QUAERITUR: Should EMHCs cleanse their fingers after distribution of Communion?

From a reader:

If EMHC are used should they cleanse their fingers of Eucharistic particles after communion?

Of course they should!

Let an ablution cup or bowl be set somewhere, in advance, so that they can purify their fingers.

The fewer Extraordinary Ministers of Communion… the smaller the bowl, if you get my drift.

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  1. THREEHEARTS says:

    Please say what they are so they learn F. They are extra to the ordinary minister and to call them anything else and confuses the faithful. By the way I watched aghast as a women extra before she washed out the Chalice look in ans saw something in the Blood, maybe a particle of the Host. This monstrous woman picked iy up on her finger and flicked on the floor. May I remind of the judgment awarded to Shylock in the merchant of Venice, “You may take your pound of flesh but no blood.” Shades of the either kind alone of Council of Trent

  2. Papabile says:

    I agree with you, Father. However, when I used to serve at the now Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC, I was always flummoxed as to why they would reserve the ablution cup only to the Priests.

    The line I was given at the time is that their hands were anointed, and laymen’s were not.

    I searched for months in the theological library and was never able to find an explanation of the anointing of the hands being related to the use of the ablution cup.

  3. 3hearts: Not only extras commit outrages like this. At a Mass concelebrated by three bishops and numerous priests, I once saw a deacon pick up the corporal after communion and flick it like a dish towel. Perhaps in my horror I only imagined that from the fifth pew I could see the shower of precious particles descending to the floor, to be trampled there by a milling herd of clerics and ministers.

  4. Southern Baron says:

    Finally saw a parish doing this for the first time a few weeks ago.

  5. acardnal says:

    When the kind of disrespect shown in the above examples occurs by clerics or EMHCs, it only further diminishes the belief in the Real Presence.

  6. Roguejim says:

    Our EMHCs are provided with a squirt bottle of either hand sanitizer, or lotion, that sits next to the sanctuary on a small table. They seem to only use it “before” Communion, however.

  7. wmeyer says:

    At my current parish, the EMHCs do have a bowl for cleansing; at my former parish, they did not.

  8. Mary Jane says:

    “If EMHC are used…”

    I know an easy solution to the problem…

  9. wmeyer says:

    I know an easy solution to the problem…

    LOL! You have my vote!

  10. Jeannie_C says:

    We had a fill in priest one Saturday evening who used the purificator to wipe his brow, then as he was about to descend the altar stairs to distribute Holy Communion reached up and took a gulp from the chalice – yes, you read that right – a gulp of the Precious Blood on the fly, leaning sideways.

  11. acardnal says:

    You know, reading about the carelessness which some clerics celebrate Holy Mass, I wonder if I should start recording it on my cell phone so I have some evidence to send to the bishop, the Apostolic Nuncio and the Holy See. Perhaps if priests remember how many people have cell phones with cameras in the congregation, they would behave more reverently and in accord with the liturgical norms.

  12. Patti Day says:

    A howl would go up in my parish if EMHC’s were eliminated because an extra few minutes would be added to Sunday Mass time, or the Holy Eucharist would be distributed in one species and the people would feel like they were missing out. At weekday Mass with five people present there is an EMHC. We have altar girls. I have spoken with my parish priest to no avail. I think he views me as a throwback.

  13. acardnal says:

    Patti Day, get yourself a hardcopy of Redemptionis Sacramentum or read it here:

    It addresses various abuses including overuse of EMHCs. Everyone should have a copy of this document. Perhaps make a Christmas present of it to your parish priest.

  14. lizaanne says:

    Wow. Have never seen this happen that I can ever recall. I once belonged to a parish that is a National Shrine – massive “church in the round” architecture, with a cast of thousands of EMHCs. I don’t ever remember them cleansing their fingers after Holy Communion.

    Just get rid of them – use the rail, and it’s just as fast (if that’s so important).

    Oh – you ripped out your rail? Shame on you, what were you thinking?


  15. AA Cunningham says:

    “if you get my drift.”

    The use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion should be extremely rare, if at all.

