Some time ago, a Catholic friend and I were talking about the Eucharist after eating dinner one night. He was telling me about how the Eucharist at a church he had gone to for Mass had used bread that was a bit "crumbly" and wasn't being given to younger children who might drop particles of the Host. Why this church was giving out two different kinds of Eucharistic bread, I do not know. However, we then get into discussing the proper reverence for the Eucharist, and I argued how we must make an effort to find any particle that falls to the ground. My wife made a good point when she said to just receive on the tongue. While I agree, this isn't something every Catholic does.
He argued that if the particle was teeny-tiny, we shouldn't waste a lot of time scouring around for the piece of Eucharistic bread. I countered that we should. He then dropped a very small crumb, not much bigger than a grain of salt on the ground, and asked me to find it. I became a little frustrated, and of course couldn't find it. But I reiterated that if we can see the particle, we should pick it up and consume it, and should at least make an effort to find it if we see the Host fall to the ground.
I wasn't admitting it during our exchange, but I later realized my friend had made some good points on the "microscopic" particles of the Eucharist. I think we both were understanding the same thing and were in agreement, however, I was just erring on the side of caution. Really, I can admit, only a couple seconds of looking for a fallen fragment would suffice. If one saw it fall, then it would probably be big enough to pick out on the floor. We both agreed the piece I used as an example, much bigger than the particle my friend dropped, should be picked up. The tiny, tiny particle he had dropped, we can safely say has basically lost its accidents (or appearance) of bread. I did a little searching and found two articles that made sense from his perspective. I was a little off base. An article by a priest named Father Ryan explains things pretty good.
Here's the main part that stuck out to me:
"The Church teaches that the Eucharistic Presence remains 'as long as the Eucharist species subsist'. This means that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, so long as the Eucharist retains the accidental properties of bread and wine. Hence, if a Host is dissolved in water (as is done when the Host has become putrefied, as through vomiting after the reception of Communion), upon being dissolved it is not longer the Eucharist... The same must hold true for those particles which are so small as to be unrecognizable as 'bread'. If the fragment is so small as to appear to be dust or a speck of some other substance, rather than a 'crumb' of bread, it can no longer be the Eucharist. Likewise, those microscopic particles which fall from the Host are not the Eucharist, since they clearly do not retain the appearance of bread."
I also came across another very explanatory article that posted a couple different sources too. This pretty much backed up that Father Ryan's post, especially the bolded and italicized:
After Holy Communion, not only should the remaining Hosts and the particles that have fallen from them that retain the appearance of bread be reverently preserved or consumed, as the reverence due to Christ’s Eucharistic Presence, but even for the other fragments of Hosts the directions for purifying the patens and chalice should be observed as they are found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, De Particulis et fragmentis hostiarum reverenter conservandis vel sumendis, May 2, 1972).
|The Last Supper- Antoni Estruch|
That same article also closed with this, and I think it makes sense after reading this, and goes in line with what you said about God understanding that we did our due diligence in taking care of the Sacred Species, especially the bolded and italicized:
What about the particles of the Eucharist that are too small to be visible to our eyes?As indicated above, the Church teaching says that the broken parts of the Eucharist do contain the whole and entire Presence of Our Lord, but does not specify the smallest size of the fragment of the Eucharist that still retains the Real Presence of the Lord. According to science, the smallest unit of a matter that still retains its property is the molecule. A molecule, however, is too small to be seen by human eyes. Then, it seems theoretically possible that there are very small particles of the Eucharist that are not visible to us but are still valid Eucharist. On the other hand, we need to trust God’s infinite power and wisdom and accept that God will only require us to do our best and do not worry about what is beyond our power. What we are unable to handle, He will. In fact, this is what Fr. H. Noldin and Fr. Albertus Schmitt, both Jesuit theologians before the Second Vatican Council, stated in their book: Summa Theologiae Moralis Iuxta Codicem Iuris Canonici. Their guideline was generally accepted in the Church as correct and appropriate before the Second Vatican Council and should remain the same after the Council.
The problem in our time is not about the Eucharistic fragments that are too small to be seen by our eyes but about the visible fragments and particles that are being handled carelessly as if they did not contain Our Lord’s Full Presence, are being lost or even knowingly disposed of. This is a problem caused by the lack of faith and is a sacrilege. A careful, loving care of the little pieces of the Eucharist, on the other hand, will be an expression of our faith in the truth that Our Lord taught us and of our little-but-genuine love for Our Lord even when He is situated in a lowly and helpless condition. We live in a world where external power and glamour are highly valued, but this is not how God judges us and weighs our works. God is looking for true love that necessarily goes with humility and self-denial. That is why Our Lord often comes to us in a lowly appearance, hiding His divine glory and power. If we despise the small size and lowly appearance of the Eucharist and its fragments, we will not be able to recognize Him, the incarnate God the Son dwelling among us, even if we consider ourselves as friends of His.
The Virgin of the Host- Jean-Auguste-Dominique IngresThe evil of neglecting and mistreating the fragments and particles of the Holy Eucharist seems to have spread all over the world along with the general weakening of the Eucharistic Faith and Devotion. The spiritual and moral debts that we have incurred before God because of our carelessness and coldness toward the Holy Eucharist and other sins must be enormous and rising fast every day. We must urgently spread the truth about this crisis to awaken more people and also pray hard and offer up penance every day to appease the just wrath of God, who has already been too offended but is still holding back the terrifying punishment, because He is anxious not to chastise us but to send down overflowing blessings upon us.
My friend brought up some good points that I hadn't thought about before. We used patens when I was an altar server to catch the Eucharist and any particles, and I still remember reading that if the Eucharist fell on the ground and particles could be seen, a cloth was to be placed over that area and washed (by the priest) after Mass. This still holds true today in the Roman Missal. I just care very deeply for our Lord in the Eucharist, so again, I err on the side of caution always, but we also can't be scrupulous about it. I've known before this exchange that once the appearance of bread is gone, the Real Presence is gone as well, hence the vomit illustration from that first article. If our eye can't see a particle, then it ceases to have the accidents (appearance) of bread. But I think that conclusion in the second article I posted put it nicely; the real problem is "about the visible fragments and particles that are being handled carelessly, as if they did not contain Our Lord’s Full Presence, are being lost or even knowingly disposed of." So I'll roll with that.