The Right Words

Growing up in an old French town, one would often hear people make a statement like “Throw me down the stairs my coat”.  Anyone from that town knew clearly what the person was saying. However, if someone were an outsider, they might think the person wants their coat to throw them down the stairs. Correct language is so important for good communication. Poor language can also cause misunderstanding and even harmful consequences.

In the recent document Redemptionis Sacramentum, the Congregation for Divine Worship and The Discipline of the Sacraments pointed out two errors in explaining Liturgy and liturgical roles. The first is the use of the word “Eucharistic minister” for lay people who distribute Holy Communion. The Sacred congregation points out that there is only one “Eucharistic Minister”, and that is a properly ordained Priest. This is so, because a minister of the Eucharist is one who actually confects or consecrates the Eucharist in the celebration of the Mass. “This function is to be understood strictly according to the name by which it is known, that is to say, that of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and not “special minister of Holy Communion” nor “extraordinary minister of the Eucharist” nor “special minister of the Eucharist”, by which names of this function in unnecessarily and improperly broadened.” (RS 156)

The correct terminology for a non-ordained person who assists in the distribution of Holy Communion is “extraordinary minister of Holy Communion”. A Deacon by his ordination is an “ordinary minister of Holy Communion”, however, he is not a “minister of the Eucharist”.  Again, only a man who has been ordained to the priesthood is a “Minister of the Eucharist”, since he has the power to effect the consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Another grave error condemned by the Congregation for Divine Worship is the phrase, “celebrating community”, or “we gather as a community to celebrate this Eucharist”. “It must be acknowledged that the Church has not come together by human volition; rather, she has been called together by God in the Holy Spirit, and she responds through faith to his free calling (thus the word ekklesia is related to klesis, or “calling”). Nor is the Eucharistic Sacrifice to be considered a “concelebration”, in the univocal sense, of the Priest along with the people who are present. On the contrary, the Eucharist celebrated by the Priests “is a gift which radically transcends the power of the community. . . . The community that gathers for the celebration of the Eucharist absolutely requires an ordained Priest, who presides over it so that it may truly be a eucharistic convocation. On the other hand, the community is by itself incapable of providing an ordained minister”. There is pressing need of a concerted will to avoid all ambiguity in this matter and to remedy the difficulties of recent years. Accordingly, terms such as “celebrating community” or “celebrating assembly” (in other languages “asamblea celebrante”, “assemblée célébrante”, assemblea celebrante”) and similar terms should not be used injudiciously.” (RS 42) As we continue to strive to grow in our faith, we must also strive for greater conformity to the Liturgical directives of the Holy Church, let us pray that these directives and changes will lead us to a deeper understanding of our personal call to holiness.

God love you,
Fr. Finelli

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3 Responses to The Right Words

  1. Jodi Gendron says:

    Excellent message about eucharist minister/ extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.Thank you so much for the insite and clarity on the terminology.It is good to hear the truth and to be able to speak it with knowledge and reverence.
    Beautiful are all the things that are shared, in order for us to learn, to know and to trust in our Faith in ….Christ’s Church and the Mass…. Again thank you for all your hard work and in sharing with others across the country and even around the world. It does not go with out fruits:) We appreciate it deeply and lovingly .
    We will continue to pray for you our Priests and the Holy Father daily at Mass.
    Praise be Jesus and Mary. Thank you for your fiat to God, to be His Shepherd.
    with Love, The Gendron family, Saint Michael ,Minnesota

  2. Fernanda Medeiros says:

    Thank you so much for teaching people like me that did not know the right terms to use. In our Chuch even when a meeting is called we always are refered as Eucharistic ministers. I never felt confortable been adressed this way. To me didn’t sounded rigth, it was like I was giving myself more importance than I really had. I always adressed myself as a helper, even when I would take Comunion to the sick or elderly. I would say my name and add; I am one of our parishes helpers and I bring you Holy Comunion. I would like to give this information to our coordinator, but how can I do that, when for so many years our priest and deacons never corrected her. I am a nobody and I do not feel rigth correcting those above me and I do not want to heart this dear lady her feelings. Thank you so much, i am always eager to receve your mail and i love to read everything.
    Thank you again May the Baby Jesus and His Blessed Mother bless you and thework you do to help us.
    Fernanda

  3. Fernanda Medeiros says:

    Thank you so much for teaching people like me that did not know the right terms to use. In our Chuch even when a meeting is called we always are refered as Eucharistic ministers. I never felt confortable been adressed this way. To me didn’t sounded rigth, it was like I was giving myself more importance than I really had. I always adressed myself as a helper, even when I would take Comunion to the sick or elderly. I would say my name and add; I am one of our parishes helpers and I bring you Holy Comunion. I would like to give this information to our coordinator, but how can I do that, when for so many years our priest and deacons never corrected her. I am a nobody and I do not feel rigth correcting those above me and I do not want to heart this dear lady her feelings. Thank you so much, i am always eager to receve your mail and i love to read everything.
    Thank you again May the Baby Jesus and His Blessed Mother bless you and thework you do to help us.
    Fernanda