I was reading the answers to this question on Skeptics.SE and relating it back to my own life here on Earth. I see some extraordinary ministers taking the Eucharist to the homebound and they're usually in a rush to get there.

So, what is the maximum amount of time they're allowed to posses the Eucharist and what do they do if they find they cannot deliver the Eucharist?

  • Each diocese would have its' own set of rules in place for this situation..
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 0:52
  • Where did you get the idea that there is a time limit? A consecrated host does not have an expiration date. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 18:17
  • @korvin just the rush that people are in to deliver after Mass, like they're holding something that they want to get rid of. Now, this may be one of those "false opinions" that Geremia's answer talks about - probably no bueno.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 18:48

2 Answers 2


The answer to the Skeptics.SE question you cite says a Presbyterian minister "supplied the communion kit (bread, wine and cup)." Since Presbyterian ministers are not valid, ordained priests, they are unable to effect transubstantiation of bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ; thus, what Aldrin had was not the Eucharist but only "bread, wine and cup."

Traditionally, only Catholic priests, whose hands have been consecrated upon receiving the Sacrament of Orders, can touch the Sacred Species with their fingers. Laypeople touching the Eucharistic Species should be a rare extraordinary (i.e., out-of-the-ordinary) exception.

Paul VI wrote in his 1969 Instruction on the Manner of Distributing Holy Communion (Memoriale Domini):

Where a contrary usage, that of placing holy communion on the hand, prevails, the Holy See—wishing to help them fulfill their task, often difficult as it is nowadays—lays on those conferences the task of weighing carefully whatever special circumstances may exist there, taking care to avoid any risk of lack of respect or of false opinions with regard to the Blessed Eucharist, and to avoid any other ill effects that may follow.

Notice, he says Communion in peoples' hands is a "contrary usage," contrary to the traditional practice of the Church; however, he opened the door to bishops' conferences abusing this contrary usage by allowing Communion in the hand.

Thus, there isn't a law regulating what should be a very rare occurrence in extreme situations, e.g., someone is to steal the Eucharist and a layperson is the only one around, then of course he or she should touch and consume or help others consume the Eucharist as quickly as possible.

Cf. my answer to the question "How are Roman Catholics to receive the holy Eucharist at Mass?"

  • 2
    Orthodox bishops and priests have a valid Sacrament of Holy Orders also. Apostolic Succession has always been maintained in the Orthodox world and is recognized as such by Rome. In fact some Anglican priests have been ordained by Orthodox bishops to ensure that their own Apostolic Succession would be valid.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 13:54
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    @KenGraham "[S]ince the consecration of the Eucharist is an act which follows the power of order, such persons as are separated from the Church by heresy, schism, or excommunication, can indeed consecrate the Eucharist, which on being consecrated by them contains Christ's true body and blood; but they act wrongly, and sin by doing so; and in consequence they do not receive the fruit of the sacrifice, which is a spiritual sacrifice." (S.T. III q. 82 a. 7 c.).
    – Geremia
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 20:54
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    @Geremia How does your answer answer the question? " What is the maximum amount of time [extraordinary ministers] are allowed to possess the Eucharist and what do they do if they find they cannot deliver the Eucharist?" It seems to me that you have concentrated on Aldrin and communion in the hand, which don't appear in the question. Have I missed something? Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 23:32
  • @andrew I figure this is a case where my premises are fundamentally flawed, which is probably right. Technically, you'd have communion in a hand whenever an extraordinary minister was involved (unless you just dumped the pyx in someone's mouth, which seems more irreverant)
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 14:02
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    @PeterTurner No, I don't think the premise of the question is fundamentally flawed. Extraordinary ministers are permitted, although as a [widely-flouted] exception to the norm, so there must be guidelines for their actions and practice. The ministers are specially permitted to handle the sacrament, so an answer about receiving in the hand or on the tongue is not relevant to the question. Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 14:44

When I was an Extraordinary Minister, we were taught that it was permitted to take only the number of consecrated hosts necessary to perform the office that was required.

In other words, if 10 people needed to receive Holy Communion, then only 10 Hosts would be given to you by the Pastor. If for any reason, there was a surplus of Hosts, one would have to return them to church and immediately inform the Pastor so he could put them back in the tabernacle. All said and done, I believe that the maximum amount of time that an Extraordinary Minister would be in possession of a Consecrated Host would be more or less 3 hours depending on the number of people he had to attend to.

  • I'm gonna accept this answer with a caveat to that, as you said in your comment on the question, it's probably only true for particular dioceses under particular Bishops.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 14:06

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