Monday, July 4, 2011

Mass: Disasters Big and Small

This morning we attended the early Mass and made it through the front doors just as Mass began. After surveying the crowded church, we made our way down to our normal front pew on the far side, which was empty. A few seconds later another family slipped in late and sat in the pew directly behind us, which I initially thought was a rather unfortunate arrangement, as little good can come from two toddlers sitting right next to each other (especially when they don't know each other and each are inclined to showing off in front of new friends). At least that was my initial thought as Sadie practically injured herself in an attempt to turn and greet the family with a gaggle of small boys by attempting to lay/slide across the pew. After Daddy scooped her up however, she settled in (and her behavior during the rest of Mass may get its own post).

Apparently last weeks, "pick your own rendition of any psalm" is the new status quo at our parish. When it was time for the psalm we were instructed to look at the white piece of paper, which I found at at the end of the pew.... presumably because the psalm we were singing wasn't the one in the missal. In truth the song was, very loosely based (inspired?) by the psalm, with about half the original words being changed and then another handful (a few sentences) added in for good measure. I sat wondering why, after thousands of years, the psalms just weren't good enough any longer.

The priest saying Mass was my favorite at this parish, a retired Monsignor that can be counted on not to add to or subtract from the liturgy (although apparently he doesn't control the choir director... Paul just pointed out that he did once say to the choir director during Mass: "I think I know what I'm doing" when the choir director/ cantor stopped Mass and tried to correct him in the order of the Mass...).

I was pretty excited when Monsignor went over to our side aisle for communion, knowing a tongue related accident was unlikely with him. After receiving the Eucharist I returned to my seat and knelt with Sadie (who was kneeling!). Then it happened. The Eucharist plopped (not a verb you ever want to hear with that very special noun) onto the floor directly in my line of sight. I stared in horror and couldn't help but look up to see what would happen next. The altar server who was standing there with the gold disk (I just can't remember what it's called right now! I'm sure someone here knows and can share in the comments section!) lost her usual rather petulant expression (I hate to say that but it's really the word that best describes the expression!) to look horrified as well. She scooped the Eucharist up and handed it to the Monsignor, who put his hand out to hand it back to the woman. That's when I saw why it had happened in the first place, because she extended two fingers and snatched it out of his hand, nearly causing another incident.

Proving that, no matter how many times it is explained, and what actual mishaps occur, some people still just won't learn!

I spent most of the rest of Mass staring at that spot of carpet looking for "crumbs"... And I fought off the impulse to crawl down there and search to make sure nothing had been left behind... because, while changing the words to the psalms seems acceptable to everyone, I have a feeling getting down on the floor to make sure that no piece of the Eucharist was left behind would not be...

Which got me thinking... I know I believe in the real presence of the Eucharist... but the reaction I felt and still feel thinking about what happened really drove home the reality that this is the body and blood of Jesus Christ, as He promised... and the idea of the Eucharist falling to the ground makes me feel sick to my stomach.

(Paul pointed out that this was actually the best, most liturgically correct Mass we'd been to at our parish in a while...)


  1. It happens a lot more than you would think. I had to double check, but if a host falls you're supposed to eat it. If the wine falls, you're supposed to cover it over with a purificator and soak it up. You probably already know that. I'm just repeating it more for myself.

    Honestly, I wouldn't worry about it. Sounds sacrilegious of me, but people abuse the HE a lot. There's a guy who is trying to get people to steal them so that they can be desecrated. An honest accident, isn't bad in comparison. I've tripped up people, knocked them over, etc. Most people are okay and realize it wasn't on purpose. Jesus, I'm sure, would understand a little bit of nerves and embarrassment about the first trip up. He's not a bad guy, after all. I empathize with the lady. I tend to go red and get more clumsy when I trip up.

    Yikes! The time.

  2. That's interesting about what you're supposed to do. I hadn't really given it much thought before today (I'd never seen it happen before, thankfully!), but it's good to know.

    I do feel for her (I'm glad it was off to the side so not many people could see!). It seemed like she was a little surprised when he gave her the one that had fallen too. That was a part of why I just had to look up because I was thinking: what happens now?!?!

