A look at the posture and manner of receiving Holy Communion

From the website of the newspaper the Catholic Herald of the Diocese of Madison, where H.E. Most Rev. Robert Morlino reigns, comes this piece about the manner of reception of Holy Communion.  I must add, as the writer does not, that this pertains to the Ordinary Form, or Novus Ordo.

It is a good, concise presentation of some of the issues which frequently arise and the writer is, in the main, on target.  I will, however, add my own two pence before beginning to add my emphases and comments.  I think that people who are physically capable of doing so, should always kneel and receive Communion directly on the tongue.  I think the permission for Communion in the hand should be abolished.  In advance of it being abolished, people should be urged, taught, persuaded to receive on the tongue while kneeling.  So there.

Remember that this is in a diocesan newspaper.  Something like this would have been unimaginable, say, 10 years ago.

What is the correct posture for receiving Communion?
Guest column
Written by Paul M Matenaer, For the Catholic Herald
Thursday, May. 19, 2011 — 12:00 AM

A few weeks ago a friend had asked about the Church’s law on the proper posture for receiving Holy Communion. Should we receive on the tongue or in the hand? Kneeling or standing?

Over the years, I have heard various answers with slight differences, so I decided to look into it myself. As with my previous articles on the rite of exorcism, I hope to dispel some of the myths and clarify the issue.

My intention here is not to give a complete historical overview of the various practices, nor even to treat the theological reasoning behind them. Rather, I hope to simply and clearly explain the ius vigens, that is, the law presently in force regarding the posture for receiving Holy Communion. [Keeping in mind that Universae Ecclesiae derogates from laws  which conflict with the liturgical in force in 1962.  This article is a good look at the situation for the Ordinary Form.]

In the hand or on the tongue?

Though many may tell you that the Second Vatican Council “did away” with Communion on the tongue, the truth of the matter is that the council fathers did not address such concrete subjects.

Rather, the many liturgical questions following the Second Vatican Council were handled by the Sacred Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments and the Sacred Congregation of Rites, groups which were later merged to create what we now call the Congregation for Divine Worship [and Discipline of the Sacraments].

The question of receiving in the hand or on the tongue was first treated in an instruction entitled Memoriale Domini, published in 1969, just four years after the conclusion of Vatican II. In this instruction, the congregation stated that the Holy Father has decided not to change the universal practice of receiving on the tongue for three reasons: it had “many centuries of tradition behind it,” it avoided the possibility of profanation, and it expressed a proper “respect, decorum, and dignity” for the Eucharist.

However, the document noted that if the discipline of receiving in the hand prevailed by popular practice, then an individual conference of bishops could request an exception from Rome to allow Communion in the hand provided that the traditional usage of receiving on the tongue was not excluded. [NB: it is an exception which can be granted.]

Following this instruction, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) did indeed request permission that Communion in the hand be allowed in their territory. [And, gosh, how fruitful it has been.] For this reason, the 2002 General Instruction [Institution] of the Roman Missal (GIRM), the official instruction manual for the Mass, states that in the U.S. the communicant “may choose whether to receive in the hand or on the tongue.”

Two years later, the Congregation for Divine Worship published another instruction, Redemptionis Sacramentum, which states that one “always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice” and that if anyone wishes to receive in the hand where this permission has been granted, he is allowed.

From these documents, it is quite clear, therefore, that each individual may receive on the tongue, or in territories where Communion in the hand is allowed, he may receive in the hand.

[Nota bene…] However, it must be noted that the permission which allows Communion to be given in the hand does not create an absolute right for the communicant. The instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, mentioned above, notes that if there is a risk of profanation of the Eucharistic species, Communion should not be given in the hand, but only on the tongue.

Kneeling or standing?

The question of whether one should kneel or stand when receiving Communion is a slightly more complicated one. As with the case above, the Second Vatican Council did not address this specific question, but it was left to be worked out in the period after the council.

In 1967, the Sacred Congregation of Rites promulgated an instruction entitled Eucharisticum mysterium, which stated that “the faithful may receive Communion either kneeling or standing.” It went on to say, however, that one or the other posture was to be chosen by the conference of bishops to be the norm for their territory. The USCCB decided that the norm for the dioceses in the United States would be standing, which is reflected in article 160 of the GIRM as adopted for this country. [And reverence for the Blessed Sacrament has, no doubt, attained new heights.]

