Tuesday, May 4, 2021



I have really, really, really tried hard to instill in my parishioners over the years that one must receive Holy Communion in the most reverent way possible according to the norms of the Church. And for the most part, my parishioners who receive either on the tongue or in the hand do so.

Recently, though, for the umpteen time in my 41 years as a priest, strange occurrences have happened with the Host and on the same Sunday morning. 

The first was a parishioner coming up to me in the narthex after Mass and handing me a Host he found on the floor near a pew. Was it a child who dropped it as they departed the Communion line with Host still in hand, or a careless adult or was it a visiting non-believer or non-Catholic? Who the hell knows! But I can’t tell you the number of times we have found Hosts on the floor in hymnals/missalettes or the like in every parish I have been stationed.

Then at the second Mass of the day that I celebrated, the deacon distributing with me discovered from the altar boy who was holding the paten for him that someone walked off with the Host and as she did so placed it in her purse! Thus, after I had consolidated the Hosts and placed them in the tabernacle he and the altar boy went looking for this person, whom the altar boy recognized. The deacon asked for the Host back.The person fumbled through the purse to find it, only to have it fall out onto the floor! 

What the??????

She was not a Catholic. But for what purpose would she do this? Anything nefarious? Or was it for a scrapbook or a souvenir from her sojourn to a Catholic Mass? 

I have written about this before and I will write it again. Prior to Communion lines and Holy Communion in the hand and receiving on the run, this never happened. No one ever found Hosts on the floor, in hymnals or the like and no one walked off with the Host in their hand. 

Catholics knelt at the railing, received on the tongue and then departed the railing after a brief meditation. 

Could a person take the Host out of their mouth after receiving on the tongue. Perhaps, but unlikely.

The key is to get people to receive at the railing, kneeling and either on the tongue or in the hand and not leaving the railing until the Host is in the communicant’s mouth. If a non-Catholic of any variety receives, not knowing they shouldn’t, at least the one distributing Holy Communion can make sure the Host is placed in the person’s mouth. 

Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix has written a very good, but perhaps too long, treatise on the Most Holy Eucharist for his people. It is excellent, but the one glaring omission is the proper reception of Holy Communion and ways to prevent the pilfering of the Host or finding Host discarded. 

You can read Vernereri Cernui HERE.  

But given the anecdotal reported evidence, the abuse of the Sacred Host either intentionally or unintentionally has multiplied in the most unsatisfactory way possible since Communion lines and receiving in the hand.

Does any bishop have the humility to say that this novelty in the Catholic Church has none absolutely nothing to maintain or increase reverence for the Real Presence of Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, but in fact has had a horrible deleterious effect on this Faith leading to absolutely bizarre sacrilege for which their should be a corporate lamentation? 


Amont said...

Father, under COVID regulations in my Diocese, only Holy Communion on the hand is permitted. Frequently elderly parishioners fumbling was masks, the host in their other hand, drop the host on the floor.This happens so often I keep at least one Purificator on the Credence table at every Mass I serve.Unfortunately none of our Priests or other EMC's seem concerned-or follow thru in recovering the Sacred Host.

ByzRus said...

Take a mirror and check the underside of your pews. A moistened host adheres well to wood. For whatever reason people are compelled to do such things, it's not improbable that one will be found there.

Fr Martin Fox said...


As far as I know, we have not had Sacred Hosts lodged in hymnals or found on the floor in my present parish; I think people would have told me about it if they discovered such things.

That said, I have had something odd in recent months: people who are Catholic (so I am told, I did not know them) who came to Holy Communion, but tried to carry the Sacred Host back to their pew. I watch and when I see someone does not consume the Eucharist, I will motor after that person; and twice I had someone who said something about wanting to return to his or her pew to consume the Eucharist! Both times I said, no you have to consume it right now.

This is very strange. Is it Covid-related somehow? Or is it due to them seeing what Protestants do (i.e., Protestants will frequently share "the Lord's Supper" while remaining in their pews)? Both times I had parishioners who knew the folks more or less explain it with a shake of the head, as if to say, "if you knew'd understand."

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

In my previous parish in Macon, I saw or was told that parents were breaking the host once they departed the minister, to give a Piece to their child. And others bring part of the Host to someone in the pew with them.

What I find incredible is the lack of respect people have. If I were visiting a synagogue or some other house of worship, I would be on my p's and q's worried about offending the minister or congregation with something I was doing.

Today, Catholics who should know better, are doing very strange things.

ByzRus said...

I think it's possible that a few scenarios could be at play here:

* Someone who with good intentions (usually older) wishing to take communion to a shut-in despite a communion visit becoming available upon request. I've personally seen this and reported it which lead to the aforementioned being discovered.
* Hosts stuck under pews. Here, we though it was a person(s) who had some negative experience with the Church, was angry, and this was their way of acting out.
* What Fr. AJM describes
* People who either want to sell the host on ebay or, use for their own sacrilegious purposes. People who want to do this will usually target an EM who might not be as "tuned" to look for certain behaviors when the person presents themselves.

