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Monday, September 14, 2009

Last night I left the Sanctuary While Assisting with Communion

There was no film at 11, but I felt compelled to do what I did with good reason.

I have been attending my parish 37 years. For 34 of those years I have assisted at the 5:15 Sunday Mass as lector, EM, or server. Followers of this blog will know of the difficulties I've had since the supply priest who'd been at that Mass for most of the 34 years had been forced to retire last Easter.

Last night the deacon was not there, and in addition to serving the Mass, I assisted with giving the Host. About a 1/3 of the way through, some woman recieved from me, and did not put the Host in her mouth. I watched her for a few steps and as she got to the end of the aisle to turn, I was on her like white on rice and said to her that she MUST consume the Host right away. She looked at me blankly and consumed. This is not an everyweek occurence in the parish, but it is in a tourist area, and sad to say in recent years this sort of thing now happens several times a year.

As soon as I was back at the pastor's side, he turned on me and said in a sharp voice, "don't EVER do that again, you humiliated that woman, you do that again and you're through here." I "considered" for two seconds, and having already resolved from last year when he did the same thing to me, under a similar circumstance, I looked at him and said "I'm done."

I find it shocking and disgraceful that a priest would not want to put the care of the Eucharist as a paramount concern over someone's possible "humiliation." Either one believes in the Real Presence and acts like it, or one doesn't. If one believes, and is acting as EM or is a priest or deacon for that matter, it is shipshod at best, and I think a sin at worst not to follow through and do the right thing regardless of cost. What is the cost of NOT persuing a person like that? Scandal to the faith for the people who saw someone walk away with the Host and not consume and know that the party that gave it to them didn't seem to care either? Blatent indifference? Not on my watch. I either do the job right, or not at all. We have to ask why so many so-called "Catholics" no longer believe in the Real Presence.

So that's why I "quit" in 2 seconds rather than wait. With my luck some other person would have come up the same day and done the same. I put the ciborium on the Altar. Took the alb off, and put it over my arm. I didn't want people making up tales as to why I did what I did, so I went to the lectern and said "I care what happens to the Eucharist, and I hope you will too." and then I left.

Walked out of the sacristy, to my car, and went to the Sainted Fr. S's house to comisserate. I intend to take this to the bishop. And possibly, to the appropriate dicastery in Rome. I have no idea who served the rest of the Mass.

34 years, and that that was the endpoint. I believe the powers that be will try and make an issue that I announced what I did from the lectern, but I could not leave it as follows:

1) St Tarciscius: Martyred for protecting the Eucharist
2) St. Therese of Lisieux: Finds a morsel of the sacred species in the sacristy, and has the priest summoned while the sisters fall on their knees in adoration.
3) Pastor succeeds in forcing EM to not care about what happens to the Host.

I side with 1 & 2, and reject 3.

I have already sought the advise of another priest in addition to the sainted Fr. S.

I'll keep you posted how it comes out.


Rob said...

I support you 100% and beyond if I could. The priest had already set the stage for your explanation by his public admonishment. Others may disagree, but I think you taught a powerful lesson as to the importance of the Real Presence

DG said...

Sorry to hear of this, GOTO.

I agree with your actions until the point going to the lectern. I think that was uncalled for and inappropriate injection of self to the liturgy, however irreverent the mass already was at that point. Nevertheless, your action is understandable, considering the emotional state you must have been in (putting myself in your shoes).

Whatever humiliation you caused to the, I would have to believe, non-Catholic tourist, Father should have provided you the respect he thought the non-Catholic deserved rather than scolding you during the communion procession.

Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Good for you Karen and THANK YOU for what you did.
I am tired and horrified by priests who disrespect Our Lord like that.
Perhaps the lady you challenged had no idea-in which case she should NOT be receiving; but far worse could have happened or been her plan.
I am sorry you are having to fight like this-but you go girl!

Fr. Erik Richtsteig said...

Congratulations Karen, you were chastised for doing exactly was I require Extraordinary Ministers in my parish to do in those circumstances. Care for the Eucharist comes before EVERYTHING! The pastor is a jackass.

gemoftheocean said...

Fr. Erik (et al) if it were in my power, I'd require every priest, deacon, and EM to sign a statement that they WILL do exactly what I did. Sad to say I'd want to include a deacon or priest in this because they should already be doing that, given their Holy Orders, but some of them obviously aren't on that same page.

Communion in the hand IS a overall which I support, but there's no excuse for not being as vigilant as one can.

I've always thought that if you weren't willing to chase after, [or point out to usher, however a given parish handles] you should do the job, period.

The speaking from the lectern probably shouldn't have been done. But let's just say I was a tad stressed.

gemoftheocean said...

that should be "SHOULDN'T do the job."

Ebeth said...

