ASK FATHER: Woman “Eucharistic Minister” crosses lines to receive only from the priest

From a reader…

In our parish we have a woman who is a Eucharistic minister at some masses. Whenever she does not serve, she will get out of the pew and cross over so she can receive from the presider only. If she were a regular parishioner, I would not notice. It happens all the time. But as a recognized Eucharistic minister, do you feel she is doing a disservice by acting hypocritically by not feeling reception by a minister is “good enough”? And should I bring it to our pastor’s attention?

First, let’s say “priest” or “celebrant” and not “presider”.  Next, we say “Extraordinary (not Ordinary) Minister of Communion (not Eucharist).”  Terms have meanings.

Nowadays, many parishes have Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.  Properly, these EMHCs should be male instituted acolytes.  In a pinch, any members of the lay faithful, of either sex at the discretion of the local bishop, can substitute for male instituted acolytes.

Back to the point of the question: This female Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion receives only from the priest?

This female Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion crosses lines in order to ensure that she is receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion from the priest who offers the Holy Sacrifice, and that, therefore, makes her (somehow) a hypocrite?

I can’t understand how that would be so.

Should you point this out to your pastor?

Were I the pastor to whom this is pointed out, my response would probably be something along the lines of,

“Perhaps, my child, if you focused more on preparing your soul to receive your Sovereign Lord and Majesty as you approach the Communion rail, you wouldn’t notice the habits of others. Could that do your soul more good than looking about to spy out what others are doing?”

Moderation queue is ON.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I had a Pastor at one point who searched for people who disagreed with the whole concept of EME’s, as he was then morally certain that they would strictly abide by the rules and protect the Sacrament. A number of these EME’s would do the same thing when not participating.

    One might ask why would he then have females? The Bishop has made it clear to the Priests that male and female alike must be admitted to the “ministry”. He has also made it clear that if a Mass were to start within 15 minutes of one ending, EME’s should be utilized. I think the liability insurance associated with clearing the parking lots contributed to it. And in my diocese, most Parishes have 5-7 Masses on Sundays.

    Thankfully, it’s not a problem for those of us who attend the EF.

  2. rayrondini says:

    A friend of mine volunteered in his parish to train the EMHC’s, while at the same time not offering to serve as one. He doesn’t like that EMHC’s are so prevalent, but he’s going to do his darndest to make sure they treat Our Lord with reverence.

    Perhaps that’s what this woman is after: she recognizes the goodness of receiving from the hands of the priest, and would prefer it to always be so. Since that’s not the case, she volunteers her efforts as EMHC in order to do what she can to ensure that Our Lord is treated reverently. Is she misguided? Maybe, maybe not.

    Bringing it to the priest’s attention seems like a great way to reinforce a “mad trad” mentality and certainly seems misguided. Perfect most definitely becomes the enemy of the good, there.

  3. RWG says:

    Good points Fr. Z, we should all focus on our own experience, however I do see the writers point. By choosing the priest rather than the extraordinary minister of communion she would seem to be negating her own ministry as an emc. Is it better to receive from a priest than an emc? If so then why bother with emc’s at all? I am an Anglican convert so please forgive me if I get any terms incorrect. I used to be a layreader in the Anglican Church and a Eucharistic Minister and have experienced the same preference of people to receive from a priest.

  4. the little brother says:

    I did that once; chose to cross over to receive from the Priest. The Priest turned angrily away from me & my young son forcing us to receive elsewhere. Quite un-nerving actually.


  5. HyacinthClare says:

    I could see that answer coming a mile away.

  6. Thorfinn says:

    Your correspondent accurately senses the cognitive dissonance of the situation. Yes, it is ironic – an EMHC preferring not to receive from an EMHC. But ironic doesn’t mean it’s wrong or something we need to pay attention to. I’ve heard several(!) reminders during homilies about how there’s no extra benefit receiving from the priest vs. EMHC. Okay — but it’s not Ghostbusters, or a strike — nothing crazy is going to happen because someone crosses lines one way or another.

    I find the idea of the communion procession as a liturgical act undertaken by the laity a silly invention. (What happened at the Last Supper: the Institution of the Eucharist or did the apostles play musical chairs and Judas was left out?)

