QUAERITUR: We have to have Communion under both kinds and, therefore, extra lay ministers

From a reader:

I have read about valid and invalid motivations for the multiplication of EMHCs. [Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.] The diocesan advisor at my university’s Newman center gave me one which I had not heard before: that without at least one EMHC, the faithful would not be able to communicate in both species, there being only one celebrant at our Masses. Now that I think of it, this seems like an obvious problem. How can the norm in U.S. dioceses be to receive in both species when it is relatively rare for a Mass to have multiple concelebrants? When there is only one celebrant, are they asking us to add EMHCs, or should we be given only the Bread?

The US Bishops encourage frequent recourse to the distribution of Holy Communion under both species. There is no law or provision which mandates the practice.  Nor is the Communion under both kinds encouraged for EVERY celebration of Mass.

In their 12 March 2002 decree (approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments 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.”

Even if we use a broad interpretation, there are times when distribution under both species ought not be done.  Otherwise, if the priest insists on offering both species at every Mass, let his distribute, alone, by intinction.

A third option, sadly seldom seen these days, is to invite non-concelebrating priests and deacons who are around, to come over to the chapel to assist in the distribution of Holy Communion. Most rectories have some sort of a sound system connection to the church. Priests who may have celebrated an earlier Mass and are afterward – without question – engaged in prayer, study, or edifying conversation, could listen from the rectory and  know when dash over to church, toss on a surplice and stole over their cassock (the priest’s proper garb), and then assist with the distribution of Holy Communion.

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  1. Matt R says:

    This presumes that Mass is said without a deacon, who is the usual minister of the Precious Blood I believe.
    We have 2 deacons assigned to our parish, and one released from ministry who attends the parish now. It would be nice if they didn’t split the load between the 3 Sunday Masses-assisting with the usual celebration at the 2 OF Masses, and the distribution of Holy Communion in the Extraordinary Form Mass-and instead could all assist at the principal OF Mass…thereby eliminating 3 EMHCs.

  2. Jerry says:

    “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.”

    Distributing Holy Communion by intinction is a solution to two problems: the use of EMHCs and distribution of the Eucharist in the hand. Sadly, many will consider this an unacceptable restriction, not a blessing.

  3. tgarcia2 says:

    I know at my parish, we have no assigned Deacon. Deaconate class has not been finally ordained due to a lack of a Bishop. So we have EM’s assigned, I am one.

    At our Newman center, we had a OFM Priest so we had at least one EM on hand. We have a Deacon in charge and priests visit us so we don’t need any EM’s, which is easier on al of us.

  4. jbas says:

    Can the bishop legitimately require a Parish Pastor/Parish Priest to distribute under both Kinds, even in the absence of other parochial clergy?

  5. jesusthroughmary says:

    Come on, this is a no-brainer. Can dioceses still not know this stuff?

  6. Volanges says:

    Jerry, interesting you should say that. In a liturgy course I took at a school of theology one priest who was teaching told us that, in Canada, intinction couldn’t be used because it went against the GIRM which said it was the communicant’s choice whether to receive in the hand or on the tongue. At the time I didn’t know enough to argue the point.

  7. wmeyer says:

    My favorite local priest limits the number of EMHCs. When they are about to approach, he signals with one finger, or more. So nice not to have the snarl of traffic.

  8. jilly4ski says:

    I have actually seen the last practice recently. But it always occurs in large parishes with more than one priest in residence, which hardly ever happens these days. The Cathedral did this, (the priests would alternate Masses, but one priest did all the homilies for the day. So if he wasn’t celebrating but he was there to give the homily he would always stick around to assist with communion. Of course this didn’t prevent the church from using a hoard of EMCHs anyways. The other was a large suburban parish who had 2 priests in residence and indeed used EMCHs.

    It is unfortunate that this practice is almost impossible at more parishes because of the lack of vocations.

    Pray for vocations! Pray for our Priests!

  9. APX says:

    In a liturgy course I took […] one priest who was teaching told us that, in Canada, intinction couldn’t be used because it went against the GIRM

    Did this priest fail to read the Canadian edition of the GIRM, specifically the part (s. 285 MR) about communicants being permitted to receive by intinction and the instructions of how it is to be carried out?

    I have actually seen deacons and priests sit out communion reception to all for additional EMHC’s.

    Communion under both species is still somewhat of a strange concept to me, as it was not regularly done in my part of Canada when I was growing up in the 90s. I admit confusion when I noticed after 2002 sometime having not attended Mass for a number of years, save for Christmas and Easter, that this had become a regular thing. It really makes for an EMHC nightmare at my home parish. There’s two cups for every paten, and anywhere from 5 to 7 patens on Sundays. You do the math. Communion is literally finished in about five minutes despite almost everyone receiving.

