ASK FATHER: Priest allows EMHCs to take Communion home

From a reader…

QUAERITUR:

Some relatives told us that this past Saturday night for the Easter Vigil they were allowed to bring home consecrated hosts which then they decided to consume while watching a livestreamed Mass, at the moment when the priest was distributing the holy Eucharist to the people present. They said their priest allowed this because they are extraordinary ministers of the eucharist and therefore trusted. This seems of course very very wrong, however we were not able to argument and document properly why. Could you help us? From the way they described the fact it sounded like their request of having consecrated hosts at home was granted by their priest just because they are known and active in their community and not even to act as ministers of holy communion…which sounds of course even more wrong…but even taking for granted that the people could be trusted (which is also questionable) and assuming they would be in their service as ministers, is an extraordinary minister of the eucharist allowed to distribute holy communion to other faithful how and when and to whom he pleases?
Also, when hearing things like that, are there acts of reparation you would recommend to us lay people?

GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE:  Fr. Tim Ferguson

These are weird, but not entirely unprecedented times. The Church has endured through pandemics, and persecutions, and every other calamity that can befall mankind in the past 20 centuries. Weird times frequently mean weird responses and reactions, that should not be used to establish norms.

There are stories, told with a sense of awed reverence, of Christians in the early days of our history being permitted to retain the Holy Eucharist in their homes and even on their person. At that time, the Church lacked church buildings, with their requisite tabernacles, locks, security systems, lighting, sextons, his-n-her bathrooms, baby changing stations, etc. It made a certain sense for at least some of the faithful to retain the Blessed Sacrament for the needs of the sick. After the Edict of Milan, when the Church began building churches, it made much more sense for Our Eucharistic Lord to be enthroned in the buildings built for His worship. It took several centuries, however (because the Church rightly moves slowly) for the practice of private retention of the Blessed Sacrament to be wholly proscribed. It was, however, by the time of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, when it was ordered not only that the Blessed Sacrament be retained in parish churches, but that it be done so under lock and key, and the pastor was mandated to keep careful watch over the key, lest it fall into the wrong hands.

Come to today.

The Blessed Sacrament is to be kept in the Cathedral and parish churches and in chapels of duly established religious institutes. It may be kept in other chapels with the explicit permission of the local ordinary (cf. canon 934). Lastly, “No one is permitted to keep the Eucharist on one’s person or to carry it around, unless pastoral necessity urges it and the prescripts of the diocesan bishop are observed.” (canon 935)

Now, these are unusual times. But refraining from receiving the Holy Eucharist, as painful as it may be, for a few weeks or even a few months is not an unheard of thing. Many of our brothers and sisters around the world have such limited access to the sacraments and yet they are not given leave to retain the Sacrament on their person and self-communicate whilst watching the Holy Mass on the TV or internet.

Yet, these are weird times, and weird people are doing weird things. God have mercy on us all…

Fr Z says:

It is possible that the priest, perhaps not very bright, in his pastoral concern, although lacking both historical perspective and common sense, figured that this would make people feel good.  And we all know that the first role of the priest is to be nice and make people feel good.

I note that in can. 935 the word “and”.  “No one is permitted to keep the Eucharist on one’s person or to carry it around, unless pastoral necessity urges it and the prescripts of the diocesan bishop are observed.”

Has the bishop of that diocese issued some directives?

I don’t know what diocese this is, but a letter to the bishop might be in order.  Write to the bishop and let him know what is going on.

(Mostly unnecessary) EMHCs distribute Communion only under 2 circumstances:

1) during Mass, when there is a large number of the faithful present and the distribution of Communion might be therefore excessively prolonged; and

2) taking Communion to the sick and/or homebound at the direction of the pastor when the pastor cannot (or another priest of the parish or a deacon cannot).

There’s nothing official that says, “If your pastor gives you the Blessed Sacrament to take home and distribute to your family members, you are all guilty of grave sin.”

No doubt there are those who will begin to bleat about being pastORal and not being mean.

Write to the bishop.

Meanwhile:  Here is a prayer one could use in private only for reparation for offenses against the Blessed Sacrament:

My Lord Jesus Christ, only Way to the Father,
Son of God, Divine Redeemer, Savior of the world,
I bless, adore, and glorify You.
I offer to You infinite praise for the sublime gift
of the Most Blessed Sacrament –
the Sacrament of Your Sacred Body and Precious Blood.
I beg of You mercy, grace, and peace upon this unworthy world,
and especially upon Your Holy Catholic Church.
I offer to You, O Eucharistic Lord,
my adoration, prayer, study, and good works,
my hardships, humiliations, temptations, and daily crosses.
I accept them and offer them up to You
in reparation for countless offenses against the Holy Eucharist.
I offer them for irreverent bishops, priests, deacons, and lay people,
for heresies, apostasies, and schisms,
for errors, trivialities, and novelties
preached in place of Gospel truth,
for deliberate violations of Church laws,
for countless liturgical abuses,
for illicit additions and omissions,
for reluctance to bend the knee,
for negligent familiarity with the sacred,
for scandalous behavior at the altar,
for perfunctory devotions and unworthy communions,
for unbelief and lukewarm faith,
for immodest dress and profane music,
for talk and laughter before the tabernacle,
for the neglect that is sacrilege and the laxity that is blasphemy,
for the ignorance that is indifference to revealed truth,
and for every evil assault upon the sanctity
of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
In reparation for all such godlessness within Your Church,
I offer to You, my Lord Jesus Christ,
all the difficulties of my life,
and most especially the anguish I feel
at the sight and sound of irreverence before the Holy Eucharist.
All that You have given to me I accept and offer up to You,
my Eucharistic Lord,
in reparation for countless offenses
thrown at Your Most Holy Presence.

