EMHC at Funeral Mas

I attended a funeral yesterday for a family member. In my church, only the priest distributes Communion, so I’m not sure how widespread this is, but…

The priest announced that he would distribute communion to the first 2 rows, and that a EMHC would distribute to the rest of us. There were about 30 people in all, half of whom weren’t receiving. It was so awkward for everyone involved, except perhaps the woman distributing Communion. The priest was finished by the time she had even come out of the sanctuary and taken her place. The priest was a family member from out of state, and this woman kind of acted as his guide/altar server/whatever-he-needed in the parish. She wore an alb throughout the Mass. I have been to this parish only once before, on Easter Vigil, as a Confirmation sponsor. At that time, they had 27 laypeople distributing Communion, in addition to 3 priests.

Is this sort of thing common? It seemed so strange and pointless to me. Although I understand it as a need or even a convenience, this seemed so contrived. Are there actual rules involving this sort of thing? I know that the priest must distribute Holy Communion if he is capable, but beyond that, I don’t know anything.

This was clearly an abuse of the privilege of being allowed to use EMHCs - and yes, there are instructions for when they should be used. There is no reason in the world that Father could not distribute to less than 30 people himself.

Yet again - the over reaching layity just doesn’t know when to stop.


Father seemed a bit awkward when announcing it. I’m pretty sure this woman just told him “this is how we do it” and he didn’t want to step on toes when he was a guest in this parish. I’ve been to Mass at his parish and didn’t see anything egregious like this. He probably should have declined her offer to “help”, but she was the parish representative assigned to the funeral.

Not to pick on Father - but this is why we have the issues we have in so many parishes. Priests who do not assert their authority and let laypeople walk all over them. HE was the priest in the situation - not the woman.

This would be like an adult showing up at someone’s house when the resident parents are gone, and seeing the three year old jump in the pool alone while the six year old says “this is how we do it here!” - and not doing anything about it. It is irresponsible.

Sorry you had to witness that - it’s not how it should have been done.



How is a priest announcing that an EMHC will be used an abuse by the “over reaching laity”? Isn’t he clergy?

You can’t just assume that he blindly followed her instructions; he’s responsible for the conduct of the Mass over which he presides. If she had said “Here the EMsHC proclaim the Gospel and say the words of consecration,” would he have said “Ok then”?

Laymen perform invaluable services to the Church – and that includes at funeral Masses where out-of-town priests preside. But there’s a huge difference between “Our parish keeps vestments over here, and we don’t have any patens” and so on on the one hand, and “We ignore the rules on EMsHC” or whatever on the other.

Barring other evidence of mischief, I would be inclined to assume that the priest had some non-visible infirmity (fatigue? grief at the loss of a family member? something more permanent in nature?) that made two rows of communicants about the best he could handle, and the use of the EMHC was made because he couldn’t do more.

But I don’t understand why (A) she wore an alb; or (B) she came in from the sanctuary rather than rising from the congregation (unless she was also tasked with handling other duties for the funeral).

lizaanne and babochka, you assume too much.

You assume that the priest had no valid reason for doing what he did, and that he allowed a layperson to “walk all over him.” This is an accusation of laziness and irresponsiblity and you ought not do that.

First of all, if he was a visiting priest from out of state, he had to request permission from the Bishop of the diocese to celebrate Mass. He also has to interface with the Pastor of the parish in which he celebrates Mass.

I have personally witnessed a priest from another parish walk into our parish, introduce himself to the pastor as the one who will be celebrating the Mass, and proceed to tell our Pastor how he wants to do things. Our pastor politely replied that visiting priests are expected to adhere to the way things are ordinarily done in our parish and that if he didn’t like that, he could find another venue for the event. I think it was a wedding.

The point is that a visiting priest doesn’t just waltz into a parish and start telling people what to do. He is a guest. The pastor of the parish may have instructed him on how things are done and may have even instructed the EMHC on how to do things with the visiting priest. EMHC’s are, for the most part, highly trained and obedient. They don’t generally walk into the vestry and put on albs whenever the whim hits them.

To accuse the visiting priest of being irresponsible and to accuse the EMHC of having some kind of power trip isn’t fair. You don’t know what converstations took place in the background. Any beef you have should be taken up with the pastor of the parish instead of making anonymous accusations against priests on the most widely read Catholic website in the world.


How odd. Was this Catholic?? The OF?

I am pretty sure that the Rubrics, GIRM, etc, etc are the same. All of this smacks of not being in Union with the Church.

