QUAERITUR: walking away with a Host

From a reader:

To-day at Mass in the University, I served the altar. After some brief communion-devotions, I kept a keen eye on those who had received the sacrament in the hand. One girl, of student age but who I did not recognise, took the sacrament from the EMHC without consuming it. I got up and followed her. She then tried to pass it to a man.
Thankfully, I got there just in time to take it off her. As the ciborium was still being cleansed, I immediately consumed the sacrament, putting it into my mouth. I then informed the priest who then told me that they had apologised. I found the entire thing very fishy. In any of this did I do anything wrong?

No, I don’t think you did anything wrong.  We must all be observant concerning liturgical abuses.  If for liturgical abuses, then even more for possible profanation of the Blessed Sacrament.

We don’t know the reason why the girl did what she did.  There has been such wretched catechesis in so many place for so long, such a lowering of liturgical standards, that she thought she was doing something good.  But objectively speaking, what she did was wrong and needed to be corrected.

This sort of thing could be greatly reduced by the elimination of Communion in the hand.

In Redemptionis Sacramentum we read:

[92.] Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice, if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognitio of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her. However, special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.

In some places danger of profanation is much greater.

We need clearer preaching about the Blessed Sacrament.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    “If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.”

    My understanding is that this rule does not apply in New York, California, and Ma, as well as most any other state where pro abort politicians reign. Of course there are exeptions to every rule.

    Sorry Fr Z it just steams me about the coumo thing, and pelosi and the list goes on and on.

    Jim Dorchak

  2. APX says:

    We need clearer preaching about the Blessed Sacrament.

    Sometimes, however, even that isn’t enough. I recall a few years ago the associate priest giving an enitre sermon on the sacredness of communion, profanation, selling hosts to Satanists for their black mass, and how it was his duty to make sure no one walked away with the host at communion time. Come communion time, someone actually tried to walk away from him with the host, but didn’t get too far because the priest yanked him back and forced him to consume the host in front of him. I was actually kinda scared for the guy. Our associate priest was pretty no-nonsense when it came to communion.

    Really, they should just make communion on the tongue mandatory.

  3. Glen M says:

    I went to a Novus Ordo a few weeks ago where not one person I noticed consumed the Host in front of the EMHC. There must be a correlation between belief in the Real Presence and the manner in which one receives Holy Communion. Communion in the hand has fulfilled all the fears Pope Paul VI had when he issued the indult.

  4. Konichiwa says:

    Rather than have so many EMHC around, it’d be more beneficial and just to have them serve as liturgical SWAT team to tackle profanation of the sacrament.

  5. sejoga says:

    Where catechesis is lacking, discipline works wonders.

    Get rid of EMHCs and communion and in the hand, and, voila!, it doesn’t matter if people are well catechized, profanation of the sacrament will lessen considerably and no one will be sneaking the host out in their hand. (That’s not an excuse not to catechize the faithful, however — obviously.)

  6. Philangelus says:

    None of this would work without the priest onboard. When I was an EMHC, there was one woman who did that every single week (break the host in half and consume half of it, then carry the other half back to her seat) and when I spoke to her after Mass (the first time I’d seen it happen) she explained that she was bringing Communion to her husband because he had difficulty walking and it was too far to walk to the front of the church.

    I told them I’d bring it to him after Mass. They refused.
    I told the priest, who said, “Who cares?”

    I figured at the very least they could make the woman an EMHC and give her two hosts rather than have her break one in half. But no, and the priest did not care, so the situation continued.

  7. cpf says:

    It’s funny I read this piece this afternoon. I’m stationed at a parish where we have alot of visitors (especially come the warmer weather). This morning we had a larger than usual number of visitors (many of whom were obviously not Catholic). Just prior to Communion I made a breif announcement welcoming all, yet explaining the guidlines for the reception of Communion.
    Wouldn’t you know (and I was afraid and KNEW something like this would happen) a woman confronted me at the door of the church telling me “how sad and disturbed” I made her by “not being welcoming.” I explained to her that I have seen TERRIBLE SACRILEGE in the past and so, now make the announcement. She told said: “That may be ‘on the books’ but I don’t agree.” I simply said: “The Lord does. Have a wonderful Sunday.” It’s funny…. it’s NEVER a visitor who complains, always a parishoner! LoL It’s quite comical, really.
    Fr. Z, any advice on events like that?

  8. Childermass says:

    “I told the priest, who said, ‘Who cares?'”

