How to receive Communion on the tongue (or “Don’t bite the priest!”)

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

I was alerted by a reader to a post by Fr. Mark Mossa, SJ, in Cambridge, MA.

Father wrote, with my emphases and comments.

I wrote a post a while back in which I spoke about some of the challenges involved in distributing communion. And lately I’ve been noticing that more and more people are choosing to receive communion on the tongue rather than in the hands. After almost a year as a priest, I’ve just about got the technique down for giving communion on the tongue without too much worry of "flying host incidents," which I also wrote about before. But now there is another challenge–people who receive communion neither in the hand nor on the tongue, but between the teeth! At a recent mass, I almost lost my finger a couple of times! I’m thinking that since more people are choosing not to receive in the hand any more, it might be a good time to offer some catechesis as to how to receive on the tongue. I know that since as a child I learned how to receive communion on the tongue only shortly before communion in the hand became more common, there are probably lots of people younger than me who, though they’ve decided to stop receiving in the hand, may never have been taught how to receive on the tongue. And not to lay it all on the young people, there are some older folk who seem to have forgotten how. If I could just make one suggestion: get that tongue out there, enough with the teeth!

Amen and amen.

Please don’t bite the priest.  Bad for him… bad for you.

Stick your tongue out far enough that the priest can actually give you Communion.  And please don’t go all Gene Simmons and make it a moving target.

This isn’t hard.  It is far more reverent and, practically speaking, by far reduces the risk of profanation.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. It also helps if you close your eyes as this stops a tendency some have (I do) to lean forward and actively take the host in your mouth.

  2. RBrown says:

    I think it also helps if the priest uses the thumb on top MO. The forefinger is slid off (slood to Dizzy Dean fans), and thumb presses the host down.

    A lot of priests put the forefinger on top and try to throw the host in the mouth.

  3. wsxyz says:

    Priests need to learn too. Some priests can zip down the line, dispensing Holy Communion on the tongue much faster than they could dispense in the Hand, without once touching someone’s tongue or fumbling the host and others… well sometimes it gets ugly.

  4. Scarlett says:

    This is a stumbling block for me. I’m 22, and was never taught how to receive on the tongue, or even that it was an option at all. A few years ago, I decided that it would be a good idea (it all started when I touched a dirty hand rail on my way to church, and then thought, “I’m going to touch Jesus with those filthy hands?”), but have never started practicing it – because every time I think I’m going to receive on the tongue today, I chicken out, since I’m not really sure how. I’ve practiced in a mirror, and there really are a LOT of different ways to stick your tongue out! (between closed lips, mouth open, as far as it goes naturally, hyperextended, etc.)

  5. Girgadis says:

    Dare I ask if the Communicants were kneeling as they received? It’s far less
    awkward to receive on the tongue when you are kneeling as this puts you at a
    lower height than the priest. When you are kneeling, you can also tip your head
    back slightly which the priest might also find helpful. On this subject, I
    attended weekday Mass at a church other than my own and noticed that the priest
    did not place the Host on anyone’s tongue (including mine) but just held it
    out so that we had to stoop slightly and “catch” the Host. I was afraid I’d
    miss, especially without an altar server and paten.

  6. dymphna says:

    I accidentally almost bit my poor parochial vicar
    last year. Luckily, he’s a young man and was dexterous
    enough to pull back in time, catch the Host and
    start all over. I was mortified.

  7. Paul Haley says:

    Our priest recommends making your tongue like a table so the priest will have no difficulty placing the host thereon and he adds stick your tongue out far enough so that the priest has enough surface area to work with and open your mouth far enough so that he doesn’t have to confront your upper lip. Sorry ’bout this amount of detail but explanations of this practice are often are hard to deal with.

  8. Joan M says:

    Scarlett said: “I’m not really sure how. I’ve practiced in a mirror, and there really are a LOT of different ways to stick your tongue out! (between closed lips, mouth open, as far as it goes naturally, hyperextended, etc.)”

    It’s really very simple – while your mouth is closed, make sure your tongue is touching the inside of your lower lip. Then, maintaining this tongue position, open your mouth as wide as you can by lowering your lower jaw. Your mouth and tongue are then in the correct position for the priest, deacon or Extraordinary Minister to place the Host on your tongue.

    They, of course need to learn the correct method of placing the Host on the tongue so that only the Host touches the tongue – using forefinger and thumb only (I’ve seen some EM’s use two fingers and thumb). Place the tip of the Host on the recipient’s tongue and, while pulling the thumb (underneath) back, press down with the forefinger.

    The recipient should not, of course, close their mouth until the person placing the Host has drawn back their hand!

    Hyper (over) extending the tongue is likely to result in instability and the possibility of the Host dropping!

  9. pelerin says:

    I am still trying to pluck up courage to receive Holy Communion on the tongue again.

    I still receive in the hand at Novus Ordos but when I attend the EF I remain in the pew and try to ‘offer it up.’ As I now attend a parish where it is not regarded as unusual to receive on the tongue, I really do not have an excuse.

    Learning that the priest quoted is nervous about being bitten does not help my own nervousness! I look forward to reading other comments.

  10. Stick your tongue WAY out and open WIDE.

    I wonder if the priest would help you practice?

    But frankly, its not that complicated – don’t overthink this.

  11. Frank H. says:

    pelerin – One of the best things about attending the EF Mass is being able to kneel at a communion rail and receive on the tongue! As the Nike ad once said, “Just Do It!”

  12. Timotheos says:

    …and then kneel to receive the Holy Eucharist on the tongue and we’ll be set!

  13. Bob says:

    Some priests need to learn to wait an extra half-second until I get my mouth open and my tongue out far enough. There’s one who sometimes tries to shove the host in my mouth while I’m still saying “Amen.” (That’s one of the countless things I like better about the EF – the priest says “Amen” for you.)

  14. elmo says:

    I never understood why receiving on the tongue is considered superior than receiving in the hand. If it’s a matter of cleanliness, well the mouth has a lot of bacteria in it, too. Why is it worse to touch the body of Christ with your hands when your mouth does far worse violence to it (i.e., grinding your teeth against the host, enzymes destroying it, tongue pushing it down your throat)?

