Jan 1, 1994

Pastor scatters Sacred Host

Online Edition

Vol. VI, No. 6-7: September/October 2000

Pastor scatters Sacred Host

by Helen Hull Hitchcock

Celebrating the successful raising of more than $5 million towards building "a new plant" and acquisition of land for the purpose, the pastor of Saint Jerome’s parish in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, Father John Yockey, published the following announcement in his August 6th parish bulletin:

"We truly ‘christened’ our new property this past June 25th when we carried the Blessed Sacrament in procession there. As I broke up particles of the Sacred Host and scattered them over our 37 acres, I thanked the Lord…"

The announcement ­ published on the St. Jerome’s web site, www.stjerome.org, and also released to the local media (Oconomowoc is a suburb of Milwaukee) ­ said that the parish will begin drawing up plans for "our future parish building" this fall.

"We intend to have a broad consultation with the members of our community at every step of the way so that our new church, school and parish center will carry on our noble tradition and also represtent our shared consensus for the future", it said.

Can it be possible that any priest does not know why tearing the Body of Christ into pieces and scattering them on the ground is a sacrilege? Did he think that he was simply making bread crumbs from a "symbol" of Christ’s presence, and that tossing the bread crumbs on the ground gave it a symbolic blessing?

What does he intend to do when he consecrates the Host at Mass? What does he — or his parishioners — think happens?

Evidently the pastor did not realize his action is a a serious sacrilege against the sacred species. But his remarkable action does seem to show the stunning ignorance of many Catholics today about the meaning of the Consecration, about the nature of the Blessed Sacrament, and about what, precisely, the Church means by "transubstantiation" and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

It is said that one of the reasons for introducing Holy Communion on the tongue instead of in the hand during the Middle Ages is that it would help to avoid sacrilege. Superstitious peasants would retain the consecrated Hosts as magic talismans, would touch them to wounds, or to sick people or animals — or would break them into pieces and scatter the pieces on the fields to assure a good crop.



Helen Hull Hitchcock

Helen Hull Hitchcock (1939-2014) was editor of the <em>Adoremus Bulletin</em>, which she co-founded. She was also the founding director of Women for Faith & Family and editor of its quarterly journal, Voices. She published many articles and essays in a wide range of Catholic journals, and authored and edited <em>The Politics of Prayer: Feminist Language and the Worship of God</em> (Ignatius Press 1992), a collection of essays on issues involved in translation. She contributed essays to several books, including <em>Spiritual Journeys</em>, a book of “conversion stories” (Daughters of St. Paul). Helen lectured in the US and abroad, and appeared frequently on radio and television, representing Catholic teaching on issues affecting Catholic women, families, and Catholic faith and worship.