What’s Up with the Cup?

There seems to be what I consider to be a disturbing, albeit minor, trend of  dioceses  eliminating receiving from the Cup during Holy Communion. First, the Diocese of Phoenix and now the Diocese of Madison.

This is an important issue for catechists to stay on top of. For the past quarter of a century or so, many of us have been working very hard to encourage people to receive Holy Communion under both species. Now, we’re being told that receiving from the cup was a “limited time offer” – an indult from the Vatican that expired in 2005. Although bishops still have the authority to include reception of Holy Communion under both species, two bishops have used this opportunity as an excuse to eliminate reception of the cup.

I find their rationale quite flawed especially when they say they are just trying to be in conformity with “the rest of the world” which does not commonly have Communion under both species. If that’s the case, why do we kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer in the U.S. when most of the rest of the world stands? They also talk about spillage being a problem, something I have not witnessed once in 30 years.  Finally, they seem to think that having a number of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion causes confusion about the role of the priest as the ordinary minister of Holy Communion. I don’t know about you, but when I’m receiving Holy Communion from an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, I can usually tell that he or she is not a priest. It seems to me more than anything to be an attempt to emphasize clericalism.

What are your thoughts on the issue?

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. Thanks for bringing this topic up. Personally, I believe that sharing a cup is an easy way to spread colds and flu, and worse.

  2. Oh my you want to open a can of worms don’t you?!!

    My thought, which I voiced in an adult ed class on liturgy in our archdiocese, is that my generation grew up with the cup easily and readily available. I learned with the words of Scripture that we “take and eat, take and drink”…it flows (no pun intented) well. And now I can only “take and eat, and imagine taking and drinking”…does not follow the words being expresssed..it does not flow well. The actions teach in the afore mentioned, the later does nothing to teach. That’s my two cents worth!!
    CRE St Joseph Manchester MO

  3. I think that the Church is heading back to pre-Vatican II era. I hope that I am wrong but it seems that the “Church” wants to take the laity back out of the picture.

    • I totally agree with you. The question becomes do we, the laity, really believe and own the phrase “We are the church’? Will we allow our voice to be distinguished? I think the Spirit is on our side! I lived in the church before Vatican II. I want to live in a post-Vatican II church!

  4. Hi Joe,
    I’m a DRE and also a student in the LIM program at Loyola University in New Orleans. I’m not sure of the reasons for excluding the cup by some dioceses. I’ve heard that some fear the germs.
    In a course on Spirituality for Ministers last semester, we listened to an audio teaching by Sr. Luisa DeRouen, O.P. on the Eucharist. What she said about one of the significances of drinking of the one cup at the Eucharist will stay with me forever! When we drink of the cup we are drinking in all of the joy, pain, sorrow, and grief of everyone we are in communion with and we also bring forth our own. This past Sunday I was sitting in the second pew. As I knelt and watched the people go past me I was so overwhelmed. At least 10 out of the first 15 or so people had suffered greatly recently due to the death of a loved one or illness. I could identify so closely with their pain at that moment. I wonder if these bishops have considered this aspect of communion?
    Additionally, we are studying how our symbols need to include our bodily presence. For me, this is most important. Blessings,Wendy

    • I love that teaching. If it is in scripture that we are “take and eat (chew) and take and drink” than that is what we should do. I tend to agree with statement about clericalism being what is happening in those 2 dioceses. Drinking of the one cup really expresses being one with Christ through His Body the Church….And that teaching by Sr. Louisa DeRoen, O.P. on the significance on drinking the cup is what I love.

    • Great insight Wendy! Yay to Sr. Louisa. Kudos to the LIM program. I earned my degree from LIM-EX 20 years ago. I can not express how valuable that experience was! I agree with Joe, this sudden trend seems to be an attempt of clericalism. When will they learn that the Church is made up of ALL God’s people and that ALL the baptized were baptized and anointed into the Church as PRIEST, prophet and king? Thanks for bringing this issue to the forefront.

  5. Our priest mentioned this during his Homily on Sunday. I consider receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus as part of the nourishment needed to “make it” as a Christian until I can receive again. I can’t imagine having that taken away!

  6. I would encourage you to read Fr. Z’s recent posts on this subject: http://wdtprs.com/blog/2011/10/diocese-of-madison-wi-to-stop-regular-holy-communion-under-both-kinds-the-indult-ran-out-in-2005/.

    My knee jerk reaction was negative because I do receive from the Precious Cup whenever I can. However, as an EMHC, I watch as over 50% of the congregation walks past me without even a nod or any acknowledgement of our Lord present before them. If over half the congregation won’t receive due to fears of germs or taste or whatever else, it makes me feel like we are disrespecting Our Lord. And I have seen spills in different churches. I have also seen leftover Precious Blood poured down sinks or stored in a big carafe in the back of the church. Oh the things I have seen…

    The important thing I learned is that communion under both species is a recent occurrence. It is true that in all the churches in Europe we visited, the Precious Blood was never offered to the congregation.

