Lay Eucharistic Ministers giving Communion while Priest sits?



This week at the daily Masses where I go to Church there have been 2 priests co-celebrating the Mass. I believe one is a visiting priest. During Communion the visiting priest sits down while 3 or 4 lay Eucharistic Ministers help the regular priest give out the bread and wine.

I had heard Father Richard Simon (“Father Know It All”) on EWTN say that this should not happen, that if a priest is present he should give out Communion before a Lay Minister is chosen to.

What is correct in this situation?


This is not at all correct. In fact, the Church calls this practice reprobate, which is a very strong word.

From* Redemptionis Sacramentum:*

[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.

The Church is very clear that lay Extraordinary Ministers (who should not be termed “Eucharistic Minister”, a term which only applies to the priest) are only to be used when there is true necessity - from the same document:

[151.] Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy. Such recourse is not intended for the sake of a fuller participation of the laity but rather, by its very nature, is supplementary and provisional.[252] Furthermore, when recourse is had out of necessity to the functions of extraordinary ministers, special urgent prayers of intercession should be multiplied that the Lord may soon send a Priest for the service of the community and raise up an abundance of vocations to sacred Orders.[253]


Thank You twf,

That is very clear. I was wondering if I should say something to the Pastor, who was celebrating the Mass. I’m not a member of this Parish and I don’t personally know him. I attend Masses there during the Week.

He seems like a very good pastor in other regards.


And thanks again twf for the clarification on terminology. I did not know that.


I would say ‘Don’t be so quick to judge’.

At the daily Mass I attend, there are always two priests who concelebrate, but sit down when it’s time to distribute,and leave it to the EMHCs. They are both shaky on their feet. They can get through Mass by leaning on the altar when they need to, but haven’t the balance to manage a ciborium and giving Holy Communion, which obviously involves using both hands.


Many years back the priest celebrating a weekday mass signaled me to come up and give out communion while he sat. I decided that he must know what he was doing; so obeyed. [One of the congregation got quite upset and refused to receive. ]

After mass he explained to me that he was feeling quite ill, but no other priest was available; so he said the mass. However, by communion time he had to sit a while to get enough strength to finish the mass.

Sometimes we don’t have all the facts; so should be slow to judge.


I can appreciate the need for discretion.

In my situation both priests were quite young, in their 30’s or 40’s. The visiting priest did not appear to be in any kind of ill health. Perhaps there was some other reason why he did not give out Communion. I also noticed that he did not speak any words in during the saying of the Masses.

Still, I am troubled by this.


Are you sure he is a priest and not a deacon or a seminarian?

If it was at a parish other than my own and it seemed like a temporary thing with a priest who was just visiting, I would simply assume there were extenuating circumstances I was not aware of and let it go at that. Just because someone looks young and healthy does not mean that they are healthy.


Ok, another question:

When there is a weekday Mass and only 30 or so people are in attendance and only bread is being given (no wine), should the priest be the only one to give out communion, since he does not need help with it?

This is the practice at my parish, which is very orthodox. In fact, even on Sundays we rarely have Extraordinary Ministers, when hundreds are in attendance. On Sundays other priests, who are hearing confessions during the Mass, break away to help with Communion and then return to hearing Confessions afterword.


You were the only one on this thread who was actually there. Everyone and anyone can speculate and offer their theories and possible explanations, but only the two priests know the truth.

If you are still troubled by this, an anonymous inetrnet forum will not give you the peace you seek. You need to talk to the priests involved, especially when you said the pastor was there.

Sometimes we need to find things out on our own. If you are not wiling to do that, then you need to “let it go”. If you want to make a further issue of the situation and bring it to a higher authority like the local bishop, the first question you will be asked is did you talk to the priests involved for clarification?

Sorry for the bluntness, but those are your options.


It really isn’t possible to know all the details in this situation. I once knew a young-ish (40s) priest who could not distribute communion because he had severe rheumatoid arthritis in his fingers. This ailment is not visible and can strike at any age.


Thanks for the feedback.

I think I need to have faith and let this go.


Not all illnesses are visible. Unless I had some other, very solid, reason to doubt his and the regular priests’ orthodoxy, I would just drop it.


Sounds good. :thumbsup: Letting things go can be hard, but I think it can be very beneficial spiritually.


As I heard once a long time ago, “Everything I ever let go of had claw marks all over it!”


My brother, a priest, was once visiting a neighboring parish to concelebrate for a Serra Club Mass (an organization to promote vocations). They passed him over when it came time to distribute Holy Communion to allow a layperson to do so. He was appalled, especially since it was the Serra Club.


If you return to this parish and see the same scenario again, I would politely ask the pastor about it. Don’t be confrontational - just ask.



It is certainly unfortunate. I think often, people just aren’t thinking it through when there are visiting priests. We may get into this routine that Mr. Smith and Mrs. Jones always distribute and daily Mass. And when things are thrown off by an extra priest, they don’t always make the connection that, “Gee, I guess one of us don’t need to assume our regular duty and we ought to defer to the priest.”

I guess that’s true with most things. We get so used to doing things a certain way, we don’t always pay attention to changing circumstances.


When he was concelebrating? How odd. That sounds like a miscommunication, or as if someone counted wrong. Still, I’d expect someone would at least apologize for the mistake afterwards. As you say, it is Serra Club!

I have seen priests attend Serra Club Masses (and other Masses, too) and not act in the capacity of a priest at all, even though extraordinary ministers were used. I thought that perhaps they did not have faculties in the diocese. (The same with deacons.) Since the Called to Protect precautions were put into place, the clergy are very careful that they all have paperwork in place before celebrating any liturgies in public, I guess. They cannot afford to have someone in trouble over allegations of serious misconduct coming in and being seen taking part in public liturgies because everyone just assumed he was OK to go.


Right. Deacons are also Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (but are not Ordinary Eucharistic Ministers, of course). So it seems the deacon may distribute all by himself but not an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

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