I am an EMHC and Honored to be One

Christ truly present on the altar                    Catholic Stand                                               

By Larry Peterson

I wish to clarify something right away. I am NOT a Eucharistic Minister. I am an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC). Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is the proper term for the people involved in this ministry. The term, “Eucharist” is never to be in their title. That term is reserved for the priest alone. (see Redemptionis Sacramentum).

I have been involved in many ministries over the years and have been an EMHC for 23 years. For me, nothing can compare to being an EMHC. It is all about Jesus, the person receiving Jesus, and you being the one who has brought them together. It does not get any better than that.

I rarely miss a visit to my homebound friends. As of this writing, I visit nine (9) every Sunday. Five of them are in their nineties. Honestly, it makes my day. Ironically, it makes their day too, (and sometime their week)  because they hardly see anyone during the week except home-health aides and folks like that.  All I come with is a smile, a church bulletin, maybe a prayer card and, of course, their BEST FRIEND.

I have a journaling book, and in the back, I have compiled names of people I have brought Holy Communion to over the years. I want to share a few of these folks with you. These are Catholic people who have lived their Catholic lives to the best of their ability. Many of them were children during the Great Depression and lived through World War II and into the 21st century. Like my friend, George.

George B.

George was  in the U.S. Navy and stationed in London in 1940 during the Blitzkrieg. He survived that, came home and wound up at Pearl Harbor. He was there on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked. He and a Marine corporal manned a 50 caliber machine gun and shot down two Japanese Zeroes. The two of them then proceeded to pull men out of the burning water near the USS Arizona.

After the war, he was in the circus for over 20 years. George died several years ago at the age of 97. I loved his stories. He was a walking history book, and he would get all animated when he was telling you about his adventures. I brought him Communion every Sunday for more than two years. What an honor that was.

Anne S.

She was 90 and would be dressed to the “T” every Sunday when I arrived. She would ask, “Why does God keep me here, Larry?”

“Anne,” I would say. “He needs Prayer Warriors. That’s what you are, and that’s why you are here. There are many souls in Purgatory. They need your help.”

She would always smile and point to her Rosary and her prayer books on the table next to her. She would point to them and say, “Yes, I know. I do keep busy.” Recruiting “prayer warriors” is an important part of what I do. Anne has been gone for five years.

And my little pal, Scotty.

Scotty Walker.

He was a St. Jude baby because of a tumor on his brain stem. That was in 1977 when he was only two years old. He was now 25. Only 4 feet, 4 inches tall; he started   his own lawn service when he was about 17.

Scotty wore a big straw hat, and his nose would be just above the lawn mower handle as he pushed it along. At the same time, he was studying for his GED. He worked his tail off until he could not any longer. I brought him Communion every Sunday during the last two years of  his life. He died in 2002 when he was 27. I miss him a lot.

Virginia

I have been seeing Virginia every Sunday for almost five years now.  Sunday, March 7, was her 99th birthday.  She lives on the first floor of a senior independent living center.

I arrived at the center around 10 a.m.  I went to the rear of the building to use the paging system, accessed her number and dialed, but there was no answer.  I kept hoping someone would leave so the doors would open, but no one came out.

Since she lived on the first floor, I walked around to her apartment window.  I was not sure if she was sleeping, had fallen, or, God forbid, worse.  I climbed around four-foot-high hedges to get to the window and began banging on it only to off an alarm system.

No one came so I finally gave up and left.

When I arrived home, I managed to get someone from the center’s management on the phone.  They could not give me any information.  I asked nicely, “Just cough if she is dead.”

“Sorry, sir,” was the reply.  “We will give your name and number to her son, who is her contact person.”

No one ever called.  I had the church office call twice, and the pastor himself called, to no avail.

On April 1, Holy Thursday, Virginia called the church office looking for me.  (She could not find my number.)  She had fallen and had been taken to the hospital.  They quarantined her for two weeks, and she had returned home on Wednesday, March 31.

