"It’s only a matter of time", said the priest. 

Sardonic humor is one thing, but he raised a harrowing prospect.

We had been talking about the sacrilegious horrors brought about by Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.  And we weren’t talking about good-intentioned lay people trying to do a good turn but without proper training and supervision.  You know the story: someone gets a Host at Mass by putting a pyx on the altar and then, after Mass, has coffee and donuts with the gang, runs errands, and eventually pays attention the Eucharistic LORD in her purse.

We had in mind, for example, the religious sister in charge of chaplains at a metropolitan hospital who after helping herself to the tabernacle routinely tossed the pyx with Hosts into her unlocked desk door.

As we dined last last, one of the fellows at the table speculated that it was only a matter of time before some idiot priest got the bright idea to send consecrated Hosts in an envelope by mail.

From that starting point, we speculated about how this would be handled. 

Perhaps the self-communicating telecommunicant would then turn on the local-access cable channel and consume the Lord while watching Mass at the parish.

Or perhaps, if they were worried about sacrilege, they could mail out unconsecrated Hosts, and instruct the self-communicating telecommunicant what to do.

They should, for example, press the Host to the screen to auto-teleconsecrate.

I don’t have a problem with Masses broadcast on television.

But we do need to watch trends carefully.

Also, is the Blessed Sacrament being treated with due regard by Catholics in all places and at all times?   Pastors of souls have the duty to see to it that the Eucharist is treated with all reverence and care.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Sacrilege by Eucharistic Ministers? I saw this article about a EM from Most Holy Redeemer in San Francisco in the Pewsitter blog. The man, also a member of the parish council, is giving a talk on master/slave relationships:

    God only knows how reverently those at that parish treat the Blessed Sacrament! There should be a thorough screening of those who are asked to serve at the Mass in any function, much as there is for those who are teaching children in religious education.

  2. teaguytom says:

    Isn’t the Catholic version of sending hosts by mail already done by protestants. You know, the weirdos that claim to send you blessed manna in envelopes. I remember a guy I worked with was all into that stuff. Some protestent con man would create multiple fake churches and send people fake blessed objects.

  3. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I do not recall that in the recentish post and comments about, among other things, spiritual Communion, anything was said about televised Masses. Is being simultaneous with a live celebration necessary? or relevant? If not, is one spiritual Communion per filmed Mass viewed once, alone valid? or recommended as ‘conveniens’?

  4. MLivingston says:

    I know you don’t want or need examples of sacrilege by the Unnecessary Ministers of the Eucharist, but this weekend one of them approached our 83-year-old wheelchair-bound friend and asked, “Do you want the wine?” Our friend said, “NO! I want the Precious Blood!” He can’t raise his eyes to see what, if any, his correction had on that pitifully untrained man. Our friend keeps starting to attend the Extraordinary Form with us on Sunday, and then doesn’t want to change from what’s familiar to him, and goes back to the Ordinary Form. I sit with him because I love him, but it’s VERY hard and I waste perfectly good suffering by complaining afterwards.

  5. Tim Ferguson says:

    I know of priests who are as guilty of this sort of lax attitude toward the Blessed Sacrament as many lay EMHCs. I knew a priest who kept a pyx with the Eucharist in his glove compartment, “just in case” and another who regularly stopped off for breakfast at a diner after Mass and before taking the Blessed Sacrament he had in a pyx in his shirt pocket down to the hospital.

  6. JosephMary says:

    It is not just the lay folks who do this; I also have known priests to do it as well.

    There is just a general lack of the knowledge of the awesomeness of the Real Presence right down the line in this day and age. I cannot say that my own reverence is where I wish it were.

  7. robtbrown says:

    This happened a couple of months ago.

    My cousin’s wife was here. She had returned to the Church after many years. A good heart, but she is a bit crazy and a compulsive exaggerator–or worse.

    She tells me to come into the kitchen, then takes a pyx hanging around her neck. She opens it, then takes out a consecrated Host for Communion for the sick. She waves it around, wanting me to look, insisting that she is seeing Christ’s face in it. I humor her, tell her to consume it or put it back and give it to someone who is sick. I walk away. Then she presses me, saying that I was nervous, the implication being that I wouldn’t admit that Christ’s face was there to be seen by anyone caring to look.

