A note on Communion in the hand

Elizabeth Scalia wrote the following about Communion in the hand. My emphases and comments.

Communion; Hand or Mouth?
via The Anchoress by Elizabeth Scalia on 11/22/10

Yesterday at Mass, my husband noticed that on the floor of our pew, by our feet, was a quarter of an unconsumed Host. He picked it up and consumed it.

Discussing it on the way home, my husband chose to think the best, not the worst. “Maybe [at a previous Mass] the wedge was part of Consecration Host, and it somehow got picked up with another one and missed, or dropped onto a sweater, or something.”

My husband is always quick to think the best, especially when a matter is too troubling to consider, otherwise. We don’t want to think the worst, that someone simply threw the Blessed Sacrament on the floor, or had casually nibbled at the Host, as though it were a cookie – although such things do, sadly, happen. [Redemptionis Sacramentum 92 says that if there is risk of profanation, then Communion must not be given in the hand.]

Nevertheless it brought home to us, again, the reasonableness of receiving the Eucharist by mouth, rather than by hand. My husband currently receives in the hand; I have, over the years, gone back to receiving by mouth; neither one of us has an issue with the other’s choice – they’re just our personal preferences. But my husband has said that if the choice disappeared, he’d have no problem receiving by mouth again.


God bless them.  I respect the processes by which lay people come to make their decisions when it comes to licit options.

If it were up to me, if I were suddenly elected Pope in a strange “Hadrian VII” scenario, among the first things I would do – among the top 10 things I would do – would be to eliminate Communion in the hand.

Maybe top 5 things.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. AM says:

    My parish priest has publicly asserted (at Mass, no less) that he will not administer Holy Communion on the tongue. Furthermore he mocked the custom and encouraged the congregation to laugh at it.

    I doubt if he is unusual. I expect it would be impossible to “eliminate” Commnion in the hand by fiat.

  2. Mitchell NY says:

    Father, we will all be curious to know what the other top 4 things are. Maybe great for another post. Did we ever have to worry about such things (profanation) to such a degree when the only way to receive was on the tongue? That seems reason enough for Bishop’s conferences to come to the conclusion everywhere that communion in the hand has seen its’ time and the risks are just far more than anyone could have imagined and that the allowance has seen its’ end. Do we really need it ?

  3. TJerome says:

    AM, your parish priest is not a faithful Catholic priest. Show him a picture of the Holy Father distributing Holy Communion on the tongue. If he makes an inappropriate remark, write to your bishop and copy the Congregation of Sacred Rites. If he refuses to give Holy Communion on the tongue he should be suspended a divinis and look for another line of work.

  4. FrJohn says:

    This is a HUGE concern for me. I have seen some horrific abuses, though almost all of them committed out of ignorance. Still, I have no authority as a parochial vicar. If I were to attempt to enforce RS 92 I would be thrown out of the parish quicker than I could say: “Jesus forgive them for they know not what they do.”

  5. lucy says:

    Isn’t there always some risk of profanation ? Even if all persons in a particular parish are model Catholics, there is always the risk that someone new will wander in and not be well versed in What/Who the Host really is. Just askin’…………

  6. priests wife says:

    Father- WHY did communion in the hand even begin? It’s like I am giving myself the Eucharist- usurping the priest’s role- was there a good reason to allow this? Thanks- somebody- for answering!

  7. JohnMa says:

    Whenever I am at an OF Mass (almost always a weekday when traveling) I try to make sure that I see every person who receives in the hand consume our Lord. I have yet to see anyone drop our Lord into their pocket or something else but am quite certain that if I were to see it that I would bring it to the priest’s attention immediately and if that didn’t work take other necessary action.

  8. Prof. Basto says:

    Father, I’m sure that if you were ever elected Pope, you would not disappoint in this regard.

    As Hadrian VII, you would issue an Apostolic Constitution effective immediately and get it published on the eve of your Coronation.

    Although, by then, you could have already abolished the Novus Ordo, restablished the subdiaconate, and restored as the only form of the Roman Rite, with the manner of reception of Communion, etc, all liturgical and paraliturgical prescriptions in force at 00:01 hours, October 11, 1962.

  9. frjim4321 says:

    Sadly the hideous sin of profanation of the Blessed Sacrament did not begin when then ancient practice was restored. sadly demented souls who are intent upon committing sacralidge will do so ieven it the ancient practice was discouraged.

    [I think profanation of the Blessed Sacrament is a bad thing. I think it happens often.]

  10. Animadversor says:

    Prof. Basto says:

    As Hadrian VII, you would issue an Apostolic Constitution effective immediately and get it published on the eve of your Coronation.

    The eve of his coronation? You think he would wait that long? I see it happening from the loggia of the Vatican Basilica right after he says “Carissimi Romani.” Or at least right after his morning cornetto and coffee the next day.

  11. catholicmidwest says:

    You need to find a new “parish,” a Catholic parish. That one is dutch reform or something.

  12. catholicmidwest says:

    Then why make it easy for them?

  13. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Love your Comment Fr. Z. I myself would, given the position be Hadrian-like too. I’d do more though. I’d make an apostolic exhortation that all Catholic churches will 1) Restore communion rails in EVERY church, modern or traditional. 2) Order that all seminarians must learn the Extraordinary and Ordinary rites. 3) Order that every Church will have their highest mass (most of the times an “11am” mass) be the EF mass of all their Sunday Masses. or at the very least ONE of their masses. This would also include mandatory altar server training. Seems the best program to suit this would be the “Knights of the Altar” and it seems to be very goal-oriented too. Something the kids and adults could could look forward to. 4) Reiterate AS AN ORDER that communion is acceptable and the primary method or receinving the Blessed Sacrament. 5) Any refusal by a pastor to acknolwedge these requests (e.g. no communion on the tongue, no EF mass of the number on Sun) would be subject to disciplinary action that could be as severe as lacization from disobeying the Holy Father, and the same would apply to Bishops who disagree too (a little tyrannical, yes, but look what liberal bishops have done to the flock by not leading their priests and laity, so we can’t forget the sheperds too).