Communion has become so casual in so many places, almost protestant - it's just "symbolic" so, everyone line up for a host - all are welcome. The army of EM's ascending the altar at communion then being dispatched to stations throughout the church aimed in all directions doesn't help. The Roman Church should go back to its roots as suggested by Fr. AJM (along with ad orientem) however, tone set at the top, I do not see that coming anytime soon.

In the Byzantine Ruthenian Church, we receive from a spoon (wooden during COVID that is then burned). I suppose profanation is possible, however, here, the likelihood is greatly lessened simply because it is placed directly into our mouths. Also, our priest regularly reinforces proper preparation for reception as well.

John Nolan said...

'... and then departed the railing after a brief meditation'. No. You should leave immediately after receiving so that the person waiting to receive can occupy your place. Even making the sign of the cross was discouraged in my childhood parish as being 'Irish'. Meditation and thanksgiving take place afterwards, having resumed your place in the pew.

A laudable custom is to make your thanksgiving at a side altar and perhaps light a candle.

rcg said...

It is worth a homily. Pride being what it is, I recommend formatting your talk as a refresher of the Catechism for youngsters with examples aimed at the children but with the inclusion that even older people have been given the wrong ideas and the families can discuss with the children so that everyone helps everyone else be respectful.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

John, by meditation, I mean really brief. And yes, in our diocese and due to the Irish clergy and sisters influence, we teach people to make the Sign of the Cross after they have received. Going to light a candle after receiving would not work. We do ask people to make a prayer of thanksgiving upon returning to the pew and by kneeling until the Hosts are returned to the tabernacle.

The new GIRM, though, asks people to stand throughout the distribution of Holy Communion against what was our national custom of kneeling after the Agnus Dei and returning and kneeling. Most bishops did not go that route but many bishops in the western USA have mandated it.

Mike in Colorado said...

My wife and I lived in a fervent parish in New Mexico for eleven years, a parish in which the pastor brooked no foolishness in sanctuary or nave. I do recall him speaking in at least one sermon of the same experiences you have, Father Allan---Hosts on the floor, stuck in hymnals. He was quite distressed and wondered how people could do this. And this was before our present state in which 70 percent of Catholics think it's just symbolic. The way I see this situation is that it is the result of poor catechesis introduced 60 years ago, in which the Church was promised by the revisionists that the new catechesis would pack the pews by retaining Catholics and winning converts, and from the repeated, continuous minimization of the Eucharist that you document so well: moving the tabernacle out of the sanctuary or off to the side (our son lives in a Southern parish where the elevated stand on which the tabernacle used to be placed is now occuped by a large potted plant (I'm not sure it's real or if it's just plastic!); elevating the chair of the "presider" over the altar; introducing laity as Eucharistic ministers; elimination of Hours of Adoration and Benedictions, etc. As for the lay ministers of the Eucharist, I have seen a woman about to distribute Communion on a Sunday morning climb the steps to the altar in an evening cocktail dress which bared her shoulders, did not reach to the knees, and was slit part way up the side of her thighs. I have seen more than a few line up for Communion while chewing gum. That same New Mexico pastor was horrified that perhaps as many as a fourth to a third of the congregation went directly from the Communion line out to the parking lot. Is it any wonder that the majority of Catholics think it's just a symbol? As Flannery O'Connor told a fellow Catholic at a dinner party who loved the trappings but thought the Eucharist was just a symbol, "Well, if it's just a symbol, I say the Hell with it." Understand that O'Connor was using sarcasm to make just the opposite point. She was a practicing Catholic who knew suffering.

Anonymous said...

What ever happened to the widespread use of layity posted on either side of the front aisle to watch over the congregation receiving Holy Communion? They used to be hand-picked and well trained to appropriately handle these odd, post Vatican II situations. For every case you randomly observe, how many more do you miss? Is it time to bring back the old guards?

Blessed Imelda and St. Tarsicius, pray for us!

The Real Presence said...

Every Catholic parish needs a painting of Judas leaving the Last Supper at all exits. Written under these paintings should be the words, “Do you remember who left the Last Supper early?”

Colton Lowder said...

John Nolan, I have always heard that you should wait until the next person receives, and then get up. In fact, our pastor made a announcement about communion etiquette a few Sundays ago that included that people should stop and reflect for a second before getting up and going back to the pews. (There’s a lot of new people at our parish lately, at most TLMs, that’s why an announcement was necessary)

Sophia said...

