ASK FATHER: Man regularly takes Hosts home from Mass

From a reader…

Last week I saw one of our parishioners take the host back to his pew. I mentioned this to the visiting priest after Mass and he said to talk directly to the person involved — but he’d left before the final blessing.

I was so disturbed I left a note for our regular priest under his door, but found out later he’s away on annual leave.

This week he did it again with the same visiting priest. I’d done a spot of reading through the week, so I went and sat next to him and said (quietly) that he should eat the host before the priest. He said that he had a medical condition that prevented that (no saliva). [So, he is not taking it to a sick person.]

After Mass, he came up and was obviously disturbed (and probably offended) and proceeded to aggressively argue his point.

I’ll obviously try and see our regular priest when he gets back, but it’s left me perturbed — especially as he was personally aggressive.

Was I right or wrong? Maybe I should have seen him before Mass?

You were not wrong to talk to the man.  Alas, the priest was a visitor who wasn’t able to follow up on this and your parish priest is away.  That creates a bit of an awkward situation.

It is too bad that he has to bear the cross of this medical condition, but that condition doesn’t authorize him to do as he pleases with Hosts from Mass.  The bottom line is that the fellow should not have, should not and should never take home a Host from Mass.  If he has some problem swallowing, then he should see the priest before Mass and find out if there is a way to receive the Precious Blood instead of a Host.

But he cannot take Hosts like that.  That’s just plain wrong.

This is something that the priest at the parish, even if he is not the pastor, should help with.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. stuart reiss says:

    Lack of saliva? Ridiculous….never heard of it for a simple communion wafer….
    Lack of grey matter…yes

  2. Volanges says:

    stuart reiss, just because you’ve never heard of it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. There are indeed people who don’t produce saliva for various reasons including disease, side effects of medication, and radiation therapy. Swallowing a host would be very difficult, if not impossible, for them. That doesn’t make what he’s doing correct in any way, but at least we could be understanding of the situation.

    Not everyone has been properly catechized on this matter. It’s simply a matter of finding how he can be accommodated so that he can receive Communion properly and reverently. As Fr. Z. said, he could receive the Precious Blood — even if it’s not normally offered in that parish. It’s simply a matter of speaking with his Pastor.

  3. ray from mn says:

    I am an extraordinary minister at a hospital and regularly see communicants who have difficulty swallowing. Tell this guy to bring a small bottle of water with him if he really has a problem swallowing.

  4. ray from mn says:

    We also break the host into tiny pieces if a person has difficulty swallowing.

  5. un-ionized says:

    A wafer would be unmanageable for someone with dry mouth. Probably this person is having to have a glass of water with it. The other option seems best.

  6. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    I have seen this a few times over the years and have always ‘confronted’ the person immediately, usually with, “You need to consume that right now or give it to me”. I am not loud, but I also make it plain that I don’t mind causing a scene, right then and there. The Host taking is usually done out of ignorance (I suspect by non-Catholics, at least one of whom was goaded into receiving by a Catholic!), but it could also be tried for evil purposes.

  7. Bender says:

    If the issue really is dry mouth and difficulty swallowing, then the problem is easily solved by one of those ubiquitous bottles of water with the person in the pew, not pocketing the Host. He could take a big drink before going up or the minister of Communion could come for him to receive in his seat, rather than bringing the bottle up to the altar. Or the ushers could do their job, which includes hospitality, and have a small cup of water available for him.

    Either way, even if it means the priest or EMHC chasing the person down at the time, if not a watchful usher or one of the congregation, the person needs to be gently but firmly admonished that he CANNOT walk off with the Host and put the Body of our Lord in his pocket, or anywhere else, for whatever reason. If he does not consume then and there, then he should be asked to return the Host. Once he has been so informed, he cannot plead ignorance/innocence if he does so again.

  8. un-ionized says:

    Stuart, i once tried to help a friend who couldn’t eat because of dry mouth. It’s bad.

  9. gracie says:

    It’s appalling that the visiting priest should leave it to the parishioner to talk to the man. That’s a job for the priest – visiting or not. He has the authority of his office to back him up – something the lay person doesn’t have. I would have politely told the priest that I had done my job and now it was time for him to do his.

    A few years back I saw an EMC refuse to give Communion on the tongue to a young man. He puts out his tongue, she lowers the Host. He closes his mouth. They stare at each other. She raises the Host; he sticks out his tongue; she lowers the Host. Rinse and repeat. After the third time, the man gave up and put out his hands; she puts the Host into them. After Mass I went up to the – yes, visiting priest – and told him what had happened. He had greeted me jovially but immediately became dead serious, told me that that was completely unacceptable, asked me to describe the woman in detail and then said, “Excuse me, but I have to get to her before she leaves to tell her she is not allowed to do that”. Off he sailed up the aisle to where she was and that was the last day she refused to give Communion on the tongue. Certainly protecting the Host from possible desecration is the duty of any priest whether he’s “just” visiting a parish or not. All I can say is bravo to the priest who does the job he’s hired for, in season and out.

