I am a eucharistic minister in my parish. As a parish we discourage allowing
parishioners to take the host to the cup and dip. I believe this is also the current official
position of the Catholic Church. We discourage intinction, but we dont aggressively
prohibit people from doing it if they so choose. I have perhaps had only three or four
people do this with me over the past three years.
Now comes the May 1996 "Wise Man" column where it is written
that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger recommends intinction for priests with an alcohol dependency
Another reader writes:
As a eucharistic minister in our parish I was trained with members of
the parish that communicants reach out their fingers and literally take the host being
held by the priest or eucharistic minister. I recall our pastor saying something like, "Scripture
doesnt say, Take and dip, and it doesnt say, Put your hands
out. It says, Take and eat."
Recently I was attending a different church and I reached out to take
the host. Right at that point the pastor pulled the host back and wouldnt let go!
We both spent a half second tugging on it, when he told me, "You dont grab it." It
was quite embarrassing.
What are the accepted, recommended or unaccepted ways, currently, to receive
Your letters are reminders of one of the reasons we have rites and rubrics
to be observed by allto avoid surprises and the confusion that can come from everyone
doing his or her own thing. Established rites and procedures allow everyone to know what
to expect and do from church to church, from one parish or congregation to another.
And as I read the letter talking about the quasi hand-wrestling for control
of the host in the distribution of Communion, I could not help thinking about words written
back in 1980 by R. Kevin Seasoltz in New Liturgy, New Laws (Liturgical Press). Speaking
of Communion in the hand in general, Seasoltz wrote, "In the recent past, the refusal
to give Communion in the hand often resulted in distressing confrontations between communicants
and ministers of the Eucharist. In such instances it probably would have been more prudent
for the minister to give Communion in the hand rather than observe the [then] liturgical
norm. Avoidance of hostility and division would have been more in keeping with the symbolism
of the Eucharist as the expression and cause of Christian unity than strict adherence to
liturgical discipline was."
Im confident that struggling over the host produced no feelings
of unity or charity and was probably disconcerting to other communicants. For the rest,
the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (found in the front of the Sacramentary)
goes into little detail about the reception or imparting of the host at Communion time.
It goes into much more detail about giving and receiving Communion from the chalice.
In speaking of receiving or communicating the consecrated bread or host
the Instruction sometimes speaks simply of doing so in "the usual manner." The Instruction usually
speaks of receiving and not taking. More particularly the Ceremonies of
the Modern Roman Rite by Msgr. Peter J. Eliot (Ignatius Press), who works in the Roman
Curia, says under the heading of "Ministering the Eucharist": "When giving
the Body of the Lord to a communicant, the minister raises the host over the vessel and
says, The body of Christ. After the communicant has responded, Amen, the
host is placed carefully on the tongue or on the outstretched palm of the left hand." In
my experience that is how Communion in the hand is and has been taught.
In reference to Communion by intinction, the Appendix to the General
Instruction for the Dioceses of the United States clearly says, "When Communion
is distributed under both kinds by intinction, the host is not placed in the hands of
the communicants nor may the communicant receive the host and dip it into the chalice." That,
I think, implies that when intinction is not the case the host is placed in the hand.
This Appendix makes it plain communicants do not take the host
and dip it into the chalice. There is probably fear of dripping and spilling of the consecrated
wine in such a procedure. Communion by intinction is not forbidden, but it is the minister
who does the dipping rather than the communicants.
I think it safe to say that almost all, if not all, Roman Catholic liturgists
discourage Communion by intinction. The sign value in intinction is not as full as drinking
from the cup.
I should think the reasons for an alcoholic priest communicating by intinction
are obvious. In many cases the minimum of the consecrated wine thus consumed will not trigger
the urge to drink. This is more important than the fuller sign value of drinking from the
Difficult Relative and Saturday Evening Mass
My elderly relative believes that attending daily Mass is "for sinners" only.
She and her husband (they are retired) attend Saturday afternoon Mass to satisfy the Sunday
I always thought the Saturday Mass was for people who for some reason
could not attend Sunday Mass. She always complains about long homilies, too many special
collections, etc. She and her husband lack for nothing in material and worldly things.
She has also expressed concern that she will be made to look her best
at her own wakethat her makeup will be applied correctly. But she gives no thought
to something much more important: What state of grace will her soul be in at the time of
Because she is a family member, are we obligated to side with her and
cover up for her stupidity? She believes, right or wrong, you must be loyal at all times
to your family and not to "an outsider"!