The GIRM, though, immediately adds two qualifications. First, it states that communicants “should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel.” [And yet that does happen.  We have heard the horror stories.] Secondly, it notes that “such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.” [I think proper catechesis would have to include why it is better to kneel.]

Unfortunately the reason for this norm is not contained in article 160 itself, as one might expect, but occurs earlier in article 42 regarding the importance of a uniform posture during the sacred liturgy. [How about uniformity with tradition?] Article 42 states that a common posture is to be observed throughout the whole of Mass — not just during Communion — since a uniform posture signifies the unity of the Christian community. [How about unity with our forebears?]

[QUAERUNTUR…] From these statements in the GIRM, a number of important questions arise. Does article 42 of the GIRM imply that there can be no variance whatsoever in the posture of the faithful at Mass? Can a pastor of a parish, after having provided the aforementioned catechesis, refuse Communion to those who still wish to kneel? Are those who choose to kneel being “disobedient” to the norm created by the USCCB?

These questions are not merely theoretical or abstract ones, but are real questions that were addressed to the Congregation for Divine Worship in the years following the publication of the GIRM. Thankfully, the congregation made their replies known, publishing them in their official journal Notitiae and thus allowing us greater insight into the proper application of these norms.

Can there be no variance in the posture of the faithful? [No.  There can be.]

This question came to the Congregation for Divine Worship from Cardinal George of Chicago in 2003, who asked whether the GIRM forbid one from kneeling in personal prayer after receiving the Eucharist even though the rest of the community sat or stood.

The congregation replied that article 42 of the GIRM meant to “ensure within broad limits a certain uniformity of posture” while not seeking to “regulate posture rigidly.” Though the question itself does not directly pertain, this response gives us some insight regarding how article 42 is to be applied throughout the other parts of the Mass, including at Communion.

Can a pastor refuse Communion to those who kneel? [No. He must not.]

This question came to the congregation in 2002 from a parishioner whose pastor had instituted a policy of refusing Communion to those who presented themselves kneeling.

The congregation responded forcefully, [mirabile dictu] stating that they consider “any refusal of Holy Communion to a member of the faithful on the basis of his or her kneeling posture to be a grave violation of one of the most basic rights of the Christian faithful.” Furthermore, they issued a warning to priests who “should understand that the congregation will regard future complaints of this nature with great seriousness.[I wonder if there are any instances of the Congregation acting “with great seriousness” in this regard.  That would be interesting to know.]

Are those who kneel for Communion disobedient? [No.  They are not.]

Following the promulgation of the GIRM, many held that those who chose to kneel when receiving were being disobedient to the norm created by the USCCB. This very question came to the congregation in 2003, who indicated that they had received “more than a few letters regarding this matter.”

The congregation was unequivocal in stating that “the faithful should not be imposed upon nor accused of disobedience and of acting illicitly when they kneel to receive Communion.[Get this…] This response corrected the misinterpretation found in a July 2002 newsletter from the USCCB’s own liturgy committee, which stated that “kneeling is not a licit posture.” It is now quite clear that kneeling to receive Communion is a licit posture and not one of disobedience, as some had previously thought.

To summarize

From everything that has been said above, we can conclude the following. [1] First, the faithful always have the right to receive Communion on the tongue, according to the centuries-old tradition. However, those in the United States are also permitted receive in the hand, provided that no danger of profanation exists.

[2] Secondly, the norm in the United States is to receive standing, but those who wish to receive kneeling may freely do so. Any refusal of the Most Holy Eucharist to those who kneel is a grave violation, and no one may impose upon them nor accuse them of disobedience.

Therefore, [3] no pastor, no youth minister, and certainly no employer may prohibit or deter any member of the faithful from receiving on his knees if he so chooses. This is the current law of the Church, to which we, as Catholics, are all bound by conscience.

Allow what the Church allows

A general principle to follow is this: teach what the Church teaches, condemn what the Church condemns, but allow what the Church allows. Unfortunately, this last point can sometimes be the most difficult, especially in liturgical matters. Because our worship of God is both communal and personal, each one of us has our own unique liturgical preferences.

