ASK FATHER: For Communion can I chose to go only to the priest and not the lay ministers?

From a reader…


I felt very uncomfortable when I attended a weekday Novus Ordo mass and the priest called up 3 EMs (when there was maybe 40 people) and then positioned himself on one of the sides to hand out communion. I was in the other line and I had Female EM 1 & 2 to choose from. I was tempted to just join the other line but didn’t want to cause a scene.

Am I overreacting, or if I’m not what should I do if I encounter this scenario again? Just wait and join the tail end of the priest’s line?

“EM” might mean “Eucharistic Minister”.  That is an incorrect title for the layman who is sometimes employed to distribute Communion.  “EM” could be “Extraordinary Minister”.  The proper term is “Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion”.  Ministers of the Eucharist are bishops, priests and deacons.

Yes, it is okay to go for Holy Communion only to the priest.

That said, you do not receive “more Jesus” by receiving from the priest only.  However, you would be receiving the Eucharist from the one person there whose hands were consecrated for the task of handling and distributing the Eucharist.

The frequent employment of too many lay ministers is an abuse.  It is an abuse of the temporary ministers and of the congregation.  The priest abuses his own priesthood in abdicating his role.

You can always opt to go to the priest.  It could be that if everyone starts going only to the priest, he will get the hint.   Of course a dedicated ideologue, who has perhaps forgotten who he is, might upbraid a congregation that does that, and try to force people to go to lay ministers.   But people have the right to vote with their feet in the matter of Communion.

You might try praying to the Guardian Angels of the overly used lay ministers, to prompt them to opt out of the program.



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  1. Suburbanbanshee says:

    My grandfather on my mom’s side always went to Father’s line! And it is even easier if you sit close to the back than if you sit close to the front.

  2. Glennonite says:

    I have been receiving exclusively from only priests or deacons for years, ever since I red-pilled. Once, I found myself standing in front of a smiling gal after a tall and large communicant in front of me moved away, unblocking my view. Briefly stunned to see ‘not-the-Father’, I simply genuflected to the Blessed Sacrament that she was holding in a bowl (like Halloween candy, I suppose), and moved back to my pew to reflect upon my Spiritual Communion for that Mass.

    Easy-peasy; no big deal. If I had NEEDED to receive Communion that Mass, I would have simply circled around to the correct line and got ‘er done that way. No ‘scene-causing’ on my part.

  3. I used to attend a parish where the priest made a point of always stationing himself at a different and unpredictable point to distribute the Eucharist. That made it difficult to pick the priest line. Knowing the priest’s ideology, and his dismissive attitude toward the sensibilities of his people, I suspect this was deliberate, in order to make people receive from EMHCs. This was also a parish where other priests upbraided the faithful from the pulpit for wanting to receive only from the priests.

    People talk about making the Eucharist a political football by denying Holy Communion to public advocates of abortion. If you ask me, it is forcing EMHCs on people who wish to receive only from consecrated hands that makes a political football out of the Eucharist.

  4. OssaSola says:

    I am squarely in the camp of those who only receive from the priest. If I need to “change lanes”, I do so far ahead of time so there’s no kerfluffle. In our former, nutty NO parish only EMHC’s offered the Precious Blood so I’d simply bow in front of whoever held the chalice and went on back to my pew. It seemed the EHMCs in that place were always trying to connect personally with each communicant with a special smile or loving caress or little gushy comment that I. Just. Couldn’t.

  5. ArthurH says:

    My wife and I both dropped out of being Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (both host and cup) for a variety of reasons including not thinking it proper outside of an emergency; the most important of which reasons, however, was our not wanting to be in a position (it happens and happened) of a “Joe Biden-like moment” with either the host or the cup, when the priest would give–or even has just given– the person Communion. Such was NOT judgmental, just openly known fact.

    On my return to the Church after desert wandering for 25+ years I was stunned by the % (near 100) of people receiving at any given Mass. at the very least individuals, esp young males as I had been when I left, had hardly evolved to sainthood status as the norm during my absence from the Church.

  6. Kirk says:

    What would someone do if the priest sits down after consecration and let’s the Extraordinary Ministers do his job. This is what sometimes happens at my parents parish.

  7. Fr. Kelly says:

    Kirk said: What would someone do if the priest sits down after consecration and let’s the Extraordinary Ministers do his job.

    First of all, I would say, pray for a complete and speedy recovery from the broken leg or other debilitating condition that is preventing Father from distributing Holy Communion — because of course he would neeeeevvvveeerr do this if he was healthy. (tongue only halfway in cheek)

    In Inaestimabile Donum, John Paul II says it is disgraceful for a physically able priest who is present at Mass to sit down and allow lay people to distribute Holy communion when he is not — even if he is not celebrating the Mass. (The word he uses there is “turpis” this is a _very strong_ condemnation of such a behavior.)

    Of course, if the priest is injured or debilitated in some serious way, the situation could warrant this, but even then, he should seek to have other priests or deacons assist him with the distribution. At the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, Our Lord gave the food to His Apostles to distribute — he did not give it out indiscriminately for everyone to pass it to each other.

