© Copyright 2002 Grace D. MacKinnon
Grace MacKinnon is a syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine. Readers are welcome to submit questions about the Catholic faith to: Grace MacKinnon, 1234 Russell Drive #103, Brownsville, Texas 78520. Questions also may be sent by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may visit Grace online at www.DearGrace.com.
This question refers to the whole notion of self-communication, i.e., when a person gives Communion to himself. This is never permissible. Only the celebrant of the Mass takes the host and the chalice by himself. He “gives” it to the concelebrants and deacons as well as to the faithful assembled. What is important to keep in mind here is that, as we have said previously, there is no “taking” of Communion, rather only a “reception” of Communion. The grace that Christ offers us in these mysteries is initiated by Him, not by us. Therefore, we may never attempt to give the Eucharist to ourselves.
Extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist perform a great service in assisting at Mass when needed, but we must never confuse their role with that of the priest or deacon. They are properly called “extraordinary” ministers because they are not the norm. The “ordinary” minister of Holy Communion at Mass and outside of Mass is the ordained bishop, priest, or deacon. After them, an instituted acolyte is the most appropriate. Only the principal celebrant of the Mass, whether a bishop or a priest, may “self-communicate.”
So, the answer is no. Extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist may never give Communion from the chalice to themselves. They must always “receive” Christ from an authorized minister of the cup, not necessarily the principal celebrant.
More importantly, let us focus on the fact that in the Church all the Christian faithful possess a true equality with regard to dignity, and we all have different roles that have been willed by Christ in order for the members of His Body to serve the Church’s unity and mission (CCC # 872). We are all one body, and each one of us is very important in God’s eyes.
Dear Grace: During Communion at Mass, is it proper to dip the host into the chalice and then to consume it?
Because Jesus Christ Himself is present under the two forms of bread and wine at the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Church shows them great reverence and sets down specific guidelines as to how Communion is to be received by the faithful. As stated above, the “ordinary” ministers of the Eucharist are bishops, priests, and deacons. Even they must “receive” Communion from someone else, unless there is no one else to offer it to them. Again, this is because in our tradition, Communion is always “received” and never “taken.” Thus, those delegated to be “extraordinary” ministers of Communion must themselves first receive Communion before distributing it to others.
The practice of dipping the host into the chalice is called intinction. It is not a recommended method. But, if this method is used, obviously the recipient must receive it on the tongue due to the danger of drops falling. When Communion is distributed under both kinds by intinction, the host is not placed in the hands of the communicant, nor may the communicant “take” the host and dip it into the chalice. If the person is handed the host, and for some reason is not able to drink from the cup, then he or she must give it to a priest, deacon, or other minister to be dipped into the Precious Blood on his or her behalf. This way, the individual would not be self-administering (2000 General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n. 287).
One thing to keep in mind is that it is not required to receive Communion under both forms. Even though this is accepted and practiced today, as in the early Church, our doctrine from the Council of Trent regarding this has not changed. The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus Christ is completely and entirely present under both forms and therefore the effects are complete whether one receives under either form of bread or wine alone or together.
So, if there is some reason why we cannot drink from the cup, then we certainly have the option of taking Communion under the form of bread alone. This way, we will be showing great reverence for our Lord by avoiding a practice that would resemble “self-communicating.”