Extraordinary Ministers of Communion
Miscellaneous Questions
 
The universal norms governing the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMC) are given in two documents:

General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM)

Redemptionis sacramentum (RS)

In addition, for Communion under Both Species, U.S. particular law, approved by Rome, is given in:

Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America (NDBK)

Fraction of the Wine

The wine should be poured into chalices at the offertory, not at the fraction (during the Agnus Dei).

RS 105. If one chalice is not sufficient for Communion to be distributed under both kinds to the Priest concelebrants or Christ’s faithful, there is no reason why the Priest celebrant should not use several chalices. For it is to be remembered that all Priests in celebrating Holy Mass are bound to receive Communion under both kinds. It is praiseworthy, by reason of the sign value, to use a main chalice of larger dimensions, together with smaller chalices.

106. However, the pouring of the Blood of Christ after the consecration from one vessel to another is completely to be avoided, lest anything should happen that would be to the detriment of so great a mystery. Never to be used for containing the Blood of the Lord are flagons, bowls, or other vessels that are not fully in accord with the established norms.

Use of EMCs

Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion may be used when the number of Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (bishops, priests and deacons) is inadequate.

GIRM 162. The priest may be assisted in the distribution of Communion by other priests who happen to be present. If such priests are not present and there is a very large number of communicants, the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, e.g., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion.

RS 88 Only when there is a necessity may extraordinary ministers assist the Priest celebrant in accordance with the norm of law.

EMCs Coming Forward

The Extraordinary Ministers should not come forward until the main celebrant has received both Species, which marks the end of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

GIRM 162 (cont.) ... These ministers should not approach the altar before the priest has received Communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the priest celebrant the vessel containing either species of the Most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful.

Retrieving and Reposing the Sacrament

Since retrieving the Sacrament before Communion and reposing It after Communion is the task of the Ordinary Minister (bishop, priest or deacon), it would fall to him unless impeded, as in the case of infirmity or some other necessity, or to other Ordinary Ministers (concelebrants and deacons), before it would be legitimate for EMCs to do it.

GIRM 163. When the distribution of Communion is finished, the priest himself immediately and completely consumes at the altar any consecrated wine that happens to remain; as for any consecrated hosts that are left, he either consumes them at the altar or carries them to the place designated for the reservation of the Eucharist.

Consecrating Wine for the Faithful

Only that wine should be consecrated which can reasonably be consumed AND safely distributed.

RS 102. The chalice should not be ministered to lay members of Christ’s faithful where there is such a large number of communicants that it is difficult to gauge the amount of wine for the Eucharist and there is a danger that “more than a reasonable quantity of the Blood of Christ remain to be consumed at the end of the celebration”. The same is true wherever access to the chalice would be difficult to arrange, or where such a large amount of wine would be required that its certain provenance and quality could only be known with difficulty, or wherever there is not an adequate number of sacred ministers or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion with proper formation, or where a notable part of the people continues to prefer not to approach the chalice for various reasons, so that the sign of unity would in some sense be negated.

Disposing of the Precious Blood

The Precious Blood must be consumed, it may not, under any circumstances, be poured down any sink or drain, even the special one in the sacristy (sacrarium).  Only wash water, which although it may have come into contact with the Sacred Species has so diluted It that the Presence of Christ no longer remains, may be disposed of in the sacrarium. To do otherwise is to risk excommunication.

RS 107. In accordance with what is laid down by the canons, “one who throws away the consecrated species or takes them away or keeps them for a sacrilegious purpose, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; a cleric, moreover, may be punished by another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state”. To be regarded as pertaining to this case is any action that is voluntarily and gravely disrespectful of the sacred species. Anyone, therefore, who acts contrary to these norms, for example casting the sacred species into the sacrarium or in an unworthy place or on the ground, incurs the penalties laid down.

Consuming the Precious Blood which Remains

Since the Precious Blood may not be reserved (except in a small amount needed for an actual case of Communion for a sick person who cannot receive the Host), it must be consumed. The priest may engage others in Its consumption, whether concelebrants, deacons or EMCs.

RS 107 (cont.) ... Furthermore all will remember that once the distribution of Holy Communion during the celebration of Mass has been completed, the prescriptions of the Roman Missal are to be observed, and in particular, whatever may remains of the Blood of Christ must be entirely and immediately consumed by the Priest or by another minister, according to the norms, while the consecrated hosts that are left are to be consumed by the Priest at the altar or carried to the place for the reservation of the Eucharist.

US Norms for Two Kinds 52. When more of the Precious Blood remains than was necessary for Communion, and if not consumed by the bishop or priest celebrant, "the deacon immediately and reverently consumes at the altar all of the Blood of Christ which remains; he may be assisted, if needs dictate, by other deacons and priests." When there are extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, they may consume what remains of the Precious Blood from their chalice of distribution with permission of the diocesan bishop.

By the law of necessity, the priest may even engage other faithful for this purpose, if the quantity is truly great, as it may NEVER be reserved, except in a special vial to be used for a sick person who cannot receive the Host.


Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL

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