“For the first time in almost 40 years I received Communion on the tongue …”

From a reader:

For the first time in almost 40 years I received on the tongue at this evenings vigil Mass. I have been debating for a long time, due to your witness and also that of some faithful friends and relatives. I’m trying to find the words to express what I want to say about it, the best I can do right now is the ‘rightness’ of receiving that way. I just seemed right. We attended a more traditionally minded parish tonight, with a great priest and I guess that’s why I chose tonight. I can’t help but wonder what my pastor will think if/when I present myself that way in my home parish.

Good for you.

The Church’s law right now in most places permits people to receive on the hand.  I hope someday that that permission will be rescinded.   Until then, I hope many more people will make this decision.

People need to take the matter… ehem… into their own hands.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. kallman says:

    What do you mean when you say “the Church’s law……………….”?
    My understanding of “Communion in the hand” is that it is by way
    of an indult, and in fact an indult which has now EXPIRED.
    Please explain Fr Z?

  2. Faith says:

    The first time I received on the tongue, after ……a lo-o-ong time, it happened so fast I didn’t know what happened. I was just doing “what the Romans do” and was copying everyone else. Everyone was kneeling at the Communion rail and receiving on the tongue. I watched the priest. He would take the Host out of the chalice, hold it above each person, make the sign of the cross with it, above each person, then place the host on the tongue.
    You would think this would take a long time, but it didn’t. The priest was at the person on my right, and then a thousand thoughts entered my head (Do I stick my tongue out like a “fresh brat”; do I just open my mouth; do I just stick it out a little, do I tilt my head back, etc.) Then all of a sudden, the priest was giving Communion to the person on my left. And I realized the Host was in my mouth! It was that fast. The priest was to my right, and then to my left. I couldn’t get over it. I don’t even remember opening my mouth.
    Needless to say, I missed the moment. :-/

  3. Glen M says:

    http://www.communion-in-the-hand dot org is a helpful resource in learning about this subject. It often takes some time getting used to receiving in the universal norm, but once you get comfortable with it the modern way can seem deficient.

    If you read the indult Pope Paul VI issued it seems his predictions have come true.

    It’s also quite an interesting story to learn of how Communion in the hand got started in America. Then Archbishop Bernardin was the main proponent.

  4. Tom Esteban says:

    I firmly believe that when this law is finally done away with it will be the first domino to fall in the restoration of authentic Catholicism. Until then we’ll have the ‘conservatives’ (read: slow progressives) trotting out the usual apologetics for Communion in the Hand – the worst of which is the 1960’s concocted semi-truth (mostly untruth) that the Early Church were all happily and gladly receiving in the hand… and yet the same people will spend lifetimes wondering why the nobody believes in the Real Presence anymore, or why people treat the Eucharist like a cookie, or why nobody goes to confession…. without ever making the connection. It’s like some awful form of Dualism has taken a hold of people in this regard – where bodily posture or reception matters not because “it’s all about the inside feelings and reverence”.

    Imaging meeting Pope Benedict while in your pyjamas, having not showered for a year, and attempting to give him a high-five after putting your arm around his shoulder as if he were your buddy… then having the cheek to say, “No worries Benny, I’m respecting you on the inside!” Nobody would dream of it, nor would anybody buy such a poor defense. Yet, for the King of Kings, getting on ones knees is too much; receiving on the tongue is too “Medieval” and “childish”; and confession “isn’t done anymore because Vatican II said we follow our consciences”.

    The ultra-PC police have infiltrated everywhere. Oh no, one cannot even imply that Communion in the hand is wrong; “the Church allows it so saying otherwise makes you a schismatic!” We have recently seen another case of people thinking that Canon law trumps Divine law – Fr. Guarnizo rightly refused Communion to someone who willfully and proudly boasted of her sin to him before Mass… but, oh, this doesn’t fall under Canon 915, so he should’ve let her gravely sinned, he should’ve let her had a sacrilegious Communion, and he should’ve acted against his conscience as a Priest.

    We live in a time when Indults are the norm, options are necessities and novelties are traditions. Truly odd.

  5. mamajen says:

    Cheers to your reader! I have “caved” and received in my hand only three or four times in my life. When I was in college I had the awful experience of being told by an EMHC that “we don’t do that here” when I tried to receive on the tongue. That incident kept me from communion for a long time, sadly. Now if we are traveling and end up in an unfamiliar parish I will sometimes receive in the hand if it seems that 100% of the congregation does so, just to avoid a spectacle. I hate to do it, though. If I see just one other person receive on the tongue, I will confidently do the same. At my own parish there is a good percentage of people who receive on the tongue–young and old alike. I’m always delighted to see people who decide to change, and I think their example rubs off on others! People like this reader are not only doing the right thing themselves, but they may be helping others, too. Good for you!

  6. mamajen says:

    @Tom Esteban

    Canon Law and Divine Law are not two different things.

  7. RichR says:

    Altar rails would be a great return to continuity with Catholic heritage. It makes Communion on the Tongue easier.

  8. aspiringpoet says:

    When I was received into the Church, I wanted to receive on the tongue but started by receiving on the hand because I was afraid if I tried to receive on the tongue, something disastrous and embarrassing would happen. When I finally got up the courage to start receiving on the tongue, I immediately felt that I couldn’t go back.

    Just a brief observation/rant. I have noticed that some parishes make it difficult to receive on the tongue because of a prevalence of SHORT extraordinary ministers. I am not a giant but I am tall for a female, and it seems like at a lot of parishes, the EMHCs are the shortest women in the parish. Kneeling would solve the height problem but is also a great way to alarm the EMHC and the other people around you if they’re not used to it. If we are going to have the norm be “standing + receiving on the tongue”, which I believe is the current norm, then logically, we really should restrict the distribution of Holy Communion to priests (which would be good for other reasons too) and have them standing on a step or something else elevated. I have also been to parishes where this is the case and it helps greatly. (I’m sure that many/most of Fr. Z’s readers would prefer for kneeling to be the norm, and I’d be happy with that, too. But in the meantime …)

  9. Tom Esteban says:

    @mamajenm, I dont think that is correct.

    Canon Law is not necessary (as opposed to contingent); is not revealed truth; is not suprahistorical; is not uchanging; etc.
    Some Canons deal directly with matters of the Divine Law, indeed; but they themselves are subject to Divine Law and are separate from it.

    It takes a special kind of Pharisaical interpretation of Canon law to throw Fr. Guarnizo under the bus as has been done. In my opinion. I’ve got zero credentials :-)

  10. Nicole says:

    @ mamajen

    While Canon Law is supposed to reflect the Divine Law, it is the mutable Church Law which governs a part of the external forum (and only applying to those who fall within the bounds of the Church). The Divine Law far over-encompasses the Church Law/Canon Law governing both external and internal forum completely (and applies to everyone without distinction), even overlapping Canon Law by giving us a standard by which to obey Canon Law. Church Law can change, Divine Law cannot. There is a difference.

  11. acardnal says:

    And to the Subject of this post and other readers, you have a legitimate right to receive on the tongue and cannot be denied in the USA according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) dated June 2011, Chapter IV, #160, second paragraph, page 57:

    “The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant.”

  12. MissOH says:

    I entered the church in the 1980’s at a parish where communion in the hand was firmly in place. Through God’s grace, I ended up at a parish which had (to my knowledge) never stopped using it’s communion rail. The children in the CCD program learn to receive on the tongue and kneeling.

    I have continued to receive on the tongue even though I now live in an area where communion rails are scarce. I am praying for eyes to open and to not fear that recognizing the abuses and misinterpretations from the 60’s is a positive move to really implement what Vatican II intended. I believe, as others, that communion in the hand and standing has been a big contribution to the lack of belief in the Real Presence.

  13. APX says:

    Kneeling would solve the height problem but is also a great way to alarm the EMHC and the other people around you if they’re not used to it.

    I’m still not buying this. I receive kneeling regardless of which form of Mass I’m attending. I’ve never had anyone “alarmed” by it. I’ve received from a bishop twice who seemed quite happy about it. The only issues I’ve had was at a Teen Life Mass where teenagers were distributing and some girl made a disgusted face at me as she placed it on my tongue. I find that if you’re going to kneel to receive, the best thing to do is to communicate your intentions to do so ocularly by looking at the ground as you approach the person distributing communion, look up at them, and then back down to the ground while preparing to kneel. I haven’t received from an EMHC for a very long time, but this seems to work with clergy, as they’ve always waiting until I got to the ground.

