Card. Sarah on kneeling before the Eucharist, Communion in the hand

The other day I visited the chapel of an important Marian apparition.  There were many pilgrims including groups of young people.  A worker nun breezily made a sort of bow to the Blessed Sacrament as she passed before the tabernacle.

That really gripes my chitlins.

I don’t trust Latin Church Catholics who, without some reason such as bad knees, etc., don’t genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament.

Today I read a piece with comments by the great Robert Card. Sarah about this matter.   He recently spoke in Milan.  At LifeSite HERE.


Of Pope St. John Paul II’s respect for Jesus in the Eucharist, Sarah said:

The whole of the life of Karol Wotyla was marked by a profound respect for the Blessed Eucharist. Much could be said, and much has been written about this. Today I simply ask you to recall that at the end of his life of service, a man in a body wracked with sickness, John Paul II could never sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. He forced his broken body to kneel. He needed the help of others to bend his knees, and again to stand. What more profound testimony could he give to the reverence due to the Blessed Sacrament than this, right up until his very last days.

He then quoted St. Teresa of Calcutta, an “exceptional nun, whose faith, holiness and total gift of her life to God and to the poor are world-renowned.”

St. Teresa “had absolute respect and worship for the Divine Body of Jesus Christ,” said Sarah. He noted that “she touched daily the ‘flesh’ of Christ in the dilapidated bodies of the poorest of the poor,” but “amazed and full of respectful veneration, she refrained from touching the transubstantiated Body of Christ.”

“Rather, she adored him,” Sarah continued. “She contemplated him silently. She knelt and prostrated herself before Jesus in the Eucharist. And she received him, like a little child who is humbly nourished by his God. She was saddened and pained to see Christians receive Holy Communion in their hands.

Card. Sarah spoke also about Communion in the hand.  I agree with Mother on this one.  When I see people receive in the hand I am left deeply troubled.   I almost physically hurts.    It is just so … wrong.

More from Card. Sarah.

The cardinal recounted Mother Teresa’s own words: “Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand.

The reception of Communion on the hand was allowed as an exception to the norm of Communion kneeling and on the tongue. It began in the 1960s, with some dioceses implementing it without permission from the Vatican. In 1969, the Congregation for Divine Worship issued a document titled Memoriale Domini. It stated:

Indeed, in certain communities and in certain places this practice [of Communion in the hand] has been introduced without prior approval having been requested of the Holy See, and, at times, without any attempt to prepare the faithful adequately…

…[The] method of distributing holy communion [kneeling and on the tongue] must be retained, taking the present situation of the Church in the entire world into account, not merely because it has many centuries of-tradition behind it, but especially because it expresses the faithful’s reverence for the Eucharist. The custom 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.

There are practical and very serious reasons to phase out Communion in the hand and they concern desecration of the Eucharist.

In 2015, a Spanish man named Abel Azcona stole 242 consecrated hosts and used them to write “Pederasty” in Spanish as a form of “art.” It seems he did this by receiving Holy Communion in the hand and then pocketing the Eucharist rather than consuming it. His Twitter account features a photo of him “collecting” Communion by taking it on the hand.

“Satanism seems to be on the rise throughout the West, but many people naively still hold on to the idea that ‘black masses’ and such are things that really don’t happen, that they are legends, that they are only in movies, etc. No. They do happen,” wrote canon lawyer Father Bryan Jerabek in response to the satanic “black mass” that caused controversy at Harvard. “And the reception of Holy Communion in the hand makes it even easier – and more common – for people to steal the host and use it for such nefarious purposes.”

At such satanic rituals, “there is always a satanic priest officiating who wears blasphemous vestments, an altar represented by a nude woman, possibly a virgin, on whom very serious acts of profanity of the Eucharist (usually stolen from a church), are performed,” according to the late Vatican chief exorcist Father Gabrielle Amorth. He wrote this in his last book, An Exorcist Explains the Demonic. These hosts are “stolen from tabernacles or taken by some of the faithful at Communion during Mass and not consumed.”

This is real, friends.   And Satanism is on the rise, along with obvious demonic activity.

