From a priest reader:
I’ve been a priest for ten years, and the celebration of the Holy Mass is still the high point of my day.
I’ve always been scrupulous about cleansing the sacred vessels after Holy Communion and the fragments of the Sacred Host on the paten. I know that a Catholic is automatically excommunicated for throwing away the Sacred Species. I’m always afraid that if I don’t recheck and check again the paten after I’ve wiped it that I’ve missed a particle and that it will adhere to the pall when I put it over the paten and then be lost. I’m also a little embarrassed about rechecking and checking the paten again "just in case." When does reverence become neurosis, and when does excommunication actually come into play in the case of Eucharistic fragments?
I don’t know when reverence becomes neurosis. I know that I am very careful to make sure that my paten is clean, that I have scraped the corporal, that I have purified well the ciborium and chalice… and I move on. If I see something that I think may be a fragment of a Host, I do something about it. But then I don’t continue to look for things that may be there once I have done my best.
Also, you cannot incur the excommunication if you don’t commit the moral sin. If you unintentionally miss a fragment, you have not done what is necessary to incur the censure.
It is good to have a solid discipline when dealing with purifying vessels and gathering the fragments, lest they be lost.