Bp. Nickless (D. Sioux City) issues guidelines for Communion under both kinds and also EMHC’s

I have written before about His Excellency Most Rev. R. Walker Nickless, Bishop of Sioux City.   You may remember his outstanding pastoral letter.

Bp. Nickless has issued Guidelines and Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion
Under both Kinds and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

Let’s have a look at a few of the high points, with my emphases and comments.

Guidelines and Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under both Kinds and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

Diocese of Sioux City

I.            Introduction

“On the day before he was to suffer, he took bread in his holy and venerable hands, and with eyes raised to heaven to you, O God, his almighty Father, giving you thanks he said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples…”[1] When our Lord thus “offered to God the Father His own body and blood under the species of bread and wine, and under the symbols of those same things gave [Himself] to the apostles,” [2] He gave the Church the Eucharist as the unchanging memorial of His death and Resurrection. The Church always and everywhere has faithfully celebrated this memorial with the utmost reverence and devotion:

The most venerable Sacrament is the blessed Eucharist, in which Christ the Lord Himself is contained, offered, and received, and by which the Church continually lives and grows. The Eucharistic Sacrifice, the memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord… is the summit and the source of all worship and Christian life. By means of it the unity of God’s people is signified and brought about, and the building up of the Body of Christ is perfected. [3]

In fact, “The Church draws her life from the Eucharist.  This truth does not simply express a daily experience of faith, but recapitulates the heart of the mystery of the Church.”[4]  At the very heart of this Eucharistic mystery is the sacrifice of the Holy Mass. It is through the celebration of Mass that the faithful, along with the sacred ministers, worship God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit; and, particularly through sacramental communion, the faithful take part more fully in the Eucharistic celebration. “Those who have been raised to the dignity of the royal priesthood by Baptism and configured more deeply to Christ by Confirmation participate with the whole community in the Lord’s own sacrifice by means of the Eucharist.”[5]

Just as Christ gave the Eucharist to the Church under the double sign of bread and wine, “Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it is distributed under both kinds.”[6]  Therefore, “Sacred pastors should take care to ensure that the faithful who participate in the rite or are present at it are as fully aware as possible of the Catholic teaching on the form of Holy Communion as set forth by the Ecumenical Council of Trent.”[7]  Namely:

[T]his belief has always been in the Church of God, that immediately after the consecration, the true body of our Lord and His true blood, together with His soul and divinity, exist under the species of bread and wine; but, indeed, the body under the species of bread, and the blood under the species of wine… the same body, however, under the species of wine, and the blood under the species of bread… and the soul under both… and the divinity furthermore…. Therefore, it is very true that as much is contained under either species, as under both.[8]


The Holy Synod itself, instructed by the Holy Spirit… and following the judgment and custom of the Church itself, declares and teaches that laity, and clerics not officiating, are bound by no divine law to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist under both species, and that without injury to the faith there can be no doubt at all that communion under either species suffices for them for salvation.[9]

Moreover, as I taught in my pastoral letter, Ecclesia semper reformanda, “We must renew our reverence, love, adoration and devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament, within and outside of Mass.”[10]  Such a renewal obviously entails that we love and receive the great gift of the Eucharist with the same gratitude and joy, in obedience to the Church, our holy mother, regardless of whether we may be blessed to receive Him under the species of bread alone, or of wine alone, or of both together.  Holding firmly this true and Catholic faith, and the same belief in the Real Presence of our Lord “truly, really, and substantially”[11] under either form of the sacrament of the Eucharist, together with all the clergy of this diocese, I encourage the faithful “to seek to participate more eagerly in this sacred rite, by which the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is made more fully evident.”[12]

To that end, I now offer the following guidelines and norms to govern the distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds and the expectations for all Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion in the Diocese of Sioux City.[13]

II.            When Communion Under Both Kinds May Be Given

The time when Communion is distributed under both kinds has never been universal, i.e. everywhere and at every Mass.[14]  The faithful who receive the Eucharist, receive the fullness of Christ’s Body and Blood, soul and divinity, under either species (of bread or of wine).  There are appropriate times to invite the faithful to receive our Lord under both species, and other appropriate times to offer Holy Communion to the faithful only under the species of bread.  Holy Communion under both kinds may freely be offered:

a.      In addition to those instances specified by the specific ritual books, such as at Ordination, Confirmation and other specific rituals when this permission is granted, there are several instances when the General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that Communion under both kinds may be permitted:[15]

a. for priests who are not able to celebrate or concelebrate;

b. for the deacon and others who perform some role at Mass;

c. for the community members at their conventual Mass (religious orders), for seminarians, and for all who are on retreat or are participating in a spiritual or pastoral gathering.

