How old do you have to be to be a Eucharistic minister?

Hi yall,

Well, I’m sixteen and I go to a Catholic high school. At our school Mass on Friday, one of the senior girls was giving out communion. I was suprised to see this. She’s eighteen, but I thought you had to be 21 to be a Eucharistic minister. All of the other ones were teachers and parents. There wasn’t a shortage either, because I saw some teachers who normally give Communion sitting down. My cousin knows her pretty well and goes to the same Church as her, and she told me that the girl was doing that long before she turned eighteen! Her mother is a big directior in the diocese, so that probably has something to do with how she got to be a Eucharistic minister. I remember I did Vacation Bible School at her Church with my aunt, and she would tell lies to her mom about how we were doing bad things to the children and got us in trouble. And I know this girl is involved with underage drinking and partying on Saturdays, then gets up and goes distribute the Eucharist on Sunday!

Is this a problem, and should I be upset?
This girl is NOT in my church parish. I am not involved with that parish anymore because of what happened at Vacation Bible School.

Please pray that all of the ministers of the Church will be full, faith filled people who really and truly want to spread the love of God.


In our diocese, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion have to be confirmed, in good standing with the Church, and are expected to have been chosen only from among those who are unfailingly reverent to the Blessed Sacrament. This could easily include a senior in high school, as confirmation is conferred on sufficiently mature youth who have reached high school age.

Ordinary ministers of Holy Communion–priests and deacons–must of course be old enough for ordination, which is of course quite a bit older.

Nevertheless, just as a 55-year-old priest is not preferred simply on the basis of age over a 25-year-old one, there is usually no discrimination between confirmed laypersons having the maturity and reverence to act as extraordinary ministers, based on age.

In other words, the problem isn’t when there are older lay adults who could be acting in this capacity who are not. The problem comes when ordinary ministers are able, yet extraordinary ministers are used, instead. (And I don’t mean that 80 year-old-priests that would not literally collapse if they distributed communion have to act as ministers in every case. Prudent judgements are alllowed.)

I hope that helps.


  1. It is a very hard moral discipline to avoid having any negative opinions at all about others, but it well to avoid judging other people based on our opinion about their sins as much as we can. It is a huge practical barrier to our own peace, as well as to our ability to be compassionate towards others. Easier said than done, believe me I know it personally, but it is the way to point ourselves!

For instance: I don’t know how you “know” this girl is into inappropriate partying, for instance (high school students are allowed to have appropriate private social events), unless you either go to the parties and see her drinking with the others or else you engage in gossip, neither of which is a good habit with regards to your own soul. Her behavior is somebody’s business, but except when she was actually lying about you or you are directly in a position to stop her and others from endangering themselves with alcohol, it isn’t yours. You are not her parent, spiritual director, or confessor. You are allowed to be thankful for that, and wash your hands of it. Be aware, too, that if the devil can snare her with alcohol and also snare you with gossip about it, he’s getting two birds with one stone. Try at all costs not to be that second bird! Either involve yourself in her life in a positive loving way, or not at all. That is a better way to spread the love of God.

  1. As to whether you “should be upset”…getting upset rarely helps anything. It is possible to be concerned about a problem, see that it is in some respect yours to deal with, and take the necessary steps to do so without losing your peace. You can also see problems, realize that they are not yours to deal with, or that you have done all that it is in your power and duty to do, and return to peace simply by giving the problems and the souls having them over to Providence. Letting God be God and refusing to let the inevitable problems of life upset you is also a better way to grow in both faith and love than getting all knotted up every time bad things happen.

Please, don’t get involved in it.

This practice (use of EM’s), while technicall legal via indult in North America, was very, very poorly thought out before being put into practice. Here’s the problem:

As an EM you are expected to “do something” to every person who arrives at the front of the line. In America, everyone gets in line and comes forward. A few people still remember they’re not supposed to receive if they are conscious of serious sin or have not fasted for at least an hour before Mass, and a few non-Catholics come forward, too.

