Wednesday, April 19, 2006

How to make lay distributors of Communion earn their keep

Okay, so yesterday I was annoyed as bleep. But I think I've got a good idea out of the whole thing. Especially realizing I'm never going to win most folks, including pastors, over to the "Extraordinary-Ministers-of-Holy-Communion-Should-Be-An Extraordinary Sight" point of view.

While visiting someone at the hospital yesterday, I met a woman...

Her son was hospitalized with a brain tumor. She — at 80 years old — had flown to Boston from South Dakota to be with her son, along with her husband who is suffering from cancer. The couple are staying at their son's apartment, which is near the hospital. She attends Mass at her son's parish.

She explained that while she was grateful that her hospitalized son was able to receive Communion (from the overworked folks in the chaplaincy), she'd been trying, vainly, to have the Sacrament brought to her invalid husband on Sundays. (Did I mention he has cancer?)

The priest was too busy...

Which she — and I — understood. But when I asked her if she'd considered approaching any of the lay people who distributed Communion at Sunday Mass, the lady looked rather sad.

"They're all too busy, too."

Probing further — is it just me or are South Dakota folk a taciturn lot? — I finally ascertained that the parish where she attended Sunday Mass boasted at least eight lay distributors of Holy Communion. At least eight! And all of them were "too busy" to travel a half block or so to bring the Blessed Sacrament to a sick man?

I think not. So here's my suggestion.

In addition to (dare I say in repayment for?) the gratitude many parish priests tend to vocally express to our "wonderful ministers of Holy Communion" at the end of Mass, I propose that these folks be given the names of those people in the parish who are unable to attend Mass, and to be charged with the responsibility of bringing the Sacrament to them. It would be a privilege for them!

I know that some parishes already do this.

My proposal is that all parishes who insist on utilizing lay people to supplement (notice I didn't write "supplant") ordinary ministers of Holy Communion (that would be priests and deacons) do it. Quietly. With no fanfare. And no gratitude expressed, save for that of the communicant...and of Jesus.

Please keep this courageous family in your prayers. Thanks!