Card. Sarah also went on to lament the ‘arrogance’ and ‘disrespect’ being shown toward Pope Benedict XVI and also, HURRAY!, the importance of ad orientem worship.

Thank God for the great Card. Sarah!

Also, just as a reminder, the late (how it pains me to write that) Bp Morlino asked the priests and people of the Diocese of Madison to kneel to receive Communion on the tongue.  HERE

If you have not read Card. Sarah’s books, give them a try.  And they make good Christmas presents.

The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise.


And if you haven’t read it yet…


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    For ages I’ve received the Eucharist in my hands. About four months ago I just couldn’t do it anymore. It feels disrespectful. So I stopped and receive on my tongue and I don’t care about the strange looks I get either. This is between my and My Lord. I’d also like to kneel at the railing by most churches no longer have these.

  2. Gab says:

    Also, if this practise was done without permission, then why does is still continue?

  3. Julia_Augusta says:

    I’m the only one who kneels and receives Communion on the tongue in the parish church where I go to Mass. Everyone just gets it in the hand and pops it into their mouths. At least, there are no lay persons distributing the hosts. But everything about the Mass screams “protestant”. I spend spring and autumn in this city so soon I will be traveling again and attending the TLM. Yay!

  4. JustaSinner says:

    And Father, pray tell best course of action when you are refused Eucharist on the tongue?

    [Immediately report the jerk to the Congregation for Divine Worship.]

  5. Bellarmino Vianney says:

    A priest could save many souls simply through ad orientem worship – as long as the tabernacle is directly behind or on the altar.

    Some not-yet-fully-catechized people would ask, “why is that priest facing the tabernacle?”

    They would soon discover that one reason is because God in the Most Holy Eucharist is in the tabernacle .

    When people interiorize/believe what the Most Holy Eucharist really Is, they should then change their lives and no longer live duplicitously; for example, such a person should not pretend to be communicating one thing but then use that false communication to propagate hidden/veiled messages within certain words, actions, pictures, etc.

    Ad orientem worship is a physical manifestation of authentic “Fear of the Lord”. So too is genuflecting and kneeling before the Most Holy Eucharist.

  6. SanSan says:

    Always, dear Jesus, I will receive you, kneeling and on the tongue.

    Right now I’m helping to prepare my Goddaughter for her First Communion. I will find a way that she will receive Jesus kneeling and on the tongue. Pray for our children that they receive proper catechsis.

  7. Josephus Corvus says:

    Let’s tie the eradication of Communion in the hand to the eradication of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. It’s hard to say to the guy across the pew that he shouldn’t touch the Holy Eucharist with non-anointed hands while is wife (always the wife), runs up to the sanctuary and does exactly that.

    As an aside, isn’t it strange that the same parishes that are inundated with Extraordinary Ministers won’t touch the Extraordinary Form with a ten-foot pole?

  8. capchoirgirl says:

    About ten years ago I joined a parish with a communion rail that is still in use. I’ve always loved Jesus in the Eucharist, but kneeling and receiving on the tongue has increased this tenfold. Now I always receive on the tongue, wherever I am (although at more “liberal” parishes I wonder if I’ll be forced to have a confrontation with the priest about this!), but oh, using the rail and receiving that way is just so much more reverent! The difference is truly amazing.

  9. grumpyoldCatholic says:

