ASK FATHER: Sister goes shopping while carrying the Eucharist to the sick. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

Fr. Z's Pyx

From a reader…

I work at a religious supply store and yesterday a local religious sister came in and asked to be shown our selection of pyxes. I led her to the cabinet where they are kept and indicated that some of them are lined with plastic and therefore not actually appropriate for transportation of the Sacred Species. She responded that the metal pyxes are too expensive and expressed a desire to see if the pyxes fit the hosts her parish uses. [You can sense that disaster is about to strike... right?] She then removed a pyx from her pocket, and began placing hosts into one of the plastic-lined pyxes. I asked her if these were consecrated, she replied that they were. I knelt. I was confused, had no idea what to do. The first thing I said was that I didn’t think I could sell the pyx anymore since it had touched the Blessed Sacrament. [Good thinking.  You're mind is on the right track.] However, she said that she would have to just take it then. I went to the counter and waited for her to check out while she proceeded to have a leisurely conversation with a priest who was also in the store at the time. When she finished I sold her the pyx and a few other items with as little speech as possible in deference to the Holy Presence.

My question to you, Father, is what should I do now? Should this irreverence be reported to her pastor or the bishop?

Just when you think you’ve heard everything.

Definitely, the pastor and/or the bishop should be contacted.

This would not quite rise to the level of a violation of the Blessed Sacrament spoken of in can. 1367, but is absolutely inappropriate to do, especially for someone (a religious sister, no less) with any sort of official position within the Church.

There are going to be unavoidable occasions when someone carrying the Blessed Sacrament has to stop for some business other than taking the Eucharist directly to the communicant.  Stopping because of an accident is about all that comes to mind.  But “testing out” new pyxes?!? Chatting with another customers, priest or not?!?

If one is concerned about the size of a pyx, unconsecrated hosts work just as well, BETTER as a matter of fact, because with them you are not committing the sin of sacrilege and scandalizing people!

And DO IT ON YOUR OWN TIME!

Grrrrrrrrrrr.

I contacted a couple of trusted people about this to get their reactions… to double-check myself….

A priest wrote:

I would counsel the clerk to speak with the pastor of the parish to register his dismay. He should be ready to be told “Thanks” or “What’s your problem?” This highlights the absolute horror that the use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion has brought upon the Church. The Holy Eucharist is treated as a commodity by ill-trained and ignorant people. This innovation has been found wanting, and needs to be abolished.

This reveals a serious deficit in training of many extraordinary ministers.  And even if it is an isolated case, repetita iuvant.  Repeated things help.  The more something is important, the more something should should be stressed.  The more sacred (or dangerous) the action, the greater the need for training.  Handling that which is sacred is dangerous, tremendum.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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76 Responses to ASK FATHER: Sister goes shopping while carrying the Eucharist to the sick. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

  1. acardnal says:

    Can someone help me understand this:
    “I led her to the cabinet where they are kept and indicated that some of them are lined with plastic and therefore not actually appropriate for transportation of the Sacred Species. “

    So….if they are inappropriate, why are they lined with plastic if they are going to be used as a pyx? Or is the plastic removable and there to protect the pyx from possible damage?

  2. Mike says:

    Before I logged on to the internet this evening, I was brooding (excessively, no doubt; please pray that I may grow in charity) over my priest-rich parish’s use of three EMHCs at 4:00 “vigil” NO mass this afternoon for around 50 communicants — which of course included almost everyone in the congregation not absolutely incapable of walking in the parade.

    That was before I read of this abomination.

    I’m two or three steps closer to bailing out for the TLM congregation up the road: another matter to pray about.

  3. JamestheOlder says:

    In my experience of (re)training Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist in carrying Holy Communion to the Sick, I found a complete lack of training for direct transmittal of the Sacred Species from the altar at Mass, or from the Tabernacle, to the sick. Now retired from that training, I watch (presumed) EM’s go to a leisurely breakfast in the Church Hall after Mass, while hiding the pyx on their person. Who knows how many more stops? None take the pyx from priest or deacon at the altar and leave immediately, as they should.

    My wife and I watched with some degree of unbelief as the parish director of religious education, assigned that day as one of the many EMHC’s, took a paten of consecrated Hosts up to the choir in the back of our present church (they are too busy singing to approach the altar), and stop on the way back to converse for some minutes with one of the ushers before she returned the remaining Hosts to the altar for reservation.

    In addition, in (re)training, I found no one knew there was a booklet named Holy Communion to the Sick, nor had they been trained to use it. The worst example was at DePaul Hospital in St. Louis, where the “chaplain (nun)” for the hospital breezed into a room full of people, approached the sick person (my sister-in-law), proceeded to say the Our Father, and deposited the Sacred Host on her tongue……time elapsed, perhaps 1.5 minutes.

    We have a SERIOUS education problem.

  4. Netmilsmom says:

    Perhaps the nun misheard ” consecrated” and thought the clerk said “unconsecrated”.
    At least I hope so.

  5. Netmilsmom says:

    Excuse me, not Nun. Religious Sister.

  6. Magpie says:

    One of the EMHCs in my parish has been known to have a full Irish breakfast with the Blessed Sacrament in a pyx in his pocket on his way home after Mass, bringing Holy Communion to his wife.

  7. mburn16 says:

    Someone out to inform the most respectable Sister Carryabout that metal Pyx can be purchased on amazon, of all places, for under $20. Something tells me the parish is not so cash-strapped that this is preclusive.

  8. Lisa Graas says:

    Father, I was with you all the way up until this part, at which point I must disagree.

    This highlights the absolute horror that the use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion has brought upon the Church.

    I agree with everything else that you said. Perhaps you meant to word that differently.

    [Read again. Not my comment. But I can't say that my priest friend was wrong.]

