Lay Eucharistic Ministers

I was reading another thread that brought up communion in hand and Eucharistic ministers and it made me stop and think … how is it that the priest PRIOR to consecrating the bread and the wine cleanses himself (Lavabo) so that he can handle the precious body and blood and yet some Joe walks up to distribute the precious body and has not had any “cleansing” if you will. Additionally, this seems to contradict the belief that communion in hand is OK since the communicant likewise has not been “cleansed”. To me, this just seems to show a loss of respect for the blessed body and blood. Anyone else have any thoughts on this? I just find this rather disturbing not so much because of the handling of the precious body by laypeople, but rather, it seems to be quite a departure from some of the theology in the Mass.

If washing the hands is so important how is it that additional priests who may be distributing communion do NOT wash theirs? It’s only ever the one celebrating who washes his hands. The cleansing thus appears to be in order to make the priest fit to confect the Eucharist, not to distribute it.

And are you suggesting people used to wash their tongues before receiving on them or something? :confused: If they didn’t need to wash their tongues, than why their hands? Our tongues are no cleaner, certainly.

As for cleansing - the Penitential Rite cleanses us all of our venial sins. Which is all the cleansing one needs to distribute or receive Communion, provided one has no mortal sin on one’s soul.

In conclusion - remember what Jesus said when His disciples were criticised for eating with unwashed hands? Hand washing certainly is unnecessary on the part of an EMHC and on the part of communicants.

It’s actually more a matter of particles coming off of the sacred host while in somebody’s hand and then being dropped on the ground to be trampled. That’s why we shouldn’t receive in the hand…too much handling.

I agree! Communion in the hand is a departure from the teaching of the Catholic Church. Traditionally, only priests can consecrate and distribute holy communion no lay person can hold nor distribute the host in any case. I think the idea behind this communion in the hand originated from the protestant movement that denies the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the blessed sacrament. I hope this modern belief that creeped into our church may be changed back to its former discipline of communion in the tongue.

Laudater Jesus Christus
Instaurare omnia in Christo

It’s actually more a matter of particles coming off of the sacred host while in somebody’s hand and then being dropped on the ground to be trampled. That’s why we shouldn’t receive in the hand…too much handling

Then what about the particles that drop off and get trampled when the priest elevates the host? And then the particles that drop off when the priest gives the host to the recepient on the tongue? And what about the particles that get stuck between a person’s teeth and then get flossed out?


That’s what a paten is for, and that’s why the paten is treated with such care. The priest purifies the paten (along with his fingers) after Communion so that none of the particles of our Lord will be profaned. Obviously, he is unable to purify everybody else’s hands that have touched our Lord in the Eucharist. That’s why people should not receive in the hand. It is an innovation that was brought into the Church by protestants (and why shouldn’t they receive in the hand when their “communion wafer” is merely a symbol?).

[quote=]And what about the particles that get stuck between a person’s teeth and then get flossed out?

By the time you get home, the consecrated host will have been in your mouth mixed with saliva for quite some time. By then, it no longer is considered the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord. If you have a problem with the host getting stuck between your teeth, perhaps you should just let it disolve a bit in your mouth before you swallow it. You shouldn’t be acting like you’re chomping on taco chips…but then again, if you choose to receive in the hand, “lex orandi, lex credendi”.

By the way, the real Maria Goretti wouldn’t even have considered for a moment to touch a consecrated host with her hands. It was unthinkable up until the past 35 years.

We shouldn’t worry to much,I think, about the small, not visible particles that beak of (the church has always taught that only bread that is still visible and resembles bread contains the body of Christ). And if the host breaks in greater pieces, it is easily consumed - I have even seen people licking their hands to make sure.

