My Journey with the Holy Eucharist

07-09-2017What's Your Story?Parishioner Jim McGrath

The opening phrase on the document signaled the importance of the commission that was being conferred: "According to the faculty granted to us by the Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments on March 31, 1971…" The document remains an important reminder of this humble servant's first commission as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. The pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Cold Spring, Kentucky, Father Charles Hoffer, had nominated a dozen men to become what is now known as an EM – Extraordinary Minister. I was one of the first men in the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky to receive this faculty to administer Holy Communion to our congregation. It was also about the same time that I received my first commission to be a "Special Minister of God's Word," commonly known today as a Lector.

Since that first commissioning in the diocese of Covington over forty years ago, God has called this humble servant to attend to His people in the Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky; the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio; the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio; and, since 1988, the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona.

While the locations have changed, the solemnity of the ministry remains the same. It is the physical Body and Blood of Christ that EMs offer to communicants. When one considers the distribution of Holy Communion in this context, it enhances the spiritual, emotional and mental attitudes that Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist must embrace in preparing for, and administering of, this Blessed Sacrament.

One of the things that has changed is the commi ssi oni ng of women as EMs. That was rare forty-plus years ago, but it is appropriate that women serve as Extraordinary Ministers, too. The Bible is full of examples where women served Christ. St. Luke, for instance, relates the story of Martha and Mary, wherein Jesus tells Martha, "Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her."

The ministry as an Extraordinary Minister of the Holy Eucharist was not without its opportunities for challenges. One such occasion occurred at Sunday Mass when, upon turning the key to the tabernacle, the security alarm was activated. The device was usually turned off before the beginning of Mass, but for some reason, that particular morning, it was not. As the wailing sound of the alarm filled the church, I stood with my hand on the key, frozen during the nanoseconds it took my mind to understand what was happening and what to do about it. Fortunately, a seminarian who was serving Mass was quick to leave the sanctuary, rushed to the sacristy and turned off the alarm.

The range of where and when one is called upon to distribute Holy Communion sometimes varies. On one such occasion, a hot and humid Saturday afternoon, this servant assisted in the distribution of the Holy Eucharist at our parish's picnic. The challenge of that day was to protect the consecrated hosts from the profuse perspiration of the minister's hands under the preponderant summer sun. Among the lasting memories of this EM ministry is the one where I joined others in bringing daily communion to a Brother Knight during his waning weeks on earth. This particular incident ranks as one of the most memorable of my ministry; the number one remembrance is the glowing look on the face of my mother as she received Holy Communion from her son for the first time. What a beautiful day for both of us!

Now, after more than four decades as an Extraordinary Minister of the Holy Eucharist, I must humbly relinquish this treasured ministry. I am increasingly becoming incapacitated by a combination of inoperable spinal stenosis, and a litany of old age maladies that make standing intolerable, even for short periods of time. Nevertheless, I cherish my extraordinary journey with the Holy Eucharist as a humbling and modest opportunity to serve God and His people as no other ministry can.

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