  9. JNVA says:

    I remember seeing an EMHC with the Blessed Sacrament wrapped in plastic wrap for her dying mother not long ago. It disturbed me at the moment, but I really didn’t know what to do. It seems like there is quite a bit of looseness among our EMHC. Easy access to the tabernacle doesn’t help. EMHC’s just come and go with there various ministries.

  10. mamajen says:

    Wow. Kudos to the clerk for having the presence of mind to kneel and try his/her best to deal with a shocking situation in the most respectful manner.

    It’s such a weird scenario, I almost wonder if there’s a mental issue involved.

  11. Charles E Flynn says:

    There are people who, through no fault of their own, have yet to be taught that a folded, previously-unused Kleenex is not an suitable substitute for a pyx.

  12. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    I don’t have my sources handy, but I am sure that carrying the Host around with one while on other business is expressly forbidden in liturgical law.

  13. Joe in Canada says:

    I agree this is a problem. I have the same problem with those “flash” Adoration mobs, where the Blessed Sacrament is carried in a suitcase into a mall or street corner.

  14. HobokenZephyr says:

    Thus the reason why we call them Extraordinary Monsters of Holy Communion.

  15. Volanges says:

    Sometimes it’s not EMHCs who are the culprit.
    I’ve seen a priest, after a Mass at a parish where they didn’t reserve the Blessed Sacrament, bring back the Blessed Sacrament wrapped in a dirty purificator (one that had obviously been used to wipe the chalice after each communicant) and plonked in a bread basket.

    This same priest almost gave me a stroke a few months later when I went to close the windows after a wedding he’d celebrated in our parish and found a full ciborium sitting on the ledge next to the Tabernacle. I spotted the vessel as soon as I walked into the church. With heart pounding, and hoping against hope that it contained unconsecrated hosts, I approached the Tabernacle and looked into the ciborium: pieces of the concelebration Host confirmed my worst fears, this was the Blessed Sacrament left out in the open. When I told him about it the next day he was totally unconcerned. Said he’d gone to look for the Tabernacle key, got into a conversation and ‘forgot’ to go back.

  16. Charles E Flynn says:

    From Guidelines for the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (Revised November 2009)
    Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence:

    While bearing the Holy Eucharist, the extraordinary minister should attempt, as much as possible, to maintain silence. If the extraordinary minister transports the Eucharist in an automobile, it would be inappropriate to turn on the car radio, or to use a cellphone. The extraordinary minister of Holy Communion to the sick and homebound is to take the Holy Eucharist DIRECTLY – without interruption – from church to the house(s) he/she intends to visit.
    The extraordinary minister’s visit to the home has priority over any other activity.
    8
    Under no circumstances should a pyx containing the Body of the Lord be kept in one’s possession for distribution “later on”, or, kept in a car while the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion completes personal business (i.e., finishes errands, dines out) between home visits.

  17. dominicansoul says:

    I volunteer every Sunday morning at my parish’s bookstore. One of the “EM”HC’s carries Jesus around as she does her after Mass “duties” which includes Breakfast in the hall, hours of conversation and organizing things for the parish (such as last weekend, choosing women for the 12 apostles to have their feet washed for Holy Thursday.) She does all this while having Jesus on her person. She takes him from the Tabernacle at 9:30 and doesn’t leave the church campus until close to 2 p.m. I’ve mentioned this to the pastor, but the abuse doesn’t end. I never know what to do in the presence of this lady. Do I kneel? I really pray much about this because it makes me feel guilty and a party to it because I know its happening and I don’t know what to do to stop it. I would tell her something, but this is one of those church leaders who don’t listen to anyone. (Father spoke about this to her, and she continues to do this.) This is why I wish that the Catholic Church would stop the abuse of “Extraordinary Ministers.”

  18. This highlights the absolute horror that the use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion has brought upon the Church.

    I don’t disagree with this comment. And I wonder why, in some circles, the word “extraordinary” is considered to mean “rare to the point of non-existence” when applied to the traditional Mass, but “superabundant” when applied to lay people handling the Sacred Species.

  19. mburn16 says:

    “I never know what to do in the presence of this lady. Do I kneel?”

    Perhaps this would be a good approach. Not only do you show proper reverence to our Lord’s body…but if you can encourage others to do the same, “this lady” might find it uncomfortable to continue to “perform” her duties in such a way that leaves people dropping to their knees in front of her in the ordinary course of the day.

    Alternatively, since your Priest has tried to do something to no avail, go to the Bishop.

  20. APX says:

    My heart hurts and makes me want to cry. The gross irreverance people have towards the Blessed Sacrament and Most Precious Blood makes me want to do hard penance to appease Divine Justice.

  21. A nun brought my sister Holy Communion in a paper bag, when my sister was in hospital after the birth of her son.

    Then again, that hospital journey was full of so many weird things – a risky and dangerous childbirth, the onsent of sole parenthood, being woken at 10pm at night to be interrogated on her future contraceptive plans – that this was just one more on the list …

  22. jacobi says:

    There is a simple solution to the widespread, often unintentional, but nevertheless, widespread abusive treatment of Consecrated Hosts.

    It is to return to the ancient Catholic practise so strongly advocated by St Francis, Aquinas, and I understand by Our Lady, of only hands consecrated for that purpose, handling the Sacred Elements and vessels.

  23. vetusta ecclesia says:

    I am an EHMC in my parish. Before being enrolled we had to attend a training day. I can remember nothing of it except what it did not contain:

    1. Any examination of the theology of the Eucharist.

    2. Any practical training on how to go about the duties, with “do’s and “don’t's”.

  24. Miriam says:

    Why not a pyx lined with plastic? The more expensive ones have a plastic liner. I really don’t know the answer to this question. The pyx carries no liquid and the pyxes I have found without a liner are the really cheap ones which tend to lose the ability to close tightly after about a year of use.