  15. Ron says:

    “Stick your tongue out far enough that the priest can actually give you Communion. And please don’t go all Gene Simmons and make it a moving target.”

    That paints one funny picture! I can’t imagine someone wagging their tongue around all over the place. lol That is funny!

    Pax Christi tecum

  16. Paul says:

    I had this problem – a nagging feeling that I was disrespecting our Lord when taking communion in the hand. It was a bit awkward for me, and I was tempted to ask the priest about it (but didn’t). I line my tongue with up with the edge of my lip, then stretch my jaw muscles so my mouth is open. No “Gene Simmons,” no poking on the part of the priest. There is no need to stick your tongue “out.” You just have to give enough room for the priest to lay the host in your mouth, and draw it back when he does.

    I’m tall, and this still works with out me pecking at his hand.


  17. Bill in Texas says:

    (LOL) Our parish priest did part of his homily on this very problem a few months back. He also added, “Don’t lick the priest.”

  18. elmo says:

    I don’t understand why is it considered better to receive in the mouth than on the hand? The mouth has a lot of bacteria in it, maybe more than the hands.

  19. California Girl says:


    For myself, I find that when I extend my tongue “way out”, it gets too curved and firm–the host ends up kind up “balancing” and wobbles a bit as I pull my extended tongue back in.


    Yes, kneeling DEFINITELY helps! I’m old enough that I remember receiving on the tongue as a child. Looking up at the priest holding the host will naturally cause the head to tip back a bit. This helps expose the tongue, and being lower than the priest gives him a good view of what he’s doing. (When my very tall son receives on the tongue, Father has to stand on tiptoe!)


    Thank you for a good description–keeping the tongue touching the lower lip is indeed what I used to do.

  20. Thomas says:

    Elmo, you do see that either way the Host is going in your filthy mouth, right? It’s about reverent posture and avoidance of profanation. Cutting out the “middle man” helps in both instances, no?

  21. Louis says:

    the most difficult part is that there is only 2 of us who receive on the tongue. At least at the Mass I attend. I have just started to do so recently after seeing the one other person receive it. I just felt uncomfortable. But afterward, there was no going back. The good thing is that the priest or deacon now know and are not confused when I do not put out my hands.

  22. Mitchell NY says:

    I would add, Don’t move….Once you open your mouth do not tilt or change directions. This may sound silly but I have seen it done as if there is a last minute reconsideration of position and it is already too late for the Priest. Not having to follow a moving target I think would cut the problem in half. I use the method discussed above of pushing my tongue to my bottom lip with mouth closed and then opening….

  23. EJ says:

    QUESTION: Can a priest refuse to give Communion on the tongue?
    I ask because one of the priests at a parish near me [not my regular parish] does not know how to give Communion on the tongue, and usually scowls at folks who approach him.
    One of my friends informed me the reason she left this parish is because he told her that she was not allowed to receive on the tongue and if she tried it again he would refuse her communion.

  24. elmo says:

    Yes, I thought the argument for receiving on the tongue had to do with the supposed dirtiness of the hands. But now I can see how receiving on the tongue would cut out the issues of reverent posture and profanation entirely. Especially with the recent acts of host desecration among certain atheist professors and their supporters.

    This came up at an evening Mass I recently attended. Nearly everyone received on the tongue and I angsted not knowing which way would be best. After noting my lack of familiarity w/this manner of reception and the absence of an altar server who would presumably hold the paten to catch any crumbs from my mouth, I chose to receive in the hand to avoid any potential mishaps with the host.

  25. Deirdre Mundy says:

    I started recieving on the tongue after a couple incidents where bits of the host stuck to my hand.

    The trauma of having to lick bits of Christ off my fingers after communion was enough to convince me that the tongue is superior!

  26. Patrick says:

    I have had similar incidents to the ones Deirdre described. I also relearned the reasons why a priest will hold his thumb and forefinger together. Needless to say I have returned to receiving on the tongue.

    One thing I have noticed, the vast majority of dropped hosts have occured to those recieving in the hand. I can’t pinpoint the motion that causes this, but it is usually after the host has been placed in the hand by the priest or deacon (or EMC).

    Catechesis is needed for those receiving in the hand as well. One should not look like one is cupping a hernia when approaching the sanctuary for Communion.

  27. Ray from MN says:

    It is highly recommended also that if you intend to receive on the tongue, keep your hands in the formal prayer position to signal your intention to the priest.

  28. MAJ Tony says:

    On the tongue is best because you don’t run the risk of fragments of the host not being consumed (lost on the floor, etc.), and thereby profaning the sacrament.

  29. MargaretC says:

    Joan M’s instructions above will work pretty well. The host will tend to stick to your tongue, anyway. Hold still while the priest gives you communion and then draw your tongue completely back into your mouth before closing it.

    Also, don’t give the priest mixed signals — keep your hands in the prayer position or clasped in front of you and open your mouth enough that he knows what you’re trying to do.

    I agree that altar rails and kneelers would make all of this much more intuitive.

  30. Lirioroja says:

    I have a small mouth, so I can’t simply do what Joan M. suggested; there’s not enough room for the priest to work with. I must stick out my tongue. I tilt my head back, open my mouth wide, and stick out my tongue as far as it will go without hyperextending it. And I don’t move until I feel the host safely on my tongue. We receive standing; however the priest is on a step above the communicants. I’m short too, so it works out well.

  31. Maureen says:

    It’s not that the hands of the people are dirty; it’s that the hands of the priest are consecrated.

    Presumably the EMHC participates by extremely temporary delegation of consecratedness from the priest, but that way probably lies madness, new heresies, and an F in your theology class. :) I don’t think they train EMHCs in tongue-distribution, anyway.