b.      The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states:

i.        The diocesan bishop also has the faculty to allow Communion under both kinds, whenever it seems appropriate to the priest to whom charge of a given community has been entrusted as its own pastor, provided that the faithful have been well instructed and there is no danger of the profanation of the Sacrament or that the rite would be difficult to carry out on account of the number of participants or for some other reason.[16]

Particular Law for the Diocese of Sioux City

1.      Where there is a large number of faithful present and the gathering is taking place in a building or venue other than a church, Communion is to be offered only under the species of the Consecrated Host. Exceptions to this norm may be granted only with the explicit written permission of the diocesan bishop.

c.       The Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America states, “In practice, the need to avoid obscuring the role of the priest and the deacon as the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion by an excessive use of extraordinary minister might in some circumstances constitute a reason either for limiting the distribution of Holy Communion under both species or for using intinction instead of distributing the Precious Blood from the chalice.”[17]

a.  Priests in the Diocese of Sioux City might consider using intinction or offering Holy Communion only under the species of bread, so as to avoid such an “excessive use” of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

Particular Law for the Diocese of Sioux City

2.      In parishes, chapels, and institutions in the Diocese of Sioux City, Communion under both kinds is permitted on those times specifically instructed in the ritual books, i.e. Confirmation, Ordination.

3.      Communion under both forms may also be distributed at Masses on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.

a.      This should be done in such a way so as to avoid the “excessive use” of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Communion may be briefly prolonged, so as to use fewer Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

4.      Communion under both forms may be distributed at daily Masses at the discretion of the priest who is celebrating the Mass[Interesting.  Not the pastor of the parish, but the celebrating priest.]

III.            The Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

a.      By virtue of his sacred ordination, the bishop or priest offers the sacrifice in the person of Christ, the head of the Church. He receives gifts of bread and wine from the faithful, offers the sacrifice to God, and returns them the very Body and Blood of Christ, as from the hands of Christ himself. Thus bishops and priests are considered the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion. In addition, the deacon who assists the bishop or priest in distributing Communion is an ordinary minister of Holy Communion. When the Eucharist is distributed under both forms, the deacon ministers the chalice.[18]

b.      Bishops, priests, and deacons distribute Holy Communion by virtue of their office as ordinary ministers of the Body and Blood of the Lord.[19]

IV.            Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

a.      An Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC) is one instituted as an acolyte, or one of the faithful so deputed in accordance with Canon 230, § 3.[20]

Particular Law for the Diocese of Sioux City

5.      Guidelines for Selection of Candidates:

a.      The Pastor shall oversee the selection of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

i.      Pastors are encouraged to collaborate with other parish or school staff members in recommending candidates to serve as EMHC.

ii.      Once persons have been selected to serve as EMHC, the pastor shall submit these names on the proper form, with a letter of request to the Office of Worship, which will coordinate the bishop’s approval and mandate[The bishop, not the pastor, decides.]

iii.    To avoid unnecessary confusion, all requests must be made in writing to the Office of Worship on the proper form with all of the necessary information. All requests will be processed at the beginning of each month. Any requests sent in after the first of the month will be processed the following month. The letter of request must include the full name of the person requesting the permission and the type of role that the person will fulfill (school, parish Masses, homebound/hospital/nursing home).

b.      EMHCs should only be selected, approved, and mandated according to pastoral need.

c.       Both men and women may be chosen as EMHC, to administer communion both at Mass, and to the sick and dying.  Those who are invited to serve in this ministry shall be:

·        aged 18 or older (i.e., have completed their eighteenth year),
·        baptized and confirmed Roman Catholics,
·        regularly sharers in the Eucharist,
·        of exemplary Christian character,
·        committed to the faith,
·        devoted to the Eucharist,
·        respected by the community,
·        demonstrably interested and involved in the community’s life,
·        in good standing according to the law of the Church,
·        spiritually sound,
·        and capable of adhering to all of the Church’s procedures for EMHCs.

Those chosen must make a public profession of faith and be deemed responsible to carry out the mandate entrusted to them.


b.      Guidelines for the Use of EMHCs:

i.        EMHCs may distribute Holy Communion at Mass only when the ordained ministers present are truly unable to distribute Holy Communion, or when the very large numbers of the faithful present would excessively prolong the celebration if only the ordained ministers distributed Holy Communion.[21] A brief prolongation in the distribution of Holy Communion is not a sufficient reason to have more Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion than necessary.[22]

ii.      “To avoid creating confusion, certain practices are to be avoided and eliminated – especially, extraordinary ministers receiving Holy Communion apart from the other faithful as though concelebrants (they are not to enter the sanctuary until after the priest-celebrant has received communion); and the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass thus arbitrarily extending the concept of ‘a great number of the faithful.’”[23]  [That’s the tricky point, isn’t it?]

a)      The time of distributing Holy Communion should be proportional to the length of the rest of the celebration.  [I would perhaps ask what that proportion is.]


