Service of the Word and Communion guidelines?

Hi all,

Im looking for guide lines for the service of the word and Communion when a priest is absent. At my parish, usually one weekday a week there is this service, which is led by a female.

The reason Im looking for guide lines is because, she seems to do everything the priest does, except the consecration of the Eucharist.

The service just seems wrong ans uncomfortable, and take just as long if not longer then a normal weekday Mass.

Any help and advice is appreciated!

God Bless, Tony.

A communion service ought only to be done during a genuine need-- say, to replace a Sunday Mass which cannot be obtained. It ought not to be done during a weekday. The Church wishes that the faithful not start associating the Eucharist as something distinct from the Mass.

On a weekday where a parish cannot do Mass, it is better not to do a communion service. Perhaps your parish can start a solemn public celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours for when this happens.

Read this document, starting at paragraphs 164, to see what the Church has to say.

[164.] “If participation at the celebration of the Eucharist is impossible on account of the absence of a sacred minister or for some other grave cause,”[269] then it is the Christian people’s right that the diocesan Bishop should provide as far as he is able for some celebration to be held on Sundays for that community under his authority and according to the Church’s norms. Sunday celebrations of this specific kind, however, are to be considered altogether extraordinary. All Deacons or lay members of Christ’s faithful who are assigned a part in such celebrations by the diocesan Bishop should strive “to keep alive in the community a genuine ‘hunger’ for the Eucharist, so that no opportunity for the celebration of Mass will ever be missed, also taking advantage of the occasional presence of a Priest who is not impeded by Church law from celebrating Mass”.[270]

[165.] It is necessary to avoid any sort of confusion between this type of gathering and the celebration of the Eucharist.[271] The diocesan Bishops, therefore, should prudently discern whether Holy Communion ought to be distributed in these gatherings. The matter would appropriately be determined in view of a more ample co-ordination in the Bishops’ Conference, to be put into effect after the recognitio of the acts by the Apostolic See through the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. It will be preferable, moreover, when both a Priest and a Deacon are absent, that the various parts be distributed among several faithful rather than having a single lay member of the faithful direct the whole celebration alone. Nor is it ever appropriate to refer to any member of the lay faithful as “presiding” over the celebration.

[166.] Likewise, especially if Holy Communion is distributed during such celebrations, the diocesan Bishop, to whose exclusive competence this matter pertains, must not easily grant permission for such celebrations to be held on weekdays, especially in places where it was possible or would be possible to have the celebration of Mass on the preceding or the following Sunday. Priests are therefore earnestly requested to celebrate Mass daily for the people in one of the churches entrusted to their care.

The official liturgical book for this ceremony is “Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharist Outside of Mass”.

It can be bought at . It is also part of The Rites Volume 1, at .

Our EMHC’s do this on Sundays at the retirement homes for those who cannot get to the church. [A priest does a mass at the homes once a month.] We follow the mass up through the Prayer of the Faithful and skip to the Our Father.

Also do it for the sick and home bound if they are too sick. If the full thing is too much for their case I trim it down to what they can take. As a minimum I do the Penitential Rite, the Gospel, and the Our Father.

I’m thankful for finding this post. A deacon in our large parish started doing early morning communion services about 8 years ago, since the daily Mass was at 8:30am when people who have jobs are not likely to be able to attend. He trained some of us to do communion services and when he went to another parish it became a lay-led communion service and we’ve been doing it ever since.

A few years later, the pastor explained that the bishop did not like us having regularly scheduled weekday communion services, and that this would become a Mass instead, and we were thankful. For awhile we had an early-riser priest who was good at showing up early to do Mass. After he moved on, the scheduling of Masses became erratic where we now sometimes go the whole week without a Mass. For example, this month less than half of the early morning weekdays will be a Mass. Occasionally the priest will not show for a scheduled morning Mass either, due to a late night sick call, or for reasons we are not aware of. As the number of communion services increase, attendance dwindles.

On more than one occasion, the pastor has said that the bishop does not like us having regularly scheduled communion services, but somehow in his mind we’re not doing that. I don’t know how he can see it that way. I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with my part in leading these services, and possibly participating in disobedience to the bishop. I think it also blurs the line between the ordained priesthood and the laity, and we are in need of less blurring. It feels like we’re “running our own show” and we shouldn’t be up there in the sanctuary, at least not without a priest present.

So this will probably be the last month I sign up to lead communion service (I’m already signed up for some days this month). I’m just concerned that the others who do communion services will be upset, since they will have more of them to do now. There was some talk of turning it into Liturgy of the Hours, but if attendance dwindles for communion service (prayer and receiving Jesus), then I imagine it will probably fizzle out altogether for just group prayer.

If you have any recommendations on how best to handle this, I’d appreciate it.

One good reason to do a Communion service during the weekday is for First Friday devotion, which today is. Part of the devotion is to receive the Eucharist for 9 consecutive First Fridays. So if a priest is not able to have Mass on a First Friday, then a Deacon or EMHC can be asked to hold a Communion Service so that people on the devotion will not miss it.

But, if you re-read the section from Redemptionis Sacramentum, such services should not be happening if the parish already has a regularly scheduled Sunday Mass. While First Fridays are a laudable practice, they are not mandatory. People, if they are able, can always find a Mass elsewhere.

A priest friend of mine lamented that folks are worried about devotionals more than they are about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The devotionals are one thing, but, they should not replace the Mass.

Actually, such services do not replace the Sunday obligation. If there is no Mass, there is no obligation. To say that it replaces the Mass would, in my opinion, give it the wrong connotation and send an incorrect message.