Sophia here: I share your ongoing concerns Father. It is very distressing! And of course wearing masks likely created more opportunities for deliberate abuse/diversion for nefarious purposes. But even for the ordinary communicant, the mask presented opportunities for things to go wrong. At my Parish, during the first few months after public Masses resumed, there were several times when the Host fell as communicants were transferring it from hand to mouth because of having to also move the mask. In the prior 20 years, I don't think I had ever seen this happen (host falling) even once. Friends in other Parishes reported similar occurrences. On at least one occasion the priest had to call someone back to consume the Host after he had walked away and was about to head down the aisle with it still in his hand.

Anonymous said...

"This novelty in the Catholic Church"...really?!?

"It is clear from numerous historic sources, that the earliest way that Christians received Holy Communion...was the reception of the Blood of our Lord by drinking directly from the chalice, and receiving the Body of our Lord in the hand...

"In the post Vatican 2 period, with its strong concern for liturgical reform, an effort was made to return to more ancient practices, including the reception of Holy Communion in the hand.

"As we see, the Church has used various methods for administering Holy Communion over the centuries, in both the East and the West. In every case, it sees to have been moved by practical considerations to adopt these methods."

FROM pages 84-86 of THE ORTHODOX CHURCH, 455 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS (by Stanley Harakas)

In the opinion of 30327, if a cleric wishes to serve communion on the tongue, that is fine with me. The distribution of communion is a "small T" tradition, like the number of candles on or around the altar, the color of the vestments and the material of the altar.

John Nolan said...

Lighting a candle at a side altar requires the presence of side altars, and modern churches are usually built without them. Trying to bully the laity into standing until everyone has received is reprehensible and can't be mandated, let alone enforced.

At the Oxford Oratory I usually go to St Philip's altar. I'm not often in London these days but when I was I usually had resort to the altar of St Mary Magdalen. Even when not communicating, this part of the Mass is ideal for quiet reflection; lighting a candle and reciting the De Profundis recall our deceased friends and relatives and all the faithful departed.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 11.44pm.

Can you admit it is your subjective opinion re what is and what is not a “small T” tradition? Or are you claiming you are capable of objectively stating what is and what is not a “small T” tradition?

Pierre said...

Receiving Holy Communion on the tongue is the normative practice in the Catholic Church, Holy Communion in the hand is a now approved exception which certainly has not reinforced belief in the Real Presence, so like so many of the “reforms” is an utter failure

Anonymous said...

the early form of receiving in the hand did not last, nor the common chalice, due exactly to abuses.

the old way of clearing this up in a jiffy is a few burnings at the stake.

this being modern times and everything, you might offer a free sixpack of beer to each communicant if they make a point of consuming immediately in front of the minister. the other option is a consecrated host buy-back.

Anonymous said...

In regard to the comment by Anonymous about what it was like in the ancient Church and that seeking a return to honor the Eucharist in receiving it as was done before the revisionist wrecking crew went to work sixty years ago is "just tradition with a small T," I am reminded about what an Eastern Rite bishop said in a conversation about "tradition." He said that in talking with a Latin Rite bishop (this was back in the 1990's), the Latin Rite bishop said that all the Eastern Liturgical practice was simply "accidents" and therefore not very imporant. The Eastern Rite bishop replied that "accidents" are not trivial but essential. The Latin Rite bishop was referring to St Thomas Aquinas' division of all things that exist into those that exist as of themselves (he called them "substances") and those that have to exist in other things (Aristotle's "categories," things such as quantity, color, action, performance, etc.) But Aquinas, as the Eastern bishop so wisely stated, did not say that "accidents," and these include much of what the modern mentalities like "Anonymous" dismiss as trivial and relatively unimportant aspects of the Liturgy, were unimportant. They are very important; everyday life proves that things such as quantity, color, age, presentation, the shape and quality of vestments, the use of candles, etc., are very important and consequential. Ritual is substantial but also incorporates many such "accidents." The major failing of the modern mentality is to think that only substantial existence is important. For the modern mind, shaped by the mass media and its love of novelty and change, Tradition is unimportant and obsolete. We are learning, some of us, that this is not the case. Benedict XVI said that one of the major failings in our time is the belief that change is synonymous with "progress," and that until we learn this, the Church like modern secular life will be repeatedly swept by intellectual fads and fashions promoted by people whose mentality is like the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma: A mile wide and an inch deep. Philosophy is life, and the modern "with-its" need to learn this. Tradition is life, too. One can see this in so many of our contemporaries---lives stripped of any Tradition, any historical memory, and therefore rudderless, blown about by every new wind of fashion and fad.

John Nolan said...

There are early sources referring to reception in the hand but a) we don't know how widespread it was and b) the practice of receiving in the left hand and then picking the Host up with the fingers of the right is not attested in any of the sources and in the opinion of most scholars would have not been countenanced.

