Drinking after Other People

I’ve got a confession to make — I’m too squeamish to take Communion wine.

My sister, a Communion minister in another parish, regularly drains the cup after everyone has received; doesn’t bother her a bit.

Me? No can do.

In case you didn’t know, Catholics receive Holy Communion under both species, bread and wine. We believe these substances are consecrated by the priest during Mass and transubstantiated (changed) into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ Himself.

I have no problem believing this and welcome Communion as often as possible.

What disturbs me is drinking wine from a communal cup.

Why? I can think of three reasons:

  • Back in the day, Catholics were permitted to receive Communion only under the bread species. Receiving the wine was reserved for special occasions (weddings, for instance), so it never became habitual for me.
  • I don’t like the taste or even the smell of wine — period.
  • My mother was a bacteriologist, someone who studied micro-organisms that cause illness. Growing up, I became a “germ-phobe,” or whatever a person is called when they’re afraid they’re going to “catch something” and get sick. In fact, I can remember as a child using my inner forearms to open the back door to let the dog out so I wouldn’t have to wash up again!

Truly, these reasons aren’t logical. “Habit” is a poor excuse for matters of faith. And I suppose I could develop a taste for a sip of wine, hoping I missed out on the alcoholic genes in my heritage. And God is infinitely powerful, certainly able to overcome a few cold viruses on the Communion cup.

After all, according to a devotional I read this morning, drinking Communion wine signifies our desire to share fully in Christ’s Passion, especially the suffering God isn’t quite ready to take away yet.

But what about those germs?

Sometimes church services sound like they’re held in a hospital ward, with all the hacking and wheezing going on. And I don’t eat or drink after my own family, much less casual acquaintances or strangers!

Thankfully, the Church makes allowances for people like me. Those who are allergic to the bread used in making Communion wafers can take only the wine. And those of us with germ issues can partake of the bread alone. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says even receiving Communion under only one species does not deprive one of the grace needed for salvation.

But wouldn’t it make more sense if we used little paper cups (kind of like the ketchup containers at fast food restaurants)?