    Fr. Hunwicke even calls for its elimination as a first step to “destroying the culture of Almost Inevitable Communion”:

    “And the grim little shuffle up the church in a queue rather like the queue in the bank or supermarket, is just about the last thing that needs to be decked out with some bright new ritual ‘significance’, yet another ritual straightjacket. “Walking to the Lord together”, indeed. What utter, utter, twaddle. But I’ve read it.”

  7. juergensen says:

    If this female EMHC gets ruffled when her line is empty while communicants are lined up in the next line waiting to receive from the priest, I’d say that, yes, she is a hypocrite.

  8. JustaSinner says:

    Still receive Christ’s body on the tongue. Now THAT makes for some fun exchanges! Passed on the opportunity years ago to be a Eucharistic Minister (I think that’s the term?). [Extraordinary Minister of Communion (not Eucharist).] I am but a sinner, [So are priests.] no way are these hands handling Corpus Christi! [Priest’s (= sinners) have their hands consecrated at ordination to handle sacred things including the Body of Christ.]

  9. tzard says:

    Another issue here is the assumption that people need to “line up”. It almost seems the cardinal sin is to be out of line, not wait for your pew to be next to stand up, etc…. It’s become somewhat of a custom in the US, but nothing requires it, as I understand it.

  10. clare joseph says:

    On the topic of Extraordinary Ministers of Communion: I believe I read in a document from the Holy See years ago that Extraordinary Ministers were only to be used if and when the time required for distributing Communion would, without these Ministers, exceed the time required for the rest of the Mass. Does anyone ever follow this?

  11. Fr. Reader says:

    Terms have meanings.

  12. mysticalcityofgod2017 says:

    I wish I had a nickel for every time I wanted to stand up and shout, it’s extraordinary Minister! Or how about this question I would love to ask (far too many) pastors…why do you ask us to make Christ the center of our lives, when upon entering your church I have to go on a recon mission to find the tabernacle where Our Lord resides? If I had those nickels I would surely donate them here Fr. Z (Priest forever!). Thank you for educating people on this most important distinction.

  13. KateD says:

    Tzard- We have a wonderful little gal who loves the Lord more than anyone I know…she often breaks out in joyful song praising God (outside of Mass). She sits in the front row during Mass so that she can jump up to get to Jesus as soon as she possibly can. She practically runs; you can just see how excited she is….She has inspired me to entertain the thought, on more than one occassion, of jumping out of line and running toward my Lord….I reatrain myself, because my children would be soooo embarrassed :) Maybe this is the childlike quality that Jesus spoke of?

  14. Pingback: Hypocrites | Mundabor's Blog

  15. Colette says:

    Hahaha…thanks Father for pointing out how they referred to the Priest as “Presider” and how they need to stop being such a busy body. I’m NOT an EMHC and I too cross the line to take communion from our Priest…on the tongue. When I return to my pew I close my eyes in prayer or I get distracted by all the inappropriately dressed young people or by the EMHC giving blessings to babies or those that approach them with their arms crossed as they are not Catholic! JUST STOP IT!

    In regards to an earlier post today…THANK YOU FATHER FOR ALL YOU DO! Have a Blessed Holy Week!

  16. Patikins says:

    At my mom’s church the priest always distributes Holy Communion from the same place, i.e., to the same section of the church. When I visit I make a point of sitting in that section and I’m sure regular parishioners do the same.

  17. Tom says:

    Refusing to receive in the hand, and having had fingers stuck down my throat (nearly), having received knuckles to the cheek (intentional? — one thinks so after it happens more than once), and other indignities, I resolved a few years ago to only receive from consecrated hands. Yes, I switch lines.

  18. Nan says:

    I don’t switch lines during Lent. I have a strong preference to receive communion from the priest so am migratory the rest of the year.

  19. Christ_opher says:

    When I was younger I would switch lines, (bare in mind I’m a badly formed Catholic because I didn’t even know that I shouldn’t be going to communion in the first place due to my mortal state at the time).

    Thankfully today our Priest does not use Extraordinary Ministers of Communion. so it’s a no brainer.

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