, as he can; rather, I am asking God to bestow the blessing.

  19. Daniel says:

    In regards to jhayes comment, it seem the GIRM in #100 is referring mainly to the possibility of “lay ministers” being deputed to be acolytes. These deputed acolytes would then seem to be the first choice to become Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. That’s usually not what happens though, the deputed acolytes are ignored and others are brought it to be the EMHCs. You’ll see how #162 indicates “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.”

    The argument still seems to be there for these “other faithful” being called lay ministers, since 162 goes on to say “these ministers should not approach the altar before the priest has received Communion…”

  20. Rachel says:

    Thanks for this post, Father. I’d love to know more about blessings laypeople can give and if there is some formula of words (like “May Almighty God bless you, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”) or certain gestures (like making the Sign of the Cross over someone– or tracing a cross on someone’s forehead?) that we should avoid because only priests should use them. Or is it anything goes as long as it’s not in the context of the liturgy? I of course have no intention of trying to give a priestly blessing such as only the ordained can give. But I can’t imagine being prohibited from saying “May God bless you!” in a letter to a friend. Maybe it’s my Protestant background, but to me those words clearly mean I’m expressing the wish or the prayer that God will bless her, and I’m not in any way implying that I think my words have some kind of ex opere operato power from God.

  21. Is an intercessory prayer the same as a blessing…? Given the reasoning in the CDW response, a priest ought not give a blessing either. I don’t like the overuse of EMHC, and if I’m at a Mass that uses them, we try to anticipate where the priest might go, but it’s always just playing the odds…. but given their use… and the widespread nature of the practice of non-communicants coming up the line… I have always thought that rather than a blessing a prayer along this line could be used:

    May God bring you into full communion with Christ and His Church.

    Whether the person is a non-Catholic, someone who has not fasted properly, someone who needs to go to Confession, or a young child, it would seem a worthy prayer. Again, this is not to facilitate the practice of non-communicants coming up during Holy Communion – indeed it might discourage it for many who come up – but just a tactful way of dealing with it should it happen. And… it might be something an EMHC might be able to say….

    (I avoid the Ordinary Form of the Mass as much as possible. I can’t tell you how many OF Masses I’ve been at where I was so full of anxiety wondering where the priest would end up for Communion that the rest of the Mass is just a daze… which is probably a good thing…)

  22. Denita says:

    I go to the EF Mass. If I have to go to the OF, I only receive Communion from the priest. Or if there is also a deacon present, and I can’t get to the priest, then I’ll receive from him. No one else.

  23. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Hiya Miss Anita Moore, O.P.
    Fact is, this was not said to a priest until recent years. I guess folks used to have a better grasp of “knowing their place” and respecting priests. To hear a layman say this to a priest, is just, well, Lame.

    A lot of folks have difficulty with this concept, as everyone seems to have lost the sense of hierarchy between the ordained and the layperson. Sorry, but I cannot bless a priest but in the lowliest possible way. I am not ordained. I have no authority over a priest. I am a layperson.

    This is the same logic as in Father’s post – a lay minister of communion has no power to bless anyone but their kids, or someone under their authority. As a lay minister can’t ‘bless’ another person, neither can a layman bless a priest.

    To use the example of a sneeze isn’t really on point. This is the anglicized version of the German “good health”, a polite comment. Granted, there are different kinds of ‘blessings” as when saying “May God bless you” to our friends. I’m referring to the false belief that a priest’s blessing carries the same weight as a layperson’s, when in reality, a priest represents the Church and his ordained powers of office when he blesses. A priest has authority over us, not the other way around.

    From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 1669): “the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more its administration is reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priest, deacons)” . A blessing is a sacramental.

    [achoo] LOL.

  24. Ben Yanke says:

    @Daniel

    Actually, Redemptionis Sacramentum specifically asks us to call them Extraordinary Minsters of Holy Communion:

    156. This function is to be understood strictly according to the name by which it is known, that is to say, that of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and not “special minister of Holy Communion” nor “extraordinary minister of the Eucharist” nor “special minister of the Eucharist”, by which names the meaning of this function is unnecessarily and improperly broadened.

  25. Traductora says:

    I don’t like the entire EMCH show that goes on now. The clergy complain that distributing Communion to people kneeling at the altar rail would be slow (it’s not), but in the meantime, they are willing to give Communion individually to a host of old ladies who have laboriously made their way up to the altar and then, after being given Communion and their own chalices (as well as the one who is given a ciborium) have to make their equally laborious way back down with their respective chalices. I don’t think the time argument works…

    As far as the blessing, I have never seen that done here, but what bothers me is that a number of priests in my diocese seem to have forgotten what a priestly blessing is. At the end of mass, they say “May God bless us, in the name (etc.).” I notice that a couple of other posters on this thread have had the same experience.

  26. acardnal says:

    I am one of good bishop Morlino’s faithful sheep after I moved here last year from the orthodox diocese of Arlington, Virginia. He’s only been here about six years but he is on the right track despite the tribulations he suffers from the liberal press and “Catholics” here. His Excellency has his work cut out for him! The fruit is already appearing, however, with about 23 seminarians! God bless Bp. Morlino. I hope he doesn’t leave any time soon. :-)

  27. Norah says:

    I agree in theory with everything said but in practise priests give blessings in order to avoid giving Holy Communion to those who aren’t in the state of grace and to non-Catholics – both groups don’t want to be left in the pew when everybody troops down to receive Holy Communion. When school children come to a Mass it is reasonably certain that almost none of them ever attend Mass and to give a blessing is better, IMO, than to give Holy Communion.

    A friend told me just the other day that she refrained from presenting for Holy Communion and after Mass two people asked her why she didn’t go to Holy Communion!

