Guidelines for Eucharistic Ministers?

Are there guidelines that describe how extra-ordinary Eucharistic ministers should perform their task? Specifically I wonder if they should bow before the altar when coming to the Sanctuary?

The guidelines for Eucharistic Ministers are that they be validly ordained priests. With all due respect, there seems to be confusion in these threads regarding who is called what. The priests and bishops are Eucharistic Ministeres because only they can confect (cause to happen) the Sacrifice, the Eucharist. The deacon, by virtue of his reception of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, is an ordinary Minister of Holy Communion, along with the priest and bishop.

The laity who assist the priest in distributing Holy Communion are called Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Please note what Redemptionis Sacramentum says:

[156.] This function is to be understood strictly according to the name by which it is known, that is to say, that of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and not “special minister of Holy Communion” nor “extraordinary minister of the Eucharist” nor “special minister of the Eucharist”, by which names the meaning of this function is unnecessarily and improperly broadened.

Here is what RS says regarding EHMCs:

157.] If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.258

[158.] Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged.259 This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason.

[159.] It is never allowed for the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion to delegate anyone else to administer the Eucharist, as for example a parent or spouse or child of the sick person who is the communicant.

[160.] Let the diocesan Bishop give renewed consideration to the practice in recent years regarding this matter, and if circumstances call for it, let him correct it or define it more precisely. Where such extraordinary ministers are appointed in a widespread manner out of true necessity, the diocesan Bishop should issue special norms by which he determines the manner in which this function is to be carried out in accordance with the law, bearing in mind the tradition of the Church.

Please note, also, what the precursor to RS, Ecclesia de Mysterio, notes:

  1. 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:

extraordinary ministers receiving Holy Communion apart from the other faithful as though concelebrants;
association with the renewal of promises made by priests at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, as well as other categories of faithful who renew religious vows or receive a mandate as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion;
the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass thus arbitrarily extending the concept of “a great number of the faithful”.

Thus, if you are assisting as an EMHC, you do not approach the altar until after the celebrant has communicated and you do not approach the Tabernacle. The celebrant will give you the sacred vessels (ciborrium or chalice) for distribution to the faithful. You are also not to purify the sacred vessels, as only the priest, deacon, or duly instituted alcolyte does this.

EMHCs should reverence the altar as they approach by way of a simple bow.

Yes, EMHC’s should bow to the altar when coming to the Sanctuary. As to other guidelines, I would ask your priest or whoever trains the EMHC’s, what the procedures and expectations are in your parish.

emphasis mine

Could you please provide me with a link where I can print this out and give it to my parish priest? He allows the EMHCs to do both of these things. I had no idea they were not allowed. I am an EMHC, but I have decided to discontinue my commission voluntarily at this parish. I’m even thinking about transferring back to my old parish (I moved with my family) because of the greater respect given to the the sacred Host (both practices in bold are respected, too).

This is from the GIRM:

  1. The priest may be assisted in the distribution of Communion by other priests who happen to be present. If such priests are not present and there is a very large number of communicants, the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, e.g., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose.97 In case of necessity, the priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion.98

These ministers should not approach the altar before the priest has received Communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the priest celebrant the vessel containing either species of the Most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful.

  1. When the distribution of Communion is finished, the priest himself immediately and completely consumes at the altar any consecrated wine that happens to remain; as for any consecrated hosts that are left, he either consumes them at the altar or carries them to the place designated for the reservation of the Eucharist.

I hope this helps.

Thank you very much. I’m going to print this out and send it to him to be reviewed. Hopefully, this problem will be rectified immediately. I think the practice has been liberalized in our parish because the priest is advanced in age, so the laypeople think he needs more assistance. Unfortunately, our Tabernacle is in the Chapel behind the sanctuary which is more difficult to get to. :frowning: I don’t like that either.

Redemptionis Sacramentum
vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20040423_redemptionis-sacramentum_en.html

Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at Mass
usccb.org/liturgy/girm/lit4.shtml

I would actually say that the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should genuflect, instead of bow. Since they are entering the sanctuary at Communion time, the Body and Blood is present on the altar - hence a genuflection should be made.

In our parish, many of the EMHCs are older and unable to genuflect. I’m guessing that our pastor has instructed them to ALL bow rather than some bow and some genuflect for the sake of the appearance of unity. It looks less confusing to the congregation when all of the EMHCs behave the same.

(BTW, just a few weeks ago, railings were installed on the steps to our sanctuary for the sake of the many priests, EMHCs, and even a few altar servers who have trouble doing stairs.)

Our EMHCs also use a hand sanitizer in plain sight of the congregation. I doubt this this is the GIRM, but I appreciate their thoughtfulness. It makes lots of people in the congregation feel safer.

We bow when in procession. I make it as deep and profound a bow as possible.

Thank you for the replies. I used “Eucharistic Ministers” in the post title because it was shorter but I see how that was confusing and incorrect. I appreciate the quotations from the GIRM and other sources but they don’t address my specific question of Extraordinary Ministers reverencing the altar do they? Should EMHC bow when coming to and leaving the Sanctuary? I believe I was told to come up without bowing (or reverencing in any way) but to bow when leaving.

