QUAERITUR: sanctuary invasion!

From a reader:

    My son served for Daily Mass yesterday, and we had an awkward moment.  We’d like your advice on how to best handle this type of situation, should it ever happen again.  I’ll set up the scene.
    The priest was filling in for our dear Monsignor, who likes everything to be Just As It Should (you know–Say the black, do the red). [Hmmm… who likes things "just so"?  The "dear Monsignor" or the guest priest?] The servers are all very well-trained young men who take their role at the Altar very seriously.  They strive for piety and reverence, and are doing a great job.
    When it came time for Holy Communion, there was a woman who came barreling up to the Altar, snatched the key to the Tabernacle, grabbed the Ciborium, and stood there to distribute Our Lord.  It was completely unnecessary; the Mass was not taking any great length (it was, actually, going a bit faster than perhaps it might have), there were not more than maybe 70 souls in attendance, and there was only one server with a Paten–which brings me to our dilemma.
    There stood my poor son, wondering what to do!  On the one side, a priest, placing Our Lord reverently on the tongues of the communicants.  On the other side, this woman, acting like she was saving the day by lending a hand.  Is there protocol for whom my boy should stick to?  I told him that my instinct says, "Stick with the priest."  Is this right?

Go where the priest tells you to go.

What is unclear from this… highly unclear… is whether or not there is a regular practice in that parish of having lay people "barrel, snatch and grab".

Very unclear.

I am left with the impression that this barreling, snatching and grabbing took everyone by surprise.  Perhaps the barreler, snatcher and grabber took it on herself to do this for the visiting priest whereas she would have have done this were the regular priest there.

If that is the case… let the visiting priest handle it.

Otherwise… otherwise… if the paschal candle stand isn’t too heavy, perhaps your son could heave it up and beat the invader with it until she leaves the sanctuary? … of course taking the ciborium away before hand… all things in the right order, after all.

If there is more than one altar boy, they could together use the sedilia… or the ambo….

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. ljc says:

    Perhaps after the candle-beating a spare Cincture could be used to tie her up in the Sacristy until Mass was over, so as to avoid any further interruptions by her.

  2. ssoldie says:

    As a woman, I can say that making her ‘Euchrist Minister’ as they like to call themselves, woman have a way of being obnoxious when given a little authority, it’s called pride and self importance. They should be kept out of the ‘Sanctuary’. The Church has indured for over 1500 years with out them there in the ‘Holy Place’. I suggest she be smacked with the handeled paten.

  3. TNCath says:

    Ask the parish exterminator to come forward and intone, “Let us spray,” and rid the altar of this pest!

  4. tomseeker says:

    Ssoldie, they could not make her a Eucharistic Minister if they tried.

  5. John V says:

    One wonders how she received Communion herself.

  6. ssoldie says:

    I believe it is called, extrodinary ministers(lower case) of Holy Communion, or is it extrodinary laymen/woman etc…They like to call themselves: “Euchrist Ministers”, I know what the Church say’s, Kevin Orlin Johnson pointed the fact out in 2000 in a pamplat, Why “Eucharistic Ministers” Are Illegal in the Catholic Church. I bought a bunch of them and left them in the Church. I was told ‘that was not the truth’ what that pamplet said. see they think they are, thus thier arrogance, obnoxious attitude, and false pride.

  7. eulogos says:

    I am still upset when I think about a time when there was an extra priest at mass for some reason, but all of the numerous extraordinary ministers (called eucharistic ministers in this diocese, officially) still went up. Then one realized and went back and sat down, so there were the same number as expected counting the extra priest. Our gentle, older, priest from Kenya walked down the steps from the altar with the ciborium in his hand, and one of the women who was listed as “host minister” that day, grabbed it out of his hand. He looked for a minute as if someone had slapped him, not angry, but distraught, then he went and took a chalice and gave out the Precious Blood. I thought of saying something to her afterwards, and I regret it every time I think of it, that I did not. Susan Peterson

  8. Rob Cartusciello says:

    I have often found that the people who complain loudest about women not being able to exercise authority in the Church are those most likely to abuse it when given a bit of it.

