QUAERITUR: How to get a people to return to Communion on the tongue?

From a priest (edited):

During my retreat the subject of Communion in the hand while standing came up. We were told that we need to instill reverence. Our Lord is so mistreated today.

One of the priests said there is only so much we – as priests can do. Were he a Bishop, he said, he would rescind the indult for Communion in the hand in his diocese.

May a bishop – of his own authority – rescind the indult?

Someone said he can’t, because it is “enshrined” in the GIRM. I disagree.

I’m sure many priests would like to know the answer to this question. It would be good for bishops to know also, and take action without fear of the political consequences.

Francis doesn’t want us to be careerists. Here is the opportunity for a bishop to show that he isn’t interested in moving up to a fancier post.

As laudable as your sentiment is, Reverend and Dear Father, this is beyond the authority of the diocesan bishop.

The General Instruction (in fact it is a General Institution, not and “instruction”) of the Roman Missal mandates (GIRM 390) that it’s up to the Conferences of Bishops to propose adaptations to the “gestures and posture of the faithful” and “the manner of receiving Holy Communion.” If these adaptations are given the recognitio of the Apostolic See (and that’s the key), then they become law for the territory of that Conference.

A bishop of a diocese could not “opt out” of the norms promulgated for the Conference without specific permission from the Holy See. The Church desires, as much as possible, to establish uniform liturgical norms within a country, lest the faithful be confused.

Aside: I would like someone to tell me what the faithful are certain about right now.

In any event, I suspect that now is not the most opportune time – indeed, the most prudent time – to ask for a dispensation from this norm.

That caution having been added, it is probably within diocesan bishop’s authority to issue particular law requiring that Holy Communion, when distributed under both species, be given by intinction.  Intinction would oblige reception directly on the tongue only.  This has been used by some priests to break the Communion in the hand stranglehold.  Intinction could be a good way of “re-training” the faithful to receive in this fashion and to continue to do so even when both species are not distributed.

Another helpful tactic would be to mandate the use of patens by servers during the distribution of Holy Communion.  Patens could also probably steer the faithful toward reception on the tongue.

There are three other things that could help get people back on their knees with folded hands.  They are, in no special order:

  1. Catechesis
  2. Catechisis, and
  3. Catechesis

Constant preaching and teaching from the pulpit, in the bulletin, in parish talks, etc., what Holy Mass is, who Communion is (hint: it includes the King of Fearful Majesty), the importance of coherence between outward and interior participation, and the Four Last Things, could drive people to their knees again before their encounter with mystery.

Finally, there is the nuclear option (read: the best option).

Summorum Pontificum.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    The priest could also take over sacramental prep for first communicants and teach reception on the tongue as the best and most reverent way to receive. Let the children lead the way!

  2. johnmann says:

    How are we to interpret Redemptionis Sacramentum 92?

    “If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful.”

    The footnote is to Notitiae 35 (160-161): http://notitiae.ipsissima-verba.org/pdf/notitiae-1999-160-161.pdf

  3. johnmann says: Redemptionis Sacramentum 92?

    Look. Any time we, any time I – as a priest – handle the Eucharist there is a “risk” of profanation, however slight. So, let’s not be crazy about RS92.

    That said, when Communion is offered under both kinds the risk grows. When the Host is distributed on the hand, the risk increases. When lots of extra ministers and ministrices are employed the risk augments.

    I say we take reasonable steps to decrease the risk factors.

  4. rbbadger says:

    Not only does there need to be catechesis for the laity, but in many places, there needs to be catechesis for the priests as well. Some priests are products of the awful catechesis that took hold in the ’60s and ’70s. I once had a classmate, someone who was in the Major Seminary, and who in fact had received the ministries not to mention candidacy. Despite that, he had no idea what the Immaculate Conception was or what it meant. He was a product of religious education in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

  5. Two thoughts that help: (1) Encourage those who desire to receive on the tongue (or are even just open to the idea) to just do it. For many years, I thought about receiving on the tongue, but never took any action. Finally, after being at enough masses with a few of my buddies in our college Knights of Columbus council (many of whom went on to become priests) receive on the tongue, I decided to go for it. Everytime I see someone else at mass receive on the tongue, it is a good inspiration for me. (2) Discourage the use of Extraordinary Ministers for distribution of the host (use of EM’s for the Precious Blood is a whole different issue). What’s the point of receiving on the tongue when (A) the host is already being distributed by someone with unconsecrated hands? (B) the person distributing has no idea how to put a host on the tongue and you are nearly certain to get a good lick of that person’s finger? Get rid of EM’s for the host, and that would help a ton.

  6. johnmann says:

    “Patens could also probably steer the faithful toward reception on the tongue.”

    I think it’s more the case that patens fell into disuse precisely because people stopped receiving on the tongue and bringing it back wouldn’t change things much.

  7. anilwang says:

    IMO, the best way for a bishop to get people to return to communion on the tongue is for the bishop to mandate altar rails be installed where communion is given, tabernacles and altars be placed so that ad populum masses are inconvenient, and if possible, mandate that ad orientem is the norm in the diocese. This is catechesis enough (although more is welcome!). At orientem elevates the reverence of the mass and encourages people to treat the eucharist with reverence. The altar rails encourages people to kneel. Kneeling and communion in the hand don’t naturally mix.