  14. Joy says:

    I, too, have recently begun receiving on the tongue, after a lifetime of nearly exclusive in the hand reception (baby-in-arms moments being the only exceptions). The more I learned and reflected, the easier the decision became. I agree that it does feel “right”, though it did surprise our priest at first since very few in this parish receive on the tongue.

  15. servusmariaen says:

    I will 46 next month. I had my first holy communion in the early 1970s. Communion in the hand had not yet been introduced in our diocese. In fact it was never spoken about. We were taught to stand and receive on our tongue. I remember being impressed by a very old nun who taught our first communion class. She related the story from her childhood about a priest who had accidentally dropped a host in front of the communion rail and that he had said Masses in reparation. She related to us the consecrated hands of a priest touching the host. This was in the early 1970s in rural Montana.

    My first experience with communion in the hand was at a CYO conference in Great Falls, Montana in 1979 where the Holy Mass was unrecognisable and communion was distributed in the hand. I’d never seen such a thing and of course couldn’t bring myself to follow suit. I related it to my pastor upon returning home and he swore that such a thing would NEVER happen there. Sadly, this same priest has been doing this for years so he caved at some time.

    Needless to say, I began a few years back going to daily Holy Mass (Vetus Ordo) and my personal piety, devotion and practice was formed and solidified there. When I had to move away I knew that I had 2 choices a local garden varitey Novus Ordo where there was an over abundance of extra ordinary ministers and virtually everyone received in the hand or drive 50 miles one way to the Fathers of Mercy to kneel with everyone else at the communion railing. I did the latter until I couldn’t afford it anymore. I was told by a holy devout priest while visiting Austria 2 years ago that I needed to be an example to others. It was difficult to gather the courage to kneel. I didn’t want to make myself the center of attention or appear to be “holier than Thou”. I expected to be pulled aside after Mass or told to stand up etc but no such thing has happened. I suspect that my formidable size a 6’1 290 lb Hawaiian kneeling that no one feels it necessary to chastise or “cathechise” me.

  16. acardnal says:

    I predict that now that the Holy Father has promulgated Summorum Pontificum his next edict will be “no more communion in the hand.” (After all,, he already has kneelers/prie dieus at his Masses.) After that, a return to ad orientum Mass. Long live Pope Benedict XVI!

  17. James Joseph says:

    Despite the long-distance, and despite that I am jobless.

    Godwilling I will be driving up to the Trappist Monastery where there is one 10AM holy Mass by a rickety old priest. A lovely place!

  18. Darren says:

    Last year, on Palm Sunday, I decided to start receiving on the tongue exclusively. I don’t think I can ever go back. I overcame the fears I previously had, and now I only pray that the rail will be installed (it’s a church building opened in 1993… not EF friendly). Sometimes I watch, and there are quite a number of people who receive on the tongue at may OF parish. Most of them are older (70+) or younger (guessing under 45-ish). Last year, when the children received their first Holy Communion, our pastor had the children kneel and receive on the tongue. Such a beautiful thing! Every once in a while I see this one little girl, must be 8 years old or so now, still receiving on the tongue.

    Now I patiently wait for the Extraodinary Form to be offered regularly in my area (as I have learned it soon will… just don’t know how soon)

    Our pastor wrote a letter in today’s bulletin announcing that he will be leaving the parish at the end of June. He’ll be going to Rome for a sabbatical. We know who will be replacing him, but I do not know how traditional the new pastor will be.

  19. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Hallelujah for the writer of this post. Good for you! And glad you feel better for it.

    Not only are you avoiding handling the Eucharist with your unconsecrated hands, but you are receiving Communion rather than taking it, which evokes a humbler attitude.

    There has got to be a better attitude than telling Jesus Christ Who wishes to feed you,”thanks, but I’ll get It myself”. This permission can not be abrogated too soon.

  20. Deo Gratias!…Continue receiving on the tongue to the reader. Kneeling just seemed like the natural response once I started to receive on the tongue. I kneel whenever my legs cooperate, or whenever there’s a rail. I’d rather make a spiritual communion than receive in the hand again.