Whatever one’s personal preference may be, we must be careful to allow what the Church allows, while nonetheless always striving for greater holiness, devotion, and reverence in worship. Or else, we risk usurping the seat of Peter and imposing our own preferences on the whole of the Church. The difficult task of allowing what the Church allows requires both humility and obedience, two virtues perfectly modeled in the Person of Christ, Whom we receive in the Most Holy Eucharist.

Paul Matenaer holds an M.T.S. from Ave Maria University, teaches for the Seat of Wisdom Diocesan Institute in the Diocese of Madison, and is currently studying canon law at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario.

A good effort.  Hopefully this will be useful for the Diocese of Madison and, now, a wider audience yet.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. “I think that people who are physically capable of doing so, should always kneel and receive Communion directly on the tongue. I think the permission for Communion in the hand should be abolished. In advance of it being abolished, people should be urged, taught, persuaded to receive on the tongue while kneeling. So there.”

    I couldn’t possibly agree more!!!

  2. pjsandstrom says:

    Just a question which I do intend seriously: why should the laity receive the Holy Eucharist differently than the clergy? If one method, probably the original and antique one, is still used by the clergy, what is — while understanding the history of the practice for the laity — the true reason for the difference in practice between the clergy and the laity?

  3. Father K says:

    I have the privilege of being a classmate of Paul in Canon Law. A fine young man, Catholic husband and father. The Diocese of Madison is blessed in so many ways.

  4. Ef-lover says:

    This article should run in every diocesan news paper in the nation

  5. tealady24 says:

    If we could only get past our secular “mindset” (now, there’s a word I wish would go away), we are kneeling to receive Jesus — body, blood, soul and divinity! He is truly there, letting us be received into Himself.
    Taking Holy Eucharist in the hand is, I have come to the conclusion, blasphemous.

  6. pbewig says:

    What would constitute a “risk of profanation” great enough to deny Communion in the hand?

  7. Shout out here for the mandatory return of altar rails–you know, so you don’t have to slowly kneel and then rise at the very front of a line of teed-off people with rumbling tummies, 15% of whom also have impending tee-off times.

  8. MargaretC says:

    A good article. I agree with acricketchirps that we will need a massive return of altar rails before there can be a general return to communion while kneeling. I can’t even genuflect without something sturdy to hold on to and any effort to kneel without support would be, shall we say, less than edifying.

    When I was an Episcopalian, everybody knelt and received in the hand. The more I think about that, the odder it becomes.

  9. During our RCIA session on how to receive Holy Communion we were told that we could choose whether to receive in the hand or on the tongue, that either was fine. Personally I feel that, in this most holy and intimate of moments, I have to show the maximum amount of love, adoration and respect. So I only ever receive on the tongue.

  10. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Three thoughts:

    1) When the Instruction says that the norm is standing, isn’t this a case of a description, rather than proscription, since at this point there was no law which had formally changed the position? Being a descriptive norm, it holds no more force than saying that most couples cohabit before marriage.

    2) Are there upstanding Catholic organizations willing to help pastors with seed money for the renovations of their parishes, allowing for the restoration of altar rails? [One comes to mind, and yes, I have broached the subject in those circles, but without a definite answer.]

    3) What do we make of His Holiness’ comments in a must-read book called Behold the Pierced One, that any true Christology must begin on the knees ? I know from first hand experience that the local “Indult” Mass (as it was called at the time) suddenly grew when the local archbishop required standing throughout the Communion Rite in the Vernacular Mass.

  11. Peggy R says:

    When my oldest son was preparing for first communion this year, I had to combat the teaching from the parish that the old traditional ways were bad old ways happily swept into the dustbin. But our pastor knows I receive on the tongue and took no issue when I privately (during practice) informed him that our son would receive on the tongue. Our son does so faithfully. Now, we go through it again next year with the next boy.

    pbewig: I am sure other folks could provide several examples, but a general concern is that one might not consume the Body of Christ in front of the priest (or EMHC) and instead give it to some one undeserving or plan a satanic ritual (yes, this happens) or other abuse of the Body of Christ. Also, if folks are prone to dropping Our Lord, that is of concern. I don’t see altar boys using patens much any more. Perhaps they should all the more with communion in the hand.