    I’m a firm believer in the theory that architecture and liturgy are intimately tied. While it is possible to have a proper liturgy even in a muddy military war time trench, you’re fighting against the current and human laziness will eventually encourage the average person to adapt the liturgy to the environment.

  8. Aside from the nuclear and best option, which I support first and which has my greatest loyalty, I actually think that instinction is the best, more viable method of restoring some sanity in parishes concerning the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. It’s within the Bishop’s power, it’s orthodox, it allows for the much-lauded modern emphasis on the aspect of the Mass as a mystical banquet or a feast to be fulfilled under both species without sacrificing reverence, and it can be done immediately.

  9. Of course I also concur with anilwang that all of those steps, especially ad orientem, would be vital as well.

  10. sirknight says:

    We moved from Tennessee to Orlando, FL last fall. Shortly after arriving at our new parish, the altar rail was installed. I’ve noticed an increasing number of people receiving on the tongue now that everyone kneels at the rail. Perhaps the altar rail should be mandated!

  11. James Joseph says:

    I thought that binding a local bishop to what a regional conference might suggest was condemned along with Febronianism. I could be wrong.

  12. dhgyapong says:

    Please, do not advocate for intinction! Because this is how it is done when you have not changed the church culture that promotes Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHCs) even when there are enough priests and deacons present. I remember one particular Mass where this practice is commong where the unconsecrated hosts were brought to the altar in a big glass bowl on a glass pedestal and the wine in a glass pitcher. The bread and the wine were consecrated in those vessels and after consecration, a deacon reached into the bowl to distribute handfuls of our Lord onto several patens. Then he poured the Precious Blood into glass goblets. Though there were about 40 priests present, they went up to receive in both kinds while an army of EMHCs, mostly women, came forward and each took either a paten or a goblet. They then fanned out to distribute Holy Communion.

    That was not the worst of it. The communicants came up, received the Blessed Sacrament in their hands, and afterwards, each one using the finger pincher motion to pick Our Lord up, carried Him over to the next EMHC with the Precious Blood in the wine glass and the communicants dipped the Host into the Precious Blood themselves, with scarcely any concern about whether some might spill.

    No. You do not want to promote intincture unless you have priests and deacons who will not allow people to dip the Host themselves into the Chalice.

  13. Tantum Ergo says:

    The 800 lb. gorilla in the sanctuary is the fact that when children and RCIA candidates are preparing to receive their first Holy Communion, they are never even told that Communion in the hand is even an option! Any bishops and priests who want to make a difference can start right there. Plant the seed.

  14. jacobi says:

    Personal example is the most effective way forward at present. The Faithfull have the right in any diocese to receive on the tongue. This cannot be forbidden. So all who wish to do so, should.

    Routine reception of the Consecrated Wine is not necessary, as the full elements are received in the Host. Receiving the Consecrated Wine increases the risk of spillage, of seepage through the cloth, and is unnecessary. It is also, incidentally, unhygienic.

    Therefore, if all who recognise the Real and full Presence of Christ under the appearance of Consecrated Bread, insist on receiving by mouth, then the matter will gradually sort itself out. Also, the habit of kneeling or at least making a reverential bow to the Consecrated Host before receiving will emphasise the Real Presence.

    I believe that if a majority choose not to receive from the chalice then this should become the norm?

  15. Mark Nel says:

    In our parish, three years ago, we simply decided to do 4 things:

    (1) Homily about receiving kneeling and on the the tongue. The bulletin for almost a year had a standard piece explaining what is permitted but clearly suggested that Father preferred kneeling for various reasons.
    (2) Introduced a kneeler, which is moved into place during Mass after the prayer of consecration, right before Holy Communion. The kneeler is of such a nature that it is actually easier to kneel and receive. You can receive standing but you feel sort of far away and having to stretch across with your hand feels quite awkward. So people tend to naturally kneel down.
    (2) There is, as you say, is also always someone holding the paten. A server or, during the week, the first person who receives Holy Communion is handed the paten.
    (3) The priest distributes Holy Communion with the ‘mindset’ that obviously everyone wants to receive on the tongue. He stubbornly always aims, by default, for the mouth. Unless they make it very clear, no on the hand, the mouth is where he aims. Often people just go with it.

    Consequence. Now 3 years later most people in our parish, even those visiting, kneel and receive on the tongue. Many report that they also do so when they go to another parish because it has become a habit, except that many parishes don’t have facilities to kneel and receive. They receive on the tongue though.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  16. Eriugena says:

    Father, I thought I remembered reading somewhere on your blog that the indult for Holy Communion sub utraque speciebus had not been renewed by the Apostolic See. Must go and search…

  17. John F. Kennedy says:

    “… except that many parishes don’t have facilities to kneel”

    They have no floor? I know of no document in which kneelers are ever specified. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  18. Tantum Ergo says:

    Fr. Z,
    Mark Nel deserves one of your Gold Star thingys. For priests who really want a chance for the better, what better outline could there be than what Mark posted?