    At that I flew into a rage, saying that she was acting inappropriately toward it, that it isn’t a good luck charm or part of a religious game. I was shaking my finger in her face.

    Later, she told me she had consumed the host and asked me not to tell the priests. I told her that it was their fault, not hers. They are, in fact, pretty good men, not crazy, BUT:

    I will repeat what I have often said. Not only have I had contact with American priests, but in Rome I had contact with priests from all over the world, some in the Convitto where I lived, others in class. Although there are still some very good priests, overall they are the most poorly trained group of professionals I have ever encountered.

  8. robtbrown says:

    I do not recall that in the recentish post and comments about, among other things, spiritual Communion, anything was said about televised Masses. Is being simultaneous with a live celebration necessary? or relevant? If not, is one spiritual Communion per filmed Mass viewed once, alone valid? or recommended as ‘conveniens’?
    Comment by Venerator Sti Lot

    What do you mean “valid”?

  9. Supertradmum says:

    John Paul II’s pontificate clarified that electronic blessings and events were valid only if “live” and not repeats. This means that in a video of a Mass, the blessing of the Holy Father, for example, is not a real blessing-not efficacious. Same with Mass-for the housebound, a Mass and the Spiritual Communion offered at the Consecration allows the Spiritual Communicant to take part in the Mass in a more personal way. But, a Spiritual Communion is a private prayer, which may be done at any time, and not just at the Communion time of the Mass. So, the question of “validity” of a Spiritual Communion does not apply in the same manner as the blessing of the Pope or other priest on television, computer, or radio. I think the radio clarification came much earlier.

  10. Andrew says:

    Some time ago, I have been to a family gathering where after a period of casual conversations and a lively gathering with food and drinks, one of the ladies, without any previous advice, suddenly proceeded to administer Holy Communion to an elderly couple.

  11. Zyphane says:

    Here’s something I found distressing:

    There are unconsecrated hosts in the sacristy of a church where I serve at an adhoc TLM (i.e. it’s not a parish Mass; the congregants and celebrant come from elsewhere and we make use of the church). The note on the container reads:

    not blessed consecrated
    For Hospital/Nursing Home
    If you do not have Father consecrate Hosts at Mass, please take hosts from Tabernacle

    I was a little dumbfounded. People thought the large plastic container sitting in the sacristy was full of CONSECRATED hosts?

  12. Mike says:

    All this is why Adoration is vital, for lay folks and priests.

    Let’s get to the Tabernacle, people!

  13. Mike says:

    And so I won’t be full of hot air, I’m going now to my neighborhood Church…there are so many needs!

  14. Jack Hughes says:

    at the LMS training conference at Downside last Month the reverence held by the priests for Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament was extremely edifying.

  15. Gail F says:

    About a year ago many blogs were buzzing about some breakaway Anglican church that was actually mailing “consecrated” hosts to anyone who requested them. There was a web site, but I don’t remember it. The site recommended that people share them at prayer services or just have one a day because consuming the Body of Christ was good for your soul, whatever faith you belonged to, and shouldn’t be “confined” to a church building. Sigh.

  16. WaywardSailor says:

    Saint Tarcisius, pray for us.

  17. ssoldie says:

    Eliminate the fabricated N. O. and restore to it’s rightful place the ordinary T.L.M., no novalties nor innovations.

  18. AnnaTrad51 says:

    Some years ago after I would help around the parish I was atending then, our Priest would drop me home on the way to do his hospital calls. He would be carrying Our Lord in a pyx and his rules were the we were to observe absolute silence in the car out of respect for our Lord. This wonderful Priest taught at every opportunity the faith in it’s fullness, we were truly bless to have had him. This is just one example out of many that shows a very good Priest can lead many down the right path that will last the rest of their lives. Unfortunately the same can be said about a poor Priest.

  19. Supertradmum says:

    Our local hospitals are not Catholic. Recently, the diocese and hospitals DROPPED the chaplaincy priest for reasons of money. There is now no Catholic priest on the staff of the hospital.This means that all Holy Communion visits are by Eucharistic Ministers. This is crazy, as EMs cannot give the Sacrament of the Sick or the Last Rites. My grandmother, a loyal, tithe-giving Catholic all her 93 years did not get the Last Rites, nor did she have a priest at her graveside, as “none could be spared”. She was buried in a different city than her funeral, being buried in the family plot in another city.