  28. Maggie says:

    So well-explained and so necessary! Well done! (quite proud to know Mr.Matenaer from our undergrad days at St Paul’s University Catholic Center on the UW Campus, which you can learn more about in this promo video).

    Now the question is: how to we firmly yet charitably catechize those who, having been EMHC for decades, feel it is their *right* to distribute the Body and Blood of Christ, even when it is unnecessary?

  29. jhayes says:

    Regarding the part of the original post which I have quoted below, it seems to say only that an EMHC cannot give a blessing “proper to the priest” such as the liturgical blessing (i.e. the blessing to the whole congregation at the end of Mass). I don’t see the connection from there to saying that the EMHC cannot give an individual blessing in lieu of Communion (which he/she is authorized to distribute for the very reason that there is no priest or other ordained person present to do it for each individual communicant).

    I have left the bracketed items [ ] because I wasn’t sure if any might have been part of the original.

    “[2] In the second observation, we are reminded that within the context of Mass, blessings are the competency of the priest, not lay persons. Article 18 of the Book of Blessings [ugh] notes that even though lay persons may give some blessings, “whenever a priest or deacon is present, the office of presiding [over a blessing] should be left to him.” [And at Mass there is always a sacerdos present.]

    A 1997 instruction, Ecclesia de Mysterio, on the collaboration of the lay faithful further indicates that the laity should never say prayers or perform actions during the Mass which are proper to the priest, as this may lead to a confusion of roles. Since the blessing of the congregation during Mass is reserved to the priest, lay persons must avoid doing so.”

  30. Mike says:

    @pseudomodo

    I think that reading of blessings is a little bit off. Often newly ordained priests will bless the bishop who ordained them, so a strict “downward only” hierarchy of blessing does not seem to be the right reading.

  31. frdgss says:

    Here’s another reason why the unneccesary use of EMHC has proliferated: when the Chalice is offered to the People at Mass, unless intinction is used, it is very time consuming for one priest to communicate all of the People under both kinds.

    In the UK at anyrate, where most Parishes are a one-priest show, I would say that at most Masses the Chalice is offered to the People. According to the GIRM, I know it shouldn’t be, but that’s the situation on the ground. Indeed, my own bishop is somewhat obsessive about promoting this abuse – I think he views it as in some way “including” the laity in the Parish.

    The reality, of course, is that most of the Faithful do not want to be involved in this or any other sort of “ministry” – and so it falls to the usual clique of well-meaning busy-bodies who think they are “helping Father”. It’s all very wearing – and a source of some scandal for many of the faithful.

    So, any ideas on a way forward apart from a blanket-ban on Holy Communion under both kinds?

  32. Nerinab says:

    In my parish, in addition to the overuse of EMHCs, the priest often asks the faithful to raise our hands in blessing for particular people in the parish (e.g. catechists one weekend or newly graduated seniors in another). Think of a Hitlerian salute (and I don’t invoke that image to be obnoxious but to give a visual of what everyone looks like with hands raised). I don’t allow my children to participate in this gesture, but is this allowed? It seems to be on the same level of misunderstanding as the EMHCs offering blessings.

  33. cothrige says:

    They are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. The presence of this necessary adjective is not intended to communicate that they are wonderful people, even though most of them are. Rather, this word “extraordinary” is meant to distinguish them from the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion, who are priests and deacons.

    Distinguish? But, in what way? I am forced to wonder just what extraordinary means? In this area, and in the case of laypeople distributing Communion, it is taken to mean more ordinary than ordinary and so extraordinary ministers outnumber ordinary ministers ten to one at every Mass. And yet, if used in reference to the form of the Mass itself, to be extraordinary suddenly means that it should be rare to the point of never being seen or referred to in any way whatsoever. My prayer is that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass may one day be as “extraordinary” as are the seemingly endless arrays of laypeople in the sanctuary every Sunday.

  34. mrose says:

    Maggie: a good point for moving the conversation forward. Said gently, I think a good response is that nobody has the “right” to Christ, or to any extra “role” at Mass. Active participation is praying, not finding a priestly job to do.

    I think trdgss hits the nail on the head – one of the biggest problems is that this practice nearly always involves the distribution of the Most Precious Blood. But many Catholics now feel entitled to receiving under both kinds, despite the rules to the contrary. A re-manifestation of the very heresy that caused reception under one kind in the West!

  35. 1. Obviously there’s a big difference between what goes on at Mass or a liturgy, and what goes on in everyday life.

    2. A priest who’s just received the Sacrament of Holy Orders is in a special position vis a vis bishops, sort of kind of like a priest who’s hearing Confessions can hear the Pope’s confession and direct him.

    3. Outside Mass, of course laypeople can bless others in all sorts of ways; it’s just not the same kind of blessing as a priest gives, but more like a normal prayer. It’s appropriate to ask unrelated old people for blessings, for example; genuine beggars and pilgrims have been generally held to be able to bless people with good effect; we bless each other at leavetaking (Goodbye=God be with you), and in many cultures, upon meeting; and as I’ve mentioned before, it was Irish law that all laypeople had to bless each other’s work or risk a fine (because you might be cursing it silently). Blessing people who sneeze is a similar sort of lay blessing.

  36. Peco says:

    To KAS who said: ” I’d like to know HOW to avoid a determined EMHC who is so determined to bless my infant I could use advice ”
    Here’s a response that I’ve heard in the past that is partially tongue in cheek. When these obsessed EMHCs are bound and determined to go to great lengths and contortions to administer their “blessings” by smudging the child’s forehead, you can respond by giving them the same smudging on their forehead. This will so confound and befuddle them that they may refrain from doing it the next time.

  37. Father K says:

    Another great article by one of my classmates. Pay attention USA: this man is going to be a great canon lawyer and a force to be reckoned with in the future.