QUAERITUR: finger cleansing for EMHCs after Communion

From a reader:

I have a liturgical question for you, if you don’t mind: Why is it that the Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist do not have to undergo ablutions after distributing Holy Communion?


They don’t?

Well.. yes, they do.

They ought to use the proper procedure afterwards just as any true Minister of the Eucharist would. 

Also, I think you are really speaking about Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, not "of the Eucharist".

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  1. One bishop in the UK think handy wipes will do the job
    “Pro-choice Bishop bans Communion on the tongue”



  2. truthfinder says:

    At this parishes I have ever been at, the EMHCs have always washed their hands after distributing Holy Communion. In the one parish, I know absolutely that this water was poured down the sacrarium. In one parish they had two bowls, one to wash hands before distributing (take of those darn germs) and then another bowl for finger cleaning.

  3. truthfinder says:

    should have been “the” instead of “this”

  4. Papabile says:

    I am not sure if it is still the case, but at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, it used to be made very clear that the ablution cup was only to be used by Priests of Deacons who distributed the host. Laymen who acted as EMHC’s at that time were told they should not use it.

    Again, that was the early 90’s. It may have changed by now.

  5. TNCath says:

    The use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion has gotten completely out of hand. What a well-meaning, yet bad idea gone wrong.

  6. Tom Ryan says:

    End it, don’t mend it

  7. dcs says:

    At my nominal parish there is a small finger bowl on a table next to the tabernacle in which the EHMC’s are supposed to wash their fingers after distributing Holy Communion. I assume the water is poured down the sacrarium at some point.

  8. AlexE says:

    My parish has a bowl on the credence table which is for this purpose. The EMHC gives his ciborium to the priest or places on the altar and then rinses any particles which may have been on his fingers. The EMHC can only approach the tabernacle on rare ocassions and must be handed his ciborium from the priest, not even the deacon. A great situation, hardly, but at least several visible distinctions made on who is who in the “zoo”

  9. C. says:

    What is supposed to happen after Communion is given to the sick? Should the minister bring some holy water with him? It doesn’t seem to make sense for the ablutions to happen after the drive back to the parish. What was done in older times?

  10. lmgilbert says:

    “They ought to use the proper procedure afterwards just as any true Minister of the Eucharist would.”

    Well, I have not been instructed on this at all. I rinse off my fingers at the sacrarium after Mass. What is the proper procedure?

  11. ssoldie says:

    The proper procedure is done at the alter by the priest according to the rubrics, as he is in persona christe, and his hands have been consecrated. Might this prayer for priest be prayed daily and dwell well on the words being said: Keep them,I pray thee, deerest Lord, Keep them for they are Thine- Thy priest whose lives burn out before Thy consecrated shrine. Keep them for they are in the world, though from the world apart, When earthly pleasures tempt, allure- Shelter them in Thy heart. Keep them, and comfort them in hours of loneliness and pain, when all their life of sacrifice for souls seems but in vain, Keep them, and Oh remember Lord they have no one but Thee, Yet they have only human hearts, with human frailty.Keep them as spotless as the Host, That daily they caress- Their every thought and word and deed, Deign dearest Lord to bless.” This prayer was sent to me by Fr Paul Marx on the 50th yr of his Priestly Ordination.

  12. AlexE says:

    SSoldie, a lovely prayer, but those abultions are for the priest celebrant. Another priest uses the ablutions bowl near the tabernacle. I guess the best ideas was that of he who said “end it don’t mend it” earlier

  13. Robert_H says:

    I guess the best ideas was that of he who said “end it don’t mend it” earlier.

    I agree, during Mass EMHC’s are almost always unnecessary.

    But what about C.’s comment above, refering to Communion for the sick? I am an EMHC for my diocese but I only bring Holy Communion to a local hospital. We use the handbook Communion of the Sick, which is published by the USCCB Committee on Liturgy. The rites are taken from Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rite of Anointing and Viaticum and the section I was trained to use, titled “Communion in a Hospital or Institution,” simply concludes with a concluding prayer (said in the chapel) and (in red) “The blessing is omitted and the minister cleanses the vessel as usual.”