    I may be a little harsh, [Not nearly as harsh as I would be.] but it seems that letting things just happen naturally will not restore true Catholic faith overall. To me, you have to be firm, otherwise the experession is “you give them an inch, they take a mile.” Isn’t that what has been happening before my time and still today?

  14. Fr Martin Fox says:

    Some parish stories (first hand) about communion in the hand/on the tongue…

    A man comes up to me, with a baby in his arms, offers one hand to receive holy communion. Based on my own experience–namely, that folks carrying babies don’t find it easy to bring the host to their mouth with only one hand, and a wriggling baby–I brought it to his lips. I tried to do it in a way that he could see what was coming; I’m not trying to surprise folks; he received the host, and as he walked away, I heard him say, “well, that’s different.”

    After Mass, I tried to position myself in a spot so that, if he wanted to approach me, he could. I didn’t see him. I would have been happy to explain that I’ve seen folks try to take communion with one hand, and juggle it, fumble it, and both successfully get it to their mouths, and also unsuccessfully. So I am stopping doing that, but I need to give an instruction to all concerned so it’s consistent.

    Last week, at Mass with the schoolchildren, a girl approached me for communion; I looked at her hand, then said–as I brought my hand forward slowly–“I’m going to place it on your tongue.” “What?” “I’m going to put the Eucharist on your tongue.” “Why?” Gesturing to her hand–which had some design drawn on it–“because your hand is dirty.” She received on the tongue with no apparent problems.

    As I have noticed children having dirty hands, this is becoming my policy. Usually I just say, in a low voice, “I’m going to put it on your tongue” and they go with it. I have a couple of times mentioned it to Sister, our principal, so that if anyone asks, she can explain that, if they wish to receive the King in their hands, they have to wash their hands.

    I have also done it when girls come forward with long sleeves covering their hands. One girl jumped when I brought the host to her lips; seeing her confusion, I gestured to her hand, which was covered completely with a drooping sweater sleeve. I’ve had girls come up with sleeves that half-cover their hands, and I’ve wondered if they ever have the host slide down their sleeve. Memo to self: explain to the children that if they want to receive in the hand, they need to fold up their sleeves so their hand is uncovered.

  15. Marc says:

    Last year I witnessed a police officer take communion in the hand and proceed back to the pew to consume Our Lord (I reported this incident to my pastor, without revealing the persons identity–in retrospect I should have told him it “was the cop.”). I have often thought about this incident. What if the cop had proceeded to leave the Church without consuming Our Lord. As a Catholic, am I not obligated to stop or prevent sacrilege? I couldn’t help but think, what if I was to confront this law enforcement official in order to retrieve Our Lord? Even the most gentle and tactful (dare I say “pastoral”) person could (might) end up getting arrested for this type of incident.

    To be honest, I think the problem is far greater. The real problem is priests and bishops unwilling to tell their respective congregations: “if your in a state of mortal sin, you may not receive Communion until you have gone to confession and received absolution, period.”

  16. Tom Ryan says:

    [Redemptionis Sacramentum 92 says that if there is risk of profanation, then Communion must not be given in the hand.]

    When is this NOT the case? And does Light of the World embrace Communion in the Hand as some are suggesting?

  17. TJerome says:

    frjim4321, I think there is some evidence that this “ancient practice” was not widespread as liturgical progressives in the 1960s led us to believe. Just like celebrating Mass versus populum was based on inaccurate scholarship in the 1950s and 1960s. Ad orientem was the time honored practice and we are re-discovering that truth now. Rule of thumb: if a practice was “restored” in the 1960s following the Council, be very, very skeptical. Best, Tom

  18. sejoga says:

    In my home diocese, I never felt much compelled to take communion on the tongue. It was something I always theoretically wanted to do, but I was embarrassed to try and no harm seemed to come from receiving in the hand. But when I went to college, the Newman Center was consecrating a differently made wafer that was more porous and flaky than what I have at home, and it left little crumbs on my palm. I had always been taught that if that happens, one should discreetly lick the tips of one’s fingers on the opposite hand, tap the crumbs, and then lick them off the fingertip to avoid profaning of the host. I did this diligently for several years, until I started noticing that the vast majority of my peers at school simply brushed the crumbs of their palms.

    That was when I decided that it is harmful to receive in the hand, even for me, because I felt like as long as I was receiving in the hand, even though I was doing my best to treat the sacrament respectfully, I couldn’t rightfully criticize others for their abuses while continuing to behave in a way that would encourage them to think of me as hypocritical. I decided that if it was worth educating people to show greater respect for the Eucharist, I needed to show greater respect myself. After seeing how profanely most people handle the host, I could no longer justify believing that it’s ever appropriate to receive in the hand.

    Unfortunately, the first week I decided to start receiving on the tongue, on Holy Thursday, I went to the local parish in my college town, an awful hippie-retreat-center type parish, and they had decided that for an “authentic” Last Supper experience they would consecrate homemade pita-type bread, and then the priest gave me the smallest, hardest little bit of bread that rolled off my tongue and I was mortified. Thankfully the priest ate the piece he had tried to give me and then proceeded to give me a better piece, and I remembered the “little birdie” technique I heard Orthodox use to receive, so I let him drop it into my mouth from above. I very nearly gave up on communion on the tongue after one try after that. Kind of felt like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. What is wrong with just doing things the way they’re supposed to be done?

    I’m convinced that half the reason that parish used their homemade hippie bread for consecration was to subtly encourage the congregation to think of it as “just bread” that you “break and take” rather than Our Lord whom we gratefully receive. Even though it nearly spooked me away from communion on the tongue, it ultimately only served to confirm that I had made the right decision, because judging from the priest’s horrified expression when he looked at me after mass, he had realized how ridiculously irreverent their “authentic” nonsense had been. I think he’s a good priest who’s easily run over by the aging college professor liberals in the town, and I hope the experience gave him an excuse to say “no” when they try to pull the same crap next Holy Thursday.

