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Saturday, 14 November 2015

Why I Am Not an Extraordinary Minister

I've been asked, numerous times, multiple parishes. You're always here anyway, you know how to do things at church, you'd be good at  it, we always need more people....
I would do it, I have done it, for home visits.
But not in the context of a liturgy.
The excuse I usually make is m eczema, my skin condition. Heck, most of the time, I wouldn't eat anything my hands have touched, (and I imagine the Blessed Sacrament would not be improved by condiments such as Bag Balm or hydrocortisone ointment. Just a guess.)
But back in the day of school Masses another faculty member, (who was an EM,) was going on a tear about kids who present for Communion with filthy hands or fake tattoos all over their palms drawn with Sharpies and how she insisted they receive on the tongue and that they had better not present themselves like that tomorrow.
And I told her that I had seen too many people present for the Sacrament in a manner that made it very clear that they had no idea what they were about to receive, I had seen people strolling back down the aisle and casually breaking off a chunk of Jesus to give someone else, I had seen people look at the Host in their hands with such a quizzical expression on their faces that there was no doubt that they were not Catholic or even, perhaps, Christian, I had seen people go to stick Him in their pockets only to be chased down by ushers, I had come across the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ stuck in the pages of a missallette.... I couldn't do it.

I could not stand at the head of the aisle giving the Body and Blood of Christ to everyone knowing the profanation that was, I will not say "probable," but certainly possible, and occurring with a hideous frequency; yet I am sure this is the task, is it not?

The bar is very high for a non-ordained minister to refuse someone Communion. (I am no John Wesley.) It would make me sick to wonder if with every ministration I was risking participation in the profanation of the Sacrament, but I could hardly do other than to give the Host to anyone who presented.

I hadn't thought of this in a while, but I helped out with Communion at a rest home today. (Very short of healthy priests, just a Liturgy of the Word with Communion.
These are all long term residents, no one is on the road to recovery, no one will be leaving alive.
Quite a few non-Catholics, even some non-Christians in attendance - it is something to do, something to break the monotony and provide human contact. It is always thus at nursing homes, old age homes, etc.
One man wanted my attention while the EM was distributing, his roommate was not a Catholic, he insisted, and always took Communion at these things, look at him there, big as life waiting in line, I had to do something about it!

I told him, (I think this is more or less accurate?) that according to canon law it is not up to any minister of Communion, ordained or extraordinary, to deny the sacrament to anyone who presents without moral certainty that that person may not receive, and that the nun religious sister directing the service took his word, hadn't she? she had accepted him as a Catholic without insisting on seeing his "permanent record,", and would take the word of his roommate, as well, all things being equal.

That seemed to sooth him, the mention of canon law, and my acknowledging his concerns even if I offered no remedy, so he went on, (there were many extraneous conversations going on throughout the service,) that the fellow would go to the Methodist services too, and that he was "mentally ill" and was there in the home because of his dealings with Satanism and theDevil, (which are, I believe, two different things?)

That rocked me back on my heels a bit, I admit.

But if he is indeed mentally ill, there is no sin in actions which he cannot help.
And besides, he receives on the tongue. And he does so, so easily, I cannot believe it is not an action in which he has engaged for a good part of his life. (And he consumes the Host.)

And he knows the words and tune to Holy God We Praise Thy Name, (seldom if ever heard in Protestant congregations hereabouts.)

And finally, he says his Hail Mary fluently and unaffectedly.

If he is not Catholic, he is certainly not a devil-worshipper, and if receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is not something he has done most of his life, it is something that does him good, and nourishes his soul and prepares him for a voyage that is not, I think, too far off.

1 comment:

Al DeFilippo said...

Thank you for the post. For more on John Wesley, I would like to invite you to the website for the book series, The Asbury Triptych Series. The trilogy based on the life of Francis Asbury, the young protégé of John Wesley and George Whitefield, opens with the book, Black Country. The opening novel in this three-book series details the amazing movement of Wesley and Whitefield in England and Ireland as well as its life-changing effect on a Great Britain sadly in need of transformation. Black Country also details the Wesleyan movement's effect on the future leader of Christianity in the American colonies, Francis Asbury. The website for the book series is www.francisasburytriptych.com. Please enjoy the numerous articles on the website. Again, thank you, for the post.