25 January 2011


Truly extraordinary, that is. Not in the statistical sense as used by Pope Benedict in his non-definitive [i.e. he didn't authoritatively order its use] description of the frequency of the celebration of the older liturgical rites as "extraordinary". No this is extraordinary in the sense of being completely outside of what should be.

Truly extraordinary!
Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside, California
The Pimernel is speaking of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, whose use has become ordinary in the same sense that the older rites are described as extraordinary.

There are so many things to say about Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion that the Pimpernel hardly knows where to start. Perhaps it's enough to say that almost always they are an unnecessary de-sacralisation of the Sacred Liturgy. Assuming good motives on the part of those acting as extraordinary ministers, their ordinary use shows a lack of the honour owed to the Most Blessed Sacrament. Readers may care to add more observations.

The splendid Vultus Christi blog prompted these thoughts with an excellent but reflection on "accidents" that have occurred in the administration of Holy Communion and what to do about them. It raises the question of the frequent or ordinary use of Communion from the Chalice. Read the post. It is a calm and clear call to action that we cannot afford to ignore. To arms!

Whilst you're at it, if you can find any way of supporting the small Benedictine community founded by the splendid Bishop Slattery that is behind the Vultus Christi blog, you would be doing something worthwhile.


  1. Dear LP, How very gracious of you! Thank you.

  2. To your point: I have read the Vultus Christi blog post, and concur with the author.

    But simply instituting in the ministry of Acolyte men who are not necessarily in formation for priestly or diaconal ordination is insufficient: what is needed is episcopal backbone to enforce the liturgical norms that have been in place for decades.

    In my diocese - one of the small handful in the USA which has actually implemented such a program - we now have over 100 men instituted as Acolytes in accord with Paul VI's Ministeria Quaedam. Yet the diocesan bishop has given no instruction to them (or to his priests, for that matter) that they are to be given priority over other laymen in the distribution of Holy Communion in accord with the listing in the 1973 Instruction, Immensae Caritatis. Not infrequently they are vested, in the sanctuary, seated whilst the veritable army of laywomen invade the sanctuary to "carry out their ministry".

    [As an aside, it would help, too, if the Pimpernel were to refrain from referring to them as "Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist", employing instead the only approved title, "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion" (cf. 2004 Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum. n. 154 ff.).]

  3. Anonymous: the Pimpernel thanks you for your correction, which he has duly made.

  4. So who is the EMHC, the one in the jeans (as it appears), or the one exposing her shoulders? And has the tumbler been consecrated? This is a serious case of "1 picture= 1K words"

  5. Perhaps this reflection on how to receive communion takes to the more important question of why we receive it. Is it not legitimate to ask if people in the pew communicate too often? I am not defending Jansenism. I am just pointing out that the "necessity" for EMHCs is exaggerated because many people who take Holy Communion should perhaps not communicate, and this thanks to the general loss of faith in the "re" of the Eucharist. Before trying to judge if I am morally worthy of the Eucharist I have to ask myself if I know what I am doing and who it is that I am receiving. Do I believe? Does the multitude that queues up on Sunday believe? Is not this the most important job for the priest and Bishop, rather than worrying if aunt Betty has a job during Mass?

  6. One need not reference Jansenism in matters of frequency of communing on part of the laity. The Jansenist reasons for infrequent communion were rather heady (if wrong) but the populist reasons (which did tie into the Jansenist critique, though they were far older) was a combination of a misplaced "reverence" for the Blessed Sacrament and a sense that being a "frequent" communicant could be an onerous duty in that one actually had to go to confession more than once a year and who wants to do that! If we read the common opinion of the auctores probati before St. Pius X's document on frequent communion, they usually recommended "frequent" communion maybe once a week-once a month if one's confessor judged it proper.

    The whole battle between the Jansenists (majority heterodox opinion) the Spanish laxists (minority heterodox opinion), the auctores probati (majority orthodox opinion) and the eventual decision of St. Pius X (who sided with the minority orthodox opinion of a more minimal requirement for daily communicants) is passe in today's situation. That ordered debate got thrown out the window. People go up to communion because they've been fed modernist/Protestant ideas of "everyone is welcomed" to the symbolic banquet table of wine and bread.

  7. Not only should the ministers of holy communion be members of the "priesthood of the laity", so should the priests. Onward and upward to the eventual complete replacement of the clergy by the People of God.

  8. Anonymous 20:35 - The Pimpernel thinks you need to clarify your theology of the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of all the faithful somewhat, as well as how it can be that the clergy are excluded from the People of God.

  9. Jeffreyquick,
    It would appear that the EMHC is the lovely-looking woman. The young man in reaching for the chalice and inclining his head as one would before inviving.

  10. As an orthodox and conservative Anglican I am dismayed by Eucharistic practice in both Christian Communities.

    1. Communion in the hand. Formerly in our communion this was governed by fairly strict protocol. The righthand was supported by the left and the host placed in it. The head was slightly bowed and the species taken to the mouth. I now observe the terrible practice, common in Roman parishes, of communicants receiving the host and then taking it in the fingers and self communicating.

    2. Formerly we received the chalice at the hands of the priest or a person licensed by the bishop. We guided the chalice so that no mishaps would happen. A linnen ppurificator was at hand. I now see persons taking the chalice and self communicating. Intinction now tends to be done by thecommunicant.

    This is theologically important. We, including celebrants, do not give ourselves the Body and Blood of Christ. We receive it as a gift from Christ himself. This is true even of the celebrant and concelebrants, although they are the instrumentality for their own communion..
    Distribution and reception should reflect the profound significance of the gift and our profound humility in reception.

    Your suggestions are good ones. There is no reason why Communion in Both Species, with its attendant fullness of experience, should be impossible as a reverent act in the Euucharistic community,

    This comment was presented to the full article at Vultus Christi

  11. If all EMHC's were that hot, I think that I would convert to Catholicism tomorrow. All I get at my Orthodox parish are scruffy looking men with ZZ Top beards.

    - dp

  12. For those who haven't seen it yet, perhaps it would be a good idea for the Pimpernel to spread this document around:
    Take a look especially at article 8.
    Promulgated in forma specifica on Assumption of BVM 1997 by Pope John Paul II, and signed by EIGHT Dicasteries of the Roman Curia. Though most people have not heard of this document for some strange reason...