Communion Minister Rules

St. Ann Roman Catholic Church > Sacraments & Liturgy > Communion Minister Rules

Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion

This lay ministry is held in highest esteem by the Church.  Before Vatican II only men who had been ordained to the Diaconate and Priesthood were allowed to touch the Eucharist with their hands.  Since Vatican II the Church has allowed lay men and women to assist in distributing the Blessed Sacrament during communion. Nevertheless this ministry is still primarily entrusted to the clergy and secondarily to lay people when there is pastoral need.  Let us refer to such lay ministers as “Communion Ministers”, not “Eucharistic Ministers,” since only the priest is truly a Minister of the Eucharist as the presider at Mass.  

Am I worthy to be a Communion Minister?

No, and yes.  As we all say at mass, none of us “are worthy to receive [Him].”  Yet, by the death and resurrection of The Word of God, we “shall be healed” and thereby made worthy to receive the Eucharist.  Not everyone is allowed to be a Communion Minister, but you have been commissioned to distribute the Eucharist because of your character and reputation as an upstanding member of this community.  Therefore, if you are in the State of Grace, not being guilty of any mortal sins, then you are worthy to help to distribute the Eucharist.

What do I do when I am unable to serve when I am scheduled?

Please call someone on the Communion Ministers list to replace you.  Please consider this your responsibility.  If you are unsuccessful in finding a replacement, please call the sacristan for that mass or the rectory. 

How should I dress for mass when I am scheduled to serve?

The house of God is a sacred space deserving respect at all times.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the heavenly banquet and we should always dress as if we are participating in a very important occasion.  Whenever you are scheduled to serve, your attire should be even more “dressy” and should not include: jeans, t-shirts, strapless or low-cut tops.  Use your best judgment. 

What steps should I take to ensure health safety?

Definitely wash your hands in the sacristy before mass.  Have no lotion on your hands.  If you are ill and concerned about spreading germs, please do not come up to serve.  When in doubt… don’t.  

How should I act in church?

As a leader in the community, you bear a special responsibility to set a good example for the others preparing for mass.  Genuflect reverently to the Tabernacle before entering your pew.  Kneel and pray prayers of preparation for Mass.  You also have a responsibility, as a leader, to set a tone of humility.  You should neither boast of your role as a Communion Minister nor act as if you are better than anyone else. 

Where do I sit for mass?

Sit in the front half of church.  You may sit anywhere you would like in the front half of church as long as you can get to the foot of the sanctuary quickly.  If you walk slowly, it would be a good idea to sit closer.  Before sitting please sign the minister’s binder in the sacristy. 

How do I know if I am needed to serve?

Please serve when you are scheduled.  If you are not scheduled please pay attention when it is time for Communion Ministers to come forward.  If you see that we are short, please come forward to serve.     There may also be times when we have extra clergy (concelebrating priests or deacons).  Priests and deacons are Ordinary Ministers of Communion and, therefore, have priority over Extraordinary Ministers.  Even if you are scheduled to serve, you may not be needed.  Your understanding is appreciated.

At what point do I come forward? 

After the celebrant has consumed BOTH the Precious Body AND the Precious Blood, please come forward quickly.  Stand at the mouth of the sanctuary and wait.  Once all of the Communion Ministers have reached that point, together make a profound bow to the altar.  After bowing take the steps into the sanctuary one by one and line up on the right side of the altar. 

Should I receive Communion differently in the sanctuary than as I would in the Communion line?

No.  The moment of receiving communion is a moment of awesome intimacy between the Communicant and The Divine.  You should always make a profound bow before receiving the Blessed Sacrament.  In fact, another way you are called to lead by example is through proper posture and composure when receiving communion.  

How do I know where to go to distribute Communion? 

As the celebrant hands you a ciborium, he will tell you whether to go to the front or the break.  Here at St. Ann we have four communion stations:

FRONT 1: the celebrant

FRONT 2: with the celebrant

BREAK 1: at the middle of church

BREAK 2: first Choir loft, then at the break

(at 5pm Sunday Masses we will only need one person to help the celebrant up front)

How do I show reverence to the Blessed Sacrament? 

While walking place your hand flat over the ciborium without touching the hosts.  Try to use only your forefinger and thumb to touch the hosts.  As you present the host to each communicant say only: “The Body of Christ.”  Please pay attention, making sure that the person has actually consumed the host.  

What do I do for people who cannot receive the Eucharist? 

Give them a blessing.  Every baptized person can give a blessing, i.e. when someone sneezes and we say “God bless you.” Nevertheless there is a difference between this and a priestly blessing.  For children who haven’t made their First Communion, for non-Catholics, and for Catholics not in the state of grace: say only  “God bless you” and do NOTHING with your hands.  This is to ensure that there is a clear distinction between a blessing from a priest and a blessing from a lay person. 

What do I do if a host is dropped?

We have altar servers with patens stationed at your side precisely for this reason.   If the server catches a falling host with his paten, pick it up from the paten and give it to the communicant.  If the host falls to the ground pick it up and keep it separate from the other hosts.  Do not put it back in the ciborium.  After communion, when you return to the sanctuary tell the celebrant what happened and give the fallen host to him.

Where do I go after I’ve given Communion to the last person in my line? 

Wait until the person next to you is done as well.  Then together walk back to the altar.  Hand the ciborium back to the celebrant.  Never place anything on the altar yourself unless the celebrant specifically tells you to do so.  After the celebrant takes the ciborium from you, immediately go to the ablution cup on the altar and rinse your fingers which touched the Blessed Sacrament.  This is to protect every particle of the host, which is equally the Eucharist.  The celebrant will consolidate the hosts and bring the ciboria back to the Tabernacle.  Pay attention as he does this.  When the priest genuflects to the Blessed Sacrament, please bow at the waist toward the Blessed Sacrament.  After he gets up and turns to walk back to the altar, please exit the sanctuary as you entered it: once the group gets to the mouth of the sanctuary, together turn back to face the Tabernacle and bow together.  Then return to your pew and kneel in prayer as the celebrant purifies the vessels.  This is another time when you will serve as an example to everyone else at mass.