Perspectives for Eucharistic Ministers
Who may be an Eucharistic Minister?
In the early church and for several centuries afterwards it was a common practice to have the non-ordained distribute communion. Then the view of the Eucharist began to change. That culminated with a decree (in the ninth century) that laity could no longer distribute communion except In the case of necessity, the most common one being the administration of Viaticum (Holy Communion for the dying for their final journey). Throughout the centuries, the possibility of other exceptions have arisen (persecutions and other social crises) to allow an extraordinary minister to bring the Bread of Life to members of the community. But these were exceptions, up until recent times.
On April 30, 1969 with the provision of Fidel Custos the Rescript of the Congregation of Sacraments to the President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (March 9, 1971) and Imensae Caritatis (January 29, 1973) lay persons may be designated as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion where pastoral and liturgical needs for their service existed.
What are these needs?
The local bishop (in our case Bishop Clark) allows auxiliary ministers of the Eucharist when (1) no priest or deacon is available, (2) the priest or deacon is prevented from administering Holy Communion because of another pastoral ministry or because of ill health or advanced age, (3) the number of the faithful requesting Holy Communion is such that the celebration would be unduly prolonged (since the time for the distribution of Holy Communion should not exceed the time for the proclamation of the Eucharistic Prayer). The reason for this is not to cut time or have more efficient Masses but that all the parts of the Eucharistic liturgy are given their proportional value.
What is an Eucharistic Minister?
For each sacrament, the church has designated ordinary or usual ministers. This designation of ministers and their competence to administer the sacrament are not directly established by doctrine, but by canonical discipline.
Eucharistic ministers have a variety of names: extraordinary or special ministers, auxiliary, or lay distributors. Technically, the Eucharistic minister is the "acolyte”. - The one who serves at the altar, preparing the altar table and the vessels and who gives communion to the faithful. Eucharistic ministers are not "almost priests'. The roots of their ministry are in the fact that they are Christian men and women. Baptism is our title to our ministry. By baptism and confirmation all Christians share in the priesthood of Christ and have the potential for taking significant responsibility for the public worship of our community.
Eucharistic ministry is not given as a reward in recognition of ones past contribution or because someone is better than another is, rather, Eucharistic ministers are called from the community as its representative. He/she is to be what they are. All are called to be the presence of Christ.
What is the Eucharist?
Jesus revealed His ministry very often to those who most needed it. He was criticized for eating with sinners. The wonder of Jesus is that there is always room for others at the table with Him. The very people with whom He chose to share a meal, were the signs of all people’s need for the healing ministry He offers them. He chose to continue to be present with us in this sacrificial meal we call Eucharist. He made himself present in such a simple way through bread and wine that even a young child can understand. The church, God's people, continues this table ministry of Jesus.
The Eucharistic liturgy is the place where we express, celebrate and become who we are - the church. All elements and ministries of the liturgy effect or formulate this ("Good celebrations foster and nourish faith. Poor celebrations may weaken or destroy faith.”).
Eucharist is truly the source and summit of our whole life. The Eucharist challenges us to grow more like Christ and to let ourselves be challenged by Him to live a more selfless life, dedicated as He was to the service of others ("as I have washed your feet, so must you do for one another.").
Bread is a symbol of all that nourishes our human life. Wine is a symbol of all that gladdens our human life. Like the Bread and Wine, so too with us God starts with the human and brings out the beyond - the – human. We believe that the Eucharist permeates our whole being so that we are in the process of becoming the spiritual food we eat Christ Himself. This is what Christ has called us to be his very presence, through the sharing of this ministry.
What do Eucharistic Ministers do?
Eucharistic ministers try to make the Lord's work more obvious. Their role is to deepen the Lord's body - to - body intimacy with the people He loves, even if they themselves have not yet fully grasped the wonder of what the Lord does.
In effect, the Eucharistic minister invites each communicant, to make an act of faith in the Lord, present under the sign of bread and wine. Their response of faith will strengthen the ability to call forth that response. The sole criteria of judging the Eucharistic Celebration: “Did it evoke the community to let their faith show?”
We must become what we give. We must become and live as the Body of Christ that we give to our brothers and sisters. We must both be and give the Body of Christ. For Eucharist charges us to be that sign of God's love.
Eucharistic ministers accept God's call to help this assembly, the Body of Christ made visible, and to be united with Christ their Lord in Holy Communion. Everything done and said by the Eucharistic minister should help others to receive the Lord Jesus more lovingly and reverently. We are attempting to consecrate ourselves into His Body as He has consecrated Himself into Bread for us.
A classic principle of spirituality teaches us that no person can give what he or she does not have. A minister who lacks faith can't offer a dynamic faith to others. The one who does not know Christ cannot lead others to know the Lord. Faith in the real Eucharistic presence is the most critical quality for a minister of communion (and the whole assembly).
