My recent voyage to the Holy Land, with many Masses at holy sites and lots and lots of hand sanitizer, and my return home through the massive hub AMS and lots and lots of hand sanitizer, and catching up on email (with eye and brain sanitizer) and then Mass this morning – with hand sanitizer – has me thinking about Communion in time of contagion.
We’ve been around the block with this before, during other outbreaks of pesky pest.
This time, there is great concern for the spread of what looks to be a highly contagious virus. So much so that in some places there is talk of eliminating holy water from church stoops and fonts and shutting down Masses or Communion.
About Holy Water.
Okay. I get that. So long as they don’t daftly replace it with sand, etc. It is possible that Holy Water (or perhaps “happy water”, depending on the blessing used) is available at your church. That should be okay, because it is in a self-contained dispenser. BYOB, as it were, and use it when entering church if you wish. It might get you to take some home and start new habits of use of this wonderful sacramental.
Now for Communion.
BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE… a bishop cannot, CANNOT, require Communion in the hand at the Traditional Latin Mass. The legislation of Summorum Pontificum is for the universal Latin Church and bishops cannot override it. The Instruction Universae Ecclesiae 28 says that Summorum Pontificum derogates from all liturgical law after 1962 that doesn’t agree with the laws of 1962.
ALSO… if this situation gets worse, so that there is truly a great risk of contagion when out and around, A) you don’t have an obligation to fulfill and B) you don’t have to go to Communion to fulfill your obligation. You can make a spiritual Communion, since you are in the state of grace. Father could, in fact, opt not to distribute Communion.
Leave aside the issue of Communion under both species, that is also with a chalice with the Precious Blood. This is simply too obvious for comment. Don’t do it.
“But Father! But Father!” some of you libs will swoon, “There’s PROOF that receiving the wine from the cup isn’t risky, because studies prove it with… with proof! It’s the metal… no, glass or ceramic and the, you know, the wiping that does it. It’s safe. But sharing by the tongue! That’s wrong and dangerous but you won’t admit that because YOU HATE VATICAN II!”
I read in email notices that people ought to or even must receive Communion only on the hand to lower the risk of contagion. Chanceries and parishes are sending out notices and/or edicts.
In some cases, I suspect that is an excuse to prohibit Communion on the tongue. Not in all cases, however. Most, I think, are sincere and founded on a real belief that that will help to lower the risk of contagion.
Frankly, I think they are dead wrong. I don’t think that Communion in the hand is safer than Communion on the tongue. Here’s why.
Let’s leave aside that Communion in the hand increases by orders of magnitude risk of profanation of the Eucharist. Leave that aside. Think only about the infectious disease angle.
In my experience of nearly three decades of distributing Communion in both ways, on the hand and on the tongue, to whole congregations on the hand nearly exclusively with a few exceptions, and also to whole congregations on the tongue nearly exclusively with few exceptions during the Novus Ordo and no exceptions at the TLM, is that rarely – rarely – do my fingers come into contact with tongues but very often, nearly always, there is contact with my fingers and hands.
Let me repeat: When distributing Communion directly on the tongue, I rarely, rarely, have any contact with the tongue. When distributing on the hand, there is often, quite often, contact with the communicant’s fingers or palms.
I’ll add this. If people hold their hands properly to receive on the hand, that helps a lot in avoiding contact. If people don’t receive on the tongue properly that increases the risk of contact.
When both ways are done properly, whereas there is still often contact by Communion on the hand, there is virtually never contact with the tongue.
Therefore, I don’t buy for a moment that pushing for Communion on the hand reduces the risk of spread of disease. I think that proper Communion on the tongue is safer.
In any event, congregations must be reminded, strongly and clearly, even sternly in some cases, about the proper way to receive Communion, either way. Repetita iuvant.
Fathers, do your duty. Don’t fool around with this. The number of cases where you are will increase and this will become a growing concern.
Sometimes I see a comment here on the blog, or in my email, or elsewhere, that “you can’t pick up a disease from the Host because the Host is Jesus”.
That’s just plain dumb.
The Eucharistic Host is Christ in its substance, but it retains all the accidents of bread. If a regular, unconsecrated host can convey disease, so can a consecrated Host. The same goes for wine and the Precious Blood. Moreover, the priest’s hands are anointed with chrism: that’s doesn’t make them impervious to bacteria or viruses. THINK!
Communion on the hand. DON’T DO IT. However, if you insist on this irreverence, hold your hands FLAT, one atop the other. Don’t use ONE hand. Hold them flat. Flat means, not curved. FLAT means fingers too. Do NOT curl your fingers. When holding your hands FLAT, stay STILL. Don’t be a moving target.
Communion on the tongue. THIS IS BETTER! Thank you for choosing the superior, reverent way to receive. Now, DO IT RIGHT. In some places communicants take the Host with their teeth. I really don’t like that. I get it, but it is, in fact, riskier. I get why in Italy some are more nervous about Communion, because many there take the Host with their teeth. To be safer, tilt your head back a little. You don’t have to point at the ceiling with your chin. Just a little. Stick your tongue OUT. You don’t have to reach for your belt buckle. Just a little, beyond the teeth and over the lower lip with your mouth open a little. See? That’s not too hard. And STAY STILL. The intelligent priest will simply place the Host on your tongue and it is quite easy to avoid contact, provided that he holds the Host properly and quite close to its edge, thus leaving the great majority of the underside of the Host exposed and ready for a good placement. He has his part to play in this as well, but I’ll leave that aside for now. This is for lay people, primarily.
This graphic is useful. My notes in red. The original, without red, in a large format HERE.
Under the housling cloth or not, keep your hands out of the way. And if you have a babe in arms, hold their wavy little arms.
Friends, if you do as the good little boy on the left does, it is easy to give you Communion and have ZERO contact with your tongue.
BTW… in that graphic, I think Father is doing it wrong. Why? There is a long distance between that ciborium and that tongue. That, firstly, lengthens the time it takes to give Communion and, importantly, increases the risk of a particle dropping. I think they leave out the communion paten in the graphic in favor of you seeing the proper head and hand position. I suggest, Fathers, that you keep the ciborium at a lower level, closer to the people. You’ll figure out why, once you do it.
Friends… do it right.
Wash your hands and avoid touching your face. It’s quite simply amazing how many times people touch their faces in the course of a day! Use hand sanitizer. Consider that people often grab the backs of pews and put their hands on pews, fonts and door handles. Go ahead and wipe down your area. These days, people will get it. When I get on an airplane, I wipe down everything within reach, and clean my hands after shutting the over head. Windows, seat backs, tray tables, buckles, all get the treatment. Why not in church, too? Especially if yours is not the first Mass?
I don’t want to have to hear that any of you are ill from this new disease. At least, please, cut your risks at church.
Fathers, think about this. Run through your head about distributing Communion on the hand. If you are honest, you’ll acknowledge that there is more contact with hands.