Pandemic and communion
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Due to the spread of 'Swine Flu," we just got an order from the Archdioces that temporarily we can receive communion on hands only . (and one form only and not shaking hands either, which don't bother me as much) Many people who have been receiving communion on the tongue only, are very puzzled. I, myself who get very nervous about germs, but have been receiving communion on the tongue only, am very concerned. (I am planning to go to EF mass tomorrow, I guess they all have to follow the order too.)
    While I repect personal decisions of receiving communion on hands, I really fear touching the conecrated host with my hands. Of course I will obey the order, but please pray that this will pass very soon. And I wanted to know any other dioceses are doing it, and whether it happened in the past that we know of. We have flu and other diseases all the time, and seems be getting worse every year. I am worried whether this is going to affect how we receive our communion more in the future. (Sorry the thread is not on the music at all, so it's in the category of "General discussion: Catholicism." I wanted to hear what you guys in this forum have to say on this.) Thanks
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Why is it not an option to simply abstain from communion for a few weeks? I'm dating a traditionalist girl, and she once went on about how rude some priests can get when she kneels for communion, but it makes me wonder - if you're at a place where you disagree with their communion procedure, why commune?? Not that I'm advocating returning to the 19th century where no Catholic laymen ever communed, but what harm would a couple weeks of abstaining do? I don't get this.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,518
    I don't know the health issues on this. The local Catholic hospital stopped doing communion on the tongue some years ago to prevent the spread of diseases. I haven't been around them in a few years, so I assume they are still doing this.

    As for Gavin's point, it makes sense to me. I rarely receive communion with the Latins because I am at the organ working, not worshipping. There's a huge difference between the two in my mind. I tend to receive at Divine Liturgy, but frequent communion is not a common practice in our eastern churches. We typically don't have daily liturgies anyway.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    I guess we're just gonna have to do like the East and use a spoon from the chalice. That would fix it up.
  • darth_linux
    Posts: 120
    @ Gavin "but what harm would a couple weeks of abstaining do? I don't get this."

    I would respectfully point out that when one receives Communion one is receiving Grace from God Almighty, and I'd personally not be willing to go without that if I didn't have to. It is possible to humbly and respectfully receive communion in the hand. I think it might be worth it for miacoyne to be a little uncomfortable yet still receive the Grace, than to go without God's grace for a time.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 697
    Gavin, Holy Communion is more than a symbol for us. It is the remission of venial sins, and strength to fight against mortal sins. It is the heart of the spiritual life. Holy Church encourages devout, daily reception. Abstaining for several WEEKS?!? I'd rather die. Lest you misunderstand the "tone" in which I am writing this, I am not into melodrama and I am not lying.

    Mia, as far as receiving on the hand in case of necessity, if you plan to do this get a small bottle of Purell or something similar--apply some of it to your hands a few minutes before Communion, and don't allow your hands to touch anything (pew, book, etc.) on your way up to Communion. This will prevent you from catching the swine flu from unwashed hands. After receiving, scrupulously ensure to the best of your ability that your hands and fingers do not have any particles remaining. This is more or less what the first Millennium Christians did, albeit without Purell.
  • I'm not at all confident that there's more of a health threat than a case of media- and politically-driven hysteria at work--not in Church's actions thus far, but in the fears to which it is responding.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 697
    For musicians, having the flu could make for an uncomfortable Sunday. Some of your fellow musicians might be germophobes. Some might have compromised immune systems. Some might even think they can stay home when sick! Best to avoid catching illness, if possible, by taking precautionary measures when engaging in unsanitary behavior like Communion in the hand.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    The sign of peace is out of the question.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    It's not hands that are dirty... it's mouths, right? They don't want the priest touching a whole bunch of people's mouths one right after the other?
  • I ask my choir members never to touch skin-skin at any point when they are at rehearsal or at Mass during the entire year, regardless of flu hysteria. [No over-the-shoulder hugs, either!] Since I start the Agnus Dei, I cut the Peace extremely short and have the choir get ready to sing rather than break their concentration.

    Remember: our Sunday obligation is to attend Mass, not receive Holy Communion. It's arguable that people who come to Mass late, receive Communion, and then walk out immediately thereafter have not fulfilled their obligation.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    "our Sunday obligation is to attend Mass, not receive Holy Communion"

    speaking of the faith in terms of obligations... kind of cheapens the whole thing, doesn't it? just because we are not "obligated" to receive communion does not mean that our entire lives are not centered around this, this climax of our spiritual lives, that everything we believe and hold dear does not ride on this sacrament!

    Right now, as an orthodox catechumen, I do not receive communion; but I long for the day when I will, with all my being. Abstaining from communion for long periods of time is self excommunication. In the early church, anyone who did not partake for a few Sundays would essentially have self excommunicated themselves. Both the Orthodox and Catholic churches have realized now that the practice of the middle ages of only taking communion once a year was a notion severely damaging to one's spiritual life!
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts on this matter.

    Daniel, I went to your church today, which is not in our diocese, therefore, I and my family were able to receive communion on the tongue. I didn't plan to go there today, somehow I mixed up the time and it just happened that way. I'm very very grateful that it 'happened' this way (I really believe God helped me, because He knows I'm very worried about this.) I'm not sure what I'll do at weekday masses. I know it's just me and making so much deal out of this, but I really don't want to pick up the blessed host (our Lord) with my fingers from my hand. (as I said earlier, I do have a great respect for the other alternative, but I just can't.) I have to pray. Thanks.
  • benedictgal
    Posts: 797
    Actually, Daniel is right. Our obligation is to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. We are obligated to receive Holy Communion at least once a year (Ash Wednesday to Trinity Sunday) as part of our Easter duty.

