Your typical Novus Ordo church (not the Brompton Oratory, of course; or any very conservative church), ten minutes to nine on a sunny Sunday morning.
Some people are trying to pray in the pews. They are on their knees, and it is obvious to the most obtuse moron they are praying because they are in a church, before Mass.
This doesn’t interest a group of people, generally rather old, making conversation out loud as if they were in their own living room and only the scones and cream were missing. They are there in groups of two to four, and chatter like it’s going out of fashion; they do not even make any attempt to – at the very least – keep their voice a bit down.
They obviously see the people kneeling on the pews, and clearly trying to pray; they just don’t care. Much more importantly, they see the tabernacle in front of them, and do not think they should behave any differently than on the fish market.
Were they at the presence I do not say of the Queen, but of one among her more or less unworthy progeny they would be utterly intimidated at the majesty of the event, and would not dare to utter anything else than, perhaps (perhaps!) the most feeble whisper.
But they are, erm, merely at the presence of Our Lord and disturbing a handful of people praying, so they don’t care and go on with their, no doubt, extremely stupid talking until the Mass begins.
This happens, I assure you, with ugly frequency here in Blighty. There’s no saying the priests aren’t aware, because you see every now and then the one or other appearing and checking that this and that is in order whilst the salon goes on unabated. They know, they just don’t care. They seem to think it’s part of some mysteriously discovered “social atmosphere” of the mass.
If you have the patience to wait, you will often notice some of the loudest old women are “involved” in the Mass in some way. They bring the “gifts” (I will write something on this one day) to the altar, or regale us with their own dramatic rendition of the readings 9I must have written something on that), or stand at the side of the priest with the chalice, possibly wondering why you don’t see their halo but certainly peeved at the way everyone wants to receive from the priest.
They clearly think the mass and the church space belong to them. They might not even be aware of their astonishing lack of reverence, because they have forgotten what “reverence” is in the first place (only, I think they’d remember if they were invited at Court; but I digress…), but they are certainly aware that they own the place, and will show to everyone they are part of the landscape, which is why not even those kneeling and obviously praying are considered worth of the slightest consideration.
First of all, let me get my letters right….. just wait a moment while I google…… vediamo un po’……. aaaah, ecco qua! ……. EMHC, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion! [but also: Emergency Mobile Health Care, Eynsford Model Helicopter Club and Helmhurst Memorial HealthCare (Illinois), says google….. why are you Anglo-Saxons so obsessed with abbreviations ?!].
Now that we have the right definition of the “eucharistic ministers” (vulgo: wannabe priests/esses), we can start talking seriously about their complete uselessness. The latter is amply clear from the following:
1) The Church has worked rather successfully for, let me see, about two thousand years without, erm, EMHCs. I myself became forty without even knowing of their existence, and without even suspecting it; and I could still call several hundreds masses as witnesses of my opinion. You stop attending for a couple of decades, and very strange things happen….
2) At least here in the United Kingdom I have never seen a (oh dear…) EMHC (vulgo: wannabe priest/ess) who really was of any use. They simply stand there and look at the people…….. queuing to receive from the priest. It is very amusing to observe the expression they take: feigning dignity and importance whilst, no doubt, feeling utterly stupid. As they well should.
3) I have heard that (let me look again….) EMHCs would be necessary to avoid long queues. This is complete nonsense. Firstly, modern church attendance is such that communion is made in a handful of minutes most of the times, and this particularly in those churches who choose to have such helpers. Secondly, even in case of copious attendance I can’t imagine communion distribution to go on for more than, say, fifteen minutes at the longest. Thirdly, the very few people who approach the wannabe priest (out of pity, I suppose) very often do so after they have received communion from the priest, that is: merely in order to receive under both species; the time saving is, therefore, simply not there. Fourthly, do you think that in the past two thousand years mass attendance was scarce, but it exploded after V II? Thought not…
4) The eucharistic minister confuses the faithful. If they are travelling, they might think that they have mistakenly entered an Anglican church (easier than you’d think: some of them carry the inscription “Catholic church” and are decorated in a more Catholic way than many Catholic churches…..). The more so, if following things happen: a) tabernacle not in sight; b) no altar railings; c) priest strangely dressed; d) naked altar. In my experience, the presence of wannabe priests/esses makes some or all of these elements rather probable.
5) The wannabe priest is, more often than not, a wannabe priestess. That’s all you need to know, really.
From the anecdotal evidence of my own attendance at such masses, I give to this strange flowering of V II (that is: originally a liturgical abuse originated by V II-thinking; not even the “conciliar fathers” had arrived as far as that….) another fifteen years, maximum twenty.
I might be wrong. Still, don’t bet your pint that I am: look at how much has happened in six short years of B XVI pontificate, and prepare to say hello to the (moment, please… ) EMHCs.
They won’t be missed.