  32. TJM says:

    I only have experience receiving on the tongue. It just comes naturally. And I have never bitten the priest (although I have been tempted when they commit liturgical abuses. Tom

  33. Girgadis says:

    This may be viewed as a ridiculous question, but here goes….would it be
    unreasonable for those who wish to receive on the tongue but never have to
    approach their parish priest to give some advanced warning and maybe even get
    some pointers? When I first presented myself for reception on the tongue, I
    got a perplexed look from our pastor, who had encouraged us to try receiving
    this way but was accustomed to me receiving in the hand. Believe me, I’m not
    advocating disturbing the priest in the sacristy while he’s preparing for Mass,
    but how about after Mass or at some other convenient time? Or would it be more
    appropriate to “wing it”? My utmost concern in all of this is protecting the
    Host, not nursing anxiety ( and I confess to having plenty when I first made
    the switch).

  34. Lucyna Maria says:


    If you are worried about chickening out, ask your Guardian Angel for help before you go up to receive. I’ve always found that if I do this, I don’t chicken out.

  35. David Kastel says:

    lol…”Gene Simmons”

  36. Danny Mary-Joseph says:

    Relax. you are about to recieve a taste of heaven. It can be a very intimidating moment, but you just have to relax, move slowly and gracefully, and take your time. Relax your jaw. open your mouth by lifting your head rather than lowering your jaw. cover your lower teeth with your tongue touching the top of your lower lip. take your time. hold your head up and out a bit. when the priest puts the Host on your tongue stay in the same position for 3 seconds slowly bringing your tongue back and closing your mouth. DONT RUSH!

  37. ssoldie says:

    Tip head back slightly, open mouth and stick out tongue, and let it lay softly on bottom lip, and you will have no problem recieving our Lord.

  38. Sean says:

    My old priest called “biters” snapping turtles.

    He also told me about people who would cup their hands together with just a slit open between their thumbs. He said he felt like he was buying a soda at a vending machine.

  39. Danny Mary-Joseph says:

    in addition: dont give a second thought to that impatient person behined you. This is Gods moment, not theirs. Try to take as long as you can. Maybe then they might consider bringing back altar rails.
    Kneeling helps only where there is a rail, if not this often shocks the priest and he may rush. If you take your time, so will the priest. At the OF mass whisper the amen response (whisper all the responses actualy!) this helps keep your actions gentle.

  40. Will says:

    ssoldie’s method works for me as well. I have had no problems with unfamiliar priests or EMsHC figuring out how to neatly place the host on my tongue.

  41. Paul says:

    A fantastic priest, since deceased, who was stationed at my parish when I was a child had a whole taxonomy of improper ways to receive communion. I wish I could remember them all, but here are some of them:

    “Mailbox” — opening the mouth to receive on the tongue, but not extending the tongue, causing the priest to deposit the Sacred Host like a letter in a chute

    “Trick or Treat” — both opening the mouth and extending the hands, forcing the priest to guess which way the individual desires to receive

    “Body Snatcher” — grabbing the Host from the minister’s hands instead of receiving it

    There were more, but I have forgotten them, it seems.

  42. Will says:

    Would it be
    unreasonable for those who wish to receive on the tongue but never have to approach their parish priest to give some advanced warning and maybe even get some pointers?

    I don’t see any reason to talk to the priest about it unless you’re uncomfortable and wish to get help receiving the Eucharist properly.

    In my experience, if you approach the priest with your hands clasped and open your mouth after you say “Amen” (clearly, not whispered, IMO), he’ll have no trouble recognizing your intent.

  43. cuaguy says:

    This is just from my personal experience using a patent in the OF, but also, when you receive on your tongue, don’t hold your hands right under your mouth. Not only does it make it awkward for the person holding the patent, it also makes it harder for the priest if hands are in the way, but your tongue is out.

  44. ahhhh – the snapping turtles.

    Fr. Perrone also recommends that people close their eyes when they receive. This was difficult for me at first, but natural.


    One reason he gave is that people have a tendency to try to follow his hand, making it more difficult to get it on the tongue. By closing the eyes, we hold still.

  45. Amy says:

    I have received on the tongue for years, and to this day it is sometimes akward, but not for the typical reasons. I had jaw surgery and I am still unable to open my mouth as far as most people. I try my best not to make it akward for the priest, but I he (and all priests) understand that is a few cases there is a physical reason why people are unable to receive “properly.”

    My apologies for the lengthy post to follow, but I could not find the article online. I pray it will be helpful to “elmo” and others who wonder why we should ALL receive Our Lord directly on the tongue.


    Dietrich von Hildebrand, called by Pope Pius XII “the 20th Century Doctor of
    the Church,” was one of the world’s most eminent Catholic philosophers.
    Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict) wrote about Dietrich von Hildebrand in
    the year 2000: “I am firmly convinced that, when at some time in the future,
    the intellectual history of the Catholic Church in the 20th century is
    written, the name of Dietrich von Hildebrand will be most prominent among
    the figures of our time.” The following article by Dietrich von
    Hildebrand, entitled “Communion in the hand should be rejected,” was
    published November 8, 1973:

    There can be no doubt that Communion in the hand is an expression of the
    trend towards desacralization in the Church in general and irreverence in
    approaching the Eucharist in particular. The ineffable mystery of the bodily
    presence of Christ in the consecrated host calls for a deeply reverent
    attitude. (To take the Body of Christ in our unanointed hands — just as if
    it were a mere piece of bread is something in itself deeply irreverent and
    detrimental for our faith.) Dealing with this unfathomable mystery as if we
    were merely dealing with nothing but another piece of bread, something we
    naturally do every day with mere bread, makes the act of faith in the real
    bodily presence of Christ more difficult. Such behavior toward the
    consecrated host slowly corrodes our faith in the bodily presence and
    fosters the idea that it is only a symbol of Christ. To claim that taking
    the bread in our hands increases the sense of the reality of the bread is an
    absurd argument. The reality of the bread is not what matters — that is
    also visible for any atheist. But the fact that the host is in reality the
    Body of Christ — the fact that transubstantiation has taken place — this
    is the theme which must be stressed.

