1. Religion & Spirituality
Scott P. Richert

Reader Question: Why Do Catholics Receive Only the Host?

By April 11, 2008

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A reader writes:
Why do Catholics only receive the host and not the wine during Holy Communion? I watch Mass on television and never see Catholics receive anything but the host.
During Pope Benedict's visit to the United States next week, as many as 100,000 Catholics will receive Communion during the televised Masses at Washington Nationals Stadium on Thursday and Yankee Stadium on Sunday. And the reader is right: If you watch those Masses, you'll see all of those Catholics receiving only the consecrated Host--the Body of Christ.

The Church teaches that, at the consecration, when the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, Christ is present "body and blood, soul and divinity" in both species. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes:

Since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite.

The "pastoral reasons" referred to here are both the ease of distribution of Communion, particularly to large congregations, and the protection of the Precious Blood from profanation. Hosts may be dropped, but they are easily recovered; the consecrated wine, however, is more easily spilled and cannot easily be recovered.

The Catechism goes on to note:

But "the sign of communion is more complete when given under both kinds, since in that form the sign of the Eucharistic meal appears more clearly." This is the usual form of receiving communion in the Eastern rites.

In the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church (as well as in Eastern Orthodoxy), the Body of Christ is immersed in the Blood, and both are served to the faithful on a golden spoon. This minimizes the danger of spilling the Precious Blood (which is largely absorbed into the Body). Since Vatican II, a similar practice has been revived in the West: intinction, in which the Host is dipped in the Chalice before being given to the communicant. And in the United States, Communion under both species (in which the communicant receives the Host and then drinks from the Chalice) is allowed for pastoral reasons, and some churches do take advantage of that concession.

If you have a question that you would like to have featured in our Friday "Reader Questions" series, send me an e-mail at catholicism.guide@about.com. Be sure to put "QUESTION" in the subject line, and please note whether you'd like me to address it privately or on the Catholicism blog.

Comments
April 15, 2008 at 4:23 pm
(1) Deacon Bob Davis says:

good anwer, Scott! I might amend it to say that “Many” churches offer Holy Communion under both species – the consecrated Host and the Precious Blood. One of the main reasons why it isn’t done all the time is simple logistics. Usually, if the cup is offered, there need to be two cup ‘stations’ for each station offering the Host. Often, that’s simply impossible! Imagine what kind of organized chaos might result if they tried to offer the cup to the 56,000 people at Yankee Stadium, for example! And imagine how much wine they’d need!

When we go to Orlando, my wife and I often attend Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady, Queen of the Universe. It’s a beautiful church, seating a couple of thousand, and it’s frequently full for the many masses every weekend. They usually have a dozen or more communion ministers, and distribute only the Host. I kidded the rector after mass one Sunday about not offering the cup, and he good-naturedly answered that they couldn’t afford the wine bill, and couldn’t find enough people to help with communion!

Peace,
Deacon Bob

April 19, 2008 at 1:26 pm
(2) Candace says:

I would have to abstain, and as a Catholic, this would be disconcerting. I have celiac disease, meaning that I cannot have anyting with wheat. No Eucharist for me!

August 23, 2009 at 6:18 pm
(3) brenda says:

I attended mass this summer where communion was offered under both species. Some people, (like myself) wish to receive only the host due to the fact that everyone has to drink from the same cup.

June 13, 2012 at 7:28 am
(4) Gary says:

Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins! It is just like Satan to tell people under the “Church” that they don’t have to take the precious blood of Jesus Christ. These two emblems are the appropriation that is given to each person and each person in their deep reverence reflect on what Jesus Christ has done for them, takes these emblems into themselves for it represents the body and the blood of Jesus Christ. Without His broken body, the blood would not have spilled out! Roman Catholics are being deceived by Satan, as Christ Himself says to His true children to eat His body, and drink His blood in remembrance of Him. Satan HATES THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST! and he is doing everything he can to keep people in outer darkness regarding Christ blood. The communion between Christ and His body then with your “church” is BLOODLESS!
And without His blood, there is NO forgiveness of anyone’s sins. And the Roman Catholic church can NEVER EVER EVER EVER SAVE ANYONE!

August 10, 2012 at 1:52 pm
(5) Erlich Phua says:

Candance: I hope you can find a parish that offers communion under both species. Then just avoid the wheat and drink the blood. The physical union with the Lord here on earth is.. what can i say? out of this world?
Gary: Please come and join us, learn more about the Catholic faith, perhaps you are missing something.

April 12, 2013 at 4:06 pm
(6) Gail says:

Grew up in the Catholic faith and attended a Catholic school. It was considered a venial sin to touch the Host at communion. I was told we needed to swallow it whole. Now, everyone touches and hold the Host and administers to themselves. What happen to the venial sin?

July 3, 2013 at 5:16 am
(7) Philip says:

The “answer” does not show why the church does not let the lay drink the wine. If it’s just logistics, would it not be just a human reason? So if its hard for man to do it, you should not do it? Thats very diffrent from what was taught to me before, you should do the things God has commanded of you FULLY. If you are gonna go with the financial, is the church not financialy capable to let people drink and eat?

July 3, 2013 at 10:18 am
(8) Scott P. Richert says:

Philip, it’s not “logistics.” As I wrote in the piece, “The ‘pastoral reasons’ referred to [in the Catechism] are both the ease of distribution of Communion, particularly to large congregations, and the protection of the Precious Blood from profanation. Hosts may be dropped, but they are easily recovered; the consecrated wine, however, is more easily spilled and cannot easily be recovered.”

In the Eastern Rites, where Communion is normally given under both kinds, the risk of profanation is minimized because of the manner of distribution. (Read the article again for details.) Pope Francis has been giving Communion using the method of intinctionódipping the Host in the Precious Bloodówhich is the Western equivalent of the Eastern practice. But only priests and deacons can distribute Communion in that manneróagain, because of the risk of profanation.

As for “the financial,” I have no idea what you are talking about.

October 21, 2013 at 7:55 pm
(9) Alex says:

Candace. If you tell your church that you have celiac disease, they should be able to provide gluten free “hosts.” I know many people that receive the eucharist at my church that also have celiac disease. The priest will then consecrate a separate host for you.

November 16, 2013 at 12:55 am
(10) Edna says:

I found the questions and answers very informative, God Bless.

January 2, 2014 at 9:00 am
(11) Joe says:

My understanding is that the priest is intermediary between God and man.
So the priest receives the wine in the stead and for the benefit of the communicants.
Protestants seem to have mastered the logistics, as they receive both
elements of the Eucharist.

March 30, 2014 at 4:41 pm
(12) suzanne wallace says:

100 percent true love you for agreeing with me thanks I asked the priest the same question he said economics.Yeah right that church has wealthy attendants .It made me slack off .Even priests are being deceived these days

March 30, 2014 at 5:40 pm
(13) suzanne wallace says:

100 percent true. Happy you agree. I asked the priest the same question he said, economics.Yeah right, that church has wealthy attendants .It made me slack off ,from going as often as I did. Yet both himself and the alter servers partake for all to see What’s up with that.

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