A blogger’s conversion to altar rails and kneeling for Communion (POLL)

Deacon Greg Kandra has had a bit of a conversion about altar rails.  Here is a taste.

Okay. I’ve changed my mind. It’s time to bring back the altar rail.

Hey, I’m as surprised as anyone else that I feel this way.

Two years ago, I rhapsodized on the Feast of Corpus Christi on the theology behind standing to receive communion, and defended it. And why not? I’ve received that way for most of my adult life; I even remember the Latin church’s experiment with intinction back in the ’70s. Standing and in-the-hand always seemed to me sensible, practical and—with proper catechesis—appropriate.

But now, after several years of standing on the other side of the ciborium—first as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, now as a deacon—and watching what goes on, I’ve had about enough.

I’ve watched a mother receive communion, her toddler in tow, then take it back to the pew and share it with him like a cookie.

[… other horrid examples…]

Beyond that, I’m reminded week after week that people have no uniform way to receive in the hand. There’s the reverent “hands-as-throne” approach; there’s the “Gimme five,” one-hand-extended style; there are the notorious “body snatchers” who reach up and seize the host to pop into their mouths like an after-dinner mint; and there are the vacillating undecideds who approach with hands slightly cupped and lips parted. Where do you want it and how??  [I hate that.]


The fact is, we fumbling humans need external reminders—whether smells and bells, or postures and gestures—to reinforce what we are doing, direct our attention, and make us get over ourselves. Receiving communion is about something above us, and beyond us. It should transcend what we normally do. [DING! Say the magic woid, win a hunn’ed dallahs.] But what does it say about the state of our worship and our reception of the Eucharist that it has begun to resemble a trip to the DMV?

Our modern liturgy has become too depleted of reverence and awe, of wonder and mystery. The signs and symbols that underscored the mystery—the windows of stained glass, the chants of Latin, the swirls of incense at the altar—vanished and were replaced by . . . what? Fifty shades of beige? Increasingly churches now resemble warehouses, and the Body of Christ is just one more commodity we stockpile and give out. [yup]


After what I’ve seen, I agree with him. We need to get off our feet, and on our knees.

Bring back the communion rail. It’s time.

Two fantastic things we could do for this Year of Faith:

1) return to ad orientem worship

2) return to kneeling for Communion and receiving on the tongue

Fr. Z kudos to Deacon Kandra.

Will you give kudos to Deacon Kandra for his piece on altar rails?

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Benedict XVI, Brick by Brick, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The Drill, The future and our choices, Year of Faith and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. FloridaJoan says:

    AMEN !!!!

  2. Darren says:

    Many kudos to Deacon Kandra! Such things bring great joy to my heart.

  3. disco says:

    You know why I love altar rails? Because I’m not a Protestant.

  4. lelnet says:

    My only concern about the trend is regarding those of us unable to kneel. Even if disposition to continue receiving while standing were to be readily forthcoming, how to go about it in the apparently-hoped-for kneeling-only world, without making a spectacle of ourselves?

  5. ncstevem says:

    I decided about 15 years go to receive kneeling. Never had a problem.

    Never ceases to amaze me when a Catholic comments that they don’t receive kneeling because they’re concerned about appearing ‘holier than thou’, tripping the person behind them, afraid the priest will refuse them or some other sorry excuse.

    To think some Catholics willingly died for the Faith – often under horrible circumstances – and other Catholics will use the above or even more lame excuses as the reason they don’t. Pathetic

  6. PA mom says:

    Very supportive of this direction.
    I think this single item would do wonders for catechises. I have been reading the 90 day bible challenge, and it covered the story of Moses at the burning bush.
    Moses is told to remove his shoes, but what does he do automatically? Fall to his knees.
    Good to see a “mainstream” guy calling for such things.

  7. NBW says:

    Deacon Kandra’s post is spot on. We need to bring back the altar rails. Our parish has them; but only some use them, (sigh).

  8. mamajen says:

    I grew up kneeling at the altar rail at a NO parish, and I much prefer it. It’s a lot easier to receive on the tongue that way. I’m sure accommodations could easily be made for those who are unable to kneel, and there’s no reason to feel bad about not fitting in if you have a disability.

  9. APX says:

    But what does it say about the state of our worship and our reception of the Eucharist that it has begun to resemble a trip to the DMV?

    I was (and still am) pretty observant. When I was in about grade 4ish, I was watching people receive communion. I observed that people received communion like any other piece of food, and seemed indifferent to what they were receiving. I watched this each Sunday and came to the conclusion that no one believed the host actually changed from bread into Jesus’ body blood, soul, and divinity. I then came to the conclusion that it didn’t actually change, and that it was just something nice-sounding that they told us in First Communion prep to make us feel special. Shortly after that I stopped believing in Catholicism and by the time I got to high school, I was pretty much pagan.

    It wasn’t until I went to Mass offered by a flamboyant priest from Mexico that I started to re-think things a little bit. He gave a long passionate homily on communion reception and his duty as a priest to protect the Blessed Sacrament from being desecrated and to make sure it is consumed in front of him. At the same Mass someone actually had the nerve to try to take the host back with him to his pew, but the priest grabbed him by the arm and yanked him back and made him consume it in front of him.

  10. Titus says:

    My only concern about the trend is regarding those of us unable to kneel.

    The law does not demand the impossible. Why are people always worried about this? If you actually can’t kneel, don’t kneel. Stand in front of the altar rail and receive standing. The chances of this becoming an occasion for chaos or embarrassment appear to be somewhere between “nil” and “infinitesimal.”

  11. lelnet: “My only concern about the trend is regarding those of us unable to kneel.”

    Not a problem. At virtually every TLM there are people who are physically unable to kneel for communion. They simply stand at the center and receive communion there, instead of kneeling at the altar rail to one side or the other. No one pays any attention, so no spectacle. Just not an issue.

  12. lucy says:

    I attend a traditional Mass that is served by three different methods. One is the FSSP, one is a diocesan priest, and another is a Carmelite priest. All good!

    The point I want to make is that I’ve noticed a difference in the Hosts. The FSSP tends to use a very thin, melt-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth type Host. The parish’s regular Hosts are thick and take a while to disintegrate. I think the thickness of the Host is important to preventing blasphemous deeds. There’s no way one could remove the thin Host from one’s mouth because it’s gone in a couple seconds. It would, however, be easy to remove the thicker ones.

    Something for folks in charge of ordering hosts to think about.

  13. Banjo pickin girl says:

    disco, most Methodists i know receive kneeling at the rail and always have. It’s very common especially in the Midwest.

  14. Legisperitus says:

    The people with their lips parted might just be getting ready to say “Amen.”

  15. Deacon Greg Kandra is right in his observations. I just do not understand how he has arrived at his conclusion. If someone does not know how to eat safely using a knife and a fork, the solution is not to give them a spoon. They need to be taught how to. People receive in the hand inappropriately/irreverently? When were they last (or ever) catechised on how to do it? People share the host indiscriminately? When were they last (or ever) told in a sermon that this was (potentially) sacrilege? Of course it is simpler and easier not to give communion to anyone in the hand, but didn’t we all think while we were at school that whole-class punishments were unjust and unfair? I believe I receive (in hand) with love and reverence towards Our Lord. I would not support a situation where no one can receive thus.

