In November, our bishop banned the common chalice to the congregation as well as the actual sign of peace out of fear of an H1N1 epidemic and the very real possibility that one could spread this flu from the common chalice and from a hand shake. This is the first time in my entire life, not to mention my nearly 30 years of priesthood, that a connection was actually made between the sharing of viruses and drinking from the common chalice. And yes, it was the first time since 1980 that I had experienced no chalice to the laity at any Mass I had ever celebrated not to mention the absence of the Sign of Peace.
The first Sunday without the common chalice (we normally have four Host stations and six chalice stations), I realized how much easier it was to set up for Mass and how much smoother the actual process of preparing for Holy Communion at the time of the Agnus Dei went. Instead of eight extra ordinary ministers of Holy Communion, we only need two.
The other thing I noticed was how easy it was to purify the chalice, the one chalice and that I could actually do it during Mass if I wanted, without prolonging the Mass and I didn't have to drink the ablutions (water placed in the chalice that needs to be purified) that upwards to 20 or 25 people had had their lips on. I was relieved and delighted about that health concern that I've had ever since I've had to purify chalices that upwards to 30 people have shared!
One of the constant issues we have had at St. Joseph Church, in fact, I've had in all the parishes I've been, is extra ordinary ministers of Holy Communion who are not faithful to their schedule and fail to find a replacement when they miss Mass (I hope for a good reason!) This causes other extra-ordinary ministers of Holy Communion in the congregation during what should be an intense time of prayer and preparation to receive our Lord in Holy Communion to become preoccupied by the need to see if enough EM's have presented themselves to the altar area (side chapels of our sanctuary). So they crane their neck and realizing they are needed come forward, but others are coming forward too, so some have to go back, but too many go back so some have to come forward again! It is just like watching the Keystone Cops in some ways, but not really funny! Then sometimes there simply aren't any extra EM's at the Mass (all of them must have a good reason for missing Sunday Mass?) and one or two completely full chalices languish on the altar during Holy Communion and then must be consumed by someone,the question is who?--a great amount I might add.
But without the common chalice, what a blessing! Two EM's come forward at the appropriate time, are given Holy Communion and then their ciborium and go to their station and there is no confusion, no distractions and yes, there is very little possibility of the "profanation" if not down right "desecration" of the Sacred Species of the chalice! Mine eyes were open and the bishop's ban on the common chalice was in reality a step forward and not a step backward in the need to restore reverence and prayerfulness at the time of preparing for Holy Communion.
Now, I am partial to the laity receiving the consecrated Wine of the chalice just as I am partial to receiving the Precious Blood when I celebrate Mass. For me it is not optional, I must, even though, of course, our Lord is completely present in the Consecrated Host. So one of the reasons I have seen it as important for the laity to have this privilege of the option of the chalice for the entire time I have been ordained, is because I see it important for me, which is required for the priest-celebrant. But mine own eyes have now seen how much better it is not to have multiple chalice stations and multiple EM's coming forward at Mass. Therefore, I would like to implement "intinction" to at least give the laity who desire the option of receiving the Consecrated Wine in addition to the Host, the possibility of this wonderful gift and privilege. The GIRM allows this and by way of intinction.
Finally, omitting the "Handshake of Peace;" Mine own eyes have seen now, for the first time since the "Handshake of Peace" was pushed on us around 1967 or so, that it does break the prayerful preparation for our Lord who at that time is completely present on our altar, waiting for us to receive Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar. Not exchanging the "Handshake of Peace" sent me back in time to 1967 in my home parish of St. Joseph in Augusta and the wide ranging complaints that we laity had about the "Handshake of Peace" when it was forced down our throats(or onto our hands). We said, it distracts us from our preparation to receive our Lord! Why are we greeting one another so late in the Mass and at this particular time (no priest actually gave a good catechesis on this and even when a good catechesis is given, people still think it is a time to glad hand others, slap them on the back, go around the church and just socialize!) The "handshake of peace" was not a good idea at the particular time that we are asked to share it. Perhaps a better solution would have been to move this prior to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, perhaps after the Penitential Rite, or to keep it in the traditional location, but simply have people turn side to side and bow one's head in respect to one's neighbor as a sign of the need to be at peace with one another before we approach the altar--that would be a great solution, but I can't change that on my own authority. But make no mistake, the "Handshake of Peace" is not mandatory in the Catholic Mass--it is optional, always was since 1967 or so. Did you know that?
So, in my mind, not having multiple Communion stations for the common chalice and not having the "handshake of peace" are blessings in disguise to help keep the Mass reverent and prayerful. Your thoughts....