  12. Mundabor says:

    It is indicative of the confusion (to say the least) of the past years that kneeling to receive communion, explicitly allowed to anyone, might have been considered superseded by a theoretical (and frankly, incomprehensible) “superior” need to give precedence to “uniform posture”. That this was in the end not the case makes the liberal attempt at such reasoning not less culpable.


  13. Mundabor says:


    I have heard a most imaginative description of this habit of receiving in the hand: “The communicant creates a vessel as a sign of reverence to Our Lord and then proceeds…..”. This seems to be a clumsy attempt to justify a posteriori what should have never been there in the first place.

    I always receive the impression that one receiving in the hand and giving communion to himself is being one’s own priest.
    My bad, no doubt.


  14. inara says:

    As an alternative to installing altar rails (though I would love to see them!), would it be appropriate to ask if individual kneelers could be brought out/removed (by ushers possibly?) prior to communion for those who wish to receive while kneeling? I think our pastor may be amenable to this, just not sure if it would be proper during the liturgy & how best to implement it…

  15. amicus1962 says:

    From my own experience, priests who refuse to give Communion to kneeling communicants, or strongly discourage such practice, calling them disobedient to their bishop, are the very same priests who let EMHCs purify the sacred vessels in clear violation of the GIRM, use glass pitchers to consecrate the Sacred Blood and pour the Sacred Blood into ancilliary vessels post consecration, in violation of the provisions of Redemptionis Sacramentum. When I pointed these illicit practices to the director of liturgy of our parish, he said that what the Pope does in Rome is his prerogative as Bishop of Rome, but we must follow the dictates of our local bishop since he is a successor of the apostles. I bet you the majority of our bishops think the same way. Holy Mother Church has been undergoing a silent schism since Vatican II.

  16. JKnott says:

    The removal of the altar rails or the disuse of them (as in our minor basilica in Wtby CT) is objectively a MONUMENTAL failure in charity…towards God, and towards the people who yearn to kneel in humble reverence of our Lord but physically cannot do so without the rail.
    The crowd in charge of the lunch box idea of the Eucharist is sadly still in charge. And it is thoroughly disgusting especially since it proports to be thinking of the wefare of others….as in false charity.
    The one Person in all of this chaotic nonsense is the One who is forgotten. “Behold the Heart which has loved so much and has received only ingratitude in return.”

  17. Actually, having gleaned a fair amount of liturgical and historic theology from my score or so of years as an Eastern Catholic, I have a perspective that may possibly help your readers on this point.

    It seems that the universal practice of the Church in Her earliest days was for the bishop (and later, the priest) to distribute the Holy Eucharist to the faithful while both were standing. They both stood because it was felt that kneeling was appropriate only at a time of penitence, and the Divine Liturgy was instead a time of rejoicing. The faithful would either receive the Holy Gifts on the tongue or in the hand. If the latter, it was with the understanding that the Faithful would take the Holy Body to those who who were ill, and who could not come to the services to receive the Medicine of Immortality themselves.

    It is important to note, though, that the early practice of communion in the hand was done at a time when all of the faithful went through a long and rigorous process of the catachumenate, the pastors of the church knew all of their flock by name, and it was often a death sentence to be a Christian. Even when the Eucharist was given by hand, most often it was for the purpose of Viaticum, and the faithful would carry the Gifts in special boxes of precious metals or ivory, in respect for our Lord and His presence in the Mystery.

    In the East, though, the custom of receiving the Eucharist in the hand ended long ago. Priests and deacons have the charge of bringing the Gifts to the sick, and carrying them in the special boxes mentioned earlier. Most Orthodox think it folly (if not sacrilege and scandal) for a Roman priest (and the less said about ‘extraordinary ministers’ to the Orthodox, the better) to distribute the Holy Gifts to a person whom he does not know himself, let alone to do so in the hand, with all of the potential for impiety and sacrilege. In passing, it is important to note that the custom is for visiting Orthodox faithful to introduce themselves to the clergy before seeking to receive.

