The Most Reverend Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn in Australia has written a fascinating letter about the liturgy. The Archbishop is one of the people in charge of the new translations of the missal and he presents some interesting insight on what we can expect. You can read the entire letter here, however I wish to focus on one small area of the letter.
This pertains to a pet peeve of mine, but as I work in pet peeves as others might work in oils or clays, I am going to pick a nit.
In the letter the Archbishop writes about the proper reception of communion. In this section, he also details some of the responsibilities of the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion.
The celebrant is the first to receive Communion in order to complete the Eucharistic sacrifice. If there is a deacon, the celebrant offers the deacon the Body of Christ as soon as he himself has received and then the Blood of Christ as soon as he has drunk from the chalice. If there are concelebrants, they receive the Body of Christ with the celebrant and the Blood of Christ only after the celebrant and deacon have drunk from the chalice. The Acolytes and Extraordinary Ministers then receive Communion before going to distribute Communion to the assembly.
There should be no more Extraordinary Ministers than is necessary. If there are clergy enough to distribute Communion, then Extraordinary Ministers are not required. It should never happen that clergy are left seated during the distribution of Communion while Extraordinary Ministers attend to the distribution.
While I certainly concur with the Archbishop, I am unsure whether this language goes far enough. I have witnessed multiple incidents at my own parish in which the pastor gives the homily and then disappears, only to reappear in the narthex after mass to meet and greet. This drives me crazy. Moreover, since it is the responsibility of the priests, as ordinary ministers of the sacrament they should be there. Where are they?
I understand that often the duties of a priest can call them away from the parish on Sundays, but if they are within a five mile radius, they should be there distributing communion. Not just at the masses they celebrate, but at all the masses.
Prior to the imposition of ubiquitous extraordinary ministers, we would routinely witness the non celebrating priests of a parish make their way to the sacristy a few minutes before communion to vest and then appear in the sanctuary at communion time. What are they doing now?
Now before you start yelling at me about the shortage of priests and their other duties keeping them away from communion, listen. If a priest is out doing priestly duties elsewhere, so be it. No issue. But I have witnessed non celebrating priests in the vicinity before or after mass too many times to think that they are ALL otherwise occupied.
So, again, if these ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are within the zone, they should be distributing communion. Honestly, I cannot think of a good reason why they would not unless it is some false sense of empowerment the laity that leaves them at the rectory. Get off you priestly duffs and distribute Communion. Please.
Now as I know that we have a number of priests who read this site, I am particularly interested in your perspectives. If I am being to harsh or demanding, please correct me. If not, your thoughts (and everyone else’s) are most welcome. End of nit pick.