    Arguments for Communion in the hand based upon the fact that this practice
    can be found among the early Christians is not really valid. They overlook
    the dangers and the inadequacy of re-introducing the practice today. Pope
    Pius XII spoke in very clear and unmistakable terms against the idea that
    one could re-introduce today customs from the times of the catacombs.
    Certainly we should try to renew in the souls of Catholics today the spirit,
    fervor, and heroic devotion found in the faith of the early Christians and
    the many martyrs from among their ranks. But simply adopting their customs
    is something else again; customs can assume a completely new function today,
    and we cannot and should not simply try to re-introduce them.

    In the days of the catacombs the danger of desacralization and irreverence
    which threatens today was not present. The contrast between the saeculum
    and the holy Church was constantly in the minds of Christians.
    Thus a custom which was not danger in those times can constitute a grave
    pastoral danger in our day.

    Consider how St. Francis regarded the extraordinary dignity of the priest
    which consists exactly in the fact that he is allowed to touch the Body of
    Christ with his anointed hands. St. Francis said: “If I were to meet at the
    same time a saint from heaven and a poor priest, I would first show my
    respect to the priest and quickly kiss his hand, and then I would say: ‘O
    wait, St. Lawrence, for the hands of this man touch the Word of Life and
    possess a good far surpasses everything that is human.'”

    Someone may say: but did not St. Tarcisius distribute Communion though he
    was no priest? Surely no one was scandalized because he touched the
    consecrated host with his hands. And in an emergency, a layman is today
    allowed to give Communion to others.

    But this exception for emergency cases is not something which implies a lack
    of respect for the holy Body of Christ. It is a privilege justified by
    emergency — which should be accepted with trembling heart (and should
    remain a privilege, reserved only for an emergency).

    The traditional practice of the Church and the 1917 Code of Canon Law:
    Specifically, Canon 845. § l which states that the ordinary minister of Holy
    Communion is ONLY the priest. Canon 845, § 2 states that the extraordinary
    minister is only the deacon. The sacramental theology book, The
    Administration of the Sacraments (1963 edition) by Nicholas Halligan, O.P.,
    “It is a certain teaching that the priest alone is the ordinary minister of
    Holy Communion.” (Nicholas Halligan, O.P., The Administration of the
    Sacraments, 1963, p. 107, Imprimatur: Cardinal Spellman)

    “The pastor has the exclusive right to bring Viaticum both publicly and
    privately to the sick in his parish, even to those not his parishioners.”
    (p. 108)

    “By ordination a deacon is the extraordinary minister of Holy Communion but
    only with permission of the local Ordinary or of the pastor granted by
    either for a serious reason, but this permission may be presumed in case of
    need. Apart from necessity a deacon would not be justified in acting without
    permission.” (p. 108)

    “The deacon in administering Holy Communion observes the ceremonies as
    prescribed for the priest…. Unlike inferior clerics the deacon, although
    sinning gravely [Note: if the deacon distributes Communion without
    permission of the pastor or without grave reason], does not incur an
    irregularity if he acts without permission.” (p. 108)]

    But there is a great difference between this case of touching the
    consecrated host with our unanointed hands and that of taking Communion in
    the hand as a matter of course — on all occasions. To be allowed to touch
    the consecrated host with unanointed hands is in no way presented to the
    faithful as an awe-inspiring privilege. It becomes the normal form of
    receiving Communion. And this fosters an irreverent attitude and thus
    corrodes faith in the real bodily presence of Christ.

    It is taken for granted that everyone receives the consecrated host in his
    hand. The layman to whom the great privilege is granted for special reasons
    has to touch the host, of course. But there is no reason for receiving
    Communion in the hand; only an immanent spirit of paltry familiarity with
    Our Lord.

    It is incomprehensible why some insist on a way of receiving Communion which
    opens the door to all sorts of accidental and even intentional abuses.

    First, there is a much greater possibility that some particles of the
    consecrated host may fall. In former times the priest watched with great
    care whether or not some particles of the host fell, in which case he would
    immediately take greatest care that the sacred particles would be reverently
    picked up and consumed by himself. And now without any apparent reason, many
    want to expose the consecrated host to this danger in a much greater degree
    than before — this at a time when the host is made more and more to
    resemble bread and to crumble more easily.

    Second, and this is an incomparably worse problem, the danger exists that a
    communicant, instead of putting the consecrated host into his mouth, will
    place it in his pocket or otherwise conceal and not consume it. This
    unfortunately has happened in these days of revived Satanism. Consecrated
    hosts are known to have been sold for blasphemous uses. In London, the price
    is said to be 30 pounds for one, which reminds us of the 30 pieces of silver
    for which Judas sold the Body of Our Lord.

    Is it believable that instead of applying the most scrupulous care to
    protect the most sacred consecrated host, which is truly the Body of Christ,
    the God-man, from all such possible abuses, there are those who wish to
    expose it to this possibility? Have we forgotten the existence of the devil
    “who wanders about seeking whom he may devour”? Is his work in the world and
    in the Church not all too visible today? What entitles us to assume that
    abuses of the consecrated host will not take place?

    The greater our respect, and the greater our love, the greater our
    realization of the ineffable holiness of the Eucharist — the greater will
    be our horror of its being abused; and our eagerness to protect it from all
    possible blasphemous abuses.

    Why — for God’s sake — should Communion in the hand be introduced into our
    churches when it is evidently detrimental from a pastoral viewpoint, when it
    certainly does not increase our reverence, and when it exposes the Eucharist
    to the most terrible diabolical abuses? There are really no serious
    arguments for Communion in the hand. But there are the most gravely serious
    kinds of arguments against it.

    Sincerely in Christ,
    Our Lady of the Rosary Library
    “Pray and work for souls”

  46. Biff says:

    I’d like to take this opportunity to ask a question for a friend who is a cancer survivor and would like to cease receiving in the hand.
    There’s one problem. He doesn’t have a tongue.
    Should the priest be notified ahead of time that he’ll just tip his head back?

    Have priests learned how to approach this pastorally?

    I know some SSPX priests will give the Precious Blood to those with wheat allergies.