    The Western practice of receiving the Eucharist while kneeling at the communion rail happened, quite early (say about sixth century), because of two practices. The first, common to both East and West, was the practice of separating the sanctuary from the nave of a church by pillars and rails, emulating the Roman Imperial practice of separating the Imperial family from the people, as a sign of the Royalty of God (from Psalm 91:1: “The Lord is King, He is robed in majesty”). While the East (together with the mediaeval West) developed the rail into the iconostasis or rood screen, much of the West retained the earlier practice of what became known as “the altar or communion rail”.

    While the East considered kneeling and genuflection to be a penitential service, the mediaeval West considered those acts to be signs of reverence and veneration. Thus, it should not be surprising that the practice of kneeling and receiving the Eucharist at the communion rail became common in the West by the sixth century, and continued unabated until these days.

    While I prefer the Eastern custom of receiving the Eucharist while standing in front of my priest, I see nothing wrong with the pious and venerable Western custom of receiving the Eucharist while kneeling. What I do object to is ill-informed prelates who institute ill-advised liturgical practices without 1) a thorough research into all of the reasons for both the old and new ways; 2) bothering to catechize the faithful throughly in those reasons; or 3) imposing those practices without regard to the sensibilities of the faithful.

  18. This all reminds me what an Orwellian term “liberal” is for the type of people who refuse Communion to those who kneel, or who accuse them of mortal sin for kneeling in “disobedience” to the bishop. I doubt if there was this kind of authoritarianism during the bad old pre-conciliar days.

    inara says:
    As an alternative to installing altar rails (though I would love to see them!), would it be appropriate to ask if individual kneelers could be brought out/removed (by ushers possibly?) prior to communion for those who wish to receive while kneeling? I think our pastor may be amenable to this, just not sure if it would be proper during the liturgy & how best to implement it…

    I know of a place where this is done for Mass in the Extraordinary Form, as there is no Communion rail. (There, of course, you must kneel for Communion unless you physically can’t.)

  19. racjax says:

    I still don’t know if I am correct or being obstinant….in the reverent chapel we attend (rather than the “fun” Mission) one older Franciscan from the Mission when he said Mass would yell out twice to stand when people knelt after the Agnus Dei saying that the Archbishop wanted that (Cd. Mahoney). I don’t know if he has given up now since Achbp. Gomez is in charge. It is embarrassing to those of us who kneel but I feel I should be kneeling while I pray before communion (we stand for actual communion). Am I wrong to kneel?

  20. By the way, Reverend Know-It-All has a first-rate post about these very issues, including an explanation of the symbolism behind the Communion rail that I bet most Catholics have never heard. (I certainly never had before I read his.)

  21. Clemens Romanus says:

    Excellent post, Bernard.

    @Peggy: I believe the use of the paten is still recommended, though I too have rarely seen it done in the Ordinary Form.

  22. Racjax,


    The Mass in which I made my life profession as a lay Dominican was presided over by a friar who also happened to be the Promoter for the Laity in my province (a double treat, as we have no Dominican friars at all in my diocese). When he saw that we continued standing after the Agnus Dei, per the orders of our bishop, he was dumbfounded. “Don’t you kneel here?” he asked. When he saw the shaking heads, he said, “Well, kneel now, along with the rest of the Church!” We were swift to carry out his wishes.

  23. Will D. says:

    My pastor re-introduced the communion patens last year, to some moderate success. All of the altar servers now receive communion on the tongue, and one young lad does so while kneeling.

    Father also had one of the servers bring out a prie dieu for communion for a while so that people could kneel, but only a half-dozen or so did. The prie dieu went away, and the same few still kneel anyhow. I don’t know if someone griped, or if Father just decided not to bother since so few took advantage of it.

  24. misternaser says:

    I started receiving communion on the tongue several years ago and have never looked back. I was at Denver’s Living the Catholic Faith Conference and the Spirit moved me to receive on the tongue from Abp. Gomez (our former auxiliary, returned for the conference). Only once since then have I taken communion in the hand: A old Jesuit from Regis University was substituting at our parish and refused me on the tongue because he’d “had too many accidents happen.” When he was back substituting last summer, I made my way to the other communion line.