The modernists who introduced this practice did their best to assure us that it was customary in the early Church. They were dissembling. Some of their assumptions, like the idea that Mass was celebrated versus populum, were based on faulty and now discredited scholarship.

But this would not have made a ha'porth of difference since their motive was ideological, not historical.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Actually the Episcopalians/Anglicans receive Holy Communion in the hand as it was done in the early Church. The Host placed in the right hand palm and then without using the other hand's fingers, the communicant brings their palm to their mouth to "lick" the Host off of the palm and any particles.

That's the little "t" tradition that our current tradition of Communion in the hand does not follow and thus is a novelty.

Anonymous said...

An observation from the pew: the parents of the first communicants seem to enjoy the cuteness of the day but pay little attention to anything that is going on. If the child goes back to the pew with the host in hand but with little idea what to do with it, one would think the parent would intervene. That doesn’t happen. If the parents don’t show reverence for the Church and it’s Sacraments, is it a surprise that their children are equally irreverent?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

At our First Communion this past Sunday and every First Communion I've had for over 15 years, the children come to me as their pastor, kneel on a kneeling and receive on the Tongue and by intinction. It is very reverent. Hopefully that experience will stick with them.

Fr William Bauer PhD said...

Will you address the idea that people in the early church did indeed take Communion to ill relatives at home - and it was not a secret?

Anonymous said...

Just one more ding in the bumper of my faith. Call it weak. Call it whatever you want. I am and have been at the point that I don't even care. I use to spend a large amount of time worrying about issues like this, until it took away all of my peace. God permits it to happen, right? Shrug.

JR said...

For the umpteenth time: Intinction would solve a host of problems. People would receive on the tongue and those who wish could receive the Precious Blood without resorting to the "common cup" and the usual army of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. There would be little possibility of walking away with the Host.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

At the First Communion I found it easier to hold the chalice myself and have either the deacon or the parochial vicar hold the Ciborium of Hosts for me. Thus if intinction was the norm, an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion or installed acolyte could hold either the chalice or the ciborium although I find holding the chalice gives me more safety with the intincted Host from chalice to communicant. Of courese there is the small chalice in a slot in the ciborium contraption that allows the minister to hold both.

Fr Martin Fox said...


At my parish, we have administered First Holy Communion very similarly: by intinction and on the tongue, of course; but we have the parents accompany the child to the prie dieus -- pries dieu? -- er, to the kneelers.

Last year and this year, we did not do intinction because of Covid -- specifically for this reason: that intinction precluded distributing the Eucharist in the hand, and I did not know if there would be a battle about that. As it turned out, this year, every child received on the tongue, and maybe all the parents did, about that latter point I am not certain. So I think that for 2022, we will return to intinction.

Anonymous said...

It would seem that intinction increases the chance of spillage of the Precious Blood. Also, if a host is dropped, it can be picked up whole. A dropped "intincted" host is another matter.

Yes, I see the paten, but if the aim is to go as far as possible in eliminating untoward accidents, why intinct at all?

Pierre said...

Father Bauer,

That’s how St. Tarcisus got murdered.

Robert Kumpel said...

I'm with anonymous at 5:42 pm. At my old parish in San Diego, Our Lady of the Rosary, there were ALWAYS ushers positioned on each side of the aisle watching the communicants carefully to insure that no one walked away with a Host.

It's a shame we've come to do this, but unless a priest has the right to outlaw Communion in the hand in his parish (I don't they do--do they?) this seems to be the only rational alternative to preventing sacrilege and abuse.

When, Dear Lord, are some of these failed experiments every going to end?

Robert Kumpel said...


My kingdom for an editor!

John Nolan said...

I've commented on this before, but although intinction was used in the Latin Church at certain times and in certain locations it was generally reprobated, not least for theological reasons; the consecrations, following Our Lord's precedent at the Last Supper, are distinct and so reception of the same elements should also be separate. Take, eat is not the same as Take, drink.

Of course in the aftermath of Vatican II there was a tendency to want to conform with Byzantine practices even when the Roman custom was of greater antiquity. But the main reason for present-day bishops to oppose intinction is that it makes redundant the vast army of (mostly female) Extraordinary Ministers. The English bishops actually admitted it fifteen or so years ago.

Pierre said...

John Nolan,

Just another reason to attend the EF. One positive aspect of the pandemic is no extraordinary ministers and the restoration of “noble simplicity.”

Mark Bandy said...

Because we have so many tourists at the Cathedral (Savannah) each Sunday, we generally have ushers posted on the sides of the church during communion to advise individuals who do not immediately consume the Blessed Sacrament to do so. We never fail to have at least one each Sunday. I can't help but ascribe bad motives to people who can generally can clearly see what everyone else is doing and yet choose to put the host in their purse or walk around with it. I wish the priest would announce the norms for reception of communion immediately prior to distribution to remove any confusion.