I guess I should get out more.
Last evening I celebrated a Mass for a group of older people from various parishes. The occasion was their organization's annual remembrance of the departed, and the Mass took place in the hall where they meet. First off, I’m not a great fan of celebrating Masses outside a real church, unless there’s no other choice. But that’s not my point here. The shocker for me was at the Holy Communion.
In our parish we administer Holy Communion by intinction. It’s never been done any other way. However, knowing that I was a guest celebrant, and that most of the people at the Mass wouldn’t be accustomed to intinction, I was prepared to administer the sacred Hosts from the ciborium. I knew there would be people who would want to receive in the hand, and although I find that practice to be personally disturbing, I acknowledge that it is allowed and so forced myself to cooperate. It must be twenty years or more since I have placed the Host into a communicant’s hand. I hope I never have to again.
Mind you, these were all good, presumably faithful Catholics – most of them in their sixties or seventies. But I’ve never winced and agonized at the time of Holy Communion as I did last night. Some people grabbed the Host out of my hand with their finger and thumb; some of them casually put out one hand and then walked away, picking our Lord up as though eating an hors d'œuvre. One woman took the Host in her hand and then bounced It up and down again, as one might do with loose change. A few popped the Host in their mouths as they would a Tylenol. I never was quite sure which hand to place the Host in when people would limply stretch out both their hands side by side. What happened to the old idea of “making a throne for Jesus” as I used to see in my Anglican days?
Are these practices normal? Is this what it’s like out there? It makes me want to go to the sacristy just to cast a loving look at the intinction sets.