  19. Emilio says:

    It is interesting to read Father Z’s conclusion. My parents are retired in the Diocese of León, Nicaragua, and I visit them from the USA around the Christmas Holidays every year. Since this colonial city experiences a lot of visitors such as myself from abroad, and a increasing number of tourists, the priests of the Diocese make it a point before each Mass, especially for the Christmas and New Year’s Masses, that Communion in the hand is not permissible in the Diocese of León and that all properly disposed to receive Holy Communion may only do so on the tongue, even if it is now unfortunately permissible in the neighboring Archdiocese of Managua, Nicaragua (the capital) and in the other dioceses in the country. The Diocese of León also stands out in the region by not allowing a Sunday Vigil Mass on Saturday, and by celebrating Epiphany on January 6, and Ascension and Corpus Christi on their respective Thursdays, rather than transferring the solemnities to the following Sundays. Perhaps the Diocese of León has obtained the special permission from the Holy See that you mention. Whatever the Bishop or the Diocese is doing, I hope they never change these policies… the churches are always packed for Mass, popular devotions and processions are strong (Eucharistic Benediction is traditional there every Thursday evening and every parish is packed for it, you would think it was a Sunday Mass or a Holiday).

  20. JohnE says:

    At my parents’ novus ordo parish, the parishioners had the option of receiving communion standing or kneeling. The kneelers were to the left and right of center, a step or two closer to the sanctuary, and had enough room for about 4 bodies each. The priest would rotate to each station — kneeler, center, kneeler, with a server following him with a patten. I would say that probably about 3/4 of the parishioners chose the kneeler. I believe everyone kneeling received on the tongue. Those standing received in the hand or on the tongue. All had the option to receive the precious Blood from Extraordinary Ministers further to the left and right. It seemed to work smoothly and I never saw any trip-ups or collisions.

  21. mdinan says:


    St. Peter parish in Steubenville, OH has made, among others, the following changes in the past year:

    1) Addition of an every Sunday EF Mass
    2) Use of the Altar Rail for the distribution of Holy Communion to the faithful at all daily Masses

    Almost everyone who assists at Daily Mass now receives kneeling, on the tongue.

  22. HeatherPA says:

    I have been to good, orthodox retreats where the priests have given Communion at every Mass by intinction. Everyone knelt too.
    I agree, it removes the question of receiving in the hand, as well as Extraordinary Ministers. It would also train the altar servers in the use of the paten and in reverence for the Eucharist.

  23. Will D. says:

    dhgyapong, self-intinction is forbidden, I believe. What Fr. Z is suggesting is that the priest or the deacon tinctures the host and gives it to the communicant. As I understand it, only deacons and priests may distribute communion by intinction.

    As for the patens, our former pastor began using them during communion about two years ago, and I can’t say that I’ve noticed any great difference in the number of people who receive in the hand vs. on the tongue. The vast majority continue to receive in the hand.

    Finally, I have noticed that the time it takes for the deacon to purify the communion vessels has increased considerably lately. I wonder if limiting the extraordinary number of EMCHs and distributing communion under only one kind would make that process more efficient.

  24. Precentrix says:

    Intinction. By the priest. Simples.

    1) No one will receive in the hand.
    2) Noone can complain that the Precious Blood is being withheld.*
    3) Twice as quick and no need for Extraordinary Monsters.

    Priest I know did this… not sure if he said anything or if he just did it.

    *Yes, it isn’t anyway, because of concomitance, but people don’t think about that.

  25. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Following up on dhgyapong and Will D., ‘intinction’ is presumably going to call for catechesis and possibly (probably?) more than catechesis, as well. Without that, I suspect ‘intinction’ (without further explanation of just what is meant by the word) will be combined with lots of extra ministers and ministrices for the Precious Blood and standing reception in the hand to produce an ‘assembly-line-like’ portage and self-intinction (perhaps with tilting at hair-raising angles kindly to facilitate things for the communicant, as I have seen).

    That is not to say a word against Fr. Z’s suggestion, but to anticipate how it might be easily misunderstood (or even, in some cases, stubbornly otherwise interpreted).

  26. dirtycopper says:

    Catechesis attacks this issue at the root. Because by and large through our gradual protestantization many people forget that it is not a symbol in the tabernacle but the body of Our Lord. I remember as a young altar boy the reverence that was expected when anywhere near the sanctuary. It appears that this idea has been lost. If we re-instill the truth that God is physically in our midst, proper reverence and posture for receiving the sacrament will naturally follow.

    But in addition to catechesis we must all, clergy and lay people alike, lead by example.

  27. I should clarify for the sake of dhgyapong and anyone else who may be confused that when I say ‘instinction’ I mean simply and solely that form of immersing the species of bread in the species of wine which is performed in accordance with the Liturgical Law of the Latin Church; that is, it must be performed by a member of Sacred Orders (Bishop, Priest, or Deacon), and it can only be received on the tongue. According to John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger in Redemptionis Sacramentum, it is absolutely reprobated for the Priests or Deacons of a parish to allow a layman to ‘dip’ the consecrated bread in the consecrated wine, as though it were a chip in salsa. By mandating instinction, Bishops could, with a single act:

    Virtually eliminate extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion by necessitating that the Sacred Orders distribute.

    Allow for the reception of both species in accordance with the ancient practice of the Church.

    Maximize efficiency and reverence.