    Anyway… that kind of went a little off-topic. The point is, receiving on the tongue is absolutely the best place to begin for getting people to understand how sacred the things of our faith are.

  19. cheekypinkgirl says:

    Has no one else noticed that in the same interview/book that is causing all the condom ruckus, that Pope Benedict is also quoted as saying:

    “He said he began distributing Communion on the tongue during papal Masses not because he was opposed to Communion in the hand, but to “send a signal” about respect for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”

  20. frjim4321 says:

    Thanks, Tom. fj

  21. ipadre says:

    I heard there is an official change coming, not to far down the road.

  22. kap says:

    Make this 2nd thing you would do in your ‘“Hadrian VII” scenario’- please ‘elminate the need’ for Extraordinary Ministers. Too often, I watch them receive in their hands and I cringe and feel so very sad.

  23. Joseph says:

    Dear Fr.Z,
    what are the other 4 things you would change, if you were to become pope?

  24. Geoffrey says:

    “He said he began distributing Communion on the tongue during papal Masses not because he was opposed to Communion in the hand, but to ‘send a signal’ about respect for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”

    I noticed that earlier today. It makes sense. Someone who receives in the hand while standing can be affected by seeing someone kneel to receive on the tongue. They may not do it themselves, but they could begin to “feel” differently. I had always received in the hand until I became an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist. Go figure!

  25. MOP says:

    From DOMINUS EST by The Most Reverend Athansius Schneider: (Foreward by Rev. Peter M. J. Stavinskas) “Thirty years later Bishop Schneider’s book comes to the rescue as real history and theology combine to demonstrate the genuine Catholic tradition of the universal Church – the change of the centuries old practice of priests placing the sacred Host directly onto the tongue came precisly from the Protestant Reformers, who were intent on calling into question both the ministerial priesthood and the doctrine of transubstantiation, as their own writings attest.”

  26. xgenerationcatholic says:

    “He said he began distributing Communion on the tongue during papal Masses not because he was opposed to Communion in the hand, but to ‘send a signal’ about respect for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”

    huh? sounds like a contradiction to me. Is the Pope thereby saying Communion in the hand does not show respect for the real presence, yet still he isn’t opposed to it? Why isn’t he?

    “IF there is a risk of profanation…” ??? Haven’t we had Communion hosts sold on Ebay, and college professors desecrate IT? If bishops were concerned about risk, then Communion in the hand should have stopped as soon as those things were made public. How else do you think the people got them?

    Someone told me that when communion in the hand was done anciently, people would have sort of a corporal in their hand to receive IT with. It was not given to their bare hands. I don’t know if that’s true. Is there a scholar here? And if it isn’t, I apologize. Maybe Fr Z knows.

  27. anna 6 says:

    Geoffrey, that is an excellent point about people beginning to “feel” differently even if they are only seeing others receive on the tongue while kneeling.
    Benedict knows how traumatic the V2 changes were because they were sudden and not properly catechised (and sometimes ill-conceived). He is always teaching…and he is patient.

    I’ll say it again…have faith in him…he knows what he is doing.

  28. Jason Keener says:

    I hate to be so critical of the Holy Father, but some of the comments he made in this new interview book seem troubling. I think ordinary Catholics should sometimes express their complaints if things in the Church seem to be going in a bad direction. Perhaps more ordinary Catholics should have been more vociferous in their opposition to the rapid liturgical changes after the Council, which now many realize were inorganic and ill-advised.

    This comment regarding Communion is troubling:

    “He said he began distributing Communion on the tongue during papal Masses not because he was opposed to Communion in the hand, but to ‘send a signal’ about respect for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”

    If the Pope now has to distribute Communion on the tongue to bolster respect for the Real Presence, how can he not be against Communion in the hand, which is a main culprit in destroying respect for the Real Presence? It is hard to understand why our Church leaders will not just admit the shortcomings of the post-Vatican II period and move on from them.

    Let’s continue to pray that the Holy Father will not run away for fear of the wolves.

  29. jlong says:

    Fr, I like your choice for a top five thing to do. My top ten, and not in any order would be:

    1. Declare Mary Co-Redemptrix
    2. Only have Communion on the tongue
    3. Have everyone, unless for a medical reason, kneel down to receive Communion.
    4. Bring back the tiara, sedia gestatoria amongst other things.
    5. Have all Priests and Seminarians learn Latin.
    6. Make it the norm for the Ordinary and Extraordinary to be said at all Parishes every week with the long term objective to have one changed Form of the Roman Rite.
    7. Call a Second Council of Trent to discuss open Magisterial issues that need resolving such as the use of condoms in light of the Pope’s recent private theological opinion (which I agree with).
    8. Move, within reason, towards bringing the Orthodox Churches into full Communion.
    9. Move to replace all liberal Bishops with strong orthodox Bishops.
    10. Place Saint Joseph in the Eucharistic Prayers

  30. kallman says:

    communion should only be given on the tongue using quick dissolving hosts. People have even coated their mouths with things like alum to make it dry in order to retrieve the host even in this setting for purposes of subsequent profanation. I find communion in the hand casual, irreverent, disrespectful to the Real Presence and dangerous as the number of particles from the host which get lost are considerable. We have an FSSP priest who, when he takes a host from the ciborium gives it a little shake before making the sign of the cross with it and placing it on the recipient’s tongue in order to remove any loose fragments.

