In my travels I’ve attended Masses where there is no protocol in place for Communion—it’s a free-for-all.
All the members of the congregation simultaneously stand and exit from either end of the pews, find the nearest extraordinary minister of Holy Communion (EMHC), then go against the flow of traffic to find their way back to their seats. Often times those who sit in the middle of the pew arrive after those at the end who are already kneeling in prayer. They are forced to either climb over them or initiate an awkward square dance in a crowded aisle until all are seated.
Communion at my parish, on the other hand, is executed with pinpoint precision. The celebrant, deacon and six EMHCs take their preassigned places. An usher directs each row to rise and exit the pew on the same end. They stand in a single-file line and, after receiving Communion, enter the pew on the opposite end and take their seats. Henry Ford would be proud. It truly is a model of efficiency…except for one detail. My wife likes to receive Communion only from an ordained minister—the closest being the deacon, who is stationed at the opposite side of the church.
Solution 1: Move. Sit where the deacon or celebrant will be distributing Communion. Aha! But we’ve just left the cry room and need to be near the escape hatch.
Solution 2: EF Mass. Go to Mass celebrated in the extraordinary form where there are no EMHC. While I have a great love and respect for the traditional Latin Mass, we cannot attend. Look for a future post on this topic.
So each and every Sunday, we cross the line.
We are not alone. There are other habitual line-crossers among us. How do I know? The deacon distributes the Eucharist shoulder-to-shoulder with an EMHC whose line is typically half as long as the deacon’s. If there were no line-crossers, the length would be equal. They are not.
And it’s not just a difference of 3 or 4 people. When the EMHC has finished distributing Communion to all in her line, the deacon still has 20 or so in his. The usher standing behind the deacon motions the faithful to move over to balance the lines. No one moves, including my family. I pretend not to notice: oh look, something very interesting on the floor! It makes me feel bad, I know the usher!
The EMHC also beckons people to hop over to her line. No takers.
By crossing the line, we disrupt the Swiss-like accuracy of the Communion procedure, usurp the authority of the usher and make the EMHC feel like a second grader with cooties.
Our Mass is packed so the help of the EMHCs is warranted and licit:
“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.”—REDEMPTIONIS SACRAMENTUM 158
I have no problem with EMHC, heck I’m best buddies with one! But in order that my family go to Communion at the same time, I must disrupt protocol and deny them like Peter did our Lord.