QUAERITUR: People who walk away with Hosts

From a reader:

twice in a month I have seen two examples of people receiving the Body of Christ but not consuming it in my diocese. Thankfully both Priests were strict in how they dealt with this. In the first instance, a young man walked away with the host and the Priest made him consume it. The other occasion an elderly lady took the host and when the Priest called her to come back he took the host and simply gave her a blessing, were they both correct?

It seems very worrying that this should occur, although I know of some of the abuses which have resulted from the practice of receiving in the hand.

First, I would be say that the priest was “strict”.  I would say that he was “diligent”.  This is what priests are supposed to do.

It could have been that the two people in question were non-Catholics who did not really know what to do, but, yes, this is a problem that results from Communion in the hand.

It is also a result of decades of poor catechesis and shabby liturgical worship which weakened reverence for the Eucharist.

How to change this?

We need better and more frequent preaching about the Eucharist and the sacrificial dimension of Mass.  We need clear statements in parish bulletins about how to receive Communion and who may receive.  We need to persuade people to move away from receiving in the hand.

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38 Responses to QUAERITUR: People who walk away with Hosts

  1. Kneeling for Communion might also help remedy this problem. Maybe non-Catholics would be more reluctant to approach for Communion if they had to kneel to receive it on the tongue.

    At my parish, the rector has spoken to us about the fact that Hosts have been found on the floor, smashed between the pages of missalettes, and even in the trash. Bad things can still happen to Hosts even with Communion rails and reception on the tongue; but surely there is no sense in making it easier for them to happen.

  2. yatzer says:

    Yesterday a Catholic friend told a non-Catholic mutual friend that she “was not welcome” to receive Communion in a Catholic Church. I didn’t know how to respond without sounding as though either the non-Catholic was “welcome”, which she would likely have interpreted that it meant welcome to receive; or getting into a counterproductive argument over word choice with the Catholic. I’m guessing the Catholic was not pleased about the actual Catholic position and thinks it is exclusionary as she is a 70-something Spirit of VII sort of lady who thinks we are all the same anyway.Maybe we should have some kind of pamphlet with suggestions for how to handle the fact that if you want to receive Communion in the Catholic Church you have to be Catholic, but that doesn’t mean we hate you. Arrgh!!

  3. Hank Igitur says:

    Good ideas: Communion kneeling on the tongue only, quick dissolving Hosts, Communion plates, acolytes positioned to assist the priest in his diligence and observation of communicants, periodic announcements from the pulpit and notices in bulletins to point out that Communion is only for Catholics who have made their first Communion and are in the state of Grace, no EMHCs.

  4. alanphipps says:

    Bring back the altar rail!

  5. Altar rails, Communion by Intinction, fast dissolving Hosts.

  6. Jeannie_C says:

    From time to time one of our priests will give an instructional homily on how/when to receive Communion. My husband and I usually sit very close to the front, have never witnessed anyone walking away with the Host in hand or attempting to conceal Him.

    Yatzer, with regard to how to inform non-Catholics that they may not receive Holy Communion in our church, the best approach to take is to word it in the positive, explaining how it is the supreme symbol of unity amongst Catholics, shared amongst Catholics who have (hopefully) prepared themselves accordingly. End with thanking the person for respecting our beliefs. Any lifting of an eyebrow, disdainful look, expression of surprise and your next line is to ask them whether they are interested in becoming a Catholic. We once had a Protestant neighbour who regularly received Communion at our nearby church, upon discovering he was not supposed to do so decided to enter R.C.I.A. and convert.

  7. Cafea Fruor says:

    I’ll be honest — I’m one who usually receives in the hand and would prefer the option remain available, as I’ve got a numb lower lip and a bad jaw joint (old jaw surgery didn’t go well) and also a lack of depth perception that together make receiving on the tongue pretty tricky and awkward, but I can see the case for reception on the tongue. I was at Mass a couple of years ago and happened to look up from my pew while others were receiving, and saw a mother break off a piece of the host and place it in the mouth of her maybe 18-month-old daughter in arm before consuming the remainder herself. Usually, the church I attend has ushers stationed to watch whether communicants indeed consume, but this was one of the few times they weren’t there. Oy vey. I was a bit dumbfounded at first, and then I had to remember I’ve had the grace of great catechism, which so many are lacking.