    And finally, force the laity to receive on the tongue.

    The only remaining element that would need to be addressed through catechesis or changes to the Law of the Latin Church would be kneeling for Holy Communion.

  28. Muv says:

    If altar rails can’t be installed or a prie-dieu shifted into place, the quick and easy option is to place a cushion on the floor. My creaky old knees would be enormously grateful.

  29. edq says:

    I am probably in the minority on this blog as I normally receive in the hand (reverently as possible of course ). I personally prefer to receive on the tongue, kneeling via intinction but my parish is somewhat less traditional and receiving in the hand is encouraged by the pastor.
    My answer to the question is “ask”. If my pastor or my bishop or the Pope said point blank in public that they prefer we receive on the tongue, I’m pretty sure I would not receive on the hand anymore.

    PS. I know that Pope Benedict only enforced kneeling/tongue in papal liturgies when he was the minister but it is far from saying “Please all Catholics, receive on the tongue”. If Pope Benedict couldn’t bring himself to ask, I can’t imagine a Pope that would.

  30. Giuseppe says:

    Your answer is in the picture: intinction. The priest dips the host into the blood, and the communicant must receive on the tongue. (I had attended Mass at a Maronite Catholic parish years ago, and it was, by far, the most reverent communion I have ever seen, short of TLM.)

    If Pope Francis mandated intinction as a means to combat the profaning of Holy Communion, the problem would be solved.

    (Obviously, if communion on the tongue at an altar rail in a TLM were mandated, the problem would be solved, too, but the Episcopal Church would have millions of new members, who would then fade away in a few years, and only a small minority would ever revert to Roman Catholicism.)

  31. Mike says:

    I’m not hear to argue, Father, I’m just genuinely wondering something. You say, “In any event, I suspect that now is not the most opportune time – indeed, the most prudent time – to ask for a dispensation from this norm”.

    What makes you say that, and when would be an opportune and prudent time?

  32. Pingback: Fr. Z: Proper Reception of Holy Communion | Catholicwideweb's Blog

  33. Robbie says:

    If you want to get rid of communion in the hand, get rid of the Mass Paul VI, Bugnini, and the six Protestant ministers created. Otherwise, communion in the hand is here to say.

    [And the rabbit hole opens…]

  34. RJHighland says:

    I have a lot of experience in this area, my conclusion is just do it. Teach your children to kneel to recieve, talk to your friends about and priests and bishops start catechising it. But the primary teaching to our children are the parents. It starts in religious formation class, if your dioceses is teaching communion in the hand, demand your children/grandchildren be allowed to kneel and recieve our Lord on their tongue. If they argue show them the documents from the Congregation of Faith and Worship, you have the right to recieve kneeling and on the tongue at any mass anytime. Be the example for your parish, because there are others out there they just need to see someone else do it for them to act on their gut feelings. The progressives will come after you but be strong and have faith the desire to recieve the Lord reverently comes from God, trust me on that. That is the way He wants to be recieved, this may sound crazy but He told me this while I was kneeling in prayer before the tabernacle at the Cathedral in my Dioceses and I asked Him how he wanted me to teach my children to recieve Him at communion and I literally heard His voice say “What are you doing know” and He said it twice. This went against what my priest and my bishop were teaching and the general practice in my dioceses. But it was shortly after Pope Benedict XVI’s Corpus Christi mass where he first had a kneeler brought out for people to recieve our Lord from him kneeling and on the tongue. It was in researching this subject that I came across this wonderful Blog. When I saw the picture of Pope Benedict XVI distributing communion to people kneeling and on the tongue on this blog I literally called down to my wife and said, “Honey, your not going to believe this but you were three years ahead of the Pope!” So thanks Fr. Z in helping us on our journey.

  35. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Just for the record, there are people with problems in their knees, such that, if a gun were held to our head, we could kneel on a kneeler or kneel or on the floor, even, but then when it was time to get up, look out! Whoa, Nelly! In my case, I’d need a couple of stout lads to get me to my feet, and one of them had better have in his hand a glass containing at least one good belt of something strong (for the pain) so I could walk.

    And even then, believe me, it wouldn’t be pretty.

    Not everyone is 22 anymore, or enjoys health that is free from chronic problems.

    [The other day I wrote something about Sunday Mass obligation and I quoted Regulae Iuris 6 which states: Nemo potest ad impossibile obligari… No one can be obliged to the impossible. If you can’t kneel, don’t worry or fret about it.]

  36. Granny says:

    Start with the RCIA classes and the 2nd graders.
    Put a kneeler out … kneeling seems to encourage reception on the tongue. If you have a Communion rail put it to use, make an announcement that if you wish Communion in the hand to stand at the break or position EMHC on the ends…. Father works the Altar rail, many folks don’t like Communion from EMCH and will choose to kneel. If you have a Communion rail, return to the use of the Altar rail cloth. Hands go UNDER the cloth. Bottom line, English or Latin the Communion rail will get the job done quickly. Talk about it, preach about it, show videos, distribute the V2 document that specifies that Communion on the tongue is the “gold standard”. For YEARS I thought that Communion on the tongue was forbidden! I was so very happy to learn differently… my grandson quickly followed, then hubs, and the rest of the family.

