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)?

14 thoughts on “Drinking after Other People

  1. Yes, Debbie, I’m with you. That’s what they do in Episcopal services(serve individual cups of wine) There are may who do not partake in the wine Many of us are conscious of those germs and you will find bottles of waterless antibacterial soap near the altar. Also ,people are even getting away from shaking hands during the Sign of Peace. With all these super bugs hanging around, we’ll just have to honor the Eucharist in the best way we can. I think God will understand!

    • Kathy, I’m so thankful you weighed in! As a nurse and a Catholic, you know what I’m talking about — I hate being so creeped-out by stuff like this, but I just can’t bring myself to drink after others. I’d never thought of it that way (“we’ll just have to honor the Eucharist in the best way we can”). What an admirable, non-judgmental summary!

  2. The communal cup is there if someone wants it but it very seldom happens anymore. Most people take individual cups. We do not share “God Peace” during winter months. I usher some and I tell the other ushers to make sure they wash their hands right after service.

    • Thank you — I’m so glad to know I’m not in this alone! I’ve been in parishes where it seems like everybody takes the communal cup, as well as parishes where nobody does. Our parish doesn’t do the handshake of peace during the winter, either. Seems like a prudent move to me!

  3. ok sissy–this is from the Eucharistic Minister down south—read your Catechism—it’s NOT WINE it’s the BLOOD of Christ—doesn’t that sound alittle prideful to say you’re a “germa-phobe?” FAITH–TRUST–LOVE—you may healed of all your issues—assuming there are any—if you trust OUR LORD enough to drink HIS BLOOD. love you!

    • Logically, I know you’re right, Sis, and I truly admire you for your faith and trust! I guess mom had more influence over me than she did you — not surprising, by the way! I’m just glad the Church doesn’t judge me (and others like me) harshly for receiving only the Body of Christ!

  4. I mentioned this post to my Mom (who is staying with me for a few weeks) and she said, “I think God gave us the knowledge to know we should avoid germs.” This from a faithful, lifelong Catholic. I would have to agree!

    • Oh, Lynne, thank your wonderful mom for her words of wisdom! I’ve seen churches where communicants dip the host into the wine, then receive the Body, but that never seemed like much of a compromise to me. Like Kathy said, I don’t think we can be too careful, in this age of “super-bugs”!

  5. I think you should do what ever you are comfortable with but you probably have more of a chance of getting sick by shaking hands with the person next to you and saying peace be with you than you do from communion wine. OK that was not helpful but I’m the person who hates it when the kids don’t finish cokes at a party so I walk around all night just finishing other people’s can’s of coke -on the other hand I am drinking after friends not strangers….wait-is that a good thing? Maybe I should just go back to encouraging you to do what you are comfortable with..

    • Katybeth, you make me laugh — thank you! I can’t see me emptying other people’s drinks or plates — it just wasn’t something I grew up with, nor is it something I feel “called” to do now. That said, there’s probably something to be said about doing so and building up one’s immunity. The good thing is, I have a choice (even if I feel a teeny bit guilty over it!).

  6. I’m with you on this. If the kids ‘share’ my drink, it’s all theirs. I don’t want it anymore. I’ve never been to a church that offered anything other than individual cups, but I can tell you with 100% certainty that I wouldn’t drink from a communcal cup.

  7. The thing you all are missing is this—-in a Protestant Church you are drinking wine. In the Catholic Church we believe the wine is CHANGED INTO the BLOOD of CHRIST. We are NOT drinking wine—we are drinking the BLOOD of Jesus and eating his BODY. We’re not having a cookie or a wafer.
    I don’t drink after other people—I do my very best to stay healthy and follow healthy living habits. This is NOT about germs, yall. this is about Faith.
    If I were Baptist, Methodist, whatever, I wouldn’t understand either —you’re not expected to. It’s the mystery of our Faith. There is healing in the Blood—we all believe that. I’m just sorry that there is any misunderstanding. But the Truth is Scriptural—and we all have a Bible.

    • I understand what you’re saying, Sis, but you’re making it worse, not better. By calling the cup’s contents “blood,” you’re making it sound like Catholics are cannibals, when that’s far from the truth. I never said I’m against drinking the blood of Christ; what I said is I’m opposed to drinking anything after other people. I don’t believe it’s necessary or advisable to put myself in harm’s way to prove I’m a believer. If the Church started offering individual cups of Christ’s blood, I’d be right there, lined up to receive!

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