I recently started reading your inspiring blog and would like to pose a question regarding what is the appropriate response to a liturgical abuse during Holy Communion. I have been plagued with guilt since the incident.
Last December, I attended a 0700 Sunday Mass at my parish. Communion was being distributed by two female Eucharistic ministers. I was in the left line about 8-9 people back from the minister when I saw the Euchariatic minister in the right line drop a sacred Host to the ground. She did not immediately stop and pick up the Host to consume it. She saw it drop to the ground and repositioned herself over the Sacred Body. One by one people processed forward walking over The Lord. I was appalled and wanted to break through my line and pick up the Host. But I did not — mostly out of fear it would disrupt the flow of Communion and bring confusion to the people and anger to the Eucharistic ministers.
While I stood in judgment of the Eucharistic ministers, who clearly violated their roles, or who were outright ignorant of what to do in a situation like this, my question is: do I need to go to Confession for timidity? Did I sin by not honoring The Lord in breaking through my line to consume the Host and ensure all broken pieces were removed from the ground and consumed? Did I perpetuate the sacrilege committed that Sunday morning?
Please advise. My heart is very much consumed with guilt even four months after the incident.
Ah… these ministers…. So many of them are, in addition to being unnecessary, unprepared and clueless though not through their own fault. Sadly, too few pastors spend adequate time with their legions of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to explain to them how to handle situations like this (perhaps because few pastors were ever themselves taught in seminary what to do).
We all must be vigilant about abuses and sacrileges against the Blessed Sacrament. It is… or rather He is Our Lord and Savior, worthy of all praise and worship. One can hardly think of a situation wherein one could show too much deference or too much respect towards the Blessed Sacrament. Paul Comtois, the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, died in 1966, when a fire engulfed his residence. He had been privileged by the Archbishop of Quebec to have the Blessed Sacrament reserved in his residence. After being reassured that his family and all guests had been evacuated, Comtois re-entered the inferno to rescue the Blessed Sacrament from the chapel. As he was descending the stairs, they collapsed under him and he was burned alive. HERE He wouldn’t be a martyr, in this case, by the way. This is where the Orthodox category of Passion-Bearer would come in handy.
And do you remember the story, and video, of President of Poland, Andrej Duda who pounced protectively on a Host that had fallen and was being blown by the wind, lest it be lost or desecrated? HERE (video)
Should he have waited for a priest to catch the Host?
In the traditional, pre-Conciliar Roman Missal there is a section dedicated to problems, things which goes awry during Mass: De defectibus. It is useful today for the Novus Ordo, even though the Novus Ordo editions of the Missal lack such a clear section. O tempora! O mores! In De defectibus – though addressed particularly to clerics, of course – we learn how to handle the situation of a dropped host. It happens, and not always because of irreverence or laziness. Accidents can happen.
On an amusing side note, in better seminaries with good classes for the men to be ordained, there was usually discussion of how to handle situations of spiders winding up in chalices (Consume it or fish it out with your maniple pin? – Another reason to wear a maniple!), mice grabbing Hosts (What to do if you can catch the mouse? Burn it and put the ashes in the sacrarium?), Hosts accidentally dropped into an ample décolletage (Go in after It, to the amusement of all – perhaps except her husband? Let her, a layperson, fish It out, thereby touching it with unconsecrated hands? Quod Deus avertat! Ladies, for pity’s sake, cover up.)
To your situation. The logistics of what you described are a bit unclear. The EMHC positioned herself OVER the Host? Then how did others approaching step on, walk over the Host?
Hard to say without having been there.
To the more pressing problem.
You’ve stewed about this situation for four months?
Folks, the sacrament of penance is, even in this day and age, pretty widely available in the civilized world.
I don’t know you so I can’t say if you sinned or not. You need to discuss this with a confessor. However, remember that for a sin to be mortal it must concern grave matter (this did, because it concerned the Blessed Sacrament), it must be done with full knowledge (you don’t seem to have known what to do), and it must be done with full free will (you seem to have been afraid for various reasons). I suspect you did not commit a mortal sin. Furthermore, while we all have responsibilities to the Lord in the Eucharist you didn’t have a specific role in that moment as the priest or the EMHC did. But … go talk to a confessor about this where you might give more details. (That’s not a request for more from me, by the way.)
Folks, do not let your hearts be troubled by situations, or worries, or concerns for long periods of time. GO TO CONFESSION! Go this weekend! Let a good confessor help you untangle these situations and your particular roles in them. Without going into long rambling detail, say what happened and express your concern. If you think it’ll take a while, make an appointment. Take the confessor’s advice, do the penance he assigns, pray for him, and move on.