Wow, Karen. In light of all that is happening in our country, you'd think that the priests would try to steady their flock with continuity, obedience, and total loyalty to Jesus in the Eucharist!!

The lecturn thing was a bit.....much, BUT, you did the right thing in following that lady and insisting she consume the Eucharist.....

Hindsight is 20/20, but I would have asked the priest about his take on the Eucharist's sanctity after Mass....I don't know, I am somewhat of a trouble maker. I push rather than run.

I support you, though, 200% you did good in protecting the Eucharist!!!!


The Woman of the House said...

Great job Karen. Just ignore the nitpickers complaining about the lectern thing. After all, Jesus overthrew tables!!

Anonymous said...

Karen, i commend you for keeping your cool and responding to the priest's erred words to you in a calm and collected manner.

I understand too, why you went over to the lectern and different circumstances i too felt the need to 'set the record straight' in my former parish,in view of the manner in which you were spoken and primarily because of the priest's blatant disregard for my view you did exactly the right thing. Things is also Karen, as a parishioner for over 30 years, the parishioners, i'm sure, know and respect you and will understand why you had to do what you did (the non tourists anyway).

gemoftheocean said...

I still don't feel "right" about the tables. But I've seen too many times where people have outright said the wrong thing regards why X did Y. In 34 years, you've been around the block a few times.

gman59 said...

100% correct thing to do. Finally great to read about someone standing up for what is right. Only wish there was more like you!!!

X said...

This is one reason why I continually refuse invitations to become an EMHC. I am the "Communion Cop" and it would drive me insane to see what you did and not be able to say anything.

Furthermore, in my parish, as I am sure in many others, there are people I know who are living out of wedlock with their partners but still insist on coming up for Communion. I could NEVER EVER give them Communion.

Keep us posted.

Anonymous said...

That priest was wrong. You were right! I once did the same in a Cathedral when the Bishop of Clifton was distributing Holy Communion alongside me. I am truly sorry that the ptiest treated you that way. He should be thorougggly ashamed of himself. He is an ignorant clod! (that is putting it mildly!)
Father Eamonn.

Anonymous said...

PS> Sorry, I do not agree with the lectern bit!

Fr John Abberton said...

I have been a priest for 34 years. I was at seminary when we were asked to vote for Communion in the hand. I have defended it in the past. I now know that it was dishonest and that many people were never asked to vote. In my time as a priest I have had to pick up quite noticeable particles left on the floor by other priests and parishioners. I have seen people do extraordinary things with the host, and I have heard from other places how hosts were left on the seat or stuck underneath it!
My father was a devout Catholic towards the end of his life. He told me (he was ill at the time) that he had a dream. it concerned shrds of glass in the floor of a church which was covered in dirt. People were walking over these shards. he explained to me that when he was a boy at school the image of a shattered mirror was used to teach them about particles of the host (potentially the same image in the smallest as in the largest). he then explained that the dream was about the Blessed Sacrament and how it would be treated in the future.
I am now 100% convinced, after all I have seen and heard (including hosts being taken by Satanists) that Communion in the hand was one of the biggest mistakes made after Vatican 11.

Having said all that, I too applaud your actions. Serious problems now need strong responses. As regards the statement at the Lectern I think it was a mistake but a good one!

Blanscet Hernandez Family said...

You did the right thing. Our EMEs (and our priests and deacons) will chase down anyone not consuming the Host.

I'm so sorry you were treated this way. I will pray for you.

sandy said...

Well done Gem.Your defence of Our Lord is admirable.

Amy said...

Because we have two small kids, we haven't served as EMs for a while, but I'm fairly certain it is our policy that EMs are supposed to pay attention to whether or not those coming up to communion consume the Eucharist immediately, and gently correct them if they do not.

gemoftheocean said...

The irony is that the very week before, the deacon had given a small boy Communion and somewhere between the two of them the Host fell on the floor. Both went to pick it up immediately, and because the boy was shorter he got there first. He started to put it up to his mouth to eat it (as he had turned from the deacon) so the deacon turned his attention to the next person, but the deacon's wife and myself (who were to the deacon's right assisting with the Communion cups) saw the boy hesistate and we both were towards him at once.

We could see he was conflicted eating something that had fallen on the ground, but not knowing quite what to do. He started to conceal it, so I'd gone over to him, bend over and whisphered in his ear "you can't take Jesus home or leave Him in the pew ... give me this one and I'll eat it and you go over to the deacon and get another one." Which is what happened.

Yeah, what would the pastor have done on that one had he been aware? "Sure, go ahead sonny."


Despite having left a message on the diocesan # for the bishop. It's not terrily surprising that almost two days later I've not recieved a response. That or, they are checking the pastor's side of the story then want to contact me. I will be taking a letter to the bishop about it once I get my ducks in a row.

