I recently attended a “school Mass” at a local Catholic school while I was substitute teaching for the day. I had the misfortune of happening upon a parish that uses about one extraordinary minister per member of the congregation. After Mass, the extraordinary ministers gathered around the credence table to purify their vessels (they had given the Eucharist under both species in about 5 Chalices and Ciboriums each) while the priest stood by at the altar not really doing much. Eventually the priest purified his chalice at the credence table (not the Altar!). This situation seemed dubious to me (not to say for some other portions of the Liturgy). Is that permissible?
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) makes the matter pretty clear. GIRM 163, 270, and 271 indicate that the vessels are to be purified by the priest. He can purify the vessels either at the altar or at the credence table.
If there is a deacon present at Mass, in accord with GIRM 183, he should purify the vessels at the credence table. It is also permissible simply to cover the vessels and purify them after Mass. That purification may be done by a priest, deacon, or, if no deacon is available, an instituted acolyte. An instituted acolyte, not just anyone. And an “instituted acolyte” is not someone who substitutes for the instituted acolyte, if you get my drift.
The Bishops in these USA had permission to experiment with allowing extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (EMHCs) to purify the vessels. That permission was granted on March 22, 2002, for a period of three years.
That permission lapsed on March 22, 2005.
The bishops requested an extension of the permission, but no response was forthcoming.
They renewed the request in March 2006.
On 12 October 2006, we just missed the anniversary, Card. Arinze, then-Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments wrote to the bishops to tell them that their request for an extension had been denied.
Hence, it is no longer permissible for EMHC’s to purify vessels.
Purifying the sacred vessels is a priestly thing.
One of a priest’s most important duties is maintaining the worship of God in and for the Church. That includes maintaining the things needed for the Church’s worship.
Isn’t it interesting that some of the priests who most often spew about the “bad old days” of clericalism, and who want to just be “one of the guys”, Father Just-Call-Me-Bruce, are also the priests who don’t want to purify their sacred vessels? This is part and parcel of their mentality that doling out priestly tasks to the laity is the way to “empower” the lay faithful, to get them to participate “actively”. This is real clericalism, negatively understood. That’s so condescending of those priests: “I’m going to let you do something that I do, because you are not enough on your own, as a baptized person. Nope, I get to make you special.”
Priests should help the laity embrace the apostolates in the world to which God has called them and for which He has equipped them. That’s what priests are for: we offer Sacrifice, we give sacraments and counsel and teach in the name of the Church so that lay people can fulfill their roles in the world the best they can.
A priest was once heard to mutter loudly in the sacristy, “I don’t know why Rome won’t let lay people purify the chalices! I’ve got so many better things to do with my time than ‘do the dishes.'” A lay woman who was helping out in the same sacristy turned to him and retorted, “Yeah, that’s beneath you as a priest. That’s lay people work, isn’t it? It’s not like I’ve got anything better to do with my time, like go pick up my mother-in-law from the nursing home and bring her back to the house for the day, cook breakfast for my family, help my children with their homework, pack my husband’s clothes for his business trip, and collect some food from the neighbor’s for the food shelf. I’m sure you’ve got much better things to do than me.”
Honestly. Lay people face things that would make most priests curl up in a ball and suck their thumbs. On the other hand, believe me, lay people don’t want to deal with some of the things that the diligent and faithful priest (hated by Satan) deals with.
We don’t do lay people any favors by blurring the distinctions of the priesthood of the ordained and of the baptized.
we also don’t do them any favors by hiding the Truth or soft-peddling it until it is meaningless.
We each have our roles. Vive la différence.