I was finally able to visit Virginia again on Easter Sunday.  I brought her flowers and a Mass card for Easter and her birthday.  And when her 100th birthday is celebrated next year I intend to be there.

A Rewarding Ministry

I have been blessed to part of this ministry.  Seven of the people I visited received Viaticum from me.  It was not planned that way – it just happened.  I pray for each of them all the time.  So far, my list includes over 40 people who have passed on, including my wives (my first wife died in 2003, and my second wife died in 2017).

I would suggest you look in to being part of  this ministry.  You get to leave the church accompanied by Jesus.  Then the two of you get to go visiting His homebound or hospitalized people.  It is a beautiful thing.


An unexpected Evangelization Moment—Distributing Ashes on Ash Wednesday in Walmart

Celebrating Lent                                                                    allevents.in.jpg

By Larry Peterson

The USCCB states that evangelizing means bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation. So how can we everyday Catholics always be prepared to evangelize?

Our behavior and our actions and the words we use are tools for evangelizing. They show that we are Christian. Saying grace before meals while in a restaurant with family or friends or simply having an “I Love Jesus” bumper sticker on your car gives a powerful message. You get the idea.

Many times things happen that are “in our face,” and we have only a moment or so to decide what to do; should we stay and help or keep on walking?  It is very easy to “ignore,” a situation, but that is not what the Good Samaritan did, is it?  What follows is an example of one of those unexpected moments.

I am an  EMHC, and on Ash Wednesday, on my way home after distributing ashes and Holy Communion, I decided to make an unplanned stop at Walmart. I did not have to go there; there was nothing specific I needed, but there was the store and the next thing I knew, the car was parked.  As I walked toward the entrance I decided I needed “double A batteries.” I did not need them but I guess I had to validate my being there.

Walking into the store, the express lanes were ahead and to the right.  Ahead and to my left was McDonald’s. Outside McDonald’s was a bench and sitting in it was an elderly lady I knew from church. We have been friends for a long time and her name is Rachel. I walk over to her to say “hi”, and she looks at my forehead and says, “Oh, Larry, it’s you. We forgot today was Ash Wednesday. We didn’t get ashes.” Let the unplanned evangelizing begin.

Rachel weighs about 70 pounds soaking wet and she is in her late eighties. Her husband, Jim, has Parkinson’s disease and is about the same age. They were both widowed and have been married for about fifteen years. I was still in my shirt and tie and wearing my EMHC cross. Next thing you know I am sitting next to Rachel praying with her and placing ashes on her forehead. When I finish I ask her, “Where is Jim?”

Jim was on the line in McDonald’s. The entrance was about fifty feet from where we were sitting. As I got up to find Jim,  I noticed there were about a half-dozen people standing there watching us. It dawned on me that there were some people wondering why I was smearing dirt on an old lady’s forehead. I simply looked at them all and said, “Hi folks, today is Ash Wednesday. You can Google it.”

I turned and headed into the restaurant. There is Jim, standing there about eighth in line with about ten more people behind him. The place is packed and the poor guy is standing there with his left forearm and hand trembling unmercifully. I walk up to him and he is stunned to see me. I say as quietly as I can, “Jim, I just gave Rachel ashes. Would you like to have them too?”

As I stood praying softly with Jim, our audience began to grow. By the time I placed ashes on his forehead more people were coming over to see what was going on. I did hear some people mention, “Ash Wednesday.”

That was my impromptu queue. I turned and faced the gathering crowd and raised my hands in the air. “Hey everyone, today is Ash Wednesday. I am Catholic as are my friends here who I just happened to bump into. They were unable to get to Mass today so they are receiving ashes which remind us to “remember that we are dust and into dust we shall return.”

I actually gave several more people ashes but then I had none left. I know a lot of people, religious and non-religious alike, watched the unscripted distribution of the ashes. It was an evangelization moment for sure and it all happened in less than fifteen minutes. I also know it had to be my guardian angel who helped me pull that steering wheel to the right leading me into Walmart.

A sidebar to all of this; I never got the batteries.

copyright© Larry Peterson 2019