What Should I Do If I Drop the Host?
By Fr Kenneth Doyle
Question: I have been an extraordinary minister of holy Communion for about 20 years. During that time, I have dropped the host twice while distributing Communion. I was embarrassed and mortified – to the point where I have even considered no longer giving Communion. What is the proper thing to do if the host is dropped? This has bothered me for a long time, and I hope that you will provide an answer.
Answer: There is no need to be mortified – or even embarrassed. As much as we try to treat the Eucharist with the utmost reverence, accidents do occur. I have distributed Holy Communion for more than 50 years, but just last week I dropped a host on the floor when two hosts stuck together.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which is the church’s guidebook on liturgy, says this: “If a host or any particle should fall, it is to be picked up reverently; and if any of the precious blood is spilled, the area where the spill occurred should be washed with water, and this water should then be poured into the sacrarium in the sacristy” (No. 280). The sacrarium is a special sink that drains directly to the ground.
So if you happen to drop a host, pick it up carefully and either consume it or dissolve it later on in water (so that it no longer has the properties of bread) and wash it down the sacrarium. Treating the eucharistic species with reverence reflects the belief of the church that Jesus meant it when he said at the Last Supper, “This is my body … this is my blood.”
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “By the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood” (No. 1376).
(Accidents can be minimised if people receive the host the way they are instructed – in the outstretched and open palm – rather than grabbing for it)
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