Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Lest I be accused of scrupulosity in my words below, let me be clear that there should be a distinction made between true scrupulosity which is related to "obsessive, compulsive disorders" and what many would simply call a legitimate concern for certain matters, especially those of faith. For example, I wash my hands a few times a day, after using the restroom, before celebrating Mass, after touching something unclean, out of a concern for germs and hygiene and for the well being of others with whom I interact. A scrupulous person washing his hands constantly and for no other reason then a scrupulous fear of germs and other psychological issues is a completely different matter. (Do I hear "Purell," anyone?) So with that written, let's go head long into the topic at hand.

One of the things mine eyes has seen since celebrating the EF Mass for over two years now is the rubrical mandate that the particles of the Most Holy Eucharist that could become detached from the consecrated Host in no way be "desecrated" in any intentional or unintentional way; all precautions must be taken even liturgically. Therefore, prior to the consecration, the hands are placed on the altar outside of the corporal cloth which is carefully managed by proper folding and unfolding, using a burse,proper cleaning, etc.

After consecrating the host, the fingers and thumbs that touched the host are joined together so that not even the smallest particle of a particle could be unintentionally "desecrated." When touching the altar, the priest does so on the corporal cloth.The priest even holds the chalice for consecration by having his index finger and thumb joined prior to taking the chalice. Prior to the priest receiving the Precious Blood, he takes the patten and scrapes the corporal cloth of any particles that could have fallen and then places these in the chalice. At the purification of the the chalice, (the priest's fingers and thumbs still joined) the server first places wine in the chalice, so that any droplets of the Precious Blood can be reverently consumed. Then wine and water are poured into the chalice over the priest's fingers and thumbs that may have attached to them particles of the host. The priest drys his fingers, drinks the ablutions and dries the chalice. This is "built in" piety and reverence of the EF Mass that was stripped from the OF Mass. This institutional "care," in the EF Mass is borne of the concern for avoiding "desecration" of the Sacred Species even unintentional,and contributes to the overall respect due our Lord in the Eucharistic Species. It cannot be classified as OCD or personal scrupulosity.

Let's fast forward to today to what many have disparagingly called the "theology of the crumbs" since the reforms of the Mass. I can remember as a teenager and very young adult seeing older priests celebrating the OF Mass using the same rubrics they were taught for the EF Mass as it concerned "crumbs, fingers, thumbs, etc." These priests were accused of scrupulosity by others. I believed this accusation of scrupulosity to be true, because I didn't know these priests had been trained in this custom of reverence by their celebration of the Tridentine Mass and the institutionalized piety, reverence and concern for not desecrating the Eucharistic Species of this Mass. In other words I was mistaken concerning the "rubrics" these older priests employed--it was not their scrupulosity, but their piety instilled by the EF Mass. "Lex Orandi, Lex credendi," the law of prayer is the law of belief.

During the wild time of experimentation with the New Order of the Mass, certainly after it was promulgated,(the 1970's) many "progressive priests, seminaries and parishes" experimented with what was euphemistically called "real bread" as opposed to the unleavened, traditional hosts of Pre-Vatican II. (Anyone recall the sarcastic remark that it was harder to believe that these traditional hosts were real bread, let alone the real Body and Blood of our Savior?)

In my seminary we used bread that had honey in the recipe and salt that in fact acted as a leaven. And in fact, when receiving these "hosts" at Holy Communion, significant crumbs remained on the palm of one's hand. (More about that below)!

As a 23 year old seminarian, I attended the first Mass of a Jesuit priest in 1978 where he used small French Bread loaves with its very crispy crust for the Eucharist. At the Breaking of the Bread at the altar, these loaves were ceremoniously broken by a variety of lay people at the altar and then these were distributed to the laity. I know for a fact, because I saw it with mine eyes, that after Mass, there were crumbs of Consecrated Eucharist, all over the altar and on the carpet where Holy Communion had been distributed! A seminarian friend of mine and myself tried in vain to gather the larger particles from the carpet, but were derided by others who castigated us for the "theology of crumbs!" Do ya think there was an ideology there promoting French Bread Eucharist as well as Holy Communion in the hand? If you believe that our Lord is truly present in all particles of the Eucharistic Bread, then one would be reluctant to use bread that is crumbly, flaky or to receive this type of "Bread" in the hand. So the minimization or ridicule of the Church's faith reality was necessary in order to promote a liturgical innovation and agenda. This trendy agenda at the time lamented what was seen as Liturgical scrupulosity that would motivate "scrupulous" traditional Catholics to have an abhorrence for Eucharistic crumbs on the floor and on one's hands. So undermining one's actual faith in the real Presence of Christ in every speck, crumb, particle and morsel of Holy Communion was necessary for this type of so-called liturgical renewal agenda to go forward, but forward it did go.