    Beside communion in the hand Eucharistic minsters need to be banned also

    Pope St. Sixtus I ( 115-125): “it is prohibited for the faithful to even touch the sacred vessels, or receive in the hand”;
    St. Basil the Great (330-379), one of the four great Eastern Fathers, considered Communion in the hand so irregular that he did not hesitate to consider it a grave fault (Letter 93);
    The Council held at Saragozza (380), it was decided to punish with excommunication anyone who dared to continue the practice of Communion in the hand;
    The local council at Rouen, France (650) stated, “Do not put the Eucharist in the hands of any layman or laywomen but only in their mouths”;
    The Council of Constantinople (692) which was known as in trullo (not one of the ecumenical councils held there) prohibited the faithful from giving Communion to themselves. It decreed an excommunication of one week’s duration for those who would do so in the presence of a bishop, priest or deacon;
    Council of Trent: “To omit nothing doctrinal on so important a subject, we now come to speak of the minister of the Sacrament, a point, however, on which scarcely anyone is ignorant. The pastor then will teach, that to priests alone has been given power to consecrate and administer the Holy Eucharist. That the unvarying practice of the Church has also been, that the faithful receive the Sacrament from the hand of the priest, and that the priest communicate himself, has been explained by the Council of Trent; and the same holy Council has shown that this practice is always to be scrupulously adhered to, stamped, as it is, with the authoritative impress of Apostolic tradition, and sanctioned by the illustrious example of our Lord himself, who, with His own hands, consecrated and gave to His disciples, His most sacred body. To consult as much as possible, for the dignity of this so August a Sacrament, not only is its administration confided exclusively to the priestly order; but the Church has also, by an express law, prohibited any but those who are consecrated to religion, unless in case of necessity, to touch the sacred vessels, the linen or other immediate necessaries for consecration. Priest and people may hence learn, what piety and holiness they should possess who consecrate, administer, or receive the Holy of Holies.” (Council of Trent, Session 13, )

  10. youngcatholicgirl says:

    I’ve always received on the tongue, and I’ve knelt since I was eleven or so (my knees are young enough that I can do it without an altar rail) and no one had an issue with it until one Sunday when I was twelve, not at my home parish. The priest, who had said outright in his sermon, “In the Diocese of Memphis, Communion is received standing, in the hand or on the tongue”, hesitated before giving me (kneeling) the Eucharist, then, as I rose and walked away, I heard, “That’s not the way we do it.” No? That’s the way I do it (and how the Church says we’re to do it).

  11. Legisperitus says:

    Aargh! The breezy “sort of bow.” Which eventually devolves into the perfunctory nod: “Hey, I see you over there.”

    I once had a priest sigh, roll his eyes, and tell me to get up when I knelt for Communion. Did not go back there.

  12. Michael says:

    I’ve never been bothered by the fact that I have cerebral palsy and use a wheelchair because of it. It’s saddened me for a while, though, that I can’t kneel down in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

  13. StephenM says:

    As a cistercian monk, I must say something: not everyone that does not kneel for the Eucharist is a modernist. It would be interesting a post about the “strange non-roman rites” of the monastic Orders, so maybe the lovely trad-young-people that come to monasteries will not see us as bugninians for have simple (gothic) paraments and bow for the Tabernacle. :)

    [Exceptions to the rule.]

  14. Suzanne says:

    In defense of the poor, misguided sister who didn’t genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament, I think that comes exactly from the way we treat the Eucharist now. We don’t kneel before Jesus to receive him. We “supposed to,” but aren’t often instructed to, bow before receiving Communion. It’s understandable that people now think that bowing is the way that Catholics show reverence to the Eucharist. To top it off, there’s the incessant bowing of the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. If they’re not slathering on hand sanitizer (apparently a crucial aspect of the liturgy), they’re bowing to one thing or another. People now think the most important thing they can do is bow, even though when I was growing up bowing was not a part of our practice at all. We are so greatly in need of a Church that will stop the nonsense and let us kneel to receive Our Lord, on the tongue, from a priest, and we’re in need of priests who will teach people once again how to show reverence to Our Lord.

  15. bobbortolin says:

    The other day after confession I mentioned to the priest that I am currently listening to “The Power of Silence” by Cardinal Sarah and he gave me a blank stare which I interpreted this as his never hearing of the book or Cardinal Sarah. He then asked me who the author was and I mentioned his name again and a brief biography and he had no clue. I thought to myself that the book would make a great Christmas present for him but then I paused thinking that you might embarrass him. He is a wonderful priest, he always comes to my home when I need confession or advice and I trust his judgment and his commitment to Christ. Am I overthinking this and should I just go ahead and give him the book?

