“Ask a Priest: What If a Priest Leaves Laypeople to Distribute Communion?”

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Q: What do I do when the priest at Mass does not distribute Communion but lets the extraordinary ministers do it? I don’t understand why this happens, but it’s happened three or four times in the last year. I think receiving from EMs in the hand is an abuse of our Blessed Lord, and I always cross the aisle (if need be) to receive from the priest on the tongue (if only there were altar rails so I could kneel). I have done it both ways: not taken Communion and taken in the hand from the EM, but I don’t feel good about doing either one. What does Jesus want me to do? — B.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is true that extraordinary ministers are overused in many places. They should be something of a last resort, not a first preference. Still, it is up to the priest to decide, and so it is not illicit to receive from lay ministers even when in our own judgment the priest should not have to use the lay ministers.

In any case, it might not be good to press the issue. Many priests already have a lot of work and responsibilities on their shoulders. No need to add one more weight on them. Sometimes they might go along with the plethora of extraordinary ministers in order to keep peace in a parish.

This isn’t to say that overuse of extraordinary ministers is OK. But given the very shortage of priests nowadays, many Catholics are happy just to have the chance to receive Communion.

So, it is good to stay focused on why you are receiving Communion, and who it is that awaits you. You receive Jesus in the Eucharist whether the host comes from the hand of a priest or deacon or a lay minister. The one giving out Communion doesn’t detract from what is being given.

(For related reading, see my colleague Father Edward McNamara’s posting here.)

The ideal, of course, is that ordained ministers give out Communion. But even in the absence of that ideal, there is no need to deny yourself Communion.

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