  37. Sorry if this has been brought up, but I have not seen it yet.

    Fr. Z., if I am not mistaken Cardinal Ranjith had the indult for CinH rescinded in his archdiocese of Colombo. Does he have special authority as a cardinal, or as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Colombo, or as the president of the Episcopal Conference of Sri Lanka?
    Basically, are you familiar with the special circumstances in that area?

    [I don’t know the circumstances in Sri Lanka. It may be that the Conference arranged for reception of Communion in a different way there. It may be that the Cardinal obtained a dispensation from the Holy See.]

  38. RJHighland says:

    Marion Ancilla Mariae, if you are not physically able to kneel you are not required to kneel even in the TLM, I believe we are all talking about those that are physically able but don’t. I have a good friend that has had to under gone double knee replacements I have seen the pain. But I have also seen many elderly and disabled who demand to kneel and are assisted by friends and family and they offer that suffering up.

  39. Granny says:

    Marion Ancilla Mariae I hear you! At our church, those who cannot kneel stand at the end of the rail where there are breaks. They process up with their pew, when the others kneel, these folks just walk to the end of the rail and stand. It’s no big deal. Father also has a parisoner in a wheelchair, he wheels himself up to the gates at the Communion rail, Father has the gates opened and he goes down the stairs, distributes to this gentleman, then the gates are closed and the man wheels himself back. Father begins distributing at the rail and the parishoners that can’t kneel stand at the ends, still receiving on the tongue. It is an effortless flow. Don’t worry about kneeling if you physically can’t, but do receive on the tongue. It will change you.

  40. Cantor says:

    How does one propose this solution in larger church?

    We average 1400 people per Mass with 6 Masses per weekend. Our two priests (and two elderly retired priests) would have a difficult time keeping up. We normally use 11 EMHCs per Mass (6 stations including the celebrant).

    The Cathedral seats 2200, and the Shrine 2000, and scheduling priests, and EMHCs, for both is an administrative nightmare. The Cathedral, in fact, announces at the beginning of each Mass that the USCCB has declared that the ‘normative method’ for receiving Holy Communion is ‘standing and in the hand’, and asks people to please cooperate.

    I’m concerned that trying to ‘speed things up’ is quite likely to fail, and will result in accidents and profanation of the Body and Blood.

  41. PA mom says:

    Having recently made the switch, here are my observations. Kneeling of some sort is much better. The time I was able to do that was a much calmer process than at my usual church. Usually, Even though I am a woman of average high, I am still taller than more than half of th EMs and one of the priests. Walking quickly to the front, bowing, then trying to line up, open mouth, close eyes, and not tip all seem like a lot to do while holding a small child. It has seemed so right to do once I did it, it took a long time to get the nerve up.
    Having been a Protestant briefly, their method of mass distribution is certainly more efficient than having everyone get out of their seats to place their own in their hands. Receiving on the tongue kneeling is radically different and much more clearly conveys why we all hav to “bother” getting out of our seats to do roughly the same thing.
    If kneeling was offered, I would do it immediately and am fairly certain that a number of the other mothers my age would do so as well.

  42. kirsten houseknecht says:

    i second third and fourth the issue of catechism.

    as a convert i went through RCIA… and we were ONLY taught to receive in the hand. when i asked about receiving on the tongue i was told outright that it was “discouraged”. Bear in mind i have a cane, so one hand is in use to walk!

    i grew up Episcopalian, and we came up to an altar rail and knelt (or stood, or wheeled up…) i was surprised to find none of the Catholic churches used their altar rails… or had any custom other than walking up to a standing priest in an aisle. i can kneel, some days, if there is a pad, and a rail to grab to get up and down… but kneeling in a stone aisle? with no help to get up and down?

    and the local churches do not want anyone to kneel. it “slows them down” unless you are young and healthy enough to get down and back up fast

    if you want to have people feel able to receive on the tongue:
    first you have to teach them that its accepted/expected during catechism
    then you have to have the priests or servers/deacons trained (i had a priest startle at me one time when i came up to receive on the tongue, i was afraid he would drop the Host!)
    then you have to provide for people to be ABLE to kneel when we are not all speed genuflection folks….

    i wish more priests would talk about even ” it is a good thing to receive on the tongue, and if you wish to … please take the line to see the priest HERE ….”

    any encouragement…

  43. Giuseppe says:

    Cantor, your question is not reality-based. We know that is not likely that a church with communion in the hand can have 1400 people per Mass. I bet the aforementioned church also has a Sign of Peace. Please do not tell me that you have female EMHCs. I would say that you are at an Episcopal service, but the 1400 number makes me suspect.

    Just kidding, of course.

    Communion could easily be done via intinction, which eliminates communion in the hand, the second line for wine, and keeps the pace moving quickly. As a former altar boy, I did not see much difference in time between communion in the mouth and communion in the hand. Body of Christ. Amen. Place wafer. Next… Indeed some of the communion in the hand folks would side step, self-administer, and block the forward progress of the tongue-receiver behind them.

