Thursday, May 3, 2007


Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English extraordinarie, from Latin extraordinarius, from extra ordinem out of course, from extra + ordinem, accusative of ordin-, ordo order
1 a : going beyond what is usual, regular, or customary b : exceptional to a very marked extent

Pretty straight forward, don't you think? Now how about this...

Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English ordinarie, from Latin ordinarius, from ordin-, ordo order
1 : of a kind to be expected in the normal order of events : ROUTINE, USUAL ordinary day>

Ref: Merriam-Webster for the above

Easy one there, too, huh???

These two terms having been established, I would love for someone to explain to me why, at every Sunday Mass at EVERY parish in my area, there are at least three, and often as many as seven EXTRAORDINARY ministers giving communion! If it is ROUTINE, then it, by definition cannot be EXTRAORDINARY!!

There is apparently no practical reason for this procedure. Though I am sure that the standard argument is that communion will take too long if there are not a priest and seven EMHC's to give communion, but that is patently wrong, at least as far as I have seen. For instance, Sunday last, at the Mass I attended there were about 300 communicants. It takes a bit under 3 seconds to deal with each one (I timed it, I'm anal that way). That means, with one priest, communion would have taken about 15 minutes. In fact it took about 8 minutes, start to finish. A savings of 7 minutes, or almost 50%. Looks pretty efficient, no??

Ahhhhh, but not so fast!!!! You see, the presence of these 7 "ministers" means that the priest now has 5 chalices, and 4 ciboria (instead of one of each, respectively) to handle, fill, distribute, collect, and purify. That process takes time. If you then add in the time it takes for these ministers to get up on the altar, communicate each other, form up, and peel off to their positions, it all adds up to about 5 minutes. Hence leaving a net "savings" of 2 minutes... TWO MINUTES!

Then there is the functional problem of having 8 lines of people at the front of the church, jostling for space, bumping into one another (albeit politely). It's a zoo. My 80 year old father can't even GO to communion, except at the 7:00 AM service, when there is a smaller crowd.

Then there is the more important part, to me. That is the "us and them" aspect of the whole thing. The priest does the consecration and his own communion, etc. Then what happens?? We, the poor souls in the pews, have to wait patiently while a half dozen "anointed ones" go up on the altar, where they don't belong to begin with, and go through an elaborate aren't-we-so-special ritual of their own oh-so-special communion, and then, only after they are done, do they "come down" to the level of the groundlings and pass out communion.

All in all, the whole thing is about the most decidedly irreverent and unnecessary procedure in the Mass today. To me, it is tantamount to having the congregation wash the feet of the priest and parish council every Easter - it is backwards and offensive.


Carolina Cannonball said...

you now I have REPEATEDLY brought this very question to our parish & have been very SOUNDLY ignored... as you can see my question has not made it on our 'ask father' question forum though I have repeatedly submitted it.

Tom S. said...

Interesting how such things ae conveniently ignored, rather that diputed, or refuted, or whatever.

Makes you wonder why, if it is such a wonderfu practice, why it's not worth defending.