Friday, August 17, 2007

An open letter to the 'Birkenstock Lady' EHMC at my parish

UPDATE: 8/20/07

Let me offer some background on this particular EMHC.

She arrives to mass every Sunday well after the first reading. She sits in the middle section with her particular group of aging hippies and chats through out the entire mass. On more then one occasion myself and other members of the congregation have had to tell her to be quit. The uncharitbale truth is a loathe her and all she represents. If she doesn't want to be judged by her actions then she should behave accordingly. There has to be some accountability for the way we publicly behave. We can't use the "judge not" rule to justify ugly behavior, especially in mass.

I intentionally left out the background from my original post last week because I feel it has no bearing on the fact. She is still an EMHC who receives on the tongue who by her own contradictory actions distributes the Host with her own hands. I wanted to call attention to that fact, and that fact only.

If I seem uncharitable, well, on this subject I am. There is nothing extraordinary about a lay woman 'playing priest' every Sunday. If you are called to the ministry to distribute the Body of Christ to the sick and home bound, then God bless you! This is not what this post was about. It was about a women who goes through extraordinary means to make her self noticed and receive on the tongue, then distributes with her own hands.

Dearest Ms. Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion;

Can you please explain to me why you receive the Eucharist on the tongue from our priest every Sunday? This action of your is quite puzzling to me. Do you do it because you know deep down inside this is the most reverent expression of receiving Our Lord? Do you do it because you do not want your hands to defile the Blessed Sacrament?

I am left dumb struck at your actions. Why you make such an effort and show out of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue in front of the congregation, then immediately contradict your sentiments by administering the Eucharist yourself with your very own hands- hands you don't even use for yourself. I would love to hear the rationale behind your actions.

Hugs & Kisses-

PS- That was me, last Sunday, who audibly guffawed at your showy attempts at piety.


Terry Nelson said...

You crack me up! I love how you just say things. You're great!

Athanasius contra mundo said...

Let not your right hand know what your left hand is doing... or something like that.
Great sarcastic wit in this post!

voltaire said...

As a priest I've often wondered the same thing when EMs have received on the tongue. Never audibly guffawed, however.

Adoro te Devote said...

OK, call me an idiot, all of you.

I guess I just don't understand the issue or the attitude.

I am THRILLED when I see someone I know is an EHMC recieve on the tongue themselves...because, to me, it shows me they KNOW what they are recieving. They KNOW this is the Body and Blood of Christ, and I can only pray they have that same reverence and sense of wonder when they touch the Host with their own unconsecrated hands to offer Him to others.

I actually CRINGE when I see people recieving Him in their hands and then go on to offer Him to others as EHMC's...because then I question their actions.

And when I really think about it, I wonder what I, and now you, are doing questioning the interior piety and motives of another person when NONE of us has any right to do so.

I think we all agree that EHMC's are WAY OVERUSED, and SOME of them do it to be seen and "be active participants" even though they have no idea what they are doing and WHO they are touching with such familiarity. But I also think some of the EHMC's are called in this current atmosphere because they DO understand and so step forward so as to do what they can, provide the reverence they can...because if they don't do it, parishioner XY who doesn't believe in the True Presence but is in love with lateral theology and tambourines will step up to fill the gap.

God bless the EHMC's who "get it". I wish all of them did.

And I honestly believe that if we did away with EHMC's, the ones who recieve on the tongue would likely be the ones to step down with no opposed to the ones who like the status.

OK, see...I'm completely judgmental, too.

See ya in Purgatory. A good time will be had by all.

Joseph said...

I'm troubled by the army of "extraordinary" ministers of Holy Communion that surround the Altar of Sacrifice at the Mass. I understand that this has become common practice in most Catholic parishes today, but I question whether it is a stretch of the permission to use them.

I wish the use of communion rails would return. There would be less need of EMHCs if we went back to one species. So many abuses could be eliminated by this. All is needed is a priest with the will to defy his parish overrun by lay management.

In God's good time. There are many things I hope for.

Anonymous said...

What Adoro said.

StBlog said...

While, in the interest of Christian unity (that is, not doing something different from everyone else at Mass) and obedience to our Bishops, I do not genuflect before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament at communion but I bow. I do receive Him on the tongue as I sincerely believe we have become far too complacent in our treatment of the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ. As for "Voltaire" - shame on you!javascript:void(0)
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Carolina Cannonball said...

adoro- Do you think if they truely "got it" then they wouldn't dare to be an EMHC.

I personally declined the invitation from our past priest. I have no business distributing the Body of Christ anymore then any member of the laity.

Anonymous said...

"Adoro" hit the nail on the head. If "Birkenstock Lady" ever read this, she would probably be completely crushed that anyone thinks that her reception of Our Lord on the tongue is a false show of piety. There's no need for the obnoxious tone, either- your point gets lost when people are too annoyed by your sarcasm to "get" your message.

God bless you and your loved ones.

Adoro te Devote said...