  31. Joseph: Another one of them would be to strip enemy cardinals of their red hats.

  32. anna 6 says:

    “Let’s continue to pray that the Holy Father will not run away for fear of the wolves”
    Are you serious? That is the antithesis of B16’s behaviour!
    Read what he actually said!!!
    “I am not opposed in principle to Communion in the hand; I have both administered and received Communion in this way myself.”
    “The idea behind my current practice of having people kneel to receive Communion on the tongue was to send a signal and to underscore the Real Presence with an exclamation point. One important reason is that there is a great danger of superficiality precisely in the kinds of Mass events we hold at Saint Peter’s, both in the Basilica and in the Square. I have heard of people who, after receiving Communion, stick the Host in their wallet to take home as a kind of souvenir.
    “In this context, where people think that everyone is just automatically supposed to receive Communion — everyone else is going up, so I will, too–I wanted to send a clear signal. I wanted it to be clear: Something quite special is going on here! He is here, the One before whom we fall on our knees! Pay attention!

  33. Fr. Basil says:

    When I visit a Latin Church, I have to receive communion standing, but always on the tongue.

    \\communion should only be given on the tongue using quick dissolving hosts.\\

    Leavened bread is the Eucharistic matter in most Eastern Churches, and it won’t dissolve.

  34. Jack Hughes says:

    If I were made pope……..

    1) take the papal name Philimon
    2) Eliminate Communion in the Hand
    3) Send the members of a particular Bishops conference off to a monastary…… for good
    4) announce that the Mass of Paul VI was an experiment that failed and move back to the 1962 books as the norm
    5) stuff the curia with Discalced Carmalites
    6) crack down on wacky Bishops conferences
    7) deal with the inveitable Schism
    8) Consecrate Fr Z, Fr Blake, Fr Finnegan, Fr Longenecker (and several good priests I know) as Bishops – Making it clear that they have no choice in the matter.
    9) dismantle the whole idea of bishops conferences
    10) call for a new crusade (only kidding but think of the posibilites….)
    11) Assasinated; either by modernists or muslims… sorry middle eastern liberals (two most likely candidates)

  35. Good. I would vote in you. For this and for many other things. I tremble when I think who will be our next Pope: a good one, a truly good one or one full of compromises with the world? May God keep with us this Pope we have now.

  36. This type of situation is why the Church many many centuries ago mandated Communion on the tongue. Communion in the hand in our era was started through disobedience and deceit, which led to an indult to supposedly allow a change back to Tradition over time, but we see the get an inch take a mile approach having made the exception (the indult) the rule. What’s interesting is that the Bishop’s are given permission via the indult to accept or reject Tradition of reception on the tongue. Get rid of the indult.

  37. Vox clamantis in deserto says:

    If I were a cardinal :-), it would be a difficult choice…Canizares? Ranjith? Schneider? Zuhlsdorf? :-) The order is just alphabetical, I will never have to bear the burden of the decision.

    Father, please complete to top 10 list!

    As to what the Holy Father says (as a private person, not ex cathedra):
    In all these ‘controversial topics’, he is right, as far as I can judge it. In all of them, he takes one of possible orthodox positions. Up to a certain measure, there is some space what (not) to emphasize.

    I’d like to highlight one dimension which appears from time to time, but mostly is left unnoticed.

    His Holiness was one of periti in the IIVC. The fact cannot be just deleted, and it has its consequences.
    I allow myself a personal analogy – I was born in the communist Czechoslovakia. I was only 13 when communism fell, but I (and many, not all :-), from my generation) will never be the same (with respect to naturalness of some natural things, like freedom etc) as people 10 years younger. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

    Benedict XVI is the last Pope with a personal active participation in the IIVC to be elected.

    The next Pope will be different (and, with the new College of Cardinals, I am quite optimistic). The next Pope will not be an active participant in the IIVC. He can say something different (in accidents, not in essence) on many problems. The accidents can be very important – one thing is to say that Holy Communion in the hand is not againts any dogma, something different is to add that from now on it is forbidden.

    Please don’t misunderstand me.

    I used an analogy between communism and the IIVC. No analogy is perfect – I do not say that also the IIVC is, like communism, evil in itself. But many interpretations of the Council are at least problematic.

    I do not criticize what the Holy Father does. First, he has the supreme jurisdiction. Second, I don’t know if I would act differently – it seems wise to start slowly and then to speed up.

    Finally, by no means am I looking forward to a change on Cathedra Petri. On the contrary – ad multos annos, Your Holiness!

    All I am saying is that (most probably, unless the end of times comes before death of Benedict XVI) there will be a next Pope. And, there is time for giving examples, and there is time for giving orders.

  38. The indult has become the de facto norm in many places. I’m all for the removal of the indult. I do think that it will be removed if not during this Pntificate, the next one. The deck is slowly being stacked.

  39. Jason Keener says:

    An old friend of mine who spent a lot of time in Rome told me that a Pope should be two things: Mean and Orthodox. He was only partly kidding. I might be coming around to his way of thinking. In any event, I think the Church has accomodated Herself way too much to the world and the spirit of the world, which was somewhat of an open intention of the Council Fathers. Perhaps the Church needs to again more vigorously re-assert Her role as a bulwark against the world and the evils of the world, as was the posture of the Church in the pre-Vatican II era. Yes, the Church needs to speak optimistically about the joys of the Christian life and appeal to man’s good side, but the Church also needs to condemn errors, issue anathemas, and preach the immediate need of conversion to the True Religion. Things have been very lopsided the last 40 years.

    If I were Pope, I would:

    1. Issue an encyclical extolling the virtues of Thomistic philosophy and theology and order that Thomism again become the main staple of seminary training.
    2. Celebrate the Extraordinary Form in public often.
    3. Dust off the Papal Tiara and Sedia Gestatoria to use for big events.
    4. Ban Communion in the Hand, Ban Standing for Communion, and Ban Mass Celebrated Facing the People.
    5. Require that Gregorian Chant and Sacred Polyphony again take their rightful place in the Liturgy. Hold constant workshops in Rome to begin a major sacred music revival.
    6. Begin a serious revision of the Ordinary Form.
    7. Elevate to the College of Cardinals many priests and bishops in the mold of Cardinal Burke to ensure my successor was a supporter of “Tradition.”
    8. Charitably use arguments from traditional Catholic Apologetics in an attempt to convert non-Catholics to the True Religion.
    9. Clear up the ambiguity in the documents of Vatican II, especially pertaining to Religious Liberty and Ecumenism.
    10. Vigorously promote Christ’s temporal kingship and the need of governments to govern with a Catholic philosophy.

