“V is very, very extraordinary” – Nat King Cole

Following the Second Vatican Council and its implementation, the Church has allowed for extraordinary ministers of communion, which are volunteer laity deputized by the ordinary minister of communion to aid in distributing the Eucharist on account of a particularly large congregation or shortage of ordinary ministers. But now, in a frenzy of democratization under the banner of “the priesthood of the baptized,” the Synodal Synod of Synodality has synodically extended this same license to all sacraments.

While the sacraments of marriage and baptism remain relatively unaffected by this, the faithful have been struggling to figure out what exactly this means for the rest of Church life. There was great discomfort this week in the Diocese of Winona-Rochester as Bishop Barron, preoccupied with recording something for Word on Fire, had to miss the ordination of his priests. Instead, he sent layman Brandon Vogt to ordain the new priests in his stead. When the Rover approached Vogt for comment, he said, “It’s more valid than the Dutch touch,” with a wink.

Perhaps one of the more concerning trends is that of the extraordinary ministers of absolution. Given the long lines in the Basilica for confession, certain priests have been recruiting laity to relieve them of their duties. After offering a general confession, the priest goes back home while the penitents enter the confessionals to receive their penances from whomever the priest tapped. If one is lucky, he will get a seminarian who can offer some thoughtful penance and counsel. Many are less fortunate.

The Rover surveyed 200 undergraduates who had been to confession with an extraordinary minister, and we were able to note certain trends in the students’ responses based on the kind of layperson offering their penance. 

The undergraduate men have proven likely to assign penances along the lines of physical challenges, usually substituting prayer for the FitnessGram™ PACER Test. This has had the unfortunate effect of igniting personal competitions, leading men to sin more for another chance to compete.

Certain professors, especially in the week before the add/drop deadline, have attempted to fill their less popular electives with students sent straight from the confessional. Margaret Mathis, currently enrolled in “History of Food II: History of Silverware,” has been vocal about her frustration with this kind of penance.

Perhaps the most popular kind of extraordinary confessors are the young nieces and nephews of C.S.C. priests. Some penitents have received such laissez-faire penances as “go have a milkshake,” “take a nap,” and “give me a high-five.” However, others are slightly more difficult to complete, such as “give me all your money” or “I want you to bring me a horse, please.” After receiving an especially tough penance (“Go to the moon”), William Smith remarked, “I will never sin again. I literally can’t afford it.”

James Whitaker is a graduate student with the Theology department and an extraordinary minister of the Anointing of the Sick. If you would like him to douse you with Trader Joe’s Avocado Oil before your next major surgery, request his services at jwhitak5@nd.edu.

Photo Credit: Matthew Rice

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