When people walk away with Hosts

My friend Fr. Tim Finigan, His Hermeneuticalness, has a good post at his blog about “When people walk away with Holy Communion

A sample:

It happens from time to time that someone will come up for Holy Communion which they receive into their hands, and then walk away with the sacred host. A priest friend asked me to write something about what we can do. Let’s think first of all of the actual situation and then about some possible preventative measures.

In terms of canon law, the desecration of the sacred species is a crime, punishable by automatic excommunication. In most cases, the person does not know what they are doing or how wrong it is, so I’ll assume that is the case (rather than deliberate desecration, perhaps for satanic purposes or as an atheistic stunt.) But even if the person does not know the seriousness of what they are doing, it is still objectively a very grave matter. So we can’t just let it happen.

A pastoral complication is that people don’t like to be “shown up” or embarrassed in front of the congregation so they can easily become annoyed or aggressive in their confusion.


Read the rest there.

Father, as I, argues for a restoration of distribution of Communion directly on the tongue as people kneel.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Kent Wendler says:


    I agree completely with you as to receiving on the tongue. I do that as a matter of course, from an ordinary minister of communion. I must take a practical exception to the kneeling part, however. Back in the day (yes, I’ve been around that long) when communion was administered at a rail with priest and server, there was that sturdy rail to lean and steady oneself against. Now, though, that is rather rare and I have knee and balance problems. Therefore if I tried to raise from a “free-kneeling” position I’d be as likely to lurch and stumble against Father – with somewhat disastrous consequences. Therefore I assume you would accept another sign of reverence, like a profound bow or Sign of the Cross, for people like me?

  2. Traductora says:

    I really wish they’d go back to Communion on the tongue. We even have a beautiful, comfortable-to-kneel-at communion rail, which of course is never used.

    I have seen the priests call people back, incidentally, and make them consume the host on the spot, but I’ve never seen anyone object or get upset. I think they honestly don’t know and they probably won’t do it again.

    One of the problems is that there are so many laypeople giving out communion at the main mass or even most Sunday masses (not to mention the confusion with the hordes of hebes…er, “ministers of the cup”) that some people genuinely get confused, while those who really do want to slip off with a host find it easy to do so.

    Also, communion would actually be faster if everybody knelt and the priest (or two priests) moved along the rail, the way it used to be done.

  3. I, a layperson, have literally chased people down the isle and made sure they consumed the Sacred Species. One girl was walking down the side isle and broke the Host in half and was going to put the other half in her pocket. I chased her as well, in an orderly fashion. And, so what if they get embarrassed or resent what I did. I do not practice “human respect”, but respect for God first. Didn’t Pope John Paul II call us to take such actions when we see this kind of thing happening?

    When I do things like this, it takes the monkey, so to speak, off my Pastor’s back. They get upset with me, not with him.

    Traductora said, ” communion would actually be faster if everybody knelt and the priest (or two priests) moved along the rail, the way it used to be done.”

    This is how it is done in my parish, by the Deacon and our Priest. Communion seems to be over in no time.

  4. Tim says:

    The whole “receive in the hand” thing is what has led to this ignorance and lack of faith in the Real Presence. “I will just go up there and grab a potato chip like everyone else and eat it when I feel like it.”

    I will generally only receive kneeling / on the tongue. How else to receive more reverently Our Lord?

    Incidentally, I was attending the Mass at my son’s parochial school this last year (not our home parish) and I knelt to receive Communion. Afterwards, the pastor approached me and asked that I not do that in the future….I was clearly trying to draw attention to myself and that is frowned upon in “his church”. I was struck dumb with shock. It’s not his (the priest’s) church…..it’s His (Christ’s) Church!

  5. No, I would like to continue to receive in hand – because I have been catechised properly and before coming to the UK I had never seen this type of walking away with the Lord and “snacking”. In my Eastern European native country people ar taught to receive, then step sideways (i.e. still facing the altar), bow slightly and receive. While they do this the priest watches and does not give communion to the next person. There are no EMHCs, laypeople do not receive the Precious Blood and because of the above there is no pushing-shoving and hence no accidents. Yes, communion takes longer (is anyone rushing anywhere?). I still receive in this manner every time I attend Mass – and I would not like this taken away from me just because in some parts of the world it seems that people have not been taught how to receive reverently in the hand.

  6. APX says:


    Communion in the hand started out as an abuse. In certain bishops’ conferences it is permitted by indult as a tolerance, but on the basis that if there is risk of profanation, it is not to be given in the hand.

    That said, if one really honestly believes in the Real Presence, how could they bring themselves to receive in the hand?

  7. Some may enjoy the end of a homily given in 2005. Since this subject came up, I posted a part of the homily if anyone wants to read it. It is down to earth and to the point.


  8. mrpkguy says:

    It also might help if the Eucharistic Ministers were properly trained. I saw one give communion to 2 young teenager girls, who were at Mass to witness their friend’s first communion, and who were obviously not Catholic (they didn’t know how to receive). They then proceeded to partake of the Precious Blood, and of course still were unaware as to how to receive. To my astonishment the EM poured it into their open mouths! Reported this to the pastor and am still unsure if any action was taken to reprimand the Eucharistic Minister. As part time custodian I would occasionally find the Eucharist deposited in the pew book racks!