    That would be the first week…

  40. Jason Keener says:

    Anna 6,

    Can you provide one good reason why Communion should be given in the hand? I cannot think of one. Why do people continue to support Communion in the hand when there are so many possibilities for profanation and abuse? Moreover, why would we handle the Sacred Host as we do ordinary food? There should be a special reverence associated with receiving the Holy Eucharist.

    I still maintain that the Pope, in principle, should be against Communion in the hand. There is absolutely no good reason for it.

  41. Ralph says:

    Thankfully my home parish has a communion rail and is supportive of kneeling and communion on the tounge. I’d say it’s about 50 – 50 hand – tounge.

    A few years ago we were attacked by satinists. They destroyed a classroom, graffitied walls with pentagrams and such. They even disrupted a mass, knocking over the podium and screaming. During this period, our pastor found a host hidden behind the holy water font. We believe it had been placed there by an accomplice for the satinists to retrieve. Because of this we,went to tounge only for about a year.

    Take your children to adoration and you’ll never have a problem with communion in the hand.

  42. Um, guys. Remember the “once holy, always holy” rule? The same one that the EF leans on?
    That’s why the Pope can’t come out and say “communion in the hand is wrong”. Because everybody used to do it, and back then it was holy.

    He can say it’s inadvisable, or that other practices have really good side effects, and so on. He can even mandate that nobody do it anymore at this time. But virulently “opposing” communion in the hand as absolute evil and abuse, in the way some folks in this thread suggest, would be doctrinally and intellectually contradictory. Ain’t gonna happen nowhere, nohow, with no Pope that knows about the history.

  43. Henry Edwards says:

    frjim4321: sadly demented souls who are intent upon committing sacralidge will do so ieven it the ancient practice was discouraged.

    Whether intentionally so or not, this is a straw man argument. I have never personally seen a “sadly demented soul” who appeared to be intent on committing sacrilege. What we all see frequently are ordinary people who are encouraged (and sometimes even taught) by the practice of communion in the hand to habitually and casually (if not intentionally) commit formal acts of disrespect, irreverence, and even sacrilege.

    Everyone, to whom belief in the Real Presence is central, knows this. No doubt our Holy Father with his universal pastoral responsibility is more acutely sensitive to this than anyone else, and the problem of how to end this terrible tragedy surely weighs heavily on him as Pope.

  44. Chumly says:

    How can you reasonably expect not to risk profanation if hands are used?

  45. Margo says:

    I miss the Communion rail and wish they would put that back in ALL the churches. Perhaps Pope Benedict XVI will consider that as a next step.

  46. AJP says:

    Regarding Mrs. Scalia’s husband’s comments about “assuming the best” I think that is a very good thing to keep in mind in these upsetting situations. I have witnessed on two occasions, a “near miss” with the Blessed Sacrament (i.e., someone starting to walk away with the Host w/o consuming it). Both times the person involved was an elderly woman who did not appear to be “all there” mentally. Similar stories I have heard from friends and other secondhand sources, indicate that often (but not always) the person behaving inappropriately is an elderly person who appears to be suffering from dementia.

    So my point is that when one comes across something horrifying like a Host on the floor, don’t necessarily assume this was done out of malice by some satanist – there may very well be a much more benign explanation for it.

    This isn’t to say that deliberate desecration of the Eucharist does not happen – unfortunately it does, and it is beyond upsetting to think about. And whether the Host is at risk of desecration by carefully plotting satanists or at risk of unintentional desecration by the senile, either way returning to communion on the tongue would go a long way to reduce the risk.

  47. Torkay says:

    …among the first things I would do – among the top 10 things I would do – would be to eliminate Communion in the hand.

    Kudos to you, Father. If I were elected Pope, first on my list would be to suppress the Novus Ordo…you know, that secularized liturgical disaster which causes Communion in the hand.

  48. Miriam says:

    I was received into the faith at Easter vigil 2008. Receiving on the tongue was the only way I knew.

    But during the H1N1 scare we were ordered by the bishop to receive in the hand. Scared me because I was afraid I would drop the Body or do something wrong. But I read an article about how to receive in the hand. You cup your hands one over the other so that you are protecting the Body and with the fingertips of the bottom hand you then pick up the Body and consume.

    We also could not receive His blood during that time.

    I was very glad when we back to mouth communion.

    But this is something my priest does that makes me nuts. He is giving the Body and then using the same hand to mark a cross on the forehead of those who come up for a blessing. We had a mission recently and the priest who was there would hold up the Body and make a cross in the air and bless the person but then give it to the next communicant. He never touched anyone while giving communion.

  49. JamesA says:

    Father, please don’t keep us in suspense ! What are the other things you would do in this happy theoretical event ?

  50. Andy Milam says:

    My two cents worth, for what it’s worth….

    First, if on the waaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy off chance I were ever elected Pope, the first thing I would do would be to take the regnal name of Gelasius III. Both were defenders of the Faith and Gelasius I was a liturgist. So, this is a fitting title.

    Now on to the top things I would do. And they would be in this order….

