I WAS at Mass in my parish recently and the church was, as usual, crowded. When communion time came, the queues were, needless to say, formidable. I would not be surprised if the priests and communion ministers felt somewhat pressured to distribute communion as fast as they could.
When I was still in the pews, I noticed that the queue had suddenly stopped moving. At the head was a female communion minister and a young communicant, both staring down at the floor – a sacred host had been dropped.
The communicant was dressed in a very short skirt, so it was obviously not convenient to bend down to pick up the host. The communion minister was in a longer skirt, but nonetheless quite fitting, so she was not bending down either.
Fortunately, the warden in attendance noticed the awkwardness and stepped forward to pick the host up and held on to it.
When my turn came to receive communion, I noticed that the host was pressed down very firmly on my open palm. As I had sweaty palms, I was mortified to think that there might be fragments remaining on it and took great care to check for “crumbs”.
While doing so, I spotted another fragment of the host on the ground, right next to where communion was being distributed, either dropped by the warden earlier or by some other communicant. I had nearly stepped on my Lord.
I quickly bent down, picked up the fragment, mopped up the crumbs with my (thankfully sweaty) palm and handed them to the same warden. My points:
1. Communicants should be reminded frequently enough of the proper way to receive the Lord. I see many walking away with host still in hand, holding it between pursed lips and even flapping their hands free of crumbs after receiving communion! Oftentimes the wardens are also standing some distance away and cannot interject in time.
2. Communion ministers (be they male or female) should be prepared to address (and avoid) accidental sacrilege by handling the host properly. They should also know how to react in incidents such as this.
3. We would do well to revive the practice of having servers hold a dish under the communicants’ mouth or hands during communion, to catch any falling crumbs. If there are not enough servers, wardens can and should assist.
4. If the assembly is small enough or there are many communion minsters in attendance, perhaps we should consider reviving the use of kneelers (mobile ones are also possible), so that the communicants are poised at a lower level than the minister for better vantage and reach; communicants can also more easily receive on the tongue.
5. We need to revive a sense of the sacred in the Eucharist and the Mass in general. When the sense of the sacred is renewed, such devotion will not be seen as empty ritualism but recognised as a spirit of worship.
Irwin Clement A. Chung