  9. Shonkin says:

    Back during the 1980’s I was an usher at my parish in a suburb of Oakland. One day our pastor called the ushers together and directed us to watch people coming back from Communion and watch as people left the church, because sacred Hosts had been found on the ground outside the church.
    We did so, and eventually we posted one of our group (me) to stand outside watching the front doors from one side. One Sunday I found a Host on the ground between the doors. It was half-dissolved, which indicated that someone had held it in his or her mouth and then spit it out when no one was watching. I picked it up and gave it to Father.
    Some people immediately pointed to reception in the hand as a reason why this outrage could have happened. I pointed out that the Host had been in someone’s mouth for one to two minutes before being discarded. Communion in the mouth would not have helped to prevent it. (Of course, as soon as the “communicant” had taken it with intent to commit sacrilege, it was already being profaned.)
    I myself have another reason not to like Communion on the tongue: hygiene. In the days of Communion on the tongue, it was not uncommon to see a sheen of saliva on the priest’s fingers. That is also my main reason for not receiving from the chalice, after others have deposited their bacteria and viruses on it.
    (I also have other reasons for opposing the practice of Communion under both species. Over the past three years in my not-so-large parish in Montana, I have seen the Precious Blood spilled twice at Sunday Mass. Twice is two times too many. The EMHC’s were altogether too nonchalant about it. So was our pastor. Since I am not a Hussite, I see no reason to continue the practice.)

  10. Lori Pieper says:

    I don’t think Communion on the tongue is very likely to eliminate opportunities for profanation. As experience shows, if anyone tries to make away with the Sacred Host after receiving in the hand, the priest and /or other bystanders can usually see them do it and stop them. Much less so for someone who receives on the tongue; it’s really hard to tell if someone has swallowed or not; and later when back in their seats, it only takes a tiny bit of creativity to pretend to cough and transfer the host to a handkerchief.

    As a matter of fact, if I remember right, two or three years ago, there was a rash of desecrations of the Eucharist shown on YouTube, and even one atheist scientist P.Z. Myers got into the act. If I remember right, in each case, the person claimed to have received the Host in their mouth and later removed it. At most, Communion in the hand is a source more for accidental profanation that deliberate ones, and for the former, we need better catechesis.

    As for me, I have always preferred receiving in the hand because I am averse to having someone else’s possibly not clean fingers in my mouth. I also have no difficulty whatever believing in the Real Presence.

  11. APX, I do believe in the Real Presence. But as His gift, I also have a close, intimate relationship with Our Lord Jesus. I have no problem holding Him in my hand. My hands are not less holy or sanctified than my mouth. As a matter of fact, now that I think about it: my hands have touched more holy objects and have done more good works than my tongue.

  12. DanielKane says:

    At the time of my last visit to New Orleans, the reception of Holy Communion in the St. Louis Cathedral was monitored by the ushers who stood next to the ministers of Holy Communion (both ordinary and extra-ordinary). Much to my relief.

  13. Gaz says:

    This blog has helped me to return to receiving Our Lord on the tongue. I think my diocese was the last in the country to allow receiving Holy Communion in the hand. I like the opportunity of going to Holy Mass when I travel. In December last year I went to a parish where Holy Communion on the tongue was refused me. Last week, I attended Mass where the singing and choice of music was horrible but the actions and demeanour of the priest were reverent and beautiful. So much I thank FrZ and supporters who promote a return to facing east, the use of Latin, chant and Holy Communion humbly approached… and Confession.

  14. Littlemore says:

    V. slightly off topic, at a funeral of the leader of the council recently I spoke to a lady who reminded me of another requiem, a local journalist who was a local celebrity.the priest explained at Holy Communion that Non Catholics could come for a blessing, the said lady said she was following another journalist who received a blessing from the priest, but then received from the chalice.
    Does this not show that it should not take for granted that people are catechised?

  15. C N says:

    Shonkin’s story about the Precious Blood being spilled reminded me of a terrible accident that happened shortly after converted. I had just given birth to my first son and the hospital sent a Eucharistic minister since I had identified myself as a Catholic. The woman gave us the Precious Body, but just as she was replacing the lid, she dropped the hosts on the hospital room floor. I sat there in stunned silence for a moment, not really sure what to do. I didn’t bother to cover my dropped jaw. She simply said, “Oh. I’m sorry Jesus.” We helped her pick up the Hosts.

    (Newly converted, I asked my husband what would happen to the Hosts. He replied, “Any priest worth his salt will consume them immediately, if she even reports it.” We both were betting that she didn’t even realize the magnitude of her mistake, given her less-than-concerned reaction. Again, this goes back to what everyone else has been saying poor catechesis.)

    To this day, it still make me think about how any particles that inevitably broke off got swept into a garbage with the rest of the hospital trash.

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