When I have gone up, I reverence the altar/Tabernacle with a bow and then when I return to my pew, I bow once again.

It’s regrettable that many EMHC’s don’t practice this gesture and march up to the Sanctuary before Holy Communion.
Adults like Children need to be reminded of such gestures.

I can’t understand how any EMHC can be neglectful of this or is it that they themselves
don’t know the significance of the Sanctuary, Alter, and Tabernacle with the Holy Presence of God in the Eucharistic sacrament before all in the Church.

Reverence, Reverence, Reverence.
(“One cannot teach this”). It has to be felt and reflected upon in ones heart.

Saint John Vianney used to say if people had eyes to see the immeasurable vast number of God’s invisible angels that fill the Church in adoration during Mass the congregation would prostrate themselves on the ground.

Hello! The following is in GIRM under “Genuflections and Bows”:

Genuflections and Bows
274. A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, signifies adoration, and therefore it is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during the liturgical celebration on Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.

During Mass, three genuflections are made by the priest celebrant: namely, after the showing of the host, after the showing of the chalice, and before Communion. Certain specific features to be observed in a concelebrated Mass are noted in their proper place (cf. above, nos. 210-251).

If, however, the tabernacle with the Most Blessed Sacrament is present in the sanctuary, the priest, the deacon, and the other ministers genuflect when they approach the altar and when they depart from it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself.

Otherwise all who pass before the Most Blessed Sacrament genuflect, unless they are moving in procession.

Ministers carrying the processional cross or candles bow their heads instead of genuflecting.

  1. A bow signifies reverence and honor shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them. There are two kinds of bows: a bow of the head and a bow of the body.

a. A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated.
b. A bow of the body, that is to say a profound bow, is made to the altar; during the prayers Munda cor meum (Almighty God, cleanse my heart) and In spiritu humilitatis (Lord God, we ask you to receive); in the Creed at the words Et incarnatus est (by the power of the Holy Spirit . . . made man); in the Roman Canon at the words Supplices te rogamus (Almighty God, we pray that your angel). The same kind of bow is made by the deacon when he asks for a blessing before the proclamation of the Gospel. In addition, the priest bows slightly as he speaks the words of the Lord at the consecration.

I don’t know about other documents that say more than this, but I think it comes out of common sense that in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, a genuflection, or at least a profound bow, is appropriate. How it is carried out with these instructions in mind is up to whoever has charge of Liturgy at your parish (hopefully a priest), and hopefully addressed by the local bishop (or diocesan director of Liturgy).

At ours, the EMsHC approach the altar, give a profound bow at the bottom step, ascend into the sanctuary, then bow deeply again prior to receiving Holy Communion.

– as a total aside, I find it funny that at our parish, the only priest who does the head bows (e.g. at the Holy Name) is the youngest one who isn’t even 30, yet. :thumbsup:

I don’t know if that helps answer the question…unless someone has other documents to reference.

Peace, -Mike

It is actually quite surprising to me to hear that EMHCs are not supposed to go to the altar before the priest receives Communion. Every church that I have gone to for Mass allows this.

I did know about the EMHCs not going to the Tabernacle, but again, every church that I have gone to does this. In the each church, it is because the Tabernacle is not near the altar, it is actually a fair distance away. I know this does not excuse the problem, but maybe it helps the Mass go smoother, instead of having the priest walk 10-15 feet away? Just a guess.

When I replied the last time I changed the title but still managed to get it wrong.

So it seems the common sense answer about lay persons approaching the altar is that they should show due reverence, but that the specifics depend on the local Bishop to dictate since there aren’t direct guidelines from the Church hierarchy?

…and in the absence of specific instruction from the Bishop, the pastor, with GIRM 274-275 as a disciplinary guide.

I am interested to see if anybody knows if there are any additional instructions from Rome elaborating on it.

Good grief. :rolleyes:

I wish that forumites so inclined to correct another’s terminology would do so without being so high and mighty. The OP’s question could have been answered in a single sentence.

It’s not like anybody was having trouble understanding what the OP was asking.

We call EMHCs “EMEs” at our parish. We will continue to do so, unless directed to do otherwise by our priest and/or bishop, who are apparently fine with the term EME. It seems that the terms “Eucharist” and “Holy Communion” have the same meaning, except if one insists on being a legalist.

I assume that I’ll now be lectured on Redemptionis Sacramentum, etc. etc, in fact, I’d put money on it. :smiley:

I do agree, that in response to the OP, that a simple bow suffices.

The fact is that the Church already gives us proper terminology to use for laity exercising this ministry. However, there are those (and this is not a slight on the OP) who will belittle this and seek to use terminology that is not applicable and, therefore, incorrect. The basic rule of thumb is to use that which the Church already gives us.

Despite what other parishes may call this particular mode of service, those exercising it are Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. This is not a benedictgal term; this comes from the Church in its documents, documents we are bound to obey.

Thank you for the predictable lecture. :rolleyes:

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