An extraordinary, special ministry

By Pat Wettstein | For The Compass | July 12, 2016

The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.

We are all familiar with the Gospel reading today that relates the good works of the Samaritan toward the injured man alongside the road even though many “good” people have passed him by. He mends the injured man’s wounds, finds him a place to recuperate and even pays for that lodging and care.

While the Scriptures have always guided the church’s care for the poor, widowed, orphaned and infirmed, its significance is not slight in Jesus’ time. One has only to remember that caring for the downtrodden was not part of the mindset of the Roman civilization that occupied the Middle East at that time. So how does the church in the modern world reflect that early Christian mindset?

The Sunday celebration of the Eucharist invites us to a transformative relationship as we receive of the body and blood of Christ. The one ministry that has evolved from this relationship is that of the extraordinary minister of holy Communion. While it is in the purview of the deacon to visit the homebound and infirmed, this ministry extends to those who are commissioned as extraordinary ministers to the sick and homebound.

Have you taken notice at Mass when the priest fills the pyxes at the altar as he also fills the ciborium? The pyxes can vary in size depending upon the amount of Eucharist that is needed for distribution. They are usually round and some as small as a purse-sized pill box. Some parishes have a special blessing and dismissal for the ministers after Communion; the assembly is sending them forth to do their ministry on the behalf of the whole parish community.

By taking Communion to the homebound and sick, this extension of the community of the faithful unites us all in one body. It is both a comfort and a healing to those who cannot worship with the body as a whole at Sunday Eucharist. The people selected for this ministry have a deep love for the church and embody that in their daily lives. There is a special commissioning that occurs when they are accepted as suitable for this ministry which can take place at a Sunday Mass or in a private ceremony.

There are also guidelines that the ministers follow for proper distribution of the Eucharist. But overall, the people in this ministry should be sensitive to the sick and homebound person’s needs including the spiritual, emotional and material. They should always take care to maintain the confidentiality and dignity of the individual. So, when you are at Mass, take special care to pray for those in the ministry and those to whom they serve.

Source: Office of Worship and Christian Initiation, Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

Wettstein is a volunteer choir director and former director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.

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