Germs and The Communion Cup

My friend’s 17-year-old son recently became an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. His parents (my friends) are concerned about germs on the chalice. They are worried that their teen will catch hepatitis or another serious infectious disease when he has to drink the leftover consecrated wine after many others have drunk from the same cup. (I don’t know how it works at other parishes but at their parish the EMHC’s must consume the remaining Precious Blood from the chalice they administered.) They are considering forbidding him from being an EMHC but know he is happy about filling this particular role in parish life. They are asking my advice and I am not sure how to respond. Thoughts?

What the Deacon said.
Personally, in my own opinion, it would be awful to think that the Blood of Christ or the sacred vessel that holds it, contains cooties.

I would wonder more about being under 21 and having to consume a larger amount of wine…I know there is usually very little left in the cup, but…

We have one older gentleman who always seems to empty everyones remaining wine. Not sure if it’s deliberate, or he just happens to do it…

He has probably been asked to be the one to take the last sip.
Many people refuse. If there is always too much left over, then the Sacristan is putting out to much to be consecrated.

Well, since you mentioned it…his mother said something along the lines of, “Well, I know it’s the blood of Jesus but is it really a big deal if a little drop goes down the drain? Big powerful Catholic Church, don’t they know how risky it is to share a common cup? We’re all there worshipping together, we don’t have to get each other’s germs!”

I know she’s concerned for her son, but I found this offensive.

I guess she really doesn’t think all things are possible through Christ. :shrug:

You get many people like that. That’s why people pass up the Precious Blood.

Out of all of the things that the parents of a 17 year old SHOULD be worrying about, this is not one of them.

Absolutely. I’ve been an EMHC & Sacristan for over 30 years. Consumed left over Precious Blood over the years; never caught anything. And the thing about, even a drop down the drain. Just poor catechisis.

I thought there was a special drain that went directly into the ground. Maybe that’s what she meant?

I was recently the MC for an Easter Vigil Mass. Normally communion at this parish is under one species. At Christmas and Easter it’s under both species which equates to 8 vessels to dispense the Blessed Sacrament.

The celebrant asked me to help him purify the vessels. We used both wine and water. All 8 were purified will each ones contents consolidated down to a single chalice of about 50% wine and water. We both consumed the mixture.

Afterwards I asked about the wine? That’s very old school, something I have never experienced in person. He laughed and said “you’ll be happy when you don’t come down with a cold tomorrow.” He used the wine as a practical germ-killer. I thought that we very interesting.

I don’t drink from the Communion cup because when I get a cold I get very sick – but I do take the Eucharist in my hand and dip it in the Communion cup – I trust that I’m receiving under both species which is what I want to do

Even with a sacrarium or piscina – a sink not connected to a sewer or other septic system, but one that drains onto the dirt, grass, (which cannot be easily stepped on), flowerbed, etc., the liquid (wine or water or a mixture) of the first rinse must always be consumed by a human.

If something truly horrible happens – should someone say vomit or expectorate into the sacred vessel, the contents must be added to a much larger vessel of water and allowed to soak so there is no visual reminder of the Blessed Sacrament (intact hosts, recognizable Precious Blood) and then poured down the sacrarium.

Self-intinction is expressly prohibited in the Catholic Church:

Redemptionis Sacramentum: “[104.] The communicant must not be permitted to intinct the host himself in the chalice…”

That’s terribly offensive – not to mention ignorant. She acknowledges it’s the Precious Blood yet she has no problem with it going down the drain – no matter if it’s the sewer or a sacrarium. That’s just plain nasty.

Are you a Deacon? Our Archdiocese does not allow laypersons to purify vessels.

It is not just in your archdiocese. It is worldwide, as a result of the decision of Pope Benedict XVI. The matter is well explained by the Catholic News Service

*At the direction of Pope Benedict XVI, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion will no longer be permitted to assist in the purification of the sacred vessels at Masses in the United States.

In an Oct. 23 letter, Bishop William S. Skylstad, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked his fellow bishops to inform all pastors of the change, which was prompted by a letter to him from Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

In the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the change will take effect on the First Sunday of Advent, which is Dec. 3.

The history concerning the directive in the United States is that in 2002 the U.S. bishops had received an indult—or church permission—for lay extraordinary ministers of holy Communion to help cleanse the Communion cups and plates when there were not enough priests or deacons to do so. That indult was granted for a period of three years and was an exception to the worldwide directive given in the 2002 edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).