  8. JKnott says:

    A few years ago I was at a packed Mass when a teenage boy about 17 returning from receiving was holding the Host in his hand and actually flipping it around. My heart just sunk and I inconspicuously stepped slightly over to block his way and quietly whispered that he needed to put the Host in his mouth which he did. In the pew with his family he said something to his father and seemed devastated and kept his head down the rest of the time.

    I will never understand why the Vatican II “homily” cannot be given to include catechesis on prayer and the sacraments. Even with the best, we never never hear about Confession, prayer, silence, self-denial, mortification, the symbolic meaning of different parts of the Mass, contraception, abortion. I just do not understand the black out. The first half or more of the homily consists of repeating everything that was just read and then come a few generalities. Some Protestant talks I occasionally hear on the radio are more ascetical.
    So why should we be surprised that 75% of Mass attendees don’t realize the miracle and grace of the Eucharist and the Faith. Makes me weary, sick, tired and sad.
    “Behold the Heart that has loved men so much and has received nothing but ingratitude.”

  9. Athelstan says:

    Jeannie,

    “…the best approach to take is to word it in the positive.”

    Sage advice.

  10. Jeannie_C says:

    JKnott, I wonder whether the problem is with the priest not taking advantage of the Gospel of the day in which to work in the catechesis? Our pastors regularly speak about Confession – in fact, today with the transferred Feast of Ascension he urged us all to avail ourselves of the sacrament as a way to propel ourselves to Heaven when our time on earth is done. Self-denial is spoken of consistently during Advent and Lent, with an emphasis on doing for others in addition to practising self-denial in order to strengthen ourselves. During the months of May and October we pray a few decades of the Rosary before Mass begins, and he speaks of the Rosary and prayer as something to develop. Abortion is denounced from within the homily, too, though I can honestly say I have never heard anything on contraception. I guess you can’t have jam on both sides.

  11. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Thrice in the last 20 years or so I have followed people back to the places with Hosts still in their hands and said to all three “You need to consume that or give it to me. ” All three consumed.

  12. Jeannie_C says:

    I’m glad you did that, Dr. Peters. Our ushers keep an eye on things at our church. I would also add that in addition to instruction on when and how to receive, our congregation has been spoken to concerning how to dress, posture during various parts of the Mass and keeping a respectful silence. And then, just to spoil it all, EMHCs are up there making the sign of the cross on children’s foreheads, going back to distributing. ARRGGHH!!!

  13. backtothefuture says:

    Satanist’s and occultists are known for stealing hosts. Receiving on the tongue can remedy this. It’s sad when these people believe more in the true presence than so called catholics.

  14. Margaret says:

    Cafea Fruror- two thoughts. It is possible that the mom sharing with her toddler was Eastern Rite, I believe it’s their custom to give communion from infancy. And I do sympathize with the jar issue-

  15. Margaret says:

    Gah! Never posting from phone again. After this. Jaw issue: I find it much easier to receive COTT kneeling than standing. Not sure if it’s the extra arm bracing or what, but it feels much more “secure” to be that way…

  16. Phil_NL says:

    This problem is a good way for father (though I’ve seen an EMHC do it too once) to show he still is capable of a decent sprint. But to be honest, I doubt he’ll have to chase after people more than once every other year or so.

  17. Scott W. says:

    I’ll be honest — I’m one who usually receives in the hand and would prefer the option remain available, as I’ve got a numb lower lip and a bad jaw joint (old jaw surgery didn’t go well) and also a lack of depth perception that together make receiving on the tongue pretty tricky and awkward…

    No worries. I think you will find most of us here in favor of kneeling/on-the-tongue desire it as a general norm and not a no-exceptions absolute.