  21. jacobi says:

    I think the tide is slowly turning and Communion by mouth is now increasingly called for. The example shown by those who receive by mouth, perhaps overcoming embarrassment, is so important for the rest of the congregation.

    One way of avoiding awkwardness is to receive only from a priest since very few would refuse.

    If kneelers are not provided, then a reverent bow is called for – and is also a hint that they should be provided.

    Personally, I would not receive from a lay distributer of Holy Communion, unless in exceptional circumstances, such as a great crowd, and deacons or acolytes were not available, because receiving by hand means self-administering with my un-anointed hands, as well as receiving from the un-anointed hands of the lay distributer.

  22. Marie Teresa says:

    In Spring of 1968, I made my First Communion kneeling at the altar rail and receiving on the tongue.

    Within two months, a letter from our bishop mandated that all Catholics in the diocese were required to receive Communion in the hand. Our dear priest read the letter with tears in his eyes – which is probably why I still remember the incident, although I was only 7 at the time.

    About age 30, I started attending Mass seven days a week. Receiving on the tongue naturally followed. After 20 years, I’m not sure I could receive in the hand.

    note the date: our bishop instituted the practice one year prior to the Holy See granting the indult.

  23. Stephen D says:

    For a year or two, I have only received on the tongue and only from the priest. I receive from the priest even if I have to change queues and take a very long walk back to my place. If more people queued only in front of the priest, they might get the message about the unnecessary use of Extraordinary (!) Ministers. The EM who stood beside the priest today is a woman who chats incessantly before Mass and there is no way that I am going to receive from someone who has so little regard for the presence of Our Lord in the tabernacle.

  24. AnAmericanMother says:

    Just go ahead and kneel.
    I was confronted with that very problem – I am around 5’6″ and when I got to the back of the choir loft the EMHC they had sent up was around 4’8″! (we never see a priest in the choir loft unless it’s a large service, then one will take the hike up to visit us). I usually genuflect before receiving, and everybody back of me in line is used to that – so I just dropped and stayed down. EMHC didn’t bat an eye, in fact she was probably relieved.
    Just do it.

  25. For a long time it always troubled me when receiving on the tongue and kneeling that it would offen/ scandalize other people. I really never desired to do that. However, since Our Lord is actually present I would much rather scandalize them than to offend Him since the ONLY reason I personally would have stood and received in the hand would have been fear of man (what the real reason usually is though we often try to cloak it in love of our brethern- even to ourselves) rather than fear of God.

    Since then I have learned it really doesn’t matter if I offend other people by it. The center our attention should be on pleasing Christ and not other men. Those who love created things above God will find it very difficult to enter Heaven. God calls us to be saints and all the saints I have read of are passionately in love with God (in the proper sense) and love of others is secondary to the first which is is fountainhead. Timidity is NOT a virtue and nor is it meekness (though it is often disguised as such). Most of the arguments regarding offending others in such scenarios or “causing a scene” are Satan’s tricks he plays on those well meaning souls to distract them from growing in virtue and love of God. It is silly to think that kneeling or receiving on the tongue will ever turn a Catholic away from God. If some are deeply offended by such basic human expressions of adoration and respect then they are very far from the true love of God to begin with and not genuflecting and not recieving on the tongue will not bring them any closer to God. If anything it will confirm their unbelief and irreverence. The whole argument to the contrary is rather illogical and silly when you really look at it.

    Of course all this this ascribes to those whose do not have ulterior reasons. The seminarian in a liberal seminary may have more valid reasons since the consequences are more significant and affect the salvation of untold numbers of souls. That is best left to a good spiritual director. When I applied to a religious order in the past, genuflecting before Our Lord and receiving on the tongue most likely did cost me. However, to me no matter how precious and valuable the priesthood is I do not want to become a priest if it is at the cost of being willingly irreverent to Our Lord. It is a hard saying but Love of God should be first in our life though it may work its ways out differently in each person’s life. The whole purpose of our life is to know and love God and that with all our heart. Our vocation is a vehicle towards the fufillment of that. To violate one to fufill the other is contradictory.

    I recall the early martyers hands being held over fires in an attempt to make them offer incense to the pagan gods. Rather than to do so deliberately they choose to suffer the loss of that limb even though it would not have been a mortal sin necessarily (since it would not have been voluntary or intentional if some accidentally spilled by permitting their hand to writhe rather than holding it so steadfastly). When we compare our suffereings to their’s our’s seem almost laughable. To think we are concerned with what so and so thinks.