  10. L. says:

    To change the subject slightly, I’ve noticed that in my parish (at least at the Sunday Mass I usually attend), people pretty much remain kneeling after Communion until the Priest has reserved the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, then they sit, and the Priest then consumes the remainder of the Blessed Sacrament in the form of the Precious Blood. It seems to me that they’re not thinking about why they’re doing what they’re doing.

  11. Volanges says:

    L., could you clarify what you mean? If they are finished their prayers they can certainly sit. The posture at that time, per the GIRM, is standing, but the CDF has said that if people want to sit or kneel they are free to do so.

  12. RichR says:

    The real problem is that there’s a whole, bizarre spirituality surrounding EMHCs that has prevented pastors from reigning in this abuse. Laymen are not told, as the Church instructs, to pray for vocations to Holy Orders so that one day their position will be made unnecessary.

    Instead, people start to think of it as “their ministry”. And if a pastor sees his Parochial vicar or a Deacon come up and say, “I’m here and can help with the Distribution of HC,” the pastor then has to find one of the EMHCs (who probably has been eagerly awaiting their turn on the List) and tell them they are not needed. The person then gets mad because they feel their “rights” are being violated, and if they had known they weren’t needed, they wouldn’t have woken up early to get to this particular Mass, etc……

    This needs to be brought up at every training session for EMHCs so that when these situations come up, people know what is proper and what is expected of them.

  13. Lepidus says:

    Unfortunately, the last option that Father mentioned won’t even work at our parish. That is becasue the rectory was torn down so they could make a “Gathering Room” out of it. The priest from India who was living there was told to get an apartment. The current pastor lives in a condo 20 minutes from the parish (unless you ask him, then he’s only 10 minutes away).

  14. wmeyer says:

    The person then gets mad because they feel their “rights” are being violated…

    Exactly. It’s become an entitlement. For the life of me, IK cannot understand why it is so difficult to understand the meaning of extraordinary. Oh–horrible thought–maybe they think it refers to their quality!

  15. jbas says:

    Intinction is fine for Ritual Masses and Maundy Thursday, but it takes too long to distribute that way frequently at Sunday parochial Masses, unless we extend the length of Mass considerably.

  16. wmeyer says:

    …it takes too long to distribute that way frequently at Sunday parochial Masses

    Not in my experience. But then, I am not watching the clock, preparing to bolt. It is an opportunity for prayer and contemplation. For worship, which is supposedly why we are there.

  17. L. says:


    Regarding essentially “when to kneel” after communion, people can assume differing postures after communion, but from custom some seem to remain kneeling while the consecrated bread is on the altar. Once it’s reserved, however, they move from kneeling to sitting, seeming not to realize that our Lord- body, blood, soul, and divinity- is still present on the altar.

  18. Minnesotan from Florida says:

    In response to the first contribution from Voslanges (hope I got the spelling right; I fear to scroll around while “composition” is open):
    I thought I picked up somewhere on this blog that, when Communion is given by intinction in the proper way, a communicant wishing to receive Communion in the hand (and thus “forfeit” the opportunity to receive Our Lord under the species of wine) could somehow make a clear advance signal and thereby receive only the “unintincted” host in the hand.

  19. APX says:

    Intinction isn’t needed because communion reception under both kinds isn’t required. Let’s just go back to receiving under one species, and make one cup available to those who have celiacs. It really makes life so much easier. This “fuller sign” by receiving under both species is just confusing people anyway. Think of the money that could be saved on wine and given to those poor starving children in Africa.

  20. Matt R says:

    I’m not sure the solution is to go back to just reception under one kind. I think reception of the Precious Blood is a good and helpful thing, and is desired by many people out of an innate desire to participate in the Sacrifice of the Mass, even if they can’t articulate it as such.
    Also, a 2nd chalice will still need to be consecrated for those who cannot consume gluten at all, as to avoid the commingling of both species in the celebrant’s chalice, thus requiring a 2nd minister. Perhaps this is where an instituted acolyte could supplant an EMHC and assist throughout the whole Mass.

  21. APX says:

    @Matt R
    I fail to see how receiving under both species is helping people. I remember last year attending a diocesan forum. The biggest issue people raised was that they can’t receive under both species at some Masses at some parishes. People would talk about how they would have to parish shop to find a Mass that offered under both species. They would state they felt like they weren’t receiving communion fully if they only received under the species of bread. This is a major problem. This indicates that the faithful are being confused into thinking that they don’t receive communion fully under one species, and that they essentially “receive more Jesus” by communicating under both species. Communion under both species is weakening the already weak faith of communion. When I was a kid, even in the crazy days of the 90s where we didn’t learn much about communion during communion prep class, we still knew that recieving under one species was sufficient and we didn’t get more or less Jesus depending on how we received.