And personally, I think, we shouldn’t tell other people how to receice. If somebody wants to receive by hand, let him do it - it is ok with the current practice of the church (as it was in the very early days of the church - have you read something about the apostles receiving on the tongue? ;), no completely protestant custom…), and it is somehow being “more catholic than the pope” to say it is a departure from church teachings to do so.
And lutherans believe in the real presence, too, in the moment that they receive (but not before and not after), and receive also on the hand - all lacking respect? It is just a different approach, many say: For me, it lacks respect to receive on the hand, others say: I like to see the host on my hand and appreciate the miracle and grace of Christ etc.
Do we always have to have such a big discussion about it, a la: You are wrong to do so, and I am right?

Yes, we should. That is exactly why priests have purified the ciborium, patens, chalice, and their fingers after Communion for centuries. There aren’t any huge hunks of consecrated hosts on any of those things. Even the tiniest particle is still ALL if Jesus.

And no, the protestants do not have the true presence of Jesus in their communion wafer. Only a validly ordained priest can confect the Eucharist.

I was talking about NOT VISIBLE particles - because you can’t help breaking of those, they will always break of. The teaching on this point has always been very clear, that the body and blood are only contained in bread and vine under the appearance of bread and wine. If the particles are not visible, there is no appearance. Otherwise, we would after the purification of the chalice still have to worry about the molecular structures of wine that are still present etc.

And about the protestants: Sorry, I didn’t make my point clear. The Lutheran (and only them) believe to have the Real Presence when they receive, and therefore treat hosts and wine also with an elated respect in comparison to a simple meal in memory of the Last Supper. For the respect shown, the believe is more important than the fact - especially because the Lutherans believe that we are wrong to say that only a validly ordained priest can consecrate :smiley:

It is not our theology that is under threat from communion in the hand. It is our structure of symbolism by which we express that understanding.

If you accept that the Queen is, ultimately, the person who represents Britain then you are a monarchist. However if you insist on calling her “Lizzy” rather than “Her Majesty”, you slap the Queen on the back instead of bowing or curtseying, you serve her Big Mac and fries instead of cucumber sandwiches with tea, you are expressing a very different concept of monarchy. However do all those things to George W. Bush, who is just as much a Head of State, and it seems far less outrageous. It is not that the British monarch couldn’t develop into an American President-like figure and still retain the essentials of monarchy, it is that the symbols that have grown up over the years are different.

By then, it no longer is considered the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord.

Perhaps I’m just misunderstanding you, but once the bread is transubstantiated, it’s the Body forever. It doesn’t “wear off”. That’s why we keep the Eucharist in the tabernacle. It’s not going to stop being the Body a few hours after Mass.

And as I’ve said before, the whole act of Communion seems disrespectful. We’re LITERALLY EATING JESUS’ BODY!!! I’m sucking on Christ’s flesh! It sounds so sinful and utterly wrong. This turns so many people off to Catholicism, and it has since Jesus first said it. But Communion isn’t about sounding or looking nice to outsiders. Taking Communion in our hands looks disrespectful. Taking Communion on our tongues looks disrespectful. Being in the same room as Jesus’ Real Presence looks disrespectful. The fact is that we’re not worthy to be anywhere near Jesus, but He invites us (God knows why :rolleyes: ).

A person might receive in the hand and still be having a much more profound communion with God than any one else. Someone might be receiving on the tongue and still be completely unsuitable for receiving Communion.

By the way, the real Maria Goretti wouldn’t even have considered for a moment to touch a consecrated host with her hands. It was unthinkable up until the past 35 years.

No one can speak for what she would have ever considered except for her. You can’t say she wouldn’t, I can’t say she would.


Yes and no. No, the Real Presence does not cease merely due to the passage of time. But it does cease when the elements are no longer recognizable by the accidents of bread and wine (which, I think was your interlocutor’s point).

1377 The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.


While it is true that only the principal celebrant washes his hands, I believe concelebrants are *confecting *the Eucharist as much as the principal.

  1. The Preparation of the Gifts (cf. above, nos. 139-146) is carried out by the principal celebrant, while the other concelebrants remain at their places.

In any case, regarding the OP, this should demonstrate that the *liturgical *washing of hands is not intrinsic to the distribution of the Eucharist.

