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Strange Catholic Rituals

Updated on June 2, 2017
Administering The Holy Eucharist
Administering The Holy Eucharist | Source
Holy Water
Holy Water | Source
The Sign of Peace
The Sign of Peace | Source
The Holy Eucharist (Communion)
The Holy Eucharist (Communion) | Source
The Holy Eucharist (Communion)
The Holy Eucharist (Communion) | Source

Growing Up Catholic

Are you Catholic or do you know someone who is Catholic? If you have ever attended mass at Catholic Church, you might be familiar with some of the important and holy rituals which take place during a Catholic mass. Some of these rituals include:

  • Dipping Your Hand Holy Water
  • Shaking Hands/The Sign of Peace
  • The Holy Eucharist (Communion)
  • Drinking/Sharing Wine
  • Holy Water Sprinkling on Parishioners

Attending Catholic school enforces many rules and regulations in young students, one being, to follow instructions and do what you are told, especially during mass in the Catholic Church.

Growing up Catholic, I never thought twice about how these rituals literally have no germ control!

There have been plenty of articles written on this subject. Some argue that the spread of germs is not increased by attending church and participating in these rituals. Others say to use caution, especially around flu season.

As a child, I don’t recall this ever crossing my mind. As children, I don’t think it’s something we necessarily think about. However, as an adult, it’s something to think about. I can’t help but wonder why it seems that these rituals continue, without regard to spreading, colds, germs and flu.

Some cases are worse than others. For example, the worse example of spreading germs that I have witnessed was about 5 or so years ago, when attending mass at my local Catholic Church. It was towards the end of the mass when the priest prepares the Holy Eucharist, or Communion, to give out (using his hands) to each parishoner who goes up to the altar to receive Communion. While handling the Communion wafers with his bare hands, the priest paused for a moment, took out a tissue and blew his nose. He then returned to the dish of Communion wafers, which he separated into different plates for each Eucharistic minister to administer to church goers. Needless to say, I did not choose to receive Communion that day!

Church Rituals and Practices With Little or No Germ Control

Dipping Your Hand Holy Water – When entering a church, there is usually holy water available which you can dip your hand in and then make the sign of the cross, touching your forehead.

The Holy Eucharist (Communion) – To prepare for the Holy Eucharist, the Priest and sometimes a secondary priest or deacon, removes the Communion wafers from the sacristy. The Priest, Deacon and Eucharistic ministers then administer communion to Parishioners, on the tongue, or in their left hand. If a Parishioner chooses to accept the communion in their left hand, he or she would then normally use their right hand to play the communion on their tongue.

Drinking/Sharing Wine – A chalice with water and wine is shared between Eucharistic ministers and in some cases, parishioners. The priest who shares the chalice typically wipes the edge of the chalice with a white cloth before passing it to the next person.

Holy Water Sprinkled on Parishioners – A religious item called an aspergillum (pictured below), is used to sprinkle water over the heads of church goers.

Aspergillum Showing Sponge Inside
Aspergillum Showing Sponge Inside | Source

Hand Sanitizing?

Do you think hand sanitizers should he installed in churches?

See results
Hand Sanitizer
Hand Sanitizer | Source

Will Catholic Rituals Stay the Same?

For the most part, most of the rituals of the Catholic Church have remained unchanged. However, some Catholic Church verbiage recited at mass was changed in recent past.

In 2011, there were liturgical changes in the responses and language of the Mass. For example, when the priest says “The Lord be with you”, instead of saying “And also with you”, Catholics will now reply by saying “And with your Spirit”.

These changes caused a bit of confusion during Mass. A small booklet was made available to help Parishioners be aware of the liturgical changes.

Ceremonies, and rituals, however, have remained the same. In my opinion, they will probably always remain the same.

To help reduce the spread of germs during these practices, do you think hand sanitizers should be installed in churches?

Water and Wine Chalices
Water and Wine Chalices | Source

Tim Hawkins on Hand Sanitizer

Strict Rules Enforced by The Catholic Church

Personally, it's hard to say if hand sanitizers and other precautions will ever be "allowed" in Catholic Churches. I say this because growing up Catholic, I always remember the strict rules which were enforced, not only in the Catholic Church, but also in Catholic Schools.

Does the movie, Heaven Help Us, ring a bell? In this 1985 drama/comedy, starring Andrew McCarthy, Mary Stuart Masterson, Kevin Dillon, Patrick Demsey and Donald Sutherland. Students attend St. Basil’s, a strict all-boys academy, and they experience more than a lecture when they don’t follow rules. Instead, the punishments are pretty severe. The headmaster is played by Donald Sutherland.

Below is a scene from the movie.

Advance to around 3:10 and see how a clicker is used to control when the students sit and stand.

At 4:25, Dunn, played by Anthony McCarthy, is intimidated and integrated by the headmaster, played by Donald Sutherland.

Heaven Help Us

Catholic School Memories

Although the movie, Heaven Help Us, is a comedy/drama, there are scenes in the movie that are a little hard to watch. Like me, if you attended Catholic school as a child, you may have witnessed or even experienced some of the embarrassing and sometimes cruel punishments imposed back then. I remember the following:

  • Someone was chewing gum, and then had to place the gum on his forehead and stand in the back of the room for the remainder of the class
  • A boy misbehaved and then was placed/seated in a trash can
  • Some students were talking and we were all punished and had to kneel on our knees for a designated time period
  • While changing classes, we had to stay in a single line; someone got out of line and then had their hand slapped with a yardstick

If you attended Catholic School as a child, do you have any similar memories?

Not all my memories are bad ones. Catholic School taught me the importantance of obedience and respect. It also instills discipline in helps to creates a strong foundation of faith.

I still have respect for the Catholic religion and have strong faith. However, when certain rituals are performed in the Catholic Church, caution should be used. It is important to always make sure there is some germ control enforced.

What do you think? Please share your experiences and comments below.

Note: This is Hub #6 of 30 of my 30 Hubs in 30 Days Challenge.


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    • easylearningweb profile image

      Amelia Griggs 3 years ago

      Thanks for your insight and comments, Sheila, much appreciated. I'll definitely read further about the Church of Christ as I feel like I have been limiting myself in the Catholic religion.

      I too have some strange and not so good memories as a child in Catholic school. One time I was at the blackboard trying to figure out a math problem as a young child and I didn't know the answer and the nun put her fingers on my head and pressed very hard, and said Think, Think! really loud. How embarrassing!

    • Craan profile image

      Sheila Craan 3 years ago from Florida

      I had my experiences with Catholic School as a child and was slapped by a nun when I asked my cousin a question regarding the eraser in her pencil. It was embarrassing and I was merely in first grade. I have departed from the Catholic faith after I realized it began in AD300 in Rome. I belong to the Church of Christ, the only church Jesus died for and began on that Sunday morning in Jerusalem when He rose from the dead. It has his name stamped on it.