ASK FATHER: Spilling the Precious Blood

From a reader…


What should one do if the chalice containing the precious blood is dropped as it is passed to the communicant.

I hope that this is theoretical, only. As a seminarian I once saw this happen and people just blithely tramped around through the Precious Blood, though there were several priests present. It was winter, so there was soon a horrible mix of mud and footprints everywhere….   BRRRRR!

This can be complicated by the scourge of carpeting in churches.

The first thing to do is stop everything.   Have the servers, or someone, go to the sacristy to fetch purificators and a bowl, which can then be used carefully both to mark the area where the Precious Blood spilled and also to start soaking up what can be soaked up.  Use lots of purificators if necessary.  Father (or deacons or real acolytes) ideally does this himself.

Stopping everything for the clean up could be a teaching moment for the entire congregation.  Perhaps a super brief fervorino about adoring the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament so profaned.

A next step would be to begin cleansing the area by using water.  Cleanse and soak up.  Repeat.

Thereafter, the priest should thoroughly rinse all the purificators in water and the rinsing water should all go down either the sacrarium or be poured on the ground.  The purificators can then be laundered as usual or, if they are shot because of the process, burned.

REMINDER: The Precious Blood Itself may not be poured into the sacrarium.  That could incur an excommunication.  Make sure that plenty of water is used so that the Precious Blood be so diluted that the substance is broken.

Finally, in that place, Communion also with the Precious Blood should be ended.  Period.

The fact of the spilling of the Precious Blood demonstrates that there is danger of profanation of the Eucharist in that place.

The CDW’s 2004 instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum states – and this may not be ignored:

[101.] In order for Holy Communion under both kinds to be administered to the lay members of Christ’s faithful, due consideration should be given to the circumstances, as judged first of all by the diocesan Bishop. It is to be completely excluded where even a small danger exists of the sacred species being profaned. …

Finally, the training of the people who help with Communion must be accessed.

It is nearly impossible to imagine that a person would do this on purpose.  However, it could happen from carelessness because of lack of good training or good formation on precisely what … who… is being handled and why.

I would avoid jumping all over the person who did the spilling, for that certainly was a mistake.  That person would probably be truly mortified, so go easily.

And, apart from the training of the “ministers”, there is the problem of the care that the communicants themselves may or may not show.  Watching people receive Communion of the Host directly in the hand hasn’t filled me with great confidence that vast numbers of our faithful have truly absorbed the importance of the moment.  To permit that such carelessness be unleashed upon a vessel of the Precious Blood is … a harrowing thought.

There are a few occasions wherein it may be appropriate to have Communion under both kinds (e.g., a newly wedded couple during their nuptial Mass, 1st Communion, solemn religious profession).  In those situations the greatest care must be taken.  However, it seems to me that, since we are strong – or ought to be –  in our Catholic Faith and understanding that both the Body and Blood of the Lord are truly present in the individual Host, Communion under both kinds is not a prudent practice on anything like the scale of a congregation.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    We had the great misfortune to personally witness this happen a number of years ago while travelling (we typically try to find a TLM when travelling but couldn’t do so because of the schedule of this particular trip). We decided to attend a 6am Sunday Mass in the hopes that things would be somewhat more subdued (for lack of a better word) since we didn’t know anything about the parish. We found a pew near the side door in the wing of the cruciform church and were horrified to hear a crash/splash sound as we returned to our pew after Communion. We looked up to see a deacon scurrying from his position as the “minister of the cup” to the sacristy. He quickly returned with an armload of what I think could be described as towels (almost the size of bath towels) and proceeded to clean up. The people around did not seem disturbed and he proceeded in a manner similar to what I would expect if someone had spilled a cup of water. The Communion line shifted to the other side but proceeded as if nothing but a minor inconvenience had occurred.

    We proceeded to pray acts of reparation and then got out of there as soon as we could after the final blessing. Thankfully none of our children were older than infants at the time so we didn’t need to try to explain to them why the priest didn’t even seem to pay attention to what was going on.