Carolina ~ Yeah, I do. Kudos to you for taking the "high road" but quite honestly, it's a calling, which maybe isn't always be physical invitation.

Myself, I'm not called to it. I have a friend who is an EHMC - but she doesn't serve at Mass. She does it because she has sick relations, and so she brings them Holy Communion at home or in the hospital/nursing home/whatever when necessary.

I attend a very large parish; the reality is that EHMC's are used, and I understand why. So be it.

So I'd far prefer so see the EHMC's who KNOW that this is truly the body and blood of Christ versus the chatty couple at the 10:30 Mass who rub each other's backs, chat with the other beautiful people, and jumped to be EHMC's so they could be seen with the rest of the socialite crowd.

There IS a difference; not all EHMC's are the same. And NONE of us has a right to question their own personal reception of Our Lord, their interior disposition when doing so, or when offering the consecrated hosts to the parishioners during Mass.

I can judge my own situation, you can discern your own, but neither of us can inflict ourselves upon another's call, as long as that call is within the authority of the Church.

I like a lot of what you say, your sarcasm cracks me up, but I honestly believe you're WAY out of line with this post because you've crossed into judging another's interior disposition.

And I have, too, I realize. And yeah, I do that a lot. All the time.

Joseph said...

"I attend a very large parish; the reality is that EHMC's are used, and I understand why. So be it."

Sorry, I had a question.

How did the Church handle distributing Holy Communion to large parishes before Vatican II? It sounds like it was ruinous and inefficient for 1933 years. It seems that since we've streamlined Communion the numbers have actually decreased, does it not? Why do we need to politely understand the need for EMHCs again?

It doesn't make very much sense.

Steve said...

I've seen Communion go much smoother and quickly with two priests and a communion rail than with 3 priests and 5 EMs.

Bring back the communion rail!

Anonymous said...

Well we have rails & no eucharistic ministers ever!

Adoro te Devote said...

joseph ~ I made my comment about large parish/EHMC'S although the two really aren't related.

What I meant to indicate is:
a. My parish is HUGE (over 5,000 families), and we use EHMC's.

Some explanation of architecture: There are multiple aisles, and we have an elderly contingent that sits in the rear near the doors as it's easier for them. During all Masses, a priest and EHMC's goes back to offer Communion to them, so the multiple lines in my parish actually DOUBLE again to provide this service.

Point B:
I'm not in charge of it, but the Church has spoken and EHMC's are used. We, the rest of us, have to suck it up and deal with it and hope that all those serving as EHMC's are reverent internally as opposed to simple outward gestures.

As far as the altar rail goes...I'm all for it! All day long. Those times I attended the Latin NO, communion actually seemed to go MUCH FASTER than by the typical method of distribution. I wish people would realize this, in our fast-food culture.

But a lot of the newer church buildings aren't really set up for altar rails. I think it can still be done, but I also think, in a parish designed like mine, the priests would STILL go to the back of the church to serve the elderly contingent who would remain theer but would not really be able to go all the way forward to the rail.

mary.cambridge said...

The whole issue of EMHC disturbs me. Their use should be "extraordinary", I presume. At my parish, we always have about 8. Doesn't seem to matter if it is a Holy Day of Obligation (which not so many seem to feel they are "Obliged" to attend) or Easter. I'm not a big fan. Even if it takes an hour to receive Holy Communion, so what? So, it takes an hour--I stand in line for that long to renew my drivers' license.

OTOH, I do agree that CC has probably gone over the line of charity with the "guffaw at your showy attempts at piety". It is better to not look, if it leads you to the sin of pride. I am making a conscience effort to close my eyes while parishoners around me mimic the priest's gestures. Gives me the creeps, much like holding hands during the Lord's prayer (which I'm pretty good at avoiding, but, occasionally, when someone reaches out, I feel like it is better to just deal with it) but I do not wish to become a member of the albino monk liturgical police. :)

Ah, Joseph. The difference between pre VII and now is the number of priests that were serving at the Holy Mass. We have a long way to go to have those numbers again. May God grant us many more holy priests! We could then solve this problem with less angst, I hope!

Joseph said...


Sorry, I am so easily misunderstood these days. I was asking a logical question and I used the quote to do so. I wasn't arguing. The Church has indeed spoken, and She has given the allowance to use "extraordinary" ministers of Holy Communion. Keep in mind that "extraordinary" in this sense does not mean "exceptional in character, amount, extent, degree, etc.; noteworthy; remarkable". Rather, it means "beyond what is usual, ordinary, regular, or established".

They are allowed to participate as an indult. I am merely illustrating my opposition to parish priest who have transposed the definition of "extraordinary". The Church has allowed it, but EMHC's should simply not be used when it is not an "extraordinary" circumstance. How did your parish distribute Holy Communion before this indult?

I think that question is key to understanding my statement. Then again, perhaps it isn't sufficient. I seem to have a habit of confounding many people.

Anita Moore said...

I wish the use of communion rails would return. There would be less need of EMHCs if we went back to one species.