V.            Procedures During Mass

a.            The EMHCs should not approach the altar before the priest-celebrant has received Communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the priest-celebrant the vessel containing either species of the Most Holy Eucharist for the distribution to the faithful.[24]

i.      The deacon may assist the priest in handing the vessels containing the Body and Blood of the Lord to the EMHC.[25]

b.            When the distribution of Communion is finished, the priest himself consumes at the altar any consecrated wine that happens to remain; as for any consecrated hosts that are left, he either consumes them at the altar or carries them to the place designated for the reservation of the Eucharist.

i.      When more of the Precious Blood remains than was necessary for Communion, and if not consumed by the bishop or priest celebrant, “the deacon immediately and reverently consumes at the altar all of the Blood of Christ that remains; he may be assisted, if need dictate, by other deacons and priests.” When there are Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, they may consume what remains of the Precious Blood from their chalice of distribution with the permission of the diocesan bishop.[26]

Particular Law for the Diocese of Sioux City

6.      EMHC are granted permission to consume the remaining Precious Blood from their chalice of distribution upon returning to the altar.

7.      The practice of consuming the remaining Precious Blood in the place of distribution or at the credence table or in the sacristy is not permissible.

VI.            Communion to the Sick and Homebound


b.      The Eucharist may only be carried to the sick and dying in a pyx.  It is never to be carried in any other container, such as a handkerchief, envelope, etc.  [I wonder if there are guidelines for the material the pyx is made of.]

c.       It is not proper for EMHCs to the sick and to the dying to be given the consecrated host for this purpose during the Communion Rite of Holy Mass.


d.      Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion must take the Eucharist directly from the church to the individuals who are to receive.  The Eucharist must never be taken home overnight to be distributed to the sick or dying the next day, and must never be kept in one’s vehicle nor anywhere else but a tabernacle.


VII.            Communion to the Sick and to the Dying in Hospitals

VIII.            Other Functions of Extraordinary Ministers

a.            Ash Wednesday

i.        EMHCs may distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday according to the “Order for the Blessing and Distribution of Ashes” found in chapter 32 of the Book of Blessings.

b.            Saint Blaise

i.        EMHCs may also bless throats on the feast of St. Blaise (Feb. 3) according to the “Order for the Blessing of Throats on the Feast of Saint Blaise” found in chapter 51 of the Book of Blessings.

IX.            Conclusion

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the great King of hope and mercy, desires that all His faithful children persevere diligently in the holy and saving Catholic faith.  His greatest gift to us is the Most Holy Eucharist.  Praying fervently that the whole Church may grow daily in devotion and in her duty to safeguard and proclaim the sacredness of the Eucharist, I now promulgate these revised norms for the distribution and reception of Holy Communion under both kinds in the Diocese of Sioux City, and for Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.  All previous versions notwithstanding.  Given from the Chancery of the Diocese of Sioux City on this 24th day of June, 2011, the Solemnity of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist.


Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City


Deacon David A. Lopez, Ph.D.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. stjmen says:

    I don’t know about other places, but where I come from EMHC’s are in plague proportions. They are often poorly trained, and show little reverence for the Body of Christ. At one recent Mass the EMHC was snapping the Host into fragments against the side of the ciborium as he was serving and allowing the broken fragments to fall back in. All I could think about was the particles of the Body of Christ falling down and being ground into the carpet. It still makes me shudder to think of it.

  2. Phillip says:

    Wow. This is good stuff. Here in the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph, we’re blessed to have a very good and orthodox bishop, but in my home parish, we nevertheless tend to have up to four EMHC at each Sunday Mass – and the parish is not particularly large. This also seems to be the case at the other parishes I’ve been to in the diocese. Perhaps this will encourage other bishops to issue similar laws. It’s long overdue.

  3. Tradster says:

    All the words about receiving Holy Communion. Yet not a word about Confession and being in a proper state of grace, or observing the proper fasting.

  4. Mrs. O says:

    Godspeed the rest of the dioceses to address this. I was at a Mass with 2 Bishops and at least 6 priests for the 125th anniversary of one parish. Wanna know how many EMHC there were? 4. Only one priest distributed and no, the others were not too feeble either. There have been occasions I thought the priest may fall due to age and condition and thought that he could have asked for help. But it is the younger ones sitting (under 65).

  5. Volanges says:

    @Tradster, I wouldn’t expect to find those things in a document that was written less about receiving Communion than about how to distribute Communion. It’s a document unlikely to make it into the hands of the average person in the pew but is directed to priests and the people who coordinate the liturgies in the various parishes.