    The modern liturgy has become irreverent. So, let us make it reverent again.

  16. Michael_Thoma says:

    I’m still on the side of intinct and in the mouth for everyone, as my Syriac Church practices! No hands fuss, no worries if babies are being held, no way for the mistake to be made — and standing to appease the extra-fussy!

    For Initiated children – a quarter-spoon of the Precious Blood and no problem at all!

  17. MichaelJ says:

    The fact that you say the indiscriminantly sharing the hose is potentially sacrilege is a bit troubling.
    As to your other points, “Do as I say, not as I do” has alwys been a counter productive teaching method.

  18. benedetta says:

    I know where I am people have been taught (and I was taught) how to receive in the hand, intensively, for many years now. I expect it is the same in the Archd of NY where Deacon Kandra serves. It’s not that people are not taught, it is that communion in the hand tends to naturally degenerate into the spectacle Deacon Kandra and APX describe.

    I know many of us here have been disturbed to see this over the years, and many of us like myself and APX without having any idea or notion about communion rails, communion on the tongue or any possible options because this is just what we were brought up with. But if something is standard and you don’t know of any other options and you still feel uncomfortable or disturbed or lose faith then that seems like an area pretty ripe for reform.

    I think it is interesting to hear from a Deacon about this as when we all complain we get accused of backbiting and judging and all the rest. One tries to stay recollected but sometimes it is difficult to look the other way or look down or up or whatever it may be and it just seems like such a casual reception for the most part. I know for me, when I actively broke my stride to have a moment, even when I used to receive in the hand, it made a difference. I think if we do things to slow things down, stop and consciously receive it makes a difference.

    I have always felt that the churches of the Archdiocese of NY have really respected the Real Presence in terms of worship and teaching unlike some other places and I hear this regard for the Real Presence when I read Deacon Kandra’s piece. It makes a difference, to hear this coming from someone in a position of leadership and service.

  19. Matt R says:

    CatholicCoffee: No amount of catechesis can correct this problem with Communion in the hand, which I think is part of the deacon’s argument. The Church Fathers recognized that, although most people that received in the hand did so reverently and with special precautions, there is nothing one can do to prevent the abuses that occur (that they foresaw, and we have seen) other than to institute reception on the tongue as the norm.
    I would instead use any catechetical moments towards gearing people up for receiving on the tongue kneeling.

  20. Catholic Hokie says:

    A few weeks ago, I attended a Sunday Mass (Novus Ordo) at a different parish than I usually go to because of a flight I had to catch. The church had a altar rail, and I figured it was just a relic of a pre-Vatican II construction, as I had been there for Mass a few times with the standard DMV-style Communion line. However, at this Mass, they used the altar rail! People did not seem confused, so they may do it periodically. It definitely seemed to make people more reverent and prone to receive on the tongue.

    Even though they had a altar rail, I have seen this done in churches without them. When I was very young my mom used to take me to Daily Mass at this old church. The altar rail had been taken out, but the associate pastor distributed communion with everyone kneeling in line at the first step up to the altar.

    I think it would be wonderful if more parishes. It is definitely feasible, and would certainly restore the feeling “of reverence and awe, of wonder and mystery” to this most important aspect of our lives and of the Holy Mass.

  21. benedetta says:

    Actually correction, Deacon Kandra serves in Queens, in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

    I would also add, there are some churches with communion rail where some people receive in the hand actually.

  22. Marie Veronica says:

    Thank you, Deacon Kandra. The DMV analogy is a bullseye.

    I have witnessed a “hassled mom ” put out one hand for the Host, look impatiently at the EMHC like, “c’mon hurry up, can’t you see I’ve got a squirming 2 year old,” and then pop the Host like a tic tac en route to the pew. For whatever reason that really got to me. The annoyed, “Cafeteria tray” posture perhaps?

    At my mom’s parish back home there is a deacon who stations himself at the end of the alter to make sure no one walks away with the Host. He is no-nonsense. Sad comment that he needs to do this among Mass-going Catholics, though.

  23. Anne 2 says:

    The short book “Dominus Est – It is the Lord” by the Most Reverend Athanasium Schneider, with the preface by the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is a wonderful read.
    After reading you may want to consider sending a copy to your Bishop and your Parish Priest.
    It gives the entire history of kneeling and on the tongue. It goes all the way back to Jesus’s time when it was the custom for a host to feed His guests by placing a small piece of bread on the tongue.
    It turns out that Calvin and Zwingli and their successors who denied the Real Presence had their followers stand and take communion in the hand in the 16th century in order to avoid any suggestion that the bread was being venerated.

  24. Angie Mcs says:

    lelnet, I attend a church which has an altar rail. Right before Communion, the rail is covered by a white cloth, except for the middle section, where the gate is opened on each side, leaving a good sized gap. I recently tore my knee pretty badly. Now, as I approach the altar with my cane, an usher discreetly directs me to that gap in the rail. I stand there until it is my turn, receive on the tongue as usual, and return to my seat. I don’t believe there is any spectacle- everyone seems to be focused on Communion. In any parish, there is surely a good portion of the population who has knee problems, and it’s thoughtful for a church to make this accommodation.

  25. alexandra88 says:

    At my former Anglican parish, we had an altar rail and would kneel (however the custom was to accept communion in the hands anyway). I loved the reverence of it and when I officially became a Catholic, I was annoyed that most parishes did not have altar rails. Bring back a sense of the sacred!!

  26. MichaelJ: Apologies if I was not clear enough. Sharing indiscriminately would of course be sacrilege. What I meant was that maybe there can be situations in which this is not sacrilege.

    Matt R: CatholicCoffee: No amount of catechesis can correct this problem with Communion in the hand, I cannot see why. In my Eastern European native country people are taught to receive in the “hand as a throne” way. The priest puts the host in your hand. You take one step sideways (usually to the right), bow slightly in reverence and communicate. Then you turn and go. The priest sees you all the time and I am sure that if I had done it irreverently, or had done anything like leaving the spot without actually receiving; or had given it to someone else, the next time I could only have received on the tongue. Queues go much slower this way (there are no Extraordinary Ministers either) but my point is that we do not need to go down the whole nine yards of the TLM just because some people cannot receive properly in hand.

  27. Cecily says:

    I have had to stand at the altar rail for communion. We use the altar rail for the NO at my parish. There was a whole year before and after I had knee surgery that I could not kneel. I just stood behind the altar rail next to the kneeling people. No problem. Other people (perhaps more self-conscious?) who can’t kneel just go stand on one of the far ends. I see above that in some parishes, non-kneelers stand in the middle (I think I’d like that less, because it’s more obvious, but it works).

    If people are concentrating on the Lord at communion, like they should be, they won’t even know you are standing! Don’t worry about them. (One slightly demented woman kept telling me I should kneel on one knee like she does. After about four of these discussions, when she said “Can’t you kneel on one knee?” I lost my patience and said NO!!!! more loudly than usual in polite society. She apologized for being insensitive, and that was the end of it).