The positive interior qualities of the Eucharistic Minister (reverence for others, prayerfulness, faith, etc.) or their regrettable absence will likewise be evident to others in the worshipping community. There must be an essential unity between our life inside and outside the liturgy. Eucharistic ministers try to witness the faithfulness of God, to live In such a way that "one's life would not make sense if God did not exist.
The call to be a Eucharistic minister.
Eucharistic ministers are a sign of the fact that they are constantly striving to be of greater service to the church and the world. To be an embodiment of the community’s hope for itself. An Eucharistic minister sets an example as one whose life is governed by the fullness of the Eucharist.
Eucharistic ministers do not stand as perfect examples but as a sign that our struggle to live the Christian life is not in vain.
God chose us in our humanness as frail earthen vessels. God calls us in our brokenness to share in the mission of His only Son. We are conscious of our sinfulness and weakness but rely on God's grace to be the instruments He wants us to be. We are not above those in the assembly but identify ourselves with the assembly and act along with and for the assembly. We come forward as Eucharistic ministers not because we deserve this or are superior to others but because of the mystery of God’s call. Whether we are the Pope or the bishop or a priest we all declare our unworthiness to receive this gift of Eucharist. It is only because the 'Lord says the word that we are healed.'
As public servants, we do not put on a show for anyone, but rather humbly try to be authentic signs of Christ's presence and compassion by being fully human channels of grace for all those entrusted to our care. The Eucharistic minister is called to exemplify the life of service and charity to which the Christian community commits itself in the celebration of the Eucharist. We will depend on God's grace to fulfill this call.
What should the Eucharistic Minister do before Communion?
Your reverence for the persons you serve and for the sacrament will show itself in all your actions
a. IN THE WAY YOU WALK (SLOWLY, WITH DIGNITY) AS YOU APPROACH THE ALTAR, DURING THE BREAKING OF THE DREAD. PLEASE REMEMBER TO COME UP TO HELP DISTRIBUTE COMMUNION IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE CELEBRANT CONSUMES THE BREAD AND WINE.
If you do not come at this time, another Eucharistic minister might come forward thinking there are not enough ministers present.
**We will receive communion at this time.
b. When you take your position at a Communion station stand with good posture, but relaxed, without stiffness. This is not a business transaction, but a family meal, an act of personal Communion.
c. Hold the plate carefully with one hand while ministering with the other.
d. Hold the cup with one hand, using the other to hold the purificator with which you wipe the rim after each communicant has received. Please remember to wipe the cup thoroughly after each person receives and rotate the cup as you hand it to the next person.
e. When distributing Communion, place yourselves in a position that makes you easily accessible to the people.
What does the Eucharistic Minister do during Communion?
An important principle for a minister of communion is DO NOT RUSH. Allow this moment its full ritual beauty. Minister with unhurried, deliberate movements. With each person, you have the opportunity to invite them to affirm their faith, especially their faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
This is not a ministry for efficiency experts, or for those who are unable to look another in the eye with comfort or to touch another person with ease. Nothing is more important in this ministry than the ability to focus your attention and the person to whom you are ministering. The meeting of minister and communicant is only for a moment. If you are looking down the approaching line or scanning the congregation instead of giving full attention to the person before you, half the value of the encounter will be lost. You must be able to disregard everything and everyone else in that moment, to look at the person before you with undivided attention. The look should be one of warmth and friendliness. You are greeting a brother or sister in-Christ.
Speak to that person -- not to the air or to the bread or to the cup. Hold up the bread or the cup and, looking the person in the eye and say, “The Body of Christ” (You might choose to add the word "brother” or 'John') 'The blood of Christ" (again, "sister” or Mary). Wait for his or her response: 'Amen.' The meeting will be even more personal if hands touch in the act of ministering.
If you are finished distributing Communion, see if there are any of the other ministers who need help. If you are at a Sunday Eucharist and there doesn't seem to be enough ministers of the Eucharist, please come forward to help us. (But remember not to come before the scheduled Eucharistic minister has a chance to come forward first).
If you should drop a host or spill some to the Precious Blood. DO NOT PANIC. This can happen to anyone. This is your best opportunity to communicate to the congregation what you believe about the Eucharist.
If a host should fall to the floor, then calmly stop distributing, place your dish on the altar and reverently pick up the host. You may either consume it immediately or place it on the corporal on the altar to be taken care of after Mass. DO NOT PUT IT BACK ON THE PLATE.
If you should spill some of the Precious Blood, once again stop distributing and reverently place your purificator over the spill on the rug to mark the spot and prevent people from stepping on it. Take another purificator from the altar or sacristy and continue your ministry. When Mass is over, clean the rug with a damp purificator.
What does the Eucharistic Minister do after Communion?
If you are left with a large amount of Precious Blood, DO NOT GUZZLE IT- enlist the help of others to consume it after Mass. Please don't pour it in the sink.
