Monday, May 7, 2018


"I have been called by God to serve as a Eucharistic Minister!" She was speaking to a priest (no, not me) and was expressing her disagreement with the fact that he had chosen to cease having laity assist with the distribution of communion (which is a priest's prerogative). Aside from the fact that the only "Eucharistic Minister" is a Bishop or Priest, and that the laity are properly referred to as "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion" (or "communion ministers", for short), her error was centered in the fact that she was trying to "pull rank" by saying "God told me to". This is never a godly thing to do.

The question we really need to ask here is much deeper than, "who has the authority to decide whether someone assists at the altar?" What we really need to ask is: how can one tell the difference between a personal desire and divine calling? It is completely possible for someone to be called to a ministry, and for him not to want to do so (the prophet Jonah is the classic example). It is also just as possible for someone to want to have a "ministry" in the Church yet not be genuinely called to that ministry.

So then, once again, how can you tell the difference? Much of the distinction comes down to the difference between the internal call and the external call; both of which I have spoken about before. It takes more than a "feeling" to determine a person's calling to a duty in the liturgy. A calling is a calling; meaning, just as much as God does not allow a man's own opinion to be the sole determining factor in whether he is called to holy orders, so also a layman's individual opinion cannot be the sole determining factor in whether he is called to serve in any capacity at the altar.

I am not going to delve into the intricacies of how the Church determines whether someone is called to serve in a liturgical fashion within Christ's Church (in spite of rash of abuses in this area over the last few decades). Rather, I just want to encourage everyone who believes that he (or she) is called in this manner to seek to ensure that their desire is not driven by selfish motives. Ask yourself the following questions: 1) who am I seeking to please in this ministry? 2) if I was told I could not serve this way any more, would I be offended and angry, or would I seek what else God would want me to do? 3) what is my real goal in this duty? 4) what type of confirmation of my calling did I seek from the Church (i.e. was I willing to be examined, or did I just want my desires to be "rubber stamped")?

It should be obvious how these questions will differ according to whether someone is seeking their service in a selfish manner or in a spirit of genuine self-sacrificial obedience to the Church.  I recall someone I met years ago who told me that she was "called" to serve in a particular capacity, and when I asked her why she believed that, her response (apparently a bit offended that I would even ask) was, "because I enjoy it so much". Admittedly, it is preferable for someone who is called to Church duties to enjoy doing so, but that enjoyment should never be used as the grounds for doing so.

It is always a danger for us to take our personal desires and ideas and say "God told me so" or "God called me to this". If one does genuinely believe that he is called to a particular duty in the Church, then he will be willing to subject his desires to a higher authority. This means not asking, "I feel called to this, where do I sign up?", but rather, "if I believe that I am called to this, how can I confirm whether my belief is correct or not?" After all, if we say that God called us to something merely because we want to do it, we are taking God's name in vain (remember that third commandment thing?).

With the knowledge that some of the "ministries" that laity take up in Catholic Churches today, are actually intended to be temporary (for example: Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, and Scripture reader), we should approach the filling of those roles with great caution. The Church did not open the doors and say "hey! all the rules are gone and whoever wants to can fill these roles". No, it was more of a "in the current difficulties with shortage of priests, it will be allowable in some circumstances to allow laity temporarily to hold these duties." Let us all seek humility in whatever we do, and then subject ourselves (and all that we do) to the Lord, always seeking to do what we do for the glory of God.