    1. Retire all bishops who were at odds with my papacy. We would be Soverign after all….
    2. Hold a consistory to replace deposed cardinals from #1. John Todd Cardinal Zuhlsdorf would be immediately named to the Prefecture of the CDF. Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke would be named immediately to Secretariat of State. Malcom Cardinal Ranjith would be made prefect of the CDWDS.
    3. Immediate overhaul of seminary system collaborating with Cardinals Zuhlsdorf and Burke.
    4. Immediate overhaul of the Liturgical action collaborating with Cardinals, Zuhlsdorf, Burke, Ranjith, Bishop Slattery and Bishop Sample. Keys:
    — Restoration of Liturgical Calendar, including the new saints (since calendar change) in their proper classes
    — Reversal of what is considered to be Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form
    — Restoration of ad orientem as normative action, even on freestanding altars
    — Restoration of Communion rails and use of said rail
    — Restoration of Holy Communion on the tongue as ONLY form of reception
    — Restoration of pious practice of reception of Holy Communion in one Species only.
    — Restoration of a male only Sanctuary (women have an important role in the Church, just not there)
    — Foster understanding that within Holy Mother Church, Latin is the vernacular and mandate it to be the language used for all liturgical action.
    — The list would continue from there…
    5. Naming of B. Allen Young as personal secretary and papal Master of Ceremonies
    6. Elevation of St. Agnes Parish, in St. Paul, MN to status of Minor Basilica, with Pontifical Mass with Pope presiding and Cardinal Zuhlsdorf as celebrant.
    7. Clear affirmation and expansion on Humane Vitae
    8. Restoration of Rev. Reginald Foster to previous postions and creating him Cardinal Priest with the title of St. Athanasius.
    9. Restoration of proper liturgical music. Keys:
    — Restoration of the Gradual as normative, fully suppressing the Responsorial Psalm
    — Resortation of Gregorian chant as prime mode of musical expression within the Mass
    — Fostering of classical works to be implemented as far reaching as possible
    — Restoration of hymnody to it’s proper place OUTSIDE of Mass.
    10. Provide a weekly audience with young men and women who are seeking answers to any questions (will be unrehearsed and complete disclosure will be the norm) Keys:
    — Vocations (priesthood, religous life, married life, and single life)
    — Morality
    — Understanding future place in Holy Mother Church

  51. lofstrr says:

    The only thing that I would love more than for Fr. Z to become the next Pope would be for that transition to not be necessary for another 20 or more years.

  52. ChronicSinner says:

    What is the proper response to finding a host on the ground or some other place it should not be? Did Mrs. Scalia’s husband do the correct act by consuming it, or should it have been brought to the priest? These are serious questions for my own edification that I would appreciate answers to, in case I ever find myself in a similar situation. Thanks.

  53. irishgirl says:

    I echo what several of the other posters have said: please, Father Z, tell us what the rest of your ‘program’ would be if you were elected Pope?
    Andy Milam, Jason Keener, and Jack Hughes: hey, I LOVE all your ‘programs’, too!
    ‘John Todd Cardinal Zuhlsdorf’, eh? Has quite the ‘ring’ to it! [pun intended!]

  54. Andy Milam says:

    I forgot # 11.

    11. Restoration of lay cardinalate and creation of new secretary and Papal Master of Ceremonies, B. Allen Young as first lay cardinal with the title of Augustopolis in Palaestina, since the death of Teodolfo Cardinal Mertel, in 1899. (This would mean the restoration of minor orders including tonsure, to which we would find no impediment)

  55. benedetta says:

    In the rather affluent diocese where I grew up money was spent and earnest effort expended to “overhaul” the churches. Most are in-the-round, replete with pianos, and when I was young, we hadn’t kneelers, the crucifix was replaced with a precious arrangement of seasonal branches, and the “sanctuary” adorned with felt banners with various slogans, the tabernacle removed altogether, to..the basement or hallway or some unknown out of the way location. Most of all the priests (or even according to the proper lingo, the sacramental ministers) seemed very proud of the little chunks of bread we all stomped up to receive as communion every week. Somehow all of this I understand now was supposed to relate to some sort of notion of peace and justice however when I providentially relocated to an urban center I was bowled over at the sight of many very poor people in the outer boroughs reverently receiving communion, on their knees at prayer, lighting a candle in faith. Thankfully I was able to experience a reversion (?) to the faith at that time, and it was not dictated to me by priests or authority or whatever the enemy in this other diocese was believed to be…it was taught to me by the downtrodden, urban poor, full of faith and trust and in awe of their Lord and God. When I had to move back to the diocese of my youth and tried to receive on the tongue, my pastor actually chuckled and rolled his eyes at me. Let them laugh away. My generation, schooled in their bizarre whimsical take on the faith, no longer practices their faith in this region of the world…I know many here haven’t bothered to have their children baptised let alone support the peace and justice loving parish of their youth…and you can’t blame them when they showed up at church with their families on Sundays only to be passed a piece of bread whilst singing a cute Mexican ditty. It may have given the people in charge and with lots of authority great self-satisfaction to feel that they were somehow, in the midst of American suburbia, pursuing peace and justice and were at one with the Marxists in South America, but we were never even given the kindness of that explanation to at least feel some participation or solidarity, as meager a fruit as it is…But give us the true bread of life, the real presence, and we will be really be fortified for the journey, and be a part of something universal!

  56. Daniel Latinus says:

    Somebody suggested to the bishops back in the 1970s that permitting Communion in the hand was a good idea. My understanding was that Communion in the hand was illicitly introduced in many places, and the bishops petitioned for its “legalization” rather than “compromise their credibility” by suppressing the practice. (I never saw Communion in the hand until after it was legalized.)

    So my question is, how do we go about petitioning the bishops to ask that the indult in favor of Communion in the hand be withdrawn?

  57. momoften says:

    The easiest way to begin to go away from communion in the hand is intinction. I know in our Diocese the people are freaked out if not offered the precious blood during Mass (though it isn’t required) ….although I will note, Fr Stravinskas was in the area recently, and when he gave out communion through intinction some TRIED to STILL receive by hand….Father won though..God Bless him. It makes me believe people really don’t believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Mass has become irreverent and that has led to people’s casual attitudes concerning their faith….and especially the Blessed Eucharist. Communion in the hand really should be taken away as an option.

  58. Suburbanbanshee, I don’t think “once holy, always holy” applies to Communion on the hand. Certain practices in the early Church were due to exigencies that no longer exist (e.g., the Roman persecutions). Also, the Church’s increased understanding of divine revelation down the centuries has led her to abandon some practices, or change others, or adopt new ones. What excuse can we possibly have now for reverting to practices for which there is no need, and which reflect a primitive understanding of the Eucharist? There are some things that were acceptable then that cannot be acceptable now, just as certain behaviors that are acceptable in babies cannot be acceptable in adults.