This same "theology of crumbs" which is a disparaging description of those whose reverence and belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist includes every particle that is attached to every host, is also carried forward now to the Precious Blood, since there is now wide-spread distribution of the Eucharist under the form of consecrated Wine, from a common chalice or cup.

Many people of an older and more institutionalize piety are concerned that there is a possibility of spilling the Precious Blood by distributing Holy Communion under both forms. Those who promote this custom, both of Holy Communion in the hand and from the chalice say that if particles do fall or the Precious Blood is spilled, God will take care of Himself. I think most of us believe that the all powerful and Almighty God is quite capable of taking care of Himself as well as us. But that's not the point! The point is the reverence we creatures owe to the Almighty God! We actually believe that we must rely upon the Almighty to save us as we cannot do this work of salvation by ourselves. By our worthy reception of Holy Communion, God, Who does not become a part of us in this act, but rather makes us a part of Him is the essence of Superiority in relation to His creatures who receive Him. Should not such an awesome means to accomplish this work of salvation by Almighty God not have the utmost and yes "scrupulous" respect from us, God's creatures?

I have seen with mine own eyes the following--an extra chalice on the altar knocked over by a Communion Minister, thus spilling the Precious Blood everywhere! I have seen children spit the host that was in their mouth into the chalice they were given to drink from. I have seen chewing gum in a chalice because the person receiving accidentally allowed it to fall from her mouth.I have seen the Precious Blood on ties, shirts and blouses, not to mention the floor! I have seen people "self-intinct." I have had extra-ordinary ministers of Holy Communion tell me that some people consume the entire chalice once it is handed to them. I have had Eucharistic ministers tell me that they have a hard time drinking the "dregs" of the Chalice at the end of some 30 people having drunk from the chalice because they fear there is more "backwash of saliva" than Precious Blood remaining. I believe this to be true by the way, because I've had to consume these "dregs!" I don't mind being a martyr for the Holy Mass and the Sacred Species, but I do mind being made to do something that is not necessary in the first place, having 30 to 40 people drink from the same chalice and then cleaning up after that.

Now a conundrum that many will resent me for bringing forward:Intinction! This form of distributing Holy Communion by dipping the Consecrated Host into the Precious Blood with a Paten under the chin of the communicant is permitted in the GIRM of the 2002 Roman Missal. In fact the American bishops in their adaptations of the GIRM state that this is the "second" option available to priests if the priest chooses to follow their bishop's approval for Holy Communion under both kinds, the option of which, of course, is at the discretion of the priest, to allow both Species in his parish or not. He just has to follow the bishop's approval for this permission or exception to allow the chalice for the congregation in the first place. (Have you ever heard people disparagingly call the venerable tradition and ancient one at that, of intinction as "dunking donuts?" Talk about irreverence!You know there is an agenda or ideology at work when you hear that, meaning only the common chalice is legitimate!)(Mine own ears have heard this and mine own tongue has spoken this in the past, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!--dunking donuts, yikes!)

The objection to intinction is that it removes from the communicant the "right" to receive Holy Communion on the palm of the hand. In fact, this is not true, as one could still receive the Host in the hand but not intincted. Then the objection comes that one is removing the "right" of the communicant to receive the Precious Blood if one wants to receive in the hand. Yes--but it is not a liturgical or canonical right to receive the Precious Blood from the Chalice. One receives the Body and Blood of Christ completely under either form. (The only complaints I have received from people since my bishop mandated not allowing the chalice to the people because of H1N1 contagion concerns is that these people felt they were only partially receiving Holy Communion! (More about contagion in a future blog!)