  6. Christine says:

    EMHC can bless throats??

  7. albinus1 says:

    Christine: you beat me to it! That was my reaction, too. Since when can EMHC bless *anything*? I seem to recall a discussion on this thread some months ago about how some EMHC will bless small children, adult non-communicants, et al. who come up to them in the Communion line, as priests often do, and how this wasn’t appropriate because EMHC don’t have the authority/power to bless anyone or anything.

  8. Re: I think these are the relevant references concerning the blessing of throats by a layperson:

    From Code of Canon Law:

    Can. 1168 The minister of sacramentals is a cleric who has been provided with the requisite power. According to the norm of the liturgical books and to the judgment of the local ordinary lay persons who possess the appropriate qualities can also administer some sacramentals.

    From the Book of Blessings:

    1626 The blessing of throats may be given by a priest, deacon, or a lay minister who follows the rites and prayers designated for a lay minister.

  9. BTW – I do not care much at ALL for the title “lay minister.” I would like to see it disappear… yesterday.

  10. Nathan says:

    God bless Bishop Nickless–there is much to admire in this document:
    –the Sioux City diocese is seriously taking on the ubiquitous abuses associated with EHMCs and Holy Communion under both kinds;
    –the particular law spelled out in this document is clearly linked to the Real Presence and love and devotion to Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist;
    –Bishop Nickless explicitly refers to the Council of Trent–there seemed to be a long time when the only Ecumenical Council that could be referenced or mentioned in official documents was Vatican II– it is good to see a fuller use of our history and the consitency of the Church’s teaching.

    One thing nags at me a bit, though. The document seems to me to lead to the conclusion that elimination of EHMCs in the context of distributing Holy Communion at Holy Mass is where we should go, yet it bends over backwards to continue to allow the practice, albeit in a more limited way. Realizing that how to go about correcting the abuses are well within the prudential judgment of the bishop, it would be nice to complete the thought and elminate the use of EMHCs to distribute at Holy Mass, which is supposed to be the exception to the norm and inherently the source of a lot of the problems. I worry that going to the lengths this document does to ensure reverence while still keeping the problematic practice going might make nobody happy in its implementation.

    In Christ,

  11. albinus1 says:

    1626 The blessing of throats may be given by a priest, deacon, or a lay minister who follows the rites and prayers designated for a lay minister.

    Beh. If we’re going to continue down the road of having non-ordained lay people do all sorts of things that were once reserved for clerics, I’d rather see us raise the bar and instead make more people instituted acolytes, with formally delegated authority to do any number of these things, including being an EMHC, and perhaps with more responsibilities, as well. Or, just decide that EMHC are deputed to assist with the distribution of Holy Communion, *period*. Some EMHC I’ve met seem to think that being an EMHC makes them, in effect, junior associate pastors.

    I’ve been at parishes where the bar to becoming an EMHC seems to have been very low. Some Sundays, as I see the mob of EMHC straggle up to the sanctuary before Communion, I am reminded of the parable of the wedding feast, where hordes of people were dragged in from the highways and byways.

  12. traditionalorganist says:

    Before we nitpick, we should realize that this is a GOOD THING. Here we have a bishop recognizing that a Priest is the one true minister, and that only in special circumstances are there to be EMHCs. Shouldn’t this be added to the “brick by brick” file, Fr. Z?

  13. Glen M says:

    IMHO, EMHCs should not be distribuing ashes nor blessing throats. Darkening the blur already in existence between clergy and laity is not serving the needs of the Church. We need priests, not busy-body laity grooming themselves for presiding at Communion Service Without Priest.

  14. tzard says:

    We still have the problem of what a “great number of faithful” is. It would seem at the diocesan level, it might be possible to make specific guidelines on what constitute “great numbers”.

    For the universal Church, it might not be prudent or feasible to do such. But a local Bishop might say “more than 600 per Ordained Minister” or “Communion which would take more than 20 minutes” or some such. It would be a guideline – a measure to apply the current law. At a minimum it would specify the Mind of the Bishop on what constitutes a reasonable number locally (knowing what type of gatherings and churches are in his charge).

    Guidelines are easy – and it doesn’t have the requirements of law, and it instructs. Exceptions could still happen – yet habitual exceptions might demand some explanation.

  15. Albinus 1,

    I would suppose the issue of intituted acolytes, which is historically deemed a Minor Order, creates confusion as to whether or not a woman can be an insituted Acolyte? What is the answer to this question? In the Orthodox Church she may not receive that blessing even though it is no longer a Minor Order.

