Things I thought I knew

Updated, November 2, 2020: to correct the terminology for the Lay Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. There’s enough confusion out there as it is. I don’t want to add to it.

I may have mentioned that I’m sponsoring a friend in the RCIA program*. So I’ve been brushing up on my knowledge of all things Catholic and I learned a few things this past week. After studying Catholicism for fifteen years and being Catholic for thirteen years, I learned that my friend is not supposed to go through the Communion line to receive a blessing. (I’ve seen this done since I started going to Mass back in the mid-90’s.) And I learned that for her to use Holy Water would be a bit more useful if she were baptized already. (Which she isn’t.)

I also learned that, though most parishes I’ve been to lately have stopped holding hands during the Our Father, some still continue the practice throughout the congregation. Some people still assume the Orans Posture during the various prayers. Neither of these practices are in the rubrics and are actually discouraged.

I also learned that the practice of using Lay Eucharistic Ministers at every single Mass is not what is supposed to be happening. They’re supposed to be Eucharistic Ministers Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, to be used only when necessary. If the bishop(s), priest(s) and deacon(s) are not able to distribute Communion between them because the congregation is so huge, then and only then are the Eucharistic Ministers Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion supposed to spring into action in order to help out. Temporarily. Occasionally. Not every weekday, not every Sunday.

In most of the parishes I’ve visited over the past fifteen years, Lay Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are anything but extraordinary. It’s all part of the all too common misunderstanding of the meaning of “active participation” in the Liturgy on the part of the laity. I’ll write more about this later. If you’re not Catholic (and maybe even if you are), you may not realize how big a problem this misunderstanding actually is. I’ve been looking into it and reading Pope Benedict’s The Spirit of the Liturgy has been very helpful.

* (That’s the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, in case you’re wondering. To become Catholic is not so simple as to merely make the decision to be Catholic and that’s that. To be received into the Catholic Church one first has to enter into a period of instruction and discernment. See the Resources section to learn more about the Church and about becoming Catholic.)

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