    Story from my parish. For some reason many EHMCs carry a whole host for each person (the recipients in this instance are in elder care homes). This one particular group would have some left over and then would bury the excess in the dirt outside the building. No training at all for this position in my parish.

    Each host can be broken into 4 pieces so theoretically you can feed 8 elderly the Body of Christ. Why do EHMCs feel the need of a whole host for each recipient?

  25. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Anita Moore OPL asks: I wonder why, in some circles, the word “extraordinary” is considered to mean “rare to the point of non-existence” when applied to the traditional Mass, but “superabundant” when applied to lay people handling the Sacred Species.

    That’s easy. Because modern liturgists misuse the word “extraordinary” when talking about ministers, and Benedict XVI misused it when talking about rites.

    Sigh.

  26. acardnal says:

    “One of the “EM”HC’s carries Jesus around as she does her after Mass “duties” which includes Breakfast in the hall, hours of conversation and organizing things for the parish (such as last weekend, choosing women for the 12 apostles to have their feet washed for Holy Thursday.) She does all this while having Jesus on her person. She takes him from the Tabernacle at 9:30 and doesn’t leave the church campus until close to 2 p.m. . . .(Father spoke about this to her, and she continues to do this.)”

    Well then, Father should remove her from her EMHC duties and her access to the Tabernacle.

    When a new pastor (Legionary of Christ) arrived at my parish, he learned that the EMHCs had access to the Tabernacle at their own discretion. He put an immediate stop to that practice! ONLY Father would open the tabernacle and place consecrated hosts in an EMHC’s pyx. Some, predominantly women, were displeased with the new practice. He has since moved on; I miss Father.

  27. frjim4321 says:

    “Why not a pyx lined with plastic? The more expensive ones have a plastic liner. I really don’t know the answer to this question. The pyx carries no liquid and the pyxes I have found without a liner are the really cheap ones which tend to lose the ability to close tightly after about a year of use.”

    To my dismay I’ve learned from the religious goods salesperson that almost all of the gold-colored vessels that we see in the uncatalogued really have no gold on them or on them anyway. They are made of inexpensive base metals and then “lacquered.” So frankly the question about whether or not they are lined with plastic is moot.

    “When a new pastor (Legionary of Christ) arrived at my parish, he learned that the EMHCs had access to the Tabernacle at their own discretion. He put an immediate stop to that practice! ONLY Father would open the tabernacle and place consecrated hosts in an EMHC’s pyx. Some, predominantly women, were displeased with the new practice. He has since moved on; I miss Father.”

    I guess that’s fine if he is always there. But if he’s gone and someone needs communion then he’s created an unnecessary burden.

  28. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    “It is to return to the ancient Catholic practise so strongly advocated by ***St Francis***, Aquinas, and I understand by Our Lady, of only hands consecrated for that purpose, handling the Sacred Elements and vessels.”

    With respect, but there is no good evidence that St. Francis ever expressed an opinion on this topic. He did, however, and here we have excellent early evidence, as that the brothers acquire silver pyxes and give them to poor priests that they encountered while traveling.

    I have written on these issues in my recent biography of St. Francis (reviewed in the New Yorker, America, Commonweal, etc.): http://www.amazon.com/Francis-Assisi-A-New-Biography/dp/0801450705

  29. acardnal says:

    FrJim, the EMHCs received the hosts at the morning Mass; they visited the home bound or nursing homes. Father visited the dying and said Mass at a nursing home once a week. The arrangement worked well. Father had his cell phone and was always available.

  30. Cathy says:

    Some years ago, my sister, a nurse was approached by another nurse who, knowing she was Catholic, told her an unconscious patient had an unconsumed Host on his tongue and asked if she should remove it and throw it away. My sister told her no, and proceeded to contact the priest who had left the unconsumed Host on the man’s tongue. He wasn’t too happy about returning to the hospital, but, I have to question the common sense of the priest to give Holy Communion to an unconscious communicant.

  31. Mike says:

    The abuses of this practice is likely worse than we know (though this post’s news is pretty bad!).

    Eucharistic Lord: Have mercy!

  32. marypatricia says:

    This highlights the absolute horror that the use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion has brought upon the Church.
    I totally agree with this statement. Years ago I was an EMHC at Mass , bringing Holy Communion to the housebound and also in the local hospital.
    I became increasingly uneasy at the lack of respect for the Blessed Sacrament and stopped doing it entirely.
    Practically every time |I went round the hospital I was faced with a situation where I hadn’t a clue what to do as all we had been told was not to embarrass anyone.
    eg. an old man started to tell me his confession
    Another man invited me into bed (I was a lot younger then!)
    The friend of a very ill woman said she couldn’t receive so could I give her a blessing instead.
    Someone else, when asked if she wanted to receive said “Yes” and took a sweet out of her mouth.
    I did my best to treat Our Lord with reverence and respect but realised that while it sounds lovely to bring the Eucharist to people in hospital, in practice it led to all sorts of disrespect.
    I try to avoid our local parish for Mass as the EMHC’s (mostly elderly women like myself) bustle round the tabernacle as if they are tidying up the kitchen–no genuflexions, no sense of awe and reverence–I even saw one flick the Tabernacle door closed with her little finger.
    It is very distressing to witness the increasing disregard for the Real Presence in our churches and I think getting rid of all EMHC’s and going back to only permitting the priest to touch the consecrated host would be a start.

  33. dmwallace says:

    @Dr. Peters et al.,

    From Redemptionis Sacramentum no. 133: “A Priest or Deacon, or an extraordinary minister who takes the Most Holy Eucharist when an ordained minister is absent or impeded in order to administer it as Communion for a sick person, should go insofar as possible directly from the place where the Sacrament is reserved to the sick person’s home, leaving aside any profane business so that any danger of profanation may be avoided and the greatest reverence for the Body of Christ may be ensured. Furthermore the Rite for the administration of Communion to the sick, as prescribed in the Roman Ritual, is always to be used.

