Holy Communion by self-intinction / dipping the Host

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Catholic : One Thread


Hello, friends.

Recently I received a private e-mail note in which a request was made of me. After I replied, my correspondent suggested that I post our exchange on a new thread here, in case it may be helpful to others.

Here is the request found in the message I was sent (which had the subject, "Dipping"):
"In mentioning 'dipping' I am referring to the banned practice where communicants dunk the Eucharistic 'bread' into the Eucharistic 'wine' at communion. I am looking for the reference that bans the practice. In certain isolated corners of our diocese this practice happens from time to time."

My reply follows:
If you have never read the 1980 Vatican instruction called "Inaestimable Donum" ("Inestimable Gift"), I highly recommend it. Here is #9 from it:
"Eucharistic Communion. Communion is a gift of the Lord, given to the faithful through the minister appointed for this purpose. It is not permitted that the faithful should themselves pick up the consecrated bread and the sacred chalice, still less that they should hand them from one to another."
[This is not a ban on reception of Communion in the hand. Rather, it refers to "picking up" or "taking" the Eucharistic species directly from the altar or other table. Instead we are to "receive" them directly from a duly appointed minister -- either "ordinary" (priest, deacon, installed acolyte) or "extraordinary" (religious or lay). Self-intinction would be a form of "taking," rather than "receiving," Holy Communion.]

"Inaestimable Donum" is here.

In the Latin Rite of the Church, the Sacramentary (the big red book on the altar) is part of what is called the "Roman Missal." In the front of the Sacramentary, there is the large Vatican document called the G.I.R.M. (General Instruction on the Roman Missal), which contains liturgical regulations that all are required to obey. Here are the pertinent parts of paragraphs #243, #246, and #247 from the G.I.R.M., in which you can see that self-intinction is not permitted. [I have added some emphasis.]

"243. Preparations for giving communion under both kinds: ...
..... c. If communion is given by intinction, care is to be taken that the Eucharistic Bread is not too thin or too small, but a little thicker than usual so that after being partly dipped into the Precious Blood it can still easily be GIVEN to the communicant."

"246. If there is a deacon, another priest assisting, or an acolyte [or, by extension, an extraordinary minister (JFG)] present:
..... a. The priest hands this minister the chalice with purificator and he himself takes the paten or ciborium with the Hosts. The priest and the minister of the chalice station themselves conveniently for distributing Communion.
..... b. The communicants approach, make the proper reverence, stand in front of the priest, and hold the communion plate below their chin. The celebrant dips a Particle into the chalice and, showing it, says: "The Body and Blood of Christ."
........ The communicants respond: "Amen," receive Communion from the priest, and return to their place. ..."

"247. If there is no deacon, assisting priest, or acolyte present:
..... a. After drinking the Blood of the Lord, the priest takes the ciborium, or paten with the Hosts, between the index and middle fingers of one hand and holds the chalice between the thumb and index finger of the same hand. Then he stations himself conveniently for Communion.
..... b. The communicants approach, make the proper reverence, stand in front of the priest, and hold a plate beneath their chin. The priest takes a Particle, dips It into the chalice, and, showing It, says: "The Body and Blood of Christ."
........ The communicants respond: "Amen," receive Communion from the priest, and return to their place.
..... c. It is also permitted to place a small table covered with a cloth and corporal at a suitable place. The priest places the chalice or ciborium on the table in order to make the distribution of Communion easier. [This refers to a table beside the priest, for his convenience (not having to hold both vessels simultaneously). This does not refer to placing a chalice on a table (off to the side) into which the faithful could dip a Host. In recent years, a new device has come into use -- a large paten to hold the Hosts in an outer ring surrounding a small gold-plated cup holding the Blood of Christ; this can easily be held in one hand by the minister, so that the other hand is free to distribute Communion by intinction. Thus there is never a need for the "table" just mentioned in #247.c.. JFG] ..."

The currently used edition of the G.I.R.M. can be read here.

