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Liturgy: Both Species From an Extraordinary Minister

And More on "Pro Multis"

ROME, SEPT. 22, 2004 (Zenit) - Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: I am a convert to Catholicism. Little if anything was taught to me during RCIA regarding the liturgy, yet I was immediately encouraged to become a Eucharistic minister as soon as I received the sacraments. The training I received amounted to about four hours on a Saturday. When I transferred to a different parish, all I had to do was sign up to be a Eucharistic minister. There was one brief training focusing on where to stand depending on which station you were assigned. My husband, a devout cradle Catholic, tells me that it is not appropriate to receive under both species at a Mass unless there are enough priests or deacons to administer both the Body and the Blood. He sees the use of Eucharistic ministers to distribute both species as an abuse. Is it wrong to partake of both species if both are offered, albeit by Eucharistic ministers? -- R.E., Glendale, Arizona

A: While the preparation required before appointing someone as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion may vary from place to place, the norms issued by the diocesan bishop (see "Redemptionis Sacramentum," No. 160) should always be followed.

Most bishops delegate the rite of appointment to parish priests, although some dioceses organize special courses for those called to serve in this capacity.

The 1973 instruction "Immensae Caritatis," No. 6, outlines some of the personal qualities demanded of the extraordinary minister:

"The person who has been appointed to be an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion is necessarily to be duly instructed and should distinguish himself by his Christian life, faith and morals. Let him strive to be worthy of this great office; let him cultivate devotion to the Holy Eucharist and show himself as an example to the other faithful by his piety and reverence for this most holy Sacrament of the altar. Let no one be chosen whose selection may cause scandal among the faithful."

It is thus clear that due care must be taken in selecting and forming the extraordinary ministers, presuming of course that they respond to an authentic need, because of the delicate and sacred character of the office that they are called to fulfill.

Before appointing them, the priest should have a sufficient knowledge of their moral stature and their standing in the community.

He should also ensure that they fully adhere to all of the teachings of the Church especially those regarding the belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the Catholic understanding of the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

They should be trained not only regarding where to stand but also with regard to proper procedures to follow when approaching the altar to receive the sacred vessels from the priest; how to return them; how to avoid accidents; and how to proceed if accidents occur. They should also be instructed on the limits of their office with respect to purifying the sacred vessels and approaching the tabernacle.

Those who officiate to the sick will need supplementary instructions regarding the proper rites to be followed.

I would recommend that, in order to appreciate the importance of their service, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist be encouraged to foment their love for the Eucharist through adoration or frequent visits to the tabernacle.

They should also have at least one retreat a year as well as other instructions in Catholic doctrine and the norms and spirit of the liturgy.

This brings us to the second part of your question.

If no priest or deacon is available to distribute the Precious Blood in the circumstances where Communion under both kinds is permitted and customary, then it cannot be considered an abuse to avail of the services of an extraordinary minister of Communion.

You write from the United States, where the distribution of Communion under both kinds at Sunday Mass has been approved by the bishops and validated by the Holy See. When needed, an extraordinary minister of Communion may assist the priest and deacon with the administration of the Precious Blood from the chalice.

There is no reason to refuse the chalice if offered in this way, although there is no obligation to do so.

While receiving Communion under both species is more perfect from the point of view of the sign, it is important to remember the Church's teachings that Christ is received whole and entire under either species.

Thus, one's Communion is perfectly complete when it is received under the species of bread alone. One is not deprived of extra graces by not receiving from the chalice.

While your husband is obviously a good Catholic with a sincere love for the Eucharist, his ideas in this area do not correspond to the reality of liturgical norms.

* * *

Follow-up: Why "For All" at Consecration?

There was quite a reaction from several quarters regarding the Sept. 7 column on the question of translating the "pro multis" as "for all." Some readers even sent in tracts arguing that this change of translation made the consecration invalid.

In some cases it was clear that the readers had read the article with excessive haste and attributed to my pen what was in fact a translation from an official source of the Holy See. In one case it was an official response to a doubt and in the second an article by the theologian M. Zerwick which cannot be considered official as such but which received the approval of the Holy See and was published at its request.

I certainly do not possess the theological and exegetical capabilities shown by Zerwick in his brief but dense article.

A reader from England stated that the article basically accused 2,000 years of popes, saints and theologians of being wrong in their interpretation of the "pro multis."

Rereading the article I cannot see how this can be true. The article does not create an opposition between the past and the present; it accuses nobody of ever having being wrong.

The thrust of the article's argument was that the expression used by Jesus, which literally means "the many," did not exclude, and probably included, the connotation that he died for all.

The argument also recognizes, and indeed could not do otherwise, that "for all" is not a correct literal translation for "pro multis." It does sustain, however, that it is a correct translation from a theological standpoint and does not substantially change the meaning of the consecration.

The article also defends the position of all those, including some saints and popes, who distinguished between the Lord's sacrifice being sufficient for the salvation of all, while being efficacious only for many and especially those who cooperate with grace at Mass.

This is a valid and true distinction that is not challenged by the translation because it is true as such even though the doctrine can no longer call upon the text of the consecration in English, Spanish or Italian, as supporting evidence.

Indeed, this doctrine would still have been true even if, hypothetically, the Latin text had said "pro omnibus" instead of "pro multis." It does not stand or fall on this point.

Zerwick's article thus did no more than reaffirm and elaborate what the Holy See had explicitly and officially stated in its brief earlier reply.

Regarding the accusation that this change could render the consecration invalid, I cannot analyze here all of the arguments offered. But to say the least I remain unconvinced.

St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa (III pars q. 78 art. 3) teaches that the complete consecration formula, and not just "This is the cup of my blood," forms part of the substance of the sacramental form. This opinion is generally accepted in Church documents.

Therefore a change which would alter the essential meaning of the formula would render the consecration invalid.

This is where it appears to me that some of the objectors tend to beg the question, for they assume that the translating of "pro multis" as "for all" constitutes such an essential change. But this is exactly the point to prove.

If the expression "pro multis" were essential to the consecration, then this formula would necessarily be found universally in the consecration rites of all ancient Eucharistic Prayer texts. And indeed the vast majority of them do use "pro multis."

However, the oldest known Eucharistic Prayer of all, the Apostolic Tradition of St. Hippolytus of Rome (circa A.D. 225), uses the following formula: "This is my blood, which is shed for you. As often as you do this, do it in memory of me."

Since this formula has been used continually in some Eastern and African Churches for almost 1,800 years, it is difficult to sustain that "pro multis" is absolutely essential even though in some cases the "pro multis" has been added to this prayer at a later date along with other modifications.

Finally, since the Holy See has taken a clear and official position on the non-erroneous nature of this translation, the only logical conclusion -- unless we consider ourselves wiser than the Church -- is to accept that the change does not constitute a substantial or essential modification of the formula and that to effect such an adaptation falls within the Church's power over the sacraments.

Theological arguments aside, we can be sure that God would never allow the Church to err on a point so essential as the valid consecration of the Eucharist. From the moment that these translations have been approved by the Church, there can be no doubts whatsoever as to their validity.

One may discuss their opportunity, literary correctness, etc., but not their validity.

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Liturgy, Catholic, RCIA, Eucharist, Minister, Consecration

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