  34. Deblette says:

    There is a major disconnect in our churches. When most Catholics do not believe in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, they have no reason to reverence Him or care about how the Eucharist is treated. This goes for many priests. Even priests who are seem very holy allow offenses because they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I know of priests who allow EM’s to take the Eucharist home overnight to bring to someone the next day. They don’t have the time to drive back in the morning to get Jesus. THIS IS FORBIDDEN! I see EM’s every day of the week, and Sunday, dressed in jeans, sweatshirts, short skirts, tight clothing and once, a man in short shorts. I have given up saying anything to anyone, and yes, I have brought these things to the priests and bishops, but, I am the person who is uncharitable and judgement for not understanding that not everyone is where I am at in my spiritual “journey.” I have cried a river of tears over offenses to my Jesus. One priest insists his parish bake their own bread for the Eucharist. After seven years, he was forced to remove the white flour and honey. Now, the bread may be licit, however, the crumbs drop all over the floor where they are stepped on and carried out into the hallways and parking lots. The priest once told someone not to worry, he would have the janitor vacuum them up. When these things have been reported by many people over many years and nothing changes, one has to wonder why? I wish I knew. It breaks my heart.

  35. Suburbanbanshee says:

    marypatricia: People who are sick/housebound and receiving Holy Communion are specifically excused from any kind of fast before (or after) Communion. They’re sick, and they’re not entirely living on their own schedule, either. Mind you, it’s not ideal to pop something out of your mouth, receive, and then pop something back in; but it’s legal if you’re sick.

    That said, it would be good for EMHC’s to encourage the sick/housebound to receive with a little more reverence and ceremony (which could usually be done with no burden to the sick person or the EMHC), and for priests to teach EMHC’s to do so. Without doing anything to poach on priestly territory, there are a lot of traditional forms of lay devotion which might help.

    And yeah, breaking the law on pyxes and treating Jesus like a hitchhiker… there’s no excuse for that. If it’s too burdensome to do it right, it’s obviously too burdensome to offload onto laypeople.

  36. BLB Oregon says:

    I fear that this incident does not betray ignorance so much as it betrays a lack of faith or a loss of faith in the True Presence that is spreading like a pernicious fungus.

  37. Suburbanbanshee says:

    FYI, a brief internet search makes it look like the “Rite for the administration of communion to the sick” is a full-blown little liturgy, with formal scriptural greeting, penitential rite and liturgy of the word, and then Communion. I think I remember hearing hospital chaplains do this for family members; but obviously there’s not a lot of this going on with most EMHC’s, even though it looks like it only takes about five minutes. That’s a shame, because it seems quite nice.

    Why isn’t it readily available on the USCCB website? Given how many EMHC’s are doing this work for the sick (whether we like it or not), shouldn’t they have made a little free EMHC app to help the faithful do it right?

  38. pray4truth says:

    yikes… I reluctantly became an EMHC last year through the “Legion of Mary” in our (liberal) diocese. (red flag)… I’ve since quit the Legion of Mary because I spent more time attending long, drawn-out meetings than doing the work. Our pastor assigned the Legion of Mary folks and other laity with the “duty” of being “Eucharistic Ministers” (red flag) for the homebound and those in care facilities/nursing homes… and often has it “advertised” in our church bulletin (red flag) for more people to volunteer as “Eucharistic Ministers”… As I read this article and comments, I am horrified and think I have received improper training, which consisted of a deacon giving an hour long, informal class to one other person and me… with very loose rules (red flag). When I raised questions after witnessing abuses from several lay women, I was told “well if we don’t do it, who will?” I just want to do the right thing, reverently… but more confusion than not has surrounded the whole situation. Also, I did ask how to purify my pyx and was told I didn’t need to (red flag)… ugh…
    What should I do, Fr. Z?… anybody?! Thank you in advance for any and all comments.

  39. Stories like this only reinforce my contention that the role of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion has been grossly misused, even in places that claim to be “orthodox” or “conservative” or however they are labeled. We tell ourselves that the sick need to have the Eucharist delivered to them every Sunday, which in an ordinary parish is a lot to ask of a parish priest. Sending a lay surrogate simply opens the door too easily to abuse.

    You can send unconsecrated laics to training classes until you are blue in the face, but without sufficient theological formation, never mind the proper role in the Church as an ordinary circumstance, things like this will invariably happen. The Holy See called for their regular use to stop years ago. What part of “eliminated” don’t people get?

  40. albizzi says:

    I ceased long ago to be an EMHC when I was asked by a priest.
    Now I reply: “I am not worthy to touch the Body of Jesus since John the Baptist, the greatest of the saints, said once that he was not worthy to untie his sandals laces.”
    In the same gtime, I ceased taking Communion in the hand.

  41. Tantum Ergo says:

    I was an EM until I just couldn’t stand the mistreatment of the Sacred Species any more. There is no training whatsoever concerinng propriety in this service. The EMs used to stack the ciboria with paper towels in between (crumbs all over.) I complained to the fellow in charge of the EMs, and got a “thanks.” Nothing changed. Most EMs have no idea how to properly cleanse a pyx, or even that it needs to be done at all. Is there any document anywhere that can be used for instruction of EMs? For example, the church is locked, and no access to a sacrarium: What IS the procedure for cleansing the pyx? I used to pour water in and soak for a bit, then consume the water.

