I am seeking information on the now widespread custom in U.S. Catholic parishes whereby people (adults and children) unable to receive the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood request and receive, instead, a blessing from the minister of holy communion. Here are my questions:
- Does anyone live in a diocese that has issued guidelines in this matter? I am well aware of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s “Guidelines for Reception of Holy Communion” (1996), which “encourage” those not receiving Holy Communion “to express in their hearts prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus and with one another.” There’s nothing about people coming forward for a blessing. Have officials in your diocese issued any directives regarding the custom?
- Would anybody be able to report on whether training for extraordinary ministers of holy communion in one’s parish (or even diocesan level) includes instruction on how to respond to people who present themselves for a blessing (widespread custom has become the person’s placing hands, arms crossed, on one’s chest)?
- Are there any parishes that include any instructions concerning the custom in their weekly bulletin or any other worship aid? (I’m well aware that the various missal and missalette publishers in the USA include the USCCB’s 1996 Guidelines for Reception of Holy Communion in their front- or back-matter.)
- Do you have any other information or wish to comment on this practice that, to my experience, reaches back at least to the early 1990s?
- Has anyone noted or wish to comment on the nomenclature in this matter? Myself, I am not satisfied with the term “non-Catholic” to describe fellow Christians? I’m well aware of the distinction the Vatican has made between the churches and Christian communions or other ecclesial bodies. But would anybody have examples of how their parish (or similar pastoral scene) refers to such fellow Christians. It seems to me that wordiness often becomes a challenge in practice, such that “non-Catholic Christians” becomes the default appellation. No polemics are intended on my part, just curiosity for information.
I’d be grateful for the input. I am currently working on an article I’ve been invited to write for a liturgical journal with a mostly Protestant readership. The editor has asked me to address the state-of-the-question on non-Catholic Christians’ participation in Catholic Mass (terminology used in her request to me). In addition to my rehearsing the official material (Code of Canon Law, the above-mentioned USCCB guidelines, etc., plus I’ve read Jeffrey VanderWilt’s Communion with Non-Catholic Christians, along with some of the sources he cites), I want to be able to give some fair description of the practice(s) people are encountering. My thanks to helpful respondents, in advance.