    Now, even after only two experiences of the EF Mass, I have come to appreciate the wisdom of the communion rail. Receiving the Sacrament doesn’t seem as rushed when I can kneel at the altar, and there’s even a chance to spend a slight moment in prayerful thanksgiving on my knees without holding up others.

  25. Haskell_Catholic says:

    I always receive on the tongue. Yesterday morning the EMHC actually poked my hands with the Blessed Sacrament while my mouth was open, waiting to receive. My hands were clasped together at my waist. May God forgive me, I think I actually growled.

  26. John Nolan says:

    I would recommend that everyone read Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s little book ‘Dominus Est!’ if they have not already done so. Shortly after presenting a copy to the Holy Father, the latter began distributing Communion at papal Masses in the traditional way.

  27. s i says:

    [And reverence for the Blessed Sacrament has, no doubt, attained new heights.]


    BTW: my research several years ago, revealed that the US Bishops initially requested reception in the hand for the USA , and were denied. They then defiantly proceeded to roll it out to tons of parishes under the guise of a trial run. So what happened? Rome didn’t want to win the fight and lose the war, so they caved. …sigh…

  28. St. Rafael says:

    There has been a tremedous confusion over Memoriale Domini since it came out in 1969.
    Memoriale Domini was issued because of the illegal abuse of Communion in hand that originated in Belguim and Holland, who started copying Protestant gestures due to the error of Ecumenism.

    In Memoriale Domini, Pope Paul VI surveyed the the world’s bishops and the vast majority rejected Communion in the hand. Despite this, instead of cracking down on illegal abuse, Pope Paul VI conceded and gave in. He allowed Communion in the hand only to those countries where the abuse originated, was widespread, and had been accepted.

    Memoriale Domini did not apply to the U.S. because there was no abuse of Communion in the hand here, and it did not originate here. The faithful and the laity in the U.S. did not want Communion in the hand. It was only through a campaign of lies, distortion, and false propoganda, that the American theologians, liturgists, and bishops were able to fool and force Communion on the hand on the American laity throughout the 70’s, culminating in a late 70’s indult for Communion in the hand. The indult has become the defacto “norm’ and the norm of communion on the tongue is all but ignored.

  29. MarkH says:

    I have deep respect for the right of those who wish to receive on the tongue, and myself feel it is a more reverent manner. However, any guess on who wrote the following?

    “Kneeling – standing -hand – mouth. Well, first of all, I would like to say that both attitudes are possible…we know that until the ninth century Communion was received in the hand, standing…the new development that began after the 9th century is quite justified, as an expression of reverence, and is well-founded…but the Church could not possibly have been celebrating the Eucharist unworthily for 900 years.” (Ellipses only for conciseness, I assure you)

    The writer then goes on to approvingly quote Cyril of Jerusalem on the extreme reverence possible when receiving in the hand. He then concludes with this moving passage regarding a Eucharistic truth higher than the manner of receiving:

    “We should not forget that not only our hands are impure but also our tongue and also our heart and that we often sin more with the tongue than with the hands. God takes an enormous risk…in allowing not only our hand and our tongue but even our heart to come into contact with him.”

    The writer? Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (God is Near Us, pp 69-71)

  30. Mundabor says:

    I have never received on the hand and never will, nor will I ever recive from a EHMB, or ECHM, or CEHM, or however they are called. I go directly to the priest, hands firmly behind my back, and mouth open.

    As a slight concession to the decadence of the times, on such occasions I do not kneel if no one on the line before me has kneeled.


  31. Mundabor says:

    I have also noticed that, at least here in the UK, most people queue to take communion from the priest and the eucharistic ministers stand there on the side with nothing to do and almost no one coming to them, and looking not very intelligent.

    Once I was at the Adoration of the Cross in a big church run from a “trendy” order; the church was full to the brim. When the time came the faithful started avoiding the eucharistic ministers with such zeal that a young woman stood there almost in tears, no doubt feeling all uselessness and ridicule of her situation.

    A good sign for her and for us, I remember thinking.


  32. albizzi says:

    The risks of profanation are obvious when the Communion is given in the hand:
    Didn’t you hear of accounts like hosts stolen for satanic purposes? How easy it is with the host straight in the hand and immediately after in the pocket.
    Didn’t you hear of hosts found between the pages of missals or glued with chewing gum under the pews?

