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Liturgy: Previously Consecrated Hosts for Concelebrants

And More on Communion and Extraordinary Ministers

ROME, OCT. 13, 2004 (Zenit) - Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.

Q: Is it necessary, for validity, that priests who concelebrate consume the species consecrated during the Mass being celebrated, or is it permissible for them to receive hosts from the tabernacle (consecrated previously)? -- J.F., Boston, Massachusetts

A: If by "validity" you mean the validity of the Mass itself, then the Mass is not invalidated by a concelebrating priest receiving Communion from previously consecrated hosts.

However, it is an illicit act that contravenes what is explicitly set forth in the instruction "Redemptionis Sacramentum," No. 98:

"The Communion of Priest concelebrants should proceed according to the norms prescribed in the liturgical books, always using hosts consecrated at the same Mass and always with Communion under both kinds being received by all of the concelebrants."

A key to understanding why this is so is found in the norm that follows in the next sentence of the same number:

"It is to be noted that if the Priest or Deacon hands the sacred host or chalice to the concelebrants, he says nothing; that is to say, he does not pronounce the words 'The Body of Christ' or 'The Blood of Christ.'"

The reason why these words are omitted is because each concelebrating priest truly offers the sacrifice of the Mass and he must complete his part of the sacrifice by partaking of both species offered at that Mass just as if he were celebrating alone.

In some very exceptional circumstances a concelebrating priest (never a priest celebrating alone) may be granted an indult to omit one species, for example, if he developed an allergy to all grape products. But I can think of no situation which would justify a priest partaking of the Eucharist consecrated in a previous Mass.

Even if by some oversight insufficient large hosts were consecrated for all concelebrants nothing impedes breaking those available into smaller particles.

* * *

Follow-up: Both Species From an Extraordinary Minister

Several readers questioned some aspects of my Sept. 21 reply regarding the use of extraordinary ministers of holy Communion for the distribution of the Precious Blood.

Above all, they pointed out that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal 283-284 and the U.S. Norms for Holy Communion apparently militated against the use of these ministers. The text of the GIRM states:

"The Diocesan Bishop may establish norms for Communion under both kinds for his own diocese, which are also to be observed in churches of religious and at celebrations with small groups. The Diocesan Bishop is also given the faculty to permit Communion under both kinds whenever it may seem appropriate to the priest to whom, as its own shepherd, a community has been entrusted, provided that the faithful have been well instructed and there is no danger of profanation of the Sacrament or of the rite's becoming difficult because of the large number of participants or some other reason.

"In all that pertains to Communion under both kinds, the Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America are to be followed (see nos. 27-54)."

No. 284 states:

"When Communion is distributed under both kinds,

"a. The chalice is usually administered by a deacon or, when no deacon is present, by a priest, or even by a duly instituted acolyte or another extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, or by a member of the faithful who in case of necessity has been entrusted with this duty for a single occasion."

The Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America, No. 24, adds:

"In practice, the need to avoid obscuring the role of the priest and the deacon as the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion by an excessive use of extraordinary ministers might in some circumstances constitute a reason either for limiting the distribution of Holy Communion under both species or for using intinction instead of distributing the Precious Blood from the chalice."

These documents clearly allow for a wider distribution of the Precious Blood than had been hitherto permitted. But our readers are correct in pointing out that the documents do not favor an indiscriminate multiplication of extraordinary ministers of holy Communion just in order to avail of this possibility.

Indeed this practice should be limited to cases of necessity. And greater recourse should be made of Communion by intinction, provided those who wish to receive under the species of bread alone have the possibility to do so.

However, neither do these documents forbid the use of these extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, and, as stated in the previous column, their use may be justified by necessity.

The difficulty arises in adjudicating what constitutes a case of necessity, and this often depends on the norms issued by the diocesan bishop.

The bishop should, of course, issue norms guided by the GIRM and so avoid creating situations where an excessive number of extraordinary ministers are required.

However, if for serious pastoral reasons the bishop permits, or even requires, that the faithful be offered the possibility of receiving Communion under both kinds every Sunday, there is sometimes no other feasible solution for pastors, especially if he is the lone priest, then to recur to the use of one or more extraordinary ministers of Communion.

In such cases pastors should strive to limit their use to the minimum although, since this possibility is contemplated in Church law, I reiterate that I do not believe that the mere fact of their use can be considered an abuse.

Another correspondent chided me for slipping up on my vocabulary and referring to extraordinary ministers of holy Communion by other titles.

Rereading the column I note that most of the incorrect usage was from the original question which was left substantially intact. But, effectively, I did momentarily lapse into incorrect usage on one or two occasions. I wish to thank this reader for his attention and kind observation.


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Mass, Eucharist, Consecrated, Host, Priest

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