When, after the three-year period expired, the bishops asked the Vatican to extend the indult or make it permanent, the request was declined.

Bishop Skylstad, who heads the Diocese of Spokane, Wash., said Cardinal Arinze asked Pope Benedict about the matter during a June 9 audience “and received a response in the negative.”

Noting that the GIRM “directs that the sacred vessels are to be purified by the priest, the deacon or an instituted acolyte,” the cardinal said in his Oct. 12 letter that “it does not seem feasible, therefore, for the congregation to grant the requested indult from this directive in the general law of the Latin Church.”

In response, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory has asked parishes in the Archdiocese of Atlanta beginning on the First Sunday of Advent 2006 to have all sacred vessels purified by a priest, deacon, or instituted acolyte.

“I am aware that this may cause some hardship in parishes with large congregations and the custom of distributing Communion under both species, especially when no deacon or instituted acolyte is available,” the archbishop wrote to priests and deacons.

“Several pastoral measures are available to make this transition easier. The GIRM permits that vessels be purified either after Communion or after Mass, and parishes with large numbers of vessels may find it more convenient to do so after Mass,” he said.

Archbishop Gregory added, “In any case, all of the Precious Blood that remains should be consumed at the end of Communion” by the extraordinary ministers. “In the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the permission for extraordinary ministers to consume any of the Precious Blood that remains after Communion continues in effect.”

The archbishop also gave his guidance on two other pastoral approaches spoken of by Cardinal Arinze: the distribution of holy Communion under only one species or the use of intinction.

“At present the use of intinction is not encouraged in the Archdiocese of Atlanta,” Archbishop Gregory wrote.

“The choice to distribute Communion under one or both kinds remains at the discretion of the priest,” he concluded.

Cardinal Arinze’s letter noted that although receiving Communion under both kinds is a “more complete” sign of the sacrament’s meaning, “Christ is fully present under each of the species.”

“Communion under the species of the bread alone, as a consequence, makes it possible to receive all the fruit of eucharistic grace,” he said.

Along with the letters from Bishop Skylstad and Cardinal Arinze, bishops received a new resource prepared by the bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy titled “Seven Questions on the Distribution of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds.”

The committee document also suggested distribution of Communion by consecrated bread alone or by intinction when the number of communicants makes the purification of vessels by priests, deacons or instituted acolytes alone “pastorally problematic.”

The document notes that the “extraordinary ministry” by which laypeople distribute Communion “was created exclusively for those instances where there are not enough ordinary ministers to distribute holy Communion, due to the consummate importance of assuring that the faithful have the opportunity to receive holy Communion at Mass, even when it is distributed under both species.”

Ordinary ministers of Communion are priests and deacons, with instituted acolytes being permitted in the Roman Missal to help the priest or deacon “to purify and arrange the sacred vessels.”

In the United States, instituted acolytes, who must be male, generally are seminarians preparing for priesthood or men in formation for the permanent diaconate.*

There was a time when it was common practice for the EMCH to purify the vessels after Mass. I do remember the instructions being sent through the bishop that this was no longer to be the case.
I have several times mentioned the large parish that I attended in the Middle East. Unlike the United States, where it is often difficult to find volunteers, they were able to set strict guidelines for formation. The EMCH undergoes a year’s formation, is required to attend the First Friday Holy Hour, and the monthly Enriching Your Faith program. Although I had been an EMCH for many years stateside, I was not an EMCH while there.
Because of physical reasons, I have not resumed my role since returning to the USA. As others have stated, being an EMCH is a very humble honor. The precious Blood of Our Lord heals, so I have never been concerned that any germs would be passed, especially as the person handling the chalice is properly trained in how to handle the chalice between communicants.

Note: When I was first commissioned in WI, the bishop wanted a list of anybody acting as EMCH sent to him.

When I was first commissioned I received a letter from my bishop confirming that my pastor had submitted my name and guaranteed that I was “right for the ministry” so to speak. So the Pastor had submitted our names before he even asked us. One he got permission then we were invited to be trained. That was in the very early years of EMHCs.

Any left over Precious Blood is to be consumed & not pour down the Sacrarium. The Sacrarium is only for the purification of the sacred vessels after Mass & is performed by a Priest, Deacon or Instituted Acolyte.