    All that being said, if after being asked about this respectfully and politely, Father says he is perfectly capable and simply refuses to distribute so that the laity can “participate” this could be indicative of deeper problems in his understanding of his own identity as a priest. Pray for him then too.

  8. Andrew says:

    Some things I commonly observe/experience at NO “service”:

    Priest at every Mass choosing a random unpredictable spot for distributing communion: check.
    Priest sitting down and letting EMHC’s distribute communion: check.
    Priest letting a consecrated chalice be passed around by EMHC’s: check.
    A priest holding the ciborium to allow the communicants take a host without him touching it: check.
    Priest making a special trip to give communion to the musician who receives sitting on a bench while playing an instrument: check.
    Priest walking over to the girl/ministers to give them communion separately: check.
    A priest saying: “behold the Lamb of God” while the EMHC’s are still at the tabernacle getting ready to bring the ciboria for communion: check.
    The entire assembly busy with handshakes (sign of peace) while the organist plays “Lamb of God” which is totally ignored by everyone: check.
    The entire assembly praying with their arms extended: check.
    I keep wondering why am I so different from everyone else: check.

  9. SuperTrad says:

    Heck, at our local parish the priest will have only laypeople distribute communion and won’t do it himself.

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  11. SemperServusDei says:

    I have vowed to the Lord, out of respect for His Presence as God and Lord, and in reparation for the abuses committed against Him in the Eucharist, to always receive Him kneeling, on the tongue, and from a priest. I cannot in good conscience receive otherwise. I pray that many others will commit to the same…

  12. bartlep says:

    I sit in the back of churches where I know I will have to choose the line for the priest. Often times there are 5 or 6 of us in the priest line and the other line is completed. I continue, even though the EMofHC is looking at us as if to say “come on over”. Amazing that there are always 6 people distributing Communion, no matter the number, at weekday Masses.

  13. Johann says:

    Two of the ministers of Holy Communion in my parish (both very devout Catholics) recently resigned after they became aware of how problematic and abusive the situation of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion had become. One of them even shared with our a PDF printout of parish Church teachings (from the Council of Trent up to Pope St John Paul II) condemning Lay Ministers of Holy Communion except in exceptional circumstances.

  14. Kerry says:

    Andrew, how blessed are you by such short list.

  15. mo7 says:

    Off to morning Mass where for 35 people we need 3 EMs. The ceremony of communion and distribution of the chalice/ciborium to the EMs has taken on a life of it’s own. The choreography of which is something like a octogenarian Rockette routine wherein they all receive in the hand and then do the switcheroo and distribute to each other. If the priest got right down to it himself instead of the communion of the EM on the altar there would be way less activity and distraction up there.

  16. carndt says:

    We moved to the gulf coast of Florida. When we were at our first Mass at the local church, we knelt in amazement as 19 EMHC paraded and they stood in a semi-circle behind the altar after Consecration.
    There isn’t a tabernacle in the main church either. (It is in the chapel behind the altar…)
    And the cross suspended over the altar is of a risen Christ.

    I looked online after Mass for another Church. Lo and behold I found St. Agnes in Naples. One of the churches mentioned in Fr. Z’s blog the other day! I have found a home and we will add to the growth of such a mission church. 45 minus is not far to go to be at peace.

  17. swvirginia says:

    Some years ago, before I really began to study and reflect more on what it meant to be Catholic, I was asked to become an EMHC. I only did that for a few months because I was extremely uncomfortable with the idea that I, as a sinner, would be allowed to hold and touch the Body of Christ. It just seemed terribly wrong to me, and I quit. If asked again I would quickly refuse.

  18. Suudy says:

    For my part, I’m fine receiving from an EMHC. However, with my young children who are not yet ready to receive, I always steer them to the priest or deacon line for their blessing. The EMHC giving “blessings” to those with crossed arms, well, makes me uncomfortable.

  19. Suudy says:

    As some have noted, at times a priest sits and lets the EMHCs do all the distribution. One story on that front that humbled me.

    Years ago (15+ or so), we regularly attended a parish where the priest did this. He never distributed communion, other than to the EMHCs. Then he sat during communion. This bothered me, and one day, in a fit of pique, I grumbled about this after mass with some of my fellow parishioners. A friend of my wife leaned in and asked my why I thought he did this. I told her it was because either he was lazy or he had succumbed to the pressures of the laity to have EMHCs do all the work. She told me that his shoulders were permanently injured due to some degenerative disease that affects all his joints, and that lifting his arms above shoulder height was painful, and was made even more painful if done repetitively.

    I was chagrined. I vowed at that point never to assume laziness or cowardice to anyone, especially a priest at mass, again. I admit it can be a challenge, especially when I see things like people other than a priest or deacon giving a homily (common at one parish we attended in my hometown), a priest re-ordering mass (as often happened by an older, now retired priest), or a priest that says at the start of mass “Everyone is welcome! Jesus loves us all right where we are! Please, join us for communion!” (I have seen this at nearly every funeral mass or wedding I’ve attended).

