Archdiocese of Louisville parishes may begin using the chalice at Masses the weekend of Corpus Christi, June 10-11. Distributing the Blood of Christ to the congregation was suspended in the archdiocese after the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre announced the change in a letter to priests March 23.
“While COVID-19 remains with us, the time that has passed and the vaccines that have been offered have greatly diminished the impact on most of our population. Transmission rates remain low in our state, and many dioceses have, by this point, returned to the distribution of Communion from the chalice without any significant impact on community health. I think it is time for us to do so also,” he wrote in the letter.
In each parish, it is the pastor’s decision to distribute the Precious Blood; Archbishop Fabre urged them to return to it.
“I strongly encourage all of you to return to the distribution of Communion under both forms, especially on Sundays, and to take advantage of this opportunity to remind the faithful about the precious gift of Jesus that we have been given in the Holy Eucharist,” he wrote.
Between now and the feast of Corpus Christi, the archbishop wrote, parishes will have time to “offer parish leaders and parishioners catechesis on the importance of reception of Holy Communion under both kinds, as well as renewing the faithful’s full understanding of receiving Holy Communion at Mass.”
In the coming weeks, the Office of Worship and the Office of Faith Formation will develop and share catechetical materials, homily suggestions, bulletin inserts and other materials to help prepare staff and parishioners. Parishes can expect to receive materials by late April. Catechesis on the return to the chalice and on holy Communion, in general, will also be provided in The Record with a series of articles beginning in mid to late April and a series of “teaching editorials” each week in June.
“We cannot underestimate how important this (catechesis) is,” said Art Turner, director of the Office of Faith Formation. “If we have the attitude that, ‘Oh, people will pick it up,’ we’re going to fall flat.”
“I strongly encourage all of you to return to the distribution of Communion under both forms, especially on Sundays, and to take advantage of this opportunity to remind the faithful about the precious gift of Jesus that we have been given in the Holy Eucharist.”Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre
He noted that in the past three years, hundreds of adults and children have come into the church or made their First Communion without ever receiving Communion from the chalice.
“In the kid world, three years is a lifetime,” Turner said. His office is preparing catechetical materials for Catholic schools and parish religious education programs, as well as resources for adult formation.
Ultimately, he said, he hopes the catechesis will help Catholics reflect on the Eucharist and what it means in their lives, asking themselves: “Is my relationship with Jesus, is what I do connected to the Eucharist? Is it the source and summit of who I am as a Catholic?”
While returning to the chalice is strongly encouraged, it is not required, noted Dr. Karen Shadle, director of the Office of Worship.
The archbishop’s letter encourages priests to reassure people who are ill, infirm or who have compromised immune systems that “Jesus Christ is truly and wholly present under both species of bread and wine.”
Shadle explained, “The church teaches that Jesus is fully present … in the smallest crumb of bread or the smallest drop of wine. It remains perfectly fine to bypass one.”
But, she said, receiving holy Communion under both species “is a ‘fuller’ sign.”
“The church also teaches it is an important sign of the death and resurrection of Jesus because he gave his body and his blood. It is an important sign to have both,” she said.
The “General Instruction of the Roman Missal” puts it this way, according to the archbishop’s letter: Holy Communion “has a more complete form as a sign when it is received under both kinds. For in this matter of reception, the Eucharistic banquet shines forth.”
For those concerned about health risks associated with the chalice, Shadle said the archdiocese has closely monitored other dioceses that have already returned to the chalice and no outbreaks of disease have been reported as a result.