    The additional cup requiring a minister is not a big deal. I would imagine there are not too many people with celiacs. They could easily receive first from the priest under the species of wine, and then the rest of the faithful could receive from the priest under the species of bread.

  22. Joshua08 says:

    The original directions for communion under both kinds predate the permission for lay people handling what should be sacred.

    The presumption was, if you have one minister, he distributes the host and then gets the chalice and everyone comes up again. That would still be an option, and certainly doable for many daily Masses with only a few communicants. The other option, introduced by Rome, but thankfully reprobated by Rome shortly later, was that the people come up and just simply take the host themselves from the ciborium and then move to the chalice, intinct if they want and go on. People forget Rome itself expressly allowed such bad behavior, before someone decided, oops that was bad. But the first option remains viable.

  23. Deo volente says:


    This entire thread is depressing! Those of us who attend a TLM on Sundays (even occasionally) and receive Communion while kneeling at an altar rail from a single priest while having an altar boy hold a paten under under our chin to prevent any fragments from falling to the ground have no doubt that we are receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in His Most Holy Eucharist.

    My understanding is that having Communion under both species was initially intended for rare occasions such as a wedding or special feast day. Sadly, we have confused some into thinking that both species are necessary which is totally incorrect, and I think the failure of religious catechesis has caused this to continue.

    Your points are well taken, my friend.

    Pax Christi+

  24. The Astronomer says:

    Here at our NO parish in the Diocese of Trenton, NJ, we usually have at the 8:30AM Sunday Mass, the ‘presider,’ a deacon and then ten EMHCs distribute Holy Communion. Six of the EHMCs distribute the Precious Blood.

    There’s rarely more than 200-250 worshipers, but the total of ‘Twelve’ persons distributing under both species is meant to invoke the Twelve Apostles (notwithstanding that it is mandatory that six of the EHMCs MUST be women).

    How long, Oh Lord?

  25. mamamagistra says:

    How long, Oh Lord, for us in the Premier See?

    “In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Holy Communion under both kinds is to be considered normative. Parishes that do not currently offer Communion under the species of wine should implement this practice. And those that stopped distributing Communion under the species of wine during the H1N1 Virus epidemic scare should now fully restore it and parishioners once again invited to share in it.”
    http://www.archbalt.org/evangelization/worship/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=35659 continues
    “Therefore [given the large number of individuals with gluten sensitivity], distribution by intinction ought not be used in the Archdiocese of Baltimore; and it may never be used as the sole method of distribution.”

  26. skypilot777 says:

    I am a recovering alchoholic (14 years sober) and so I do not recieve Our Lord under the form of wine. Intinction would effectively deny me Holy Communion.
    Holy Communion is almost always offered under both species in my diocese. I bow before recieving Holy Communion under the species of bread and then, as I pass Our Lord under the species of wine, I bow again. Funny how so many people pass by without so much as a hi-how-do-you-do.
    @mamamagistra: I live (f0r now) in the fine “Premier See” of Baltimore. I have lived here my entire Catholic life. This archdiocese is not run, and for over 50 years has never been run, by whatever individual man is appointed its ordinary. This huge fiefdom of post-Catholic modernism is ruled by the iron fist of the all-powerful chancery establishment that faithful Catholics bitterly call the “Pink Palace”. Papal indults, motu proprio such as Summorum Pontificum, the Holy Father himself placing the best men he could find as the ordinary — it all comes to naught. The abuse of Holy Communion under both species amounts to about 1/100th of the total mess we have here.
    Only God knows how long it will be for the faithful Catholics in the mid-atlantic desert. I will pray for you and for all of us.

  27. Joshua08 says:

    I have been to many TLMs with celiacs. Most of the time a low gluten host, special pyx and the priest knew each one so just took a host from the pyx when he came to them, instead of the ciborium.

    In a few instances I have seen (and even arranged for) the Precious blood for a celiac. It is no big deal for the celiacs (the most I have seen at one Mass was around 6) to come up after the host was distributed and receive from the chalice.