    One thing I was told by a priest during that time. I was visiting a monastery that uses the communion rail. The priest asked me to be sure to bow before receiving standing, so as not to scandalize the other visitors.

  28. Angie Mcs says:

    My apologies for posting after Henry Edwards did – he covered the subject very well. I got delayed before hitting the Post button. So, lelnet, you can see there really is no issue here. :-)

  29. Matt R says:

    CatholicCoffee: That’s good that in your home country it’s worked, but by and large it has been a disaster for the last 35+ years, as Communion in the hand somehow became the norm in the West, and while I always tried to receive the Sacred Host carefully, it slowly became a lazy habit, like it has for everyone else. I was never taught that I could receive on the tongue, let alone while kneeling. Also, we can tell people things all day long, but they will continue to ignore us until they can no longer get away with it. As MichaelJ said, actions speak louder than words in this case.
    Finally, reception on the tongue kneeling is by and large the traditional practice of the Roman Rite. That combined with the example set by the Holy Father in light of our tradition is enough for me.

  30. Scott W. says:

    Looks like fifteen people had a slip of the mouse and accidentally missed the yes button.

  31. Philangelus says:

    Pastors could ease into it by distributing Communion to those kneeling on one side and the regular line/standing on the other side. They could make the announcement that of course Jesus is the same on both sides of the Church, but they’re accommodating the preferences of the people, so if you would like to kneel to receive, please head to the right.

    Then, if the parish overwhelmingly loves kneeling to receive Communion, it will be easier to bring back the altar rail and offer it that way all the time. And if parishioners do have stalwart objections, they can choose the standing-side and receive as they have for the past few decades.

  32. MattR: We seem to go back to catechesis; and at the same time we come from very different environments: you were never taught that you could receive on the tongue, whereas for us, when receiving in hand became possible, it was a huge thing, it was connecting with the Last Supper and becoming adults in Christ. As for habits, I see this as the individual’s responsibility.

  33. LisaP. says:

    Getting over ourselves is a good goal, in the sense above.

    I appreciate the deacon’s change of heart and the many who are returning to Communion on the tongue for practical reasons, it’s hard for me to get over myself when I’m going up to receive on the tongue and I know I’m the only one at Mass doing so. I worry. Will the priest think I’m being confrontational? I’d better look down and look humble. Wait, will he think I’m being holier than thou? Better look all practical and matter of fact. I have a hard time not feeling like I’m doing something that stands out, and that puts me at the center of my thoughts.

    So I’m so glad that I now can got to some parishes and note I’m not the only one and likely my choice won’t even register with the priest. It really helps when I take Communion from a priest who seems comfortable, instead of a priest that looks like it’s very awkward for him to place the host anywhere but in my hand.

    Weird side effect, but makes me happy to see this “conversion” and that of others in the same direction.

  34. lawoski says:

    Deacon Kandra has a follow-up post about another parish who put in an altar rail. Deacon Kandra’s post has before and after pictures from the other parish. The follow-up post is here:

  35. tzard says:

    What really struck me in Deacon Greg’s article was his offhand mention of ” we fumbling humans need external reminders” – that’s so true. Our children have parents to gently remind them, nudge them, and guide them until they can do it right – and correct them as they are older if necessary. Yet we human adults are also children – and we, I, need ritual, culture, reminders to do things right. It doesn’t help that there are 15 different ways (good or bad), or no official way to receive communion. Make it one way – and stick to it, thank you. I’ll leave the Church to determine what’s appropriate, so I can concentrate on the hard stuff – getting to heaven.

  36. Since we are free to receive Holy Communion kneeling, putting the altar rails back would be a work of charity. Some of us would like to receive on our knees, but could not get up again without support.

  37. jhayes says:

    Matt R, receiving in the hand while standing didn’t “somehow become the norm in the West”. That was a conscious decision made by the USCCB for the OF Mass in the USA – and it was approved by the Vatican before being included in the GIRM. Although it is the norm for the USA, anyone who wants to kneel or receive on the tongue must be accommodated by the celebrant.

    Regarding “the example set by the Holy Father,” if you study the video of his Christmas Masses, you’ll see that priests alongside him distribute in the hand to people who stand. It is only people receiving from the Holy Father himself who are required to kneel and receive on the tongue.

  38. Cecily says:

    jhayes, that still doesn’t change the fact that the Holy Father is setting the example of communion kneeling, and on the tongue. Something tells me the Pope is saying he thinks it is important. If it’s important to Peter, it’s important to me.

    I appreciate the way Pope Benedict is trying to change things without having his first attempts come across as authoritarian. He’s leading the sheep rather than driving them…hooray. I love the way the Church is patient with us.

  39. jaykay says:

    Singing in choirs, as I do here in Ireland, we frequently enough do concerts in Church of Ireland churches (that’s Anglican/Episcopalian). I haven’t ever seen one that didn’t still have the altar-rail. They kneel, although receiving in the hand I’m told. Res ipsa loquitur.

    My parish church still has its glorious 19th century marble rail. Haven’t knelt there since… oooh… the early 80s. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on when the standing began but I’d say it was about the time of the EMHC introduction. I don’t recall any instructions as to how to receive, it just seemed to “happen”. I was a young adult then and having attended a very proper Catholic school we were well-drilled in obedience and just sort of “went along”. Don’t draw attention to yourself and all that. My parents, then in their late 60s, disapproved but would never have raised public objection.

    The only bright spot is that in the mid-90s when a misguided Parish Priest and his modernist architect had plans for a wreckovation along the usual lines public opinion would not go along with the removal of the rails. So they’re still there, D.G. and maybe, just maybe…

    Well, it’s Ireland after all, so not exactly holding my breath :(

  40. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    The rail also serves to delineate clearly the sanctuary (a.k.a., with good reason, the presbyterium) as a sacred area and to keep people out who have no business being within it. How many times I’ve witnessed people cut across the sanctuary as a shortcut from one transept to the other.

  41. Mike says:

    CatholicCoffee said: “…it was connecting with the Last Supper and becoming adults in Christ.”

    But the Mass is not primarily a memorial of the Last Supper. It’s primarily the making present of the Cross. As the Holy Father said in The Spirit of the Liturgy, “True, Our Lord established the new reality of Christian worship within the framework of a Jewish (Passover) meal, but it was precisely this new reality, not the meal as such, which He commanded us to repeat. Very soon the new reality was separated from its ancient context {that of a Jewish Passover meal} and found its proper and suitable form, a form already predetermined by the fact that the Eucharist refers back to the Cross and thus to the transformation of Temple sacrifice into the reasonable worship of God.”

    And as for “becoming adults in Christ”, there was this great little statement in Memoriale Domini, the document which permitted Communion in the hand:

    “The custom {of Communion on the tongue directly} does not detract in any way from the personal dignity of those who approach this great sacrament: it is part of that preparation that is needed for the most fruitful reception of the Body of the Lord.”