Now, if we buy into the "theology of the Crumbs" in its disparaging way as encouraging us not to be worried about the "crumbs" as scrupulous people are, then we are not concerned that to this very day when people receive even the traditional consecrated host in their hands, that it is possible for small and even larger particles to adhere to their palm,finger and thumb. I have seen with my mine own eyes, children and adults dust off their hands after receiving the host or wipe them on their clothes, or simply ignore any particles of the Sacred Species that might adhere to the palm, thumb or finger of one's hand.

So my question of logic: if we don't worry about these sorts of things anymore,(the theology of crumbs) why not place an "intincted" host onto the palm of the communicant? There really isn't that much Consecrated Wine on the Host. And if the palm gets wet from the Precious Blood, why not rub your hands together to dry it, wipe them on your clothes or simply ignore it? Concern about this is the "theology of scrupulosity" after all, isn't it? My point is, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. I think we should be concerned about both forms of possible intentional or unintentional desecration of the Sacred Species! But that implies returning to the exclusive distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue and to a pre-Vatican II, now post Vatican II with the EF Mass, institutionalized "scrupulosity" but what preferably should be called awe, wonder, respect and reverence for the Sacred Species and fear concerning either intentional or unintentional desecration of the Same.

In a later post I will rant about "germs, viruses, H1N1, the common chalice and the Precious Blood and if one can get sick from drinking the Precious Blood." A clue, no the Precious Blood will not make you sick if your receive or Lord worthily. However, if I drop a bit of arsenic into it you could get sick or even die, no matter how strong your faith in the Real Presence. In other words, germs, viruses and poisons intentionally or unintentionally placed into the Precious Blood after or before the wine is consecrated can make you sick. These poisons, germs and viruses do not become the Precious Blood, but remain independent of the Precious Blood. Thus a deadly poison even in a very small amount can kill you if you drink the Precious Blood. And if you drink the Precious Blood, although poisoned, and in a state of grace, well, what a way to go! More later.....


Templar said...

Born in the early 60s, made my first Communion before the "new ways" were introduced, but because my Catechism classes so weakly presented, was never consciously scandalized by the introduction of the new ways. I have been a Parishioner at a Parish where the Sunday Mass uses an Army of Communion Ministers (17, no joke) and they are present on the altar for the consecration standing directly behind the Priest. I have witnessed one of these Ministers accidentally spill some of the Precious Blood on the way down from the altar, and look clearly befuddled and at a loss as to what to do about it. (another minister eventually got an altar cloth and blotted it up, but no effort was made to protect the spot on the floor until it could be purified).

These abuses were fresh in my memory when SP was issued by Pope Benedict in 2007, and in my curiosity about the "freeing of the EF" I uncovered "the old ways" of receiving Communion. It made clear and obvious sense to me. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the "new ways" of receiving reduced the Blessed Sacrament to a symbol. Without a VERY strong Catechism you will be quickly confused, and that is what has happened and why so many lack faith in the Real Presence.

In short order I found that I stopped receiving under both species. a) there was no need, and b) the risk of profanation was great.

Stopped receiving in the hand. a) the risk of profanation was greater; b) my hands are not consecrated.

Stopped receiving from Communion Ministers. a) it flies in the face of logic that they should be able to touch the Blessed Sacrament when I believe I should not. I rarely receive from a Deacon for the same reason although I am not sure of that position.

In everything I read and discover about the "old ways" I am struck at how logical it all is. Everything from the devotions, to the masses, to the catechism, to the way our prayers and hymns were structured, were interwoven, connected and related. They supported and reinforced each other. They "made sense". All of the new ways strike me know as painfully contrived, and to justify them we have to contort our religion to make things fit.

The smallest particle IS Christ. The tiniest drop IS Christ. It is not "Theology of the Crumbs" it is Truth. And that is what I find missing in the "new ways"; they have abandoned truth to follow the new trend of "dialog, discourse, and debate."

In the immortal words of Pope John Paul II of Blessed Memory, "Truth is not always the same as the majority decision."

kiwiinamerica said...

