Sharing the Communion cup

Question: I know that in some Protestant churches, individual Communion cups are used for the congregation. Would this not be a good idea for the Catholic Church? It would cut back on the amount of disease spread by many people drinking from same cup. 

— Allen Eberle, Hague, N.D.

Answer: Central to the practice of giving Communion to the congregation under both species is the idea of the one bread and the one cup shared by all. In the eucharistic sacrament, we commune not only with Christ, but with each other. It is not feasible to use only one cup in the celebration of Mass with both species; thus most parishes use a number of cups — up to eight, I surmise, for the average-size Sunday congregation. 

Using individual cups for the whole congregation would compromise even more the ideal of one cup. The Catholic sense of worship is more communal than Protestant worship — in which there is more an emphasis on the individual — thus the symbolism of everyone having his or her own cup breaks down the corporate Catholic ethos of worship. 

One of the myths concerning the common cup is that it readily spreads infection. But studies performed for the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy have shown that the use of the common cup is not a significant danger to public health. The danger of contracting illness comes more from the fact that many people breathe the same air in the enclosed space of a church and from the physical contact made through the Sign of Peace. Going to church at all is the biggest danger to public health. 

New version of Psalms 

Question: I read that the Holy See has given final approval for a new translation of the Psalms and that these will be used in all future versions of the liturgy in the United States Is this part of the changes that will be introduced in Advent 2011? Does this mean that I will have to purchase a new copy of the Liturgy of the Hours? 

— Lenny Domyan, Kanab, Utah

Answer: It is true that a new translation of the Psalms has been approved by the Holy See for use in the United States. The new translation will be incorporated into the Mass, the sacraments and the Liturgy of the Hours in the future. However, I think this will not occur for a number of years, since liturgical change moves slowly. Even if you were to continue using the present edition of the Liturgy of the Hours after a new one appeared, you would still be giving true and authentic worship to God. (Clergy would be obliged to use the new version, but laity would not — as they are not in any case bound to recite the Liturgy of the Hours.) 

People’s Mass book 

Question: When the new Mass is promulgated later this year, will people need to have their individual Mass books (missals) to follow along? 

— Name and address withheld

Answer: First of all, no new Mass is being promulgated. What will change are the translations of the Mass prayers. People will need their individual Mass books no more than they do now. To assist people with the new translations of prayers recited in common, I expect that parishes will provide people with handy leaflets — which should become obsolete as the familiarization process is completed. 

Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to mfmannion@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.