    What an evil time in which we live when laymen have to correct priests and bishops.

    I took my Protestant father to Mass recently, and he got the message. He watched the casual attitudes and the irreverence towards the Eucharist and concluded that he was glad not to be a Catholic! It looked like a fraud to him—the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist contrasted with the actual practice of Catholics. Of course I told him that what you see in most parishes is NOT how it is supposed to be, and he responded, “Well, what are your bishops for then? If Jesus the Lord is bodily present in the Communion, then why do your bishops, who above all should know better, not care about what goes on at most Masses?”

    What our bishops don’t realize is that by freely allowing abuses of the liturgy and profanation of the Eucharist, it destroys the Church’s witness. ***Destroys it.*** Most former Catholics in the Orthodox churches left because of the shameful excuse for “liturgy” that we have in most places. I have met many ex-Catholic Evangelicals who talk about their liturgical experience as “Cathaerobics.” Meaningless, banal and empty ritual.

    It’s nice to have all those nice documents like Redemptionis Sacramentum, but they are not worth the paper they were printed on if they are not implemented.

    More documents come, but in most places things remain the same. And we will be measured by the latter, not by the former.

  9. From Father John Hardon:

    Whatever you can do to stop communion in the hand will be blessed by God.

  10. APX says:

    I told them I’d bring it to him after Mass. They refused.
    I told the priest, who said, “Who cares?”

    Uh, gee, I dunno…the Pope maybe? Perhaps God??

    the priest did not care, so the situation continued.

    Did you do anything to try to rectify the situation? Send an email to the priest explaining your concern about the situation to give him a chance to save face and allow you to start a paper trail to go to the higher ups if need be? Maybe he’s getting burned out and needs a break or maybe he needs some edification from his bishop. I wouldn’t sit on something like that.

  11. Ezra says:

    Pope Benedict referred to this kind of thing in his most recent Seewald interview:

    I am not opposed in principle to Communion in the hand; I have both administered and received Communion in this way myself. The idea behind my current practice of having people kneel to receive Communion on the tongue was to send a signal and to underscore the Real Presence with an exclamation point. One very important reason is that there is a great danger of superficiality precisely in the kinds of mass events we hold at St. Peter’s, both in the Basilica and in the Square. I have heard of people who, after receiving Communion, stick the Host in their wallet to take home as a kind of souvenir.

    This is not just an American problem.

  12. asperges says:

    Why didn’t the EMHC notice the abuse and take steps to intervene? Surely that’s part of their training.

    Communion is the hand was born of disobedience (same with altar girls), even though sanctioned at a later date. No good can come of it. It encourages abuses like this.

  13. Brad says:

    How are those black masses workin’ out for ya?

  14. Capitana says:

    I fully understand your points here, but I prefer communion in the hand for two reasons. The first one which is not really important is that I have a fungus on my tongue from medications and I would prefer not to stick my tongue out.
    The important reason is that I hold and adore Christ for a few steps. For me Christ glows in the holy bread. It could burst into flame. It is Christ, it is the Holy Spirit, it is the gift of God.
    I am in the vigil choir and I have a broken foot right now so the Eucharistic Ministers have been bringing communion to me. Last night I got missed and I started to cry. My friend came to me after Mass and asked if I had gotten missed, I said it was too late, she said it wasn’t, and got the host for me. I know this is off topic, but somehow I couldn’t say to myself, oh well, I got missed. Adoramus Te, Christe.

  15. Jayna says:

    “This sort of thing could be greatly reduced by the elimination of Communion in the hand.”

    Reduced, yes, but sadly not eliminated. I was at the cathedral in Chicago for Ash Wednesday Mass (celebrated by Cardinal George) and I saw abuse from a man who received on the tongue. He was holding his young son, I would guess around 3 maybe? He received on the tongue and, as he rounded the corner to re-enter his pew, he took the host out of his mouth and put it in his son’s mouth. I was nothing short of gobsmacked. He was about five or six pews in front of me, so I couldn’t say anything. It looked like his wife gave him the what-for, however, when she realized what he’d done.

  16. Dcn Larry says:

    I was taking Communion to patients at the hospital and encountered a situation which reinforces the problem of “wretched catechesis.” I asked if the patient wanted to receive and she said she did. After the openiong prayers I held up the Host saying “The Body of Christ” to which she responded, “Just put it over there and I’ll have it after lunch.” I told her I can’t do that and she then settled for a blessing. First time for everything.