    If it can be done easily enough in the EF, a fortiori for the OF

    As for intinction and those who cannot receive the Blood or the Host, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be easy to arrange something. Celiacs may need a separate chalice, but my understanding of Roman intinction is that usually it is a chalice, with a ring bowl around it with Hosts, and they are intincted individually. Easy enough, it would seem, for the priest simply not to intinct your host. But I am going off a foggy memory here

  28. Vecchio di Londra says:

    In some city churches where I know the situation I find myself thinking – you have a houseful of ten or fifteen priests, and not a single one of them can come out and help to give Holy Communion to obviate the pretext for these well-meaning but out-of-place secular adjuncts. And anyway, what’s the rush? Where are we all hurrying of to? Is this an Olympic event??

    We used to kneel at the altar, receive the Lord ‘in tempore opportuno’; one priest was enough. No one ever suggested we should have a faster communion. Or slower. It was what it was. That sufficed.

  29. Mike says:

    Extraordinary ministers reaaaally bother me. Why were they ever permitted to begin with? :( Return the privilege of touching Our Lord to the ordained alone!

  30. Cathy says:

    About a month ago our parish bulletin had a call for more EMHC’s stating that Holy Communion under both species is a goal at our parish. We have quite a few deacons at our parish, however, it is not uncommon for them to attend the mass, and to receive Holy Communion from an EMHC. I don’t get it.

  31. Elizabeth M says:

    I’m afraid the “average” Catholic in America didn’t have the phrase “Body, Blood, Soul & Divinity” taught to them. If they did, the question of “have to have Communion under both kind” wouldn’t be a question to start with. I have always attended EF and not once ever felt I was missing a part of Our Lord, or missing sharing in the Last Supper. I remind myself that I am receiving the God of Creation & the Heart of Mercy. If being one with Him through reception of Communion under one kind is not good enough for some one, perhaps they are missing the point? Hosts have changed to heart tissue and bled. Be humble and know that you, the laity, cannot and should not copy every action a priest does at the Altar.

  32. vivaldi says:

    I was a student at a Diocesan Seminary in 2011 where the Rector said we all had to receive Holy Communion under both species at all times in the Seminary. This was difficult for me and the other Traditional Catholics who believe only those with consecrated hands may touch the Chalice. Anyway…it was just one of the many reasons I had to leave and find a real Seminary.

  33. Sixupman says:

    Now have we arrived here? The altar was once a sacred placed denied to the laity , now it can appear as a station concourse at times. Gone the altar rail and chaos ensued.

    A Franciscan church close to where I live, at a mid-week Mass with a Celebrant and another Brother on the altar, had an ’emhc’ who presented the Host to the assisting Brother!

    Madness everywhere!

  34. bsjy says:

    We are the cathedral parish in a southeastern US city, and we routinely run over a dozen EMHCs out to assist the priest and deacon. (As we seat 650, I am not sure all the getting ready and cleaning up is any quicker than if we let Father and the Deacon do everything. It is always the lay people in the back that take the longest, if efficiency were the explanation for the use of EMHCs.) I fear the cost of this “inclusiveness” is fewer vocations, for we say that the priesthood is reserved to men but we teach with our actions that any old woman can do what Father does. This is another time when our shepherds need to be strong and herd us back to orthodoxy.

  35. Matthew P. Schneider, LC says:

    May I report that I have seen this third option at least once. I was staying at the rectory in my travels and eating a pleasant breakfast when the two other priests left to go over to the church since they had been listening to the sound system.

  36. RichR says:

    Another thought:

    Because EMHCs have become so entrenched in Sunday (& daily) Catholic Mass, you are not going to see altar rails any time soon because it would look improper for a layman dressed in lay clothes to enter the sanctuary and distribute HC standing while other laymen come up from the nave to a rail and kneel to receive HC from the standing lay EMHC.

  37. tonyfernandez says:

    I have seen the third option! Maybe not surprisingly, it is during an EF Mass. Those Masses usually have 1 visiting priest saying the Mass, and then one of the parish priests come in to assist with Communion.

    But I think the focus on intinction is the right way to go. If lay people really want Communion under both species, then I think that this is the simplest way to go about it, plus there is much less risk of spilling when less people are handling the chalice.

  38. MAJ Tony says:

    Jbas: Intinction is fine for Ritual Masses and Maundy Thursday, but it takes too long to distribute that way frequently at Sunday parochial Masses, unless we extend the length of Mass considerably.

    Don’t know why it would, as it’s only one more step for a minister, ordinary or extraordiary, and would reduce the need for EMHCs any way you cut it. Some parishes run 2 cups/paten, so by going to mostly intinction, you’d reduce your communion distribution team by as much as 2/3.

  39. Random Friar says:

    I’ve been at outdoor Masses in giant stadia that, for some well-meaning but poorly thought-out reason, decided to offer both species to all.

