Ad artwork from a 1959 priests' magazine when the Latin Tridentine Mass was the norm. Notice the thumb and forefinger on each hand are held together, even while elevating the chalice. This was to prevent even the smallest particle of the Host from desecration.
The Day the Host Dropped
On Communion in the Hand
by John Vennari
It is a bedrock Catholic truth, taught by the Church since the time of the Apostles, that Our Lord Jesus Christ is truly present in the Most Holy Eucharist: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
The Council of Trent defined dogmatically that Our Lord Jesus Christ is present in every part of the Blessed Sacrament. The Council taught infallibly:
“If anyone denieth that, in the venerable Sacrament of the Eucharist, the whole Christ is contained under each species, and under every part of each species, when separated; let him be anathema.”
This means that Our Lord is present even in the smallest particle of the Host, and in the smallest particle that may fall to the ground. Thus the reverence that we owe to the Blessed Sacrament demands that we take every precaution that no particle of the Host — not even the smallest — is left open for desecration in any way.
First of all, Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that “out of reverence for this Sacrament, nothing touches it but what is consecrated.” Thus, he said the sacred vessels of the altar are consecrated for this holy purpose, but also, the priest’s hands are consecrated for touching this Sacrament. And St. Thomas said that it is therefore not lawful for anyone else to touch it, except to save it from desecration. (Summa, III, Q. 82. Art. 3)
This reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, and even for the smallest particles, was incorporated into the traditional Mass — the Old Latin Mass — which contained strict rubrics on this point:
1) From the moment the priest pronounces the words of the Consecration over the Sacred Host, the priest keeps his forefinger and thumb together on each hand. Whether he elevates the chalice, or turns the pages of the missal, or opens the tabernacle, his thumb and his forefinger on each hand are closed. The thumb and forefinger touch nothing but the Sacred Host;
2) During Holy Communion, the altar boy holds the paten under the chin of those receiving Communion, so that the slightest particle does not fall to the ground. This paten is cleaned into the chalice afterwards;
3) After Holy Communion is distributed, the priest scrapes the corporal (the small linen cloth on the altar) with the paten, and cleans it into the chalice so that if the slightest particle is left, it is collected and consumed by the priest;
4) Then, the priest washes his thumb and forefinger over the chalice with water and wine, and this water and wine is reverently consumed to insure that the smallest particle of the Sacred Host is not susceptible to desecration.
Communion in the hand and so-called Eucharist lay-ministers make a mockery of the Divine Truth that Our Lord is truly present in every particle of the Eucharist, and make a mockery of the holy rubrics used by the Church for centuries as a safeguard against desecration.
Because what happens with Communion in the hand?
The Host is placed in the hand, which is not consecrated. The communicant picks It up with his own fingers, which are not consecrated. The sacred particles fall to the ground, are stepped upon and desecrated.
Likewise with so-called Eucharistic lay-ministers, their hands are not consecrated; they should not be touching the Sacred Host. The sacred particles of the Host fall to the ground, are stepped upon and desecrated. The fingers of “lay-Eucharistic ministers” are not washed, so any particle remaining will also be desecrated.
No authority in the Church, not even the highest, can dispense a Catholic from the duty of preserving the necessary reverence owed to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Any Church leader who does so labors under the “diabolic disorientation of the upper hierarchy” warned against by Sister Lucy of Fatima, and is derelict in his duty.
Only forty-five years ago, Communion in the hand was unthinkable in Catholic churches. It was recognized for the sacrilege that it is. Only forty-five years ago, Eucharistic lay-ministers were unthinkable in Catholic churches. It was recognized for the sacrilege that it is.
But now, these abuses are permitted and promoted by a liberal hierarchy who — in this area and in many other areas — suddenly approve what the Church always rightly condemned. This “suddenly blessing what the Church always condemned” is the hallmark of the Vatican II reforms.
The truth, however, is that God does not change, and man’s duty of reverence toward the Blessed Sacrament does not change, even if we have many leaders who in their destructive liberalization of the Catholic Church, seem to care little or nothing for the true reverence we owe to Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.
Thus, anyone who receives Communion in the hand, or who receives Communion from a Eucharistic lay-minister, or who is a Eucharistic lay-minister himself or herself — in the objective order — is committing a sacrilege. It is a misuse of a holy thing. It is a mockery of what the Church has taught and practiced. It is a desecration of the greatest gift that God has given us: the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.