    Furthermore, the “adults in Christ” mindset seems to stem from the idea that, “Because I’m a mature adult, I can feed myself”. But Our Lord says to enter Heaven we need to be like CHILDREN! What’s more childlike than being fed the Body of Christ, rather than presuming to take it for ourselves? We must remember, as John Paul 2 said in Dominicae Coenae, that to touch the Blessed Sacrament is a privilege of the ordained.

  42. Cecily says:

    Fr. Thomas K: I’ve also seen, a few times, very embarrassed mothers whose toddlers have made a beeline for the altar during Mass. An altar rail would have been a blessing for those mothers (not to mention the rest of us).

  43. tzard says:

    Fr. Kocik makes a good point – the “altar rail” has several purposes (including pedagogical ones if created with beauty). Receiving communion is only one purpose – another is to mark the sanctuary.

    With that in mind, those of you considering following Deacon Greg’s lead – perhaps bring out a couple of prie dieu’s to start with. Don’t wait to install the rails, if you don’t have them already. For those of you who still have altar rails – have at it !

  44. jhayes says:

    Mike wrote “We must remember, as John Paul 2 said in Dominicae Coenae, that to touch the Blessed Sacrament is a privilege of the ordained”

    But as Domenicae Cenae goes on to say, the privilege of touching the Blessed Sacrament is not limited to the ordained:

    “To touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hands is a privilege of the ordained, one which indicates an active participation in the ministry of the Eucharist. It is obvious that the Church can grant this faculty to those who are neither priests nor deacons, as is the case with acolytes in the exercise of their ministry, especially if they are destined for future ordination, or with other lay people who are chosen for this to meet a just need, but always after an adequate preparation.”

  45. Littlemore says:

    I’ve received on the tongue for about 6 years after many years of receiving communion in the hand although remaining at the altar rail (communion is distributed in a queue) until I’d placed the host in my mouth, I then started to receive standing but on the tongue, then when I returned to the TLM I found it natural to receive communion on the tongue and kneeling, then I stopped communicating at NO Masses.
    Recently I spoke with the Parish Priest about receiving communion at Parish Masses kneeling in the front pew but struggled with this. Earlier this week I was at Mass & was the only person (as far as I’m aware) to have received kneeling but on 1 knee & on the tongue and felt comfortable doing so, I will now do so at all Masses.
    Father is more “conservative” than his predecessor and is trying to change practices slowly, when he came to the Parish he stopped self-intinction, so is happy for me to do this.

  46. Matt R says:

    CatholicCoffee, what I would say has already been said by Mike.
    jhayes, by somehow, I meant that it sprang up in the chaos of the liturgical reforms, as an illicit innovation which the Holy See tolerated under the liturgical law, and it was in an effort to completely stamp out kneeling. By the way, most bishops felt that they didn’t want it and neither did their flocks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had a troublesome priest who is unaware of the law or deliberately works against it; other priests I know seek uniformity, which I understand but it gets old after a while, because the law of the Church says that we can kneel. I just reread Memoriale Domini and it does not look like we should have ever, and certainly not now, be allowed to distribute Communion in the hand….Also, just because the Church can do something, doesn’t mean it should.

  47. jhayes says:

    Mike R. If you are in the US, you certainly have a right to kneel and receive on the tongue if you wish. If your parish priest refuses you Communion, I would write to our bishop if you can’t work it out with your pastor.

    However, I don’t agree that “most bishops didn’t want it [standing and in the hand as the norm]”. The USCCB as a group made that decision and submitted it to Rome for its recognito.

  48. benedetta says:

    jhayes, And surely the USCCB can now undo that decision and submit it to the Holy Father for recognition.

  49. tealady24 says:

    Never mind the “easing in” and “let’s a find a way” and all the other kum-by-yah crap. Have the altar rails put back in during the week, when nobody’s looking (or nearly nobody), than announce on Sunday that “from now on, this is how it will be done”.
    All not in accordance, there’s the door.
    The Protestants are looking for you!

  50. acardnal says:

    Receiving communion and standing was occurring for decades illicitly in the 60s and 70s. (I know. I experienced it.) This abuse was permitted by liberal priests and bishops who were influenced by wacky liturgists and the “spirit of Vatican 2”. These practices were done without the Holy See’s authority. It had become de facto institutionalized abuse. (Much like female altar servers.) Unfortunately, the practice had become so pervasive over the decades that the USCCB felt there was little they could do. It was too late to enforce kneeling and reception on the tongue so they requested formal approval from the Holy See and changed the GIRM accordingly after wards.

    Communion in the hand was done in many Protestant churches. After all, it was just a piece of bread. Why not receive in the hand? When this became commonplace in Catholic churches this notion, over time, affected the way Catholics understood communion. Consequently, we are now living with the results: lack of reverence for the Holy Eucharist, abuses, incorrect understanding of what (Who) the Eucharist is, low Mass attendance and lack of participation in Confession (after all, it is just a piece of bread).

    Read Pope Paul VI’s Memoriale Domini and Pope John Paul II’s Dominicae Cenae which document this issue and the sorry abuse of the Blessed Sacrament.

    I, too, agree with Holy Father Benedict. He his trying to set the example for his flock. Long Live Pope Benedict.

    I recommend Michael Davies, The Privilege of the Ordained.

  51. Matt R says:

    jhayes, Venerable Paul VI issued a survey to the bishops that revealed just over 60% did not wish for Communion in the hand. Then, in the mid-70s, Cardinal Bernardin tried for three years to ask for the indult-never mind that the practice wasn’t widespread in the US, compared to on the European Continent- and to do it, had to lobby the rest of the Conference to get the 2/3 majority required to ask the Holy See for the indult. He did this by convincing many retired bishops to vote for it.
    By the fact that we have lost reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, it is obvious that the indult should be revoked, since that was a condition for its issuance.

  52. benedetta says:

    The follow-up post by Deacon Kandra, linked to by lawoski above, is very worthwhile reading as it links to a post by Father Finelli (locally known by readers of this blog) which contains an excellent background on the indult which granted permission to the US to be excepted from the norm and permit communion in the hand.

    There was much to Fr. Finelli’s post which caught my attention, but one thing I reacted to immediately was his note that the indult was conditional upon due reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, and continuation of care that the Blessed Sacrament not be profaned, and the continuation of the use of the paten. It’s been many years since I have noticed a paten used with distribution of communion now normatively in the hand while standing.

  53. benedetta says:

    I have to add, in my own personal experience, when the change to reception in the hand came about, it was mandated to us and no one was given the choice of continuing to receive on the tongue kneeling. At the very same time, our parish church was grossly wreckovated. At the same time, basic Church teaching was scorned openly in my home place. I was taught that the Eucharist was a mere symbol. We were urged to vote Democrat and loathe Ronald Reagan. As a corollary, while the parish congregation became alienated and passively accepted all of this, our pastor was seen conducting openly gay relationships. A few years ago, I learned that he had been permitted to quietly leave the priesthood after scores of boys now grown accused him of molestation. That parish, and our family, took a long time to regain our Catholic bearings and identity in the wake of all the destruction wrought by a phony clericalism that foisted changes upon us without any permission to question it.

