Taking Communion to the Sick and Shut-in
In the Gospel of Matthew we hear, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” [Mt 25:34-36]These are called the corporal works of mercy and are identified in the Catechism of the Catholic Church this way: “The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.”[CCC2447] Today I’d like us to reflect on just one of those mercies, visiting the sick, but not just visiting but the Pastoral Care of the sick; bringing the Holy Eucharist to the sick and homebound. Another simple subject right? Not so fast. Like all things that deal with the blessed sacrament, there are norms that are to be followed. Canon 910 tells us, §1“The ordinary minister of holy communion is a bishop, presbyter, or deacon.” §2 “The extraordinary minister of holy communion is an acolyte or another member of the Christian faithful designated according to the norm of Canon 230, §3.” So what does that say? “When the need of the Church warrants it and ministers are lacking, lay persons, even if they are not lectors or acolytes, can also supply certain of their duties, namely, to exercise the ministry of the word, to preside over liturgical prayers, to confer baptism, and to distribute Holy Communion, according to the prescripts of the law.” This paragraph refers to the most extraordinary of circumstances in allowing the laity, whether women or men, to exercise or supply the functions of absent or impeded ministers. In order to exercise or supply this needed function, the special minister should undergo a suitable program of formation or instruction for the candidates who are to be ‘commissioned’ as special ministers. This may sound very formal but the fact remains, taking communion to the sick or homebound is more than just showing up with a pix and saying, “The Body of Christ”. The Archdiocese of Baltimore Policy on Pastoral Care of the Sick in the Absence of a Priest, reiterates, “Extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion who visit the sick should receive additional formation, and mentoring, in addition to that necessary to serve in the parish community.” If this is your calling, contact the parish office. If you have a sick or homebound loved one that would like to receive Holy Communion, contact the parish office. Please know that Fr John and your Deacons are here to help you and guide you through the ritual and we are always available to answer any questions you might have.