  18. StabatMater says:

    I realize that this may be a scandalous suggestion, but indulge me since it’s Mother’s Day…
    Perhaps if administering the Eucharist were reserved for and entrusted to priests & ordained deacons rather than “Sally, Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist” in bad polyester pants or even “good ol’ Ed” who runs the Men’s Club, the dignity of the Eucharist would be better preserved from the onset.
    While we pray for the return of altar rails, perhaps altar BOYS could stand as guardians with pattons. Because maybe, just maybe, if those in charge took such care for Our Blessed Savior in the Eucharist each & every Mass, maybe it would communicate to even the least informed person in the pew that Christ REALLY is truly present as we profess Him to be.
    And ad orientem would exactly do any harm either!

  19. StabatMater says:

    That should read “wouldn’t do harm.” Sorry!

  20. ReginaMarie says:

    Cafea Fruor: I was going to suggest the same thing as Margaret…it could be possible that they were Eastern Catholics, whose children do receive the Holy Eucharist (by intinction) from infancy. Be that as it may, I still believe it would have been preferable if the priest himself broke off a small piece of the Host for the child to consume.

  21. pelerin says:

    ‘We need clear statements in parish bulletins on who may receive’

    One of the great European Cathedrals in which many tourists mingle with the faithful has the following written in their weekly bulletin in several languages. The English is as follows (using the same lower case letters):
    ‘The bread distributed during mass has a high significance for Christians: it is the body of Christ, their Lord and God. If you do not share our faith in the living presence of Christ in the eucharistic bread, we ask you not to join your neighbours at communion time.’

    The original language states:
    The bread consecrated and distributed during mass has a high significance for catholics: it is the Body of Jesus Christ their Lord and God. If you do not share our faith in his presence, we ask you not to join in the communion procession.’

    I have attended Mass there many times and am always disappointed that this request has not been better worded. I wonder why the word ‘catholiques’ has been rendered in English as ‘Christians’ and even in the original language there is no mention of being in a state of grace to receive. Someone once told me she always receives Communion when in France although she is a nominal Church of England. Unless instructions are better written there is no wonder that there is confusion.

  22. Jack Regan says:

    I work in a school setting where this can be a problem.

    I have found that reminding them to consume the host at every single Mass virtually eliminates this altogether.

  23. majuscule says:

    I was watching a video of a Mass in St. Peter’s Square. It was interesting to see some priests only distributing communion on the tongue. They would go so far as to shake their head and point to their mouth when approached by a person with hands out.

    Then there were the priests distributing either way. I was scandalized to see one communicant receive in the hand, and as the priest turned to the next communicant, pop the host into his mouth and appear to “dust” his hands off as he walked away! (I need to go back and find that video I have wanted to reference it several times.)

  24. jhayes says:

    I am in Florence today and was surprised that the priest remained behind the altar and those of us receiving Communion walked in single file through the opening in the altar rail up to the people’s side of the altar and bent forward to receive an intincted host on the tongue. I have never seen the Eucharist distributed that way before. I wondered if this is one of the ancient rites (Dominican, Ambrosian, etc) that were preserved after Trent.

    At the Sign of Peace, the Priest came forward to the opening in the altar rail and we all went forward in single file to shake hands and exchange greetings with him.

    There were only about a dozen people present, so neither of these took an extraordinary amount of time.

  25. marajoy says:

    I can’t help but wondering if some of the people who do this have the intention of taking it to use it to give Communion to the sick/homebound. (Maybe someone like the old lady?) They know it is permitted for lay people to do this, but no one has ever told them that there is a proper procedure that must be followed, etc.

  26. marajoy says: I can’t help but wondering if some of the people who do this have the intention of taking it to use it to give Communion to the sick/homebound. (Maybe someone like the old lady?) They know it is permitted for lay people to do this, but no one has ever told them that there is a proper procedure that must be followed, etc.

    Maybe laity bringing Communion to the sick is another practice that should be revisited and rethought. Why aren’t priests doing this? Or if there aren’t enough priests to meet the need, why aren’t deacons doing it? With all due respect to the men in Holy Orders, I think they need to start reconquering their turf.

  27. BLB Oregon says:

    “Yesterday a Catholic friend told a non-Catholic mutual friend that she “was not welcome” to receive Communion in a Catholic Church.”

