Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ecclesia de Mysterio

Father Zuhlsdorf has a very thought provoking article on his blog concerning a document issued by the Holy See in 1997 that was signed by eight dicasteries (departments) of the Roman Curia.  The document entitled "Ecclesia de Mysterio" in Latin, or the rather cumbersome "Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-ordained Faithful in the Ministry of Priests," in English.  (It can be found here on the Vatican's website).

This document says some interesting things about the use of lay people to distribute Holy Communion.

Here is a section from the document to ponder:
§ 2. 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;
— the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass thus arbitrarily extending the concept of “a great number of the faithful”.
I don't know about you, but in my experience there are breaches of these rules on a daily basis at parishes where I attend Mass.   Time and the Holy Spirit will correct these abuses, but it has been a long strange trip through the post-Vatican II Church.  I was an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at one point in my life and, don't get me wrong, the vast majority of people engaged in this "ministry" are good people who are participating in what they are told is a valid and necessary function in the Church.  However, I can't tell you the number of times I've seen priests remain seated while lay people come forward to give out Communion.  I've also seen priests intentionally call extraordinary ministers to the altar to assist when it is clear that the priest could adequately handle the job by himself.  And when it comes to distributing the patens and the chalices among the ministers and having them communicate first, the priest could have given Communion to half the Church already.  In addition to which, it is a great distraction watching the choreography of so many people in the sanctuary, hoping that nobody trips while coming down the stairs, or waiting to see who gets the chalice, who gets the paten, who goes to which aisle, etc., etc.  On top of which, there is usually another priest in the rectory who opts out of assisting with Holy Communion since there are so many ministers already scheduled.

OK, end of rant.  Well, actually, it's not really a rant, but a genuine concern about the preservation of the Sacred Mystery that we are to be drawn into at Mass.  And a need for renewed belief in the Real Presence and the "otherness" of the priest.

May our bishops and priests read this document, accept this document, and implement its provisions.

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