Had a kind of unsettling experience at Mass this afternoon. Watched as a middle-aged woman came up to Communion with a little girl who seemed to be close to four years old. The child had the cutest sparkly pink skirt on, it was hard not to notice her. Grandma (I assume) was taking the side aisle, but the child kept motioning toward the center where the priest and an Extraordinary Minister were giving Communion. But when Grandma reached the Communion station on the side aisle and received the Eucharist, she turned and began walking down the center aisle holding the child's hand with one hand, and pinching the Eucharist between the thumb and index finger of the other hand. (Perhaps she had promised the child that she would give her the Eucharist herself when they got back to their pew?)
I popped out of my pew and began walking down the side aisle keeping an eye on Grandma and the Eucharist. Finally one of the "regulars" motioned to the woman that she had to consume the Host then and there. Grandma seemed to demur with a half-smile that almost looked like a smirk. By then I had slipped through a pew and met her at the central aisle, summoning all the "Sister Said" authority at my command. "Swallow it. Now. Don't play with the Eucharist." She did, and then said with truly beautiful humility and grace, "Thank you."
Maybe what looked like a smirk was something more humble; an admission of a mistake? But the "Thank you" was impressively gracious, unlike my nervously gratuitous admonition about what seemed to be her "playful" attitude.
Her behavior was totally inappropriate, but strange things happen a lot at Communion. Once when I was serving as Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, a man wanted me to give him two Hosts, so he could bring one to a person in back who was unable to walk up the aisle. (I promised to go back there myself.) I've seen priests follow people down the aisle under similar circumstances (someone back in the pew had asked them "bring One back for me"). Another time, I found a Host under a pew. And there probably have been many little children who received First Communion at the hands of some well-intentioned relative who was convinced that their child (or grandchild) was preternaturally gifted and should receive First Communion at three and a half. (By the way, should you be the parent or grandparent of a spiritual prodigy, you can present the case to your pastor--there certainly are great precedents--my sister was named after one of them: Little Nell of Holy God--but if you carry the Host down the center aisle in your hand or in your pocket--that has happened, too-- I will be sprinting down the aisle to call you on it.
You have been warned.