  33. albizzi says:

    And that host purportedly given by JPII that was on auction on e-Bay…

  34. ncstevem says:

    I began kneeling for Holy Communion years ago even before I began assisting at Mass at a SSPX chapel. I think there may have been one or two other people who received kneeling then. Never been refused. At the time I could have cared less what others were doing, I knelt. Also never received from anyone other than a priest. Not even a deacon.

    After marrying three years ago, I began going to a diocesan church (unfortunately) as a gesture to my new wife. (Still go to the SSPX chapel about 6 – 8 times per year). This diocesan priest is very traditional minded. Built a new church 2 years ago with altar rails. Celebrates a weekly TLM on Wednesday and the first Saturday of every month.

    Since then he’s eliminated the use of girl altar boys. Now it is just young men in cassocks.

    About 2 months ago he instructed all communicants to receive at the altar rail (either standing or kneeling & on the tongue or in the hand). Probably 99% now receive kneeling and 80% receive on the tongue. After using one layman to help distribute Holy Communion at the altar rail for the first two weeks, this priest eliminated laymen from distributing Holy Communion and now distributes it himself.

    I sent him a thankful note.

  35. Fredo says:

    The present translation of the GIRM #160 states “The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.”


    This will not be the wording in the upcoming “tweaked” new translation of the GIRM which rephrases this #160 more along the lines of (and I am paraphrasing here) “In the dioceses of the United States it is the custom to receive communion while standing unless the communicant desires to kneel.” This rewording further helps to clarify that there is no disobedience in kneeling for communion in this territory despite that it is the norm to stand.

  36. AnAmericanMother says:

    Are you in the Charlotte area? Wondering bec. my daughter has just moved and a parish like that would be great.

  37. Jason Keener says:

    I’m still waiting to hear one good reason why Communion should be given in the hand. It’s unbelievable that Rome ever allowed for any exceptions to receiving on the tongue in the first place.

    On Palm Sunday of this year, I went to Mass at a popular shrine in Wisconsin and was shocked at how many communicants fiddled around with the Eucharist or walked away with it before actually consuming it. Thankfully, the ushers were there to watch what was going on. Communion in the hand must be stopped entirely because the risk of profanation is simply too great.

  38. JKnott says:

    I have read that Communion in the hand was a common and illicit practice in the USA and the Vatican chose to approve it rather than disrupt the people.
    If that is true, then Communion in the hand is the fruit of disobedience.
    In salvation history, disobedience, has serious consequences.

  39. MarkH says:

    “Vatican chose to approve it rather than disrupt the people.
    If that is true, then Communion in the hand is the fruit of disobedience.”

    Are you saying the Vatican was wrong to approve the indult for the United States?

  40. Julee says:

    For my son’s First Holy Communion this year, the children were told they could receive on the tongue if they so desired, but they only practiced the “communion by hand” method. We practiced on our own with our son, but when it came time to receive he froze and did what the rest of the children did…held out their hands. This was also the first First Holy Communion I experienced where the children were also offered the Precious Blood as well.

    I have only one thing to say…..bring back the altar rails!!!!

  41. Charles E Flynn says:

    How many of you who attend churches constructed before the Novus Ordo arrived know for a fact that the dismantled communion rail has been preserved somewhere on church property?

  42. ncstevem says:

    @AnAmericanMother. I am in Charlotte. If your daughter isn’t comfortable going to the SSPX chapel in Mt. Holly, the other option would be St. Ann’s which is on Park Road.

    Here’s the website: http://stanncharlotte.org/content/

  43. JenB says:

    I have used the “excuse” of children in my arms to receive on the tongue for several years now. Nobody has ever looked at me in any way, and I am growing accustomed to this posture, even when I do not have children in tow.

    However, yesterday I chose to receive in the hands because I did not want to risk profanation. The deacon has a bad knee and sits on a low stool. So, I would have had to be in a very awkward half kneeling, half-standing position, or receive in the hand.

  44. Charivari Rob says:

    “Though many may tell you that the Second Vatican Council “did away” with Communion on the tongue, the truth of the matter is that the council fathers did not address such concrete subjects.”

    I disagree (with the first half of that sentence).