These people are used to “receiving a blessing”…however, in point of fact, a lay person cannot bless someone in the context of the Mass. Not allowed. Only priests can. Don’t take my word for it (never take anyone’s word for anything on the internet), your diocese has a canon lawyer. There are free canon law services available over the internet.

Lay people who are allowed to bless other lay people during communion as part of being an EM are doing wrong.

There are pictures posted on Facebook of her at parties. Everyone can see it.

And you know, I really don’t want to judge. She was very ugly to me at Bible School by telling her mother I was doing wrong to the kids. She said I was leaving early when the kids were still there and needed my help, which I wasn’t. My aunt told me I could leave. And she and her sister would verbally attack me and my aunt while we were helping out. I responded to this by not voulenteering to help there ever again.

I know there is nothing I can do but pray for her.


Rather than confuse things any further and derail the thread, we need to look at what the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments says on the matter:

  1. The liturgical blessing of the Holy Mass is properly given to each and to all at the conclusion of the Mass, just a few moments subsequent to the distribution of Holy Communion.
  1. Lay people, within the context of Holy Mass, are unable to confer blessings. These blessings, rather, are the competence of the priest (cf. Ecclesia de Mysterio, Notitiae 34 (15 Aug. 1997), art. 6, § 2; Canon 1169, § 2; and Roman Ritual De Benedictionibus (1985), n. 18).
  1. Furthermore, the laying on of a hand or hands — which has its own sacramental significance, inappropriate here — by those distributing Holy Communion, in substitution for its reception, is to be explicitly discouraged.
  1. The Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio n. 84, “forbids any pastor, for whatever reason to pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry”. To be feared is that any form of blessing in substitution for communion would give the impression that the divorced and remarried have been returned, in some sense, to the status of Catholics in good standing.
  1. In a similar way, for others who are not to be admitted to Holy Communion in accord with the norm of law, the Church’s discipline has already made clear that they should not approach Holy Communion nor receive a blessing. This would include non-Catholics and those envisaged in can. 915 (i.e., those under the penalty of excommunication or interdict, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin).

Thus, the blessing comes at the appropriate time: right before the dismissal.

Now, regarding the OP’s dilemma, this is difficult. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Redemptionis Sacramentum says this:

[155.] In addition to the ordinary ministers there is the formally instituted acolyte, who by virtue of his institution is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion even outside the celebration of Mass. If, moreover, reasons of real necessity prompt it, another lay member of Christ’s faithful may also be delegated by the diocesan Bishop, in accordance with the norm of law,256 for one occasion or for a specified time, and an appropriate formula of blessing may be used for the occasion. This act of appointment, however, does not necessarily take a liturgical form, nor, if it does take a liturgical form, should it resemble sacred Ordination in any way. Finally, in special cases of an unforeseen nature, permission can be given for a single occasion by the Priest who presides at the celebration of the Eucharist.257

[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.

[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.

I hope this helps shed some light on the matter.

Benedictgal -

Hey, thanks for posting that…could you post a source for that summary? I have the same thing somewhere, but it’s an image file of a scanned document I found on Catholic Convert…would love to have it properly sourced


There is one thing you can do besides praying for her, although that is an excellent and holy thing to do. Eventually, with some work, you can forgive her.

If you really don’t want to judge, then don’t. It is that simple, and that hugely difficult, because it requires letting go of her past sins against you, just like Our Lord’s prayer says it does. Not easily done…well, at least not for me, when I’m in your shoes. Better for us to aim for that, though.

Be aware that forgiving does not mean excusing, and does not require total amnesia. For instance, it doesn’t mean treating her as if she deserves your trust when she has not earned it back! It does mean deciding to let bitterness and injuries go, and to treat her debts against you in the way you want your own debts treated…by letting them go. You may remember, but you quit letting it be toxic to you. You choose peace, instead. You don’t give away the farm, but you hope she will eventually earn your trust back.