  10. un-ionized says:

    Bender, I like your suggestion about the usher helping. It would help both of them feel more connected as a worshiping community.

  11. The bottom line is, the Eucharist is not ordinary food; so, if you have a medical condition that makes it hard for you to receive Holy Communion, you take it up with the priest instead of taking it upon yourself to craft a solution.

  12. Suburbanbanshee says:

    The clinical term is “xerostomia.” Communion wafers are listed as a “transitional food,” where you can apply a small quantity of liquid and sort of mush it. Presumably with your tongue.

    Apparently the difficulty is not just in getting things soft enough to eat and liquid enough to swallow, but also in cleaning one’s mouth afterwards.

    I suspect the gentleman is pious and just wants to receive Communion under one or both species, but has been too shy or embarrassed to ask for help. Either he doesn’t realize that what he’s doing is improper, or initially was too desperate to care. (And hey, we’re Americans. We reflexively go for DIY solutions.) So yeah, he’s going to be defensive and prickly when told not to do it his way.

    I don’t think it should be impossible for a priest to give him Communion with propriety and without violating either the laws of God or personal safety, but it might be easier to do it in the sacristy or something like that.

  13. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Forgot to include the definition I found of “transitional foods” in this context:

    “foods or substances that change quickly to become easier to chew or swallow with added moisture or a change in temperature. For example, items such as ice cream wafers or some potato crisps are firm in their original state but when moisture (e.g. water or saliva) is added, they break down quickly and easily with tongue to palate pressure. Chewing can be achieved with reduced effort and likelihood of fatigue.”

  14. MrTipsNZ says:

    The author of the question should not feel bad. Presumably, the man he spoke with was alive….which means he’s eating and holding it down….which means he knows what to do if he suffers from lack of salivary function….which begs the question…why does he not do that at Church? It may be he doesn’t think he can…..but presumably his tongue still functions (as he was offended by the questioner and let him know so)… he can talk….why didn’t he ask his priest about what to do?

    With so many people unsure about what to do over simple things, its amazing we ever discovered the light bulb, the motorcar and panna cotta.

  15. un-ionized says:

    Just so people know, with dry mouth even soft fairly moist foods become the consistency of chewing gum.

  16. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    Xerostomia is a common problem, especially in the elderly and those who have undergone radiation treatments for head and neck cancer which destroy saliva production. Father’s solutions are sensible. In the Ordinary From, Intinction from the priest could be considered for this person too. Or special permission from the Ordinary to rinse the Host down with water.

  17. Ralph says:

    Christ is fully present in both the appearance of wine and bread. Therefore if one has a saliva issue, I assume receiving only the wine would be sufficient. (I’m not sure if this would be an issue in the EF but in the NO I think it would be pretty easy to accomplish)

    I attended a parish that was under attack by a satinist group for about a year. The pastor (and the parishioners for that matter) learned to be quite observant and, when necessary, militant about people consuming immediately upon receiving. The pastor stopped several attempts to remove consecrated hosts from the sanctuary – some of which were very devious.

  18. stuart reiss says:

    Easy easy… read quote entirely before a spittle filled nutty….to borrow someone’s term…..xerostomia easily addressed with artificial saliva drops…patient pops a few drops with a dropper consumes said host..job done..
    A full meal..then that’s another matter…
    But this issue seems a mountain of a mole hill..I fully agree with author and Dr Ed Peters, if you see this speak to the person ‘mercifully’

  19. KateD says:

    I’m supremely ignorant, please forgive me….but why can’t he receive the Blood alone, instead?

  20. un-ionized says:

    KateD, He could. I wonder if he might actually be ill at home. Stuart reiss, I have known people who had radiation treatments for whom artificial saliva was useless.

  21. APX says:

    Xerostomia is a common problem, especially in the elderly and those who have undergone radiation treatments

    I concur. When I had to have radioactive iodine therapy, despite only having a “small” amount (small as in still within the legal limits that I didn’t require staying in an isolation room for a few days) of lradioactive iodine in drink format, almost instantly my mouth stopped producing saliva. Receiving communion for the next week was not fun with hosts getting cemented to the roof of my mouth, and not being able to drink from water fountains or anything that could cause cross contamination with the radiation I emitted for the week.

  22. Grumpy Beggar says:

    In my pastoral long-term & palliative care apostolate, dysphagia is even more common among the patients than xerostomia. It is not that uncommon for a patient to have both of those conditions.

    As ray from mn says , it is often necessary to break a Host into smaller fragments for the communicant. I have dealt with several communicants through the years who were only able to receive a fragment of a Host approximately the size of the tip of a pencil.

    But when one has a whole institution full of literally hundreds of patients who experience difficulty swallowing , one has to consider the logistics; the implications of how many fragments/sacred particles , would be created if we were breaking Hosts all day long, or for that matter, during Communion time at one of the Masses they attend.