    The so-called clericalism of the laity has caused these terrible lapses of honor and dignity being given to the elderly and people in hospitals. Our seminarians were told at a conference three weeks ago that it was more important for priests to go to football games and soccer games with the young people than it was to go to the rest homes for the elderly and bring Communion or hear Confessions. This is almost an exact quotation from the priest who gave the talk on “prioritizing” ministries.

  20. Fr. Basil says:

    \\Eliminate the fabricated N. O. and restore to it’s rightful place the ordinary T.L.M., no novalties nor innovations.\\

    All authorized Eucharistic Liturgies and other services of the Church are, to a certain extent, fabrications, because people were involved in their composition and development.

    And everything the Church does or ever did was at one time a novelty, because they ALL had to be done for the first time.

    Or did you think the Tridentine Mass dropped down out of heaven already written?

  21. Joy says:

    I personally know a young (50’s) widow and her teenage son who always “attend” Mass every Sunday by watching it on television!
    I have told them it does not fulfill the obligation, but they continue to do it. I have emailed EWTN asking that there be an announcement before Mass that it is not a replacement for attending in person. they have not replied.

  22. nanetteclaret says:

    Fr. Basil,

    Since the Mass began with Christ’s Last Supper which was done in the context of the Jewish Passover, and God had instructed the Israelites in how the first Passover was to be conducted and then later commemorated (Exodus 12), then one could say that it did come down from heaven already “written,” albeit with “organic changes” which came with the passage of time. My point is that the Mass can be traced back to Our Lord’s institution of the Holy Eucharist in the Last Supper, which was itself traced back to the first Passover which was instituted by God the Father.

  23. catholicmidwest says:

    Fr Basil,
    I formal logic, that’s called a black & white fallacy.

  24. JARay says:

    Just last Saturday, as I was placing a Ciborium back into the Tabernacle I looked to see if the large pyx was there because we had Benediction after the Mass. It was not there. The Monstrance was sitting on the credence table but there was no sign of the pyx so I whispered to the young priest who had just said the Mass, that the pyx was missing from the tabernacle. He replied that it was in his car! He then dashed down to an acolyte sitting at the back of the church and gave him his car keys to go and bring that pyx with its large Host out of his car. He had taken the monstrance, pyx and its host to another location on the Friday night for Benediction and had left them in his car overnight! He had taken the monstrance out of his car before the Mass but had forgotten to take out the pyx and its Host!
    I was disgusted.

  25. TonyLayne says:

    @ nanetteclaret: I think what Fr. Basil was trying to get at was that the NO Mass “fabricated” in the sense of having been composed from elements that had never existed prior to it. One can argue that the changes aren’t organic; one could also argue that most of the problems are either specific to the lame-duck English translation or the result of faulty priestly formation. But in either case, the NO still wouldn’t be “fabricated” in a meaningful sense.

    @ catholicmidwest: A black-and-white fallacy, strictly speaking, is a forced choice between two answers which don’t exhaust the set of possible answers. Father’s error is more correctly called a “false dilemma”, where one horn is either unreasonable or irrelevant. As such, it’s normally restricted to abusive rhetorical exaggerations … such as Fr. Basil’s.

  26. catholicmidwest says:


    Good analysis; you are correct. It’s a false dilemma.

    However, I’m not sure Fr Basil was trying to say ONLY the NO was a fabrication. It sounded very much like he was trying to say all liturgies were fabrications as opposed to no liturgies were fabrications, thereby justifying the made-up character of the NO (since it would have been, according to his argument, no more or less made up than the TLM.) There is the false dilemma.

  27. Norah says:

    John Paul II’s pontificate clarified that electronic blessings and events were valid only if “live” and not repeats

    Supertradmom can you give me a source for this comment because I have heard differently on Catholic Answers.

  28. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Dear Supertradmum (11:51 am): Thank you!

    Dear robtbrown (11:16 am): Candidly, it may be quite the wrong word: I know I have no sufficiently full or precise sense of the constituting characteristics of ‘spiritual Communion’ (even after the other rewarding post with comments) and am try to remedy that (also the ‘lazy’ way, but asking things as here}!

    I am not sure I realized the extent to which a ‘spiritual Communion’ could, but need not, take place in, and according to, the circumstances of a sacramental Communion, so, again, thanks, Supertradmum!

