Deacon’s role in distributing Holy Communion

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q:  I am a permanent deacon.  I really enjoyed your talk last February.

My question is about the deacon’s role in distributing Holy Communion. In the Office of Readings for August 10, St. Augustine says of St. Lawrence, “Lawrence was a deacon of the Church of Rome; there he ministered the sacred blood of Christ.”  Ever since I was ordained, I was always told that if Communion was distributed under both species, the deacon ministered the chalice, just as he elevates the chalice at the minor doxology.

The GIRM said:

  1. After the priest’s communion, the deacon receives under both kinds and then assists the priest in giving communion to the people. But if communion is given under both kinds, the deacon ministers the chalice to the communicants and is the last to drink from it.

This seems fairly straightforward.  But after the ordination of the last class of new deacons in our diocese, we were told that this means that if there are only two ministers of Communion (the celebrating priest and the deacon) and Communion is under both species, then the deacon ministers the cup.  But if there is only one priest and one deacon but multiple lay Extraordinary Ministers, then the deacon distributes the hosts like the priest. The lay ministers present the cups.

What is your opinion of the deacon’s role under these circumstances?

I appreciate your opinion.


A:  Thanks for your comments about my talk. And thanks for your ministry.

The meaning of GIRM 137 is not altered with the presence of extraordinary ministers. The deacon’s liturgical role is unquestionably linked to the cup, regardless of the other ministers present.

I included a reflection on this association between deacon and cup in a book I coauthored, Guide for Deacons.