    God Bless WDTPRS

  47. Regina says:

    I am not so sure if some particles flow to the floor by the time the priest moves the host to our tongues, but in receiving on the tongue it is best and more comfortable to wait for the key words “anima mea” before you stick your tongue out, and don’t close your mouth until you feel it on your tongue. My pastor is very adept at a “corner- hold- press” and the host is very secure in my mouth before I close it.
    I had a dear priest who onetime complained that he didn’t like putting his fingers in people’s mouths( saliva and AIDS), and he absolutely hated women’s lipstick. It got on his fingers. I have always remembered that and rarely wear much lipstick to Mass. Leave the lipgloss at home.

  48. Ruth Lapeyre says:

    My pastor has also suggested that closing our eyes is helpful as well.

  49. Scarlett says:

    I just want to make it clear that when I referenced my dirty hands, above, I wasn’t implying that “the” reason, or even an important reason to receive on the tongue; it was just the little impulse that really made me start thinking about it.

  50. Biff says:

    The irony of the “Saliva Argument” is that it’s employed most frequently by the pastors who insist the strongest on Communion under both Species.

    Common cup- yes
    People sticking their tongue out at me- ick!

  51. Billy G says:

    Well…don’t bite the priest unless you’re a young boy!

  52. Charles F says:

    Up until a year ago, I received Christ on the hands. Then I felt it would be a little bit more reverent for me to receive on tongue. I also felt that cutting down on the extra step would minimize the chance of the Eucharist falling out of my hands by mistake (never happened to me thank God). Unless I have a cold or something, I prefer to receive on tongue.

    However, I would like to point out that one can still reverently receive Christ on the hands. I was taught that when receiving by hand, one’s hands should be a “pedestal” for Christ. The only thing that really bothers me (and this sadly is the norm) is when people go up and slap their hands together then casually walk away (sometimes out the door).

    Just as an interesting side note: The United States has been given special permission to receive on hand. Normally one can ONLY receive on tongue.

  53. Maureen says:

    Biff — I’m sure the priest would be happy to help your friend out.

  54. Mary says:

    I often confused my former pastor when I would receive on my tongue, he was used to be receiving on my hands, so I caved and went back to receiving on my hands, though my vicar had no issues when I would come up hands deliberately folded in prayer and down low or turned toward my body as in you can tell what I’m doing, so I might go back, I have to figure out what to do with my new pastor.

    When I first became a EMHC I thought, “oh man people are going to lick me”, and it has happened a few times, mainly because people don’t open their mouths enough. I will usually take the cup as my parish distributes under both species, and there’s less hassle for me. I get looks when I use the entire purificatior as in I actually unfold it and use it to actually clean/wipe the cup in between those receiving from it. It’s amazing how many people will attempt to grab the cup from me or not say Amen, or not wait until I’m finsihed saying “The Blood of Christ”, as a result I’m more cautious and careful with how and when I respond and how I receive be on the hands or tounge, albeit respectfully no matter what. I’m one of those who will lick my fingers after I’ve had to distribute Communion, I attempt to do it discreetly, but I’m not leaving any particles on my fingers.

    I made 1st Holy Communion 22 years ago and we were told you could receive on your tongue if your hands were dirty, but I don’t remember being taught how. I’ve gone to “Latin Masses” and admit it is much easier to receive on your tongue while kneeling at an altar rail.

  55. isabella says:

    I can’t remember if I read this here or heard it from my own priest. But be like a baby bird being fed.

    Open your mouth wide and put out your tongue far enough for the priest to clear your teeth, and tilt your head back. I’m tall, especially when I’m wearing heels. So when I’m travelling and the priest has to reach up, I try to stoop a little bit to help him.

  56. Jason C. Petty says:

    Advice from an altar boy here:

    When you come up to receive on the tongue and have your hands together prayerfully, DON’T put them right up under your chin like a three year old first learning to say her bedtime prayers! Where do we servers put the communion paten? Leave room for the paten under your chin. Keep your hands lower, at chest level, and no one loses their bottom teeth. :)

  57. Fr. Steve says:

    In my short time of being a priest I’ve run into the body snatchers that try to take Christ away with their fingers, and that really tries my patience. But, no less annoying are those that are trying to catch flies with their tongue or bite the hand that feeds them. I have found that the best method of correcting this, is holding the host up and pulling gently back if need be (with a smile of course). They smile back and realize that they’re in a rush when they shouldn’t be. Before long they correct themselves.

  58. C.L. says:

    Is it more reverent to most contemporary Westerners? In most cultures, sticking your tongue out is a gross and rude gesture. Under the older dispensation – with altar rails, patens, trained altar boys etc – it worked and was clearly better for what it symbolised. Unfortunately, that horse has bolted. The ‘two forms, one rite’ notion is very neat but the truth is we now have two liturgies and a pope who obviously believes the older one is superior. The hybridised rubrics – receiving on the tongue while standing (which is inelegant and often ergonomically disadvantageous; free standing altars versus ad orientum worship at a high altar etc etc) are adding confusion to existing chaos. I don’t even like the phrase “Extraordinary Form” as it implies the TLM is a rarefied speciality item that shouldn’t be removed from its museum enclosure except in limited circumstances. And we’re not building something new – qua “brick by brick” – we’re renovating an existing edifice. That means we have to build, to be sure, but it also means we have put a wrecking ball through that new wall the kitsch merchants of the 70s put up for their own unfathomable reasons. The Church really needs to choose one way or the other and we all know it won’t choose the TLM because it would cause an international outrage (amongst all the usual suspects). Thank God for Summorum Pontificum. I just wonder if it hasn’t created a club within the broader Church, leaving the overwhelming majority of Catholic faithful and clergy utterly indifferent to Latin, birettas and sticking their tongues out in public.

  59. Rob Cartusciello says:

    When distributing communion, I have found two different grips are used depending on how one is receiving.

    If placing on the tongue, it is best to take a very light grip on the outer edge of the host.

    When placing in the hand, it is better to hold the host more tightly until I am sure it is resting in the communicant’s hand.

    Folks that don’t stick their tongue out enough are a challenge!

  60. Kradcliffe says:

    I fumbled a host when I didn’t open my mouth wide enough recently and I was mortified.