Each national/regional conference of bishops is permitted to publish an appendix to the G.I.R.M., containing clarifications and adaptations approved by the Vatican. To make as clear as possible the meaning of the G.I.R.M.'s directives on intinction, the U.S. bishops inserted the following note in their appendix: "When Communion is distributed under both kinds by intinction, the [moist] Host is not placed in the hands of the communicants, nor may the communicants receive the Host and dip it into the chalice."

A new edition of the G.I.R.M. was issued by the Vatican in 2000, in Latin. There is no approved English translation yet, so (to my knowledge) the new edition is not yet in use in the U.S. and Canada. Nevertheless, it also does not allow self-intinction in its paragraphs on Communion under both species (#281-287). For example, here is an unofficial (but accurate) translation of #287: "If Communion from the chalice is given by intinction, then the communicant, while holding the paten under the chin, approaches the priest who holds the chalice and at whose side stands the minister holding the vessel with the sacred Particles [Hosts]. The priest takes a Host, intincts It in the chalice and, showing It, says: The Body and Blood of Christ. The communicant responds: Amen, and receives the Sacrament in the mouth from the priest. Afterwards, the communicant returns to his or her place."]

I have read just one other thing on this subject, but it was just a simple statement, not documented -- namely, that in the transition period between end of Vatican II (1965) and the publication of the new Missale Romanum (1969/70), there was a temporary experiment that permitted self-intinction. In 1969/70, the first edition of the G.I.R.M., by its contrary language, ended this experiment. It seems likely to me that the present-day self-intinction abuses are illicit continuations of the old experiment that some clergy have refused to let die.

St. James, pray for us.
God bless you.

-- J. F. Gecik (jfgecik@hotmail.com), October 27, 2001


-- (_@_._), October 27, 2001.

Thanks for the info John. "Dipping" has been a problem in this neck of the woods as I am sure it has in other parts of the world! This is probably due to the experiment you mentioned. Your post makes it very clear what is allowed and what is not! If and when the English version of the new Roman Missal is discovered on the net, I would be most interested in learning of it!



-- Ed Lauzon (grader@accglobal.net), October 27, 2001.

I will too, Ed. Thank you.

-- (jfgecik@hotmail.com), October 27, 2001.

Thanks for this post John. I have a question as to what you would do in my situation. I watched a parishioner receive the consecrated host by hand and carry it to the lay minister distributing the consecrated wine. The person then proceeded to dip the consecrated host.

I was very surprised to see this as I remembered reading your post last night. Since I know the lay minister who was holding the chalice, should I mention to her that this practice is forbidden? Or should I just let it go and not make an issue of it as it is not a parish practice?

What makes me indecisive is just this past weekend I was talking to a fallen away Catholic. He told me he couldn't see himself attending a church where people are in such a hurry to leave. Along with the other typical complaints (hypocrites, unfriendliness, etc.). I told him he shouldn't be concerned with what others are doing, but rather what he was doing while attending Mass. If I apply this to my situation, doesn't this tell me to worry about how I and my family receive Jesus, and ignore the above situation?

Just wondering what others would do if you were in my shoes.


-- Glenn (glenn@excite.com), October 28, 2001.

Glenn, were I in your shoes, I wouldn’t necessarily assume that it is my responsibility to speak with the Eucharistic Minister in question. Nevertheless, there is in my opinion, a need for genuine concern about what you witnessed. Unless you are in charge of instructing the Eucharistic Ministers in the discharge of their duties at your church, to avoid any conflict/resentment from the Eucharistic Minister, I would simply make your pastor aware of the incident in confidence, and let him deal with it as he sees fit.

You have also it seems to me, witnessed an additional violation of the rules of how a communicant is to conduct himself at communion. An individual is never supposed to leave the Minister’s presence with Eucharist in hand. The communicant is to place the Eucharist in his mouth and then and only then is he permitted to turn and walk away. I have experienced a situation where, as an altar server at daily mass, shortly after communion, I was asked by the pastor to go immediately (now, this is during Mass mind you) to a certain individual who was seated at the rear of the church and confirm that he had indeed consumed the Eucharist, for at the time of communion he had turned with the Eucharist in hand and walked away from the pastor. At the time, the Diocese had witnessed individuals stealing the Eucharist at communion for the purposes of desecrating Our Lord later. Talk about a belief in the Real Presence! These thieves were not happy with un- consecrated hosts. They desired the real thing, the Real Presence, Our Lord, Jesus, Himself! In doing what he did, our pastor sent a clear message of what he expects of communicants at communion when accepting the Eucharist in hand. You may also want to bring this matter up with your pastor when talking to him about the “dipping” you witnessed.