  16. Pius Admirabilis says:

    It is indeed not an exaggeration or for dramativ effect, when priests talk about how consecrated hosts are stolen. I always thought that doesn’t actually happen, or if, then it’s maybe just in some very rare cases – this year, I learned that at a historic site I visited, there are actually Black Masses celebrated by satanists, who use consecrated hosts for their rituals. With actual video footage! The guy who told us about that was far from being “conservative”, and even he admitted that those things happened, quite regularly – even so much that it became a problem for the site, and they had to block off some areas. Those horrible things do indeed happen! And if satanists bother to steal consecrated hosts, because they believe in the Real Presence, then why don’t Catholics?

    [“the why don’t Catholics?” Because of decades of shabby liturgical “worship”, not ever referring to Mass as Christ’s Sacrifice, Communion in the hand…. there’s a whole list. And it went on for decades.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  17. Nicholas says:

    These posts really work. I started receiving on the tongue because of this blog when I was in high school.

    I haven’t looked back.

  18. I get to weekday Mass only once a week, at a church where there is Exposition for half an hour before Mass. An elderly lady (trousers, boots, quilted jacket, because it is still cold in the church) exposes the Blessed Sacrament. Then spends at least half the adoration time pottering about: goes to get two tealights, puts them on either side of the monstrance. She’s forgotten the lighter, goes, gets it. One of the tealights will not light – she goes, gets another one. Then begins the preparation for Mass: she gets the chalice (no chalice veil), puts in on the altar. Goes to the lectionary, finds the readings. Into the sacristy for the wine, comes and puts it on the altar. Out again for the water…. and so on, and so on, while the Blessed Sacrament is on the altar. I’m always in two minds: on the one hand it drives me up the wall; on the other, well, she could also stay at home and just come for Mass, there would be no Exposition then, and I can still spend a little time in Adoration. And there is benediction when Fr. arrives for the Mass – I should be grateful, really.

  19. WmHesch says:

    One of the ancient duties assigned to the minor order Exorcists was guarding the rail (i.e., ensuring only those fully initiated approached, and that they consumed the Sacrament)

  20. My grandfather, now deceased, left the Catholic Church for the Mormons many years ago. About six or seven years ago, during a visit, I took him to Mass with me. As we were walking out of the church afterward, he said he was glad to see that “you Catholics” no longer believe that the Eucharist is really the Body of Christ. I asked him what made him think we no longer believe in the Real Presence. His reply: because now the laypeople are allowed to go up and touch the Hosts with their hands and drink from the chalice.

  21. TonyO says:

    While I hate to see Catholics enter and leave a church, or a pew, without even an acknowledgement of Jesus in the tabernacle, it makes me itch even worse when I see a person who does the half-genuflection shimmy instead. You’ve seen it 10,000 times, the person looks toward the altar (hopefully that’s also the general direction of the tabernacle), and the leg bends about 20 degrees, and they bob a wee bit downwards, and then its down the aisle and out the door. Ugh! WHAT do they think they are DOING? It grates on the nerves, it is odious and a distraction and (frankly) offensive to pious eyes.

    It’s worse when I see spry, active 50 to 60-year olds do it, the ones who have no trouble getting up and down: with them, you know it isn’t cranky joints getting in the way. But you also know that almost certainly they had better training when they were young, or (at least) they have seen enough examples over the years that they might well have ASKED someone “what is the proper way to do it”? Have they EVER considered what the act actually means? Why they do it at all? I mourn deeply when I see whole families do it, from grandparents on down to 5 year olds, clearly abusing the little kids’ trust by bad example.

    I have heard perhaps a half dozen sermons over the years (in NO parishes, that is) on receiving on the tongue as a sign of reverence and faith in the real presence. I don’t recall hearing more than once any specific reference to genuflecting properly, from the pulpit. There are (naturally) so many OTHER things that are more urgent; but still, if the priests won’t ever say anything about it, how can we lay people correct our confreres?

  22. Michael says:

    Bob – give him the book.

  23. Hidden One says:

    Over the years, I have seen a (bad) number of seminarians–diocesan , not Cistercians–bowing to the Blessed Sacrament or genuflecting on the wrong knee out of ignorance, not bad knees. Hard to believe, perhaps, but true.
    If seminarians are not being taught in seminary how to reverence Our Lord, what should I expect of people with no such formation?

