A public papal Mass will be held at the close of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on September 27th, 2015. With attendance estimates ranging from the hundreds of thousands to over a million people, there is an urgent need to get the message out about the serious potential for Eucharistic profanation that happens at these large public Masses. We already saw what happened in the Philippines last year. If we don’t spread the word, there’s nothing to stop it — or at least mitigate the damage — this time around.
We ask that you please watch this video, and if you find it worth considering, share it.
Pope Francis is coming to Philadelphia in a little less than a month. During his visit, he will celebrate the public closing Mass for the World Meeting of Families on September 27th outside the Philadelphia Art Museum – a venue that drew an estimated 400,000 people when Pope John Paul II said Mass outside the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul back in 1979.
Event organizers are estimating that number could exceed one million people this time around.
While it’s encouraging to see so many people enthusiastic about a papal visit, it will undoubdtedly present a serious problem: the almost unavoidable profanation of the Eucharist that takes place whenever it is distributed in the hand – especially in large crowds.
The reason this is a problem is not immediately obvious to many Catholics. Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan, has dedicated much of his life to defending Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist. He describes Our Eucharistic Lord as the “most defenseless” being in the entire world. In a recent interview with the Paulus Society, he was asked about his book, Dominus Est: It is the Lord!
[Bishop Schneider Interview Video]
And so it was my intention to also to shout in the Church that bishops and faithful and priests may awaken and recognize that this little, little host during the distribution of Holy Communion is the Lord! The Creator of Heaven and Earth! The Infinite Majesty and Sanctity of God! Hidden in this, this little host.
Unfortunately in the last forty, fifty years, it was spread, a manner to receive and distribute Holy Communion, called, “in the hand,” which really is a cause, an effective cause of the diminishing of the conscience and the faith that it is the Lord. When I can handle the host as in a very similar manner as I can handle a chip and take with my two fingers and put in my mouth — the same gestures as communion in the hand … the most grievous aspect in this manner is that the loss of numerous fragments of the hosts, because they fall down, continuously – no one can deny this. It is a fact. Or they stick on the palms, or the fingers. And then they fall down on earth, and then trampled. Our Lord is trampled by His faithful in numerous churches. And we continue quietly, and no one shouts!
So how serious of a problem is the loss of host fragments? Very serious. Incredibly serious. Far more serious than most recipients of Holy Communion might imagine.
[Video clip demonstrating loss of Eucharistic fragments. No audio.]
In a video produced in 2009, Gabriel Castillo of TrueFaith.tv demonstrated just how easily host fragments are lost. Just a slight drop or normal placement of the host leaves fragments in the hand, or on a hard surface. How many fragments are dropped at each and every Mass when Communion in the Hand is the preferred method of reception?
Compare this to the traditional method of distribution of communion, where the communicant kneels to receive the host from a priest who has only a short distance to transfer the host, and always with the help of a paten to catch errant fragments. In the Church’s traditional liturgy, the priest is also obligated to keep his “canonical digits” together, so as to avoid the loss of any fragments of the host that may be stuck to his fingers. From the moment of the consecration to the purification during the Ablutions, at any moment when the priest is not touching the host, his fingers are kept securely pressed together.
When one considers the fact that even small fragments of a host contain the entire Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, what may at first seem like an overabundance of caution becomes much more sensible. The advent of the contemporary spectacle Mass, however — from World Youth Day to other large papal and diocesan events – creates a context in which Bishop Schneider’s sorrow over the trampling of Our Lord under the feet of the faithful becomes not just a possibility, but a certainty.
[Video of 2014 papal Mass in Manilla. No audio.]
For proof of that fact, look back to the papal Mass in the Philippines in 2014, where so many people presented themselves for communion that it was a logistical impossibility to distribute it to all of them in an orderly fashion. Instead, hosts were passed hand to hand, overhead, through the crowds. How many fragments were lost to be crushed underfoot? How many whole hosts were stepped on in the mud?
At the Philadelphia Mass, the number of hosts being prepared for distribution is so significant that it generated a story on the local news:
[ABC 6 Action News Video on the making of hosts for the Philiadelphia Papal Mass]
Anchor: Well with the pope’s upcoming visit to our area just a month away, many of the Catholic faithful are hard at work in preparation for the big weekend, including members of a Bucks County order of nuns who have the important task of cooking up something spiritual and special for the huge papal Mass on the parkway. Action news reporter Nora Muchanic has the story.
Nora Muchanic (voiceover on video of nuns making communion hosts): The Poor Claires are a small group of cloistered nuns in Langhorn. The sisters have been working hard recently to fill an important order – they’ve been asked to make a hundred thousand communion hosts for the papal masses during Pope Francis’s visit.
While it’s certainly understandable that people want to receive communion at a papal Mass, the risk of unintentional profanation is simply too great to warrant the risk – to say nothing of the theft of consecrated hosts as “souvenirs” or to be used for desecration in Satanic Masses or other purposes.
There is a prudent way to handle the situation at papal Masses: ask the faithful present NOT to receive, but to instead make a spiritual communion.
[Video of Pope Paul VI offering Mass at Yankee Stadium, October, 1965. No audio.]
While there were fewer large public Masses in the era before John Paul II’s papacy, the practice during those years was to limit distribution of communion to a select few. In October of 1965, Pope Paul VI celebrated Mass in a packed Yankee Stadium. When time came to distribute communion, only 12 young children – a symbolic representation of the faithful gathered at the event – were allowed to receive.
When it comes to the Mass in Philadelphia, there’s little we can do to stop this from happening again through official channels.
But we can make a choice. We can refrain. If you’re planning to go to the Papal Mass in Philadelphia, please, I implore you, limit yourself to making a spiritual communion. And if you believe that this is a grievous offense against Our Eucharistic Lord, share this video with your friends and family. Send it to your priest, to your bishop, to Archbishop Chaput, to Rome. Remind them of what is at stake. The vast majority of people do these things not out of malice, but rather out of ignorance.
Bishop Schneider put it in simple, undeniable terms: “Our Lord is trampled by His faithful in numerous Churches, and we continue quietly, and no one shouts!”
Well I’m shouting. Who will shout with me?
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.