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Offertory Prayers and Sending Out Ministers to the Sick - 3rd May 2015
A couple of recent examples of the numerous questions I receive about liturgical matters – and the replies I gave – might be of interest to readers of “Liturgy Lines”.
Q. The Second Vatican Council urged congregations to full and active involvement in the Liturgy of the Mass. That included a response to each of the Offertory prayers. However, the rubrics seem to allow Celebrants to choose to say these prayers silently, thereby depriving the congregation of their responses.
A. The Order of Mass says this about the prayers of preparation over the bread (and wine):
The priest, standing at the altar, takes the paten with the bread and holds it slightly raised above the altar with both hands, saying in a low voice: “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation……”
Then he places the paten with the bread on the corporal.
If however the Offertory Chant is not sung, the priest may speak these words aloud; at the end, the people may acclaim: “Blessed be God for ever”.
So it is only when there is no song during the procession and presentation of the gifts that the prayer is said audibly and the people respond.
Either way, the people are participating through singing or through listening and responding to the prayers.
Q. Celebrants seem to use a variety of words and actions as they send out extra-ordinary ministers at the end of Mass to bring Communion to the house-bound. Is there any recommended form of words and actions for such occasions? Is it liturgically/theologically acceptable for a Celebrant to bless these ministers who are now actually carrying the Host?
A. Those who bring Communion to the sick represent Christ and manifest faith and charity on behalf of the whole community. It is therefore appropriate for ministers to be formally sent out from Mass to take Communion to the sick. While no ritual for this is set down in the liturgical books, many resources for Communion Ministers include a Rite of ‘Sending Out’ Communion Ministers to the sick.
This is a typical example:
At the conclusion of the Prayer after Communion, the celebrant calls the Communion Ministers to the altar and addresses them in these or similar words:
Dear friends in Christ,
you are now to carry the body of our Lord
from this eucharistic assembly
to our brothers and sisters who are unable to be here with us.
Give them our greetings and our love,
read today’s scripture with them,
pray with them and minister to them
this most precious sacrament.
It is not a blessing, because the ministers usually remain for the final blessing of the Mass. But there is no theological or liturgical problem if the priest does bless the ministers who are carrying the Blessed Sacrament.
A blessing is an invocation upon a person, thing or event asking that it will become a sign of God’s goodness. When we bless another person we invoke divine help upon them; we pray that they may be placed under God’s loving care. That seems perfectly appropriate in the case of someone who is carrying the Body of Christ to the sick.