Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I would like to thank you for your gift of service to our parish of St. Bernadette, in particular, for helping distribute the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist to the faithful. It is a ministry in the Church which is to be regarded as one of the most important ministries due to the sacred nature of both the action performed, the communion of God and humanity, and the subjects involved, both our Lord and his holy people.
The beautiful mystery of our Lord becoming truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, in both the gifts of wheat and wine, is a profound act of humility; the Word of God through which all was created, redeemed, and sanctified becomes the food of everlasting life for his Bride, which is the Church. Our Lord humbles himself out of desire to be intimate with us that he becomes so vulnerable, like a newborn baby that he relies on the faith and love of human beings to treat him with the care that befits the holiness of God who is vulnerable.
It is because of this sacredness and vulnerability that we ought to strive in all ways to be ever more reverent and mindful as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Fr. Phil and I thought it would be good to touch on three practical points to help us in this joint effort. If you are already aware of these things, consider it a refresher and a help to grow in greater love for our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
1. After the consecration has happened, the priest breaks the host, now the Body of Christ and places a small piece of it into the chalice containing the Precious Blood, while saying a prayer. This practice can be traced back as early as the 2nd century, and continues to be an integral part of our rite. The host most often remains floating in the chalice until one of the faithful consumes it. This is not something we should be anxious about, as though the piece indicates that the Precious Blood has been tainted. The Body of our Lord will be consumed eventually by the faithful as they partake of his Blood, or by those who are charged with cleansing the vessels after Communion.
2. After Communion, ministers of the Precious Blood bring the chalices back to the credence table for purification by the ministers appointed. The white linen used to wipe the side of the chalice, the purificator, should be unfolded and placed over the top of the chalice, creating a sort of lid, rather than placing it inside of the chalice. The vessels that contained the Body and Blood of our Lord must be cleaned first with sufficient water to ensure that what has been consecrated has been fully consumed, and that nothing remains of our Lord’s Presence in the vessels. This practice ensures, as much as possible, that our Lord is consumed to the fullest, as he intends, for the benefit of our soul and body, rather than his Divine Presence being absorbed into the linen purificators.
3. In case of an accidental spill of the Precious Blood, the minister should not panic, but diligently recall the procedure for dealing with such a spill. The procedure is as follows: the minister should place the linen purificator down onto the spill, where it will absorb the Precious Blood. The purificator should remain on the spot so that the area will not be disturbed by traffic and ensures the right area can be cleaned properly after Mass. If someone knows where the clean purificators are kept in the sacristy, that person can go retrieve a clean one so that Communion can carry on as normal; servers or Mass Coordinators who are free are ideal for this. After Mass, the ministers and Mass Coordinators will ensure that the soiled purificator and ground is cleaned properly: “the area where the spill occurred should be washed with water, and this water should then be poured into the sacrarium in the sacristy” (GIRM #280).
I hope this helps all of us to ensure that our Blessed Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist is cared for and treated with the utmost reverence and love. I apologize for the length of this, but I wanted to be as clear and helpful as possible. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask myself, Fr. Phil, or Deacon Doug. Additionally, if you found this useful or helpful, let me know.
Thank you once again for the important ministry you provide. May the Lord continue to bless you richly.
Brian Trueman, seminarian intern.
“What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be out healing for eternity” (GIRM #137).