In my parish, the EMsHC check in at the sacristy prior to Mass and wash their hands with antibacterial soap. I believe they are encouraged to discreetly go back and wash again prior to communion, if necessary.


Hello Maria,

It is Church teaching that the Real Presence remains so long as the appearance of bread and wine remain - so long as the accidents, if you will, have not been transformed into some other accidents. This happens in our bodies naturally (in the belly/stomach) when we consume the Blessed Sacrament. What the poster responding to you was saying was that this process occurs in the mouth as well (over a period of time) to the tiny particles that might remain there.

Nevertheless - as a young kid, I remember hopping out of the car after mass one Sunday and spitting in the yard on the way to the front door (boys will be boys). And boy oh boy! My dad jumped my case *hard *on that one and drilled into me this very thing we’re discussing. I’ve never forgotten it. Message received loud and clear from pops to my young whipper-snapper mind - Jesus is really really present in the Eucharist. Don’t profane him in any way! Don’t be spittin’ after Communion until you’ve had something to drink. :wink:

Quite possible. But I would say as a general rule and all else being equal, receiving on the tounge on your knees at the altar rail instills and demonstrates a deeper sense or respect for Our Lord than standing up and in the hands. Lex Orendi, Lex Credendi and all that. It’s just plain common sense.

Peace in Christ,


Probably why the Traditional rubrics always prescribed an ablution of wine and water for the communicant. I wonder how many people would be as concerned as your father was.

I’m new to all of this…Only been Catholic since Easter… So forgive me if this sounds goofy…

Jesus was in human form… In the flesh… He had human accidents (bumped his knee, spilled his drinks, etc…) He understood that things happen. When he told us to “do this in remembrance of me”, he didn’t give specifics…Did he place the bread on the tongue of the apostles?? Or did he hand it to them?? Did any of them drop it?? Did they lay it on their plate before they ate it??

The remarks about spitting and flossing are absolutely rediculious… We all know what happens when we eat anything… it comes out in one form or another.

Jesus was crucified on a cross…He had not had a bath… He was physically dirty and covered with dirt and blood after making the long trip with the heavy cross on his back. The onlookers spit on his precious body.

His blood spilled all over that pillar, the path, the cross, the dirt under the cross.

His precious body was handled by the guards who nailed him down and all who removed his body from the cross. His body was laid in the dirt.

He was placed on an unclean slab in a grave…

Today when we receive communion, we all hope to be clean when we touch the precious body of Christ…but I think that all this other stuff you people are worried about is a little silly.

His precious body and blood have already endured touching the unclean, falling in the dirt, spit, abuse, spilling on rocks, and extreme physical damage…Just accept it as he said and don’t worry about the rest… HE DIDN"T.

When his body left this earth… then it was cleaned… cleaned by a much greater power than we have… It wouldn’t matter what we do… We could never clean like that. The body and blood he left us was 100 % spiritually clean…NOT PHYSICALLY clean.

Hehe - reminds me of the child in the movie Angela’s Ashes who, for whatever reason, was ill at his First Communion day and threw up the Host shortly after receiving - and his mum (I think) dragging him straight over to the priest to confess having profaned Our Lord!

A very wise lady once said, “Communion in the hand - you feeding yourself; Communion on the tongue - Jesus feeding you.”

The most ancient practices of the Church had the Eucharist placed in the hand of the faithful…not on the tounge. Several early Church Fathers write of this practice.

In ancient Christian times it was even customary for the faithful to take the Blessed Sacrament to their homes and Communicate privately, a practice that was followed as late as the fourth century. Up to the ninth century, it was usual for the priest to place the Sacred Host in the right hand of the recipient, who kissed it and then transferred it to his own mouth

Dogmatically it isn’t that important who administers or distributes the Eucharist, whether it is from the hand of a priest, or layman, or woman. As a permanent sacarement any communicant having the proper dispositions will receive it validly after it has been consecrated.

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