    The remaining Precious Blood would’ve easily filled every barrel at the Wedding of Cana. Needless to say, there was some rather hurried rounding-up of priests and folks to help consume the Precious Blood.

  40. Kathy C says:

    My good pastor says not to worry about it if we don’t have the two normal EMHC’s available for a mass. He’d just as soon not have any. This really ticks off the people who care about audience participation. ;)

  41. Let us offer our fervent prayers and fasts that in this Year of Faith, a great renewed reverence for the Precious Body and Blood of Christ will affect real change and conversion in the way Holy Communion is distributed (and received) in our parishes.

    On Sunday, when one of our EMHC’s dropped the sacred host {attempting to place upon the tongue of a young communicant (no patens in use at our parish)}, she put her shoe over Jesus on the floor, and continued distributing Holy Communion. Eventually Jesus was picked up and properly handled.

    Please join your prayers, fasts, holy hours and popular devotions for reparation for this and other grievous offenses against our Eucharistic Lord.

  42. MAJ Tony says:

    @Kathy C, touche, and I’m willing to bet the number of people concerned about “audience participation” is inversely proportional to the volume of their blathering, right? I noticed similar at Mass Sunday evening (military activities ruled my weekend otherwise, or I would’ve been at a (well-) sung TLM.) when the “Gathering Song” (how about “Processional” maybe?) was “Morning has broken.” BLECHHH!!! I didn’t see an enthusiastic response. Given that Sun was also “OL of the Holy Rosary” the traditional “Hail Holy Queen” got much better reception (not that the typical Catholic in the pew is really enthusiastic about singing.) For the life of me, I can’t figure out why people think it’s apropos, let alone acceptable, to applaud the choir at the end. Highly unlikely, but perhaps it was not an applause for a job well-done, but for actually playing appropriate material.

  43. jacobi says:

    I have noticed in my parish that fewer people opt to receive the chalice. It may now be less than 50% but I shall check next Sunday.

    According to Redemptionis Sacramentum 2004, 4 (102), where a substantial number, or a majority of the congregation, prefer the liturgical norm, i.e. receiving only the Host, then that is grounds for discontinuing routine reception of both kinds,

    “or where a notable part of the people continues to prefer not to approach the chalice for various reasons, so that the sign of unity would in some sense be negated”.

    If this rule were applied then there would be no need for routine use of lay distributers and the practise of receiving only from “ordained hands” could be resumed.

  44. JacobWall says:

    I have seen Intinction work well. In the countryside around Mexico City, many parishes offer both species in this way. An altar boy holds the Chalice next to the priests hands; the priest dips the Body into the Chalice before placing it on the tongue of the communicant. (In all places I have been in Mexico, EVERYONE receives on the tongue. Intinction would be a bad idea given in the hand. Another good reason to stop communion in the hand; parishes that want both species all the time could/should use only intinction and two birds could be killed with one stone.)

    In that part of the country specifically, there is no rush to get through communion, and even when the churches are packed, no one other than the priest delivers communion. The line is long, and it takes forever. People spend this time praying. In some places I’ve been, another Mass (equally packed) is usually scheduled for one hour after the first one; the time always runs out, and the faithful begin arriving for the next Mass while the last people are still receiving communion. As the final prayers and blessings are being said, there are always a handful of confused people hurrying in thinking they are arriving late for Mass (which technically is true, although their Mass has not yet begun; I was one of those confused people once.) Yet, despite all this, no one seems to mind that only one priest serves communion and that it takes a long time. Just the way it is.

    My point – I don’t think the purpose of having large numbers of EMHCs is really a practical question; I feel it was/is done more to make people feel warm and fuzzy since they got to do the priest’s role for a while. If it’s not an option, people simply manage, and do things like pray and meditate while they wait.

    (As a side story, in Mexico City itself, EMHCs were introduced; one part of the reason my father-in-law left the Church was indignation that they expected him to receive communion from someone that wasn’t the priest – and a woman at that. His rants about this are passionate and angry. Very sad that he left the Church, though.)

  45. JacobWall says:

    Note: in what I described above, it’s NOT because of Intinction that Communion takes for ever; it’s because only one man (the priest) delivers it, and the people, like my father-in-law, would rather receive communion from the priest than get to breakfast 15 minutes earlier. This would be just as true if it only the Body were given. Which does lead me to another question – what’s the big deal if Mass takes 15 minutes longer??? Who’s in such a huge rush on Sunday morning?

  46. Cathy says:

    I wonder what would happen if, during a call-out for EMHC’s in the parish, everyone in the parish showed up?

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