-- Ed Lauzon (grader@accglobal.net), October 29, 2001.


] Hi, Glenn. Thanks for your note. I'll try to answer, but forgive me if I don't do well. [I composed this reply when yours was the last post. Now, just before adding mine, I have "reloaded" and seen that Ed has responded. I did not have the benefit of reflecting on his interesting observations.]

You closed by saying, "Just wondering what others would do if you were in my shoes."
My answer is that I would speak gently to the extraordinary minister. I wouldn't do it in an accusatory manner, but rather with an assumption of her good will and lack of knowledge of the regulations. Actually, she may be aware of the rules, but the whole thing may have been a big surprise to her. She may not have even realized that the parishioner was holding a Host until it was too late -- she was already holding out the chalice to him.

If necessary, I would show the minister the texts that I have quoted above. In fact, I would even give her a copy to show the pastor and other ministers, because the communicant in question here is likely to try to receive in the same manner from other ministers (ordinary or extraordinary) in the future. If a "minister of the cup" were to realize that a communicant was bringing a Host toward him, he should quietly tell the communicant that his only option is to place the Host in his mouth and then drink from the chalice. And if you know the name of the communicant now, it would be good for the pastor to speak to him before next Sunday, to explain what is permitted and what is not.

You said that self-intinction is "not a parish practice," and you wondered if you should "make an issue of it." I think that this is the perfect time to speak up and act, lest others observe the abuse and begin to make "a parish practice" of it. I would not characterize doing this as "making an issue of it." The Church, like any society of people, has the right to govern herself by disciplinary rules. We have a right to remind our fellows of the importance of following rules, for the common good.

You wondered if speaking up about self-intinction might be hypocritical, in light of your advising a certain lapsed Catholic not to "be concerned with what others are doing" (leaving early, being unfriendly, etc.). I wouldn't consider it being hypocritical at all. Don't forget this ... you didn't just look the other way and ignore the improper thing your lapsed Catholic was doing. You spoke up and helped him learn that he was wrong. And now, you are able to do something similar -- speak up to help the communicant to learn that he did something improper. I assume that you take each action in a kind, charitable manner -- the first for the benefit of the lapsed Catholic's soul, the second to foster obedience and to protect the Blessed Sacrament. [A "dipper" can be a "dripper."]

I might have told your lapsed Catholic friend not so much that he should ignore what others are doing, but that he has an obligation to worship God and pursue his vocation to holiness regardless of the sins of others. He needs to know that the Church does not cease to be God's tool for teaching the truth simply because it has some sinful, hypocritical members. If a lapsed Catholic is such a good guy, the Church needs him not to flee, but to be around and help her hypocritical members to improve.

St. James, pray for us.
God bless you.

-- (jfgecik@hotmail.com), October 29, 2001.

John, obviously based on what I have said earlier, I don’t agree with you that Glenn should speak directly to the Eucharistic Minister. It is one thing to recognize when a problem exists and act on it,but it is quite another to rectify it in the proper way by using the parameters established by the parish. In my opinion Glenn should only speak with the Minister if two conditions exist. One, Glenn should be fluent with all matters that will be discussed. Two, Glenn should be the recognized “superior” (for lack of a better word) of the individual concerned. I know from my own experience in a large parish, depending on the Mass, there could have been 8-10 ministers, 10 altar servers, 2 deacons and three priests who witnessed what Glenn did. Do they all follow their conscience and have a discreet word with the minister in question? I think everyone is better served if they follow the “chain of command” so to speak, in order to minimize duplication, confusion, ambiguity and misunderstanding. I feel the interest of all parties is best served if all who witnessed the incident discreetly report it to their superior. This information can then be passed through the chain of command to the individual in charge of instructing/training the Eucharistic Minister in question. This is why I recommended that Glenn should contact his pastor. I assumed his parish is small and that he does not have Head Eucharistic Minister as we do in our parish. If he does have a Head Eucharistic Minister and this individual is in charge of both he and the other minister in question, then I would heartily recommend Glenn pass the information on to that individual rather than bother the pastor with it. In doing this, he reduces duplication of workload, and respects the organization that was created to make the parish run smoother.