    I have a sickening feeling that this happens WAY more often than most people would think possible. If people are so nonchalant about this happening, it would indicate that they don’t even think about the possibility of particles falling when they are participating in distributing communion in the hand.

  2. Kansas visitor says:

    “What should one do if the chalice containing the precious blood is dropped as it is passed to the communicant.”

    So, if I understand what you said correctly, in the Roman Catholic Church the chalice is passed directly from clergy to communicant?

    In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the practice is different. Only the clergy handle the chalice – it is never handed to or even touched by the laity.

    Furthermore, in our local Orthodox mission, two men stand on either side of the priest at the time of Communion, holding a cloth under the chin as each person approaches (individually) to receive the Gifts, to guard against any spill or other mishap.

    Additionally, we have a small carpet that at the time of Holy Communion is positioned where the priest stands and distributes the Gifts, as a further precaution in the event of an accident.

    One time, during one of our young priest’s first Liturgies, there was such an accident. (I was not present at the time, and I don’t recall exactly what happened. I believe that some of the Body and Blood somehow fell from the Communion spoon onto the carpet.) The rug was taken away and reverently burned, and a new carpet was in place before the next Liturgy.

  3. momoften says:

    YES, this happens more often than should. For instance. I have a son who went to morning
    Mass during the week at a particular Church nearby because of ease of distance to get there(he was too young to drive) He noticed one Monday that there was precious blood spilled, notified the
    pastor, who seem indifferent. The son cleaned it up with purificators (as he had been instructed
    by another priest elsewhere) The next weekend, same thing….and this seemed to be ongoing
    every Monday morning. GRRRR said the young boy, the pastor continued to appear indifferent.
    So he wrote his bishop. THAT GOT NOWHERE. In fact no response. He wrote again, he was
    told it was taken care of . IT WASN’T. Son no longer goes to that Church, but another person still sees one sane person trying to clean up spilt precious blood often. Granted this is a large
    parish, but if they can not safeguard the precious blood, they should not distribute it. This breaks
    my heart…

  4. jeffreyquick says:

    I saw this at the Youngstown cathedral. There was an elderly EMHC. He was bringing the Chalice down and stopped a moment, his knees started to shake, and I said to myself, “Oh ****, he’s going down.” Which he did. He got up, and went off, without any medical treatment, they cleaned up during the distribution (I didn’t see if the old guy had any Precious Blood on him, but they didn’t treat him as if he did.) I could see the guy seated; he seemed kind of impassive, but I’ll bet he was really mortified.

  5. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “I hope that this is theoretical, only. As a seminarian I once saw this happen…”

    Once? Seriously? I have spent 25+ years in liturgically sane, doctrinally sound parishes. I have it happen a DOZEN times in that period. At least. No joke.

    I am so against the routine use of the Cup for EXACTLY this reason. I would limit it to twice a year, three times max.

  6. Mike says:

    It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to reconcile wide distribution of the Precious Blood with a level of respect for the Blessed Sacrament that is founded on a genuine belief in the Real Presence.

    May the non-extraordinary “E”MHC, and all related liturgical abuses, be cast into oblivion; may the Communion rail return swiftly.

  7. ReginaMarie says:

    Several years ago while attending morning Mass in the daily Mass chapel of a large parish, a child of about 8 years old went up to receive & accidentally spilled the Precious Blood upon himself & the floor. The priest at the parish had a large dog who often hung out in the daily Mass chapel during Mass (!?). The dog was reclining nearby when this happened & I was horrified that the dog might come over before the Precious Blood was cleaned up. Thank the Lord, that did not occur.

    I think the Eastern practice of of receiving by spoon / intinction directly from the priest (or deacon) safeguards the Body & Blood as well as increases reverence for this great Mystery. No EMHCs are used.