    Also: when the Holy Father says he gives Communion on the tongue not because he is opposed to Communion on the hand, but to signal greater respect for the Real Presence, I do not think he is saying he supports Communion on the hand: quite the contrary. I think he is simply emphasizing the need for greater reverence, and saying that Communion on the tongue is conducive to fostering it. (And implying that Communion on the hand is not.)

  59. marypatricia says:

    This is from “God is Near Us” by (then) Cardinal Ratzinger.
    The second objection we wanted to consider (during the reform of the liturgy vat 2) was directed against the act of receiving Communion: kneeling-standing,hand-mouth.
    Well, first of all, I would like to say that both attitudes are possible and I would like therefore to ask all priests to exercise tolerance and to recognize the decision of each person; and I would further like to ask you all to exercise the same tolerance and not to cast aspersions on anyone who may have optedfor this or that way of doing it. But you will ask: Is tolerance the proper answer here? Or is it not misplaced with repect to this most holy thing? Well, here again we know that until the ninth century Communion was received in the and, standing. That does not of course mean that it should always be so. For what is fine, sublime ,about the Church is that she is growing,maturing,understanding the mystery more profoundly. In that sense the new development that began after the ninth century is quite justified, as an expression of reverence, and it is well founded. But, on the other hand, we have to say that the Church could not possibly have been celebrating the Eucharist unworthily for nine hundred years.
    (He then goes on to talk about the way Cyril of Jerusalem instructed candidates for Baptism on the correct and reverent way to receive in the hand)
    Anyone who reflects on this will recognize that on this point it is quite wrong to argue about this or that form of behaviour. We should be concerned only to argue in favour of what the Church’s efforts were directed, both before and after the ninth century, that is, a reverence in the heart, an inner submission before the mystery of God that puts himself in our hands.

  60. marypatricia says:

    Communion was received in the hand (not “and”)

  61. MJ says:

    Suburbanbanshee, I don’t believe “everybody used to do it [communion in the hand]”.

    Communion in the hand was never a universal custom or practice. Pope St. Sixtus (115-165 A.D.) and Pope St. Euchtyian (275-283 A.D.) forbade the faithful from receiving communion in the hand. St. Basil (330-379 A.D.) permitted this practice only in times of persecution; St Leo the Great taught, “one receives in the mouth what one believes by faith.” Eventually, communion in the hand was forbidden universally.

    In 1965, Cardinal Suenans, Archbishop of Belgium, introduced the practice of receiving communion in the hand to his diocese. Pope Paul VI addressed this flagrant act of disobedience in 1969 with the release of his encyclical Memoriale Domini.

    This is a absolutely great link: http://www.catholic-pages.com/mass/inhand.asp. You’ll especially want to take note of section 9, “Was it universal?” — this section gives a more full history of communion in the hand, and it also addresses the common quote folks usually cite by St. Cyril of Jerusalem which seems to prove the universality of communion in the hand (btw it does not).

    Basically the practice back then was that one could touch the Host when not to do so would mean being deprived of the Sacrament. But when a priest was available, one did not receive in one’s hand. St. Basil (330-379) said clearly that to receive Communion by one’s own hand is only permitted in times of persecution or, as was the case with monks in the desert, when no deacon or priest was available to give it. But again, this practice was eventually universally forbidden…until it was unlawfully introduced again in the 1960’s…

  62. Andy Milam says:

    So, if I am understanding this right…and let any libby who is out there chime in, because I am genuinely interested at this point…

    If we can go back to a 1000 year old practice and justify reception of Holy Communion in the manner that marypatricia uses to justify it, then how is it that we are celebrating Mass in a language other than Latin? I mean wasn’t Latin being used as the Liturgical Language a lot longer than 1000 years ago? (/sarcasm/)

    Substitute Latin for reception and I think that we can make the most liberal of Catholics come around. The logic is valid and sound. So, no more vernacular, unless you’re defining the vernacular of the Roman Catholic Church as Latin, then we should be touting the return of the vernacular. I’m just sayin’….

  63. MJ says:

    We cannot go back to a 1000 year old practice and justify the reception of communion in the hand, 1) because it was forbidden universally (and in the 60’s reintroduced unlawfuly), 2) because it was never a universal practice and only allowed under extreme circumstances (and again since forbidden universally), and 3) because it was not a 1000 year old (insert any number of years you wish, but basically it is not an old) practice. See my above comment, and the link I provided. One interesting point in the link provided:

    The Council of Rouen, which met in 650, said, “Do not put the Eucharist in the hands of any layman or laywomen but only in their mouths.” The Council of Constantinople prohibited the faithful from giving Communion to themselves (which is of course what happens when the Sacred Particle is placed in the hand of the communicant). It also decreed an excommunication of one week’s duration for those who would do so in the presence of a bishop, priest or deacon.

  64. Geoffrey says:

    Am I the only one concerned that so many people have apparently given some very serious thought to the entirely hypothetical question “What if I were Pope?” lol!

  65. asophist says:

    “…if there is risk of profanation, then Communion must not be given in the hand” – seems to me there is always a risk of profanation when communion is given in the hand. Therefore . . .

  66. Marc says:

    If I were Pope, John Cardinal Zuhlsdorf would be tasked with being the Vatican Press Security and web Master of vatican.va

  67. Pete says:

    The pope ‘does not object’ to Communion in the hand. Read here:

    It’s going to be quite a book.

  68. jorgepreble says:

    Here is my vote for a top ten (or five) list of things Father would do if he were pope!

  69. SimonDodd says:

    Jason Keener says:

    “If the Pope now has to distribute Communion on the tongue to bolster respect for the Real Presence, how can he not be against Communion in the hand, which is a main culprit in destroying respect for the Real Presence?”

    Inter alia, by not sharing your premise that CITH “is a main culprit in destroying respect for the Real Presence….”