  54. Minnesotan from Florida says:

    I thought that recently we were taught (a new thing? or a reminder?) that we should make an act of reverence – bow or genuflect – before receiving standing, and in my parish the majority, perhaps the overwhelming majority, do. Perhaps this was just enunciated in our diocese, but it is certainly a good idea.


  55. AnAmericanMother says:

    Growing up I was a “high church” Episcopalian, but I had a lot of Catholic friends (the local Baptists and many of the Methodists looked upon us Whiskypalians with a great deal of suspicion as just one step from the Scarlet Woman). So I’ve always had contacts with the local Catholic community.
    It has been my observation over the years that the wacky “spirit of Vatican II”, the attempts to de-emphasize the Real Presence, traditional churches, etc. went hand in hand with misconduct on the part of the priests in question. I can think of one “way out there” local priest who was obviously, flagrantly “femme” (and wound up in trouble with the law).
    I don’t know if this is a coincidence and just my personal observations, or if there’s some pattern or connection here. If you don’t really believe, I suppose it’s easier to excuse sin . . . .

  56. yatzer says:

    All the Episcopalian and Methodist family members I have been with at their communion services have knelt at an altar rail to receive. They do receive in the hand. I have never understood the whole DMV-style most Catholic churches use.

  57. Margaret says:

    Holy smokes. The Deacon’s Bench followup piece, on the construction of an altar rail, is really worth a peek. The parish in question didn’t just add an altar rail, they turned a vanilla vintage-80’s “worship space” into a crazy-beautiful sanctuary. I don’t know all the correct vocabulary to use about what features were added, but the sanctuary now is visibly oriented towards the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar.

  58. benedetta says:

    An American Mother, yes I think that though these are anecdotes still there is a certain praxis. Lex orandi lex credendi. If you don’t believe and teach the Real Presence, what you do and say in the context of worship, and what you teach, and how you recognize worship, it all can be made up as one goes along. If there is no Real Presence, and no magisterium, and liturgy is whatever one decides to do, then why should it surprise if one’s personal choices of amorality mirror and reflect that.

  59. acardnal says:

    Margaret, Benedetta, et al: check out iPadre’s (aka Fr. Finelli) own parish where he installed an altar rail. Beautiful photos too!


  60. acardnal says:

    I just saw this news from ZENIT news agency. Reportedly, the CDWS is preparing a document for priests on how to celebrate Mass properly.


  61. Y2Y says:

    You are dead wrong. Communion in the hand is a sacrilege, end of story.
    Becoming “adults in Christ?” What kind of nonsensical garbage is that? “Unless you become as little children……” Methinks some miscreant has filled your head full of mush.

  62. Suburbanbanshee says:

    As I understand it, the proper reasons for standing are: 1) imitation of the angels standing in the presence of God, and 2) holy attentiveness to God’s teaching, as opposed to the somewhat lazier attentiveness of sitting. But a lot of the Church’s standing-customs presuppose that pews and chairs don’t exist.

    I dunno. Folks where it’s really the age-old custom, it’s not a problem for them. For us, where standing is just kinda blah as a posture, I think we need kneeling. Maybe if nothing else had changed, it would have been okay; but now things are more messed up, so we need more openly devout actions and postures.

  63. Stu says:

    What’s a bit ironic in my experience, is my growing up Lutheran. The Lutheran church I attended as a child had an altar rail, which was used, and our paster faced the altar quite a bit during the service.

    In a weird way, becoming Catholic and finding the Extraordinary Form was a bit like returning to my childhood.

  64. gary cifra says:

    Ref: …hands slightly cupped and lips parted. Where do you want it and how?? [I hate that.]
    Mystical Paten: (Aka The Guarded Host Reflex GHR.) Vs. True Vacillators
    GHR is yet another “organic development” in the ceremonial rite as a result of Mass confusion,
    by where the communicant desires to receive on the tongue and places their slightly cupped hands at the level of the upper thorax…in the event that the Host should fall, it falls into their hand, the MP. Care should be taken to open the lips prior to cupping the hand and placing the Mystical Paten under the chin. Avoid the impulse of cupping the hands prior to opening the lips, otherwise the priest thinks you are vacillating back and forth undecided or worse yet that you intend to receive in the hand.
    The rule of Thumb…no pun intended is:
    Lips receive priority over hands, during apparent oscillations or vacillations.

  65. Sword40 says:

    I kneel for communion whether I’m at an OF or EF Mass. The problem with the OF Mass is that one of our local priests can’t seem to put the Host on the tongue without almost dropping it. Consequently when I have to attend the OF Mass, I never go to communion.

    BTW, I rarely attend an OF Mass anymore.

  66. aragonjohn7 says:

    the priest pulled off a mother Theresa

    God bless

  67. wmeyer says:

    Simply this: One stands for the head of state, but one kneels before God.

  68. frjim4321 says:

    benedetta, there is no evidence whatsoever that proclivities along the lines of what you are suggesting are more or less prevalent depending on a priest’s liturgical style which is contrary to what you are insinuating.

    The 8% of my ordination class who have had such problems and have been “put on the shelf” have been quite antiquarian in their approaches. The 8% who left on their own accord were not perceptively trad or prog. After 23+ years 84% of classmates are still active.

    It’s really not fair nor is there any evidence to insinuate that various clerical problems favor liturgical styles. Certainly some who offended were quite liberal. But if you look at archSTL for example some of the most flagrant offenders were quite traditional in their style.

    Anyway, back to the point if this string, personally I dissuade people from COTT whenever possible due to sanitary concerns. CITH seems much more sanitary to me that COTT so given the opportunity I urge people to go with the much more traditional practice of CITH.

    There are of course other reasons coming from ecclesiology and sacramental theology but for me the issues of dispensing communion in a sanitary manner is overwhelming.

  69. benedetta says:

    frjim4321, I’m not insinuating. I am saying it. Lex orandi…

    I have found that liturgical abuse goes hand in hand with dissent. That is, evidence. It may not be of the form or statistic you yourself require but it has been more than ample in my experience. And I think it resonates with quite a few others’ as well.

  70. frjim4321 says:

    Sorry but anecdotal evidence from one person is in sufficient.

    And I think it resonates with quite a few others’ as well.

    People get to speak for themselves. They really don’t get to speak for someone else unless of course they have been given proxy to do so.

  71. backtothefuture says:

    Communion in hand is an abomination, constructed to deliberately take away the belief in the true presence. I second reading bishop Schneider’s “Dominus est” to understand better the necessity of receiving our lord with adoration and reverence, and to see that receiving in the hand was different in the early church than the scandal that happens today. To father Jim, i’ll take the chance in receiving God with reverence, and let him worry about protecting me from possible sanitary issues.

  72. frjim4321 says:

    Communion in hand is an abomination, constructed to deliberately take away the belief in the true presence.

    So that’s what Cyril was trying to accomplish!

  73. benedetta says:

    frjim4321 who made you judge and jury? It is of course sufficient for the purposes here and for other ones as well. And as for resonating, I recall you using that exact word more than once here to justify your open and public dissent to Catholic teaching as a priest here. You also say that you “represent” others. Every commenter here surely has the same credentials.