Joseph, you have put your finger on precisely why we will never get the communion rails back, at least as long as present conditions persist.

Adoro, Redemptionis Sacramentum makes clear that Rome permits extraordinary ministers only in cases of true necessity. A lot of people (and I'm not saying you're one of them) think the purpose of extraordinary ministers is to increase the participation of the laity in the liturgy. This position is all wet:

Only out of true necessity is there to be recourse to the assistance of extraordinary ministers in the celebration of the Liturgy. Such recourse is not intended for the sake of a fuller participation of the laity but rather, by its very nature, is supplementary and provisional.

Redemptionis Sacramentum at Paragraph 151.

Anonymous said...

Just added your blog to my links..i was convinced i'd already done so! Apologies..God bless

Tom S. said...

EMHC's are probably the prime example of what is wrong with the church and the mass today. Not the ONLY thing, of course, but certainly the most egregious.

The regardless of what Redemptionis Sacramentum says, the real reason for the proliferation of EMHC's is that they give all of the busybody look-at-me people in the parish something to do. The fact is that, except for a few extremely large churches, they do not save any time at all. And, in most churches, they waste time. At the mass I often attend, there are less than 60 people in attendance, but three EMHC's! That means that the explanation of "necessity" is just BS. And CC, we are stuck with them, unless and until Rome pulls the indult. There's just no other way. They have metastacized now. But, considering Rome pulled the indult whcih let them purify the vessels after communion, maybe, just maybe there is hope.

Joseph said...

Tom S.,

I would be careful not to place the blame entirely on those who wish to be seen publicly in all of their piety. The fact is, many parish priests and deacons of the free liturgy era have encouraged the use of an extraordinary amount of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Many of those people flanking (and ever sometimes walking around) the altar were asked to do so by their priest. It is really hard for one to turn a priest or deacon down when he asks them to do something.

Many of the EMHCs aren't aware that this lay position is only an indult to be used in "extraordinary" circumstances. I'm sure that if some of them knew, they may consider abandoning their position.

But who knows, I just don't think that it is all a search for the piety spotlight.

Steve said...


In the parishes that I've been to that used their altar rails, one of the priests walked to those in the pews that were unable to walk to the rail. I've also seen those with physical difficulties stand behind the rail rather than kneel.

Steve said...

I have noticed that in some parishes, the priest tries to limit the use by having all the priests come out to distribute Communion. If all 4 priests are out in my parish, there is only one or 2 EMs. Plus we are fortunate to have a seminarian working at the parish right now, so he also takes the place of an EM.

Tom S. said...

Joseph, I agree. I don't think the look-at-me aspect is the only motivation. I have been at a mass where only three (instead of the usual 7) EMHC's went up to serve, and the Priest held up the mass until he could scare up another 4 "volunteers" from the congregation.

Thom said...

If I could throw in my 2 cents....

I'm not going to chastise Ms. Cannonball. I wouldn't say something quite like this, but I've thought and said other things that are equally uncharitable. Motes, specks and beams. :-)

Regarding E-Ministers: To be frank, anyone who serves in the sanctuary should be robed. Altar servers usually are. But the lay readers, cantors and e-ministers should be as well.

I'm not going to speak to the necessity or rightness and wrongness of them. It's a moot point, as I doubt that they're going anywhere. So, much like the "reforms," one must work with what one has been given.

If robes were added (as they properly should be), it just might foster more respect out of some of the lay servers (in every capacity) at Holy Mass.

Suzanne from Okla. said...

You were not being uncharitable Ms. Cannonball. I see no problem in pointing out errors and inconsistencies that we see at Mass. We actually need to be MORE vocal if things are to change for the better! God Bless!

Ma Beck said...

Okay, I hate EMHC too, and we DO NOT have them at my parish, thank the Lord.

But where they are...
Shouldn't we WANT them to receive on the tongue?
How are they SUPPOSED to distribute Communion to people who choose to receive in the hand??
At my parish, everyone receives on the tongue, but if someone comes up and sticks out their hands, my priests are obliged to and will happily comply with the Church indult for hand reception.
This doesn't make MY PRIEST any less pious, or what have you.
It reflects on the person receiving, and I'll not judge their piety. They've probably lived a much less scummy life than I have, I guarantee you that, no matter how they receive. (And I TRY not to watch people at Communion - I try to keep my eyes down. Less chance of me seeing something which irritates me that way. I'm easily irritated.)
I guess I'm confused.
She receives on the tongue? Good.
She distributes to others in the manner they choose to receive? Well, yeah.
Regarding her actions at Mass, well, yeah, that's bad.
The priest should have a talk with her after Mass, privately.
Again, I don't like EMHC, but this wasn't about EMHC as far as I could tell. It was about one woman's piety or lack thereof.

Carolina Cannonball said...


My point is, is she feels SO strongly about receiving on the tongue and what it meant, she wouldn't be a EMHC to begin with. The two actions contradict themselves.