    If you feel like the major overall reason to limit the distribution of communion under both species is clericalism, then I am saddened. Maybe this isn’t a site I need to follow anymore… I tend to give our bishops the benefit of the doubt that they have good reason to make major chances the least of which are to elevate the clergy above the faithful in the pews..

  7. Ditto on everything you said !!!!! The words of the consecration clearly say “Take this, all of you, and drink from it…” Rome sometimes forgets about the guy/gal in the pew !!!!!! Clearly clericalism….elitism…or whatever you want to call it…..It’s just not right!!!!

  8. Thanks for bringing up this topic. More disturbing to me was my initial hesitancy to join in because I fear being “found out” as an educated, lay Catholic woman who questions the bishops on occasion – this being one of them – because it does seem like clericalism to me. I recently had the opportunity to listen to a recording of C.S.Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” with my currently unchurched daughter. One entry that impressed me (and this won’t be a quote since I don’t have a copy in front of me) was that if Christian Charity were real, the liberals in the church would bend over backwards to observe all the forms so as not to scandalize the conservatives and the conservatives would out-do themselves in openness so as not to scandalize the liberals. Would that that were true – maybe my currently unchurched daughter could see the beauty of the faith again.

  9. I agree with you, Joe. Jesus Christ said take and eat and take and drink which I view as an incredible gift that God has given us. As a EMHC I do see people that do not acknowledge the blood of Christ but it seems to me that is a lack of instruction which needs to be addressed- not just done away with.

  10. My response might be considered a subset of having the cup available at every mass. I have been praying about whether to continue as an EMHC in my parish. I’ve found more than a few Catholics say they deeply resent EMHC’s, particularly females, who they say have no right to be on the altar, handle the chalice, or distribute the Precious Blood. When asked by my parish priest to serve as an EMHC, I thought I was helping, but now I’m questioning whether I am actually doing harm. Women decidedly outnumber men in my parish, so most EMHC’s are female.

    It seems to me that if the priest and deacon distributed only the single specie, there would be no need for EMHC’s (at least in my small parish). I think both the EMHC and female altar server issues may play a larger role in these decisions to return to distribution of the host alone than is indicated. Whichever decision my bishop makes I am with him 100%.

    I am trying to prayerfully discern what is reverent and proper, and appreciate your discussion here.

  11. Look at the direction that the Church is heading in areas such as RCIA, and changes to the Roman missal. The direction is to revert back to the original intention of the early church, to try to instill or reflect the presence of the Holy Spirit in the actions we take, and the Rites we proclaim. Eucharist is the center of our faith. It seems to me that it should be the one thing that is held most Sacred by the Church, and changed as little as possible from the original intent, which was both species. It feels like it is made common or less important if each diocese can choose their own practice, for what EVER reason they give for doing it.

  12. My son is studying in Thessaloniki Greece. He found one Roman Catholic Church and went to Mass there last weekend. He said that communion was on the tongue only and that the priest had a vessel with the hosts that had a bowl in the middle. He dipped the host in the wine and then placed in on the communicant’s tongue.
    When people talk about universality in practice I wonder how much universality we have presently or can have globally. The cultural context makes a difference in how liturgy is celebrated. When I hear the argument that we have to do it this way to be in conformity with the rest of the world, I question the validity of the argument. Where are the facts about how Catholics celebrate globally?

  13. Can the priest do intinction? (Mary C’s comment)

    I hope they don’t get rid of the chalice. For people with Celiac, if they go to a new Church the chalice is the only thing they can often have. (I know some people are even super sensitive and can’t do that). Many Churches won’t allow low gluten hosts. And if you are visiting a Church it’s quite awkward to say to a priest, I’m visiting, I want Communion, you don’t know me… will you consecrate my host? Often times, the bishops have to give special permission for the consecration of gluten free hosts. So this would be sad and excluding for the 1% of the population who has Celiac Disease.

    As a DRE, I hear most people don’t drink from the chalice because of germs. If that is the reason, maybe the bishops should be creative and find a germ free way. I understand the little cups don’t show unity.

    Joe… I like your comment about Jesus with the Apostles. It probably was messy. Life is messy. Talk to any family, and life is chaotic and messy! If we are going back to the early Church, let’s imagine how Jesus celebrated with His Apostles.

    I’d hate to see us go back to a Church that is so sterile and no one knows how to make integrate it to their life. What’s important is on the inside of us between us and God.