    Our pastor told us that we had to receive Communion in the hand. I am not very comfortable with this, but, did so out of obedience. However, it is interesting to note that when Daniel Cardinal DiNardo sent his letter to his Metropolitan See, he told his priests that he was not obliging them to distribute Holy Communion in the hand; he was only suggesting it. Now, my bishop (we are a suffragen of the Archdiocese of San Antonio) has not made a single statement to the effect of the manner of distributing Holy Communion. However, Nuevo Laredo, Mexican sister-city, which lies just across the Rio Grande from us, has suspended the celebration of Mass this Sunday. I must note that there are no confirmed Swine Flu cases in neither Laredo, Texas (my home) nor Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

    For whatever it's worth, we also refrained from exchanging the sign of peace. At least people are not holding hands for the Pater Noster. I hope that dies a quick death.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    "I really don't want to pick up the blessed host (our Lord) with my fingers from my hand"

    then don't. eat it straight off your palm. I've seen people do this before.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Really? that sounds like a good idea. (because that' s the part I fear the most... it's like eating fingerfood. Those who don't feel that way I think they are blessed. I'm probably too sensitive.) Thanks, Jam.
    I'm not a theologian and this is my personal view; I take communion as my 'daily bread', God provides daily bread not only for the body but bread for my spirit. If I can't take the bread of heaven, I'll be starved spiritually.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    no problem. It certainly seems like the most reverent way to take communion in the hand.
  • Father Z did an interesting experiment: he took an unconsecrated Host and held it briefly and gently in his palm while wearing a pair of well-fitting black cloth gloves. The Host left tiny but obvious fragments. The conclusion? The same thing happens even when we can't see it--and shouldn't be encouraged. Communion on the tongue greatly reduces this problem, especially when combined with an altar boy holding a communion patten. This level of reverence and care sends an important message at the same time as it addresses a very real physical situation, one which should not be swept under the rug, literally or figuratively.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Thanks, Daniel. I'm glad you posted it.
    I feel like I've been taking Eucharist almost for granted until now. This is a good chance to think and remember how precious and blessed to have the Eurcharist everyday.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    Daniel,

    do you have a link to this experiment? That would be something very interesting to know.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,870
    God is not happy with communion in the hand. And neither is the church. Look up Memoriale Domini which was promulgated from the Vatican's own Congregation for Divine Worship in 1969.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 697
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    thanks!
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    sorry for beating this dead horse, but I just thought of something.

    Catholics are supposed to look to their leaders as spiritual fathers, no? As examples for how to have faith in God.

    Fearing that taking communion would make people sick seems to stem from a lack of faith. That's what it looks like to me. That one doubts God's mercy and ability to work miracles. That one doubts God will take care of those who want to reverently partake of the Holy Gifts. Why would God allow communion to make one sick...? (And if He did, who are we to question that?) I'm not anti-medicine or hand-washing or anything, and certainly we have a role to play in the prevention of sicknesses and diseases, but holding Christ's Body and Blood suspect...?

    Sometimes you just have to have faith, right?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Sorry Jam, but I find this rather silly (and I suspect most Orthodox would agree with me) "Why would God allow communion to make one sick...?"

    The reason He'd allow it is because in Catholic and (undefined, but in principle) Orthodox churches, the "accidents" (or form) of the bread and wine remain. Thus, it can still transmit disease. Not only that, but unrefrigerated muscle tissue? Room temperature open blood? That stuff WILL carry disease. Christ never told us the Christian lifestyle is free of danger. The idea that one cannot contract disease from communion strikes me as akin to "snake-handling".

    EDIT: Let me add that we wouldn't disagree that drinking a LOT from the chalice will cause one to become inebriated, right? The principle is the same: all the properties of the elements remain.

    And yet I applaud your commitment to the Eucharist as the "medicine of immortality". But we have to be careful to differentiate between the grace conferred by the Word and Sacraments and a "magical" sort of thinking that the Christian rites are without risk.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    Yeah, you would get tipsy if you drank too much from the chalice. It still tastes like wine, and acts like wine, too, in that way. I don't see what your comment about muscle and blood has to do with anything, though, considering your first comment about the "accidents."

    I don't see it as being akin to snake-handling, because God never commanded anyone to handle snakes, but He did institute communion Himself. There's a difference between seeking out danger because "God will protect me" and just doing what Christ told you to do, even if it is dangerous.

    I guess my thinking would be that, if taking communion in a reverent, careful way (priest washes his hands before liturgy, etc.) caused me to get sick, I would consider it God's will that I get sick. Since it is God's will for us to take communion, I think I would prefer getting sick (or at the least risk getting sick) to abstaining from communion, for example.

    I guess it's different for Catholics, because communion in the hand has been officially accepted by your hierarchy. We use a chalice and a spoon, and there is no other way to do it. The spoon sometimes touches your mouth, even if the priest tries hard not to. Especially children; children bite down on the spoon. But thinking about communion in the hand really bothers me, for some reason... It renders so many things, all the precautions taken, such as the priest not opening his two fingers again, the paten to catch crumbs, etc., irrelevant. Especially since the paten isn't even used in most places anymore anyway.

    The sacraments aren't magical, but they are miraculous. I'd prefer to trust God than my own human reason when it comes to germs on the sacrament.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    After the Archbishop's suggestion on receiving communion on hands during the outbreak of 'swine flu,' he posted different reactions from the Catholics in this area in the newspaper. It was divided just like here. There was a doctor who supported the on-hands communion, and he even opposes sharing chalice at all time. And there were people who sald that they rather get sick, if they had to, than receiving communion on hands.
    I'm so glad it's over. It was hard. I really didn't want to receive on my hands, but at the same time I din't want to obey the Bishop's instruction.