ASK FATHER: Mustaches and receiving the Precious Blood

From a reader…


I have a fairly bushy mustache. I don’t feel comfortable receiving the Precious Blood as I sometimes get liquids on my mustache, my morning coffee is sometimes a chore.

That said, a friend said I was missing out on part of the sacrament, which I’m certain is untrue. However I am just doublechecking, should I go with a Boston Blackie mustache and receive under both species? Is there some sort of rubric or regulation about facial hair and the chalice?

The only rules that govern facial hair are the often violated commonsense and good taste.

You remember from your catechism that in both or in either of the species of the Eucharist which we can receive, we receive whole and entire the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord.  That’s what we receive if we receive under one species alone or both species.   That’s what we receive if the Host is small or large, if the Precious Blood is a drop or a swallow or a draught.   In each fragment of a Host, Christ is present.

One can talk about the symbolic value of receiving both kinds, which in many places is stressed to the point that the doctrine of the integrity of the Eucharist is obscured.  Any practice that leads people to think that they must receive both kinds is to be avoided.  So must we correct the false idea that people must receive Communion at every Mass or they haven’t been to Mass!   This leads to sacrilegious Communions on the part of many who haven’t been to confession for years and who are not properly disposed.

If you don’t feel comfortable receiving the Precious Blood, then don’t receive the Precious Blood.

You are not missing out on anything when you receive Communion under one kind.  If you receive just the Host in Communion, you receive Christ.  You don’t receive “more” Christ by receiving both the Host and the Precious Blood.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. For centuries, the faithful did not receive under both kinds. I guess we’re saying Providence left it up to us to uncover a previously undetected doctrine.

  2. Sandy says:

    Your answer, Father, can’t be stressed enough. It was upsetting to hear a priest talk about this recently at Mass, giving exactly the wrong impression, that you must receive under both species. The old catechism words will never leave my mind, “Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity” in the Host.

  3. THREEHEARTS says:

    how terrible it is, everything this pontificate does seems to wipe out the Council of Trent and promote
    Lutheran Heresies. The same people who said the Mass is too long especially the Act of taking Holy Communion take no umbrage at making it twice as long with receiving both species. The profanity of turning one’s back on the altar and taking part in the bedlam that the sign of peace now produces is abysmally shocking and is a profanity. Some I hear say sins are forgiven by this act. What are they saying, we do not need to confess. They act as if they say peace where there is no peace

  4. TonyO says:

    In addition to what Fr. Z said: it was the norm in monasteries in the East not to shave, and all priests received the Blood of Christ, thought they had extensive facial hair. It was the norm in many other countries at various times for priests not to shave, or to have mustaches, and they had no problem receiving the Precious Blood.

    I had a beard and mustache for 30 years. Admittedly, I did not receive the Precious Blood very often in that time, (maybe 4 or 5 times total) and when I did I was extremely cautious; mostly just barely allowing the chalice to tip enough to get a drop or two. You don’t need a gulp.

    But mostly I studiously avoid receiving under both species, unless it is given by intinction. As far as I am aware, the Church’s rules for allowing the laity to receive under both species was intended to allow it under unusual conditions, like for a wedding or something momentous like that. I believe that the priests who do it on a daily basis in repudiation of their bishop’s directives are doing something gravely wrong and I won’t participate in their error. I believe that the bishops who have given explicit permission for pastors to have it at daily or ordinary Sunday Mass have gravely misunderstood the intention of the Church’s rules, and (usually) are benighted and blinded by many other errors in their warped grasp of the Eucharist – so I won’t participate in that either. Its my little way of stuffing their foolishness back in their faces: no, you’re wrong, receiving the host IS TOO receiving all of Christ, and it fully satisfies my spiritual needs.

  5. Lurker 59 says:

    One of the things that I find interesting is that, though the idea that one must receive from the chalice to get the whole Jesus is so prevalent, that you don’t see people genuflecting prior to receiving from the chalice.

    My local parish does encourage the mentality that one needs to receive from the chalice in order to “get the whole Jesus”, if not overtly it is there implicitly. This is also reinforced by the selection of communion hymns that contain the idea of such a need.

    It is not just that there is a deficiency in understanding the Real Presence, but there is also a deficiency in understanding precicely what the Sacrifice of the Altar is all about, including the distinction between priest and layman in the taking (for the former), and why it must be done and must be done under both species, and the receiving (for the latter), and why it need not be done and then need only be one Eucharistic Species, of Communion.

  6. In addition to what Fr. Z said: it was the norm in monasteries in the East not to shave, and all priests received the Blood of Christ, thought they had extensive facial hair. It was the norm in many other countries at various times for priests not to shave, or to have mustaches, and they had no problem receiving the Precious Blood.

    While Byzantine Rite clergy and monastics often have beards (and often pious laymen have worn beards as well out of devotion in certain times and places) they trim their moustaches for precisely this reason, even among those clergy and monastics who following the Nazirite practice do not otherwise cut their beards or hair.