  44. RafqasRoad says:

    Dear Marion Ancilla Mariae at #36,

    I hear you loud and clear, friend!! So, Knights of Columbus or equiveallent in the UK or Aus etc., get to work and offer your assistance, eh??? :-) A bit of background for readers;

    As one who has come into Catholic Christianity via the Maronite Rite, our norm is reception on the tongue whilst standing (though some genuflect). Some MR priests give an intincted host, others do not; depends on the numbers at any given mass; masses of a thousand are not uncommon (anybody who has seen St. Charbels’ Sydney will know this to be true; say hello if you see me when you’re there next).

    Now, as one who will be moving to an area where there is no MR accessible, and no TLM or Anglican Ordinariate for that matter, just bog-standard Roman Rite NO, I’ve been trying to work it out. 9 out of 10 priests and EMHC’s have been (apparently) taught how to give on the tongue as I have had very few not manage ‘no contact’; most are efficient, swift and professional in their giving of our Lord. As a Maronite, I am want to stand and receive on the tongue, but mindful of the norms and gold standard for the Roman Rite (after all, it is our Lord jesus Christ we’re receiving here, not merely an emblem – trust me, this matters to one who was raised both Evangelical Anglican and Adventist). However, kneeling without kneelers or rail is very knee painful (the compounded effects of knee injuries and middle age) so getting down is more or less fine, but getting back up well…a spectacle. I too would very much love something to grab e.g. rail, to get back up with as managing with me and guide dog is, ehm, a flamin’ military operation and holds up the row, so I’ve ceased, much to my own discomfort. Actually, a Roman rite priest at our local RC church advised me not to kneel as I held up the line and those behind me, not expecting this, just about careened straight over the top of me – pile-up in the line wouldn’t be an edifying outcome…so now I drop a courtsey leading with the right knee and can actually do this reverently and without looking like a dill prior to reception.

    As for patons, the Maronite priests often use these and on more than one occasion when crossing myself after receiving our Lord, I’ve inadvertently made contact with it and just about sent it flying out of the priest’s hands I have an Anglo Catholic friend who has come up through High Church Anglicanism that has also retained its orthodoxy re ‘hot button’ Bible issues etc and she along with those at her congregation kneel at the rail and receive reverently in the hands. Descenting talk of rail removal by one or two noisy voices within the congregation has promptly been quashed. Indeed, (coming from an Anglican background where even the Evangelical Anglicans had the rail and knelt in my childhood) they manage eucharist in far more a reverent manner than an assembly line standing file that can be rushed through at ridiculous speed. Indeed, I’ve heard on good report that many ‘High Church’ Anglicans are delaying signing onto the Anglican Ordinariate for fear they will actually lose what reverence they have; when they look across at ‘st ‘she’ll be right’ down the street they are saddened and concerned.

    So, word to the wise, Roman Riters, be you priests, bishops, deacons or EMHC’s, SORT IT OUT AND GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER!!
    Just a few thoughts,


    Soon to be South Coast Catholic (Aussie Maronite)

  45. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Thanks, Father for the reminder that nemo potest ad impossibile obligare.

    Granny, I already do receive Our Lord on the tongue. Nothing the matter with my tongue. Just with my knees. Thanks for all the helpful encouragement.

  46. Di says:

    There are three other things that could help get people back on their knees with folded hands. They are, in no special order:

    1. Catechesis
    2. Catechisis, and
    3. Catechesis

    1. I agree
    2. I agree, and
    3. I agree

  47. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    JonathanCatholic (most recent comment),
    Much of your first paragraph seems like a concise example of the kind of catechesis (in whatever context: instruction, reminder, notice, etc.) called for in the context of Fr. Z’s suggestion.

    An interesting question is, where does the kind of ‘intinction’ dhgyapong describes and I have seen, too, ‘come from’? Might it be partly indebted to a variant of the Anglican “kneel at the rail and receive reverently in the hands” which RafqasRoad/Soon to be South Coast Catholic (Aussie Maronite) mentions?

  48. frjim4321 says:

    Six communion stations here. Four host and two cups. Never any problem. It’s all about training the EM’s. For those who want hands-off both species there is an easy solution: the Byzantine. [EHEM. Aren’t you forgetting YOUR OWN RITE?]

  49. TimG says:

    Regarding the need to “speed things up….”
    With all due respect, I would not care if the Mass goes longer than an hour (or even two.) My younger children might need a break but honestly to be there in the Holy Presence of Our Lord….what better place to be?

  50. maryh says:

    1400 people per Mass with 6 stations, requiring 12 distributers (11 EMHC’s, one priest). Hmm, interesting problem.

    First of all, you can cut the 12 distributors down to 6 right away with no increase in time required, by only distributing in one form.

    Secondly, distributing on the tongue at the altar rail is more efficient. The priest can go from one communicant to the next without waiting for the previous communicant to move aside or waiting for the next communicant to come into place. I almost said, “waiting for the next communicant to bow” but I’ve notice a tendency for people to make their bow to the back of the person ahead of them who is currently receiving. I’ll make a wild guess that receiving at the rail on the tongue is probably twice as fast as receiving in the hand the normal communion line way. If my guess is right, now you only need three people to distribute communion to keep the same approximate time to distribute communion.

    Now, take into account all the extra time it used to take to communicate 11 EMHC’s and wash 6 chalices and four extra dishes for the Hosts, and you can see the time difference is not necessarily that great.