  8. Priam1184 says:

    The parish I belonged to ended the distribution of the Precious Blood at the beginning of Advent for this (and other) reason. We have lost nothing by only receiving Holy Communion via the Consecrated Host, and in my opinion we have gained a lot: of Holy Communion is quicker, more fluid and one is not continuously running into another line of people waiting to receive the Precious Blood right after receiving the Consecrated Host. And in my humble opinion, not being a theologian, this will over time increase appreciation and reverence for the unity that is present in the Trinity and in the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity that is present in every particle of the Eucharist.

  9. majuscule says:

    It’s pretty much impossible to put an end to distribution of the Precious Blood at every Mass. At our small church (we only have Sunday Mass) I would say fewer than one quarter receive from the chalice. I know this since most Masses I am there as an EMHC and consume what remains.

    I received pretty through training that included most of what Father mentioned above. But I think we all need a good refresher once in a while–yearly if possible. I am now reminded that there could be an accident and a spill. I will try not to obsess about that…but then again, maybe I should.

    Our elderly deacon and one layperson used to distribute but Deacon is no longer steady on his feet. So now Those in Charge want two EMHCs, one for each side of the priest and they seem to feel that the Precious Blood must be offered at every Mass. I am am EMHC only because I fear that someone with no training might be “appointed” if no one with training was available. (I tried asking for only one EMHC to be used but ran into resistance.)

    The four of us who alternate as EMHCs are in agreement that we do not want to distribute the Body of Christ, that only the priest or deacon should be doing that. I even told Father as much. And I am generally not an assertive person.

    Off topic but having to do with EMHCs and communion–when we go forward after the priest has taken communion we generally receive on the tongue. I firmly believe that this example had led to more of our Mass goers receiving on the tongue!

    Our church still has an altar rail and there is some hope of an occasional EF Mass in the future.

  10. Macgawd says:

    Isn’t the distribution of the Precious Blood entirely up to the Priest? I ask this because at my mother’s Parish in Indianapolis, which has both TLM and NO, their newly installed pastor made the public announcement that he would no longer be allowing the Chalice, as well as making other changes, such as omitting the “sign of peace”, and eliminating the use of EMHC’s completely.

  11. BLB Oregon says:

    This has never happened in our parish that I am aware of, but we teach the altar servers that if it does happen they ought to quickly bring the water cruet and a stack of purificators. Since the Precious Blood cannot be consumed after it has been spilled, the thought is that it ought to be diluted as soon as possible, the diluted remains absorbed onto purificators, and the purificators taken to the sacrarium, as per the GIRM (280). The area where the spill occurred is to be covered with a purificator, so that portion of the floor not be stepped on until it can be looked at and attended to more carefully after Mass.

    Is that correct?

  12. FrJohn says:

    Dr. Peters, Fr. Z: [Father, I moved your comment/question to its own entry.]

  13. aviva meriam says:

    I’ve never witnessed this.

    Here in North Texas, the parishes are so large and the numbers of EMHCs so great (at the average Mass) that I wonder if is only a matter of time before I DO witness this.

  14. Gregorius says:

    One time during Mass at the seminary, right before communion, one of the chalices actually broke! It was an ordinary gold chalice too, and nobody saw it coming. I’m guessing it was two parts bolted together. The priest set it on the altar and it fell apart, spilling spilling the sacred species on the altar and on the floor in front of it. I think they had just gotten rid of the carpet that year, and there were a bunch of priests concelebrating and they all knew what to do, and for a while afterward that part of the floor was roped off. Sometimes even in the best of circumstances these sorts of things happen, and it’s good that Fr. Z instructs us what to do.

    I do notice as of late though that the seminary doesn’t seem to offer communion via the chalice to non-celebrants anymore… and the seminarians do have a say in how liturgy is conducted…

  15. APX says:

    Since the Precious Blood cannot be consumed after it has been spilled,

    While carpet makes this more difficult, I presume if it spilled on a hard surface floor someone get down on his/her knees and reverently lick it off the floor. At least I would, but I’m a little extreme when it comes to these things, so I may be being unreasonable.

