Q. Recently, I took my 4-year-old grandson to Mass. Above the altar, we have a very large crucifix and I noticed that, while looking at it, the boy was visibly shaken and quite upset. How does one explain Jesus on the cross to a 4-year-old? (Davenport, Iowa)
A. Recognizing that I know precious little about child pedagogy, I will nevertheless venture an answer. First, there is no way to prevent children from seeing a crucifix and asking their elders about it.
Many years ago, our seminary class was studying sign language so we could transmit the Scriptures to the hearing-impaired. I recall very little from that time, but what I do remember is that the sign for “Jesus” was to point to the center of both palms. So ingrained in our consciousness is the suffering of Christ that his nail prints identify him.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal stipulates, in No. 308, that on the altar of every church, or near it, there should be a cross with the figure of Christ crucified, clearly visible to the congregation.
I do take your concern as a helpful caution against display or descriptions that are overly graphic. In explaining the passion of Christ to your grandson, there is no need to highlight the nails, the scourging, the crown of thorns.
I think that I would say something like this: Many years ago, they used to punish people who had done something very wrong by hanging them on a cross. Jesus didn’t do anything wrong at all. In fact, he was the nicest and the kindest man there ever was.
But other people have done many wrong things, and Jesus still loves them. So he told his father that he wanted to offer his own life to make up for those other people, so that they could one day be with him in heaven. Jesus suffered a lot that Good Friday, and he died because he loved all of us so much. But the nice thing is that three days later, his father brought him back to life again. He saw his friends and his mother some more after that, and now he is very happy and lives in heaven.
That would be my approach, but you’re a parent and I am not, and, without a doubt, you can do better.
Q. I would like to take holy Communion more often from the chalice, but I am concerned about contracting someone else’s illness.
Has anyone ever studied how “clean” the cup really is after a quick swipe from the cloth? Has anyone been able to document whether illness could be transmitted even to a whole congregation in this way? And lastly, has the church ever considered using small single-serving plastic cups, as some Protestant churches do? (Newport News, Va.)
A. In 1998, the American Journal of Infection Control tried to answer this question along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saying that “a theoretic risk of transmitting infectious diseases by using a common communion cup exists, but that risk is so small that it is undetectable.” Further, the statement explained, “…a recent study of 681 persons found that people who receive communion as often as daily are not at higher risk of infection compared with persons who do not receive communion or persons who do not attend Christian church services at all.”
However, during a particularly virulent outbreak of influenza (most notably in early 2013) some Catholic dioceses recommended that Communion from the chalice (and even the handshake of peace) be temporarily suspended.
Some dioceses recommend that eucharistic ministers regularly use hand sanitizers before distributing Communion and that the faithful should not receive from the chalice if they are feeling ill.
As to the manner of receiving, some Protestant denominations (especially, evangelical ones) do, indeed, use individual plastic disposable cups. While larger Catholic congregations may need six or eight metal or glass vessels on Sundays for the consecrated wine, the use of individual containers is believed to stray too far from the Last Supper ideal of the sharing by Christ’s disciples in the one cup.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at email@example.com and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: God is on side of abused and violated, pope will say on Good Friday
NEXT: Easter should last all week, including in your Bible reading, pope says
The wine in the chalice is the true blood of Christ. Real Presence. It is unimaginable to me to put Him in a plastic disposable cup. (A cup to which the blood would cling, each cup having to be properly cleaned).
From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
According to the existing law of the Church the chalice, or at least the cup of it, must be made either of gold or of silver, and in the latter case the bowl must be gilt on the inside. … Before the chalice and paten are used in the Sacrifice of the Mass they require consecration. This rite is carried out… involving the use of holy chrism. The consecration must be performed by a bishop (or in the case of chalices intended for monastic use, by an abbot possessing the privilege), and a bishop cannot in an ordinary way delegate any priest to perform this function in his place.