  16. RobertK says:

    Well all I can say is that I like going to either an EF Mass or Divine liturgy. I do not like attending Masses with EMHC or altar girls, in any number. I would rather sit home and make a spiritual communion than attend a Mass with lay people distributing Holy Communion and altar girls. Just my pet peeve I guess. You never had them before the late sixties, and I see no reason to have them now. EMHC is just another way of misinterpreting the words or re-defining the words “active participation” and “priestly ministry”. Unfortunately today many Roman rite priests, but not all, consider it a norm, like facing the people, just to please the “wants” and not the needs of the people. .

  17. Wade says:

    Hieromonk Gregory:

    Only men are permitted to be instituted acolytes and instituted lectors. Maybe that’s the reason that, except in the context of the formation of priests and permanent deacons, there are so few instituted acolytes and lectors in the U.S.

  18. In my CNA column today I offer a quote taken from the guidelines for the use of EMHC’s in another diocese. Note how different this approach is from that of Bishop Nickless, and how the original purpose for their use is not only being totally ignored, but twisted into a tool for affirming the community’s dignity.

    This ministry (Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion) is more than one of convenience; affirming the dignity and holiness of all the baptized, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion is a sign that all are called to share the life and sustenance of Christ with each other.

    While most dioceses and parishes aren’t this transparent about the underlying motives, this is precisely the reason EMHC’s are so entirely ordinary. At bottom, it is idolatry-of-self.

  19. michelelyl says:

    This is pretty much what happens in the Diocese of Baker, at the direction of our former Bishop, Robert Vasa. It has not been a burden at all and personally, I think it has increased reverence for the Holy Eucharist. My parish currently has 2 priests, 7 instituted acolytes-no deacon, and no vowed religious. We have over 700 families in the parish.
    However, those of you who are so against EMHC distributing ashes or blessing of throats…this does occur in my parish every year and I am the one to distribute ashes and bless the throats. I have had training, and I was approved by Bishop Vasa to do so as a Pastoral Associate, and I follow the ritual in the official Book of Blessings for a lay minister. At my parish, we have several Masses with distribution of ashes AND 2 prayer services with distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday in both English and Spanish…and one specifically for the families of children in the Religious Education Program. All of them fill the church each time. It’s a wonderful problem to have! Our priests have other duties and if it is not mandated that *only* a priest can distribute ashes or bless throats, and it’s not during Mass, I don’t see the problem. Ashes and the blessing of the throats are sacramentals, not a Sacrament. Often the Feast of St. Blaise does not occur on a Sunday, so in order to make these sacramentals available to the little ones, I am blessed to be able to assist. We don’t have a Catholic School anywhere near my town (the next closest school is 80+ miles away in another Archdiocese) and we’ve tried to recruit Deacons from another Diocese. (There isn’t a Deaconate program in our Diocese). Our priests are extremely busy all the time, morning and night, tending to the needs of the people of the parish. 75% of the priests in our Diocese are from Africa or other European countries because we have so few priests from America here in Eastern Oregon. At least we have priests at my large parish- many priests in our area travel to 4 different parishes for Masses on the weekend at great distances, and in the winter, in heavy snow. If a lay minister can assist under these circumstances, I just don’t see the problem.

  20. DFWShook says:

    As I was reading this, a thought came to my mind: Stop distributing both species of the Eucharist during the NO Mass. This would immediately limit the number of EMHC and would lessen the time needed to distriubte Holy Communion (which is usually given as the reason EMHC are needed). I have never understood the need to distribute both species since both species contain the Body and Blood of our Lord.

  21. Glen M says:

    michelelyl, one of the reasons we have a priest shortage is the loss of distintion in the priesthood. If laity can do most of their jobs, what normal man would want to take the oaths of poverty, chastity, and obedience just to be a glorified EMHC? The distibution of ashes, nor Holy Communion doesn’t need to be over as quickly as possible. Maybe if there were long delays some of the young men in the congregation would see a need to be filled.

  22. Glen M says:

    Correction: “what normal man” should be replaced with “fewer normal men”. I have greater respect for normal young men in today’s Church who answer the call given the state we’re in.

  23. RobertK says:

    I love how the excuse always seems to be lack of priests in the Roman rite. Has any Roman rite dioceses or archdioceses ever handed out a questioniare to young men and asked them why they don’t want to be a priest or consider being a priest. This whole lack of priests thing only started after the late sixties. Now when I go to an EF Mass or Divine Liturgy, this for some reason doesn’t seem to be an issue. I know several Greek Catholic priests who run more than one parish, but their are no altar girls of EMHC at the Divine Liturgies. It only seems to be the Roman rite, and in using the OF Mass. We also may need to stop having mega size parishes, and do like they do in the East.