This is a guess, but being able to forgive her probably also means believing that you can give up needing to defend yourself from her false charges, too. You can trust God to judge the situation rightly. No one else matters. You can safely give up on defending yourself, because you can trust that God will defend you. You have an Advocate in the only Judgement that will ever really count. It doesn’t matter whether I or anyone else thinks you in the wrong. Not that I think that you were in the wrong at vacation Bible school. I mean that only God’s opinion matters. You don’t have to tell me about it, because it is none of my business.

More to the topic of the thread: It was fair to ask whether your knowledge of her public sins meant that you should step in and say something. The answer is this: either the sins are public, in which case they might be relevant but not your business to highlight (but rather the business of those whose duty it is to select people for this service to the Church), or else the sins are not public, and therefore not your business, excepting if you would have been in a position to hope an admonishment from you might have a favorable effect on her future decisions. If someone asks if you know any reason she might not be able to serve, answer truthfully. Otherwise, let it go. The information is easily obtained elsewhere, if they discern a need for it.

As it turns out, then, her sins against you and her bad habits aren’t relevant to your course of action, excepting that the possible charge that you have a bad past with her makes it even more incumbent upon you not to step in. You aren’t required to toss your pearls before swine. You aren’t required to set yourself up for additional false charges by objecting to her service. You are morally free to mind your own business on this.

When you aren’t in a position to change someone’s behavior by admonishing her yourself, you are right to give her a wide berth, instead. There are plenty of places to volunteer where you won’t be doing it together. As long as it is difficult to get past what she’s done to you, you might want to stay off of her Facebook page, too. It is a near occasion of sin, because you know the devil will tempt you away from compassion or mercy towards her if you do. Don’t let him get away with that one. God thirsts for you, and for her. It is the devil who should be the odd man out, then!

Can. 1031 §1.* The presbyterate is not to be conferred except on those who have completed the twenty-fifth year of age* and possess sufficient maturity; an interval of at least six months is to be observed between the diaconate and the presbyterate. Those destined to the presbyterate are to be admitted to the order of deacon only after completing the twenty-third year of age.

Translation: Priests may be no younger than 25; deacons, no younger than 23. (Persons not being called 1 year olds until they have completed their first year of age.)

That is the youngest that ordinary ministers may be, then. As far as I am aware, that age restriction does not apply to extraordinary ministers. A bishop may decide it is prudent to impose an age restriction on EMsHC in his diocese, though. That is fully within his discretion, of course.

It is my impression that extraordinary ministers must not be chosen from among those who have not completed the sacraments of initiation: that is, EMHC must have received the Sacrament of Confirmation. Benedictgal would probably know that for certain, though; I just know that it applies in our diocese.

\There are pictures posted on Facebook of her at parties. Everyone can see it.\

Did you come here to ask about the qualifications for EMHCs or to complain about this high school girl?

Extraordinary ministers are, as your abbreviations note, of Holy Communion not the Eucharist.

However, in the case of EMs of HC, I know of no set age. I would suggest that the age should be that set by the conference of Bishops for the ministry of Acolyte, in accordance with Ministeria Quaedam (oh wait…). I guess, since it appears no norm has been established, that I would have to say there is little to object to on the grounds of age in the OP, at least now that she is eighteen. (Many reason to object to the habitual use of EMs of HC in general, but little in this specific case).

On the grounds of maturity, however, it seems that there could be an issue, but all the OP can do is make the pastor aware of the situation. Then stay away (if possible) and pray.

While I’m posting: Confirmation should not be the standard for sufficient maturity, because Confirmation itself has no such requirement (the normative age in the Latin Church, given by canon law, is the age of reason, ie around 7).

I respectfully disagree. The OP should mind her own business and leave it alone. If you re-read her posts, you see a young lady jealous of a perceived inequity with someone she has issues with (sorry Jeanne I have teenage daughters and have been through similar drama). Telling anything to the Pastor is gossip at the least and slander at most.

