UPDATE 5 May 2016:
Since today is seems appropriate to talk about “going up”…
From a priest:
This authorization for receiving the Holy Eucharist in space is pretty long-standing at this point. Astronaut Tom Jones mentions the Eucharistic service conducted by the three Catholic astronauts on board STS-59 in 1994. You can read about it on page 125 in his book “Skywalking,” an Astronaut’s Memoir.” Shuttle Pilot Kevin Chilton was the deputed EME, he and Commander Sydney Gutierrez and Mission Specialist Jones were the three Catholics of that crew.
Original Published on: Apr 19, 2016
From a reader…
I’d be interested to know your thoughts from the liturgical side. Does this amount to self communicating? I’ve never heard of this before and assume perhaps a first(Jesus first time in space since you know, creating it??) HERE
With the help of his pastor, Fr. James H. Kaczynski of the St. Mary Church in Texas, he got special permission from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to carry 6 consecrated hosts (which can be split into 4 pieces each) in a pyx into space to consume once a week while on the International Space Station.
Well, I’ll be.
The best solution is to bring me into the space program and I will say Mass for them and conduct zero-g spiritual exercises.
This is clearly beyond the stratospheric musings of canonists and liturgists, but it could be reasonable to give permission for it. Yes, of course, it is self-communication, unless there was an Extraterrestrial Minister of Communion about the place to distribute. I imagine that the archdiocese laid out protocols for this, including how to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in as dignified a place as possible. I’ll bet they dispensed from having a candle burning in the place of reservation.
It is unclear from the news articles about this whether the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston was able, himself, to grant all the necessary dispensations, or if any additional permissions were required from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. I suspect there was communication between Houston and Rome about this matter, considering the novelty of it.
I can just see the letter from the Congregation asking for clarifications: “Houston, we have a problem…”.
On the other hand, it used to be the case that men set out to voyages at sea for months at a time and then went to ports where there were no Catholic Churches. They didn’t bring the Sacrament with them, to self-communicate. So, was this a good idea to do? I don’t know. It brings up the issue of what Communion is. These days, some people have it in mind that they have to receive all the time. I’m not judging them, but we are not obliged to receive bu once a year. Is what was done licit? I suppose it could be, under today’s laws, etc. That said, clearly the Catholic astronauts are not obliged to fulfill their Sunday Mass obligation given that they are travelling and that access to a church is difficult. Their pastors can commute their obligation, as per law.