  24. ServusChristi says:

    In addition to this, I saw Bp Schneider’s segment on EWTN talking about communion in the hand. After I saw that week after week, a particle(s) would break off the host. I have only received on the tongue since and this was months ago. Michael Davies made a great point when he said that when communion on the tongue and the administration by priests only was enforced, the church was upholding belief in the real presence. This was what really opened my eyes.

  25. BrionyB says:

    Wait, there’s a correct knee to genuflect on? I always use my right knee, just because it feels more natural to do so (maybe being right-handed) rather than because I was taught one way or the other. I hope that isn’t wrong!

    I note it’s rare these days to see anyone genuflect on both knees when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, e.g. for adoration or arriving at Mass after the consecration. I was definitely taught to do that as a child, and always do so now.

    An exception to the “rare” rule is a community of young Franciscan sisters near me; during exposition in their chapel they get down on both knees and then bow so low their face nearly touches the floor. Easier for the young and flexible, of course! But it’s heartening to see their reverence.

  26. RJT says:

    There has been a general loss of Eucharistic faith for which there may be consequences:

  27. Johann says:

    I read God or Nothing while on Pilgrimage to Fatima last year. His Eminence Cardinal Sarah is a man of great faith and humility and he has excellent proposals on the myriad of problems facing the Church today.

  28. William says:

    For a while I stopped genuflecting because I read in the bulletin at a parish, St. Matthew’s in San Antonio, that new rules from the Vatican prohibited genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament except during exposition, and that bowing at the waist was the proper action. So that’s what I did for at least several months.

    When I looked into this, I don’t remember being able to find that supposed document (in good faith, I’ll assume the bulletin was a result of a chain of bad translations and bad reporting). So I started genuflecting again. While I’m only 35, I do have some nerve pain that makes genuflecting a little painful, but if Christ, after a sleepless night of mental and physical torture, can thrice fall to the ground and stand back up on his way to an excruciating death, then I can bend my knee and groan a bit.

  29. un-ionized says:

    BrionyB, I think it’s– genuflect on the right knee to the Blessed Sacrament and the left knee to the Pope. Both knees to the Blessed Sacrament exposed.

  30. LeeGilbert says:

    A few other considerations, though, about correct deportment in Church.

    A few years ago I overheard someone saying to a friend that she doesn’t go to church because she’s sure she’ll never get it right, meaning when and how to genuflect etc. I understand this completely, for while I am a well instructed Catholic on the whole, dealing with hierarchy I find intimidating and would rather avoid, e.g how to address them, whether it is still proper to kneel and kiss their ring, etc.. This I have never seen done, would not know how to do, and am apprehensive of both overdo and mishap, as happened with the lady whose lip got caught in the bishop’s ring. That will never happen to me, you may be sure. Many years ago, I think it had to be forty years, I wrote a letter to Bishop Blanchette of Joliet addressing him as Your Excellency after consulting the dictionary’s section on correct forms of address. In his response he thanked me for my courtesy, which made me think that such correctness is definitely old school and not done on the whole. So I am fairly confident of doing the wrong thing in that very rare circumstance. Nevertheless events overtook me one evening when Bishop Meeking came suddenly into our sacristy and I was the first to see him. I was a study in ecclesiastical oafishness, you may well believe, but I will not regale you with my bad example.

    And while we take all the posture changes during Mass for granted, people from a Protestant, evangelical or even secular background find it astounding, and often enough amusing. It would help if the priest from time to time would make sure that the congregation knows what they are doing and why so that we can explain it to our friends and relatives after wedding and funerals, etc.

    Also as a frequent server and lector I have given up on caring what anyone thinks as I move about the church outside of the liturgy. If I have already genuflected five times and have to cross the median of the church once more, I will stop and bow out of deference to my knees. Yet, I do stop and bow reverently, but I think Father was referring to a bow on the fly as it were- as one might wave Hi to an old pal.

