If lay distributors of Holy Communion provide service in priest-deficient Novus Ordo parishes, they must clearly and reverently acknowledge they are touching the Body and Blood of the second person of the Trinity--God Almighty. Currently I have little hope that this will occur.
The basic problem is that laymen are not clerically trained and ordained for this function. It's almost as if a Superintendent, short of skilled architects and engineers, asked for volunteers to service a great institution, and several people of good will offered their services. What grade of performance would result?
Does anyone remember when Pope John Paul II warned Brazilian bishops on the "serious abuses" stemming from the erroneous trend to "clericalize the laity"? One of his listed abuses was distribution of Communion by the laity. But since the Vatican now permits the clericalization of the laity, why was it surprised by the results?
The Mass is Serious Business is a very fine article in the April 2009 issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review, the oldest magazine for Catholic priests in the U.S. Here are a few quotes from author Rev. Bryce A. Sibley of the Diocese of Lafayette, LA who discusses his sadness at seeing large numbers of Catholics who do not take Sunday Mass [and Holy Communion} seriously:
...a significant portion of the blame [is] on the priests and pastors and their irreverent and apathetic celebration of Mass. By his words and deeds, such a priest states that the Mass is trivial. Consequently, the faithful, seeing this poor example, adopt the same lackadaisical attitude....If the Mass is to be taken seriously, then Holy Communion distributed by lay men and women also needs to be taken seriously. Pope Benedict (in God is Near Us) is quoted by Fr. Sibley on the gravitas of the Eucharist:
This is the heart of the issue--the Mass is above and beyond all else a sacrifice, a renewal of the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ....It is serious business.
The Eucharist is far more than just a meal; it has cost a death to provide it, and the majesty of death is present in it. Whenever we hold it, we should be filled with reverence and awe in the face of this mystery, with awe in the face of this mysterious death that becomes a present reality in our midst....I was particularly interested in several other statements by Fr. Sibley in his article for HPR:
One can have no doubt that the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite [old Latin Mass] is very serious [my emphasis]. There exists little room for entertainment or innovation within its celebration. Its structured unfolding instills a sense of respect and awe in the priest and the congregation. Its sacral dimension is self-evident....Until the Church revises its rules on lay distribution of the Eucharist, pastors must not leave lay distributors unmindful of their great responsibilities and must provide detailed and demanding training. However because lay distribution often is so neglectfully performed, I look forward to the day when sufficient priests take Holy Communion to all the sick on a regular basis, as was the case when I was young. Let us pray for many more good vocations to the religious life.
The chief problem is the casualness of dress seen at many parish Masses. People often look like they are heading to the beach or the health club instead of Holy Mass. In many parishes, the presence of sacred silence before and after Mass has been lost. People talk and mingle freely as if they were meeting in any public place. And of course, there is often a great lack of respect shown in the reception of Holy Communion.... Priests will regularly need to take appropriate measures to cure the lay faithful of these bad habits. It must be done in charity, but something must be done and the faithful must be held to a certain standard.