Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The EMHC hijacking the job of Altar Servers

My post about that stunning photo at the Typhoon Yolanda hit areas generated quite a buzz since I ranted my heart out against the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion who seemingly would always take the spot from altar servers who are thankfully here in the Philippines are mostly young men. (But that is another topic for a future blog post no?)

Why am I having these issues with the EMHCs?

First of all, let us check some of the comments.

A friend said that maybe since the Eucharistic procession was in the hard hit areas, the altar servers either perished or were simply not available, or something to that effect, or that the canopy must be handled by the older and much taller EMHCs.

I beg to disagree.

EMHCs are becoming a staple in Eucharistic processions here in the Philippines.

By the meaning of their names, they are Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.  Three Church documents are the sources for the "creation" of this position.

Code of Canon Law
Can. 910 §1 The ordinary minister of holy communion is a Bishop, a priest or a deacon.
§2 The extraordinary minister of holy communion is an acolyte, or another of Christ's faithful deputed in accordance with can. 230 §3.
Can. 230 §1 Lay men whose age and talents meet the requirements prescribed by decree of the Episcopal Conference, can be given the stable ministry of lector and of acolyte, through the prescribed liturgical rite. This conferral of ministry does not, however, give them a right to sustenance or remuneration from the Church.
§2 Lay people can receive a temporary assignment to the role of lector in liturgical actions. Likewise, all lay people can exercise the roles of commentator, cantor or other such, in accordance with the law.
§3 Where the needs of the Church require and ministers are not available, lay people, even though they are not lectors or acolytes, can supply certain of their functions, that is, exercise the ministry of the word, preside over liturgical prayers, confer baptism and distribute Holy Communion, in accordance with the provisions of the law.  [Emphasis mine.]

General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM)
GIRM 162. The priest may be assisted in the distribution of Communion by other priests who happen to be present. If such priests are not present and there is a very large number of communicants, the priest may call upon extraordinary ministers to assist him, e.g., duly instituted acolytes or even other faithful who have been deputed for this purpose. In case of necessity, the priest may depute suitable faithful for this single occasion.
GIRM 162 (cont.) ... These ministers should not approach the altar before the priest has received Communion, and they are always to receive from the hands of the priest celebrant the vessel containing either species of the Most Holy Eucharist for distribution to the faithful.

Redemptionis sacramentum (RS)
RS 88 Only when there is a necessity may extraordinary ministers assist the Priest celebrant in accordance with the norm of law.
RS 156. 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 the meaning of this function is unnecessarily and improperly broadened.
RS 157. If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons.
RS 158. Indeed, the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion may administer Communion only when the Priest and Deacon are lacking, when the Priest is prevented by weakness or advanced age or some other genuine reason, or when the number of faithful coming to Communion is so great that the very celebration of Mass would be unduly prolonged.[259] This, however, is to be understood in such a way that a brief prolongation, considering the circumstances and culture of the place, is not at all a sufficient reason.
RS 159. It is never allowed for the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion to delegate anyone else to administer the Eucharist, as for example a parent or spouse or child of the sick person who is the communicant.
RS 160. Let the diocesan Bishop give renewed consideration to the practice in recent years regarding this matter, and if circumstances call for it, let him correct it or define it more precisely. Where such extraordinary ministers are appointed in a widespread manner out of true necessity, the diocesan Bishop should issue special norms by which he determines the manner in which this function is to be carried out in accordance with the law, bearing in mind the tradition of the Church.

Reading all through these documents we can summarize that:

  1. EMHCs are laymen instituted to distribute Holy Communion in times when there are not enough Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to distribute Holy Communion.  And we know who the Ordinary ministers are.
  2. Over appointment of EMHCs is an abuse.
  3. The nature of their job is in their name.

Now let me take you to these photographs I have collected of EMHCs not acting according to the virtue of their institution as EMHCs

Not sure where but it says it is from the Parokya ng Santisimo Rosaryo

2008 Corpus Christi procession at Sta. Cruz Church, Manila

Christ the King procession at Dagat-dagatan, Caloocan City

In Morong\, Bataan during Holy Thursday

What's common?

Yes, it's pretty obvious.

Unlike the comments I got from that blog post, here I have photo evidence to show that slowly around the country, EMHCs are taking over the role of altar servers.

I even once went to Don Bosco Makati and was surprised that EMHCs were the one serving at Mass.  No altar servers!

In the Eucharistic procession, the role of carrying the canopy usually falls to the altar servers.

Why is that?

The wisdom of the Church is here to answer that.

Service at the altar was given to young men because it has been proven time and again, that encouraging young boys to serve at the altar influences them to consider a vocation to the priesthood.  That is also the reason why there should be NO ALTAR GIRLS!

But I digress.

The bottomline is that its not their job. and they are not supposed to take it away from these young men who may be contemplating a vocation to the priesthood!

The boys need the inspiration!  Stop getting the jobs that are meant to inspire them!

EMHCs are mostly elderly men who are canonically impeded to be ordained priests let alone be admitted to the seminary.

Why can't they just do well in their jobs of distributing Holy Communion?  Isn't it not enough that you have that immense responsibility of holding with your UNCONSECRATED FINGERS the BODY AND BLOOD, SOUL AND DIVINITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, that you just had to take away the job of a young boy who might be considering a calling to become a priest??? Huh??!?!

Isn't it not enough?

Why can't EMHCs just BE EMHC's?  Why do they have to be all around our chapels, churches and cathedrals when in fact

Dear friends, this is a clear danger of over laicizing our liturgy, of over "active participation" of the laity.  True active participation is INTERNAL not EXTERNAL.  Active participation is achieved not by having the lay do what is supposed to be done by the clergy, and not having the lay dance all around the sanctuary during Mass.  True Active Participation as envisioned by the Church Fathers of Vatican II is PRAYING THE MASS, not doing the Mass!

Dear EMHCs....

You are not altar servers.

Do what you are supposed to do and leave the young boys to serve at the altar.

You are way past the required age.


  1. Have you seen some photos of Corpus Christi procession of SSPX, FSSP, and ICKR with (some old) laymen holding the canopy? Search in Google. What can you say about that?

    1. Yes, I am aware of those photos Sasha and those photos are during the Eucharistic procession for Christ the King which was traditionally led by older men, obviously before Vatican II there were no EMHCs. The point of the blog is this, in case you weren't able to deduce it.

      1. it is not about the rubrics.
      2. it is about doing what they are supposed to do
      3. does their meddling help in promoting priestly vocations?

  2. The photo that you are showing here is clear that the EMHC's are somehow "usurping" the roles of altar server. But the photo that you posted in FB has insufficient information. It is not prudent to pass judgment to those people using that single photo.

    1. This is what I wrote Ishmael

      "I always see this in so many instances, so let me start this rant.............NOW!"

      So, I think it would be PRUDENT for you to read the blog post first before you put words into my mouth. That photo triggered my rant. I did not say that the EMHCs in THAT photo took the job of the altar servers.

  3. Our parish priest announced that he won't be able to celebrate some of the Simbang gabi masses in our chapel. Instead, an EMHC will preside over a Word and Communion service. What's really disturbing me though is what the people are saying: "Magmimisa raw ang lay minister sa simbang gabi".