  42. SisterTeresePeter says:

    This incident (and others that have been reported in the comments) is just the tip of the iceberg. What has happened is that the belief in the Real Presence has been lost to many, many Catholics, and that includes priests and religious. In my own experiences, I have seen EM act as if they are serving cookies and juice. In one parish, the hosts were so big that it was impossible to receive on the tongue. I saw a 13 year old boy take a chunk out of the Eucharist, chew it like a cookie while holding the rest of It in his hands, and then stuff the rest of It in his mouth as he was walking back to his seat.

    CCD programs are, what I call, “Jesus loves me” classes. Children learn very little of the Deposit of Faith. First Holy Communion is often given before First Penance. Children have no sense of the sacred. The only solution is more and more TLM Masses. For a sister to treat the Blessed Sacrament as though It were a lipstick is truly disgusting. But, I would also bet that she didn’t have a habit either. We all need to pray, pray, pray…

  43. jbas says:

    In the absence of processional candles and bells, there should be some reasonable means of indicating that one has the Blessed Sacrament on one’s person. This could remind both the minister and passersby to show due reverence. Priests can wear a simple sick-call style stole, but I don’t know if there is such a simple equivalent for deacons. At any rate, I agree that only the clergy should distribute Holy Communion, unless someone is dying and there are no clergy to be found anywhere.

    To be perfectly honest, I lost the little pix I once had, and so now I just use a fairly small ciborium covered with a veil.

  44. ASPM Sem says:

    All of these stories are terrifying. The lack of respect for the Eucharist is so saddening and indeed disgusting.

    A somewhat related question for Father or those who would know the answer:

    I was recently serving at a parish and doing the paten at communion. An elderly lady came up and received in the hand, took two steps and turned around to Father and (with very deep sorrow in her eyes) said “I dropped it.” The host was on the marble floor. (another reason for receiving on the tongue!) Father picked up the host, consumed it, and distributed another host to the lady. After Mass, I felt skittish about possible crumbs of the host on the floor still, so I went back out and wiped up the area with a damp purificator, which I then wrung out over the sacrarium and told our sacristan about so they could wash it accordingly. What should be done in that situation? Was that an appropriate response?

    Also for Father: would you consider college seminarians (not acolytes until Theology 1 under the current program) to be more acceptable EMHC’s than pure lay people? When I serve at my home parish, would it be a good idea to volunteer to EMHC instead of do the paten?

  45. BLB Oregon says:

    Is there a different manner of cleaning a pyx than there is for any other sacred vessel?

    (IOW, is there an option other than finding an ordinary minister and letting him know it needs to be purified and cleaned? What other option is there?)

  46. Incidentally, in his Dialogue Concerning Heresies, St. Thomas More has a syllabus of errors taught by Luther and his followers, including the following:

    He teaches that every man and woman should take the Holy Sacrament, and not refrain from touching It and handling It as much as they please.

    This is amid the errors that every Christian man and woman is a priest; that there is real bread and wine joined to the Body of Our Lord in the Eucharist; that the Mass is not a true sacrifice (cf. Zwingli and Oecolampadius); that there should be no fast, no appearing at Mass in Sunday best, and no honorific rituals associated with the Mass; and that the Eucharist is ordained to be consumed but not worshipped. How many Catholics subscribe to these or similar errors, thanks to our casual treatment of the Sacred Species?

  47. jacobi says:

    @ Augustine Thompson O P

    Yes. The definitive early quote on this subject is Aquinas, although the St Francis quote is from two separate books by reputable clerical authors.

    The principle of only consecrated hands was mandated by the Council of Rouen in 878, well before Francis’ time. It simply reflected the increasingly profound realisation of the Real Presence.
    As to why it was dropped in the 1960s, well no doubt books will be written about that in the future?

    Our Lady’s message, I know is uncertain, which is why I put a question mark after it.

    Your book on St Francis looks interesting!

  48. Elizium23 says:

    ASPM Sem, you did the right thing, and we do the same thing, except the pastor requires that we immediately go and purify the floor. If possible, we will drop a purificator on the spot to mark it so that nobody tramples it in the meantime.

  49. Patti Day says:

    When I first came to my parish, I was given a “job” as an EMHC. My training was to watch what the others did. I’m sure that was their training too. Besides the errors made by myself and others out of ignorance, over time I saw people grab the chalice, or hand it back carelessly, so your heart is in your mouth; people who don’t say Amen; people who take too much of the Precious Blood and spit it back in the chalice, or wipe it from their lips with their hand. The longer I served the more I dreaded the Sundays I had the duty. On the few occasions I asked about things I’d seen that I thought were improper (I tried to be sensitive so it wouldn’t sound accusatory) it was treated dismissively and nothing changed. After three years I had to stop. I couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t believe I will ever do it again.

  50. BLB Oregon says:

    I have seen one layperson come up to another during Holy Communion, both holding chalices containing the Precious Blood, and without warning the first one poured the Precious Blood remaining in his chalice into the one she was holding. To say she was astonished would be an understatement. I don’t think he even noticed her reaction.

  51. kjh says:

    I have a similar situation that I’ve had the misfortune to find (more than once over the past few years) a host in the church broken on the floor just while I or my wife and I were attending Mass. The most recent time was just last Sunday (after the Sacrament of Confirmation was celebrated the day before at our parish. I suspect that this is a connection, because I have found hosts on the floor a previous time immediately after the end of the Confirmation Mass.) I think that it is due to people who are at church for the event, and not necessarily “in the proper state” to receive Holy Communion? (Such as, not Catholic, etc.) I don’t exactly know what to do when encountering this situation – the recent time was that we were sitting at the time of the readings or during the homily, and I happened to look down and find two quarters of the host partially under the kneeler, and then we found the other two pieces under the bench. I thought that the best that we could do was to pick up the host and wrap it in a clean tissue until after Mass, at which time I took it to the sacristy and gave it to the deacon. He came back to where we were seated and asked where we found it, so that he could purify the area. But what is one to do in the face of such abusive disregard for the Eucharist?