    At any rate, I reiterate that I have never heard orthodox teaching combined, presented, or articulated with in and by liturgical abuse. And, liturgical abuse goes hand in hand with dissent. What do you think this blog is all about? It’s been amply demonstrated and documented far beyond your wildest minimization of my one person’s anecdotal experience.

    And for that one anecdotal experience I have countless others as I have not worshipped in one place all my life. I suspect that is the experience of most others as well these days.

  74. benedetta says:

    Communion in the hand referenced by those who justify it became an abuse in the early church as well. For similar reasons.

  75. benedetta says:

    frjim4321, What part were you interested in justifying about the history of my home parish?

  76. MKR says:

    Fr. Z’s two evil patriarchic anti-democratic authoritarian fascist Neanderthal recommendations are discriminatory against churches without altar rails.

  77. benedetta says:

    I see plenty of people receiving communion on the tongue whilst kneeling in places with and without altar rails, of course.

    We should talk about Fr. Z’s recommendation that there be a return to ad orientem worship as well, that is key.

  78. jhayes says:

    Matt R, there is no indult involved in Communion in the hand (or standing). Section 390 of the GIRM leaves it to the national conference of bishops of each country to decide (as usual, subject to review and approval by Rome)

    390. It is for the Conferences of Bishops to formulate the adaptations indicated in this General Instruction and in the Order of Mass and, once their decisions have been accorded the recognitio of the Apostolic See, to introduce them into the Missal itself. They are such as these:

    • the gestures and bodily posture of the faithful (cf. no. 43);

    • the gestures of veneration toward the altar and the Book of the Gospels (cf. no. 273);

    • the texts of the chants at the Entrance, at the Presentation of the Gifts, and at Communion (cf. nos. 48, 74, 87);

    • the readings from Sacred Scripture to be used in special circumstances (cf. no. 362);

    • the form of the gesture of peace (cf. no. 82);

    • the manner of receiving Holy Communion (cf. nos. 160, 283);

    • the materials for the altar and sacred furnishings, especially the sacred vessels, and also the materials, form, and color of the liturgical vestments (cf. nos. 301, 326, 329, 339, 342-346).

    See articles 160 and 283 for the USCCB decisions applicable in the US.

  79. Cecily says:

    Another reason altar rails are good for contemporary hyper Americans is that we get to STOP and be still for at least a few seconds before receiving communion. A chance for a little recollection in our hectic culture. (A very little, true, but it’s a start).

  80. jhayes says:

    tealady24 wrote “Never mind the “easing in” and “let’s a find a way” and all the other kum-by-yah crap. Have the altar rails put back in during the week, when nobody’s looking (or nearly nobody), than announce on Sunday that “from now on, this is how it will be done”.

    All not in accordance, there’s the door.”

    Only the USCCB could require everyone to kneel and receive on the tongue. A bishop or pastor can’t do that on their own.

    Note that in Fr. Finelli’s article he says that, after installing the new altar rail, “I reminded the parish that they had the option to receive standing or kneeling, on the tongue or in the hand”.

  81. jhayes says:

    At an OF Mass, that is.

  82. jhayes says: Only the USCCB could require everyone to kneel and receive on the tongue. A bishop or pastor can’t do that on their own.

    I don’t think this is true. What canonical authority does the USCCB have?

  83. Cecily says:

    Miss Anita…It appears as if jhayes has answered your question at 10:20 p.m.

  84. benedetta says:

    I have never seen a dissenter celebrate Mass by the book, as in, say the black and do the red. They open their mouths during their homilies, and they give their dissent away. Then, they always add even just a splash of liturgical abuse, just to denote, they are not “with Rome” as they would say. It is, from the congregation’s standpoint, rather like a death wish. But they can never just say the black and do the red and let it be. Now one could debate the deep seated root of that, is it, defiance, pride, reveling in disobedience. But just as their dissent and their liturgical abuse never has any coherent form to it, they think themselves in some sort of solidarity with people when it is really just cooked up by their imaginations. And solidarity depends upon humility to begin with.

    Probably the communion in the hand thing was a nice idea in the heady days of Second Vatican, and the clerics thought that the laity would become holy in their reception of communion in the image of processing monks and nuns were who received this way (Benedictines?) around that time in the U.S. But, sadly, instead of making a more reverent laity, it’s wound up making a mockery of our faith.

    I really don’t see why the rails were removed. There still is an obvious (and I mean, obvious) demarcation.

    There is something to be said for kneeling, with one’s neighbor receiving on one’s right and left, rather than only staring at the back of the head of one’s neighbor while queueing up. There’s a solidarity. And with most places with the rail, you don’t have the “I’m the usher and I will enforce when you go and when you do not go to communion here” problem. People go when and if they are ready.

    And at the rail one doesn’t know or study or presume anything about others receiving communion because you don’t see all the spectacle. Whereas the other way no matter where you look it is very hard to avoid having to see the display and the nonsense that typically goes on. And if people feel they need to receive standing this too can be accomplished with little fanfare or notice, or second guessing, as the case may be. As it is currently, if one wishes to kneel, one stops the whole line at the ordinary form and then in many places one gets the harassing treatment from the emhc or priest, and of course it is uncomfortable having to kneel on the marble floor. So even though some say here we are free to kneel of course not everyone is so free to do that. Clearly if one is elderly one cannot kneel in the middle of the communion line on the marble floor. It is often difficult enough to receive on the tongue. But in places where there is a rail, people if they choose may still receive in the hand.

    I think we have to ask ourselves, if a newcomer came to our parishes and saw what was going on as Deacon Kandra observes, what would they conclude about our beliefs about the Real Presence? What would they conclude about our commitment to our faith, our seriousness, our credibility about what we say we believe? What are these gestures conveying to ourselves and to others? I think we need to be honest that what may have started out with interesting intentions and justification has led to an outcome that is regrettable, and that it is not too late to reform.

  85. Mamma B says:

    “I’ve watched a mother receive communion, her toddler in tow, then take it back to the pew and share it with him like a cookie.”
    The few times I have seen this occur, it has always been an Eastern Rite Catholic at an OF Mass who doesn’t want to hold up the Communion line to explain that, yes, 2 year old Dimitri has indeed received his First Communion (when he was baptized/Chrismated.)

  86. Minnesotan from Florida says:

    My machine froze after I typed the “T” on my previous post.

    I am surprised no one has commented on the point made there; namely, the official instruction to make an act of reverence before receiving standing.

    I agree very much with two comments made indicating two very good reasons for receiving at the railing – the time it gives for interior reverence and devotion at the immediate before-and-after the actual reception, and the sense of neighborliness resulting from shoulder-to-shoulder.

    I was going to say that it is not a two-way standing/on the hand or kneeling/on the tongue, but is a four-way of all combinations, all of which I believe are licit for the OF in the United States. Of course, kneeling on a prie-dieu rather than at a railing would greatly increase the time and (I think, but have never seen the prie-dieu “done”) be very awkward as well.

    As one reared a Methodist, I am glad to read that Methodists still receive kneeling at the rail, and likewise for the Episcopalians, who I feared might very well have gone like lemmings to the “Spirit of Vatican II.”