Very good, Father and Templar.

Aside from the issue of the Eucharist, you both touch on a subject which I think deserves a separate blog in its own right; "Extraordinary" Eucharistic Ministers or EEMs.

Vatican II, in its wisdom, made provision for the use of "Extraordinary" ministers of the Eucharist and it's not difficult to visualize situations where they could be required; an elderly or infirm priest who finds it difficult to stand or move freely, sites of pilgrimage or certain celebrations where there may be huge numbers of communicants etc. There are probably others. The key word here, however, is "extraordinary".

Can someone explain to me how "extraordinary" ministers became "ordinary"? That is to say, they are now present at every Mass without exception and at some weekday Masses, often outnumber other members of the congregation. I think we've all seen situations where the priest actually sat down and let the EEMs distribute Communion. It is so unedifying to see the sanctuary invaded by lay people at Communion time!

Like Vatican II's prescriptions for the use of Latin, I think the whole EEM question has been picked up and run with to places it was never intended to go. As an altar boy in the '60s (before the rot set in), communicants knelt at the altar rail and the priest moved along the line distributing the Sacred Host on the tongue while I held the patten under the chin of the communicant in order to catch any particles which might fall.

Of course, all the altar rails were subsequently ripped out (with a few notable exceptions) so that killed that protocol and we had to stand to receive. Then the patten disappeared. Then we got Communion under both species.....then an army of EEMs..........then Communion in the hand...........and so on.


What purpose has all this served?

Has it led to an increased reverence for the Blessed Sacrament??

On the contrary, it has done the opposite.

Time for a big rethink over EEMs, IMHO.

Henry Edwards said...

Regarding intinction, why not just go ahead and do it?

I do not receive from the chalice, so my only opportunity for reception of the Precious Blood is on the very rare occasions when intinction occurs.

The "fuller sign" of reception of both species has no theological basis (so far as I now). Nevertheless, reception of both species simultaneously has a powerful emotional or even spiritual effect (for me and others I know).

So I wonder whether intinction might be something the OF could contribute to the EF (though I know few TLM devotees who would agree with me).

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Dear Henry, I do believe that one could certainly recieve Holy Communion by intinction in the EF Mass and this would be an enrichment of this rite learned from the OF Mass. I don't know if the GIRM of 2002 would apply to the EF Mass in this regard, or general canon law in this regard. We must keep in mind that with the EF Mass, only an hour fast is necessary as in the OF, head covering for women are optional as in the OF Mass and I do believe that a communicant in the EF Mass could technically receive in the hand, although some may disagree with me on that, although I think Fr. Z agrees with me. But a good point Henry. Fr. Allan McDonald

Una Voce of Atlanta said...

Father could you help spread the word about the first ever South Eastern Latin Mass Conference sponsored by Una Voce and the FSSP. It will be in Florida in April. Detailed info is at

click on latest news link

Robert Kumpel said...

Father, I was in my late teens when Holy Communion in the hand was foisted upon us. I didn't like it and it took me a while to figure out that it was not mandatory. However, after a while, I began receiving in the hand, simply because the EMHC's couldn't seem to put it correctly into my mouth. However, a few years later, I was deeply convicted about the inappropriateness for a mere layperson to touch the Sacred Species, so I began receiving exclusively in the traditional manner. As far as the other problem goes, avoiding it is easy: I simply make it a point to only get in line where a priest is distributing Holy Communion (the lone exception was in New York City, where some very traditional-looking nuns were EMCH's and knew what they were doing).

But the important point that I want to drive home is what you said: The BODY AND THE BLOOD of Jesus Christ is fully present in the Eucharist. THIS WHOLE SHOW OF LAY PEOPLE TAKING OVER THE SANCTUARY EVERY WEEK IS USELESS AND UNNECESSARY.

Thank God you had the faith and courage to attempt to gather up the Consecrated Species when you were a seminarian. Thank you for being willing to be ridiculed for it. Sadly, we live in an age where much of such ridicule comes from the very people who should be protecting the Body and Blood of Christ.

Brother Charles said...

