Appended below is letter by longtime Fr. Z’s Blog reader and participant to the pastor of the reader’s parish. It seems that in Sunday’s parish bulletin the pastor alleged that priests touch communicants’ tongues when people insist on receiving on the tongue. He uses the upcoming flu season as a pretext for exhorting people to receive on the hand instead.
The parishioner’s letter touches succinctly and calmly on the relevant issues.
I’m reading in today’s bulletin your statement that receiving Communion on the tongue often involves accidentally touching the tongue. A major part of the problem here is that we are standing rather than kneeling, and are often at the wrong angle plus are swaying slightly. That’s what causes the accidental touching of our tongues.
A great solution would be what Pope Benedict did, which was to put portable kneelers in place just at the time of communion, and the people who wished to receive on the tongue could kneel. This puts the communicant at the correct angle, plus they won’t be swaying. Benedict was leading by example, in the hope that more people would return to receiving Our Lord kneeling and on the tongue. It is a humble position and means of reception, which will lead people to remember more strongly just Who it is Whom we are receiving.
A well-known priest, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, who says Mass in the Extraordinary Form nearly always, has written on his blog several times that he has almost never accidentally touched anyone’s tongue in his many years of distributing Communion. He explains that this is because the communicants are kneeling and are at the right angle with their mouths open, and they aren’t moving.
A further point is one of common sense: people who aren’t feeling well should stay in the pews and not go up for Communion at all. In fact, if they are sneezing and feverish, they really should stay at home. A sneeze, even when covered, shoots tiny droplets all over the place for several feet around them. People who come to Mass when sick, and who still decide to come up for Communion, are being inconsiderate of the rest of us.
Wouldn’t it be better to just ask people to not come up for Communion when they are under the weather, rather than making those of us who receive on the tongue feel as if WE are the ones being inconsiderate? And wouldn’t just two portable kneelers for the two center lines of Communion be an easy enough situation to manage? They could be set in place quickly, and gotten back out of the way quickly. And anyone who wants to receive Communion on the tongue would know to get in one of those two lines. And anyone receiving on the hand can still hold out their hand over the kneeler while standing, and it wouldn’t be in their way at all.
Thank you for listening to me, Father. And I hope you’ll consider these solutions to the problem. Stigmatizing those who receive on the tongue is not a charitable solution, in my opinion.