    1. The Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion

    [154.] As has already been recalled, “the only minister who can confect the Sacrament of the Eucharist in persona Christi is a validly ordained Priest”.[254] Hence the name “minister of the Eucharist” belongs properly to the Priest alone. Moreover, also by reason of their sacred Ordination, the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are the Bishop, the Priest and the Deacon,[255] to whom it belongs therefore to administer Holy Communion to the lay members of Christ’s faithful during the celebration of Mass. In this way their ministerial office in the Church is fully and accurately brought to light, and the sign value of the Sacrament is made complete. (emphasis added)

    [155.] In addition to the ordinary ministers there is the formally instituted acolyte, who by virtue of his institution is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion even outside the celebration of Mass. If, moreover, reasons of real necessity prompt it, another lay member of Christ’s faithful may also be delegated by the diocesan Bishop, in accordance with the norm of law,[256] for one occasion or for a specified time, and an appropriate formula of blessing may be used for the occasion. This act of appointment, however, does not necessarily take a liturgical form, nor, if it does take a liturgical form, should it resemble sacred Ordination in any way. Finally, in special cases of an unforeseen nature, permission can be given for a single occasion by the Priest who presides at the celebration of the Eucharist.[257]

    [156.] This function is to be understood strictly according to the name by which it is known, that is to say, that of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and not “special minister of Holy Communion” nor “extraordinary minister of the Eucharist” nor “special minister of the Eucharist”, by which names the meaning of this function is unnecessarily and improperly broadened.

    [157.] If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.[258] (emphasis added)

    [158.] Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged.[259] This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason. (emphasis added)

    [159.] It is never allowed for the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion to delegate anyone else to administer the Eucharist, as for example a parent or spouse or child of the sick person who is the communicant.

    [160.] Let the diocesan Bishop give renewed consideration to the practice in recent years regarding this matter, and if circumstances call for it, let him correct it or define it more precisely. Where such extraordinary ministers are appointed in a widespread manner out of true necessity, the diocesan Bishop should issue special norms by which he determines the manner in which this function is to be carried out in accordance with the law, bearing in mind the tradition of the Church.

  16. Imrahil says:

    There would be a very very easy way to get the use of EMHCs in order, without being overly dismissive of whatever good is in their use (among which I would include an otherwise impossible Holy Communion under Both Speciés, wherever a danger of disturbing the “whole of Christ present under either species” need not reasonably be feared).

    Just decree that, as substitute clerics and substitute acolytes, all EMHCs have to be taken exclusively from the male attendance.

    This would make sense in the first place. And you would see how soon things would get in order.

    [Note: for pastoral reasons, it might make sense to except for an interim time women who are not under a vow or promise of special obedience,receive no salary from the Church, and ave long served in this role, while fixing a perhaps decreasing maximum for their deployments per month or year. I know that “entitlement” here really is a bad attitude, but sometimes the elephant-in-the-china-shop attitude of fixing such issues is perhaps not prudent too.]

  17. JKnott says:

    If EMHC are used should they cleanse their fingers of Eucharistic particles after communion?

    My choice – let the Church cleanse the sanctuaries of the women and most of the EMHC.

  18. MattH says:

    At the Cathedral where I live, there is an ablution bowl which EMHCs are expected to use. It is out of sight and separate from the one the ordained ministers use. This seems a good solution.

    On the use of EMHC in general – the phrase “when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged” is obviously interpreted many ways. I would not think a Sunday Mass had been “unduly prolonged” if I had to wait 10, perhaps even 15 minutes, to receive Holy Communion. However, most local parishes seem to think that would be too long, and therefore use four to six EMHC in situations where one or none would have seemed completely reasonable to me.

  19. Fr AJ says:

    If clerics and EMHC’s should use the ablution bowl, should not the laity who receive Holy Communion on the hand have access to an ablution bowl as well? Shouldn’t everyone who touches the Eucharist have to purify their hands afterwards? This has long bothered me.

  20. acardnal says:

    Fr AJ, I think you know what the response will be to your question and it’s the right one: everyone should receive Christ on the tongue.

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