As to rather the Priest acted irregularly – the answer would be yes.

As to the Parish “boss,” in this matter having the appearance of being the woman above – the answer would be that she has entered a fundamental dark, dark grey area.

As is to intent we may never know, BUT I am tired of this endless excuse. Sometimes the message being present is the scandal.

I’m not sure why you included me in this tirade. Here’s what I said:

It isn’t so far off from what you said. When I said that this woman was the representative of the parish, I thought it went without saying that she was the representative of the pastor and that this is how things were done in that parish. I do think that it would have been fine for him to say that he would just go ahead and distribute Communion himself, since there were so few communicants. I meant no disrespect to the priest. In addition to being a family member of the deceased, he is a member of my family as well. :slight_smile: I chose not to ask him about this myself because I didn’t want to seem confrontational and accusatory. I’m sorry if I came across in that way to you.

I really just wanted to know if there were formal guidelines for things like this, as it seemed strange and unnecessary to me.

The priest was neither infirm nor stricken with grief. I truly believe he was just going along with the way things were done in this particular parish.

She wore an alb because she was also functioning as an altar server.

The OP said she had been serving so she would have to be in the sanctuary to do that.
There are many parishes that vest their ministers in albs. I’ve worn one when leading Evening Prayer.

With only 30 or so people there, there hardly seems to be any need for an EMHC, and I am one.:shrug:

[quote=Godfollower;9887866 But I don’t understand why (A) she wore an alb; or (B) she came in from the sanctuary rather than rising from the congregation (unless she was also tasked with handling other duties for the funeral).

Are you perhaps confusing ‘sanctuary’ with ‘sacristy’ ?

I think that the OP described a situation that probably should not happen. It is not clear to me where the original source of the problem is. I would be very careful before accusing anyone here because there are a few different scenarios that could have brought a situation like this. In all honesty if that is the main problem in that parish then I think that we should be thankful.

The lady may have been assisting the priest because there was no one else to do it. I recently went to a funeral. I didn’t know the parish so I couldn’t fairly comment on what they normally do. During this funeral a lady did most of the assisting and it was the proper parish priest who was present. We are often quick too talk about certain lay people taking over and doing all the jobs. I suspect many parishes struggle to get lay people to help out.

I find it unusual for a woman to wear an alb. Other than that personal observation I’m not sure what the Church says with respect to ladies wearing albs. As I understand it EMHCs don’t usual wear any vestment. She might have been the altar server too, which would call for her to wear something.

On the face of it one wonders why there was a need for an EMHC to assist with holy communion for less than 30 communicants. None of us can know why this happened. The only way to find out the truth is to ask those concerned why this was done.

Well now - thank you for the slap on the wrist. But I stand by my comments, and make no apologies.

I’m sorry - but a woman in an alb in the sanctuary, telling a priest how to distribute Holy Communion to less than 30 people. That’s just way overboard in so many ways.


Assuming, of course, that your description is an accurate reflection of what actually happened.:slight_smile:


If not, why not? Is it possible that the parish makes provision for normal size funerals where more than just a priest is needed? And maybe the minister showed up ready to help and she and the priest made the best of the situation? Did you give the two of them the benefit of the doubt?

I’ve explained my reasoning in previous comments. The priest is a family member who graciously flew in on very short notice, for approximately 24 hours, to share his presence with us at the funeral and honor the wishes of the deceased. I did not want to appear confrontational and accusatory (which is apparently how I came across to some people on this forum) and it just didn’t seem like the right time to have this conversation. I could ask the priest in question, but I have no wish to strain our good (but not close) relationship if this is simply an issue where our opinions differ. As a Byzantine Rite Catholic, I don’t have a great deal of experience with Extraordinary ministers. For the most part, I know what I read on this forum. I simply wanted to know if the church has official guidelines as to their use. This is a question to satisfy my curiosity. The minister did show up ready to help. That was her job.+ I put help in quotes previously because Father was finished distributing Communion before she even started. It did not appear to be any amount of help, as he had to wait for her to finish before continuing on. She works for the parish and was tasked with helping to plan the funeral liturgy. She also served at the altar and guided the family and the visiting priest. I proposed a possibility (which I still believe to be likely) as to how this happened. Apparently I didn’t express myself well.

And please stop shouting at me. It really isn’t necessary. I’m trying to have a civil conversation with you.

You called it strange, pointless and contrived. That is what you said.

That seems like an odd way to express mere curiosity.


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