After communion is over and you have taken the chalice to the table, purify them with some water. It would be helpful to bring anything else from the altar to the sacristy
After Mass is over, please bring the chalices back to the sacristy and wash the with the dish soap. (Please rinse the cups thoroughly). Dry them and then put them carefully into the cupboard. Please be careful handling them. See if there is anything else that needs to be done after the mass is over.
How do Eucharistic Ministers carry out their ministry?
The manner in which we distribute Holy Communion says alot about who we are, our clothes for example are an important sign of what we are doing. Each Person should be dressed so as not to call attention to him or herself, wearing something simple, neutral and tasteful. Another example is handling the chalice or paten with reverence. Finally, real reverence comes from the heart and it shows itself through our actions to anyone we meet. Mother Thersea and her sisters spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and then in the Mass receive the Eucharist. As they receive Christ with reverence in the Eucharistic Bread, they act likewise with reverence towards Christ as
He manifests Himself In the “distressing disguise of the poor” that they minister to in the streets.
A primary qualification for ministers of Communion, then, is that they be by nature interested in caring about and at ease with other people, without regard for status or distinctions of class, sex or race. All who gather at the table of the Lord do so as sisters and brothers in the Lord, and need to be welcomed as such both within and outside the liturgy.
We need to strive to pay attention fully to each encounter (though so brief). The Communion into which Jesus invites us is a personal Communion, a Communion of persons. The Eucharistic ministers tries to make the moment of Communion as personal as possible. As Romano Guardani has written, “The soul's chief instruments and clearest mirrors are the face and hands.” Our actions may determine how a person receives the Lord that day, for good or ill. Yet ministry like other actions can become routine. Routine is the death of reverence. So it is important to continually pray that we may renew our relationship with the Lord, especially in the Eucharist and in God’s people. It is so important the Eucharistic ministers make personal time for prayer a priority in their lives. It would be good to spend some time in prayer before the Mass begins to ready oneself to be the transparent presence of Christ as a Eucharistic minister.
Finally, we want to thank you for your generous service and for sharing your gift with our faith community.
We hope that you continue to grow in and through your Eucharistic ministry.
Questions for Reflection for Eucharistic Ministers
1.) How does being an Eucharistic minister affect how I now look at myself?
2.) What do you think is the most difficult point for people to grasp about being an Eucharistic minister?
3.) What difference has (or will) being an Eucharistic minister made (make) in your life and in your relationship to the Lord and others? How has this changed since you first begun?
4.) How do you think others will feel about you being an Eucharistic minister?
5.) What do you find most challenging about being an Eucharistic minister?
6.) Do you feel the role of an Eucharistic minister could become routine-how would you deal with that?
7.) What do you feel is the connection between this liturgical ministry and your daily life?
8.) What is your single greatest hope and expectation in being an Eucharistic minister?
9.) How is it possible in the very administration of the Eucharist to challenge others to become the Body of Christ?
10.) How will your role as Eucharistic minister influence your ability to accept others?
11.) How do you minister?
12.) How do you find Christ more clearly in others as a result of being an Eucharistic
13.) What goes through your mind as you are distributing Holy Communion?
14.) What aspect of distributing Holy Communion still leaves you most uncomfortable and why?
15.) How do you find yourself praying during Mass when you are serving as an Eucharistic minister?
16.) What nourishes or detracts from that prayer?
What is Eucharistic Ministry for the Sick?
If there are sick members of our community who are unable to attend the Sunday mass, you may be sent with Holy Communion to them. For the liturgy of the Eucharist is never self-contained but in its deepest meaning reaches out to the entire world, to the feeding of the hungry and the healing of the afflicted. Those who carry Holy Communion to the sick and Persons otherwise confined, therefore, continue the community's act of worship, extending its embrace to include those unable to be physically present. And, so it is most fitting that they go directly from the assembly's Sunday Eucharist; sending them forth to do this ministry.
Invite others in the parish to accompany you in visiting the confined. This will deepen the confined person's awareness of themselves as members of the community of Christ. It will heighten, too, the community's awareness of its suffering members.
TIME SHOULD BE TAKEN to allow the sick person to share his or her insights into the mystery of Christ, insights born of loneliness and suffering. Thus, the confined will experience themselves, not as objects of ministry, but as participants in a ministering community which honors the gifts of all. SO PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS IN A HURRIED WAY, BUT TAKE THE NECESSARY TIME TO SHOW THE IMPORTANCE OF EACH PERSON YOU SEE.
The Order of A Communion Service
2. Penitential Rite
3. Reading for the Bible (Daily one from the Lectionary or other appropriate scripture)
4. Refection on Scripture
5. Prayers of the Faithful (optional)
6. Lord's Prayer
7. Sign of Peace (optional)
8. Distribute Communion
9. Quiet Time for Thanksgiving
10. Closing Prayer