  87. backtothefuture says:

    Fr Jim, the way they received communion than, was different from now. People washed their hands, knowing what they were receiving, and they never picked up the eucharist and placed in their mouths with their fingers. They always bowed their heads into their hands to consume it. This practice was done away with due to problems with particles that were left behind. Like I said, read bishop Athanasius Schneider’s “Dominus est”. If the early christians saw what was going on today, they would be mortified.

  88. fvhale says:

    A wee bit of Redemptionis Sacramentum from April 2004:

    [90.] “The faithful should receive Communion kneeling or standing, as the Conference of Bishops will have determined”, with its acts having received the recognitio of the Apostolic See. “However, if they receive Communion standing, it is recommended that they give due reverence before the reception of the Sacrament, as set forth in the same norms”.

    [91.] In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them”. Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.

    [92.] Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice, if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognitio of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her. However, special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.

    [93.] The Communion-plate for the Communion of the faithful should be retained, so as to avoid the danger of the sacred host or some fragment of it falling.

    [94.] It is not licit for the faithful “to take . . . by themselves . . . and, still less, to hand . . . from one to another” the sacred host or the sacred chalice. Moreover, in this regard, the abuse is to be set aside whereby spouses administer Holy Communion to each other at a Nuptial Mass.

    These paragraphs from 2004 are referenced in Sacramentum Caritatis from February 2007:

    50. Another moment of the celebration needing to be mentioned is the distribution and reception of Holy Communion. I ask everyone, especially ordained ministers and those who, after adequate preparation and in cases of genuine need, are authorized to exercise the ministry of distributing the Eucharist, to make every effort to ensure that this simple act preserves its importance as a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus in the sacrament. For the rules governing correct practice in this regard, I would refer to those documents recently issued on the subject. All Christian communities are to observe the current norms faithfully, seeing in them an expression of the faith and love with which we all must regard this sublime sacrament. Furthermore, the precious time of thanksgiving after communion should not be neglected: besides the singing of an appropriate hymn, it can also be most helpful to remain recollected in silence.

    I think communion rails and kneeling are a concrete (marble?) instance of “every effort to ensure that this simple act preserves its importance as a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus in the sacrament.” Great news!

  89. Cecily says:

    Minnesotan…maybe nobody commented about your dioceses’s recent announcement to make an act of reverence before receiving standing because, I think, most people who read this blog are aware of this instruction. By the way, since you asked…it’s not a new instruction. (See General Instruction on the Roman Missal, Chapter IV, #160). I’m glad it was reiterated in your diocese. I wish more people in my territorial parish did that. I drive downtown to a parish where there’s a built-in act of reverence…kneeling…we have an altar rail, so nobody has to be reminded. It works!

  90. Gratias says:

    I only receive from a priest and on the tongue. This already gives rise to shocked looks, including from new priests in our OF parish. After visiting st. Germain d’Auxerrois in Paris a number of years ago I added a deep reverence while the person in front of me is receiving in the hand. This works well. In France many briefly kneel on one knee while the person in front of them is communicating. But I have to live with my parish and do not want to tick them off. Kneeling while receiving would be out of the question here in Los Angeles.

    However, in the Vatican, at the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament 8:30 Mass in St Peter’s, they have two prie-Dieu and kneeling works just fine for the two queues as the priest does intinction while chanting ” Corpus-Sanguis ” to good effect.

    In conclusion, we drive 90 min to San Buenaventura Mission for the privilege of receiving communion kneeling and on the tongue every second Sunday. It is well worth the trip.

  91. acardnal says:

    frjim4321 wrote, “. . . personally I dissuade people from COTT whenever possible due to sanitary concerns. CITH seems much more sanitary to me that COTT so given the opportunity I urge people to go with the much more traditional practice of CITH.”

    I guess all those millions of Catholics who received communion on the tongue through the centuries were fortunate they avoided disease and survived long enough to have children and grandchildren or the one, true faith may have died out.

  92. frsbr says:

    As to the question of which form of reception of Holy Communion is more sanitary:
    I can give Holy Communion on the tongue to 1,000 people without ever touching the tongue; but I cannot give Holy Communion in the hand to even one person without touching their hand. In most cases, one’s hands carry more infectious bacteria and germs than does the mouth. People have a right to receive either way, but receiving in the hand is, all things being equal, less sanitary than receiving on the tongue.

  93. Scott W. says:

    Fr Jim, the way they received communion than, was different from now. People washed their hands, knowing what they were receiving, and they never picked up the eucharist and placed in their mouths with their fingers. They always bowed their heads into their hands to consume it

    Yes, and also didn’t touch anything with those hands before receiving, including other people’s hands. Now, if churches went back to this practice (which means elimination of the pew lunge of…err…exchange of peace), I’d be all for it.

  94. robtbrown says:

    I agree with FrJim4321 on the matter of those leaving the priesthood. Four American friends from Rome, none liberal. three seriously inclined to Latin liturgy, and two to its study, left left priesthood.
    IMHO, most of the time those who don’t leave have found a priestly life that matches their seminary expectations.

    Re Communion in the hand: During Cyril’s time Communion was very restricted.

  95. LisaP. says:

    As a person hyper-concerned about microbial disease for my kids, I’m with Scott W. After shaking the hands of easily up to ten people who have spent nearly an hour without being able to wash their hands, and then not being able to wash my hands, it is entirely easier to pass disease by having the host placed in one of my hands and lifting it to my lips with the other hand than it would be to pass disease by receiving on the tongue from a priest who has thoroughly washed his hands minutes earlier.

    I have often been in the position of having to shake the hand of a man in the pew in front of me who I have seen with his fingers wiping mucus from his nose, coughing into his hand, or unconsciously digging in an ear (less of an infection risk and more just the ew factor). It takes a great deal since I’m probably mildly actually germ phobic to smile and offer him the sign of peace anyway. I’m sure others do the same after seeing my kids pick their noses or whatever they do when I’m not watching closely enough to give them “the look”. I get over this. I get over it when receiving in the hand. But it seems to me pretty clear this makes receiving in the hand at least as much of an infection hazard, if not more, than receiving on the tongue.

  96. nykash says:

    The Deacon’s change of heart is a very good thing. Over the past several years, I’ve gone from standing/in the hand/EMHC to kneeling/tongue/priest. Why? It all started with a homily wherein the priest asked ‘who do you serve?’

    At my own little clustered parish, we have everything from the somewhat usual experience OF (not due to the pastor) to the EF. At the OF mass, one form of receiving communion in the hand I’ve seen recently is the ‘nom nom nom,’ wherein the person, after receiving the host, brings both hands up to the mouth and scarfs it down. It IS Christ! Show some respect for your God! Needless to say, we’re not going to that mass anymore.

    An altar rail makes things nice and easy… although if there’s not one used, I kneel anyway.

  97. Fr AJ says:

    Due to the flu, my diocese recently issued a directive that the faithful should not receive Holy Communion on the tongue but that receiving on the tongue will not be denied if one demands it. I disagree with such a thing and will not be announcing or enforcing such a ban.

