From a reader:
I went to Mass and Benediction this evening and at Communion time, and I under-estimated how small the pieces of host were in my mouth before swallowing, and there was a really large sharp chunk that got stuck in my throat.
I tried going into the washroom to wash it down with water from the sink, but I could still feel it in there stabbing my throat. (I think our priest uses the hosts used for intinction because they’re rather crispy and don’t dissolve in the mouth.)
Father was busy in the Adoration Chapel, so I couldn’t get his assistance on what to do. The only other thing I could think of was to wait until I got home and eat a ball of bread and a glass of milk to force it down like I was taught in my first aid course.
Now I’m wondering if I committed a sacrilege?
No. To my mind you did not commit a sacrilege.
These things happen.
I commend you for your concern and your obvious reverence for the Eucharist and your desire to receive Communion properly. Also, I remind you that we are human beings. While the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic lives, it is at the same time “for us”, and we are human beings. When you consume the Host and, because of some problem, start thinking in terms of first aid, you should do something so that you are not any longer in discomfort.
We believe that the Host and all small particles, the Precious Blood and small droplets, are the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. This is the perfect and infallible teaching of the Church and every Catholic is bound to believe this. Those who deny it are heretics. However, we don’t really know how small is “small”, in the sense of our ability to recognize the accidents of bread and wine which remain after transubstantiation. We also would have this difficulty when it comes to a Host which is already being broken down after consumption, even it something gets “stuck” somewhere.
Because we can’t recognize precisely when the accidents of bread or wine cease and the Real Presence of Christ in what remains has ceased, it is entirely reasonable to be cautious and conservative rather than casual and careless about what is a great Mystery.
That said, I can’t see how it is wrong to have a drink of water in order to solve the problem. And if that doesn’t work, move to a more aggressive “first aid” type of solution.
I think you were cautious and I cannot find any fault in what you did.
Your question does raise the old question of whether or not people should chew or not chew.
Some people prefer, and were taught, never to chew the Host they receive in Communion. They prefer to allow the Host to dissolve to an extent before swallowing. Others will chew to an extent, as they would food. Sometimes, something of a Host will stick to dental work, which requires the communicant to be very careful.
For the sake of the conversation, in John 6 one of the words the Lord uses about “eating” his flesh actually means “chew, gnaw”. He also uses a simpler word “eat”, but that “chew” is there. Furthermore, to satisfy our need to be Unreconstructed Osssified Manualists, in a manual by Heribert Jone, OFM, we find the opinion that if one only allows the Host the dissolve in the mouth, one does not receive the Sacrament. (Remember that there is the Sacrament itself and the effects of the Sacrament.)
I once did a WDTPRS POLL on this issue and here are the results:
How do you consume the Host?
Generally avoid chewing and allow It to dissolve or soften before swallowing (63%, 1,374 Votes)
Generally chew to some degree and then swallow (37%, 815 Votes)
Total Voters: 2,189
The parameters of the POLL question change when “substantial bread” is used. Sometimes the “substantial bread” is so tough and the pieces so large that it can be hard to swallow it.
ANECDOTE: In my seminary in the USA – a horrible place filled with heresy and the black grief of the world – we had “substantial bread” that was so hard, so impossible to get down that even the liberals (the majority) complained about it. We receive back the answer that “the longer you chew, the more of a sacrament it is.” To this day that remark remains one of the stupidest things I have ever heard in a Catholic context.
So, without suggesting that there is a direct proportion between how long you chew and how much the Lord is present or the graces efficacious, I will suggest that if the Hosts used are quite resistant or large, it isn’t wrong to chew so as to break them down enough to be able to swallow them easily. If there isn’t “more Jesus”, neither do you “hurt Jesus” by chewing a Host.
At this point I will recreate that POLL. Please “chews” your answer and give your reasons in the combox. I admonish you to be respectful to each other. It isn’t hard to lock someone out of the combox for good.