EWTN Catholic Q&A
Administering Communion to the sick
Question from Glenda on 01-14-2013:

For a sick person who has difficulty swallowing, is it ever licit to administer the host along with other substances, such as yogurt, to ease the swallowing?

In ministry to the sick in hospital, how should one approach strangers with the offer of Communion when one does not know whether the person is a practicing Catholic or not, or if the person is otherwise properly disposed?

Answer by Catholic Answers on 01-16-2013:

Glenda--

For a sick person who has difficulty swallowing, is it ever licit to administer the host along with other substances, such as yogurt, to ease the swallowing?

Absolutely not. Although the sick are not required to observe the Communion fast, and may eat immediately before receiving the consecrated host, the Eucharist should not be treated like a mix-in for a snack cup. The one help a sick person can use to assist swallowing the Eucharist is plain water and nothing else.

In ministry to the sick in hospital, how should one approach strangers with the offer of Communion when one does not know whether the person is a practicing Catholic or not, or if the person is otherwise properly disposed?

One should not do so. Extraordinary ministers to the homebound should have a list of people who have been approved by the chaplain and/or the EMHC's parish to receive the host outside of Mass and should not take any more consecrated hosts than are necessary to give Communion to those people on the list during that particular trip. For example, if you are slated to see five homebound people that day, you should have no more than five consecrated hosts. You should not even have been given "extras" to offer to passerby.

During your appointed rounds, if there is a sick person you meet who asks to receive Communion, then get that person's contact information for the chaplain and/or the parish and arrange for the hospital chaplain or a parish priest to visit the sick person. Once the chaplain or parish priest indicates that this person is ready to receive Communion on a regular basis, that person can be added to the EMHC's list.

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers


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