  98. robtbrown says:


    Anyway, back to the point if this string, personally I dissuade people from COTT whenever possible due to sanitary concerns. CITH seems much more sanitary to me that COTT so given the opportunity. I urge people to go with the much more traditional practice of CITH.

    According to the norms of the SCDW, you are not permitted to do or say anything to discourage the practice of people from receiving on tongue, a practice described in the same norms as “traditional”.

  99. Cecily says:

    LisaP: I’m not “germ phobic,” but I don’t like shaking hands either. I keep my hands folded in front of me, give the person a big smile, say “peace be with you” and then bow. (If people can flash that awful peace sign, I certainly can bow, which is a liturgical gesture). People may look a bit confused at first, but they “get it” in a second or two. Actually, the Hong Kong Chinese in Vancouver, B.C. all bow to each other in the parish there.

  100. MichaelJ says:

    Minnesotan from Florida wrote “I am surprised no one has commented on the point made there; namely, the official instruction to make an act of reverence before receiving standing.” If you read what fvhale referenced you’ll see that there really is no such instruction.

    For good or ill, the Church no longer acts as a father, giving instruction and identifying what must and what must not be done. Instead, the Church offers suggestions and recommendationsand does not seem to care one way or another if anyone pays attention.

  101. jhayes says:

    Here is a message dfrom teh Arcdiocese of Boston on temporary adjustments during this flu outbreak:

    “Bishop Robert P. Deeley has sent the following announcement to all pastors in the Archdiocese regarding the current flu-related risks:

    In light of the recent severity of flu-related illnesses and the public health emergency declared in the City of Boston, you are advised to use pastoral caution and prudence in the distribution of the chalice to the faithful in Holy Communion. If it is the practice of your parish to offer Communion under both species at Mass, you may wish to suspend this practice, for reasons of pastoral discretion, until the flu emergency subsides, with the exception of those who must receive from the chalice for medical reasons. If discontinued, this practice should be restored at the conclusion of the flu season.

    In addition, please be advised that, according to your pastoral judgment, you may wish to encourage the faithful to exchange the Sign of Peace without any physical contact. If the priest celebrant chooses to extend the invitation for the Sign of Peace, the faithful, instead of a handshake, may bow to the persons nearby. Again, this practice would continue until the conclusion of the flu season.

    The Archdiocesan Office for Worship previously offered these further guidelines which are still relevant to the present situation:

    “In addition to practicing good hygiene, please be advised:

    ? The Holy Water fonts are to be drained, cleaned with a disinfecting soap, and re-filled with holy water on a regular basis. Please note that old holy water should be disposed of in the sacrarium.

    ? While the faithful retain the option of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand, all ministers of Holy Communion are advised to distribute the consecrated hosts with care, being cautious not to touch the tongue or the hand of the communicant.

    ? Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should discretely clean their hands with hand sanitizer at the credence table, before and after the distribution of Holy Communion.

    ? Parishioners should be reminded that if they are ill or suspect they are ill with a contagious illness, they are not bound by the Sunday Mass obligation. They should remain at home and return to church when they are well.”

  102. Cecily says:

    MichaelJ: The Church is the spotless bride of Christ, and as such, does indeed care if anyone pays attention. It’s the lukewarm and the traitors who don’t care. We know what happens to them.

    Actually, there is a whole book of instructions “identifying what must and what must not be done.” It’s called the “General Instruction of the Roman Missal.”

  103. Cecily says:

    MichaelJ: I forgot to post what the GIRM says about the topic at hand:

    “When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. …When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood.”
    Chapter IV, 160.

  104. Matt R says:

    jhayes, the faithful in Boston should write to Rome. If it is an abuse during Lent to deny the faithful holy water, then it would most certainly be so during Ordinary Time. Also, they have pointed out yet another reason for them to chuck the sign of peace. Oh, and hand sanitizer is only good until you touch the hands of the first person receiving Communion.
    Now, onto the whole indult thing…yes, it was initially allowed under indult by Ven. Paul VI. As to what the GIRM says, it must be approved by the Holy See. That means that at some point in time, the CDWDS could say that American Catholics have not upheld our end of the deal, and take away their approval.
    Also, the notion of the bishops’ conference approving liturgical norms means that legitimate local customs are unable to organically develop.

  105. Cecily says:

    MattR: jhayes did not say Boston is denying holy water to the faithful. Boston is saying to clean the fonts and refill them.

    Good point about legitimate local customs being unable to organically develop. I am not a fan of the idea of bishops’ conferences.

  106. Matt R says:

    Ah, misread that; grr…Still unnecessary. It’s only clean until the first person puts a finger in.

  107. Grabski says:

    FWIW, I was in Poland for a funeral over New Year’s and communion was given standing in the hand. In a parish church.

  108. LisaP. says:

    Do extraordinary ministers not wash before distributing normally? I never even noticed! One of the beauties of the Church is its many forms of ablution. I understand the significance of water and the Holy Spirit, etc., but I also think it’s so historical to wash when you enter church, I think the priest carefully washing and drying his hands before the Eucharist brings us back further than Christianity, and links us to the major religions of the world where washing is part of reverence. The ministers seriously don’t have to wash before touching the host? I guess, at the same time, I shouldn’t be surprised, since none of us wash before taking the host out of our hand and placing it in our own mouths. What a sad break with tradition — all tradition. You don’t approach God without ceremonial washing, certainly you don’t touch God without washing.

  109. wmeyer says:

    LisaP: In my experience in three parishes, I have never seen an EMHC wash before distributing, but in one, I have seen them wash after.

    As to my own hands, as I receive on the tongue, I don’t need to wash. And truly, if you ever see me as an EMHC, then hell will have frozen over.

  110. LisaP. says:

    If I see you there, I promise to check the church basement for pods!

  111. acardnal says:

    Regarding the Lavabo or ablutions, there are both natural and supernatural reasons for it.

    First as St. Thomas Aquinas stated, ” We are not accustomed to handle any precious things save with clean hands; so it seems indecent that one should approach so great a sacrament with hands soiled.” (ST, iii, q. lxxxiii, art 5, ad I)

    Second, herewith some thoughts from Dom Prosper Gueranger’s classic work,The Holy Mass. He is a renown scholar on the Usus Antiquior:

    “The washing of the hands embodies a mystery: it expresses the necessity there is for the Priest to purify himself yet more and more, as he advances in the Holy Sacrifice. Just as Our Lord washed the feet of His Apostles before instituting the Holy Eucharist and giving them Holy Communion, so too, should he the Priest purify himself.

    To accompany this action, which signifies what the purity of the Priest should be, Holy Church has selected the Psalm 25 [ or 26 in some bibles] . . . . Holy Church appoints but half of this psalm to be said commencing with the words, ‘I will wash my hands among the innocent, and will compass thine altar , O Lord.'”

  112. LisaP. says:

    Thanks for that!

  113. jhayes says:

    “Do extraordinary ministers not wash before distributing normally?”

    In my parish they have washed with hand purifier for the past several years. It started during a flu epidemic then and has continued on as normal practice.

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