    Somewhere on Youtube is a video of wedding bloopers. In one of them a bride is kneeling to receive on the tongue and the priest drops the host… down the bride’s cleavage. They both freeze, and then the priest goes to retrieve it, his hand is slapped away by the bride, and she retrieves it and hands it back to the priest. I honestly don’t know WHAT the right thing to do in that situation, but my instinct is that it’s better for my hand to touch the host than for a priest to rummage around in my cleavage.

  61. Delia says:

    Very welcome post! Have been struggling with this for several months now. When kneeling, I reckon the success rate is now 80%; standing, it’s only at about 50%, though rising. But for both there’s still that split second of total panic before receiving, not to mention frequent subsequent embarrassment. The theory is fine; the problem is the speed at which the Host is distributed – there just isn’t the time to say ‘Amen’ (in the NO – tried to say that as well in the EF until I realized you weren’t supposed to!) and then get into position.

    I also once tried genuflecting before receiving – that was the worst – totally awkward and embarrassing angle! But someone suggested genuflecting while the person in front is receiving, and that works fine.

  62. Mark says:

    As EMHC, I actually prefer the ‘mailbox’ method mentioned by Paul above. In one of our parish churches there are a fair number of elderly ladies who receive Communion on the tongue and they all, without fail, employ this way of receiving. Kneeling, too. I don’t know why, but it has never caused problems. Never had any biters, either.

  63. Anony says:

    I have never received communion on the tongue (I’m 35).

    I would like to go to a TLM, but this is the stumbling block for me.

    Why? I am tongue-tied (that thing underneath my tongue is very very short). I can hardly stick my tongue out at all.

    So I don’t go.

  64. Father Totton says:

    a few responses and thoughts:

    Regina references the formula for the EF – and the words would be “animam tuam” as the priest is giving communion to YOU not to himself (when he says…”animam meam”)

    Some laugh about the Gene Simmons remark;and though it does sound comical, it happens more often than one might think.

    I am one of those priests who actually encourage the faithful to receive in the traditional manner.

    One difficulty I have run into on a few occasions, is an awkwardness for those in the OF about first saying “amen” and immediately after, positioning the tongue properly.

  65. wsxyz says:

    I would like to go to a TLM, but this is the stumbling block for me.

    Why? I am tongue-tied (that thing underneath my tongue is very very short). I can hardly stick my tongue out at all.

    This is actually a non-issue. There are all sorts of people at every traditional Mass. Some can’t walk, some can’t kneel, some can’t open their mouths wide, etc. etc. You just do what you can, and the Priest will dispense the sacrament.

  66. Joan M says:

    Comment by Father Totton: “One difficulty I have run into on a few occasions, is an awkwardness for those in the OF about first saying “amen” and immediately after, positioning the tongue properly.”

    I have run into that difficulty, as someone who receives on the tongue – normally with only one EMHC in my parish. When I was trained as an EMCH (over 20 years ago) I was taught to pick up a Host, raise it up above the ciborium and say “The Body of Christ” and only then to place it in the hand or on the tongue. The EMCH that causes my difficulty does not do this. Instead, immediately she picks up a Host she is moving it upwards and towards my face, so that the Host is about 2 – 3 inches away from my mouth when she says “The Body of Christ”. This makes it difficult to say “Amen” and then open my mouth correctly. I notice that I tend to pull back my head slightly before I say “Amen.”

    I wish every EM and EMHC would receive good training and then have annual refresher courses to ensure that no bad habits are formed. Even my Parish Priest’s method has deteriorated in the past few years! Unfortunately we all can become sloppy if we are not diligent!

  67. Mary Ann says:

    Sunday will be the 50th anniversary of my First Holy Communion! I am so, so grateful. Back then, we had the opportunity to practice receiving with an unconsecrated host. For someone now, returning to Communion on the tongue or receiving this way for the first time, I do have a suggestion. Try to experiment with some of the ideas here using a saltine cracker to practice. It will give you a feel for what is good positioning, jaw open far enough and tongue out not too far. I do recommend tipping the head back and agree that this is easier at an altar rail. For receiving standing, when most other communicants are receiving on the hand—I’m looking for suggestions also to decrease any awkwardness.

  68. Origen Adamantius says:

    Receiving on the tongue should be a simple thing. When people approach overly concerned about proper form they often panic and start shifting or biting or lifting hands and opening their mouths, while losing the sense of prayer. The simplest thing to remember is to be still. Father can place it on your tongue. There is no need to actively seek out his hand by snapping at him or performing your “Simmons impersonation”. THe biggest difficulty is our willingness to remain passive in reception of communion. (The same is actually true of reception in the hands, where many seek to grab the host from the priest or shift around their hands).

  69. chironomo says:


    At first I thought your above post was being bitter and sarcastic, but then I finally figured out you were serious and haver resigned yourself to a reality that seems to be inevitable.

    The reality is that there is greater hope in some places than in others. Some parishes seem way too far gone to be recovered…what to do about those? Others are trying hard to recover a sense of reverence and authentic worship…but that will take time. In other places, there are the few-and-far between EF parishes where it is possible to experience the TLM in all of its glory. I can attest personally (we have one here) that the Masses are filled to capacity and getting bigger…this will have an effect eventually. There is no “one solution” that will help everywhere. What would be welcomed in one place will be rejected in others.

    I’m not crazy about the “free market” solution… present a number of options and let people choose…but that seems to be what’s happening anyway. I don’t think there will be a unified liturgy anytime soon…

  70. What used to be well known due to practice has nearly disappeared do to lack of practice. Therefore some basic catechesis is needed. Fortunately I have never been bitten. Nor – fortunately – have I seen a “Gene Simmons” receiver! Just the thought of that…

  71. JayneK says:

    I strongly related to your first post. I spent some months feeling more and more called to receive on the tongue, but always “chickened out” at the last minute. And it was for just the reasons you describe. I did the practicing with a mirror thing too.

