Ministers of Communion – A Ministry of Immense Love
A new and yet very old ministry has been restored to the Catholic community by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council.
Up until the fourth century it was understood that all members of a Christian community were to receive the Lord in Holy Communion- that included those members of the community who were not able to attend the Sunday assembly of worship. As a consequence, lay persons would bring the consecrated Host to other members of the small communities who were not able to participate at the Sunday celebrations. This made it possible for the sick, prisoners and isolated monks to communicate almost on a daily basis. Remember, that in the early church, daily Mass was a rarity unlike today.
Pope Paul VI was responsible for encouraging the restoration of this ancient ministry referring to it as ‘an important office of immense love.’ With the restoration of this ministry, lay persons were again permitted to participate in the life of the community in a unique way.
Once again, people unable to participate at Sunday Mass because of illness were able to receive Holy Communion from those members of the community chosen for this special ministry.
Qualifications for this ministry are that the person chosen must be fully initiated in the Church (Baptism/Confirmation/Eucharist), if the person is married he/she must be living in a valid sacramental marriage and of course have a special devotion to the Lord in His Eucharistic Presence. Because of the situations they find themselves in, Ministers of Communion have to be good listeners and be of gentle and compassionate natures.
The ministry itself includes assisting at Mass on Sunday and visiting private homes of the sick and also visits to hospitals and nursing homes. By canon law, Ministers of Communion may serve only in their parish and may not exercise their ministry outside of their home parish except by permission of the local pastor.
This ministry is one that is most fulfilling not only to the recipient of Holy Communion but also to the minister who brings Holy Communion to his sick brothers and sisters. Most Ministers of Communion will tell you that their ministry has been the richest and most rewarding experience of their life. When we consider what it is that they do- bring Our Lord to those unable physically to come to the Lord- it is easy to understand why this is a universal expression of this unique ministry.
It is indeed as Pope Paul VI says – An Important Ministry of Immense Love!