    Many of the women who say they want to be ordained would make the bossiest, most insufferable priests if they somehow were.

  9. Nora says:

    Father Z, I haven’t told you I love you and pray for your intentions daily in a while. This post reminded me to do so. Father Z, I love you and I pray for you daily. Keep up the joy of the truth for all of us! BTW, a censer with $10 worth of quarters in the bottom is an awesome weapon when swung with conviction.

  10. Briangar21 says:

    All I can say is…WOW! How incredibly uncharitable and unkind to even suggest physical harm on someone. It kind of defeats the entire purpose of receiving/becoming the Lord, doesn’t it?

  11. Briangar21 says:

    After all, isn’t scrupulosity the bigger sin?

  12. Supertradmom says:

    How odd! But cannot people take your joking around? I mean, the event causes some type of humorous reaction.

  13. Agnes says:

    Maybe she could simply be smoked out with incense?

    *No EMHCs were harmed in the celebration of this Mass*

  14. Hidden One says:

    As an English grammar nut, I have to wonder about Fr. Z’s comment in red on the post. The questioner’s sentence was worded precisely so as to indicate that the Monsignor likes it “Just As It Should”. There’s no grammatical ambiguity at all – usually Fr. Z only comments on genuine misuse of clauses, so this took me by surprise. Had the questioner wanted to refer to the visiting priest, s/he would have placed the “who likes everything…” clause just after the words “visiting priest”, and it would have been equally unambiguous.

    Anyway, I sympathize with the poor child!

  15. ipadre says:

    Anyone but the deacon go into the tabernacle in my parish and I will roll back down the aisle out the door! A “former” employee went into the tabernacle sneakily one Sunday between Masses. It NEVER happened again. That was the beginning of the end! How dare anyone enter the tabernacle, also enter the sanctuary during the Holy Mass without darn good reason.

    Sounds to me that this must be something done on are regular basis with permission of the pastor, or it would not have happened! These kind of things do get back to the pastor as soon as he returns.

  16. Singing Mum says:

    People are reacting with humor to an incredibly pushy, irreverent, out of place act.
    As far as your comment about scrupulosity, I’m not sure where you’re coming from. Maybe you were trying to be funny yourself. Certainly you don’t mean to be weighing sins?

  17. kojohnson says:

    Glad to see that somebody is trying to get the word out. What I wrote in The Eucharist Abuse is not wrong! All that I did in that booklet was print excerpts from the four specific encyclicals that the popes have written to the bishops absolutely prohibiting the employment of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at parish masses. The popes remind the bishops that there is no such office as “Eucharistic Minister” in the Church and say, very plainly, that this practice must be stopped immediately.

    In my work I’ve found that this is the dividing issue, the shibboleth, between American bishops who are in communion with Rome and those who are openly in schism. When you hear, “Oh, he’s wrong,” or “We have the authority to modify those rules,” that’s the voice of schism.

    Check out the encyclicals. Immensae caritatis (Instruction on Facilitating Sacramental Eucharistic Communion in Particular Circumstances, January 25, 1973); Inaestimabile donum (Instruction Concerning Worship Of The Eucharistic Mystery, April 17, 1980); Ecclesiæ de mysterio (Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest, August 15, 1997); Redemptionis Sacramentum (Instruction on certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist, March 25, 2004). Notice that they go back nearly forty years. There’s no excuse!

  18. chonak says:

    For the record, those were all curial, not papal documents. If you want to find any of them on the Vatican web site, look under the relevant curial offices (Divine Worship, Laity) rather than under the Popes. They’re no less authoritative, but it’s always good to get these details right.

    Also, they were “Instructions”, not “Encyclicals”: that’s a different category of document. Specific norms to be followed are common in Instructions, whereas most Encyclicals tend to contain an exposition of doctrine, without detailed norms.

    God bless!

  19. irishgirl says:


    That poor kid…

    One of the reasons I go to the EF Mass exclusively…

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