Q: We have a new priest at our church. I am curious and somewhat concerned about his change in what has been our practice here. We have gone from being allowed to receive Holy Communion under both species at all of our masses to that custom being limited to weekend masses. Father is still allowing reception under both species for now but says that he will only do so until Christmas. Even now he does not consecrate enough wine for everyone who wishes to receive to do so. When we return to Ordinary Time after the Christmas season, he plans to take that privilege away from us for he says that those who help out are Extraordinary ministers and we should only be allowed to receive under both species during “Extraordinary” time, not Ordinary Time. I cannot find this information anywhere. The only information I do find about receiving both the Body and Blood of Christ is that it is up to the discretion of the bishop of the diocese. If it is up to the discretion of the priest in charge, he should tell us that.
I also have a concern about his praying with his back to us. He greets us with the sign of the cross but many of the prayers are led with his back turned to us facing the Missal. He is facing our crucifix on the wall and the tabernacle.
What I find disturbing is his explanation that he is praying to God and not to us. My concept has always been that the celebrant is leading as well as joining the assembly in prayer.
He says that we need to be familiar with the Constitution on the Liturgy from the Vatican II documents. He gave our Parish Council members a copy of Redemptionis Sacramentum to read but I think this is from John Paul II or Bendict XVI. Maybe I am just accustomed to a more liberal interpretation. I just hate to see our liturgy becoming more hierarchical. Are there reasonable explanations for my concern?
A: Thanks for writing, and I’m sorry to hear about the stress accompanying the new priest.
In the United States communion may be offered under both kinds at any mass, but it is not obligatory. Some priests and bishops limit the usage. However, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal says that it is “most desirable that the faithful… partake of the chalice” (85). Again, “desirable” but not “required”.
There is no connection between “extraordinary ministers” of communion and “ordinary time.” The words have very different meanings.
A priest may have his back turned to the people at certain parts of the mass, as indicated in the Order of Mass. However, the General Instruction on the Roman Missal says that the altar “should be built separate from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible” (299).
Redemptionis sacramentum is still in force, along with the GIRM, Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America, and the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.