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Can a lay man distribute holy communion?

15 Aug 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sacraments

Communion 2I have observed in some parishes, just as you may have, that at Mass, during the distribution of the Holy Communion where lay people are involved in the distribution, some communicants deliberately switch lines to avoid receiving the holy communion from the laypersons. Some Catholics have even asked me why laypeople are allowed to distribute the holy communion; they believe strongly that it is wrong and that the Church should discourage it.

Sometimes I imagine if men were God; we human beings are sometimes very hard on ourselves; we want to impose all kinds of laws on ourselves, making the Christian life a burden. We want to reduce ourselves to the level of slaves even though God has made us kings and princesses by the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. We feel so unloved, unworthy; yet, God is a very loving and patient Father who cares and wants us best.

Coming to the issue of lay people distributing the holy communion, some argued that these persons are not ordained ministers or are not priests and so shouldn’t be distributing Communion. By the way, I would want to let you know that we all are priests; we all share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ by the virtue of our baptism in Christ, though some are set apart and called into the ministerial priesthood. However, in this article, I looked at lay people distributing the Holy communion simply from two different viewpoints: Canonical and theological.

The extraordinary ministers of holy communion and not Eucharistic ministers often call in many parishes are canonically supported. The Canon law recognizes them, even though the law states that the ordinary minister of holy communion is a Bishop, a priest, or a deacon (Canon 910). The extraordinary ministers of communion or the laypeople authorized to distribute communion in our parishes exercise their function only when necessary, not every time. We may hold onto Canon 910, but in 1987 the Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Canon of the Code of Canon Law made an authentic interpretation of this canon which stated that the special minister may not exercise his or her function “when ordinary ministers, who are not in any way impeded, are present in the Church, though not taking part in the Eucharistic celebration.” This interpretation reinforces that special ministers have an auxiliary function and are to be used only if there are insufficient ordinary ministers present who are not impeded.

The trained and approved extraordinary ministers of holy communion in our parishes are welcomed and allowed to help distribute communion, but only when the ordinary ministers (Bishop, priest, and deacon) are insufficient.

Theologically, those who argue that it is wrong for laypeople to help distribute holy communion are wrong. The extraordinary ministers of holy communion cannot consecrate bread and wine to become the body and blood of Jesus Christ; the priest consecrates it through the power of the same Jesus Christ, who is the high priest. The bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ after consecration, and I believe these people have no problem with that. But I sincerely want to ask these questions; does the touch of a layperson turns the consecrated bread back to ordinary bread? Can the touch of a layman undo what God almighty has done through the hands of the priest? When the layman distribute holy communion dose, he removes divinity from it? What are these people arguing about? Some argue that they can tolerate men but not women; why? Let us not underrate the place we have in Christ Jesus. Let us know who we are; sons and daughters of God, we carry his image and likeness. Though not all of us are called to the ministerial priesthood, we all are priests by our baptism in the Lord. All of us cannot consecrate, but all of us can distribute; however, few are chosen and trained specially to help among all that can distribute.

It is not wrong for laypeople to help distribute holy communion, but only if they are trained and approved by the bishop and are needed.

1 COMMENT
  • ada Reply

    hmmmmm. Very interesting! i have witnessed it though not in my parish. It is very ok involving the lay people to distribute holy Communion but where am so much concern is ” allowing d lay people coming so close to holy communion will make them loose the respect we have for it, since they can touch it just like d priest does. Imagining a businessman coming back from his shop after quarrls and lies ete and ended up in an evening mass and participated in distribution of holy communion. hmmmmmm

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