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Scott P. Richert

Reader Question: Communion and Intinction

By October 16, 2009

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This week's Reader Question is short and sweet, though the answer is a bit longer. Reader Jemajo asked the question through our submission form:

Can a communicant dip the Host in the Precious Blood in the Roman Catholic rite?

The practice of dipping the consecrated Host in the consecrated Precious Blood, in order to administer Holy Communion under both species, is customary in the Eastern rites of the Catholic Church and in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The technical name for this is intinction, which simply means "to dip into." In most of the Eastern Churches, the bread used for Communion is leavened, so it cut into cubes and, after consecration of both the bread and the wine, is placed into the chalice with the Precious Blood. It is then administered to the faithful from a spoon.

The reader is asking about the Latin rite of the Catholic Church, however. In the Mass, intinction is allowed, but only under strict conditions.The particular situation that the reader outlines—the communicant receiving the Host in his hand, and then dipping it into the Precious Blood—is absolutely forbidden.

If Holy Communion is to be distributed in the Latin rite by intinction, then the practice that is followed in the Maronite rite of the Church must be followed. The Maronites (primarily Lebanese) use an unleavened host, like Latin rite Catholics do, but they administer Communion under both kinds through intinction.

The priest or deacon takes the Host and dips it into the Precious Blood before administering the Host to the communicant on the tongue. At no point does the communicant touch the Host with his hands—before, during, or after the intinction.

Priests who have a pastoral reason for giving Holy Communion under both kinds and want to do so through the practice of intinction must perform the intinction themselves, and they must then administer the Body and Blood only on the tongue, and not in the hand. The Church requires this not only in order to safeguard the Precious Blood, but also because communicants are to receive Communion, not to administer it to themselves.

That said, it is sadly not uncommon, in Latin rite churches where Communion is offered under both species, to see a communicant receive the Host in his hands and then proceed to the chalice, where he dips it into the Precious Blood. But such a practice is strictly forbidden, and priests in parishes where it is occurring need to instruct the faithful in the proper method of receiving Communion. Indeed, if the abuse continues, they may need to quit offering Communion under both species.

If you have a question that you would like to be featured as part of our Reader Questions series, you can use our submission form. If you would like the question answered privately, please send me an e-mail. 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.

October 16, 2009 at 1:47 pm
(1) Father Daniel says:

I like the Host on the tongue. There is no valid reason for the laity to be handling the Sacred Body of our Lord.

October 17, 2009 at 12:28 am
(2) Allen says:

I also prefer receiving Holy Communion using tongue. But in some circumstances, such as the communion distributors do not have any towel to wipe their hand, then I will use my hand. Or some of the distributors finger will always “contact” with my tongue.

October 19, 2009 at 9:07 am
(3) Char says:

I am Lebanese and do not have the opportunity to attend the Maronite church very often. I do know the Tradaiton/rule. The Maronite church that I attend does it the correct way. Unfortunately the Roman churches that I attend totally disregard the respect for the precious Body and Blood of Christ. I have asked two priests why they allow the congregation to take (the precious blood themselves) rather then to receive it (Priest dipping) these priests have rediculous excuses or no comment at all. They have a fear of offending the congregation. This and several other neglects that our priests have had taken me away from being part of the community in the church. I feel like I am the bad person for asking these questions. Its very hurtful to know that I try to follow what our roots are and I see so many priests that are only looking out for their own best interest.

October 24, 2009 at 5:30 am
(4) Michael says:

Why would correcting an abuse (or admitting an error) offend people? The failure to do so would actually make the priest appear too proud, if anything.

At my church we had to do the instinction ourselves on two occasions (I’ll never do it again, now that I find out it is forbidden). Just witnessing it made me feel “this cannot be right.” But I sublimated my own feelings to the authority of the priest, and did it anyway, assuming it would be sinful to refuse Communion — I now I was wrong : we are only obligated to receive Communion once a year — during Easter.

I’m very glad I learned that, because Communion in the hand has caused me so much anxiety that I have resigned myself to receiving only at Easter, on the tongue, when there are auxiliary priests administering, and I can get away with it (they won’t be there next week to badger me about it).

I can understand Allen’s concern though : I wouldn’t want to receive on the tongue from a lay minister, either. Unfortunately, even Communion on the tongue from a priest is troublesome, without the altar boy there with a paten. In my negative moments, I wonder if this is deliberate, in order to discourage you from attempting.

July 25, 2010 at 5:03 pm
(5) Christian says:

I do not understand why the Roman Catholic Church prohibits “self-intinction”, or the communicant’s dipping the communion wafer in the wine. It is the most sanitary practice. It protects the immune compromised, and other vunerable people in the congregation. It very likely was used by the first Christians, and by the Apostles at the last supper. They were sharing a meal, and dipping bread in wine was a common meal custom in that era.

March 3, 2013 at 9:18 pm
(6) Joe says:

I always preferred receiving on the tongue and kneeling, as in the traditional latin mass.

But after reading the documents obtained from the dioceses pursuant to the sex abuse lawsuits, I am uneasy.

It appears that many priests are active homosexuals. Allowing a stranger to place their fingers into my mouth, to feed me like a child, this very intimate act, has become more difficult after learning the reality about too many of our priests. I am sorry to have to say this.

August 25, 2013 at 2:47 pm
(7) Gearoidin says:

I have not realized that this practice of a communicant dipping the host is forbidden. That is until the priest in mass ran after me yesterday telling me to put the host in my mouth as what I was doing was illegal. It has upset me greatly. I am presently not in my own country.

November 11, 2013 at 9:55 am
(8) Kevin Ward says:

Please be sensitive to the institution and the Lamb – our fads and neuroses are never a clever way to decide on spiritual matters. Insist on receiving the Precious Body directly onto your tongue and receive the Precious Blood separately. Do all devoutly and trust in the Lord.

January 28, 2014 at 10:45 pm
(9) Stormy1 says:

Me thinks you all are a little too preoccupied with the “jots and tittles” of the ceremony as opposed to dwelling on the significance of the sacrament.
“For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lord’s death till he come. Why whoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”
We need to be more concerned about the condition of our hearts when we partake, rather than who is holding the bread.

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