    My school uses these weird slanted bowl things that are very awkward to handle for chalices. I remember seeing one almost roll off the altar, but the bishop stopped it in time. I offered to buy the school an actual chalice, but my offer was turned down saying what they had was perfectly acceptable. I stopped attending the Masses at my school because of the pain and anxiety it caused me to watch the Precious Blood almost spill at every Mass at the elevation.

  16. mburn16 says:

    I, too, have yet to see this happen. Which is, perhaps, quite surprising. My parish has three weekend masses, and no fewer than 6 “E”MHCs for the blood alone at each mass (normally eight, one for each communion line). Usually offered from rather tacky glass or earthen dishware, into which it is poured from a large jug after consecration (we have at least a dozen sets of communionware, if theft were not a sin, I would pilfer all but the metal versions). And yet, as I said, I have never seen a cup dropped or broken.

    I actually appreciate regular distribution under both species – but if this is such a frequent problem, perhaps we are best served by going back to intinction (would this work when you have so many EMHCs?)…..or, as GIRM 245 permits, the use of a “tube”. Gilded straws, anyone?

  17. We more or less abandoned use of the chalice after the last flu outbreak, and never went back. We use it sparingly—Holy Thursday is about it, I think. Nobody seems to miss it. And it makes communion go by much more efficiently.

    That said: reception of the host can sometimes be just as troublesome, particularly when a child or an elderly person receives with a tentative or uncertain hand. Catechesis on this is pretty lousy. (Mental note: mention this in the homily next Corpus Christi…) People receive every way but the RIGHT way—grabbing, snatching, fumbling. Some don’t hold their palms flat, so it slips to the floor.

    If you can’t handle the Body of Christ properly, and carefully, just receive on the tongue, okay? Please?

  18. MarkG says:

    At TLMs, it’s not customary to receive the Precious Blood.
    However, there are a few people who have allergies to bread, so they are allowed to receive the Precious Blood at a TLM.
    They usually drink from a chalice directly handed to them by the priest.
    Usually this is a second chalice, as some people are allergic to even the small amounts the mingling in the primary chalice would cause to be present.
    I think it would be better for the priest to use a spoon similar to the Eastern Rites, with altar boys holding either a paten or a unfolded stretched out purifier underneath.

    I’ve never seen the Precious Blood spilt, but I’ve rarely ever been to new Masses where it was offered. On the few occasions I’ve seen chalices handed to the faithful by laity for Communion, often the chalices aren’t of proper design and of precious metal. The improper designs seem like an accident waiting to happen. The classic design with a base, nodule, and cup seems the safest to me. Same thing with ciboria, they are often strange shapes and they need to use the classic design which would be the safest.

  19. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Question- What ARE you supposed to do if the Precious Blood spills on your shirt? We had a few overenthusiastic EMs when I was in college, and at one Mass they sloshed the Precious Blood all over me. The priest said just to wash my shirt, but the whole thing was a bit traumatic, and I’ve never taken Communion from the Chalice since.

    (FWIW, It was a white cotton shirt, and the Precious Blood didn’t stain it… unlike red wine, which is a bear to get out. A mini-miracle?)

  20. Moro says:

    I’ve seen spills, but no outright dropping of the chalice. I can’t for the life of me understand why communion by intinction is so rarely used in the Ordinary Form. It’s a licit option. It keeps those who insist on receiving the Precious Blood happy and it eliminates communion in the hand. It’s Safe, Legal, and should be widespread but it’s unfortunately rare.

  21. gretta says:

    I would think that if you had precious blood accidently spilled on you, you would get home as quickly as you could, remove the shirt, then take a clean basin and rinse out the specific place on the shirt in the water being very careful not to slosh the water. Then maybe pour more water over the spill place into the basin. After you have thoroughly rinsed and removed the precious blood, take the basin outside to a place where there is no foot traffic, and pour it into the ground. Then if you want to be really careful, rinse the basin, and then pour that water in the same place. The water should never be put down a drain or into pipes.