Amen.

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12 Responses to ASK FATHER: Priest allows EMHCs to take Communion home

  1. trespinos says:

    A very welcome prayer to have and to use. Thank you, Father.

  2. DBuote says:

    Would this not be a good occasion to maybe even make use of EMHC? Since most of us are in principal home bound, I would be elated to receive holy communion – even if from an EMHC who was a family member, rather than a priest.

  3. Elizabeth D says:

    I am no fan of EMHCs or carrying the Eucharist around however one likes. I am not endorsing the behavior that was complained about.

    But the relative absence of priests caring about the Eucharistic hunger of the laity for Easter Communion, a real encounter with the risen Lord, in this time is inconceivable and disturbing. The relation of the Christian to the Risen Lord in the Eucharist is an intense and nuptial relation of persons.

    The Eucharist is essential, central to our life as Christians, and the semi-indifferent attitude of many clergy toward the relationship of the faithful to Christ in actual participation in the Mass and in Holy Communion at this time is scandalizing me. Parishes are being converted into more or less TV shows, with seemingly little theological reflection about the message of the sudden interposition of the medium, and lots of distraction about how to make a good livestream. I am finding that alienating and watching videos is not a part of how i am staying close to the Mass.

  4. Jacques says:

    I am no longer an EMHC since I had bad experiences and feelings while being one some years ago. I was ashamed seeing so many people touching and manipulating the Body of Christ without reverence and I decided to stop and said it to our parish priest who acknowledged my scruples. However he authorized me continuing to bring our Lord to a few sick or old people who couldn’t go to mass, the host being enclosed in a “custode”, with recommendation bringing it immediately after mass with no stop in between, and forbidding me to keep it at home.
    During this troubled “Covid19” Easter time, and currently in its octave I have the privilege with a few people to physically attend the masses our parish priest celebrates everyday, while broadcasting them live on Facebook for many faithfuls in and outside our parish. And so I could receive our Lord and take Him in my custode for my convalescent wife at home.
    I think there is nothing weird or irreverent in doing so, isn’t it ?

  5. In the diocese of Vienna the bishop has, for the duration of the current measures that exclude public liturgies, given priests permission to give communion to the faithful to receive at home. Somewhat oddly, the decree describes the permission as making an exception to canon 935, rather than as an application of the exception made in canon 935 (pastoral necessity) and determining the conditions under which priests can give the faithful communion to take home and receive there.

  6. Hidden One says:

    What is the canonical definition/understanding of “pastoral necessity”?

  7. Diana says:

    Thank you for that magnificent prayer, Father.

  8. Glennonite says:

    WOW! Thank you for that prayer, Father. I clean my church weekly and have been looking for prayers to guide me as I dust mop the floor for any particles of the Blessed Sacrament. I have been singing the Chaplet of Divine Mercy while cleaning, but I will immediately add this prayer to the beginning of my duties.

    I’m there for the Blessed Sacrament, not the mud.

  9. Grumpy Beggar says:

    People (Catholics) are confused, people (Catholics) are bewildered right now . . .okay , but

    In my limited opinion, waiting for a streamed or televised Mass to receive our Blessed Lord in the consecrated Host which has been “brought home” is not clear thinking and is very misguided : It focuses more on and places more faith in watching a broadcast depiction of the Mass from home than it does in the actual True Presence of Our Lord right then and there in the Blessed Sacrament.

  10. Stephen Matthew says:

    Using EMHC to take communion to the home bound is literally what they are for, and as we are all in essence home bound, we would all seem to qualify to the extent it can be done reverently and safely.

    Now, the one problem I am seeing is that as described it appears that they were instructed to self-communicate, that is to receive it from themself, not from another. While that might be tolerated in some very extraordinary circumstances, if the members of the household can safely join together to watch the mass on TV, then the EMHC should distribute communion to the other members of the family.

    In my home parish at the Easter Vigil I noticed all the assisting ministers (deacons and lay people) all reached into the communion plate (not a ciborium or paten) and retrieved their own host. I do not know if this was a parish level innovation or something the bishop had instructed to be done. Clearly it is intended to reduce contamination risk, and allow the priest giving communion to remain as close to 6 ft away from the person receiving as possible, but it was rather a novelty, and I don’t quite know how likely to help it actually is.

  11. Sayomara says:

    When I was young my grandmother was dying of caner and she moved closer to our house this was 1988/89. She died 12.31.89 so sometime before that. God rest her soul. During that time she received from a EMHC that would come to her house. This was in a time when 1. she lived two blocks from the church / rectory, and 2. was a era when the area church had 2 priests.

    My own experience suggests lay people have huge access to the Blessed Sacrament and are keeping it on there person or night stands rather than taking it back to the church or chapel.

  12. JustaSinner says:

    Please correct my ignorance here Father, but when I was but a wee lad, we had altar rails, Communion on the tongue, and no EMHCs and Mass was a bit over 75 minutes. There were also 2-3 times as many parishioners in the pew then. So why are EMHCs required now? Sorry for my ignorance.

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