    One way to deal with this is to explain that Holy Communion is an act of profound intimacy not only with Christ, but with the entire Church, an act that announces that the communicant is, without reservation, in full unity with the Church and all she teaches and free from the taint of those sins that the Church teaches destroy this unity. Therefore, it is necessary that those who desire to receive the Eucharist not only join the Church but also make certain that they are free from serious sin. Until one is actually living in the full unity that this act implies and publicly announces, however, is not appropriate to receive Holy Communion. Those who earnestly desire to receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church but who do not yet belong to the Church are invited to approach our pastor to find out how they may go about joining.

  28. wmeyer says:

    Stabat Mater, I am with you all the way. I have seen Mass with no more than 120 in the pews when three EMHCs come up to serve. And more recently, with a few hundred in the pews, when 15(!) EMHCs thundered up. Perhaps it is the result of having spent my working life in engineering matters, but on a purely pragmatic note, when you have 15 EMHCs, it adds considerably to the time before the first of the faithful in the pews may receive. And then there’s the cleanup time, with all those vessels to be counted (yes, they do need to to that) and purified. Makes me want to offer a class to the pastor on the subject of diminishing returns.

  29. sthelensrcbarry says:

    thanks for answering my question, Father, god bless you

  30. Cafea Fruor says:

    Margaret and Regina Marie: Sadly, this woman did not appear to be Eastern Rite — she was Hispanic, and I can’t imagine there are many Eastern Rite Hispanics, or many Eastern Rite folks at my parish at all, when my diocese has at least two Eastern Rite parishes not far away, so my guess, sadly, is she’s poorly catechized. :(

  31. monmir says:

    -I was going to Mass to St Patrick Cathedral NYC , 1/3 of 1 page was intruction about receiving communion. Did it help probably, were there any problems? Many. I saw one time a women coming back to the pew and wash down the host with a V8, quite sure she was not the only one. Last month I saw a women walking back to the pew with the host in her hand and I told her she had to consume the host as she received it in front of the priest. She had no clue. No clue?
    -communion on the tongue: yes right now it is a personal choice, but with all the abuse it should be the bishop voice we should hear. Hello to you sleeping at the helm.
    -we should return to at least 3 hours fast before communion (which I do, 59 minutes 59 seconds and some nano seconds is not good enough, 3 hours: digestion mostly done and sacrifice of not putting anything in our mouth). People would return to Mass in the morning instead of evening. Why offer to God the day when it is practically finished. 10 pm Mass on Saturday is bad news! Dear Lord I had other things to do, but see I am doing it, I still have 2 hours before it is tomorrow!
    -let’s get rid of EMHC! Stop giving the cup, I have seen so many abuses.
    -all are receiving communion at every Mass, so it is wonderful to know that all went to confession and that all are spiritually prepared to meet the Lord, how wonderful is this? Or not…..
    EF Mass all of us should make it theyir duty to promote and help it.
    I am trying to get the Dominican Rite Mass in NYC for months now getting closer but not there yet, please pray for it.
    Fr. Thompson if you read this please help.

  32. TxBSonnier says:

    Monmir- While I do far prefer Sunday morning Mass, I think completely eliminating evening Mass times at larger parishes would be an overall bad decision. My husband has a job that requires him to work odd hours and many weekends (currently running blood drives with many churches requesting drives there on Sunday mornings and Army National Guard, applying for police work) ; if Sunday morning was his only option than there would be many times when he, and many others in emergency service jobs, would be unable to make Mass at all. I do like the idea of a longer fast before Mass.

  33. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    While reading this, Graham Greene’s short story, “The Hint of an Explanation”, came to mind, in which, as I remember it, someone tells how, when he was a boy (an altar boy, I think), an adult from outside the Church oddly and intently tried to get him to sneak out and hand over a consecrated Host… (I won’t say more, to avoid spoiling it for those who have not yet read it: I remember it as well worth reading…)

    I think the clarity and detail of BLB Oregon’s suggestion is good! I would not be surprised if many an Anglican ( and not only Anglicans, for that matter), reading the notice pelerin quotes (or something like it) would mistakenly understand it to be a clearly welcoming invitation to communicate.