    The hospital regulations require us to wash our hands on the way in and out of every room. Should I carry a communion linen soaked in holy water and wipe my fingers before leaving the room? I simply can’t imagine how the diocese could find enough priests to do what my fellow volunteers do.

  14. Bill in Texas says:

    In my parish, there is a bowl of water on the credence table, and a finger towel. After communion, the EMoHCs (all of them, including those who distribute the Precious Blood) rinse their fingers in the water and dry them on the towel. The water is poured down the sacrarium after Mass. The finger towel is washed with the purificators.

  15. rob l says:

    When a priest does a sick call, after the person receives HC, the priest would ablute his fingers in a small cup and then drink it. The idea of laymen handling the Blessed Sacrament was, as we know, not an issue. As for the “EMHC” abluting their fingers after distribution, it is fair to say to that-What’s the point? Many/most of the people that receive at the local parishes receive in the hand, where particles end up remaining. They don’t see the forest for the trees.


  16. Jakub says:

    I have never witnessed any finger washing by EMHC’S before or after communion…

    Maybe they need to stay at a Holiday Express…or believe in the Real Presence of the Lord.

    But of course, I am in Los Angeles…

  17. ray from mn says:

    I don’t know if it is proper or not, but I have been licking my two fingers when the patient is not looking. Then I go on to the next room. I might visit 30 or more Catholics in a visit, 5-10 of whom will request communion.

    The honesty of the patients as to their spiritual health is moving. I have had many conversations that ended up with me encouraging a patient to go to Confession and answering some of their questions. Some do.

    We consider our volunteer job “spiritual triage” for our priests.

  18. AlexE says:

    When I had the ocassion to make sick calls I would look for a small cup in which I could rinse my fingers and then in turn rinse the cup. I think whatever we think is prudent is the best way to go since nobody seems to be told. I like the idea of a moist purificator, but would suggest using a small section which could hten be folded by the remainder of the purficiator.

  19. irish3509 says:

    As an EMHC, I know I was never trained or told to wash my fingers, I just did it on my own. I’m not a big fan of having little pieces of Jesus get all over the place, as no matter the size of the particle it is still Jesus. There is a bowl of water by the tabernacle, that I’ve used when I happen to be the one to place the ciborium back, but normally I hand the ciborium to the priest or deacon, all the while keeping the fingers I used to distribute Communion pressed together and then I rather stealth like lick my fingers to clean them, I’d rather be able to stick my fingers in a bowl to clean them, but you have to do what you can. I have only seen one of our deacons, we have 4 at the parish, actually clean his fingers. The priests might, but I haven’t noticed. Makes me wonder what we really should be doing.

  20. California Girl 21 says:

    At our parish, I know there are two bowls for the (only five) EMHC’s. I never really noticed, but I assume one is for before and one for after distributing the Host. (We no longer offer the Precious Blood to the whole congregation–too many cases of spills, splashes, and slops.)

    Lately I’ve seen our priest hold his thumb and fingertip together until after communion. Then the altar server pours water over his joined fingers, which he is holding over the chalice, so that any particles rinsed of his fingers will end up in the chalice and be consumed.

    (I said “only” five EMHC’s, because when I recently visited a neighboring parish, they had EIGHTEEN, for only about 300 parishioners at that Mass.)

  21. Our parish has an ablution cup next the tabernacle. The EMHC’s place their ciboria in front of the tabernacle and then cleanse their fingers.

    As far as ending EMHC’s altogether, it’s a nice idea, but not at all practical in an average city/suburban parish that often has only 1 priest. In our parish, they use 5 EMHC’s for Communion under one species (most Masses have 700-900 people). If they didn’t use them, the distribution of Holy Communion would likely take 1 hour or more.

    I do wish bishops would issue concrete guidelines as to when and how EMHC’s may be used. That would probably solve a lot of problems.

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