THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS
on the role of the Laity

INSTRUCTION on Certain Questions regarding the Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest

Seventeenth installment: PRACTICAL PROVISIONS - Article 8
The Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion

The non-ordained faithful already collaborate with the sacred ministers in diverse pastoral situations since "This wonderful gift of the Eucharist, which is the greatest gift of all, demands that such an important mystery should be increasingly better known and its saving power more fully shared". (95)

Such liturgical service is a response to the objective needs of the faithful especially those of the sick and to those liturgical assemblies in which there are particularly large numbers of the faithful who wish to receive Holy Communion.

1. The canonical discipline concerning extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion must be correctly applied so as to avoid generating confusion. The same discipline establishes that the ordinary minister of Holy Communion is the Bishop, the Priest and the the Deacon. (96) Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are those instituted as acolytes and the faithful so deputed in accordance with Canon 230, 3. (97)

A non-ordained member of the faithful, in cases of true necessity, may be deputed by the diocesan bishop, using the appropriate form of blessing for these situation, to act as an extraordinary minister to distribute Holy Communion outside of liturgical celebrations ad actum vel ad tempus or for a more stable period. In exceptional cases or in un foreseen circumstances, the priest presiding at the liturgy may authorize such ad actum. (98)

2. Extraordinary ministers may distribute Holy Communion at eucharistic celebrations only when there are no ordained ministers present or when those ordained ministers present at a liturgical celebration are truly unable to distribute Holy Communion. (99) They may also exercise this function at eucharistic celebrations where there are particularly large numbers of the faithful and which would be excessively prolonged because of an insufficient number of ordained ministers to distribute Holy Communion. (100)

This function is supplementary and extraordinary (101) and must be exercised in accordance with the norm of law. It is thus useful for the diocesan bishop to issue particular norms concerning extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion which, in complete harmony with the universal law of the Church, should regulate the exercise of this function in his diocese. Such norms should provide, amongst other things, for matters such as the instruction in eucharistic doctrine of those chosen to be extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, the meaning of the service they provide, the rubrics to be observed, the reverence to be shown for such an august Sacrament and instruction concerning the discipline on admission to Holy Communion.

To avoid creating confusion, certain practices are to be avoided and eliminated where such have emerged in particular Churches:

NEXT ISSUE: PRACTICAL PROVISIONS - Article 9 The Apostolate of the Sick

DAILY CATHOLIC      Vicar of Christ Speaks     volume 8, no. 52


December 1997