GIRM 160-162: Distributing the Eucharist

Virtually all of this content is new to GIRM 2000:

160. The Priest then takes the paten or ciborium and approaches the communicants, who usually come up in procession.

It is not permitted for the faithful to take the consecrated Bread or the sacred chalice by themselves and, still less, to hand them on from one to another among themselves. The norm established for the Dioceses of the United States of America is that Holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum 91).

When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood.

161. If Communion is given only under the species of bread, the Priest raises the host slightly and shows it to each, saying, The Body of Christ. The communicant replies, Amen, and receives the Sacrament either on the tongue or, where this is allowed, in the hand, the choice lying with the communicant. As soon as the communicant receives the host, he or she consumes the whole of it.

If, however, Communion is given under both kinds, the rite prescribed in nos. 284-287 is to be followed.

162. In the distribution of Communion the Priest may be assisted by other Priests who happen to be present. If such Priests are not present and there is a truly large number of communicants, the Priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, that is, duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been duly deputed for this purpose.[Cf. Inaestimabile Donum 10; Ecclesiae de Mysterio 8] In case of necessity, the Priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion.[Cf. Roman Missal, Appendix III, Rite of Deputing a Minister to Distribute Holy Communion on a Single Occasion]

These ministers should not approach the altar before the Priest has received Communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the Priest Celebrant the vessel containing the species of the Most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful.

There’s a lot of fuss and ink spent on lay people serving as Communion ministers. I don’t really see the point of most of it. GIRM 17-20 has already laid down the principle that a full inner and outer participation best serves the liturgy and its spiritual fruitfulness. More involvement, generally speaking, is better than less. The whole notion of fewer lay ministers actually goes against the grain of the Roman Rite, though I can understand the alarm it might foster in priest-centered communities like Vatican City.

That said, I have no problem with priests taking on their ordinary role at Mass. Even when they don’t call in ahead of time and inform they will or won’t be participating outside of concelebration. My own sense is that some clergy take their role as ordinary Communion minister less seriously, and why not–it’s only a part of how they serve the liturgy.

I’ll leave off the commentary with the thought that these sections are probably more detailed than they need to be. I think the role of the presider and deacon, not to mention concelebrating clergy can be underscored without a uniform legislation. But what’s written here is not really burdensome.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to GIRM 160-162: Distributing the Eucharist

  1. Liam says:

    “ The Priest then takes the paten or ciborium and approaches the communicants, who usually come up in procession.”

    -This allows the use of either a paten or ciborium; I believe there are some who blanche at the former being used for communion of the faithful, but I could be wrong about that. Mercifully, it doesn’t get into the common States-side minutiae about a stemless ciborium.
    “It is not permitted for the faithful to take the consecrated Bread or the sacred chalice by themselves and, still less, to hand them on from one to another among themselves.”

    Having in my time witnessed a great deal of self-communion, I can see why this was specified.

    “The norm established for the Dioceses of the United States of America is that Holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum 91).”

    Certainly, given the opprobrium that has been visited in the moment upon those choosing to kneel, I can see why it gets specific on this point. The communicant chooses. That’s a great thing that the communicant gets that choice.

    “When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister.”

    Not a fan of the common praxis that arose when this was instituted in many places of instructing people to bow while the person ahead of them receives. It does not have the practical safety effects it was touted to have. The real reason for the praxis was to hurry things along; it was the minimalist impulse at work, again. Because we all know the unwritten, but supreme, law on the distribution of communion is that It Should Not Too Long. And “too long” means any longer than the shortest time feasible. Not a fan of this nearly universal praxis in the USA, which arose from the days of hourly Masses crammed with the faithful herd that had to be gotten in and out with dispatch. It would have been nice for Rome to have included: “Don’t’ rush”.

    “The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood.”

    Again, it’s the communicant’s option, which is all to the good. Ministers should not be making a shibboleth of the choice (sadly, the shibboleth-making occurs at both ends in this regard).

    “If Communion is given only under the species of bread, the Priest raises the host slightly and shows it to each, saying, The Body of Christ. The communicant replies, Amen, and receives the Sacrament either on the tongue or, where this is allowed, in the hand, the choice lying with the communicant. As soon as the communicant receives the host, he or she consumes the whole of it. If, however, Communion is given under both kinds, the rite prescribed in nos. 284-287 is to be followed.”

    Well, having witnessed many times people not consuming the host immediately, I can certainly understand the specificity here.

    As for the last two paragraphs, I find them too micro-managing for my taste. But, if it’s not important enough to micro-manage, it’s not typically important enough to disobey, either.

  2. FrMichael says:

    Having a debate in the parish about the LEMs “approaching the altar,” based on this new GIRM paragraph. We have a large sanctuary, so the LEMs come up to it and enter it during the Sign of Peace, but stand waiting distinctly at the side about six feet from the altar. They never receive at the altar like the clergy but are brought the Sacred Species. Is this praxis within the purview of this paragraph 162, or should I have them wait outside the sanctuary until the clergy receive Communion?

    Real-life purple chair submission.

    I also like the “raising the Host slightly” in p. 161. A few of my LEMs, trained long before I arrived here, like to raise it higher than their heads in a large sweeping motion.

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