  52. James Joseph says:

    It is a pitiable thing indeed when a priest of Almighty God writes the following:

    “I guess that’s fine if he is always there. But if he’s gone and someone needs communion then he’s created an unnecessary burden.”

    Burden my left foot! Ask Our Blessed Lady about burden. The only people in the world who “needs communion” are priests. It’s a sacrifice. I am blue collar knuckle-dragger so hold on to your knickers: Consummatum Est! Latin is not haaaard and neither is the commonsense of the Faith. Behold, what the Catacumens require is Baptism; that is to cross the waters, the great-gap, the great-divide, to escape certain death. And behold, what the Faithful require is frequent Confession to keep away avoid vile nasty sin, which is not imaginary. The rest is gravy, a bonus. The Good Lord provides more than enough grace to everyman. With the Immaculate Conception of His Inviolate Mother sufficient propitiation was paid and, get this, with His victory upon the Wood of the Cross He has unfettered all of Mankind from the whims of the evil one.

    Tradition is marching army. Vexilla regis.

  53. LeslieL says:

    Egads! Where to begin…..
    I too have seen EMHC walking about with the Sacred Host as if there were nothing spectacular about the event – and, God forgive me, pretty snarky about it when approached. I have also served at Mass when, with other things on his mind, Fr. forgot to give the Host to the EM’s – but did offer the Sacred Blood. At that time, preparing the Sacristy for the upcoming Mass, those EM’s approached me and asked for the key to the Tabernacle. When I asked why, they informed me they had not received Holy Communion. I almost fell on the floor – they did not realize what they had received. It disturbed me and I approached Fr. gently to tell him. His response? “I guess they need some training…..” Really? You think?
    It disturbs me no end to see and realize the hubris of the EMHC – they seem to think it is a right instead of a privilege….and it is getting worse. I, too, am an EMHC – but I pray to God that I never forget or dismiss the extraordinary privilege I have been given. I became an EMHC because I remember all too clearly how my mom, homebound as she was, would eagerly await the person bringing her the Body of Christ. I wanted so much to be able to give that gift to others – my mom was blessed that it was usually a Priest that would visit her….here, in this parish, we don’t have that ability. I only hope I do justice to the calling and gift I have been given.

  54. JARay says:

    I note one comment that some people take too much from the chalice and then spit the excess back!
    I witnessed one person who inadvertantly also took the little bit of host which the priest drops into the chalice at the fractio panis. She clearly had no idea that this is part of the liturgy and is what every priest does at that time. The surprised look on her face at receiving something which she did not expect and then the fact that she spat the particle of host back into the chalice was most upsetting to me. I immediately made sure that I received the particle myself and after the Mass I suggested to the priest that he try to make sure that the particle of host is consumed either by himself or by someone like myself (an Instituted Acolyte), before the general congregation are given the chalice during Holy Communion under Both Kinds.
    As to the matter of pyxes with plastic inside, the only time that I have seen such a pyx was in an Anglican piety shop. Those that I have seen in Catholic piety shops have all been proper gold ones.
    I would also like to add to this discussion the matter of the proper setting for the room when a sick person is expecting to receive Holy Communion outside of Mass. Most people that I have encountered in over 30 years of taking Communion to the sick have simply no idea at all. I have lost count of the times that I have told people that they should provide a crucifix, a little white cloth (as a Corporal) and a lit candle i.e. they should set up a little altar out of respect for the person of Jesus. Now I do know that a lit candle is sometimes not possible…..as in when I take Communion to one particular person who is bed-ridden in a “Home”. All lights are forbidden in that place because a lit candle would set off the sprinkler system and the fire alarm! Little immitation electric candles are available for such situations.
    Actually I do possess my own pyx in a lovely purse which fits nicely into a box which also contains a corporal and a small crucifix and such a small electric candle so I have nothing to fear from sprinkler systems. I also have a small booklet which I have had for many, many years, with the Ritual of Communion to the Sick.

  55. mary says:

    This reminds me of a situation I encountered with an EMHC. She intended to take Holy Communion to a friend ill in the hospital after our morning mass. I did not know she had these plans. The two of us were working together on a project on parish grounds (as a matter of fact, in the parish center where the priest’s have their offices). At some point we must have been working for longer than she expected and she taped the pocket of her pants and mentioned she had Our Lord with her. Then, she quickly reached into her pocket and took out her pyx, opened it and consumed Jesus. I was STUNNED, and sadly said nothing (although I am sure that my mouth was hanging open in disbelief). I am not a EMHC, but on a visceral level I knew this was wrong to treat Jesus in this matter, not to mention that she couldn’t receive a second time in the day unless present at mass. It was a matter that I personally took to the confessional for “failing to do” (say anything). I emphasize with the original author, it is very shocking when something of this gravity comes our way.

  56. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    Way back, before I knew better, I was once an EMHC, in three parishes, two were military (USAF), one civilian. We only took Holy Communion to others a few times. Some were connected with military duties, and other times it was someone on quarters or hospitalized.

    The rule was from the Priest at the altar to the parishioner, no stops, no detours, nothing until the consecrated host was consumed. I did this duty only a couple times, and never had problems or a reason for any sort of delay. I cannot vouch for everyone else all the time, but I never knew of anyone NOT going directly where needed.

    I know better now, but I am totally shocked that some people do what that religious sister had done. I was in mortal fear of my soul if something were to happen while I had possession of the Blessed Sacrament.

  57. Geoffrey says:

    After reading this post earlier, and then all of the comments, I have decided to add my two cents…

    After much prayer and research, I am convinced that Catholics such as those who comment here are exactly the types of lay faithful who should be involved in “lay ministries”. Until we have an explosion in vocations to the priesthood, this is the situation. We need orthodox and tradition-minded Catholics to become more involved at the parish level, and do our part to “turn the tide”. Sure, we will have to endure a lot of nonsense. But we can catechize by our example, carefully choose our battles, and by gentle and charitable discussions and fraternal corrections.