    Chumly says:

    “How can you reasonably expect not to risk profanation if hands are used?”

    For one thing, because every Sunday, in thousands of parishes around this country, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of your brethren receive communion in the hand without being irreverent or profane about it.

    asophist says:

    “…if there is risk of profanation, then Communion must not be given in the hand” – seems to me there is always a risk of profanation when communion is given in the hand. Therefore . . “.

    It seems to me that there is always a risk of profanation when communion is given—period. A few weeks ago, I saw one spotty little oik approach an EMHC while doing what teenagers seem to constantly be doing these days: visibly and nonchalantly chewing gum. He did not remove the gum for what follows, and it strikes me that the ensuing profanation would have happened no matter how the host reached his pie-hole. You may of course reply “but I wouldn’t just eliminate CITH, I’d eliminate EMHCs too,” but that won’t do it—refer to comment #1.

    FTR, and for context, I’m not a partisan for CITH and lean against it.

  70. SimonDodd says:

    MJ says:

    Communion in the hand was never a universal custom or practice. Pope St. Sixtus (115-165 A.D.) and Pope St. Euchtyian (275-283 A.D.) forbade the faithful from receiving communion in the hand. … St Leo the Great taught, “one receives in the mouth what one believes by faith.” Eventually, communion in the hand was forbidden universally.

    MJ, I’m glad that you brought these up, because I often see them cited by COTT proponents, and I remain mystified—even after several frustrating conversations with those proponents—where they come from. Do you have reliable documentary sources for these statements, please?

    The Council of Constantinople prohibited the faithful from giving Communion to themselves (which is of course what happens when the Sacred Particle is placed in the hand of the communicant). It also decreed an excommunication of one week’s duration for those who would do so in the presence of a bishop, priest or deacon.

    Which council of Constantinople? There have been several. You appear to have in mind the 58th canon of the 692 synod in trullo, but its prescription strikes me as far more ambiguous than you imply (particularly when one considers it in light of the same synod’s 101st canon), and even if it is best read as you suggest, that council belongs in any event to an era when CITH appears to have been in rapid decline. How do you construe the joint effect of these canons?

    Re Basil’s statement (you write that St. Basil permitted CITH “only in times of persecution”), the link that you gave cites St. Basil’s Letter 93, which is available here. If Basil had said nothing else but the text you cite, it might have been fair to construe the remark in the spirit of exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis, although it might be something of a reach to say that Basil “said clearly that to receive Communion by one’s own hand is only permitted in times of persecution.” What he said clearly is that it’s good to communicate, and it’s too obvious to require discussion that in times of persecution, one may “take the communion in his own hand” (whatever that may mean, and it has a distinctly idiomatic ring).

    But Basil did say more in Letter 93, and the remarks that immediately follow make it very hard to see how the letter can be cited for the proposition that Basil was implicitly condemning CITH. He writes:

    [A]t Alexandria and in Egypt, each one of the laity, for the most part, keeps the communion, at his own house, and participates in it when he likes. For when once the priest has completed the offering, and given it, the recipient, participating in it each time as entire, is bound to believe that he properly takes and receives it from the giver. And even in the church, when the priest gives the portion, the recipient takes it with complete power over it, and so lifts it to his lips with his own hand.

    What do you make of that?

    So many of the arguments advanced by both sides—and, frankly, the “facts” adduced in supoprt thereof—turn out to be , with all due respect, cant. Rote talking points recited without critical engagement. As someone trying to discern how to proceed, to ascertain the historical truth, this is very frustrating. It may be that Sixtus, to give one example, actually did say that—but one can’t accept the quote simply because it happens to line up behind one’s preferred outcome, or because it was quoted (without sourcing) by a website which does likewise. So do you have reliable sources for these quotes, and how do you deal with their problems?

  71. MJ says:

    SimonDodd, thanks for your response to my comment. While I wish I did, I unfortunatly don’t have time to do justice to your response — and to be quite honest, those citations are proving much more difficult to find than I thought they would be (why they were not included with the links I have for those quotes, I’m not sure). What I did want to say with the time I have was this:

    We laity don’t need to (and should not) worry about the arguments commonly given for communion in the hand, because regardless of what quotes we can come up with in favor of communion in the hand (“Oh well they used to do it in the 200’s!), the fact is that communion in the hand, while once allowed in certain specific circumstances, has since been universally forbidden. Communion on the tongue was pretty well established by the 6th century, I believe. What we also need to keep in mind is how communion in the hand was re-introduced — through, basically, disobedience.

    And that’s all we really need to know. :)

  72. SimonDodd says:

    MJ, that was my experience, too: “those citations are proving much more difficult to find than I thought they would be.” The quotes are commonly-given, but rarely-sourced; I saw one source that gave a citation for the Sixtus quote that was something like: “(Author’s last name), (page number).” But that 19th c. author had written about a dozen lengthy and multi-volume books—in Italian, to boot, so the citation was as much use as a chocolate teapot.

    I disagree, however, that it doesn’t matter whether these quotes are genuine or not, or, more broadly, that we “don’t need to (and should not) worry about” the issue. We do and should. Whether anyone likes where we are or how we got here, the fact remains that Catholics in America today have the option of receiving in either manner. I don’t see how I could make an informed, thought-out choice on the matter (as I feel everyone must, regardless of which way they choose) without some understanding of the historical and theological issues. It isn’t as simple as dismissing the last six decades as the kind of “senseless antiquarianism” warned against in Mediator Dei.

    Fortunately, as a candidate, I have some time to write about, research, and reflect on the issue, which I’ve been doing for about four months now; an essay-length treatment with conclusions will issue, oh, about a week before I make first communion. ;) In fact, I do find the argument from traditional practice quite strong, and I do not see a particularly forceful counterpoint in favor of CITH, so I’m leaning towards COTT. Nevertheless, the Church has asked us each, individually, to think and pray on it, and then to decide for ourselves—and in that order.

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