Too often, I have seen individuals in various ministries take offence when someone has taken it upon themselves to correct them for something they have done or didn't do. Should Glenn speak to the minister directly, while his intentions may be honourable, a situation like this can quickly escalate out of control. The minimum the minister would be required to do if Glenn did say something, would be to validate what Glenn has said with his/her superior to find out if he is correct in what he is saying. As his/her superior I would be a bit perturbed with Glenn for not going through the proper channels to make his observations known. In keeping order and working within the guidelines or framework the parish has provided, I find much anxiety as well as duplication of workload is avoided in dealing with others in these matters. I realize by recommending what you did to Glenn you were only trying to right the situation in the best and quickest possible way, but owing to human sensitivity, these matters have a way of escalating out of control.



-- Ed Lauzon (grader@accglobal.net), October 29, 2001.


My advice (FWIW) is not to talk to the minister directly, as they might be personally offended, but rather go to the pastor of the church and tell him you've been reflecting on this incorrect practice all week (you might copy off the relevent parts of the Bishops' work ((courtesy of JFG))), and after this week's reflection, it still bothers you, and you'd like to see it corrected. I'd also note that you wanted it corrected *as a policy*, and not as a personal "attack" on one Eucharistic minister, and so were bringing it up to him instead of the individual involved.

If the Pastor was to lay down a rule from above, the problem would be solved, and no one would be hurt. Also, if more than one minister is allowing this, you could end up spending every Sunday running around after them and end up looking like some sort of Kook, when talking to the person in charge can easily solve the problem with a single visit.

Best of luck,


-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.cam), October 29, 2001.

Thanks to all who have responded. I actually had a long reply typed in yesterday when I inadvertently deleted the text. I have thought this over, and actually feel more comfortable approaching the priest and talking to him about it. So I will call over there today and set up an appointment and will bring a printout of John's post (I had already printed it, just didn't know what to do with it).

John, thanks for helping me see this situation differently. I was undecided about acting until all of the above posts.

-- Glenn (glenn@excite.com), October 30, 2001.


I would like to question your comment about consuming the Eucharist in the minister's presence. My pastor gave a sermon many years ago addressing the lackadaisal attitude that communicants showed when receiving Communion. He stated that the best practice was to receive the Eucharist, take one step sideways, consume it while facing the altar. He might have mentioned bowing slightly to show reverence also. So would this be a violation of consuming the Eucharist in the presence of the minister?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

-- Glenn (glenn@excite.com), October 30, 2001.

Glenn, the manner of receiving the Eucharist you describe is EXACTLY how I receive the Eucharist when I go to communion! I take one step to the side to get out of the way of the next communicant, I place the Eucharist on my tongue, then I bow slightly to venerate the Holy Altar where Jesus has just been crucified. I then return to my pew. The purpose in facing the altar coincidentally allows the minister to easily see what I am doing with the host since he has his back to the altar and is facing the communion line and me. I never turn my back to the minister until the Host is in my mouth. If by some strange happenstance the altar is not at the rear of the minister giving communion (this happens for example when the minister comes to the choir loft to distribute communion) then I place the Eucharist on my tongue, take a side step to get out of the way of the next communicant and then bow slightly in the direction of the Holy Altar where Jesus has just been crucified. I then return to my seat.



-- Ed Lauzon (grader@accglobal.net), October 30, 2001.