  20. JillMary says:

    I always try to receive from a priest or Deacon. I receive on the tongue and quite frankly this usually freaks the EMHCs out and receiving becomes very awkward and causes a danger of dropping the host or them touching my tongue.

  21. Ave Maria says:

    I attend two parishes and at one the priest always goes to one side and so I sit on that side. But at both places for a daily Mass, even without a crowd, the priest might stand at the altar and demand lay EMHCs. The very same few are always having to be the ones to step up. They are not needed! Years ago I also was one, starting in my 20s but stopped doing that at Mass more than 10 years ago. However, I do take Holy Communion to a senior home where many dear ones would never have Holy Communion if I did not visit them.

  22. ejcmartin says:

    A number of years ago at a weekday Mass, my family “switched lanes” from a EMHC line up to the line up to the priest for Communion. The priest did not say anything at the time, but the EMHC and another parishioner were outraged and ran to the sacristy to complain about our actions to the priest. The priest had to go through the motions of talking to us, so he just told us to be a little more discreet so we didn’t upset the parishioners. Oh well, now the new parish priest there is infamous for his puppet shows.

  23. dans0622 says:

    Shouldn’t we say that bishops and priests (not deacons) are ministers of the Eucharist (i.e., can celebrate Mass). Bishops, priests, and deacons are ordinary ministers of Holy Communion (i.e., can ordinarily distribute Holy Communion). Lay people can be extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.

  24. hwriggles4 says:

    It’s only within the last six or seven years that I make the effort to receive communion from a priest or deacon. At less crowded Masses (or as some posters mentioned, sitting near the back) it is easier, and I can find a way without calling attention to myself. One parish I occasionally attend uses the altar rail, so receiving from a priest or deacon is much easier there too.

    Like several posters, I have been an EMHC at one time. (I was one in college and we were asked on campus to behave as not too cause scandal) . More recently, I have been asked to become one again, but I usually say I prefer not too.

    That said, many parishes (I don’t know if this is diocesan wide and/or varies by dioceses and/or congregations) have criteria for EMHC’s, such as:

    1. Must be baptized, confirmed, received first communion
    2. Be an active practicing Catholic (i.e. not “I only attend Mass once a month or so)
    3. If married, marriage must be in accordance with the Church (divorced and remarried without a decree of nullity – no, but a man or a woman who is divorced but living a chaste way of life, maybe has an annulment or one in process – yes)
    4. Some dioceses require the parish to send names of EMHC’s to the bishop

    What I don’t know is how often guidelines are enforced. Over the years, I have witnessed things like “my son is in town, he can serve with me on Sunday (even if he is living with his girlfriend)” and one parish I attended as a twenty something (and a one hour Catholic back then) , a Protestant who sung in the choir would regularly serve as an EMHC.

    By the way, I was an usher for many years. Also, I don’t mind people of other faiths coming to Mass and participating in the life of the Church, but like Catholics who are not in the state of grace, proper reception of the Eucharist must be taught and observed.

  25. I try to pick the “priest’s line” whenever I can, and I’m uncomfortable about “switching lanes”–it looks rude. But you can get a lot of bang for your buck if you end up in a lay minister’s line by insisting on receiving on the tongue. There’s little that the lay ministers can do if you insist, and you may dissuade them from ever serving in that capacity again.

    I’ve gotten dragooned against my will into serving as a lay minister exactly twice in my life–once at my father’s funeral–and believe me, it is frightening for an inexperienced lay person unused to distributing on the tongue to try to navigate the Eucharist into someone’s mouth. So if you hold your ground and insist on Communion on the tongue, you will probably dissuade at least a few lay people from pursuing that “ministry” in the future.

  26. Kirk says:

    I just have to give a thanks be to God that my personal parish is doing great things. We just reintroduced the use of Eucharist patens during communion. Our new church building even has an altar rail And we use it. i would say about 30-40% of parishioners kneel and receive on the tongue and the number increases every week. Thank You God for hearing my prayers these last ten years.

  27. Charles E Flynn says:


    Once a person sees the host fall to the floor, land on its edge, and roll down the main aisle, the usefulness of the paten will never be forgotten. Meanwhile, as the EMHC people distribute Holy Communion, the altar servers sit in the sanctuary, staring at their sneakers.

  28. MoreIncenseLessNonsense says:

    Eastern Catholic here from the Byzantine rite. Under no circumstances does our rite allow anyone besides deacon/priest/bishop to distribute the Eucharist. We still practice the minor orders of reader and subdeacon and they are never allowed to distribute. Our parish is blessed with several deacons, so communion lines are not long, but at other parishes it takes up a greater portion of the liturgy. Everyone that receives the Eucharist does so only via mouth, never by hand. Whenever I attend a Latin rite parish I always go to the priest. In the times when I’ve been on vacay and couldn’t avoid the EM I still receive via tongue and I’m not sure if it’s more awkward for them or for me–not what I’d like to be focusing on. Before I was Catholic I was a lay EM in the Episcopal Church and then stopped acting in that role once I converted over. For other Eastern Catholic Churches I’ve attended (Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara) only the clergy distributes (the parishes I visited didn’t have deacons).

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