  24. RobertK says:

    Another reason I do not like mega-size or combined parishes. Is that you feel like a number. you really never get the chance to know you priest and deacon. No real sense of community.

  25. Brent S says:

    Greetings Fr. Z!

    Here is an answer to your question about a pyx from the GIRM (2010):

    “In the dioceses of the United States of America, sacred vessels may also (in addition to precious metals) be made from other solid materials which in the common estimation in each region are considered precious or noble, for example, ebony or other harder woods, provided that such materials are suitable for sacred use. In this case, preference is always to be given to materials that do not easily break or deteriorate. This applies to all vessels that are intended to hold the hosts, such as the paten, the ciborium, the pyx, the monstrance, and others of this kind.”

    Unfortunately, the GIRM allows for infinite interpretation throughout its pages with statements like “in the common estimation,” “all things being equal,” if appropriate,” etc. etc. etc.

    Hope that helps!

  26. pookiesmom says:

    I just like to ‘bury my head in the sand’ at a beautiful EF Mass and not think about all this…Just think how nice it would be if nothing had changed in the Mass…Oh, well.

  27. Peggy R says:

    I’m a bit confused about the both species direction. The bishop starts off saying only special sacraments and large gatherings, ie, confirmation. Then he says any Sunday, then on any weekday at discretion of priest celebrant. Huh?

    I think that both species should only be at sacraments–first communion, confirmation, matrimony, ordination, etc. On Christmas and Easter as well.

    I agree, though, get rid of both species, you get rid of EMHCs. The bishop is strongly encouraging intinction when both species are offered.

    But yes this is a great document. This distinguishes between the priest and the busy laity hanging out in the sanctuary.

  28. TomG says:

    michelelyl: Your former Bishop Vasa will go far, I pray. One of the very best of his cohort. A certain Eastern archdiocese (mine) will be available in a few years. Dare we hope?

  29. hugonis says:

    I wish our bishop would issue something like this. I attend a very small mission parish (the church could accurately be described as chapel-sized) with a weekly mass attendance of fewer than 50 people, yet every single week there is an EMHC distributing the Precious Blood. Communion takes about five minutes. I really see no need for both species to be offered in this situation.

  30. downyduck says:

    *Sigh,* I am late to the conversation, but can someone tell me once and for all, with documentation, whether EMHC are allowed to bless children and adults? I thought that only the ordained and a child’s parents can bless them, but I could be way off base. When we are in an EMHC line, I just scoot my babies out of their reach (discreetly). I sure would like to know if I am right or not. Thanks! Downyduck

  31. downyduck says:

    BTW, we have ELEVEN EMHC at every Mass. :^(

  32. Sid says:

    I’m with Albinus1 above. For EMHC, strike the “E”. Let’s have more instituted Acolytes and then use them. Ditto Extraordinary Ministers of Sacred Scripture. Let’s have more instituted Lectors and then use them, too.

    And let those Acolytes who are adults take Communion to the sick and expose the Blessed Sacrament when a priest isn’t available.

  33. Brad says:

    Louie V. wrote: “affirming the community’s dignity…idolatry-of-self.”


    In my opinion, we have no dignity, since we are collectively rank sinners who required the Incarnation to redeem us, to bail us out. The ultimate stimulus package. I know we hear just the opposite constantly, about how collectively we are the mystical body and personally we are all little priests etc, but, hello…doesn’t that rather lead to auto-latria, considering it falls on ears demolished by original sin, healed at baptism, but still wounded by concupiscence?

  34. Sid says:

    I’m not opposed to altar boys, mind you.

  35. wmeyer says:

    @downyduck: Canon lawyer Ed Peters has an article on the subject of EMHCs conferring blessings. In short, it is not permitted, and as I recall his arguments, I do not think that a bishop could override this with particular law, but that’s just my opinion.

  36. sirlouis says:

    It is my understanding that even a priest ought not be blessing people at communion. That’s not the time for blessings. The right time is just before the dismissal, when the priest blesses everyone.

    And let me offer an observation from the viewpoint of the Anglican Use. We have the privilege of always receiving under both species. No one but the priest ever distributes under the sign of bread. A senior acolyte will minister the chalice, but we never permit the communicant to take the chalice in their hands. In our view, the communicant is to receive the body and blood, not take them. If the host always goes on the tongue, and the chalice has to be handled only by the minister, it is almost a stark necessity that the communicant receive kneeling. Oh, darn!

    The communicant may guide the chalice by using the thumb and forefinger to take the edge of the foot of the chalice, but no more. As an acolyte, I have more than once had to … well, contend with a visitor who had gotten into the habit over years of taking the chalice from the minister. So I learned early on the proper method of holding a chalice by making use of the node on the stem. It’s a “death grip” that’s very handy in keeping control of the vessel. Father Z. will have to explain or illustrate how it’s done. This note is already too long.

