Q: I am intrigued. You did not mention at all what we have been doing here in our Diocese — or at least recommending — and I’m wondering if we are way wrong.
Before Mass the minister taking Communion to the sick meets with the priest or deacon to let them know they will be taking communion to the sick. They give their pyx to the deacon or priest, and either he or they put it on the altar, or because our tabernacle is in the sanctuary, place it on the tabernacle table. When distribution of Communion to the assembly is completed, the priest or deacon places the hosts needed in the pyx and going to the front of the sanctuary, motions forward the communion minister who then receives the pyx, is prayed over blessed and sent forth from the assembly. It seems to encourage the community to hold in prayer those who are not able to be with us in person. Most of our music ministers know to pause (or have concluded the Communion song) so that the assembly can hear the words of the blessing and sending, but some continue singing.
Personally in the workshops for the Ministers to the Sick that’s what we have been encouraging. It seems that the prayer of the ordained minister is spontaneous over the one being sent forth.
In fact, one of the things I am thinking ab out for that workshop is finding out if there is such a prayer in either the Pastoral care of the Sick or any other document hat could be encouraged for the ordained minister to use in the blessing and sending. Do you know whether that is so?
Thanks and God bless.
A: Let’s break this into two topics—one concerning the pyxes, and another concerning the sending of the ministers.
In my view, the credence table makes a better location for empty pyxes than the tabernacle table or altar. The credence table is more for the purpose of holding vessels than a tabernacle table would be. Without question, no vessel should be on the altar at the beginning of Mass. Handing the pyxes to communion ministers after communion is one of the ideas found in the USCCB’s Introduction to the Order of Mass, #21.
I don’t know of any church document that calls for the blessing and sending forth of communion ministers after they receive their filled pyxes, even though I am aware that many parishes do it. I suspect that one reason the liturgical books do not promote it is that it introduces two liturgical elements (blessing and dismissal) that don’t have a place within the silence that follows communion before the prayer after communion. Besides, the ministers are among those who will receive a blessing and dismissal when the priest and deacon give those at the end of the Mass. If you wish to draw the prayers of the assembly toward those who are unable to attend, such a petition finds a fitting home within the Universal Prayer.