    Fortunately , the Church is way ahead of us on this one. There are religious orders who specialize in producing a special type of host for the sick – which is thinner and dissolves more easily and rapidly. Our Institution and several hospitals in the area had been relying on a congregation in a neighboring province up here north of the 49th to supply these hosts , but the Sisters had to stop making them because they were all becoming advanced in age.

    So when those hosts finally ran out earlier this year , I went shopping via the net to see what we could find in the good ol’ USA . I ordered some hosts from the Poor Clares of the Franciscan Monastery of St. Clare, Langhorne , PA. These are the best hosts we have ever had for the sick, and to anyone in need of this type of host, I would highly recommend the hosts these Sisters make first. A bonus is that they also know how to pack them so that they won’t break in transit.

  23. tominrichmond says:

    Reason 4,562 for abolishing this abusive practice of Communion in the hand.

  24. frjim4321 says:

    We had an E.M. that I figured out was taking 14 hosts home every week. They kept them in a pyx on top of their television with a vigil light and presumably some statues, etc. The guy would watch some televised mass every day and give communion to his mother and himself during the communion of the t.v. mass. I think there’s a lot of this going on. There is a woman E.M. who I just figured out was coming in, getting the tabernacle key, and filling up her pyx and taking it home. She would then go out during the week and take communion to some shut-ins that she knew. She told me the pastor a couple pastors back told her she could do it. I told her she can’t, so now I’m the bast***d from H$$L.

  25. Elizium23 says:

    Uh… I need permission from my Ordinary to rinse with water?

  26. MikeM says:

    I don’t know what the rules are and I don’t know that my approach would be the right one, but in such a situation, I would definitely address it with the pastor. And if the pastor gave me anything resembling a reasonable response, I would probably leave it at that. We all owe God our vigilance to try to prevent others from stealing hosts and desecrating the Eucharist… but there are also realms that are best left to the pastor where I don’t feel like I can reasonably expect to be included in the deliberations.

  27. Prayerful says:

    This a reminder that the Dutch or Belgian abuse of Communion in the hand needs to disappear. Leaving aside the scattering of particles of His Body, it makes it so easy for satanists and others to desecrate the host. I hope the priest can communicate in a firm way with the man mentioned.

  28. catholictrad says:

    Spiritual communion anyone? It has been only in this recent century that we’ve gotten the idea that Mass requires reception by all. [Only the poorly catechized think they must receive.] No doubt, the assembly line method makes it more difficult to remain seated. [Agreed.]
    My mother is a very recent convert and shut-in. She receives only when it is brought to her by a priest. She imagines herself kneeling, receives on the tongue, and uses water as necessary. How much more precious those times are when we wait on Him!

  29. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    I will assume there is some reason he cannot receive the Precious Blood and so receive the Whole Christ, as decorously suggested by KateD.

    Solution one would be to make sure that he has had the requisite mystagogy to understand that in receiving any portion he has received the Lord in His entirety, whether it be a single grain of the Host or a minim of the Blood.

    Solution two would be universal communication by intincture, which prohibits palming the Host, obviates the need for unconsetrated hands to hold chalices, hightly recommends the use of a patten.

    Reception by intincture while kneeling, a baldachin over every free-standing altar encourage worhsip in either orientation, and chanting the propers of the Mass rather than using hymnody would remove 80% of the liturgical abuses from which we suffer. I think it would also leave parishes in a financially more sound position (e.g., no salaried music director, no salaried liturgy director), and reduce our pastors’ headaches,i.e. fewer people feeling compelled to say how they think things should be.

  30. Patti Day says:

    I have a friend who, on several occasions, took the host, secreted it in a handkerchief, and carried it to the hospital, where she broke it into four pieces and shared it with family members and the patient. She wrote about it in a book she published. When other members of the parish read it, a few were disturbed, but more saw no problem with it, actually applauding her ingenuity, an appalling lack of catechises and another reason for receiving on the the tongue.

  31. scribbly says:

    Thank you everyone: over the intervening days I came to the conclusion that there was nothing else I could have done as I had no idea about why he was doing it, and the week before, he disappeared before the end of Mass.

    I’d thought that there had to be a lot of possible solutions (pardon the pun and thanks for all your thinking): I’ll pass them on to the Parish Priest if he looks like he may need it… but I’m a little troubled, as he’s obviously been doing this for some years.

    For all those that mentioned radiation: you hit the nail on the head — he’s been very sick with cancer. So I have no doubt that there is a medical issue, that unfortunately exacerbates the lack-of-catechisation.

  32. scribbly says:

    I meant to ask Father: your comment So, he is not taking it to a sick person. — surely transporting a host in your pocket is not OK… for any reason?

    And if the Priest does nothing, or allows him to continue, should I follow up somehow?

Comments are closed.