On January 30, 2011, the Very Rev. Fr. John Lankeit, rector of Ss. Simon & Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, Arizona wrote to his parishioners, addressing some abuses commonly observed, seeking to correct them. The following seven points are excerpted from his letter:
“Here are 7 common Holy Communion profanations that I see all too frequently:
· Blessing oneself with the Host before consuming it. (The act of blessing with the
Eucharist is called “Benediction” and is reserved to clergy alone).
· Receiving the Host in the palm of the hand, contorting that same hand until the
host is controlled by the fingers, then consuming it (resembling a one-handed
“watch-the-coin-disappear” magic trick).
· Popping the Host into the mouth like a piece of popcorn.
· Attempting to receive with other items in the hands, like a dirty Kleenex or a Rosary.
· Receiving the Host with dirty hands.
· Receiving the Host, closing the hand around it, then letting the hand fall to the side
(as if carrying a suitcase) while walking away and/or blessing oneself with the other hand.
· Walking away without consuming the Host.
· Giving the Host to someone else after receiving (including animals)…yes, it happens!”
In addition to Fr. Langeit’s admonitions, I offer some additional direction. When one is presenting him/herself for the Eucharist, the Host should be received on the tongue, especially if one:
· Has an arm in a sling or cast, etc.; is carrying a baby, a hymnal, or any other item(s)
that would prevent one from receiving the Most Holy Eucharist with both hands unoccupied or
unobstructed and completely empty. (No single-handed or snatching the Host receptions.)
· Has bandaged hands/fingers
· Is wearing gloves
· Is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion who has a pyx in their hand to
bring Communion to the sick
· One has unclean hands or things written on their hands (sometimes seen among young people)
Though the official, universal Catholic norm is still for reception of the Most Holy Sacrament on the tongue (Bl. Pope Paul VI was against reception in the hand, fearing a loss of faith in the Real Presence), if Holy Communion is to be received in the hand it should be so done in the following manner: While in line, the communicant reverences (makes a bow) to the Sacrament while the person in front of them is receiving. When the priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister says, “The Body of Christ,” the communicant responds, “Amen,” and puts out their tongue and receives; or puts out their hands as flatly as possible (one hand under the other); the Sacred Host is placed on the flat palm. The communicant then steps aside (so the next person can receive), immediately places the Host on their tongue with the other hand, and returns to their place in the congregation. (Intinction - the dipping of the Host into a chalice of the Precious Blood – is not permitted for the faithful to do by themselves.)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) gave instruction for the way the faithful should receive: "They should make a throne of their hands, laying the right upon the left to form a throne for the King, forming at the same time a cross. This symbolic gesture, so fine and so profound, is what concerns him: The hands of man form a cross, which becomes a throne, down into which the King inclines himself. The open, outstretched hand can thus become a sign of the way that a man offers himself to the Lord, opens his hands for him, that they may become an instrument of his presence and a throne of his mercies in this world."
Presenting oneself to receive with hands that are curled, cupped, held down low to the body; held side-by-side and/or with open fingers… make it difficult for the one distributing to therein place the Sacred Body of our Lord. It also increases the danger of the Sacred Host falling to the floor. Please also remember that no communicant should ever “pluck” the Host themselves with one’s thumb and forefinger from the fingers of the Priest, Deacon, or extraordinary minister.
One is never required or forced to receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist; so if one is unsure of whether they should present themselves or not in the Communion procession, it is probably best to err on the side of not receiving. The inside front cover of the missalette / hymnal has a useful guideline issued by the U. S. Bishops for the reception of Communion in the Catholic Church. (And no one should ever be chewing gum in church if they intend to receive Holy Communion.)
Unfortunately, I have experienced numerous abuses in the reception of Holy Communion. Occasionally, parishioners find Hosts in the pews or on the floor!!! Please, please, please be vigilant: should you see someone not consume the Holy Eucharist, immediately alert the priest or deacon; or you may even take the Host back from them yourself and bring it to the priest or deacon. This is a very serious issue.
We cannot be too wary of abuses that can occur, either through ignorance or with evil intentions. Truly, there are practitioners of devil worship and of the occult who seek to obtain the Sacred Body of our Lord for use in so-called “black masses.” The main goal of this heinous act is to commit desecration and blasphemy towards God. Let us always remember that the Holy Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ; so when we come to receive Him into our souls, may our demeanor, actions, and love be displayed accordingly.
THANK YOU: Last Sunday, Trinity Sunday, Bishop Andrzej visited St. Paul’s to celebrate the 9.30AM Mass and to speak at the Communion Breakfast afterwards. Over 80 people attended the Communion Breakfast (I was not one of them because I had the 11AM Mass). The Bishop was most impressed by our parish. Thank you dear members of the Marian Guild, Knights of Columbus (both of whom sponsored the breakfast). Thank you dear members of the Altar Guild for your dedication in decorating the Church.
MEMORIAL DAY: This weekend we observe Memorial Day when we pray for and thank God for the service of those in the armed forces of our nation. The day began as a day when the graves of our fallen soldiers would be adorned with spring flowers. Thus the original name of the holiday, Decoration Day. (My good father always called the holiday “Decoration Day” until the day of his death 23 years ago. But he also called any sound system the “Victrola.”) May God bless my fellow veterans and all who have served in the armed forces of our nation.
THE MARIANISTS: After many years of assisting with weekend Masses here at St. Paul’s the Marianists are no longer able to do so. Their last Masses here was Sunday February 14th. Everyone is well aware of the invaluable assistance the Marianists have given to us over the years in so many capacities. Our Director of Religious Education is a Marianist, Brother Joseph Bellizzi, S.M. The students from Chaminade teach in our Confirmation Program. The Marianists maintain our beautiful fields and, in fact, converted them from woods into the beautiful grounds they are today. The Marianists planted all the trees along our property line with Jericho High School. They have been of invaluable assistance to me. Father Thomas Cardone, S.M., the chaplain of Kellenberg, preached our very first parish Mission in many years in Lent 2014.
But the Marianists were no longer able to assist us with Sunday Masses. Our beloved Father Paul, who is approaching 90 years of age, was no longer able travel to St. Paul’s and celebrate Mass here in a safe manner. That left only one other priest of the community, Fr. Garrett. Fr. Garrett’s increasing weekend duties of serving the needs of the Chaminade students, their parents, and alumni, made it impossible for him to come to St. Paul’s on a regular basis. Two of the Marianist Brothers will begin studies for the priesthood in the autumn so after a few years the Marianists may be able to assist us again when they have more priests. May God reward them for all they have done and do for us. Our relationship with the Marianist Order does not end because we are intimately united in the service of Our Lord and the Church, because they still will be an integral part of our Faith Formation Program and because they maintain our fields and grounds.
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda