Small particles of the host - why no concern?

Why are people no longer concerned with the possibility of small, visible particles of the Eucharist being ignored or falling onto the floor when communion is received?

Before the introduction of communion in the hand, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the protocol was pretty standard — only the priest touched the host, a paten was held by the altar server between the priest and the communicant, and the host was placed on the tongue. Any particles that might have sloughed off the edge of the host — and it did happen (I was an altar server and I’ve seen it) — fell onto the paten. After everyone had received, the priest carefully scraped the particles from the paten into the chalice, and consumed them. Unless something very unusual happened — a swift breeze blowing them off the paten or, God forbid, the server dropping the paten — there was absolutely no likelihood that these particles would ever be exposed to inadvertent sacrilege.

Today, though, we don’t see anything like this. Outside of the TLM, patens are very rare. They’re just not used anymore. The host is laid on the extended palm of the communicant, and then either eaten out of the hand or, what is more common, picked up by the communicant with the other hand and eaten from the fingers.

Is there no longer a concern that particles could fall off the host when receiving communion? Do people look for these particles, and if they see them, what do they do? Does everyone look, or are there people who really don’t comprehend what they are doing, poorly catechized, don’t understand Eucharistic theology, and don’t realize that these particles — if visible — remain the Body of Christ?


There’s a big difference between the hosts produced ‘back in the day’ and today’s commercially made hosts. They no longer crumble even when broken like traditional hosts and homemade unleavened biscuit.

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It’s still the Body and Blood of Our Lord. Great care must be taken regardless.


Yes of course. Just saying that some old issues have been resolved by manufacturing efficiency.



My opinion.

A lot of people no longer believe in the Real Presence.

Poorly catechized.

The grade of ingredients have improved due to the manufacturing of same plus the way they are made now, results in less easily broken off pieces of the host.

Once communion in the hand was granted by indult, it spread,(ETA and so then became the norm as the documents below show) and imo, because we use the same hand to mouth gesture it is too easy to forget and consume without much thought (simply one possible reason).

Truth About Communion in the Hand While Standing by Fr Richard Heilman Dec 28, 2016

Memoriale Domini, the Instruction on the Manner of Administering Holy Communion - easier to read.
Instruction on the Manner of Distributing Holy Communion Authored By: CDW same document from EWTN


To imagine the Body of Christ trampled over or carelessly swept away is gut-wrenching. Maybe a lot of people haven’t had it put into frank enough terms during their formation to instill a greater level of care or reverence when in comes to this subject, but it is very serious.

“The most insidious diabolical attack consists in trying to extinguish faith in the Eucharist, sowing errors and favouring an unsuitable manner of receiving it." - Cardinal Sarah


I’m quite confused. I think I was taking the OP literally when he referred to ‘small particles of the host’. What are you referring to when you say “To imagine the Body of Christ trampled over or carelessly swept away is gut-wrenching.” Are we meant to literally get down and look for particles when we receive?

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Unless I’m missing something really, really, really big, it’s my understanding that a consecrated host is the Body of Christ, and any “small particle”/Sacred Particle is Him too. A particle fallen to the floor and then stepped on is literally the Body of Christ being stepped on. A particle stuck to your hand and then swept onto your pants is the Body of Christ being swept onto your clothes like dirt or something. You aren’t meant to literally get down on the floor and search for particles every time you receive or stare intently at your hands searching for particles as you walk back to your pew, but I think the argument is that there are Eucharistic practices such as the use of a paten and reception on the tongue, kneeling, etc. that reduce the likelihood of abuse to Sacred Particles.

I don’t think it’s rational to expect that falling or dropped particles or hosts can be altogether avoided, even with patens and such, but there are things that Priests, EMHCs, and communicants can do to reduce the likelihood, and to properly handle it if it were ever to happen.

The Purification

  1. Whenever a fragment of the host adheres to his fingers, especially after the fraction or after the Communion of the faithful, the Priest should wipe his fingers over the paten or, if necessary, wash them. Likewise, he should also gather any fragments that may have fallen outside the paten.

  2. The sacred vessels are purified by the Priest, the Deacon, or an instituted acolyte after Communion or after Mass, in so far as possible at the credence table. The purification of the chalice is done with water alone or with wine and water, which is then consumed by whoever does the purification. The paten is wiped clean as usual with the purificator.
    Care is to be taken that whatever may remain of the Blood of Christ after the distribution of Communion is consumed immediately and completely at the altar.

  3. If a host or any particle should fall, it is to be picked up reverently; and if any of the Precious Blood is spilled, the area where the spill occurred should be washed with water, and this water should then be poured into the sacrarium in the sacristy.


Well, the OP should have mentioned that this was about the failings of the ‘novus ordo’ instead of an issue with ‘small particles of the host’. Heavens above, had I known the true intent I wouldn’t have even participated int he first place.


I don’t know - I go to a Novus Ordo parish that uses a paten. I’m not sure an assault on that form of the Mass was the intent, though I won’t speak for the OP.


I haven’t noticed visible pieces when I’ve received in the hand, but it may have happened, and there are no doubt microscopic particles. I am not concerned about this to the extent that I will only ever receive on the tongue or not at all. When I receive in the hand, I consume the Host, fold my hands in prayer, and leave the rest to providence.

If I saw a visible piece fall onto the floor (or if I dropped it) I would pick it up and tell the priest (or EMHC, or at least an usher).


Aside from noting that patens are used at the TLM, I did not say anything about one rite of Mass versus another. Patens and communion on the tongue only were the norm from the introduction of the Novus Ordo/OF in 1969 up until around 1980. And I may be wrong in saying so, but I believe if a communicant at the TLM/EF were to hold out their hand to receive, the priest could not refuse to do it. I’ve never seen it happen, but that’s not to say it couldn’t. So this isn’t a TLM/EF versus Novus Ordo/OF thing.

Small particles of the host, if they retain the visible appearance of bread (as crumbs do, even small ones), ARE the Body of Christ. And no, we are not to look for particles on the floor — that wouldn’t be possible.

As a practical matter, I receive on the tongue, and the priest usually holds the tray containing the hosts close enough to my face that it acts as a paten of sorts. My parish is very liturgically conservative and lay ministers of the host are used sparingly, if at all. I would say that reception of communion is about 2/3 receiving in the hand and 1/3 receiving on the tongue. Kneeling is not discouraged. (I cannot kneel unless I have something such as a pew or rail to brace myself on — if I knelt in place, I would have a hard time getting back up. Knee injury from many years ago.)

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I rarely receive on my hands, but when I do I always look for a few seconds afterwards in case there are crumbs. I’ve never found any. I agree with those who say today’s Hosts probably aren’t as crumbly. Still, I’ve been to churches with VERY crumbly Hosts and I can’t imagine how often crumbs must fall. I wish priests wouldn’t use whatever type of Hosts those are… or at least not break them in half for people! :pensive:

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It’s my understanding he could, as it comes under the rubrics of the 1962 Mass, and Communion was received kneeling and on the tongue.

Of course if physical disability prevents one from kneeling, that is fine, but communion is still on the tongue.

ETA - obviously instructing the communicant that they are to receive on the tongue.

When my parish first started offering the EF Mass, this was restated at the end of the Homily, &/or in the newsletter etc. I think most newcomers tended to follow what everyone else was doing anyway.

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Is there really such a thing as inadvertent sacrilege?


Have to disagree with you there. I’ve gone back to receiving on the tongue because the amount of hosts that break up in my hand.

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Here in Ireland, the only mass I’ve ever been to is the OF/NO (Latin Mass is rarer than hen’s teeth). The only (and last time) I saw the patten used I was 7/8yrs old in Baldoyle church, Dublin (also kneeled at railing to receive communion).

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Have you thought of raising this with the sacristan or parish council or clergy? If it’s that bad, they really should be alerted and the supplier of the altar breads changed. In our parish, the altar breads have sealed edges. I have never know one to break up in my hand. I am sacristan, and there are occasionally dust-size particles in the plastic bags the breads are delivered in, but that’s not surprising. But breaking up in the hand? Never.

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