Recently, having finished my post-Communion prayers at Mass, I was sitting along with everyone else, listening to our priest make a few announcements and deliver his last joke of the day, when I noticed my young neighbor in the pew—she was 15 or 16 years old—toying with the Host she had received at Communion. The young lady had nibbled one of the edges of the Host, had apparently either disliked the taste or else wished to carry it home where she might spread some jam on it, and so was flipping it around between her fingers to while away the time. I mentioned to her grandmother that the young lady might want to consume the Host, which is, after all, the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The grandmother passed the word to the young lady, at which point, after a brief struggle, the grandmother consumed the Host.
More and more, Your Excellency, people at our little parish church appear confused by the Host. Some are undoubtedly Protestants who either do not understand that the Host is the Body of Our Lord or are unaware of the Church’s guidelines regarding the distribution of Holy Communion; I have seen them leaving the altar carrying the Host in their hands, staring at It with either amused or perplexed looks. Others are, I believe, Catholics who are unaware of much of anything regarding the Faith. (One quick note: My family usually sits at the front of the church because we find that our youngest son, who is five years old, pays closer attention there. Since I’m praying much of the time during Communion, head bowed, eyes closed, that sort of thing, I rarely observe those receiving the Eucharist. Nonetheless, occasionally I lift my head for a few moments and almost invariably notice someone leaving the front of the altar with the Host either in hand or dropped surreptitiously into a pocket.)
Stressing or requiring Communion on the tongue might help solve this sacrilege, though requiring Communion by tongue will be difficult. (Many American parishioners have trouble swallowing the idea, your Excellency, if you’ll pardon an atrocious pun.) To receive Communion on the tongue would eventually require kneeling—a 5’6″ priest cannot give communion on the tongue to a 6’6″ parishioner, not without a footstool—and most churches have now shorn themselves of kneelers and altar rails.
Since I’ve never heard a priest address from the pulpit this behavior of carrying the Host away, I would assume, Your Excellency, that we are moving in the direction of the carry-out Host. Living in a country of fast-food restaurants and Chinese take-out, I suppose this trend is inevitable. Before this take-out Communion becomes much more acceptable, however, I wanted to offer several possibilities in terms of looking to the future.
First, to ensure quality control, let me suggest that an altar server be stationed at the elbow of the priest or eucharistic minister dispensing the Body of Our Lord. The server might offer those choosing take-out a tiny sealable baggie in which to store Our Lord. (Notice how well the word server works here, similar in meaning to a restaurant waiter.) This baggie would help avoid scandal in case the Host became smashed in a pocket. It would also ensure sanitation. If such a practice of putting Our Lord in baggies catches on, the diocese might move to the zip-lock variety for the convenience of the Church’s customers.
Clearly, there is the possibility of scandal or misuse of the Eucharist for those choosing the take-out service. Satanists—we have quite a coven of these here in our county, and, having read the Charlotte newspaper a few times, I assume there are a few down your way as well—might steal the Host for inclusion in their Black Mass. Other parishioners may get home, feel disinclined to consume the Host, and feed it instead to the birds. (Despite the stories regarding St. Francis, I’m not sure that all birds—crows and blue jays in particular—are Christian, much less Catholic.) Here I confess that I am at a loss as to a solution, Your Excellency. In the old days, we might have inserted a note into the baggie declaring the abuser of the Host to be anathema; today, however, such a warning simply wouldn’t take. Most people don’t know what anathema means, and many won’t bother to look it up. Given the widespread lack of regard for other Church teachings among modern Catholics as well as the modernist proclivity for rebellion, I’m not sure a note would deter anyone from sacrilege anyway. Since I can’t find a solution here, I’m afraid that you’re on your own on this one, Your Excellency.
Next, you might consider instituting a similar take-out procedure with the Precious Blood of Our Lord. We could offer the Precious Blood in tiny, sealed bottles that customers—I won’t call them communicants, for you have to commune to be a communicant—would take home, consume at their leisure, and return the next week for purification. We might have the bottles designed in the shape of a chalice to add authenticity.
Speaking of the Precious Blood, four weeks ago, a Mexican deacon helped serve our Spanish Mass. After Communion, the deacon glanced into the chalice in his hands, swirled it a few times, then called parishioners back to the altar for seconds on the Precious Blood. “We have some left,” he said, “so come on back.” (He delivered this invitation in Spanish, of course, but I won’t attempt to reproduce it here.) Though our priest looked somewhat surprised, he didn’t attempt to stop the deacon; our priest is an Anglo and perhaps felt uncomfortable correcting the deacon before his countrymen. Or is theology at work here? The priest must consume the remaining Precious Blood; he therefore gets “seconds”: We are all priests these days; therefore, we should all get “seconds.”
Let me suggest, however, that, if this action constitutes a new trend in our Church, if indeed we are going to begin offering seconds, then we need to ensure an ample supply of victuals. My mother always said that, if you’re going to offer more food, make sure there is enough for everyone at the table. Therefore, we should consider the extra expense involved in offering seconds. In our parish, where having a Mass said now officially costs $10.00 and attending FFC (that’s Faith Formation Class) costs $30.00, we are aware of the need to watch our pennies.
Just a few thoughts for your consideration, Your Excellency. Keeping you in my prayers—