Case in point: Last month, at one of our parishes, the pastor and parochial vicar were out of town. A priest was asked to substitute for the Saturday vigil Mass. He never showed up. The deacon decided to do a communion service. This was incorrect. The faithful should have been told that there would not be a Mass and invited to either go to a neighboring parish or return on Sunday. When the pastor got back, he was upset. I only found out after the fact.

I wish that were true everywhere, but not always the case. Most parishes would have daily Masses scheduled during work hours and would not have extra Masses even for First Friday. I know its not mandatory, but don’t tell that to one who is in the devotion. I used to go to First Friday Mass all the time, and I’d hate to miss one just because our priest went on vacation. To those who are following the devotion, they don’t see this as mandatory.

You could check to see if your eparchy or diocese has a website. There are some parishes that have Mass before work or after work.

The thing is this, regarding the particular devotions: if we go to Mass just to receive Holy Communion to fulfill a particular devotion or pious practice, then, we have lost sight of why we are there in the first place. We might also run the risk of treating First Friday and First Saturday as some sort of a quid pro quo. I am not downplaying the devotion because I try to go to First Friday whenever I can. My mother died on a First Friday. But, I think that we need to have some sort of perspective. I did not come up with the conclusion on this. I heard it preached in a homily by perhaps the most orthodox and liturgically astute prelate in our diocese.

My mistake on my last post that I said people don’t see it mandatory, where I meant people do see it as mandatory even though in fact its optional. Bless them for their devotion.

Well, I am not advocating a regular Communion Service every First Friday. All I’m saying is that if a priest is not able to on one First Friday, then I think its justified to have Communion Service for those in the devotion. Rather than they would miss the service. It will be hard to judge if people can go to anther parish or not. I know before I had my own car, it was difficult to go to another parish. Good thing that the parish I go to is one block from the train station, so its easy to get to. Plus it has a huge membership, so many Masses everyday and even on Sunday. Sometimes we have to assume that people can only go conveniently to their own parish.

But, even that alone is not necessarily sufficient to warrant a Communion Service. It’s not that I am being inflexible, Constantine. When I lived in Austin, I was without a car for about four years. I went to Mass on foot or by bus, or by way of rides from friends. So, I know what it’s like to be without a vehicle.

Up until last year or so, I had to lead a couple of communion services, but, upon re-reading RS and engaging in a frank discussion with my parochial vicar, I’ve actually been leading the charge to stop this at my own parish. The only reason why I volunteered to lead them was because the EMHCs were not properly trained and were doing things that they really should not be doing. My parochial vicar, who staunchly follows the norms and rubrics, told me that we really should not be having communion services. Daily Mass is not a requirement; it’s a holy and pious act, but, unless a Holy Day of Obligation falls during the week, we are not required to go, and, even when a Holy Day falls during the week, we need to exhaust every possible means of getting a priest. Communion services were really meant for folks who have very limited access to a priest. Even RS is very specific regarding week day Communion Services, stating that the bishop must not easily grant these in places where the Mass is celebrated on Sunday.

I can see where you are coming from. But the RS didn’t completely eliminate Communion Services. That is why my example is for something that does not happen often. Like I said previously, I do not advocate it to be done daily, weekly or even monthly. But each pastor has to think of the needs of their flock in their parish and decide if its a good idea when circumstances such as the one we’ve been discussing would warrant it. If its once a year, I don’t think its abusing it. If it happens every First Friday, then I would question the pastor then. Thats just my take.

I’m deployed to a small Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan. We were getting a priest to come to our Camp weekly to hear confessions and say mass. This week I was going to mass and I saw that the priest was not there. I was told that we were having a “catholic service of the word” led by an un-ordained lieutenant and that the priest would only be coming once a month. I didn’t know what a “catholic service of the word” was, but it sounded suspicious to me so I didn’t go. I’ve now read that these are no substitute for mass; but I’ve also read that they are “better than nothing”. Should I or should I not attend?

A service of the Word can be taken to meaning it is prayers and the Readings appointed from the Lectionary.

If there is no Priest able to come to you each week the legalistic obligation of Sunday Mass does not apply . This Service of the Word is not a substitute for Mass but is intended to give you spiritual support .

Perhaps you should approach the lieutenant who has been appointed to lead these services and ask him how it is actually conducted .

I believe that you should attend. The Word of God nourishes us spiritually just as sure as real food nourishes the body. Catholics who are unable to receive the Eucharist in the Sunday Mass are still obligated to attend, and the prime reason for this is to be nourished by the Scriptures.

Also, I want to mention a very important ministry that I’ve just been made aware of. It is called Frontline Faith, and they provide MP3 players packed with Catholic devotions to military members who may not be in contact with a priest for a long time. This means you get a recording of a Mass, a rosary, readings and other spiritually uplifting sounds, along with a free miniature MP3 player which you can use for any purpose you like. They visited our parish on Memorial Day and we made a substantial contribution to their effort. I hope that you and other servicemen and women will avail themselves of this great blessing on the front lines.

Phemie, first let me first emphasise, I believe you and I agree with you.

From time to time I make this point with others. Do you know of any sources with which I can support this argument?

That is a great thing that the organization is doing to help those serving our country overseas.

I will have to make a donation in memory of my grandfathers who served their countries during World War II: one on the front lines in Europe and the other one on the homefront who wanted to go fight but was not allowed.

Canon Law obligates one to attend Mass on Sunday but only ‘strongly recommends’ that one attend a Liturgy of the Word if attendance at Mass is impossible.

Can. 1247 On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.

Can. 1248 §2. If participation in the eucharistic celebration becomes impossible because of the absence of a sacred minister or for another grave cause, it is strongly recommended that the faithful take part in a liturgy of the word if such a liturgy is celebrated in a parish church or other sacred place according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop or that they devote themselves to prayer for a suitable time alone, as a family, or, as the occasion permits, in groups of families.

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