    Lest this post be too short, there is the opposite problem of liturgical overkill, where the youngsters in the CCD program at our traditional leaning parish back in Chicago were genuflecting both when leaving the pew to receive Communion and on returning to their pews.

    IMHO, such are the very people who will be scared off from attending Mass for fear of not knowing how to conduct themselves. Genuflect when entering and leaving the Church, bow when crossing the median. Is anything more required?

  31. rollingrj says:

    I don’t think it has helped having the altar and tabernacle physically disconnected. That seemingly has led to the practice of “only” (minimalism anyone?) having to bow to the altar during Mass. This, in essence, asks everyone to “ignore” the tabernacle, which carries over when “ita missa est”. And you wonder why belief in the Real Presence is almost non-existent?

    I genuflect, pausing long enough to say the Jesus Prayer on bended knee. He is here. I can only hope to set the proper example.

  32. Gab says:

    rollingrj you make a good point. Don’t know about the US but the churches here that I have been to have a free standing altar positioned more to the front of the dais, no Communion rails and the Tabernacle is off to the side of the altar, usually quite a distance away. Even the churches built before 1960’s have been “refurbished” to suit the N.O. mass.

  33. Semper Gumby says:

    God bless Card. Sarah.

  34. Uxixu says:

    Disconnection of altar and tabernacle had to happen with versus populum. Even with freestanding altars the height of the tabernacle would preclude all but the tallest priests from being able to see the congregation.

    What was usually done in Los Angeles was in many places with glorious high altars that pre-dated the 1950s that they added a table in the area inside the rail but before the final altar. So an altar in front of the altar. Often they took care to make this match but some places they didn’t. The tabernacles seem to have been left in place. The priest, deacon and (heaven-forbid), Extraordinary Monster, will go around the table altar to the high altar with the ciborium or pyx.

    In the construction during of the 50s and early 60s) before the Council, often freestanding though many lacking the baldachin that makes them liturgically correct), the altars were brought forward and/or the tabernacle was separated and moved back and more importantly raised. The rationale seems to be rightfully thinking it wasn’t proper to turn ones back to the Blessed Sacrament and that since it’s raised up it avoided the issue. Some places this wasn’t possible and I’ve seen tabernacles scandalously placed in what were once closets or obvious ad-hoc add-on chapels. There was also a period where the crying rooms were converted to side chapels. The rest seem to have used their use side altars on the few that seem to have them.

    Anecdotally seems half or more of the rest (and all new construction from late 1960s) never had the tabernacle at the main altar but usually in side chapels.

  35. Uxixu says:

    As an MC setting up for the FSSP in Hollywood someone once came to me and told about a host found in the bathroom (presumably from the host parish novus ordo right before the TLM). Priest put on his surplice, stole, and went and purified the area and took the host, IIRC for dissolving before it could be later be put in the sacrarium.

    Saith Pius Admirabilis: “And if satanists bother to steal consecrated hosts, because they believe in the Real Presence, then why don’t Catholics?”

    Much of it is subtle. What evidence does the casual layman have that the priest, deacon, or servers believe in the Real Presence? By explicit rubric the celebrant only genuflects at entrance, Ite, and consecration vs the 17 times in the TLM. They don’t uncover, bow towards the crucifix or tabernacle at the mention of the Holy Name. No one genuflects crossing the tabernacle even if it at the high altar. This needs to change.

    Then the relatively big. Most Catholics don’t ever get any ongoing catechesis beyond their Sunday sermon, which are usually vague “love one another” type that are orthodox enough maybe if bland, but not letting them know anything they need for the issues of the day, etc. I’ve had priests say they avoid talking about ‘gay marriage’ etc because they don’t want to cause scandal and children are present, etc. I’ve only ever heard one diocesan priest (an Associate Pastor) talk about abortion or pro-life causes from the ambo in over 30 years. I don’t recall ever hearing an OF homily talk about the Real Presence, either.

    If one believes in the Real Presence, kneeling, not freely talking before Mass and more formal dress are natural results and this is all linked with architecture, the Eucharistic Fast, etc.

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