In recent weeks, parishioners at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Hastings have approached their pastor, Rev. Jim Perkl, "heartbroken and with tears in their eyes," he says.
The cause of such sadness? The discovery of communion hosts found between the pages of about 30 hymnals in the pews. Catholics believe the communion wafer becomes the actual body of Jesus once it's consecrated during mass.
Although it's unknown whether these wafers were consecrated, the incident has led Perkl and the Twin Cities Archdiocese to wonder: Is the church doing enough to emphasize the sacredness of the host?
"Jesus Christ gives His life--not to be placed within a book--but within our soul," Perkl wrote in a recent parish bulletin.
John Paul Erickson, director of the office of worship for the archdiocese, said his office gets occasional reports of a host or two dropped on the floor. But he's not aware of anything as widespread as St. Elizabeth's.
"This ... brings with it a whole discussion of what are the appropriate forms of reverence for the eucharist, given what we believe as Catholics about the host," Erickson said.
Perkl says he is not certain how the hosts got into the hymnals. But it seems to come down to respect. He's talked with the congregation about respect for the eucharist. And he believes parents shouldn't neglect to bring their children to mass, where they can learn about the host's importance in Catholic life.
"This [incident] is another awareness, too, for us to understand that Sunday worship is part of the Ten Commandments," Perkl said. "[The host] is a good thing in the world."
The communion wafers were disposed of in a special church sink not connected to the sewer system.
Erickson said the incident, no matter how or why it happened, gives the church another opportunity to talk about the proper way to handle a host -- to consume it as soon as it's received. In most circumstances where a host is discarded, Erickson said, "It's not maliciousness. It's simply human frailty."
Rose French • 612-673-4352