  14. I for one am grateful that this indult is coming to an end.

    I think if a desire to receive His Precious Blood is heartfelt, and I think for anyone who truly believes in the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist the desire is there, then what would be the problem of receiving by intinction, on the tong while kneeling? When Christ said take and eat, take and drink, he was addressing his Apostles, not all of his disciples. In john 6 he did instruct all disciples to drink and eat. He did not, however give specific instructions on the mechanics of that activity, He left it to the Church, the pillar and ground of truth, to make those decisions. Besides, if St. John the Baptist felt unworthy to loosen the straps of Christ saddles, how can I, poor sinner that I am, receive Him as if popping a breath mint into my mouth. I know all of you have seen the caviler attitude some take while receiving in either species. This is the result of a general failure of catechecisis; both by the Church and by our own neglect. Maybe this is just another step back from the the misguided implementation of the principles of the Second Vatican Council we have been suffering under and a step towards the proper implementation of the excellent teachings of that council.

    I will also be grateful when the the ongoing issue of confusing our young people on the roles each gender is called to fulfill with in the church via the practice of having girl alter servers is ended.

  15. With all this talk of going back to pre-Vatican II because John Paul II and now Benedict are demolitioning its implementation (i.e. they don’t understand what Vatican II was about). Well who do you think has a better understanding of what the Vatican Council’s documents meant? The person who helped write them or people who just read and studied them? John Paul II attended and helped write the documents of Vatican Council II. He was seen as one of the Council’s great theological minds. If anyone had a good grasp on what these documents meant I think one of her authors would. I’ll peacefully follow the lead of the Vatican for I believe that the one who made the promise is worthy of my trust. The one who made the promise “Jesus Christ”. The promise “I will be with you until the end of the age.” If you believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of Christ that the Spirit will guide the Church in all truth, THAN THE ONLY RESPONSE IS TO SAY AMEN! SO BE IT!

  16. It’s the Body and Blood of Our Lord. It heals you. It doesn’t make you sick. It’s also sad that the Cup is not acknowledged if not taken. It’s sad to watch the parishioners walk to the heavely feast without reverence, like it’s a movie line or such. Much of this is lack of formation. I work on it and pray for it every day.

  17. I find this to be upsetting. It is in my estimation another example of “Power” I really believe that we are going backwards and I don’t know if I want to march to that drunmmer. Scripture tells us that Jesus said,”take and eat and take and drink” what is so hard to understand about that.We will take the cup away, but we are going full speed ahead on bring married priest to the church through the Angelican Church, but that is OK, I guess. I think this is just another way to try and give lay people less and less respnsibility.Especially lay women.

  18. God be with you Joan!

    You make a good point, but not the point I think you were trying to make. I think one of the ongoing problems reveled by this controversy is our understanding of what the Mass is and what participation means. The Mass at its core is worship of God in the greatest sense as it involves meditation on His word and the once and for all perfect sacrifice made present on the altar. Our real role is to participate fully not by doing but by being, by fully immersing our selves in meditation and adoration, to be enveloped and inundated by His grace. The Mass is for us but not about us.

    The notion of the importance of having an roll to play as a EMHC, cantor, server or usher, etc. gives me a creeping sense of clericalism. As if we lose something of value in the Mass if we’re not doing something in proximity to the altar.

    Also, remember, sometimes Our Lord tests our obedience. Many of us who prefer the extraordinary form of the Mass have obediently attended the ordinary form for many, many years. At some point we all have to say “Lord, I’m not sure why you’re allowing this but Thy will, not mine be done.

    God Bless! and stay firm in the faith handed from Christ to his Apostles then preserved by His Church.

  19. I wrote about this very topic, addressing why many Catholics do not partake of the Precious Blood, in 2006 published in New Blackfriars Volume 88, Issue 1015, pages 313–321, May 2007. I’ve posted on our parish website the full text of the article, Blood, Sex, and the Eucharist: A Discourse Analysis on the Reception of the Precious Blood The basic argument is that blood, all blood, not just sacramental Precious Blood, has lost its power as a positive signifier while bodies, including sacramental bodies, have been subjected to the sexualization of identity. Echoing Wendy’s comments it is in fostering compassion, suffering together, that we need to direct our efforts in liturgical catechesis–not removing the sacramental vehicle that can teach us compassion through self-sacrifice.

  20. I think this is part of a movement which thinks that what is atavistic (note, not ‘traditional’) is what is more authentic and praiseworthy. They are acting as if Vatican II was a mistake and it is necessary to restore to the liturgy all the faults, failings, limitations and excesses which Sacrosanctum Concilium perceived to be in need of reform. Another example is making vestments and altar furnishings ugly and cluttered rather than with a ‘noble simplicity’.

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