Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
During this year’s flu season, Bishop Caggiano asked all pastors of the Diocese to carefully reflect and consider suspending the distribution of the Precious Blood at Mass. Out of an abundance of caution for health, we opted to suspend the distribution of the Precious Blood, with the intention of undertaking a serious reflection on the Church’s norms regarding distribution of Holy Communion under both species. I shared those norms with you in a series of bulletin columns, and Fr. Tim and I have spent time in conversation and prayerful reflection together about this subject.
While the common practice in the first centuries of the Church was to distribute communion under the species of both bread and wine, as it is today in the Eastern rites of the Church (N.B.: Holy communion under both species in the Eastern Rites is administered to the recipient from the priest by way of a spoon.), by the year 1499, the distribution of holy communion under one kind had become the norm. The Council of Trent taught, following St. Thomas Aquinas, that the whole Christ is received under either species, thus it was sufficient to receive the host alone. This remained the practice of the Church for centuries. The Second Vatican Council suggested both species could be distributed at Mass on certain occasions, to be further defined and regulated by national bishops’ conferences. In the United States, the 2002 Instruction from the USCCB entitled Norms for the Celebration and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America states that Communion under both species may be given, as both species is “a clearer form of the sacramental sign” (14), but care must be taken that there is no danger of profanation of the sacrament or that the rite would be too unwieldy to carry out (24). The norms remind us that the Church envisions limited circumstances in which to distribute Communion under both kinds: to priests unable to celebrate or concelebrate, to the deacon and others with a role at the Mass, or to members of a religious community at their community Mass, those participating in a retreat or other major pastoral gathering (23).
We must remember that receiving Holy Communion under both kinds does not impart more grace than when we receive one kind alone. Jesus is present, whole and entire, under either kind. The Sacrament cannot possibly be “mutilated.” We should be careful not to think that Holy Communion under one kind alone is in any way deficient.
After much prayer and careful consideration, Fr. Tim and I have decided to continue our current practice of distributing Holy Communion under one species at most Masses. We believe this decision to be in keeping with the vision the Church gives us in her liturgical documents. We will reserve the distribution of the Precious Blood for Holy Thursday, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, and the Holy Days of Obligation that occur throughout the year. For anyone who has a dietary restriction making it impossible to consume the host, we ask that you inform us directly so that arrangements can be made for you to receive Holy Communion in a way that protects your health. We appreciate your understanding during this time and invite you to ask any questions that you might have.