  29. RichardT says:

    I always found this article by Fr. Blake (and the picture) very inspiring on taking the Sacred Host to the sick:

    Also in medieval times people would leave money to pay for tapers (candles) to be carried in front of the priest as he went about this sacred duty.

    Why have we lost this sense of sacredness?

  30. wanda says:

    Many years ago, while visiting my Grandparents home, a Priest would come from time to time to bring Holy Communion to my Grandmother, who was bedridden. My Aunt would tidy through the house and would light a candle near the door. She would put on a veil and in silence, carrying the candle, she would lead the Priest to my Grandmother’s room. It was made clear to us ahead of time that no one was to speak to Father or be noisy until he had completed his visit with my Grandmother. It struck me so much, even as a young kid, that something very out of the ordinary was happening. I thank God for this holy Priest and for the Eucharist he brought to my Grandmother. May I always have as much reverence for the Eucharist as my forebearers did.

  31. Father et al,

    I don’t want to go far afield, but speaking of ‘all reverence and care’, I was speaking with a Chaldean Catholic a few months ago who could not believe the way Americans act towards the Eucharist…she said she could never bring herself to touch Our Lord and she gave me this anecdote: one time her priest dropped the Eucharist and he immedately got down on his hands and knees and licked it up off the floor.

    This is why I think a casual attitude towards the Eucharist, besides destroying our souls, is the enemy of true Ecumenism. None of the Orthodox Churches, (tho Chaldeans are already in Communion with us) share with us this smarmy familiarity with the Blessed Sacrament which has been promoted and instilled in us by the Catholic school system, DRE’s, the USCCB, WYDs, the Charismatic Renewal, Neocatechumenical movement, am I leaving anyone out?


  32. robtbrown says:

    Fr Basil,

    It’s obviously true that man has composed all liturgy (as well as Scripture), and that there was a first time when it was used. The innovation of the NO, however, is different because it represents a break with the liturgical continuity of the Church.

  33. joecct77 says:

    But FATHER!!!

    I heartily agree that where there is physical contact between the parties (Baptism, Eurcharist, Confirmation, Extreme Unction, and Holy Orders) both the priest and layity have to be present in the same space. But what about Penance and Marriage??????

    Could there be an app called iConfess?? Over a secure connection, could a person verbally give his/her confession to a priest and have him absolve them of their sins?

    Does Canon Law require a face to face meeting for confession??

  34. Legisperitus says:

    I wouldn’t say the old Mass “dropped down out of heaven already written,” but it gathered to a greatness like the ooze of oil crushed.

  35. Thomas in MD says:

    I visited the priest whom Father Z mentioned as having found the pyx of Hosts in the desk drawer. When we were in the chaplins’ office, after Father called Sister on her desk cum Tabernacle, Father checked the drawer: it was locked. Don’t know if Sister was hiding Hosts again, but Father and I genuflected, just in case.

  36. Re: Confession — Well, obviously “face to face” isn’t required, given the screen. :) But yes, you actually have to be physically in the presence of the priest for a sacramental Confession to take place. This has been clearly reiterated in canon law and otherwise, that radio and TV and computer video don’t count at all. A priest could give spiritual direction remotely; you could have a penitent have perfect contrition without a priest there; but no Confession would take place.

    Re: marriage, you can’t have a sacramental marriage remotely, either. (Unless you’re maybe talking a proxy wedding, but I think that was more a legal marriage than a sacramental marriage, though it had effects on your ability to marry religiously — like a superduper betrothal. People married by proxy usually ratified their marriage in person before consummation, or at least that’s my understanding.)

    If the priest can’t get there to the church in X much time (months), Catholics under the old canon law used to be allowed to marry sacramentally without a priest but in the presence of two witnesses, by the exchange of vows in a Catholic church. I don’t know if that’s still canon law or not; and even then, I think you were expected to go see the priest when one finally showed up.

    The thing about Sacraments is that they are personal. The powers of a bishop pass down hand to head, and all the other Sacraments are similarly done by hand and voice and physical presence. Our God is incarnate, so our sacraments are given by embodied persons also.

  37. robtbrown says:

    The thing about Sacraments is that they are personal.
    Comment by Suburbanbanshee

    Excellent point.

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