  22. mburn16 says:

    “I can’t for the life of me understand why communion by intinction is so rarely used in the Ordinary Form. It’s a licit option. It keeps those who insist on receiving the Precious Blood happy and it eliminates communion in the hand

    Most of your everyday Catholics don’t find “eliminates communion in the hand” to be a selling point. Indeed, it would appear to quite a number of them as near-exclusion from a central part of liturgy that they’ve grown up with for their entire lives. Whatever merits receiving on the tongue may have – and there are certainly merits – its going to make many people feel as if the church sees them as weak and helpless, fit only to sit quietly in the pew and pray their rosary, while the Priest feeds them directly from his hand.

    In addition, most churches in the United States, at least, rely heavily on the use of the EMHCs we’ve been talking about in this thread….and I think there is an element of intinction that feels incompatible with this practice. But its probably only one church out of ten today that still uses a Communion rail or has it distributed only by the Priest(s) and Deacon(s).

  23. Volanges says:

    I was also under the impression that the Ordinary is the one who makes the decision about Communion under both species for his entire diocese. After the last miserable flu outbreak, when we stopped the Sign of Peace and Communion from the Cup, our Bishop at the time sent out a message that it was time to get back to the important practice of offering the Cup. Didn’t seem to be a choice for Fr. to opt not to do so.

  24. wmeyer says:

    Life is much simpler if you receive on the tongue, and bypass the horde of EMHCs holding the chalices.

  25. Volanges says:

    I must say that in our parish Fr. is the only one who distributes the Hosts and there is only one minister of the Cup on Saturday. At the Sunday morning Mass there are two, one for each side of the aisle. I estimate that no more than 25% of the congregation receive from the Cup.

    I’ve never seen a spill and I hope I never do.

  26. Geoffrey says:

    This happened at my parish not too long ago. It was an elderly EMHC whom the pastor is having trouble getting to “retire”. The spot was covered with a purificator and Father cleaned it after Mass.

    The one thing nice about flu season is how Holy Communion under both kinds is often reduced to one; however, receiving on the tongue is also discouraged.

    I am curious about intinction. If done properly, this could satisfy those who (wrongly) insist on Holy Communion under both kinds always, AND those who (rightly) insist on receiving on the tongue. Happy compromise?

  27. Volanges says:

    The idea of intinction is interesting. I recall going to liturgy courses offered by a school of theology and one of the priests teaching said that “Intinction is not allowed in Canada because it removes from the communicant the choice to receive in the hand.” I didn’t know enough about it to argue.

  28. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    I remember hearing this story a while ago. It happened at Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton, outside Boston:
    When Our Ladys was renovated in the late 1990s, they installed a Protestant-style in-ground baptismal pool in the floor near the altar–and not long after the church reopened, a lay Eucharistic minister fell into the baptismal pool during Communion, dropping a glass chalice on the marble floor, which shattered and spilled the precious blood of Christ on the floor. Now they have rubber mats and cordons to prevent that problem…
    The story was in a Boston Catholic blog and caused a bit of a stir. There were other problems at that parish, too, besides the in-ground pool.

  29. RafqasRoad says:

    At both the little church up the street and the primary Parish church over the river, I’d say that, in the past four months that I have been a regular attendee, the Precious Blood would be given during roughly one third of Masses. Of interest, there are a number of us with significant vision impairment who attend (I being one of them) and we receive via intincture – licit, no mess, no fuss, no accidents with the chalice.

    Additionally, I am able to receive on the tongue without incident and though 90% of priests/accolytes/occasional EMHC’s have always given me the Precious Body’ efficiently, quickly and reverently, a few took a while to get used to it, though almost all are excellent now, with ‘no touch’ as they give me my Lord in the form of His Precious Body. Of note, thoughw e do have EMHC’s, we have many Accolytes also, and they assist the priest at mass more often than not. Its a good parish.
    PS: for newer readers:
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  30. gretta says:

    Mass Catholic, that “falling into the font/pool with a glass chalice” scenario is so horrific as to boggle the mind.

  31. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    APX, you are being unreasonable.

