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Mass v. Communion
Question from Mary on 08-16-2015:
Four couples in my family plan on a cruise next year. We found out that religious services are not offered. We didn't want to risk hoping a priest may be on board with another group. We are at sea on Saturday and Sunday. If a family member is a eucharistic minister, are we fulfilling our obligation if we watch Mass on TV and receive Communion from this family member?
Answer by Catholic Answers on 08-19-2015:

No, absolutely not, and if the extraordinary minister of holy Communion (not a "eucharistic minister") in your family has any knowledge of your plans and thought those plans to be a good idea, that person should not be serving as an EMHC. Anyone who has been sufficiently trained to act an EMHC should know that he or she has no authority to reserve the Eucharist for doling out over a period of time. EMHCs immediately take Communion to those whom they are authorized to give Communion to, and then make sure that the person either consumes the host immediately or returns the host to the EMHC for a proper disposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

Now, as to your question about your vacation. Your options are as follows:

1.) You can talk to your travel agent or the cruise's concierge service and ask for options for Mass during your vacation. In my experience, too many Catholics simply assume that there is nothing that can be done. There is no need to "risk hoping a priest may be on board." Ask those who should know if there will be a priest on board during the cruise you plan to take.

2.) If no priest will be on board, register your displeasure that the cruise line is no longer offering chaplain services as an amenity to its travelers. Luxury industries are very responsive to unhappy customers during bad economic times because luxury industries are the first to suffer. If you or any member of your family are regular cruisers, your displeasure will carry weight and may influence the return of regular chaplain services on cruises.

3.) If you are in an area where you cannot attend Mass on a Sunday or holy day of obligation, the obligation is dispensed. Watching Mass on television would be a good way to participate in the holiness of the day in some way, but it does not fulfill the obligation. If there is a deacon on board, he could preside at a Liturgy of the Word.

4.) As for Communion, if there is no priest on board to say Mass, then you'll have to do without while on board the ship. Under no circumstances can the Eucharist be handled in the manner you propose. If you like though, you could go to a daily Mass in one of your ports of call so that you can receive Communion during your vacation. Ask your travel agent or concierge for assistance in finding one you can attend.

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers

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