  37. St. Rafael says:

    I see absolutely no need for EMHCs anywhere outside of mission territory or remote areas.

    Communion under both species is only an indult and for the good of the Church, it should be removed in the future. Pastors do not have to wait for the Church to get her act together or wait decades for the Vatican to act. A pastor can mandate Communion under one kind for his parish anytime he wants because an indult is a permission, not the norm.

    Most parishes have a pastor and at least one assistant priest. Both priests can distribute Communion at every Mass without a parish needing EMHC. The second priest just shows up when it is time to distribute communion and then leaves after communion. Everytime one priest celebrates Mass the other priest shows up to help distribute. Since parishes also have deacons, there is even more help that in no way justifies EMHC. Of coarse all this means that priests and deacons actually have to get off their cans and do a lot more work on Sundays and be involved in helping ou their parish at all the Massses.

  38. FrAWeidner says:

    Brad said, “In my opinion, we have no dignity, since we are collectively rank sinners who required the Incarnation to redeem us, to bail us out. The ultimate stimulus package. I know we hear just the opposite constantly, about how collectively we are the mystical body and personally we are all little priests etc, but, hello…doesn’t that rather lead to auto-latria, considering it falls on ears demolished by original sin, healed at baptism, but still wounded by concupiscence?”

    Brad, I would recommend taking some time to read all of the letters of Ss. Peter and Paul and what they have to say about the baptized. The Sacred Scriptures are not the only source of the deposit, but they do express it well.

    The problem in the Novus Ordo has been, not the (very appropriate) rhetoric of the Mystical Body (Venerable Pope Pius XII wrote Mystici Corporis!!!) nor the priesthood of all the baptized, but all of the trashy self-congratulatory songs combined with a pervasive belief that grave matter like contraception, fornication, and missing Sunday Mass without good reason weren’t mortal sins. I remember reading in Fishwrap in the early 2000’s a commentary that perhaps not everyone was called to be holy. I loved reading it because it encapsulated the truth of “progressivist” beliefs and was a smoking gun that they actually dynamically dissented from the very Council they trumpeted so much.

    Beware Lutheranism/Calvinism/Jansenism. After the final judgment, there will be two types of people – saints, and crispy critters. No one can be holy of their own efforts and merits – God must do it – but those who don’t cooperate with His work to achieve this will rue it forever.

    For further reading material, you might try Bp. Fabian Bruskewitz’s The Catholic Church: Jesus Christ Present in the World. I plead guilty to not having read it myself, but I love the title, and trust the author.

  39. Jason says:

    The EF Mass in my parish is well attended (in the hundreds) and Communion never takes too long. In fact, sometimes it goes too quickly and my post-Communion prayers have to be cut short.

    In addition to the many other benefits of using an altar rail, one of the perhaps unintended benefits is that it helps to move Communion along quite nicely.

  40. Martial Artist says:

    @St. Rafael,

    I must beg to disagree with your categorical statement, albeit based solely on my limited (3-½ year) experience at the parish in which I am enrolled. It is a large, and still growing, parish, having about 1,180 enrolled households. It is a brick English Gothic building which has recently been remodeled to move the sanctuary and altar back toward the West (liturgically East) window as shown in this floor plan. I would guess that the nave can seat about 850 people at the maximum (that would have been more like 750 prior to the 2010 restoration). The North transept has seating for about 35, but is reserved for a “scent-free” area and the South transept holds the organ and choir.

    In order to accomodate the numbers who attend, we have a Vigil Mass at 17:00 Saturday evening and five (5) Masses on Sunday (07:30, 09:00, 10:30, 12:00, and 17:45). We have had, until the past week, a total of two priests assigned to the parish. We will have a third priest soon, but the Pastor is going to be half-time to the parish and half-time as Development Director for his order’s Province for at least a year, if not longer. The 10:30 and 12:00 Masses, the latter partly chanted, last about 62-64 minutes, even with the Priest and 7 EMHCs (plus an eighth on those occasions when a communicant is present suffering from celiac disease). The physical process of distribution alone takes about 10-12 minutes. The parish is located in the University District of Seattle. Following each of those Masses, one of the priests anoints the sick.

    Given that, there simply isn’t enough time in the day for us to accomodate the parishioners and visitors if EMHCs were not employed in distribution. Assignment of additional priests is not a readily available solution, as the parish is a Dominican parish—all of the clergy are Dominican priests, and there are simply no idle bodies available within the province.

    I would therefore suggest that you might want to reconsider your opinion that there can be no NEED for EMHCs other than in “mission(ary) territories or remote areas.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  41. FrAWeidner says:

    Brad, to further clarify, I do appreciate the point you were making; I just wanted to warn against throwing out the Mystical Body and universal priesthood doctrines. The better approach would be to accept those appellations as a priest ought to accept “Father” – not as occasion for self-back-slapping congratulations, but rather as reminders of a very serious burden in grace.

  42. Brad says:

    Dear FrAWeidner, thank you for your reply. May God bless you. I understand and will ponder.

  43. MJ says:

    The FSSP parish I attend is large…hundreds attending each Sunday…there are two priests who distribute the Eucharist, and (as you would expect at an EF) there are no EMHCs.

    I really don’t see a need for EMHCs…unless maybe you’re attending a special Mass where thousands are present…

    Personally, I will only receive from the hands of a deacon or a priest…that’s it.

  44. MichaelJ says:

    Martial Artist,
    What do you suppose changed between 1908, when the Blessed Sacrament Church was founded, and now? Presumably, back then, there werea equal number of parishoners who attended Mass. And yet, they had no need of EMHC’s. Why is there a need now, but there wasn’t then?

    I have my own ideas, but would be interested in what you think. It’s a beautiful Church, by the way.

  45. Anonymous Seminarian says:

    Can the Book of Blessings be in error on the ability of laymen to “bless” (in the restricted sense of either an invocative or constitutive ecclesiastical blessing)?

  46. benedictgal says:

    I, too, take exception with having an EMHC “bless” throats, especially if it’s within the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is the only part of an otherwise fine document that greatly concerns me.

  47. Jason says:

    Mr. Martial Artist, if communion takes an extra 10 minutes, where is the harm in that? It seems to me that offers an opportunity for further prayer.

    I don’t understand the argument for EMHC based on the necessity to get Communion over with as quickly as possible.

    Sometimes when Communion is still going on after I’ve finished my post-Communion prayers, I find it joyful to spend that time watching my brothers and sisters receive Him and walk back to their pews and ask God’s blessing upon them and try to see His face in theirs. In that context the time goes by too fast.

    I know EMHC are licit, but in my opinion they contribute to the lack of reverence for that which we should be in absolute adoration.

  48. benedictgal says:

    To borrow a phrase from Fr. Z:

    EMHCs should be safe, legal and rare.

  49. stjmen says:

    @St Raphael,

    It would be wonderful if most of the parishes in our diocese had multiple priests, but the reality for us is that a priest is far more likely to have multiple parishes. I am not defending the over-use of EMHCs, as particularly in my parish I feel they are incredibly over-utilized (and, as I stated above, under-trained), but it certainly is not the case that there will always be a second priest able to attend to the distribution of Holy Communion. I think the biggest problem lies with our “instant gratification” attitude. If it takes more than 3 minutes to receive Holy Communion, we think that it is taking to long and need to institute EMHCs. If we just had some patience, and we went back to distributing only under the one Species, we should be able to manage with a single priest distributing in most cases, at least in most of the parishes in my diocese.

  50. In our diocese (Portland, Maine) it is more likely that 1 priest has 2-4 parishes to oversee, rather than having an assistant. Our cluster has 5 churches in 4 cities/towns and 12 Masses. One priest just left so now they are having to cut down to 8 Masses. I still don’t understand the need for EMHCs as it takes so long to set them up, give them Communion, and have them clean up that having the priest alond distribute Communion would only add about 10 minutes to Mass. If they would eliminate the announcements which just rejurgitate what the expensive bulletin states, there wouldn’t be any extension of the recessional at all. But then how would all the baby boomer women wearing polyester pants and no-nonsense hairdos feel “included” in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

  51. James Joseph says:

    So yeah….. it looks like what is basically a re-iteration of Pope Paul VI’s keep-it-simple-stupid encyclical.

    The priest distributes the holy Eucharist. Deacons can help out, and sub-deacons can help out in extreme neccessity. Ladies can’t read at Mass and neither can men who haven’t been formally instituted as sub-deacons.

    Yep. I got it.

  52. Brad says:

    Benedictgal, LOL.

    However, what we do have, actually, is another awesome Hillaryism: it takes a village [-full of EMHC].

    By the way, I love how when she went to Mexico City a while ago she asked the bishop there, or whomever it was, upon being shown the image of our Lady of G., “who painted that?”.

    LOL I know she’s a methodist but come on, a little common/cultural literacy, please?

  53. Dr. K says:

    Remove the lay throat blessings and you have a good document.

  54. s i says:

    As far as I know, there should not be any blessing going on during the distribution of Holy Communion; especially, EMHCs are forbidden to bless using the Host.

  55. benedictgal says:

    At least if a parish employs intinction, that puts the kibosh on EMHCs, as only the priest can intinct.

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