Thanks Ed. You made me feel better about how I do accept Jesus during Mass. I just wasn't sure it allowed the Eucharistic minister to witness the placing of the Eucharist on my tongue as they are most likely distributing to the next communicant.

I really want to thank you for reminding me of the reason for the slight bow. My pastor did mention that it venerates the place where Jesus was sacrificed. I had forgotten this.

God Bless.

-- Glenn (glenn@excite.com), October 30, 2001.


It was brought to my attention that the following statement was made by a good man (Mike H) on another thread, so I decided to revive this thread, especially for him:

"One other example [of liturgical abuse] is 'intinction,' the dipping of the Eucharist in wine at Holy Communion, which is no longer allowed, to my knowledge, but I see it required by a couple Detroit churches I have gone to. Those two parishes were very conservative and did many other good things."

As this thread points out, what has never been "allowed" is SELF-intinction, but what has long been allowed (and still is allowed) is that form of intinction in which an authorized minister of Holy Communion dips the Host into the chalice and places It on the communicant's tongue. If the latter is what was observed at the "two parishes" (as I strongly suspect was the case), then there was no liturgical abuse at all.

Earlier in this thread, there is a quotation from the GIRM in effect at the time. A new GIRM edition was published in 2000, and I believe that it too approves of intinction. At the USCCB Internet site, the following additional pertinent information is now given:

"On June 15, 2001, the Latin members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved 'Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America.' This decision was confirmed by decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) signed by Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez on March 22, 2002 ... Accordingly, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, President of the USCCB, published a decree, dated March 28, 2002, by which the Norms become particular law for all Latin celebrations of the Sacred Liturgy in the dioceses of the United States of America, effective April 7, 2002, the Second Sunday of Easter. ...

"The texts of nos. 36 through 47 ... are given here: ...
49. Holy Communion may be distributed by intinction in the following manner: the communicant, while holding the paten under the chin, approaches the priest who holds the chalice and at whose side stands . the minister holding the vessel with the hosts. The priest takes the host, intincts the particle into the chalice and, showing it, says: ‘The Body and Blood of Christ.' The communicant responds, ‘Amen,' and receives the Sacrament on the tongue from the priest. Afterwards, the communicant returns to his or her place."

So, Mike, unless you observed "self-intinction," please do not avoid those two Detroit churches.

[I understand that you also were troubled by the use of orchestral instruments and a choir singing special music at a Mass that you attended. Please don't let these things trouble you either, as they are not abuses. If you have a chance to watch a solemn Mass celebrated at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, you will see that there are large choirs singing sometimes complex, unfamiliar music -- without the congregation being able to join in. We can actively participate at Mass without necessarily saying/singing every possible word aloud. My guess is that, even on the day(s) in question, you were able to participate aloud in many of the shorter responses, which you sang to well-known chant melodies (unless they were all in Latin, and you were not familiar with them).]

God bless you.

-- J. F. Gecik (jfgecik@hotmail.com), October 18, 2003.


Thanks for the information. Funny we posted similarly at the same time but I on the thread you read from first.

I had a priest tell me that intinction was not allowed but he did not specify if he meant self-intinction was not allowed and I didn't think at the time to ask him. So he may have meant that, as you suspected. Or it may be a local norm to the diocese of the priest I mention because he is in a different diocese than Detroit.

I did not observe self-intinction in the parishes I mentioned but I have obsevered it elsewhere so thanks for the info again. In Detroit, for both parishes, we knelt down and there was a paten under our chins. It seemed safe and reverent enough.

I still didn't like that fancy mass. But that's just me I guess. Most of the masses at that parish were not of the type I mentioned. The parishioners there were very devout, the lines at the confessionals were always long. There were Marian devotions during the week and a Legion of Mary that evangelized poor Detroit neighborhoods. The church was in a ghettoized area but their property was never harmed. Maybe I was too harsh on them.

I would give mass in Vatican Rome a try if I was there.

-- Mike H. (beginasyouare@hotmail.com), October 18, 2003.

Thanks, Mike H.. Nice of you to respond. JFG

-- J. F. Gecik (jfgecik@hotmail.com), October 18, 2003.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