    Which makes sense. I don’t remember communion at the altar rail on the tongue taking a lot more time than standing in line to receive in the hand used to take. And we rarely had more than two priests to distribute communion. The EMHC’s are not needed solely because of the priest shortage. Who ever needed as many priests to distribute communion as we now need EMHC’s? The altar rail was efficient. It’s the current method that is inefficient.

    There is one other factor, even if receiving on the tongue while kneeling at the rail takes longer. People aren’t spending so much of their communion time standing in line. They spend it either in the pew or kneeling at the rail. That’s both more reverent, and, I think, less likely to lead to impatience. Standing in line breeds impatience, I think.

    It would be interesting to actually compare the time it takes to use one method vs the other, to see how far off my guess is.

  51. jhayes says:

    Regarding intinction, the GIRM mentions only “the Priest” (not a deacon or instituted acolyte) distributing Communion by intinction. If only “the” or “a” Priest can do this, that might limit the practicality in a large church.

    “287. If Communion from the chalice is carried out by intinction, each communicant, holding a Communion-plate under the mouth, approaches the Priest who holds a vessel with the sacred particles, with a minister standing at his side and holding the chalice. The Priest takes a host, intincts it partly in the chalice and, showing it, says, The Body and Blood of Christ. The communicant replies, Amen, receives the Sacrament in the mouth from the Priest, and then withdraws.”

  52. Cantor says:

    Giuseppe – Quite real, I assure you. 6600+ families. (We were at 9000+, but the creation of a new parish west of us has peeled off 1/3 of the registrations.) And you do not want to be around on C&E days! I believe the local Episcopal cathedral seats about 700. I’m not sure I understand how moving from 6 stations to 1 or 2 isn’t going to cause us time problems.

    TimG – I don’t particularly mind long Masses, but getting in and out of the church becomes a problem. The local constabulary has requested at least one hour between Masses or we’re going to have to hire a traffic detail.

    Not trying to be problematic, but looking for a bit of a reality check here.

  53. Having attended both the TLM and the standard NO Mass as well as growing up in a high church Episcopal parish, I have thought a great deal about efficiency and reverence in receiving Our Lord. By far, the method of using altar rails and having people at the ready for the priest to go straight from one communicant to the next with no waiting, under one species, is the fastest and most appropriate for the situation. Obviously, making people wait while kneeling for a EMHC to distribute the chalice right after the priest as one does in the Protestant Episcopal church negates the efficiency of kneeling. I have seen many times in the NO, the EMHC holding the chalice standing too close to the center, leading to a traffic jam and holding up production.

    Get rid of all the EMHCs, put in altar rails, have an altar boy hold a paten under chins, and we would be amazed at how many people receive on the tongue and how much faster Communion would proceed. In other words, admit that those old liturgists DID know what they were doing.

  54. Volanges says:

    I remember back in the 2001-02, sitting in a course on Liturgy offered by St. Paul University School of Theology and being told by the priest teaching that Communion by intinction wasn’t permitted in Canada because it interfered with the communicant’s RIGHT to receive in the hand! Something didn’t sound right about that but I didn’t know enough to question the statement.

    In was in the context of the same series of courses that we were told by another prof, also a priest, that it wasn’t just the “institution narrative” that consecrated but the entire Eucharistic Prayer. When someone said, “That’s your opinion but what does the Church teach?” he replied, “You are asking the wrong question.” ?????

  55. Volanges says:

    Robbie says: If you want to get rid of communion in the hand, get rid of the Mass Paul VI, Bugnini, and the six Protestant ministers created. Otherwise, communion in the hand is here to stay.

    I’ve attended a Communion Service at the local Anglican parish and they kneel at the altar rail to receive. There was more reverence there than I see at my own Catholic parish, so it has more to do with catechesis than with the form of Mass.

    Sadly, at that service I saw fellow Catholics, led our pastor, approach the altar rail and kneel to receive bread and wine. Most of them would complain bitterly if we returned to kneeling in our own parish to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

  56. ndmom says:

    All of these comments about altar rails are very nice, but the reality is that many Catholic parishes don’t have them and could not install them without major expensive modifications. Likewise, many priests — especially those of a certain age and formation level — have virtually no experience with distributing communion on the tongue, and EMHCs have even less. At most parishes, reception in the hand is nearly universal, and most of the laity, for better or for worse, are simply not comfortable with someone (especially an elderly EMHC with shaky hands) putting the host on their tongue.

    Yes, it’s true that reception in the hand invites abuses and sacrileges. Yes, it’s true that many people go up to communion like zombies, taking the host in their hand and stuffing it in their mouth like a potato chip. But my guess is that back in the day, many people received on the tongue without much thought for what — or Whom — they were receiving.

    IMO, it would be much more effective to start the process by eliminating distribution of the Precious Blood.

  57. TomG says:

    I got to this late. I have to say, though, that Fr. Z’s post is pure dynamite!

  58. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Fr Z,
    I recall, sadly too imprecisely, an earlier post or post about intincture and must (vinum mustum). Is this an area of possible concern (not impediment) in connexion with your suggestion?