    While watching Benedict XVI’s final public Mass live on Ash Wednesday in February 2013, I knew I had to do my part to continue his vision and work in “reforming the reform”. Several months later, I was invited to become an acolyte (non-instituted), sacristan, and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at my parish. I study the rubrics and the books of Bishop Peter J. Elliot, and genuflect each time I pass the tabernacle. I have been complimented on how I serve Mass, though I believe I am doing nothing special. I just got the parish to use an ablution cup. My pastor blessed it. Will many use it? It is too soon to tell. But, “brick-by-brick”, we have to start somewhere.

    “We may mourn the loss of Pope Benedict’s leadership. We certainly—as children do—fondly recall all that he gave us. But as children eventually have to do, we—the next generation of the new liturgical movement—must now ourselves carry the burden of the day. According to the differing vocations and gifts Almighty God has given each one of us, we have this responsibility. In our efforts faithfully to fulfil this duty in the years to come let us make the beloved father of the new liturgical movement, Benedict XVI, very proud indeed!” (Dom Alcuin Reid, “The New Liturgical Movement After the Pontificate of Benedict XVI”, 15 October 2013).

  58. Cantor says:

    To get to the heart of the question:

    Does anybody publish a guide for training EMHCs?

    It would be nice for the USCCB to do so, but if there is another source that’s okay. Given the importance of such a document, an Imprimatur would be helpful for credibility.

  59. Charivari Rob says:

    I find myself wondering – if the pyxes weren’t suitable, why were they selling them in the first place? Is this a Christian articles store as opposed to a specifically catholic one?

    Thank you to whoever it was above who cited a particular Church document on the subject. I serve as an EMHC sometimes at Mass, but have never been asked to do sick/home visit duty, so I hadn’t seen particular guidelines.

    The question had never really occurred to me. My hometown parish is a fairly large/busy suburban parish. There, they do call the EMHCs for the sick and homebound to the foot of the sanctuary steps after distribution of Communion in the Mass, and distribute the pyxes to them at that time with the exhortation to carry Jesus forth to their charges. I don’t what they’re told about direct, immediate, no detours, etc… Since some of them have more than one charge, a broad area to cover, and for some they see by appointment (there are practical limitations on when someone is around to let them into the house – it may not be until hours after Mass time) – I have my doubts as to whether that is a practical expectation.

    Coincidentally, I spent time with my mother this weekend, starting to go through some of my late father’s personal effects. One interesting item was a home sick call set. They have a handsome wood one that had belonged to his parents, which he did use a couple of times when homebound. What we found was a smaller and even more portable one, about hand-sized. It had crucifix, candleholders, candles, holy water container, sealed cloth, sealed cotton swab, and instructions for preparing for the sick call.

    I’ll send Father Z a photo of it – perhaps he will have time/space to post it. I’ll also put the description from the little booklet in a separate comment – easy to delete if it’s too large or too far off-topic.

    Perhaps this is something people should go back to having. If it concerns them so much – have it, have it ready, ask for it to be used. Even in those places where the powers-that-be don’t happen to think of it themselves, they are usually pretty amenable if asked (especially when it’s something fairly simple, set up by somebody else, that doesn’t require any real extra effort on their part).

  60. Charivari Rob says:

    For a teeny pamphlet, it’s lengthy. I won’t give all the steps, but this publisher/manufacturer does go into preparing the house and the patient. A couple of particular passages:

    Place a chair and a table at the head of the bed. Cover the table with a clean white cloth.

    and

    When the priest enters with the Host, he should be met at the door by an adult member of the family, carrying a lighted candle. This person should genuflect on greeting priest and then proceed in silence to the patient’s room.

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  62. Sonshine135 says:

    If people like this really believed that this was the Body of Christ, would any of them treat it this way? Our Holy Mother must weep bitterly.

  63. OrthodoxChick says:

    I went through the Diocese of Providence EMHC training back in the 1990′s. At the parish I belonged to at that time, we were trained using the guide mentioned above. We placed our pyx on the altar before Mass began and Father would place the consecrated Host in the pyx for us. Immediately after Communion, but before the final prayer and recessional, the EMHC’s scheduled for homebound calls that day would approach the altar and be given our pyx by Father, and sent out from Mass at that moment to go straight to the sick/homebound communicant – no talking and no stops. The training that we received was conducted by the permanent deacon who had been assigned to the parish and it was quite a lengthy training session. We met once a week for several months, at least. After all of the time I spent in training, I ended up quitting after only one homebound call and one time serving as an EMHC on the altar. As poorly catechized as I was/am, I was overcome by an interior voice telling me that I didn’t belong on the altar and should not be serving as an EMHC. Not having been educated in the proper ways of discernment, and amidst the well-meaning advice of parishioners telling me that I should not feel unworthy to be an EMHC, I chose to err on the side of caution and listen to that interior voice. I figured if there was any chance that the Lord, or my guardian angel, or someone from above was trying to counsel me in this matter, I ought heed their voice, even if I didn’t fully understand.

    Oh, and regarding the sick call kit, we were required to purchase one and use it properly. We had the option to either purchase each element individually (since some of the assembled kits available for purchase at that time tended to come with a poorer quality pyx) or purchase our own sick call kit. We were trained in how to use them and we were given a printed guide/booklet that had what I would describe as a mini Anointing of the Sick type of rite in it. Of course, we couldn’t anoint anyone so that part was omitted, but the sick call visit included a Gospel reading and required responses from the Communicant and/or the caregiver(s) present if they knew the responses.

