Sometimes, this discussion of offering Holy Communion under both forms turns into a contentious issue. Some feel that when the Precious Blood isn’t offered, they don’t fully participate in Holy Communion or their rights as Catholics have been infringed upon. Far from feeling united in communion, individuals feel divided.
This view might be motivated by the underlying belief that clergy exclusively possess the Eucharist. Others participate only to the extent that this group allows. However, this view isn’t wholly correct.
Since we have been made by Christ into a nation of priests, everyone — clergy and laity — has custody over the Eucharist (Revelation 1:6). Believers in the state of grace have access to the gift of the Eucharist. This gift, though, comes with the great responsibility of safeguarding the Eucharist from abuse.
One abuse would be if the space where Mass is taking place doesn’t permit the easy distribution of Communion under the forms of bread and wine. When Mass is celebrated outside of a church building, it can be quite difficult to arrange Communion to be distributed in a reverent, orderly manner. To make it easier, Communion may be offered under one form only to make the time of Communion work in the best manner possible.
Another possible abuse would be if everyone didn’t receive from the chalice at a Mass with a large number of people present. If a large number of people are coming to Mass and reasonable preparation doesn’t ensure all would have a reasonable opportunity to receive from the chalice, the Precious Blood should not be distributed.
Lack of ministers is another reason the Precious Blood might not be distributed. To distribute Holy Communion, one must not only be trained in the practicality of distributing Communion, but also have a spirit of reverence and awe about the responsibility. At some celebrations, especially at weddings and funerals, there might not be any or too few ministers attending to permit the Blood of Christ to be distributed.
While the Church highly encourages the Precious Blood to be distributed at many special occasions and feast days, it is still an option left up to the local bishop and then the pastor of the parish. Only the priest celebrating the Mass and any concelebrants must receive Communion under both kinds. The choice to distribute the Precious Blood should always be motivated by safeguarding the Eucharist and promoting a deeper reverence by all for the Blessed Sacrament.
Speaking with your parish priest, deacon or someone on the liturgy committee might illuminate why at your parish the Precious Blood is, or isn’t, distributed and how this helps to safeguard the Most Blessed Sacrament.
This column appeared in a previous edition of the Review.
Father Mayo is pastor of St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in St. Louis.