Thank you for this today. It is a mirror in which I can see some of the work of the Spirit in my own life as a Christian and a priest. Amen.

Henry Edwards said...

Father, a while back at the Google TLM list, I raised the question of intinction at the TLM, and was roundly and uniformly castigated. An explicit 13th century (as I recall) prohibition of intinction was mentioned. I understand that the 1983 canon law does apply but that the 2002 (OF) GIRM does not apply to the EF.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Good post Father :)

I've seen the "crumbs" on the Paten, forever changed my approach to Holy Communion :)

dominic1962 said...

I doubt any priest who celebrates the TLM (especially from the FSSP or ICRSS) would ever do intinction, especially the ones that like to use the really thin hosts. With intinction, it isn't our Latin Rite custom, there really is no point (cf. the controversy with the utraquists and the Council of Trent), it is such a hassle compared to the usual way in which Communion is distributed in the TLM.

Gene said...

Fr., why can we not just receive in one kind on the tongue and be done with it? The laity's understanding is being formed, not consulted.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Father for everything you say here. Thank you for considering Our Lord above all things. I have myself witnessed the things you speak of, and more. These things, but most especially the fact of the brutal banality of the concocted modern rite of Sacrifice itself, are reasons why I will not countenance that liturgical concoction in my own life, but will hear only masses offered in the ancient rite by priests who would NEVER countenance the kind of epidemic blasphemy you have commented upon so trenchantly and courageously in your post. God bless you, and God help the Catholic people find their way back to sanity, back to the eternal beauty of God.


Father Jojo Zerrudo said...

Thank you for your article.What your eyes have seen makes me weep out of sorrow for the widespread desecration of the Holy Sacrament.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

To Chap, From Fr. Allan McDonald
I don't really believe the problem lies with the Order of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, but its relaxed rubrics. I do think the OF can be very reverent and holy. Certainly the manner in which Pope Benedict prays this Mass is a fine example all the way to the manner in which he distributes Holy Communion. What the OF Mass needs is more specific rubrics in a number of areas where unintentional profanation or "desecration" of the Eucharistic Species could take place.
I firmly believe that if the OF Mass was celebrated Ad Orientem, all parts sung, including the official Introit, Offertory and Communion Antiphon, even in a chanted English, that we would not have seen the upheaval we have seen liturgically in the last 45 to 50 years. I do believe that the common chalice or cup given to the laity with multiple stations and multiple people drinking from the chalice is a novelty invented in the early 1970's. Intinction is the more ancient practice as well as the other legitimate practices of the Eastern Rites and Orthodox Churches. Even at St. Peters when there are major celebrations with many cardinals and bishops, as the concelebrants, they do not receive the Eucharistic "Bread" in their hands prior to the Pope's reception of Holy Communion so that all might consume at the same time. The hosts and the chalice is placed on the altar which they approach as the laity receive Holy Communion. They take the host and intinct it into the chalice. In other words, they do not drink from the same chalice. Interesting, no?

Richard Collins said...

Only the following are truly reverent:

1. The Extraordinary Form Mass
2. Holy Communion on the tongue (and kneeling if possible)
3. Reception from the hands of a priest

Kneel down for the sake of love and respect for Christ - it is time to teach by example, those who have never experienced a pre 1970 reverence.

Gene said...

It is particularly gratifying and a joy to worship when Fr. MacDonald celebrates Mass, whether in th EF or the OF. He takes great care in preparation, appreciates the profundity of the rituals and gestures, is never rushed, and reflects an understanding of both the solemnity and the joy of Christ's Presence in the Mass. He is a "hands on" Priest...if he is in town, he is in the Church before
most Masses making sure things are right and visiting briefly with members, visitors, and celebrants. He does this without being obtrusive or "micro-managing." He is friendly, but never a "pal," commanding a respect that translates to reverence for Christ, whom he represents. He has some sharp edges,usually having to do with his love for the Holy Church, the Mass, and a concern for the proprieties of the Christian life. When one confesses to such a Priest, there is a power there which recalls to us both the severity of sin, the unconditional love of Christ, and the joy of forgiveness. I see the Vicars who serve with him following his role model, encouraging me that there are others like him coming along. Fr. would chastise me for this praise, except that he understands it is praise for Christ in him who
has made him who he is and draws us to the Church and salvation through Priests like him. When you pray those prayers for the Priesthood and vocations, pray extra hard that our seminaries are producing many more like Fr. MacDonald.