    If we truly loved God then others would see it and might be led of grace to love Him also. No one will see the light of our love if we hide it under a basket though. If they are offended then we need to pray for them. The conversion of the heart is God’s work not ours. Ours is to be sign posts (pointing in the right direction) and intercessors. Anyone who is offended with a sign post that points in the correct direction really never wanted to go that way to begin with (hence the necessity of prayer).

  26. FaithfulCatechist says:

    I rarely enter these discussions as there is a very real danger of spiritual pride, as already demonstrated by at least one respondant. Nevertheless, I started receiving on the tongue as a Lenten practice last year and never went back; it isn’t hard at all. To anyone nervous about starting, I’d say that while it may be your first time, it will likely be the 100,000th time for the priest or extraordinary minister: they knownwhat they’re doing.

  27. Juergensen says:

    I took matters into my own tongue five or so years ago, and have never received in the hands again.

    Better yet, although my wife and daughters continue to receive in the hands, my youngest, a boy, followed daddy and received on the tongue at his First Holy Communion, and has never once deviated. He loves to altar serve (Ordinary Form), and unbeknownst to him he is giving great witness when the congregation sees a little guy up on the altar receiving on the tongue, often the only one to do so.

  28. Andy Milam says:

    Two things, from my perspective:

    1. Dear reader,

    Good for you, as Obi-Wan said, “You have taken your first step into a larger world.”

    The Church has practices which, even when abandoned by man have great reasoning and intent behind them. Continue to learn why you should not receive Holy Communion in the hand. The biggest is that your hands are not consecrated, therefore you should not be touching the Sacred Species. The rest you can find as you continue to grow in this area.

    2. Dearest Fr. Z;

    How do we get the Holy See to see that this man made law is ultimately sacrilegious and should be rescinded. What can we do, as laymen to implore our pastors, bishops, and the CDWDS to see the light on this matter? Not every law made by man is a good and just law. This one certainly is not. There is nothing good which has ever come from letting unconsecrated hands touch our Lord (I know that is my opinion, but it is one easily supported by facts).

  29. MaryW says:

    Thanks to our Holy Father, I began receiving on the tongue again about two years ago, but am still not comfortable doing this outside my own parish unless it’s a Mass said in the EF form.

  30. tonyfernandez says:

    I just wanted to offer a few words from my own perspective and apologize in advance if I come across as proud. It is a sin that I know that I am particularly susceptible to, so please call it out if you see it.

    I started receiving on the tongue when I went to my first EF Mass. After that time, I feel as though I cannot justify receiving in the hands. Just the way the Eucharist was handled at that Mass was completely different. Only priests and deacons were allowed ever to touch the Eucharist, patens were used, everyone kneeled to receive, the use of bells to signal the consecration, the way the priests and altar servers bow and revere what has just occurred, etc. Then, seeing the way the Blessed Sacrament is handled during OF Masses (at least in my area) with pouring the Precious Blood after consecration, having an EMHC help the priest break apart one of the hosts before the priest has even received, the way everyone receives in the hand and then chews, etc. It was just a great disappointment to me. Before that Mass I never would have thought twice about it, but now I can’t ever stop thinking about it. I just don’t understand why receiving in the hand was ever allowed in the first place, and I can see how it could contribute to the other problems we see about the way it is handled.

    That said, I still feel very nervous in line knowing that I am about to receive on the tongue. It has quelled recently at least, but my heart really starts to race. I’m very taciturn by nature, so I try not to draw attention to myself. I feel as though I have overcome this, but now I have the urge that I should kneel, and yet I know that this definitely would draw a lot of attention to myself. I also know that the attention would probably be a good thing as it would cause people to reevaluate their perception of the sacrifice of the Mass. Still, I have not been able to work up the courage to do so. I will have to try though, I know.

    Also, and this may be a little more off topic, but why were the words of the priest during distribution changed from CORPUS DOMINI NOSTRI IESU CHRISTI CUSTODIAT ANIMAM TUAM IN VITAM AETARNAM to the simple CORPUS CHRISTI? What was the rationale behind that?

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