I'm still a believer

By  Michele Faux, Catholic Register Special
  • February 13, 2009
{mosimage}I’m really not a true believer. I learned this at a recent workshop. People like me who receive the host at Communion-time but walk past the cup are showing that we really don’t believe God is present in both species.

I’m not a germ-phobic person. I shake hands at the Sign of Peace, even in cold and flu season. I don’t use hand sanitizers obsessively. I even dip into those 1950s-style sponges in Holy Water fonts (even if they look as though they’ve been there since the ’50s, gathering bacteria). However, something just stops me from drinking out of the same cup as family, friends and strangers.

I know that eucharistic ministers are trained to wipe and turn. There isn’t any spitting, spraying or back-washing. I just can’t get past the idea that scores of other people are drinking from this same holy cup.

The mathematician in me wants to argue about belief. God is present in the host and God is infinite. God is present in the cup and God is infinite. If receiving just the host isn’t sufficient, then are we talking about dividing infinity into two pieces? If receiving under both species is better, are we adding infinity to infinity? If bypassing the cup is permitted, what if someone bypassed the host in order to just receive from the cup? Would that be acceptable?

The scientist in me thinks of parallels in physics. If you cut a bar magnet in half, both pieces are still magnets. If you cut a spring in half, both pieces are still elastic. Do communicants want both species because they think God has been cut in half?

What about “dipping” or intinction? I first received a wine-dipped host in an American church. A choice wasn’t offered and my teetotalling aunt said she felt “headachy” all day. A host dripping with wine can’t be placed in the hand so everyone had to receive on the tongue — commonplace in yesteryears but strange today.

Could communicants do their own dipping? It would satisfy people like my aunt as well as those who don’t want to receive on their tongue. Self-intinction has been expressly forbidden for a couple of reasons. The dippers might spread germs by sticking their fingers into the cup. Drops of wine might spill on the ground in the transfer.

Spoons and tubes have been proposed as a method of transfer. The issue is what happens after? As a child, I was taught that a dropped host turned its landing area into a holy place and a rosary must be placed there. When the area was cleaned, the cloth must be specially laundered. The sacristy had a special sink that drained directly into the earth so the runoff didn’t go into the city sewers. Recently, someone at Mass fell and dropped an entire cupful of consecrated hosts. I didn’t see the rosaries come out.

I’d like my weekly Communion to be a holy time of reflection, not a scenario where I feel as though I have to slink past the cup-bearing eucharistic minister. And, please, don’t tell me I’m not a believer.

(Michele Faux, a mother of five, is a Contributing Editor to The Catholic Register.)

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