When distributing Holy Communion, the extraordinary ministers have been told to say “This is the body of Christ” instead of “the body of Christ,” and the communicants are to respond with “I believe” instead of “Amen.” Our priest says it’s more meaningful this way and has assured us that he is authorized to make such changes. Is this true?
No. A priest has no authority to make creative changes to the Mass. He is to follow the rubrics as outlined in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which is binding on all Roman Rite celebrations of the liturgy.
According to the Code of Canon Law, “In celebrating the sacraments the liturgical books approved by competent authority are to be observed faithfully; accordingly, no one is to add, omit, or alter anything in them on one’s own authority” (CIC 846 §1).
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states:
If Communion is given only under the species of bread, the priest raises the host slightly and shows it to each, saying, " Corpus Christi " (the body of Christ). The communicant replies "Amen" and receives the sacrament either on the tongue or, where this is allowed and if the communicant so chooses, in the hand. As soon as the communicant receives the host, he or she consumes it entirely. (161)If Communion from the chalice is carried out by intinction, each communicant, holding a communion-plate under the chin, approaches the priest, who holds a vessel with the sacred particles, a minister standing at his side and holding the chalice. The priest takes a host, dips it partly into the chalice and, showing it, says, " Corpus et Sanguis Christi " (the body and blood of Christ). The communicant responds "Amen," receives the sacrament in the mouth from the priest, and then withdraws. (287)
The USCCB’s Committee on the Liturgy document “Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at Mass” states:
The proper and only permissible form for distributing Holy Communion is to offer the consecrated bread by saying, "the body of Christ" and to offer the consecrated wine by saying, "the blood of Christ." No other words or names should be added; and the formula should not be edited in any way.