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There Are Reasons
for Rites and Rubrics



Questions About Communion
The Real St. Christopher
Saturday Evening Mass
A Book on the Popes
Questions about Communion

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 don’t 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 problem.

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 doesn’t say, ‘Take and dip,’ and it doesn’t 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 wouldn’t let go! We both spent a half second tugging on it, when he told me, "You don’t grab it." It was quite embarrassing.

What are the accepted, recommended or unaccepted ways, currently, to receive the host?

Your letters are reminders of one of the reasons we have rites and rubrics to be observed by all—to 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."

I’m 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 cup.

A 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 obligation.

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 wake—that 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 death!

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 5 p.m.

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 relative’s 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 isn’t just for "sinners" (actually, wouldn’t 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 doesn’t mean encouraging a person’s efforts at self-deception or dishonesty.

What’s 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 stature—a 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.

Butler’s 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 Christopher’s 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.

A 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 1950’s. 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 doesn’t 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.



The Wise Man welcomes your questions. If you have a question, please submit it here. Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Wise Man, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.
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