    A dozen spills, folks, outright, witnessed by me.

    NOT counting dribbles on shirts and ties, etc.

  32. Former Altar Boy says:

    My father (RIP) told me about witnessing the Sacred Body being dropped during distribution of Holy Communion. This was back in the late 1920s or 1930s, so none of that Communion in the hand (ugh) nonsense. I don’t know if the altar boy didn’t have the paten in position or what, but the Lord fell on the floor. The priest picked up the Sacred Body and consumed it, then, having told the altar boy to stand guard, he returned the ciborium to the altar, retrieved clothes (we can assume purificators) from the sacristy, then got down on his hand and knees and cleaned the entire area. Obviously it made a huge impression on my Dad, who told me the story decades later. As you said, Father, the accident was an opportunity for a “teaching moment.”

  33. Moro says:

    mburn16 – I think you made some good points about this. Most don’t see a problem with communion in the hand, EMHCs, etc. I just would have thought some faithful priests would have implemented this in their parishes. I have seen it done in Spain and the Dominican Republic. I’ve had some people give me the whole “…. we can’t do that because of EMHCs, catechesis, etc.” line. But I honestly don’t buy that. They seem to forget we did retranslated a whole new missal and corresponding pieces of music and we did it for the entire English speaking world. This would be a piece of cake by comparison. All in all, This whole thread shows that there is much needed catechesis on how to receive the Eucharist.

    Deacon Greg Kandra is right on the money about receiving the host. I’ve noticed many people, including a priest, just grab a host from the EMHC or priest with his thumb and index finger as if picking up a cracker. It’s simply appalling. It’s no surprise that most of the Catholics I see in most churches are in their 60s and older. The young have not been given much of reason to value the faith, and the old go to mass every Sunday seemingly out of habit just like they go to the grocery store on the weekend, call relatives, etc. It’s sad because it doesn’t have to be this way.

  34. haskovez says:

    Father, I saw it mentioned by someone above, but I was also going to say isn’t the solution to the problem intinction? My wife and I were married in Guadalajara as that is where she is from and in Mexico of course you never receive communion in the hand, and normally they only give the bread as you have suggested. However at our wedding Mass and I think when I went to my nieces and nephews first communion Mass they used intinction. They have the alter boy holding the plate below your mouth and the priest dips the bread in the cup and puts it on your tongue. It seems like that whole setup is the best way to avoid either the cup getting spilled or the bread dropped. I wonder why we don’t just do that in the US? It seems like it solves all the concerns.

  35. Geoffrey says:

    “Deacon Greg Kandra is right on the money about receiving the host.”

    I second that. As a fairly new non-instituted acolyte and EMHC at my parish, I am seeing it all.

    On that note, I must say that once on this blog, there was debate about receiving in the hand actually caused more germs to pass than receiving on the tongue. I now believe that to be true. I never touch any part of a communicant when distributing on the tongue, but in the hand? Almost always, because no two communicants ever position their hands the same!

  36. frjim4321 says:

    “Make sure that plenty of water is used so that the Precious Blood be so diluted that the substance is broken.”

    Yes, that seems to be the key … once the substance is broken it is easy to do whatever needs to be done.

  37. I’m Greek Catholic, and among us the consecrated gifts are distributed together in the chalice using a golden spoon, the Body being placed in with the Blood. The Dogma of Concomitance notwithstanding, I appreciate the sacred symbolism of the mystical supper that’s preserved when both are administered, not to mention to fidelity to patristic orthopraxy it represents. I often wonder why instinction isn’t more common in the Latin Church. Handing chalices to laymen seems improper on two counts, first because it hands the sacred chalice to unconsecrated hands (similar to the traditional Latin practice, in the Byzantine rite, only bishops, priests, and deacons are allowed to touch the chalice), and second because it’s clumsy and truly does risk profanation. That all could be avoided while greatly increasing the availability of distribution of both the consecrated bread and the consecrated wine if instinction were used more frequently.