    Finally, I told God that I just couldn’t do it and would have to receive with my hands. Two days later I was in a car accident that left me unable to use my hand for a while. This forced me to receive on the tongue. By an odd coincidence, a visiting priest mentioned receiving on the tongue in his homily at this time. At this point, I said, “OK I get it!”
    It took me around a year of receiving on the tongue to become comfortable with it, but I did eventually.

    Shortly after I started receiving on the tongue I felt called to receive while kneeling too. This time I did it right away. I’m not that stupid.

  72. Mildred says:

    I would like to receive on the tongue, but I never do, since I have had several bad exeriences in the past. Priests’ wet thumbs pressed against my own tongue have made me feel, I’m afraid rather squeamish.

  73. TMG says:

    This is one area where I have noticed a huge difference between receiving Holy Communion in the TLM and the new Mass;

    Comments have been posted that in the new Mass the priest (or more likely a EMHC) raises the Host to the recipient (who’s usually standing), says “Body of Christ”, the recipient answers “Amen”, and the Host is quickly placed in the hand or mouth. Rat-a-tat-tat, assembly line.

    In the TLM, a priest (no extraordinary ministers allowed, thankfully!), takes the time to say “Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen.”, which in English is “May the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul to life everlasting. Amen.” as he administers Holy Communion to the kneeling recipient on the tongue and makes the Sign of the Cross. I am so thankful to be able to assist at a TLM and receive Holy Communion in this most reverent way.

  74. Josh says:

    In the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, we only receive on the tongue since the sacrament is administered by intiction. Everyone receives while standing but bends their knees so as to lower their height, thereby making it easier for the priest to administer the sacrament.

  75. bfarnan says:

    I can still remember (I guess this dates me) of being instructed by the nuns at St. Johns Catholic School in Fresno California on the proper way to receive Communion. There were no options. Only the reception of the Eucharist on the tongue. For years I followed the trend of receiving the Host by hand. I returned to receiving Communion on the tongue after reading Mother Teresa’s thoughts on the reception of he Holy Host. I have often wondered how our newer Catholics and, even Catholic School children, could accept Communion on the tongue. Most of them, at least the ones I see, are only taught to receive by hand. To digress a bit,….. awhile back a friend (younger) wanted to buy a jeep, but he didn’t. Why, because it did not have an automatic transmission. And, although he had years of driving experience, he was afraid to tackle a standard gear shift automobile. Sort of a crude analogy, but, my mind tends to wonder (wander) if more people would be open, or even desirous to the reception of the Host on the tongue if they were were lovingly shown how to receive, on the tongue by someone (like those good Nuns of fond memory) who really believed and taught that the host was, Our Lord.

  76. Cosmos says:

    I don’t think wanting to do it right is overthinking it- its the Lord after all!

    I agree with people who intimated that that sticking your tongue out really far is not appropriate. We have to balance the obvious assembly-line “efficiency” of that method with its aesthetic awkwardness and possible inappropriateness.

    Open your mouth, bring your tongue forward a little, and stay still until the Host is in your mouth and the priest has removed his hand.

    The reality is that this would all be moot if we used an altar rail. Here we witness yet one more problem created by a modern solution!

  77. jacques says:

    Although 99.9999 p.c. of the newly in-the-mouth-communicants are certainly fervent faithfuls, I noticed months ago that a vile desecrator showed on Youtube how to take the host between his teeth to prevent it being wetted by the tongue and to bring it back home intact to perform his revolting sacrileges.
    In my opinion, the priests would be wise in checking that the host is well swallowed after it has been taken between teeth.

  78. irishgirl says:

    I’ve always received on the tongue-only times I was ‘forced’ to receive in the hand was during some retreats. I never ‘bit’ a priest’s hand!

  79. natasha bailey says:

    on 11/1/07 i returned to the true faith after 43 years. i feel privileged to receive the body of Christ in my hand, & to receive His Precious Blood. at my parish, about 1/3 of the parishioners receive the Blood. i use a walker, so, i sit in handicapped section, & the priest or extraordinary minister comes to the pew.

  80. David says:

    chironomo said:

    “The reality is that there is greater hope in some places than in others. Some parishes seem way too far gone to be recovered…what to do about those? Others are trying hard to recover a sense of reverence and authentic worship…but that will take time.”

    These parishes offer great missionary opportunities – no need to travel to far flung lands. I can promise you that these parishes are in need of properly prepared and conscientious catechists and altar servers (it’s not just for the young, I am in my 50s and serve at least once during the week), and those willing to commit to Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, St. Vincent de Paul and other charitable societies sponsored in their parishes, etc. This month my wife and I are completing 10 years as catechists in our parish. It has not always been fun, but after 10 years we’ve been able to see evidence that we’ve made a difference for the better. And, it is one of those things that you ultimately get more out of than you put in.

    There is not a parish in our diocese that offers an EF Mass on Sundays (there is a parish that offers the EF during the week, but as I stated above I have committed to assist at Mass in my own parish during the week). Even if there were, I’m not sure that we could abandon our parish, pastor and parochial vicar solely over the form of the Mass – especially since they obviously strive to do things “by the book” albeit in the ordinary form.

    I have wrestled for months with the basic theme that runs through the comments section of most of Father Zuhlsdorf’s post – the Extraordinary Form of the Mass vs. the Ordinary Form. I’ve often come away from reading this blog feeling that a line was being drawn in the sand so to speak – that if I wasn’t willing to accept one form of the Mass over the other, I was somehow falling short.

    Fortunately, I came upon Father Zuhlsdorf’s analysis of “Summorum Pontificum” entitled “Widening Hearts, Restoring Unity.” I commend it to each of you (link below). I will try not to put words in Father’s mouth or quote him out of context. The interview is brief and worth reading. I will remain in my NO parish, and I will support it. From every appearance, our priests strive to do it by the book. There are things that frustrate me in our parish. These things are not, however, systemic in the way that the parish is run or in the way that the Mass is celebrated. They are also not done intentionally, so are easily corrected with proper instruction.