  34. priests wife says:

    in response to Cafe F and others about the woman who gave part of the Body of Christ to her small child- it had better not be an Eastern rite Catholic who did that

    yes- our infants receive, but ONLY from a deacon or priest- we do not have EMs of Holy Communion- the rare time we would assist at a Roman-rite Mass that was not at my husband’s hospital, I would take out my very small children during the distribution of the Holy Communion so that they would not have a ‘fit’ with not receiving- it is confusing for people and also the host is different ( leavened bread is the proper form for us)

  35. Gail F says:

    “Yesterday a Catholic friend told a non-Catholic mutual friend that she “was not welcome” to receive Communion in a Catholic Church.”

    The only time anyone said this to me, I stammered a reply that wasn’t particularly helpful. Thinking about it later I decided what I would say next time, but there has never been a next time! I would simply say that it isn’t meant to be unwelcoming — that everyone is welcome to come in a Catholic Church — but that “communion” means that one is in communion with the Church and believes everything she teaches, including that the host and the wine really ARE the body and blood of Christ, and that it’s a very serious sin to us for people to commune if they don’t believe those things. So we are really looking out for them and protecting them from committing a serious sin without knowing it or meaning to, but that of course if they really DO believe those things they are welcome to join the Catholic Church at any time!

  36. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    I will never understand why the Vatican II ‘homily’ cannot be given to include catechesis on prayer and the sacraments. Even with the best, we never, never hear about Confession, prayer, silence, self-denial, mortification, the symbolic meaning of different parts of the Mass, contraception, abortion.

    The problem you describe does not apply to every parish, and certainly not to mine or to those pastored by my priest-friends. We frequently preach about these things. Find another parish.

  37. The Masked Chicken says:

    Just some random points:

    Point. Point. Pointpoint point
    Point. Point. Pointpopointintpoint.
    TnoippoinT. Point point

    :)

    “Oy vey. I was a bit dumbfounded at first, and then I had to remember I’ve had the grace of great catechism, which so many are lacking.”

    Do the Baby Boomers remember how the polio vaccines were given to the general public back in the early 1960′s? Everyone lined up in long lines and ate the sugar cubes. I think that we need something similar, by universal mandate from Rome. Once people get into Church, lock the doors and have a mandatory 1/2 hour each Sunday catechesis before Mass on a particular topic of Catholicism. If the priests tries to sugar-coat or assert his own opinion, he gets reported and someone takes his place. Yes, I know this is extreme, but sometimes you have to treat the Church like the Church Militant and treat it just like boot camp.

    “Thrice in the last 20 years or so I have followed people back to the places with Hosts still in their hands and said to all three “You need to consume that or give it to me. ” All three consumed.”

    If they were my kids, I’d also give them a spanking – corporal punishment for not treating their hands like a good corporal.

    “Yesterday a Catholic friend told a non-Catholic mutual friend that she “was not welcome” to receive Communion in a Catholic Church.”

    What does welcoming have to do with it? They should have told them that they were not permitted to receive and been done with it. The mistake the friend made was in making reception a personal matter instead of an objective one. It hints at, perhaps, a slight flaw in the friend’s understanding of communion.

    The Chicken

  38. AA Cunningham says:

    StabatMater says:
    12 May 2013 at 6:57 am

    “I realize that this may be a scandalous suggestion, but indulge me since it’s Mother’s Day…
    Perhaps if administering the Eucharist were reserved for and entrusted to priests & ordained deacons rather than “Sally, Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist””(sic)

    A few points of charitable catechesis. Only a validly ordained Priest may be referred to as a Eucharistic Minister as explained in paragraph 154 of Redemptionis Sacramentum and Canon 910.

    “While we pray for the return of altar rails, perhaps altar BOYS could stand as guardians with pattons. ”

    Indeed, let us return to the use of Communion rails, altar BOYS and patens. At the very least there should be an usher acting as a sentinel standing next to each person distributing Communion to stop these abuses.

    Also, in some dioceses there are printed instructions in the missals explaining who may and may not receive Communion. I suggest that these instructions also be prominently printed in the bulletin too.