EWTN Catholic Q&A
RE: Administering Communion to the sick
Question from Michael on 01-17-2013:

As my father lay dying in ICU, it was a great comfort when our pastor brought Communion not only for him but offered it to my mother and me. (He would not have known who might be present.) Don't the rules make provision for compassionate care for people not necessarily on a pre-determined list?

Answer by Catholic Answers on 01-17-2013:


A priest or deacon, who is an ordinary minister of Communion and who has presumably been trained in pastoral theology and the administration of the sacraments, has the rightly-formed judgment and authority to make such exceptions. Extraordinary ministers of holy Communion (EMHCs), in other words volunteer laypeople who evidently have very little training or rightly-formed judgment concerning the Eucharist, should not be relied upon to make these kind of exceptions; and, in my opinion, should be kept on tight leashes as a necessary protection for the Eucharist. Indeed, some of the horror stories of EMHC abuses of the Eucharist that I've dealt with over the years, especially during visits to the homebound, are frightening enough to make your hair fall out.

Communion is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, our Lord and God. We receive Communion, according to the safeguards set up by the Church to protect and venerate Christ, in order to become one with Christ and one with our fellow brothers and sisters in the Church. We do not receive Communion as a "comfort," or as a token of "inclusion," or because everyone else is doing so. There is no shame in not being able to receive Communion at a particular time. A spiritual communion can be made by any unable to receive sacramental Communion in the moment, and then sacramental Communion can be received on another appropriate occasion.

The bottom line is that a great many of these questions crop up because Catholics do not fully recognize and appreciate WHO the Eucharist is, and WHOSE care with which they are being entrusted. If the vast majority of EMHCs did fully understand and appreciate this awesome reality, do you really think we'd see questions about whether or not the Eucharist should be stirred into yogurt or passed around like cookies at snack time?

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers