A notice posted on the doors of a church

From a priest reader:

Making a visit at a church near my residence, my attention was drawn to a notice posted on the main inner doors, which I reproduce below.

Since the greater the number of people involved in distributing Holy Communion, the greater the likelihood of spreading disease, it is reasonable to conclude that the employment of Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist will also cease until further notice: one wonders why this is not mentioned…


While Swine Influenza is not yet a problem in Australia;

1. Holy Communion will be distributed only under ONE KIND until further notice.

2. Those people who currently Communion [sic] on the tongue could think about receiving on the hand.

3. This is to reduce the likelihood of spreading disease within our Community this winter.

A good question is raised: the usually unnecessary employment of many Ministers of Communion would increase the risk of spreading disease, right?

On a side note, when I was distributing Communion at Sunday Masses last week, at a parish where very many people kneel at the rial and receive on the tongue (what a blessing), hundreds of Communions, there was precisely zero contact between my fingers and any tongue.  It was more reverent, there was far less risk of profanation, it was faster without being rushed.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. mike hurcum says:

    How can anyone claim the Body and Bllod of Christ in His Veil of Bread and Wine spread disease and corruption unless He is not there for some?

    Can God share His temple with His enemy?

  2. mike hurcum says:

    How can the Body and Blood of Christ spread disease and corruption?. Does the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Altar deal in death?

    Perhaps He is not there for some and those might suffer or as St Paul wrote “Eat and Drink judgment for themselves”

  3. Ann says:

    I would love it if only the deacons and priest were to distribute communion. I’ll stick with on the tongue at any rate. The not using the common cup doesn’t bother me at all since we get all of Jesus with either.

    There is so much more exposure in a subway or on the bus, or using a public restroom, or even eating out. I think Mass is no more risky than going to work or school.

  4. Stephen says:

    Mike, it’s not that the Eucharist would be spreading disease but, rather, that the hands of the Extraordinary Minister could be spreading disease.

    On a happier note, friends from Kokomo, IN tell me that the pastoral team at the two parishes there have been omitting the sign of peace of late “because of swine flu” though, I think it has roots much deeper than that.

  5. Simon Platt says:

    Some friends of mine are under pressure from their parish priest to receive communion in the hand. So far as I understand, there’s no issue – spurious or otherwise – of hygiene in this case. Please pray for them, and for their priest and fellow parishioners, almost all of whom receive communion in their hands.

    (Incidentally, I nearly wrote “take communion in their hands”. I hate that phrase “take communion” but it seems to be increasingly common, so much so that it is infecting my own thought patterns, and it somehow seems more fitting to communion in the hand.)

    Pace Mike, above, I think that our Faith requires us to believe that it is possible (I stress, possible, not likely) for the Blessed Sacrament to harbour disease. The accidents remain, after all. However I should be glad to be corrected if a learned father knows better (or indeed if another learned reader of this blog does).

  6. Sharon says:

    I would be perfectly happy to eliminate the intracongregational sign of peace. Our priest has stopped it. He just says what he says and we go on. We are much less germy, and the Mass flows better.

  7. Beowulf says:

    Interesting, no-one suggests Mass should be celebrated and communion NOT distributed to the faithful.
    Hand contact is a pretty good way of distributing germs.

    But it could be an ideal time to examine if giving communion wholesale is a good thing.

  8. Stitchwort says:

    Hmm. Since they are distributing communion only under one kind, the NEED for EMHC’s should be much less . . .

  9. Maureen says:

    Mike —

    First of all, microorganisms are not enemies of God. They too are His creatures.

    Second, just as the accidents of bread and wine can be contained in a hand or achalice or pyx, so the accidents of bread and wine can have microorganisms attach to them. This doesn’t make the Real Presence disappear.

    God is very gracious and loving and kind, and often works wonders for us. But He doesn’t promise that we will never become sick if we flaunt the laws of nature. Indeed, that would hardly go along with His call to share His cross.

    He made the laws of nature; and if He sometimes chooses to override them, that doesn’t mean He will always do so. Indeed, expecting Him to do so at our whim is tantamount to testing God.

  10. Michael J says:

    I can only speculate about “why this[discontinuing EEMs] is not mentioned…”, but I would say it is because those posting this notice have determined that protecting the feelings of the EEMs is more important than protecting the health of the parishoners.

    I doubt if many think of it in these stark terms, but that is the decision that has been taken.

  11. “2. Those people who currently Communion [sic] on the tongue could think about receiving on the hand.”

    Okay. I thought about it, and the answer is still no. Click here.

  12. Father Bartoloma says:

    Interesting; I can’t help but think about another “notice” posted on a church door in the 16th century. (?Setire cum Ecclesia?)

  13. Tzard says:

    One thing they could do is to discourage wholesale reception of communion by everyone at every mass.

    If they encouraged people to not receive if they hadn’t been to confession recently, you’ll have fewer people in line, fewer receiving, and less chance transmission of disease.

    Of course then you’d have to have more people going to confession, longer confession hours, more people actually making it to heaven…..

  14. Tzard says:

    Another aspect is what Fr. Z mentioned: he was able to distribute on the tongue without touching the tongue with his finger. I wonder how many priests are out of practice in distributing on the tongue.

    And definitely, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion oftentimes have very much less experience distributing on the tongue. (some parishes they actually don’t know how to do so).

    I suppose it would not go over well to suggest we *only* distribute on the tongue while kneeling to further reduce the risk of infection. That would blow some minds I can think of.

  15. Henry Edwards says:

    What would happen if this (from Fr. Finigan’s blog) were posted on a church door:

  16. Fr. Thomas says:

    I am a pastor who has Mass in the EF. In my experience, the simplest, easiest way to distribute Holy Communion is to place it on the tongue of someone who is kneeling and who does not have to give any response: “Amen” or the newer “Amen, thank you” or “thank you.” No muss, no fuss, no confusion, no hitting someone’s teeth, no contact between my fingers and the person’s tongue. Its amazing how our ancesters work out the best way to do something. Even more amazing is our modern, rationalist way of thinking up new ways to do things to make them more complicated, more difficult, more confusing, etc. All to bring about some vague, rationalized purpose.

  17. chironomo says:

    Which KINDS of communion are there? And which KIND of communion is the one they will distribute? The KIND that requires one to be properly disposed to receive? I’m not sure they distribute that KIND of communion now, so that might be a good place to start since, as noted above, that would result in far fewer people receiving and as a result, less chance of infection. But chances are good that they will just fall back on the convenient KIND of communion….

  18. Kimberly says:

    Thank you Fr. Thomas and Fr. Z, priests like you are the reason why I have hope. God Bless,

  19. Ray from MN says:

    I have attended Mass occasionally in a parish where the EMHC’s (really not needed at that Mass as the congregation is small) actually go off to the side for a “ritual” washing of their own hands before they they receive the paten or chalice from the priest.

    I, myself, began to receive on the tongue about a year ago, initially only from priests and tall EMHC’s. As of a couple of months ago, I receive only on the tongue.

    I myself am an EMHC at a veterans hospital. I would estimate that 95% or more, mostly elderly, of the patients receive on the tongue.

  20. Vetus Mores says:

    I sincerely hope the Parish Nurse didn’t write this.

    From the person’s hand to the communicant’s, to his/her mouth. That’s *adding* a vector, not subtracting one.

  21. serafino says:

    Last Sunday my 84 year old mother, who has NEVER taken Holy Communion in the hand, was visiting a parish, (not her own) and when she approached the Pastor for Holy Communion was told, ” We don’t take Communion like that in this parish!” He then took my mother’s hand, raised it up, and placed the Host in her hand saying, ” Now you are in line with the rest of us!”

    My mother was very upset that her canonical rights were abused. When we confronted the priest he said that due to the swine illness the bishop mandated this change. We checked at the chancery, and no such change had been made. This is another example of liberal priests pushing their own agenda!

  22. “Comment by serafino — 28 May 2009 @ 6:22 pm”

    You were way too easy on that priest. If that had been my mother being treated like that… well, I’d handle it the old-fashioned way. Get my meaning?

    Nobody, NOBODY, disses Mama.

  23. The matterof the signs remindsme of the night I was passing a relativfey ugly church not too far from where I lived and though the dark notice placards onall the doors.

    I suspecte that I knew whgt they were so I parked my car and went ot read one of them. They announced that the church had been placed under interdict for a number of reasons including people hurling Holy Water at each other during the Liturgy.

    I haver to admit that I was fascinated. You just don’t normally find placards on the doors of a church announcing that is under interdict. Not thsse days. it reminded me of England being placed under interdict after the murder of St. Thomas Becket. The only disappointing feature was that the placards were signed not by the Cardinal but by the woman who was his public relations afficer.

  24. I’m sorry. This time I skipped the preview and looking at all the typos I see that I shouldn’t have. I hope you can make it out.

  25. Fr W says:

    In giving Communion in the hand, I notice that my hand touches every single hand that receives. Now here is an efficient germ-spreader.

    I also did not contact a single tongue for those receiving thusly. (A kneeling recipient is certainly more steady than a standing one.)

  26. irishgirl says:

    Bingo, Fr. Z, Fr. Thomas, and Fr. W! You all hit the nail on the head!

    serafino-what a horrible thing for that priest to do to your mama!

    I’m with David Alexander-if my mother was disrespected like that [and if I were a man instead of a woman] I’d handle it in the ‘old-fashioned way’ too!

    GRRRR….and besides that, I can’t stand the term ‘taking Communion’…yeah, I know that some people will use Our Lord’s words, ‘Take and eat’ literally to mean Communion in the hand…but ‘taking Communion’ sounds too Protestant.

    Where did His Hermeneuticalness find that sign?

  27. pelerin says:

    His Hermeneuticalness found the sign in Lourdes. It actually forms part of a larger sign of various things forbidden in the Domaine (including mobile phones) and this one refers to not asking for money there.

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