  7. SimonK says:

    I haven’t received the Precious Blood in years. I have an anxiety disorder and for some reason my anxiety has attached to that topic, although the exact reason varies. I convinced myself too much drinking when I was younger had given me alcoholic liver disease, even though the doctor told me my liver is okay and it was just hypochondria; but I worried that even the tiniest amount of alcohol might worsen my liver. Then I worried I might catch a disease from the shared chalice. Other times I was petrified I’d accidentally drop the chalice and spill it. I probably should get over my anxieties on this topic, but since it isn’t necessary to receive both forms I guess I am okay with the Precious Body alone.

  8. veritas vincit says:

    It is not necessary to receive under both species to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist, and no priest or layperson I have ever encountered has suggested otherwise.

    However, personally I always receive under both species when offered. Why would I not? Receiving the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ is more vivid (more “sign value”) when receiving under both species, even knowing that one species contains the whole Christ.

    (As it happens, I have a mustache and occasionally grow a beard, both of which I keep trimmed to prevent issues with food — or the Eucharist).

  9. Matthew says:

    Also quite important to know during cold and flu season that one isn’t compelled to receive the Precious Blood. The good sisters taught us quite well, of course that was before we had the option of both species. The good old days.

  10. Markus says:

    As evidenced in museum collections (such as the Cloisters Museum NYC 13th century chalice/paten) the chalice set included a straw.

  11. Simon_GNR says:

    “in either of the species of the Eucharist which we can receive, we receive whole and entire the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord.”
    Which is why, during my first few years as a Catholic, I sometimes made a point of NOT receiving from the Chalice, to signify my belief in the above doctrine, expressed quite clearly in a document of the Council of Trent. This was somewhat frowned upon by the Eucharistic minister when I attended a Vocations Weekend at a Carmelite Friary in the early 1990’s and I refused the Chalice!

  12. robtbrown says:

    If I’m asked, I almost always say that I save Communion under both species for special occasions – my religious or marriage vows

  13. Geoffrey says:

    I am under the opinion that receiving under both kinds should be “safe, legal, and rare”.

  14. Grant M says:

    Where I live the chalice is NEVER offered to the laity, even in the OF, probably because congregations are large and all wine has to be imported at great cost.

  15. When the rules changed to allow two Communions in a day, wasn’t that exactly for the reason of receiving the Host and the Chalice at the same time? Receiving under both species definitely counts as receiving twice.
    I have been told that there is no extra grace for the soul when receiving a second time on the same day.
    Not only is receiving under both species unnecessary, the risk of spilling is huge. This happened to me in my youth – the Precious Blood spilled down the front of my white coat. [And nobody made a fuss, and so I myself didn’t understand the import at the time] Never again!! I never, ever ‘take the chalice’ – I simply reverently walk by, back to my pew.
    And the germs, ugh. One friend – the last day she ever served as a lay ‘eucharistic minister’ was the day she found a big wad of spittle at the bottom of the cup, which she had been charged with finishing off. So handing off the chalice also risks deliberate profanation.
    Additionally, as much discussion as there is here about lay hands touching the Eucharist, those same old rules also apply to the prohibition of touching sacred vessels.

  16. TonyO says:

    Tina, when did the rules change to allow a second Communion? I was under the impression that it was always allowed – St. Francis de Sales refers to practices that strongly suggest receiving twice in a day was rather common, such as pious little old ladies trekking from one church to another to receive again. My (vague) impression was that the rule change was to make it CLEAR that the second time receiving should ONLY be in the context of going to Mass a second time.

    In any case, I am pretty sure that like the priest receiving the Host and then the Blood few seconds later, receiving under both species a few moments apart at the same Mass is receiving ONE communion. The whole point (made by those who urge receiving under both species) is that receiving under both species is – symbolically at least – a more complete act of Communion. It isn’t ontologically more complete (any more than if the priest accidentally gives you two hosts instead of one), but symbolically it is a clearer manifestation of the unity of Christ’s Body and Blood in which you communicate. Since the whole point is related to the unity of the Body and Blood, receiving them both cannot constitute two different Communions. (That of course is my understanding, but I welcome correction by Fr. Z if I am mistaken.)

    Your point about greatly added opportunities for disastrous accidents or horrific sacrilege is excellent. One pastor I know made a point of giving Communion under both species via intinction to avoid just those kinds of worries. Also to ensure that only the priests were holding the chalice with the Blood, not putting it into the hands of an extraordinary minister. In addition, it is symbolically EVEN BETTER at manifesting the unity of the Body and Blood, so the “mee too” crowd could have nothing (rationale) to complain about.

  17. Shonkin says:

    Tina in Ashburn makes two very good points.
    During the Eighties, when the multiple chalices and the multitude of EMHC’s appeared, we got a mailing from our Diocese explaining the practice. I received Holy Communion under both species once. Within a few days I got sick with something somewhere between a bad cold or mild flu, which hung around for weeks. When I got completely over it I showed my inability to learn and again received from the cup. Once. I again came down with something nasty. I never went back to the cup again. And I stayed healthy.
    The mass sharing of vessels is an epidemiologist’s nightmare.
    And I have been horrified to see a general attitude of nonchalance. Twice in the past ten years I have seen the Precious Blood spilled on the floor by EMHC’s during Mass at my parish. After once you’d expect the practice to be banned permanently, but no such thing happened.

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