The Day the Host Dropped
The pre-Vatican II rubrics for when a Host is dropped, like the rubrics of the Latin liturgy, safeguarded the reverence due to the Blessed Sacrament. The May 1949 American Ecclesiastical Review explained:
“This procedure requires that the spot on which the Sacred Host has fallen be purified, usually with a dampened purificator, and then scraped and the scrapings thrown into the sacrarium [small sink in sacristy that drains into ground under the church]. Authors, generally, in order to avoid delay in going on with the distribution of Holy Communion, interpret the fulfillment of the rubric to allow marking the spot on which the Sacred Host has fallen, either with a linen cloth or with the plate used with the cruets, the priest returning after Mass to purify the place in the manner prescribed in De defectibus.”
This strict procedure not only gives God the reverence that is His due, but profoundly impresses the spectator, as it impressed me at a young age.
The year was around 1965, I was a boy of about 7 years old. My father took me for Sunday Mass to the “Italian Parish”, Our Lady of Consolation in Philadelphia. The Mass was still in Latin, the sacred atmosphere still pervaded the church and the liturgy, though the first updrafts of change were in the wind.
During Communion time on this particular Sunday, the priest accidentally dropped a consecrated Host. We were sitting up front, and my father drew my attention to it.
The priest briefly interrupted the distribution of Communion to fetch a small white cloth which he placed over the Host on the floor. The distribution of Holy Communion resumed, with the priest and altar boy carefully stepping around the Veiled Guest.
My father purposely kept me after Mass so that I could see the purification rubric from the front pew.
All was done simply, quietly, for there was no talking in church whatsoever back then, in reverence to the Blessed Sacrament.
The priest and the altar boy approached the spot near the altar rail inside the sanctuary, the spot covered with a white cloth. The priest then dropped to his knees, lifted the veil, retrieved the Sacred Species and consumed it with dignity and decorum. Slowly, reverently, still on his knees, he then cleaned and purified the section of the floor where the Host had dropped.
He took his time. There was no rush. An air of solemnity, holiness and adoration pervaded his every move.
I was fascinated and edified by the procedure. I remember thinking to myself, “truly, the Sacred Host is the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” because the priest tended to It with awe-inspiring care and reverence.
It was the best catechism lesson on the Real Presence I ever had.
What do seven-year-olds now see? In modern parishes, under the lax rubrics of the New Mass, the priest simply picks up a dropped Host and moves on, as if he dropped some loose change. Particles are left to be stepped upon and desecrated. Before and after Mass, people prattle away in church as if they are socializing in the parish hall. Many modern priests and laity disregard their duty of silence before the Blessed Sacrament. They forget the stern warning of little Jacinta of Fatima, “Our Lady does not want people to talk in church”.
Where is this reverence and care for the Blessed Sacrament in the post-Conciliar Church with the introduction of Communion in the hand and the “anyone can handle it” attitude? How will our young people gain any understanding of the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament when He receives cavalier treatment from clergymen? How can reverence for the Eucharist be instilled in the Catholic faithful when they see It given in the hand as common foodstuffs, and distributed by ill-trained lay people who should not be handling the Blessed Sacrament in the first place?
It is no mystery why so many Catholics have lost faith in the Sacred Mysteries. Too many of our priests have abandoned the outward devotion necessary: 1) to give proper reverence to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; 2) to teach the people through example that the highest reverence must be shown to Our Lord Jesus Christ truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.
Yet, the post-Conciliar catastrophe will not go on indefinitely. Someday the Church will once again be blessed with a hierarchy that gives Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament the reverence due to the King of Kings.
In the meantime, let us resist sacrilegious innovations such as Communion in the hand and lay-Eucharistic ministers, encourage others to resist them, and cling to the Latin Tridentine Mass wherein the rubrics that safeguard the reverence to the Blessed Sacrament are meticulously preserved.
The Need for Reparation
In 1916, a year before Our Lady’s visitations at Fatima, the “Angel of the Eucharist” appeared with Chalice and Host to the children. He administered the Sacred species to the three children saying, “Eat and drink the Body and Blood of Our Lord, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.” The Angel left the chalice and the Host suspended in the air, and prostrated himself before It. The children imitated him. The Angel then prayed repeatedly this act of reparation:
“Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, I offer Thee the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He Himself is offended. And by the infinite merits of His most Sacred Heart and of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of Thee the conversion of poor sinners.”
Let us commit to memory this prayer and say it throughout the day as often as possible. The “outrages, sacrileges and indifference” toward the Blessed Sacrament engendered by the Vatican II revolution are unprecedented, probably the worst in history. Sacrilege is so commonplace that it is no longer recognized as sacrilege. The need for reparation is colossal.
Postscript: In thinking about the proposed "Beatification" of Paul VI, we recall that we have him to "thank" for approval of Communion in the hand...
See also: The Truth About Communion in the Hand
Reprinted from the February 2006 edition of Catholic Family News (Reposted January 9, 2012)
(Originally published under the title "Communion in the Hand is a Sacrilege")