Skip to content

Liturgy: Are Extraordinary Ministers the Norm?

ROME, OCT. 14, 2003 (Zenit) - Answered by Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

Q: Are extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist for extraordinary circumstances or may they serve at every Mass? -- W.B., Dallas, Texas

A: Bishops, priests and deacons are the only ordinary ministers of the Eucharist and, unless impaired by a grave reason such as a serious health problem, they should always give out communion at Mass before any supplementary ministers are used. Extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist are just that, extraordinary, and their function remains a supplementary one. If the celebrant can easily distribute Communion to all without causing excessive delay, then extraordinary ministers should not be used.

At times however, factors other than numbers can play a part in justifying seeking help such as a very elderly priest, or, in the cases where it is approved, to administer the Precious Blood, or those daily Masses where people sacrifice their time in order to attend Mass before work and even a couple of minutes delay can make a difference.

Those who serve as eucharistic ministers should always be aware that it is a privilege and can never be considered a right. Even when a parish roster exists, nobody can rightly say "It's my turn" as if claiming something due to them, but should always be grateful for the blessing of being called to service as a minister of Christ's body and blood.


Follow-up: Inappropriately Dressed Lectors

Some readers, mostly from the United States, requested more explicit details as to what constituted "improper dress" (see (Sept. 30).

As Zenit is an international agency, I think that our readers can appreciate the difficulty, not to say temerity, of dictating norms that are valid from Walla Walla to Wagga Wagga, especially in an area where there are few prescribed norms. Therefore I tried to indicate principles to guide the prudential judgment of priests and other ministers.

The principle of maintaining a certain formality is especially hard to nail down and may even vary with the time of year. Thus, it has to be settled at the local level. One possible rule of thumb could be what most people in the region would wear to meet someone constituted in authority.

Unlike formality, the perception of a lack of modesty crosses cultural barriers more easily. Any style that is likely to distract attention away from the reading and toward the reader, or other minister, should not be permitted. This would include garments which are too short, too low, or too clingy. It would also include other aspects of personal apparel such as jewelery, hairstyles, piercings and, especially for extraordinary eucharistic ministers, the length and decoration of fingernails.

Serving divine worship as a liturgical minister is a privilege and the willingness to sacrifice one's personal tastes, and at times, one's personal comfort, in order to serve the Lord with due reverence falls under the heading of submission to God that the ministry requires.

One reader suggested that everybody who carries out a liturgical function should wear an alb. Liturgical law certainly allows for this possibility (see the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 339). For those functions that require only a brief entrance into the sanctuary the most common custom is that the minister wear lay clothing; a pastor, however, may opt for having some or all ministers wear an alb if it enhances the dignity of the celebration. It certainly eliminates most problems of formality and modesty.

One priest asked what I meant in saying that a priest should attend to what he wears "under the alb." Because readers and other ministers are often the only ones who see the priest before vesting, he will be better positioned to demand that they observe certain norms of modesty and formality, if he does so himself. Moreover, his shoes and trouser hems are readily visible to all. Above all, he should don the prevailing clerical garb of his region and attend to its cleanliness and neatness.


Follow-up: Consecrating Wine in a Flask, Continued

In my reply to a correspondent last week who suggested that I follow the Holy Father's example in consecrating flagons of wine at youth gatherings, I observed that if memory served me well the only papal Mass where Communion had been distributed under both species was at St. Louis.

Father Thomas Keller, the archdiocesan master of ceremonies of St Louis, who assisted then Bishop Piero Marini, papal master of liturgical celebrations, in organizing the event, has kindly pointed out to me that the wine was consecrated in chalices and not in flagons and that the entire celebration was conducted according to the instructions received by the Holy See.

Another priest correspondent who assisted at the Mass informed me that in fact Communion was not distributed under both species to the entire congregation. I am very glad to be able to rectify any misunderstanding.

Likewise, in mentioning that some bishops had forbidden the distribution of Communion in the hand during outdoor papal masses, I was not referring to St. Louis, which did not make any such disposition. Communion-in-the-hand was barred, for example, by the cardinal archbishop of Bologna, Italy, when the Holy Father celebrated the concluding Mass of a national Eucharistic Congress in an open field attended by several hundred thousand people.


Catholic Online CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000



Liturgy, Ministers, Eucharist

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.