Sunday, 30 January 2011

Become One Body, One Spirit in Christ: the role of Extraordinary Ministers

I have just watched two more sections of the DVD Become One Body, One Spirit in Christ (and see my earlier post).

One section that I have just looked at is in the section on "Crafting the Art of the Liturgy", "Roles of the Liturgical Assembly", and then under the heading "Liturgical Ministries". It is the short video clip that talks about the role of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. The use of the term "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion" is very clear and welcome. The opening words of the priest speaking in this video clip are as follows:
The Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, who of course in the Liturgy itself, can be called upon to assist to administer Holy Communion, have a particular ministry of outreach, you might say, to take Communion to the housebound and that is a very lovely ministry ..
The clip goes on to talk more about the ministry of taking Holy Communion to the housebound. I find this a very interesting account of the ministry of the Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, placing its emphasis as it does on the role of taking Communion to those who are not able to get to Mass. The DVD materials refer to this ministry of taking Holy Communion from the Liturgy to those who are not able to attend, as a very ancient practice in the life of the Church.

The second section I have just viewed is that on the role of the priest, and it can be found in the section "Crafting the Art of the Liturgy", "The Ministry of the Ordained", and then under the heading "The Priest". The video clip in this section opens with a clear presentation of the priest as the person who represents the risen Christ to the Church and to the people of his parish. The part of the video which caught my attention, though, was the later part, where the priest-speaker talks about how the priest in the parish very much attends to the way in which the lay people have come from the Eucharistic celebration to live Eucharistic lives in their day to day existence. There is a quite beautiful account of the priest as pastor of the people of his parish that, though it does not use the comparison, prompts in the mind the image of the Good Shepherd who looks after his sheep:
He very much ministers as the pastor among his people.
At one point, the clip includes the following sentence:
The priest is very much one who helps them [ie the lay faithful] to bind all of this together and to take the mystery of the Eucharist into their lives and to bring all of their lives to the Eucharist.
I think it is useful to put this video clip about the priest's Eucharistic role with respect to his parish alongside the video clip about the role of the Extraordinary Ministers. Together, these two clips have, I would suggest, two significant implications.

The first is about how, and in exactly what way, the Extraordinary Minister is seen as assisting in the Eucharistic ministry that is proper to the ordained minster. It is less the role that such a minister fulfils at the Liturgy when called upon, and more in the outreach to support the Eucharistic lives of the faithful in their homes, at work etc. I find this a rather interesting thought on the role of Extraordinary Ministers, as it places their role nearer to the mediating role between the Church and the world that is the proper charism of the laity.

The second implication is for the practice of parish priests. Their role of "taking the mystery of the Eucharist" into the daily lives of their people through their pastoral activity in the parish is not one to be neglected. This means that, though in many situations they do need the assistance of Extraordinary Ministers in taking Holy Communion to the housebound or to the sick in hospitals and care homes, parish priests should not withdraw from that ministry altogether, leaving it entirely to the lay faithful. A similar observation might apply to the involvement of parish priests with the catechetical activity of their parishes. In both of these contexts, the implication is in favour of a collaboration between the priest and lay people, rather than a delegation of role from the priest to the lay people.


Patricius said...

Thanks very much for your earlier post on this DVD which encouraged me to order a copy. I have been dipping into it and finding it a real treasure trove. The section "answering the critics" is particularly good. We learn that some "informality" will remain but it is clear that the speaker only envisages this during the homily!

Joe said...


I agree with you about the DVD being a treasure trove. I have so far looked at only three or four sections - and have found them unfailingly thought provoking (in the best sense).