    Where time may be a weighty consideration, and ndmom’s point about the practicalities of installing altar rails another, it may be good to bring Volanges., frjim4321, and RafqasRoad’s obsevations about possibilities and expectations to bear. Catechesis (carefully conducted) can presumably achieve a ‘culture’ where standing and reciving an intincted Host on the tongue does not seem unexpected.

  59. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    “post or posts”

  60. Sword40 says:

    All of this is why I avoid the OF like the plague. Only the EF Masses for my wife and me.

  61. Sword40 says:

    And if your parish cannot afford to install an altar rail either buy or build about 4 prie deux.

  62. majuscule says:

    This may sound puzzling but I’m an EMHC in a small church that really doesn’t need two but has them, one on each side for distribution of the Precious Blood. Those of us who have taken on this ministry, with no consultation between us, at some point started receiving on the tongue when we come forward after the priest has communicated. I think some were under the impression that EMHCs should receive on the hand.

    It’s interesting to note the increase in those receiving on the tongue, including young people.

  63. dcs says:

    Likewise, many priests — especially those of a certain age and formation level — have virtually no experience with distributing communion on the tongue

    I remember some years ago when this question came up and I posed the question to the priest readers of the blog if they had ever encountered a person receiving Viaticum in the hand. At least two priests responded that the situation had never happened to them, I don’t think any priests responded that it had happened to them. So I doubt that even younger priests don’t have experience distributing Holy Communion on the tongue. They might not like it, but they have experience.

    Here’s the link thanks to the magic of Google:

    Now for an amusing anecdote. When my older children were younger (maybe 7 and 4?) they used to practice giving one another “Holy Communion” — on the tongue, of course, as we were assisting mostly at the TLM at the time — and seldom, if ever, had any problems. If little children can put potato chips or crackers on each other’s tongue with no training whatsoever, then I imagine that adults with even a little bit of training and experience can do so as well.

  64. Volanges says:

    At the military chapel that used to be my parish there are portable altar rails. This was a former American Base where the chapel was used by both the Catholics and the Protestants. The altar rails are/were brought forward for Mass and put against the back wall for Protestant services. That type of altar rail would be affordable for all but the poorest parish.

  65. SimonDodd says:

    Volanges said… “I’ve attended a Communion Service at the local Anglican parish and they kneel at the altar rail to receive. There was more reverence there than I see at my own Catholic parish, so it has more to do with catechesis than with the form of Mass.” It depends on the parish. In many Anglican cathedrals, though, yes—there is some sad irony that some Anglicans behave as though they had the real presence even though they don’t believe in it, and some of us, who do, don’t.

    ndmom said… “Likewise, many priests … have virtually no experience with distributing communion on the tongue, and EMHCs have even less. At most parishes, reception in the hand is nearly universal, and most of the laity, for better or for worse, are simply not comfortable with someone (especially an elderly EMHC with shaky hands) putting the host on their tongue.” I’ve sometimes wondered what would happen if I approached an EMHC for communion. I’m guessing an awkward exchange. At any rate, no one is (generally) obliged to approach an EMHC at all, and it’s hard to imagine that a priest could not know how to do it, since he is, after all, obliged to do so.

  66. ndmom says:

    We once belonged to a wonderful parish where communion was by one species, EMHCs were used sparingly, most of the faithful received with great reverence whether on the tongue or in the hand, no one (including small children) approached the altar with arms crossed over chest to receive a blessing instead of communion, all servers were male, Our Father hand-holding was rare, the celebrant never roamed around the sanctuary during the homily, and guitars were banished.

    Then we moved and discovered how the other 95% live. At the giant suburban parish which we financially support but where we rarely attend Mass, NONE of the above is the norm, and that has been our experience at the dozens of other parishes we have been forced to attend while traveling. In most parishes, most of the faithful will be receiving communion from another layperson. That is the reality and unlikely to change anytime soon, especially in dioceses that are consolidating parishes and making do with fewer priests at each parish. Given that inconvenient reality, insisting that communion placed on the tongue by another layperson is somehow more reverent and proper than communion placed on the tongue by the layperson recipient seems absurd.

  67. Gaz says:

    I’ve twice received Holy Communion by intinction. Once in the Roman rite, and once in the Ukrainian rite (where I understand it is the normal manner). The Roman rite experience was during a Holy week retreat.

  68. Gaz says:

    In the Roman rite, I’ve once had to explain to the EMHC that she was to place the host on my tongue and once been refused Communion by an EMHC.

  69. SimonDodd says:

    Gaz, what did the pastor say on follow-up?

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  71. Sal says:

    Caro Padre,

    I respectfully disagree. You have no doubt seen the old Medieval paintings showing reception in the hands. One might keep in mind that at the Last Supper the Apostles were not fed by Jesus, they took pieces of the bread and drank from the cup themselves. This never was a new innovation.

    There seems to be some belief that there is some profanation being risked in the almost-universal practice of reception in the hand. I just do not see it happening when I go to mass.

    I am old enough to remember in the olden days when reception on the tongue resulted in a “fumble” when the Altar Boy did not get the paten.

    If there is a parish where something odd is going on among the recipients, then the priest needs to take some action to remind people not to play with the host or nag the parents to get their kids in line.

    Padre, sono solo i vecchietti che prendono la santa communione al uso antico. Anche al Vaticano si prende al mano.


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