Therese said...


I am joining in here thanking you for standing up for the True Presence. I hope the Bishop gets back in touch with you.

berenike said...


Hang in there :-)

Enbrethiliel said...


Count me as one of those who thinks the lectern made it more about you than about the Eucharist, BUT I do agree you were right to quit.

Rubricarius said...


Good for you!

The priest's attitude was appalling.

The lack of respect for your 34 years of devotion adds to that.

Reading the comments it is good to see the level of support you have.

gemoftheocean said...

Enbreath: It wasn't the first time it happened, unfortunately.

And under stress the same party has also said something not factually correct, that believe he had to have known was false. He said Fr. S. had broken his leg, and I had called Fr. S. before the MAss and at that time he thought it was merely banged up. He used that as a pretext for getting rid of him. I didn't want it to chance it being said of me that I'd had a sudden illness, etc. The people in the front pews certainly heard him chastising me for doing the right thing, and anyone with eyes to see may or may not have figured it out had they been watching.

gemoftheocean said...

That later incident happened Easter 2008. I also have it from the horse's mouth that not once did the pastor afterward call the priest in question to ask how he was doing (as it was he'd popped a steel ball joint out of his him.) There was no "Gold watch" at the end of HIS 32 some years service as our Sunday supply priest. People never got a chance to say good-bye after he'd recouped from a month long stay in the hospital.

So...I had my reasons, hasty and as imperfect as they were. As it was, I think the pastor was quite lucky I'd checked myself last Easter Sunday.

The Digital Hairshirt said...


I support you 100%. The EMs at my parish (and I am one of them) are trained to do what you did (well, except for the lectern part but it would not go there because our priests back us on protection of the Body and Precious Blood).

What did the lady think it was, a souvenir?!?!

HEATHER said...

I came by from DigiHairshirt's site. I am stunned that you were treated so horribly.
After reading through your comments about the way this particular priest pushed out the former priest, I wonder if this new guy is a favorite of the Bishop. Especially since they haven't returned your phone call. You really need to put this in writing to the bishop and send it certified mail with return postcard. And you should take it all the way to the Vatican. The way he admonished you is deplorable.
I will say a prayer for you. This is just a rotten way to be treated!
Keep us posted!

gemoftheocean said...

thanks digi and Heather.

Heather, your guess is 100% correctomundo. The pastor is also a Canon lawyer who has been made to work in the trenches of teh diocesan tribunal for far too long (along with another former pastor.) They had essentially been put in the "burn ward" of teh diocese for decades. Honestly, before the stroke, I don't think he'd have done what he did as regards chastiement like that. AND he served on the personnel board for years - so he basically knows "Where all the bodies are buried" so to speak.

That's why I think I had to call back after almost two whole days. They were PRAYING they didn't hear from me again.

Let me put it this way...when all that Obama at Notre Dame stuff was going on, this particular bishop didn't issue any castigation letters as did many bishops. No "Bruskewitz[sp!]" exactly.

Had they basically contacted me late Monday or even Tuesday and said "we're appalled that happened, we took it up with him and told him not to do it again, admit that you were right, and not tell anyone to NOT stop people like that from walking away and to be vigilant himself" I would have said "okay."

The fact that once I put the ball in their court that they did NOT get back to me as a courtesy to let me know they'd even paid any attention to the complaint us what really gets my dander up.

Kit said...

Karen - still laptopless and so just saw this today. Wow. WOW!!! Not much more I can add but to say you did the right thing, I might well have done the same thing at the lectern, because even though it might seem a bit over the top or done in self-interest, it was probably the only way to get the dunderheads' attention, and maybe - just maybe - a few who had no clue about it up to this point will do the research and come to a new understanding of what they are really doing/seeing/consuming each week. And maybe they'll tell someone else. Maybe you're the mustard seed. :)

So I say it's a job well done.


Joe of St. Thérèse said...

You're right, I agree with you!...Defend Jesus with all your might, the pastor avoid going to the confessional, I won't say what I think...

.The Cellarer said...

When I pursued a pupil who had recieved in the hand, no malice, he was copying the pupil in front of him, I got a "good spot" from the priest. As you should have.

gemoftheocean said...

Cellarer: And that's the way it was for years prior to his coming. EVERY other pastor/priest would have said the same. We all backed each other up.

To my mind he was virtually instructing me to commit a mortal sin. Would the diocese could grasp that simple fact.

If we don't believe in the real Presence, what is the point of being Catholic?

I could join a dart's club for "fellowship." And God knows the Salvation Army is good for the community "do good" stuff.

Kevin said...

100% support here also...

gemoftheocean said...

Thanks, Kevin.

all the support has totally helped.

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