ASK FATHER: Communion on the tongue for people with Oral Herpes – HSV-1

From a reader…


Father Z, I have been diagnosed with oral herpes. It is fairly common and to my knowledge I am asymptomatic. With that said should I avoid receiving the precious blood ever? Also, can I still receive the Lords body on the tongue? Thank you

First, thank you for being concerned about other people.  Herpes simplex is contagious.  It can be transmitted through direct contact, such as kissing, and through sharing of utensils.  That would mean partaking of Holy Communion from the chalice, even though the minister ought to wipe carefully the surface each time.

A huge percentage of people have HSV-1, many contracting it as children from their parents.  Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it for life.

If you are symptomatic, I would decline receiving from the chalice.   When you are symptomatic, the surface, etc., is highly contagious.

Could you still receive on the tongue?  I think so, yes.  However, be sure to extend your tongue well and tip your head back a little to present a good “landing zone” for Father to hit with the Host.  Priests who celebrate the TLM regularly, therefore always on the tongue, generally know how to distribute without any finger/tongue contact provided that the communicant is also self-aware.

That said, you are never compelled to receive Communion at every Mass.   You can decide not to receive even though you are in the state of grace and, thereby, could receive.

Folks, when you receive Holy Communion on the tongue, STICK OUT YOUR TONGUE.  

Please please please make it easy for Father to give you the Host.   Don’t do the tip of the tongue out of the tiny space between your lips as you present your forehead at him under the edge of your chapel veil.

You don’t have to channel Gene Simmons or do your best impression of the logo of the Rolling Stones.  Just tilt your head back a little and stick your tongue out.

I know that some people from certain cultures have learned to take the Host in their teeth.  Well… okay.  That can work too even though there is also a long tradition of not breaking the Host with the teeth, but rather, if possible, letting the Host mostly dissolve before swallowing.

Think about other people, their well-being and their sensitivities.  That’s charity, which always involves self-sacrifice for the good of others.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Sister Joseph of the Sisters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul taught me in the spring of 1944 that to chew on the Host was not correct. It was as she said allowing corrupt decaying food caught between one’s teeth in contact with the Body and Blood of Christ. She continued, it denied the prophesying of the bible that decay would not touch His Body.

  2. APX says:

    Good Friday is coming up soon. Is it permissible to wipe the crucifix with disinfecting wipes instead of a cloth afterwards?

    [Yes, of course.]

  3. OrdinaryCatholic says:

    “You don’t have to channel Gene Simmons…”

    Lol. You are hilarious Father but definately on point! lol. wow….

  4. veritas vincit says:

    For a long time, I want back and forth from receiving on the hand, to receiving on the tongue. My main hesitation was fear that receiving on the tongue might lead to a dropped Host. I recently went to receiving only on the tongue, without any mishaps. Receiving on the tongue undeniably is much more reverent and respectful of Christ’s Body.
    But as to your questioner, I think this is an exception that would justify receiving on the hand, rather than go without receiving Holy Communion.

  5. Kathleen10 says:

    One of the things we love about the Latin Rite Mass is the use of the paten, the plate held underneath our heads so that if by some awful chance the Host might be dropped, the Host would land on the paten and not the floor. This is the kind of safeguarding of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament that we appreciate and do not generally find in the Novus Ordo.

  6. BrionyB says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever had the priest touch my tongue or mouth when giving Communion, but I can see you might not want to take the chance with something contagious.

    If the person was a regular TLM attendee, maybe the best way (if they felt comfortable doing so) would be to explain the situation privately to the priest and ask what he thinks would be the best approach? It’s possible that simply being the last person to receive would be enough of a safeguard.

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