The OP should tell it to Jesus and trust that He will resolve it.

I do see that, but **if **what she is saying about the public partying is true then the pastor should know, to prevent further scandal. If it is a matter of public knowledge (ie facebook), then telling the pastor, would not necessarily be gossip and certainly not slander (having already applied the condition that it be true). Posting it *here *would be gossip (actually calumny or libel, depending of veracity).

Merely closing our eyes and praying that our problems go away doesn’t work too well.

You are right…confirmation does not, per se, imply the maturity of an adult, and EMHC should have that maturity, as a minimum.

Nevertheless, I think most would agree that even a 50 year-old Catholic should not be selected as an EMHC if he or she is not fully initiated.

In other words, yes…confirmation is necessary, but not sufficient. As a person may be sufficiently mature to enter into a valid marriage at 18, a fully initiated Catholic of that age group might, as you point out, also be sufficiently mature to be considered for selection as an EMHC.

When it is her problem, she should not close her eyes and hope it goes away. While it was prudent for her to ask others for judgement concerning her duty in this case, this is pretty clearly not her problem.

A sixteen-year-old taking it upon herself to lower the reputation of an eighteen-year-old not in her own parish, with whom she has an ungracious past and for whom she feels continuing antipathy, and especially when the sixteen-year-old does not have unique knowledge of issues with the eighteen-year-old the pastor should know…that doesn’t usually work too well, either. Not only does the sixteen-year-old not have unique knowledge, she doesn’t even have first-hand knowledge. This is none of her affair.

If she remains concerned, however, she might speak to her own pastor about the entire situation, and take his advice. He is in a better position than she is to bring the matter to light with the other priest, and can do it more discretely. If he thinks they should stay out of it, though, she should submit to his judgement and leave the matter in the hands of Providence.

I was going to respond with what Easter Joy said, but she beat me to it. I’ll stand by my original opinion, thank you. A jealous 16 year old should at most take it to her parents and/or her Priest.

I never said btw, to close our eyes and pray it goes away. I said to take it to Jesus in prayer and trust in Him that if this young lady is not meant to be an EMHC He will resolve it or that if it is His will that she stay an EMHC He will arrange to leave it that way.

She shouldn’t have posted any details here, but rather referred to either pastor in the case, only on the matter of the publicly known partying/drinking. She also could have asked her parents or her aunt to speak to the priest. The only reason why I think she should tell is that her knowledge is not unique.

Hmm, I re-read the original post and the issue occurred at her school. So she should talk to the priest who says Mass for the school or a guidance counselor. (If it had happened at another parish, however, it is that priest who needs to know.) Yes, she should try to keep their past out of it, as much as possible, but it is a legitimate concern.

The issue of scandal (leading others into sin) is a serious one. It is part of the reason that the Church has a high standard of maturity for her ministers. Those who are substituting for the ordinary (or less-extraordinary) ministers must also be held to a similar standard. The (alleged) Facebook pictures are public record and that is the reason why I would suggest that it is not gossip, nor defaming her fellow student’s character, to mention the situation to a priest who, by allowing the girl to distribute Holy Communion, is setting her up as an example. Posting here is a different case, because it truly is none of our business.

Given that this situation is causing the OP significant distress, she has every right to make known her difficulty to the priest (at the place where it occurred or her own pastor, confessor, or spiritual director). This is the normal way that God resolves such things: someone comes forward. If the issue is with the OP and not the other student, than she will have approached someone in a position to help her see that. If the situation is with the other student, again she would have placed it in the right hands. (I can’t help but wonder, if it were something more serious, should she still keep it between her and God? To what degree? Silence, as the maxim goes, betokens consent. It does no good for her not to tell the priest and then, as I said, let go.)

