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When a Host Isn't Swallowed

ROME, JUNE 13, 2007 (Zenit) - Answered by Legionary Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: How should one dispose of a consecrated host which was placed in the mouth of an ill person who, in the end, was unable to swallow it? -- L.M., Kennesaw, Georgia

Q: In Canada most parishes use several types of missal booklets for either English or French Masses. Once these have expired they are thrown out. The question is, since the majority of people now take Communion in the hand instead of directly by the mouth, particles of the host are bound to become attached to these missals when the communicant returns to their pew. How then should these missals be disposed of? It just doesn't seem right, if they have particles of host on them, to throw them in the garbage. Could you please give us some advice on this problem? -- R.H., Otterburn Park, Quebec

A: A host which has been partially consumed in some way may be disposed of by placing it in water until it has dissolved, and then pouring the water into the sacrarium or into the ground.

If the mishap has occurred outside of a parish -- for example, in a nursing home or hospital with no chapel -- then it should be carefully wrapped in a purificator and brought to the parish for proper disposal.

Some courageous ministers might be willing to consume such a host themselves out of respect, but this is usually not advisable and is unnecessary.

Regarding the second question, I do not think there is really much danger of fragments of hosts remaining on the booklets.

If such were the case, then they would also remain in other places such as the pews, the clothes worn by the faithful and all over the floor. If the Church had considered that there was a serious danger of fragments being deposited in various places as a result of the practice of receiving Communion in the hand, then it would never have contemplated permitting the practice.

This is, of course, presuming that the hosts used are properly produced and not subject to easy fragmentation.

According to traditional Catholic theology, above all, that of St. Thomas Aquinas, a microscopic fragment is no longer an integral part of the host and may therefore be considered as equivalent to a corrupt host in which Christ's presence would no longer subsist.

Therefore, I believe that the booklets may be disposed of without scruple as regards the possibility of the Eucharistic presence. They still contain God's Word, however, and, while strictly speaking they are not sacred objects like the missal or lectionary, many people have scruples about mixing these booklets with the common trash.

While it is not necessary to go to great lengths to dispose of them, if feasible, it may be better to take them directly to an incinerator or paper recycler rather than mixing them with the common garbage.

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