  64. OrthodoxChick says:

    And just a quick “P.S.” to my last post…we were also explicitly instructed that our service as an EMHC was only valid in the parish where we had been trained and “instituted” to serve. We were told quite clearly that if we attended other parishes or moved/left the parish where we had been instituted, that we would need to go through the training again at the other parish and be installed there by the pastor as an EMHC. In other words, we were taught that there was no “Once an EMHC, always and everywhere an EMHC” rubric.

  65. Long-Skirts says:

    HOSPITAL
    VISIT
    AT
    EVE

    I offered you the Feast
    Where graces are increased.
    I offered you the priest
    You treated him as least.
    I offered you the chance
    For spiritual romance.
    Instead you flailed in sand
    Communion in your hand.
    For woman, in she danced
    All dialogued enhanced.
    She offered you the apple
    With her, I would not grapple.
    My senses numbed in shock
    All silent but the clock.
    She turned and took her leave.
    Her name tag… Chaplain Eve.

  66. BLB Oregon says:

    The persons allowed to bring Holy Communion to the sick and homebound in our parish are instructed very clearly that they are not to do any unnecessary talking or to run any errands while carrying the Blessed Sacrament on their persons. Some even have a pyx worn outside the clothing around their necks, presumably so that it is very clear to others that is the wrong time to catch them for a chat or an errand, lest them seem rude in avoiding invitations to socialize.

  67. acricketchirps says:

    Over at the Fishwrap, I wonder if they hear the same story and are incensed that sister wasn’t allowed to have also the “wine” with her for Communion of the sick.

  68. srlynnmarie says:

    This is not to excuse the sister who did this. Obviously, she needs reminding of certain priorities but I must say this type of behaviour is not reserved to extraordinary ministers. Our priest takes the pix with him to coffee after mass, then sometimes on to lunch with a friend before going on to the sick and elderly. Of course, he also believes in gay marriage so I suppose we are up against a bigger problem.

  69. kevinm says:

    Is it any wonder? Look at how the Blessed Sacrament is ” handled” in a typical NO Mass. The ” Presider” places consecrated Hosts in bowl like ciboria as though they were potaato chips….
    Lay people handle the post-Communion ablutions, when they are performed at all…
    The absence of reverence for the Blessed sacrament is rampant….
    O tempora….O mores………..

    Kevin

  70. tzabiega says:

    Now I understand why the bishop of my home diocese, Joliet, Illinois, Bishop Conlon, recently published instructions that priests and extraordinary ministers of communion need to have the consecrated hosts put into a pyx at the end of a Mass and the host has to be taken directly to the homebound person or person in a hospital immediately. Bishop Conlon basically put a ban on anything but the immediate transfer of the hosts to the person requesting Communion. Hospital chaplains need to find out who will need Communion that day so that only the specific amount of hosts is taken after Mass to those requesting Communion. No one is allowed to keep consecrated hosts for later in the day or another day. I guess the good bishop is aware of the problem of such poorly catechized nuns like the one noted here.

  71. JoAnna says:

    “I find myself wondering – if the pyxes weren’t suitable, why were they selling them in the first place?”

    I was wondering that too.

  72. HeatherPA says:

    “Years ago I was an EMHC at Mass , bringing Holy Communion to the housebound and also in the local hospital.
    I became increasingly uneasy at the lack of respect for the Blessed Sacrament and stopped doing it entirely.”

    This describes me too. I have been given the guilt trip for “quitting”, because I was one of the only people who would consistently go to the nursing home without complaining, however, I just felt worse and worse about being a woman carrying The Lord around, despite how reverent I was, I just had to stop- and I felt much peace with the decision. My guardian Angel was surely at work in that situation. My parish suffers lack of reverence as well, we have at least one openly gay man living with another man who receives Communion consistently, that Father is well aware of. Prayers are daily said for all.

  73. janeway529 says:

    I think the fix was in the moment Sister entered the store. Sister wasn’t going to pay for a new pyx at full price. :-P

  74. Gail F says:

    I know people who take Communion to the sick and homebound, they would NEVER do such a thing. They find it an incredibly holy responsibility. Don’t blame the NO for this — blame bad training, perhaps poor leadership from the priest or bishop, a personality disorder… Someone that comes to mind right off the bat, very “groovy” in many respects, is the person who first explained to me how the consecrated Hosts must be transported directly to the sick and back without stopping (except, of course, for an accident or something as Father said).

  75. Mike_P says:

    I wonder if the problem might be something else that what has been mentioned here. When people are not living as they should be in their private lives, they are blinded by that sin. Our Lord tells us this in some of his teachings. Maybe the lack of outward reverence Fr. Z is talking about comes from living that is at odds with the requirements of the God who is present in that Host on the altar. We all, I know, have broken commandments fallen into sin, but it is the awareness of those falls, the sorrow, humility and repentance, that keeps us from blindness and opens our eyes to the one who is sinless? And this often can only be obtained through another sacrament that is the doorway back into the church for sinners, the sacrament of confession.

    I am thinking of the apparent prevalence among Catholics of the use of birth control together with the misuse of sex, and the beliefs that are coupled with those. One such action in one’s life would normally constitute a mortal sin, and unless followed by sincere confession would leave the soul in a lost and confused state. As would counseling someone to believe that these sins are OK. Could it be that the lack of the use of confession is the real problem, and not the lack of training and guidebooks? Not that the latter are bad, but first, reverence must begin in the soul and in the heart, with the necessary actions of sorrow, repentance and confession, before the spiritual eyes can be opened to see who it is that is in that pyx.

  76. Daniel W says:

    “Dr Peters” writes:
    “Because modern liturgists misuse the word “extraordinary” when talking about ministers, and Benedict XVI misused it when talking about rites….sigh”

    Again “Dr Peters” gets it right, and the pope gets it wrong …. Tch Tch, when will those ignorant popes learn ….. sigh