My experience in parishes is that anyone who volunteers for a ministry is accepted and suggesting that they may not be worthy will only get you rolled eyes and a pat on the head.

Our only catechumen in decades had her common-law living great-grandmother as her sponsor. We have lectors who are in common-law relationships. So far our EMHCs are either married or living alone but in all my years of preparing them to serve I’ve only known one to question her worthiness since she was divorced. She was living a chaste life as far as anyone knew.

It was a rather bewildering experience to see our former pastor, the K of C Chaplain, livid because the older members of the Kof C had been upset that a young man living common-law had been elected to the executive. Pastor saw absolutely nothing wrong with the situation and was angry that the older members could be so ‘petty’. That one ended badly with older members leaving, the young man getting married and having the marriage fall apart in less than a year.

Silence from the abbot and older monks betokens consent. Silence from the younger monks betokens only their prudence and spiritual maturity.

"One of the first things to learn if you want to be a contemplative is how to mind your own business.
Nothing is more suspicious, in a man who seems holy, than an impatient desire to reform other men.
A serious obstacle to recollection is the mania for directing those you have not been appointed to direct, reforming those you have not been asked to reform, correcting those over whom you have no jurisdiction. How can you do these things and keep your mind at rest? Renounce this futile concern with other men’s affairs!
Pay as little attention as you can to the faults of other people and none at all to their natural defects and eccentricities.
Thomas Merton “New Seeds of Contemplation”

The ability to mind one’s own business and to let go of injury in favor of prayer for one’s enemies is a stern spiritual discipline. It is better to master it before going on to learning the discipline of knowing when, how, and how much to admonish fellow Christians.

By all means, the OP should talk to her priest or to a discrete adult if this is bothering her. There is nothing wrong with seeking guidance about what to do in this case. She should not expect herself to shoulder all her burdens alone, nor expect herself to learn these difficult lessons without any guidance from more experienced Christians.

Having said that: if she cannot profitably admonish this person who is scandalizing her face-to-face, she should probably let the matter drop. In other words, if she can hope that speaking with the offender will accomplish good, then that would be good to do. If not, she may not pretend at admonishment when what she would really be after is just a chance to vent spleen and put down someone whom she does not like. She is very wise not to have gone there. Avoiding contact and instead praying for someone you have little hope of converting yourself is a very good policy. Sometimes, the orders from Heaven are to shake the dust from your feet and move on.

As the Apostle wrote, "“Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil… do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” Eph. 4:25-27,30-32

There is nothing worse than aggression that is only expressed covertly or passively. Either admonish the person who scandalizes you directly, take it to the pastor, or else let it drop, but the bitterness and reviling really have to go. There are many reasons but no excuse for hanging on to them; it damages the Body to do so.

This OP is not keeping a secret on behalf of the offender, nor is she exposing the offender to danger by refusing to shed light on her activities. Unless she believes the young woman’s mother to be truly ignorant of her daughter’s dangerous behavior, in which case she should tip Mom off to check her daughter’s Facebook page, the OP has no duty whatsoever to get into this.

But let’s face it: the eighteen-year-old’s welfare was not the OP’s primary concern. Judging her fitness to serve as a EMHC was what the question was about, and I think it was an honest and well-meant question. I believe she asked for the sake of the Blessed Sacrament, and not because she has it out for the older girl and is looking for an excuse to take her down. As important as that is, I don’t think this is her issue to deal with. Having found out that age does not prevent the other girl from being chosen, the OP has no jurisdiction to decide on who is and is not fit to be selected as a EMHC. In fact, the bad blood between her and the other girl speak against her making an issue of how scandalized she is. The charge of jealousy is obvious, even if it doesn’t really stick. If she is asked for her opinion or what she knows, that is another kettle of fish. As it is, no one is asking her. She can let the issue go, without sin. I think she’d be well-advised to do that.

On that note, I think she’s gotten as much advice from me as she asked for, so I’ll let it drop, too.

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