    I feel for our pastor and the other priests too though. Just last week the homily included specific instructions not to grab the host with two fingers and yank it out of the priests hands... so it seems like it's a big enough problem that they're trying to correct it.

    I definitely agree that an honest mistake is much better than all those awful things that go on out there...

  3. The altar server holds a paten. If one day you have a daughter like mine who insists on being an alter server even after being told it's a boy's job, you may get "accidentally" whacked with it when you come into striking range of said daughter. Ask me how I know.

    The changing of the psalm would drive me crazy. Have you thought about writing a letter to the pastor and asking why they're improvising? I'm not sure I could refrain from doing so if that started to happen in our parish.

    As far as the fallen host, the alter server should have tried to catch it on the paten. That's why she stands there holding the paten-to catch any crumbs or falling hosts. I always thought it was the priest or eucharistic minister who was supposed to consume any fallen host.

  4. I admit, I'm a little uncomfortable with receiving on the tongue, though sometimes I have no choice if my hands are full of children. That being said, I always lay my left hand in my right for the EM or usually Father to place the host in. However, there was one time I wasn't thinking and laid my right hand on my left. Being right handed it didn't occur to me to use my left and I went to slide the host up my fingers to place it in my mouth, and it fell to the floor. I quickly scooped it up and consumed it, sat back down in the pew and cried. We were sitting in the first pew and I cried throughout communion, shaking the entire time. I was mortified, not to mention a tad embarrassed.

    But thankfully, it was not the end of world, and after a talk with my husband and the priest I realized I wasn't the first person and I certainly wouldn't be the last.

    Reverence and being careful are so important, but accidents happen, and Jesus knows that.

  5. Hi Karen-

    I kept thinking paten, but then I thought: that can't be right because that's the disk the priest holds! But since they're both similar little disks that does make sense! Thank you!

    I've been thinking about writing a letter, but have been hesitant, because I know that when the Bishop came to our old parish we sang the changed words to the Our Father and it seems like nothing was done since we continued with it. It is one reason I'm looking forward to our new home!

  6. Hugs Bethany! I can definitely see it happening to anyone, and actually the way some people panic when they see someone about to receive on the tongue, I wouldn't be surprised if it happens to me someday (I pray not, because like you I think I'd probably burst into tears!).

    The thing that bothered me, and really inspired this post was the two fingered grab thing. I suddenly understood the pastor stressing putting two hands out last week!

    The other thing I realized from your comment is that I would have a really hard time remembering which hand to put on top if I received in hand! I think instinctively I would have put my right on top (I don't remember ever being taught that!).

  7. I've actually seen the Sacred Host fall/be dropped more often when people received on the tongue; it quite nearly happened to me, when an elderly priest missed my tongue and pressed it into my lip, instead. Fortunately, I reacted quickly enough. I believe the priest didn't see very well. Sometimes the altar servers weren't "on the ball" with the paten.

    There is clearly better catechesis needed with regard to receiving in the hand. I am constantly appalled by people who receive in the right hand and then bring the right hand up to the mouth, almost requiring that they lick the host off their palm!!! Those that try to take it with two fingers horrify me, too. What are they thinking? I tend to think that - at least sometimes - these are non-Catholics who happen to be at Mass and are ignorant of the fact that they are not supposed to receive. But, that's certainly not always the case.

    I think that priests need to regularly remind people of the manner in which to receive (whether in the hand or on the tongue.) We are taught (not often enough) to bow reverently while the person in front of us is receiving, cradle the left hand in the right (for right-handed folks), step slightly aside, communicate by carefully picking up the host from your left palm with your right hand, receive the Host, make the sign of the cross and return to your seat. It's not hard.


  8. I've seen people drop it but always respond appropriately. There was just one exception. I was acting as an extraordinary minister of holy communion at a midnight christmas mass. The church was packed and a parish that already abused how many EMCH it should have had even more. It was after communion was finished and I was returning from my designated spot to distribute the Precious Blood, the congregation was already seated and the other EMHCs were already back in the sacristy, and I walked towards the altar on my way to the sacristy and there, on the floor, was a Eucharist. No one seemed to have seen it or no one had picked it up. Of course I picked it up and consumed it, but I was stunned anyone could drop it and either not notice or not care.


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