  38. frjim4321 says:

    ” . . . once on this blog, there was debate about receiving in the hand actually caused more germs to pass than receiving on the tongue . . .”

    Not possible.

    And I don’t think we have COTT at the institution…nor for a few centuries…

  39. av8er says:

    This happened once in front of me and my family. We were sitting two pews from the front, and the elderly communicant slipped in the handling from the EMHC to this senior and some of the Precious Blood was spilled. I had my eyes closed in prayer and did not se it happening but my wife did. She told me about it after Mass. She told me that no one did anything special, or diverted people around or anything. This is terrible in and of itself but what makes it worse is that my wife in not in full communion with the Faith. Her road block is the Body and Blood of Christ. She told me if we Catholics believe this, then why did they essentially do nothing when there was a spill? I had no answer other than those people didn’t know what their responsibilities were. Our pastor more than likely didn’t see it or he’d let them have it. I think the training is lacking somewhere, not to mention the faith of the EMHC. If you don’t know what, who it is you shouldn’t distribute, once you do, you won’t want to.

  40. Anne M. says:

    I have not seen the Precious Blood spilled but I have seen a Consecrated Host fall to the floor. Our Deacon accidentally bumped the ciborium against the altar and a Host fell out. Everything stopped and our elderly priest immediately dropped to his knees and consumed the Host. He then kissed the floor on the spot where the Host had been.

  41. paxchristi says:

    We were vacationing in Mexico recently and attended a local parish for Sunday Mass. At Communion time the older priest held a ciborium, and at his right hand there was an adult altar server holding the Precious Blood close to the ciborium. Even though the church was full (perhaps 250 people), the priest carefully intincted each Host in the Precious Blood and gave Communion on the tongue. Very reverent. It did not take much longer than a typical Sunday Mass in North America where both species are distributed.

    Recently, in our Canadian parish, immediately in front of me I saw the Precious Blood being spilled on the carpet as an EMHC was passing the cup to a parishioner. Everyone just carried on as if nothing had happened. I was stunned and kept waiting, thinking surely someone on the altar would do something. I kept my eye riveted on the spot, and at the end of the Mass I went and stood beside the spot (I can’t kneel) and motioned to the adult server, telling him what had happened. He came and covered the spot with a purificator and said he would take care of it. Clearly our EMHCs need more direction and education.

  42. celpar says:

    It happened a few months ago in my local cathedral and nobody, least of all the EMHC, noticed until I nearly trod in it on my across the front of the church to a side-chapel. I alerted the woman who, as in many of the stories given above, appeared unconcerned and had to be told twice. She then came and scrubbed at it with a purificator, to no great effect and eventually on my insistence and that of another woman who’d joined us went to find the priest. I remember the blank look I got when I said ‘It’s the Blood of Christ- you can’t just leave it to the cleaners’. The two of us waited there until the priest came and I suppose he dealt with it – I left at that point.

    Some priests at this church will, if no EMHC is present leave the chalice on the altar and invite us to help ourselves. Buffet Communion for all next, I imagine- all the Hosts you can grab in 10 seconds.

  43. Athelstan says:


    Most of your everyday Catholics don’t find “eliminates communion in the hand” to be a selling point. Indeed, it would appear to quite a number of them as near-exclusion from a central part of liturgy that they’ve grown up with for their entire lives.

    That doesn’t make it right, or even prudent.

    It started as an abuse, against the overwhelming opposition of the bishops (even in the 60’s and 70’s! The Age of Aquarius!). It’s bad theology.

    Whatever merits receiving on the tongue may have – and there are certainly merits – its going to make many people feel as if the church sees them as weak and helpless, fit only to sit quietly in the pew and pray their rosary, while the Priest feeds them directly from his hand.

    Whatever people feel is beside the point, and often *wrong.* My Sicilian grandparents, and their forebears, were anything but weak and helpless; but they received on the tongue, every time, for their entire lives after the age of reason.

    It’s a problem for catechesis. And it can be done. I’ve seen it done.

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