    While “many” may tell you (incorrectly) that V2 did away with Communion rails or allowed receiving in the hand (he’s right that the Council didn’t go into those specifics) – I don’t believe I have ever heard anyone claim that the Council “did away with” reception on the tongue. The option wasn’t available in the Church in the US until at least the mid-late 1970s (a decade or more after the Council) and reception on the tongue remained quite common for at least a decade after that.

  45. Laura R. says:

    @Charles E Flynn: at the cathedral I attend, the communion rail is still in place and is occasionally used for purposes other than Communion, but the gates that were originally part of the rail were removed and incorporated into a freestanding altar.

  46. New Sister says:

    Mundabor — if you’ve been given such orthodoxy and faith in the Real Presence, I think you should also kneel – be it on the floor – when you receive Our Lord Jesus. (your post sounds as though you’re physically capable, but not willing) We should all take a stand, do the right thing, and offer up any merits gained to Mary Immaculate. In Christ,

  47. Mundabor says:

    “Are you saying the Vatican was wrong to approve the indult for the United States?”

    Well if he doesn’ t say it, I will.


  48. New Sister says:

    sorry for my poor expression “take a stand” — to KNEEL. :-)

  49. vivaldi says:

    What about Seminarians? We have been told we cannot kneel to recieve communion. Furthermore we have been told that it would be disobedient to do so and that if we didn’t like it “to find another church”. What do we do????????

  50. vivaldi: First, use a variation of the Bux Protocol. Then, get ordained (if it is God’s will). After that, try to get the seminary faculty fired and replaced.

  51. Cricket says:

    Reply to Chris Garton-Zavesky re: organizations that help fund church restorations. “Partners for Sacred Places,” a national non-profit, nondenominational organization based in Philadelphia, helps “historic congregations” with fundraising strategies. I believe they may also have some grants available, too. PSP has offices in most major U.S. cities. Definitely worth checking out the website!

  52. New Sister says:

    Vivaldi — would you really get kicked out for kneeling to receive Christ? If that’s the case, then I’m very concerned about the instruction — they sound like heretics. (or liberals — same thing)

  53. Imrahil says:

    Now I’m not advocating any sort of disturbance – if it is a disturbance – but: Why must there be uniformity at all? Wasn’t rather this in necessitatibus unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas the way Catholics would act?

    If we want uniformity, as I suppose, for the feeling of community – and I don’t doubt that community is among the things the Faith brings along, though the amount it is mentioned gets on one’s nerves. But if we want a feeling of community, I’d sincerely advocate to march in step in routs of three. Well, I’ve only been a private 1st cl, in times of peace and for the only reason of conscription, but I always think that most of all these who talk about unity, community, etc. have never marched in step. Call that militaristic but then I’d say who has begun talking of uniformity? Ask a soldier whether he would want to do so for all the time. And weren’t this precisely the things they’d dislike themselves in soldiering?

    I fancy what we really should do is freedom for everybody to do what he wants as long as it is within the fences of dogma, law, good custom, and the ultimate intention of Christian charity (and the latter cannot be investigated by us).

    Thus I think, who advocates communion standing or in the hand should come out and say why it’s better in itself.

    Dear @pjsandstrom,
    the celebrant can hardly take the Holy Communion kneeling from somebody else since it’s to him to to distribute them. He does, how ever, a lot of kneeling.

  54. catherinesiena says:

    When I was confirmed in the Church during the Easter Vigil I knew I wanted to receive on the tongue. I knew in my heart that this was the proper way to do it and I always felt uncomfortable watching people receive it in their hands because of the countless times I have see it dropped. Furthermore, by watching the people in my parish it seems like such a rushed procedure. Long story short my fellow RCIA candidates and I went up to the altar to receive. When the priest came to me and I opened my mouth he told me “You’re old enough to feed yourself”, and only gave it to me in my hands. I was distraught and upset and could not focus enough to give thanks to God for my first communion.

    Ever since then I have only received on the tongue but that experience initially gave me a lot of anxiety as to how other priests would react. I kept praying about it, and in my heart I know that this is the way I should be receiving. Although mine was a very unfortunate incident I forgive the priest but I hope that other people that wish to receive on the tongue will not encounter the same problem or get discouraged.

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