The present Code of Canon Law, in effect since 1983, made some changes
in previous legislation. The present Code requires no specific reason for satisfying the
Mass obligation of Sundays and holy days on the preceding evening. Nor does the Code even
say the liturgy must be of the Sunday or holy day. What Canon #1248, 1, does say is: "The
obligation of assisting at Mass is satisfied wherever Mass is celebrated in a Catholic
rite either on a holy day itself or on the evening of the previous day."
Canonists disagree over when the evening of the previous day begins. One
handbook says not before 4 p.m. According to the commentary published by the Canon Law
Society of Great Britain and Ireland, The Canon Law: Letter & Spirit, some say
2 p.m. Some dioceses legislate that Masses of anticipation may not begin before 3, 4 or
Nevertheless, the British commentary takes what it calls the "firm
view" that evening begins at noon. It says that someone attending a wedding Mass in
early afternoon on Saturday would fulfill the Sunday obligation.
So your relative is right in that she and her husband may attend the Saturday
evening Mass without any special reason and fulfill the Sunday obligation.
As for your relatives idea that the homilies are too long and daily
Mass is only for "sinners," I doubt that much will be accomplished by me lecturing
your relative about these. But you are obviously right, that time spent at all Masses is
time well spent. Daily Mass isnt just for "sinners" (actually, wouldnt
that include all of us?); it is for anyone deeply concerned about growing in unity with
Christ and becoming holy.
At the end of our lives God will be more concerned about our devotion
to the Eucharist and our desire to be united with God than about anything else. And God
will be more concerned about whether we are clothed in the garment of grace than if a person
has her lipstick on straight. Family loyalty is a beautiful thing, but it doesnt
mean encouraging a persons efforts at self-deception or dishonesty.
for Real About St. Christopher?
Could you please give me some information about St. Christopher? Someone
told me he was not a patron saint for those who travel.
Was there a St. Christopher? The Roman martyrology lists Christopher as
a martyr in Lycea under King Decius. Early on in Church history he was venerated in both
the East and West. As early as 452 A.D. a church was dedicated to him in Bithynia.
We know very little more about him for sure. But stories and legends about
him were formed, embroidered and added to over the centuries.
According to these stories, he was a man of great strength and staturea
giant 24 feet tall! The New Catholic Encyclopedia tells us the famous legend about
him in which he carries the Christ Child on his shoulders while crossing a river. But that
legend does not appear until the Middle Ages.
Butlers Lives of the Saints, edited by Herbert Thurston, S.J.,
and Donald Attwater, says the legends about Christopher led to the belief that, if a person
looked on an image of the saint, he or she would suffer no harm that day. Consequently,
a statue or image of St. Christopher was often found at the church door.
That and the Christ Child story may explain why St. Christopher became
the patron of travelers and why his statue is placed on the dashboard of many automobiles.
The Golden Legend, put into English by William Caxton, says Christopher
carried Christ in four ways: on his shoulders, in his body, in his mind by devotion and
in his mouth by preaching and confessing.
The implication, of course, is that we are all to bear Christ in our hearts
and minds and carry him to others by our words and example.
The liturgical celebration of Christophers feast was eliminated
in the 1969 revision of the Roman Calendar. It was at that time the number of saints feasts
was significantly reduced to accentuate the celebration of the ordinary days. Prime targets
in the reduction were saints with dubious legends and facts.
Book on the Popes
Sometime in the 1950's my family was given a book which, if memory serves
me correctly, was titled Princes of the Church. It was a history of the popes up to that
time. The book was loaned to someone and, unfortunately, never returned. Do you know where
it can be obtained?
The title Princes of the Church is unfamiliar to me. I do believe
there was a book by John Farrow (the movie director) titled something like Pageant of
the Popes published around the 1950s. Obviously, any book published then would
be out of date and not cover the later popes.
There are, however, at least two books that should still be in print which
will give short biographies and accounts of the papal reigns of all the popes from Peter
to John Paul II. One is The Pope Encyclopedia, by Matthew Bunson (Crown Trade Paperbacks,
New York). It was published in 1995. If a particular bookstore doesnt stock it, they
would be able to order it for you. A paperback, it lists at $17.
The second book is The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, by J.N.D. Kelly
(Oxford University Press). A paperback of 347 pages, it is $13.
St. Francis Bookshop, 1618 Vine Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45210 (1-800-241-6392)
can also order and ship one or both books for you.
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