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October 30, 2005

Afraid of the Blood

How many out there have Communion under both kinds? It really bothers me that so many are afraid of the Precious Blood. It bothers me more when they refer to it as wine. I once did a mission in Texas and reacted with a bit a shock when one of the Eucharistic ministers introduced herself to me as one of the "wine ministers."

Anyway, we have a new "Ask Father" feature on our parish website (parishioners only, please) The first question was about the "wine." Here is my answer below:

Here is the Question:

Do I have to drink the wine, too, or can I just take the host. It just seems like there are too many germs to drink out of the same cup as everyone else.
Here is my answer:
Catholics believe that the Real Presence of the Lord Jesus is present, whole and entire in the Host. It is the Body, Blood, soul and Divinity of Jesus present to us. The same Real Presence is available in the cup, in the Precious Blood. It also is the same Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

So the short answer is: No, you do not “have? to drink from the cup. There is no diminishment in Grace if you only receive the Host.

However, it is certainly preferable to drink from the Cup. It is what Jesus intended when he said, “take and eat, take and drink.?

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says the following:

281. Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it is received under both kinds. For in this manner of reception the sign of the Eucharistic banquet shines forth more completely and the divine will by which the new and everlasting covenant is ratified in the Blood of the Lord is more clearly expressed, together with the relationship of the Eucharistic banquet to the eschatological banquet in the Father’s Kingdom.
Now, about the germs:

It is nearly impossible to catch any disease from participating in Holy Communion. The Centers for Disease Control have repeatedly said this.

These are a few things that kill whatever germs may be present

  • the alcohol content of the wine
  • the temperature of the metal, it is too cold for any germs to live.
  • The wiping of the cup with a purificator
  • The turning of the cup for the next communicant

There may be some good reasons for not receiving from the cup, for example, alcoholics may wish to avoid receiving communion in this way.

Avoiding germs is not a good reason for staying away from the Cup. There are more opportunities to share germs in shaking hands than there are in receiving the cup. So, if you are afraid of germs, you would never pet a dog or participate in the sign of peace.

Also, it seems, there is a growing practice of referring to this as “the wine.? I would appreciate it very much if we would never refer to it in this way.

It is the Precious Blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who by his Blood has set us free and saved us from death. For more reflection on the Precious Blood, you may refer to my article here that I wrote for the magazine “Precious Blood Family.?

Posted by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. at October 30, 2005 2:33 PM

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That was kind of you to say "Texas." ;-)

My vague thoughts are that this attitude, this reluctance, may grow out of a lack of appreciation GENERALLY, for the sheer enormity of the gift He has given us, this gift of Himself.
Yes, many people bypass the Precious Blood, but it may be that even MORE people casually and thoughtlessly reach for and consume His Body.
I remember when I was a kid my family had a dear friend (somewhat troubled emotionally,) who, my mother whispered, suffered from an excess of scruples.
She would peer at her watch at communion time, holding herself to an old-fashioned three hour fast, and if she was a minute under when she reached the head of the line, she would turn around and go to the end of the line (or possibly not receive at all.)
I thought it was sad, but in my snarky kid's way, kind of funny, too.
Now I find myself wondering if the world doesn't need more like her, people who actually put some thought and effort into making themselves fit to receive Him, into preparing...
Sorry, rambling.

Posted by: Geri at October 30, 2005 4:27 PM

That was one nifty essay on the Precious Blood, Father. I think one of the problems lots of folks have (myself included) is a limited understanding of sacrifice. It sounds primitive and doesn't feel like something that should fit in with our nice middle-class parishes and ministries. It's way too powerful - and way too demanding.

Posted by: Mary Jane at October 30, 2005 5:10 PM

We Precious Blood people naturally pay attention to the sacrifice of the Blood – yes, what happened to Jesus in the shedding of his blood was primitive and is powerful and challenging to us. The abuse to Christ’s Body was also primitive and powerful and it too presents a challenge. Few of us pass by the Body of Christ because of the challenge that it presents.

It sometimes happens that the cup is empty before I have had a chance to drink from it. Even though I know that I have received communion fully, I still feel a sense of emptiness without the opportunity to drink the Blood of Christ because the two together, Body and Blood, represent the unbelievable awe-inspiring sacrifice that Christ offered for us.

Posted by: Peggy doherty at October 31, 2005 1:19 PM

I love communion under both kinds. Even though my non catholic aa friends would be appalled I never miss a chance to take it under both kinds. Yeah I agree every time I hear a Euchuristic minister refer to it as wine I about want to go outside and yell at the top of my lungs.

Posted by: james hood at November 1, 2005 12:07 AM


I think your experience with meeting one of the "wine ministers" is telling. I myself come across that kind of thing sometimes. When I correct someone for saying such a thing (it's much too important to let it slide), I usually get a quizzical look, as if the other person doesn't know why I'm making such a big deal about it.

Geri (first poster and fellow Texan), I think you're right. In fact, I am much more concerned about people who think that Communion under both kinds is required (and yes, there are such people), than I am about those who fear it. In six and a half years of the priesthood, I've detected very little fear of the Precious Blood. Sadly, I've detected, as well, very little awe.

Posted by: Fr. Richard Libby at November 1, 2005 12:42 PM

I might add that, according to "Redemptionis Sacramentum", "Eucharistic minister" is not a proper term. The proper term is "Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion."

Posted by: Fr. Richard Libby at November 1, 2005 4:06 PM

A Texan?
No, I have not that honor, Fr. Libby.
I was making a joke, as I thought Fr. Keyes was relating an incident from when he preached a [wonderful] mission at our parish (not in Texas.)
During a day of reflection for the mission team, the head of one "ministerial corps" said during group discussion "I never drink the wine at Mass." I tried to nudge her into realizing what she had said and correcting herself by saying "Well, NO one drinks WINE at Mass," but that just elicited agreement from her, "You're right, hardly ANYBODY take the wine, just the bread."
While I virtually always take the Precious Blood when Communion is offered under both species, I share your concerns, Fr Libby -- only in the past year or so, I have several time heard or read people insisting that Catholics were OBLIGATED to receive under obth species, which is patently wrong.

Posted by: Geri at November 6, 2005 6:27 PM

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