Chris said...

"God will take care of Himself."

True, but just because someone's wearing a bullet-proof vest, that doesn't make it OK to start shooting at them.

Roseanne T. Sullivan said...

I agree totally that the current way that the Eucharist is distributed is a cause and a result of indifference to the Real Presence of Our Lord. A woman I know from an EF Oratory gave me an article that described an experiment that a man performed by distributing non-consecrated hosts by hand and counting the particles that were left in the person's hand or dropped. The experiment showe that shockingly high number of particles that would be dropped on the floor of any church during Communion. That woman will not attend Mass any more at a Church where Communion is not distributed on the tongue. I think that after some time passes Christ is no longer present in the host. Anyone know the details?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

To Roseanne from Fr. McDonald, As I understand it, once the Sacred Species no longer resembles either the "Bread" or the "Wine" what would be called the "accidents" after transubstantiation, that these are no longer consecrated. So for example a Eucharistic Wafer, left in a tabernacle no longer used by accident of course, once it became corrupted with mold or some other issue, would not longer be the Eucharist. When the Precious Blood dries after having been spilled, especially on clothes, it is no longer consecrated and can not be "reconstituted" by adding water, lets say. So in a sense there is a built in saftey mechanism as it concerns our piety and the legitmate concern with should have for the consecrated Species. I think I might be going out on a limb with this one, I would think that our Lord would leave His Real Presence as it concerns particles that fall to the ground and cannot be found or properly disposed. I might be wrong on that from a doctrinal point of view, but in fact I do believe that God is totally capable of taking care of Himself, when we don't.I might add that this could be true of a Consecrated Host stolen for the purpose of a Satanic "Mass." God will not be "manhandled" by Satan. But that doesn't let us off the hook, we must always should reverence and respect for the Sacred Species and strive to prevent any intentional or unintentional "desecration." Thanks for the info about the unconsecrated hosts and particles!

Ferdinand Gajewski said...

During the episcopate of Archbishop Peter Gerety in the Archdiocese of Newark, traditional communion wafers were replaced, in my parish at least, by small, crumbly, fruitcakelike squares. It was perfectly clear to the people of God (as it were) that crumbs were accidentally falling all over the church. At some point in the 1980s it was decreed from on high that matter whose identity as bread was compromised would invalidate a mass. Shortly thereafter the traditional crumbless wafer returned.

Chris said...

it was decreed from on high

Not so much decreed as pointed out.

Joel said...

I read about the first quarter of your post (I do intend to go back and read in its entirety). You do bring up a good question about the matter of consecrated crumbs.

Yes, the consecrated elements are the body and blood of Jesus Christ. But is what happens to crumbs at the mass any worse than what happened to his body on the cross?

Christ was "desecrated" on the cross, and that he remains with us today some desecration is to be expected. That is what makes him the Christ (Philippians 2 comes to mind). I think Christ is holy enough to handle his crumbs.

(I write from a protestant perspective)

Marc said...

Father, I just ran across this blog entry posted on Catholic Answers Forum! You're becoming quite famous!

marie said...

Your comment ("I come from a Protestant perspective") is clear. Number 1. Your tense is off, Christ is crucified, there is no time with God. No.2 You should do a bit of study on the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. They are Rites instituted by CHRIST to give grace. The most extroadinary sacrament being Holy Eucharist instituted by Christ at the Last Supper. The origin of each sacrament in itself is enough to give awe to all God's people.

joel said...


I think you missed my point regarding the crumbs entirely - that crumbs are no worse than what happened on the cross.

Secondly you say "there is no time with God." I believe this is antithetical to the Gospel. The good news of Jesus Christ is that God entered time and space as a specific person in a specific culture and yes at a specific time.

The beauty of the sacraments, principally the Eucharist is that Christ continues to enter time and space physically.

Emptying God of time makes Christianity no different than Buddhism or deism.