    At the same time, I will support efforts to extend the EF in my diocese and will pray that someday it is celebrated in my parish. I understand that “hermeneutic of reform” means, among other things, both a continuity with tradition and a healing of discontinuity and rupture. I also understand this to mean that a more vibrant presence of the TLM means a more vibrant NO – and ultimately a stronger Church Militant.

  81. Didn’t St Athanasius have something to say about pressing the Body of Christ with the teeth?

  82. Bill says:

    Food for thought for those considering receiving on the tongue: Until a couple years ago, I had always received in the hand – I don’t think we were even taught how to receive on the tongue in our preparation in the early 80’s. Then I had kids. It’s amazing how easy it is to switch to reception on the tongue – and how understanding/receptive priests are in on-the-hand-type parishes – when you’ve literally got your hands full. Then, once the kids are able to walk, both you and your priest are used to you receiving on the tongue, so it’s no big deal. Anyone else have a similar experience?


  83. MAJ Tony says:

    I always try to avoid biting Him even after having Him placed on my tongue. There’s just something wrong in my mind with biting our Lord, even though the word used in the Gospel is “to tear or to gnaw.”

  84. meg says:

    Bill – I have never received in the hand but *always* felt awkward being one of the few to receive on the tongue; it was a weekly trial for me. So I was always grateful to whichever baby I was holding – people weren’t judging me, I had an excuse! Brings back memories. For the past few years we’ve attended to TLM so the problem is solved anyway. I would probably be carrying my 7 year old up to the altar otherwise ;)

    When we first switched from the NO to the EF we still attended the local NO occasionally. One of my boys was receiving in front of me on the tongue and I heard Father say sort of irritably, “Aren’t you going to say Amen!?” He couldn’t know that my son hadn’t said Amen after communion in 6 months.

    Anony – You don’t realize it’s *much easier* in the kneeling position – the priest is sort of over you. Just tip your head back a little more, close your eyes and open your mouth a little wider (and extend your tongue as much as you are able of course). Like another poster said – think: baby bird. The priest will take care of the rest. Don’t let that keep you away! Just try it a few times, you will get the grace you need.

  85. Matt Q says:

    Well, the more a priest gives Communion on the tongue, the more he should keep some Purell tucked away on the altar.

  86. Erin in PA says:

    “don’t go all Gene Simmons” Love it!! LOL

    For years the only times I would recieve on the tongue was when I was holding one of my infant children. I have now decided to recieve on the tongue every time (Thanks in large part to wdtprs). I have noticed more and more people doing the same – not in GREAT numbers, but nonetheless, they’re there. I also feel a desire to start wearing a chapel veil/mantilla. But I’m afraid I would draw too much attention to myself, which would defeat the whole purpose.

  87. Scarlett says:

    to TMG, re: the “Rat-a-tat-tat”-ness of distributing Communion in the hand/in the OF. Here’s a story (that doesn’t reflect particularly well on me). When I was in HS, I went up to receive Communion. This was at my sister’s Confirmation, too, I was receiving from the bishop. There gets to be a sort of rhythm, of “Body of Christ” “Amen” “Body of Christ” “Amen,” and so forth. I was clearly not focused on the act of receiving, because as it neared by turn, the bishop said “Body of Christ” to the person in front of me. He said “Amen,” and I, stepping forward and keeping the rhythm going, said “Body of Christ.” As I said it, my eyes popped open wide, my jaw dropped, I gasped, and I tried my hardest (unsuccessfully, of course) to disappear through the floor. The bishop just smiled, HE said “Body of Christ,” I meekly replied “Amen,” received Communion, and went on my way, utterly mortified.

    Bill – I remember being a kid, probably in elementary school, and being terrified of the day when I had kids and would have my hands full and have to receive on the tongue. I wouldn’t know how! I used to plot ways to get my eventual kids to stay in their sats, or to carry them in carriers that I could put down, etc. Now I’m waiting for the day – and it’s still probably 3-4 years away – when I have my arms full of kids as an excuse to receive on the tongue.

  88. catholic says:

    I have an abnormaly small mouth so I have always been
    apprehensive about doing this, and I also can’t open my
    mouth as wide as most people can it has something to do
    with my jaw. So the priest probably literaly has to
    push to host in my mouth instead of placing it there I
    would imagine.

  89. Biff says:

    If EMHC were properly trained, 99% or more would resign.

  90. Peter says:

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    I am continually amazed by the lack of ability of a lot exclusively EF clergy to administer communion without touching my tongue!!

    I am not sure why this is so. Is it too much haste? Nervousness? or simply bad technique? Do these new priests get taught technique in the EF seminaries?

    Then there are others who place the host so gently and without any contact, or even the hint of a possible contact, in short beautifully.


  91. mary says:

    The problem is the minister, not the laity, generally. Older priests know the drill, but younger ones, deacons, and lay “ministers” do not, and one gets a mouthful of thumb – talk about contagion!

    Also, if we are going to have communion under both species, we need to do it the Byzantine way – our current way is very unsanitary, and has to be stopped when there is a flu epidemic.

  92. Jake says:

    Speaking of flu epidemics, a very big and serious one appears to be coming.

  93. rightwingprof says:

    “Also, if we are going to have communion under both species, we need to do it the Byzantine way – our current way is very unsanitary, and has to be stopped when there is a flu epidemic”

    Uh, without going near the issue of whether one can, in fact, contract a disease from the Body and Blood of Christ, I might point out that I know a lot of Western Christians who find the idea of the priest putting Holy Communion directly into our mouths with the same spoon horrifying for so-called “sanitary” reasons.

  94. would you like to see a beautifull picture of the Blessed Padre Pio receiving Holy Communion?

  95. Nan says:

    Scarlett and JayneK,

    I received Communion in the hand until Jan. when, three priests in a row (a Sunday followed by two daily Masses in the next few days), I felt disapproval. Next time I received by mouth, which did feel awkward but is fine; in my parish there are plenty of people receiving either way. The next time? I had an EHMC and received by hand, whereupon she said “be careful, it’s broken.” Sure enough. Haven’t tried that again.

    I attended a Baptism on Saturday as part of a Mass at a church in which I may have been the only person to receive on the tongue. The priest seemed surprised.

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