  17. This just sparked a thought:

    We often look at visible signs of abuse of the Eucharist in horror, orcwith a gasp. Yet look at the magnitude of sacrilegious receptions of Holy Communion by those who haven’t made
    a sacramental Confession in years or decades.

  18. Childermass says:


    My father is an ex-Catholic and he is shocked at that too. He sees everybody going to communion, and he remembers when the nuns drummed it into his head that mortal sins must be confessed before communion. He also told me that it was common for quite a few people to stay in their pews at communion time.

    He says stuff like that, along with all the other massive changes, destroyed his young faith (he was a 16 when the Council ended). They made the Church look like a man-made institution whose leaders and officers could change anything at their whim.

  19. worm says:

    I always used to receive on the tongue. But the absence of kneeling at the rail, the endless number of EMHC, and the fact that almost everyone else receives in the hand made me reconsider and for the last 8 years or so, I have received in the hand. But this particular story is making me re-evaluate how I receive. The recent stories out of Philadelphia and Los Angeles reminded me of my “Protecting God’s Children” training. It seemed that one of the major points was to avoid being alone with a child not because I would do anything, but so that the child does become comfortable being alone with an adult. Perhaps I need to start receiving on the tongue again. I’m only one person, but perhaps making others uncomfortable about receiving in the hand isn’t a bad thing after all. I just wish they could bring back the altar rails.

  20. Joe in Canada says:

    I have instructed that at every school Mass, every Minister of Holy Communion, ordinary or extraordinary, is to ensure that the Host is consumed immediately. Each Minister is accompanied by a senior student charged with helping ensure that this happens, whether by stopping the student from walking away with the Host, or getting a supervising adult to come over, etc. This has been thoroughly explained to all teachers, and home room teachers have been asked to discuss it with their students. It seems to have increased reverence.

  21. albizzi says:

    “If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.”
    Here the profanation could be prevented, but how many profanations get unnoticed every day either by careless or by wicked people ?
    The only means to stop these desecrations is to come back to the communion on the tongue immediately. There is no other choice.
    I read that the famous seer Maria Simma once was visited by a bishop soul who was in Purgatory, asking for relieving prayers. His hands were ablaze and he said that he was sentenced by God to stay in that state until the indult that he bestowed allowing the communion in the hand would be overturned in his diocese.

  22. albizzi says:

    We need clearer preaching about the Blessed Sacrament.

    Who once said (I believe it was the Saint Curé d’Ars, John-Mary Vianney):
    “If we could really understand what the Eucharist truly is, we would not enter the Communion lines standing, but CRAWLING instead.”
    The communion-in-the-hand while standing was intended (by those who first promoted it, the modernist Dutch bishops) to make us losing the faith in the Real Presence. They have succeeded far beyond their hopes since not only many laypeople don’t believe in It, by even a lot of priest don’t too.

  23. TravelerWithChrist says:

    Many priests argue that it takes too much time to have everyone kneel to receive communion (I think it takes too much time for the EMs to receive and get set up, it’s like a show at some altars).
    As an EM, there isn’t time to watch, especially when people consume as they are walking away back to their seats – what a way to treat Jesus, eating, as if it’s a cookie.
    I think that in part this is where we could greatly increase reverence, by kneeling to receive our Lord, especially at an altar rail where we have a moment to reflect; rather than stand in line looking around at others, etc.

  24. Twice in my life I have followed people who did not consume the Host. Both times I caught up to them and said, politely but firmly, “Consume that or give it to me.” Both times they complied. I am not convinced that Communion-in-the-hand is the culprit, so much as terrible catechesis is. Either way, it’s a real problem.

  25. My first thought was maybe the girl was bringing the host to the man because he couldn’t make it up the aisle to the priest and he asked her to get communion for him. I could imagine a poorly catechized or desperately shy and unacknowledged sick person might feel they have to get someone in the pews to go and bring communion back to him or her rather than ask the “Eucharistic Minister” to come to where they are sitting. I don’t know. Just a thought on the side of giving someone the benefit of the doubt.

  26. Mitchell NY says:

    We should start a “Can’t We Just Revoke the Indult” movement that coincides with the “Can’t we Just say Wait” about the translations. Communion in the hand has served its’ purpose. It shows once and for all that not only the risk for profanation is increased but the likelihood as well. Time for it to go, please. And let’s move on to something else.

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