ASK FATHER: How to receive Communion on the tongue?

From a reader…


Hi, Father.

1) I keep thinking that I should receive the Eucharist on the tongue, but am running into barriers, [you mean… like dopey priests?] to include the following: a) “how” to actually receive on the tongue, if you can offer any “pointers”; b) feeling self-conscious; and c) the fact that I did receive on the tongue one time in recent memory and I think I forgot to say Amen, and the priest seemed displeased—so I feel a bit traumatized from that experience.

Firstly, I am glad that you think you should receive Communion directly on the tongue.  So should everyone.  Communion in the hand, along with turning our altars around, has been one of the most powerful corrosives on our Catholic identity for the last few decades.

How to receive on the tongue.  A lot of people have done this for a very long time.  It can’t be too hard, right?   While in some cultures there is a method of initially capturing the Host with the front teeth before drawing it into the mouth, the most common method is to extend the tongue a little way beyond the teeth so that the priest has a good LZ… landing zone, as it were.

There is a great illustration from a classic catechism which can help.

This is helpful if you are kneeling.  And don’t worry about putting your hands under the “houseling cloth” draped over the rail.  I get the sense that that isn’t going to be an issue for you.

CLICK for the large version.

If you are standing, use common sense with these same principles.  You have to adjust for the height of the priest or deacon.  Just make sure that there is a good, clear LZ for the Sacred Host.

In the Ordinary Form of Mass, you say “Amen”, when the priest says “The Body of Christ… Corpus Christi“, and then put your tongue out.  In the Extraordinary Form, the priest will say the Latin prayer, which ends in “Amen”, which he says for both of you,  When the priest comes near to you, if you are kneeling, tilt your head back and put your tongue out.  He’ll take care of the “Amen”.  If you are standing, and maybe a little away from the rail, lean forward if you are far away.  Use common sense, but provide that good and obvious LZ on the tongue.

You may take fire for presenting yourself for Communion in this, if the priest is a modernist or a dimwit. Sorry… that’s a tautology.     It is up to you whether or not you want to stick to your guns.  Don’t make a public scene during Mass.  Take your concerns to the priest afterwards and follow up with a letter summarizing your meeting.  If liturgical abuses are being committed, create some paper in case you need to go to the next level.

In Redemptionis Sacramentum – an important disciplinary document from the Congregation for Divine Worship – we read:

[90.] “The faithful should receive Communion kneeling or standing, as the Conference of Bishops will have determined”, with its acts having received the recognitio of the Apostolic See. “However, if they receive Communion standing, it is recommended that they give due reverence before the reception of the Sacrament, as set forth in the same norms”.

[91.] In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them”.  Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.

[92.] Although each of the faithful always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, at his choice, [THERE IT IS!] if any communicant should wish to receive the Sacrament in the hand, in areas where the Bishops’ Conference with the recognitio of the Apostolic See has given permission, the sacred host is to be administered to him or her. [EXCEPT in the context of the Extraordinary Form, the Traditional Latin Mass!  Current law doesn’t apply to that Form in regard to Communion.] However, special care should be taken to ensure that the host is consumed by the communicant in the presence of the minister, so that no one goes away carrying the Eucharistic species in his hand. If there is a risk of profanation, then Holy Communion should not be given in the hand to the faithful[There is CLEARLY greater risk of profanation when Communion is distributed on the hand.]

[93.] The Communion-plate for the Communion of the faithful should be retained, so as to avoid the danger of the sacred host or some fragment of it falling.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Well of course there’s a risk for profanation when you’re handing out the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Our Lord like a Ritz cracker. It’s no wonder belief in the real presence has dropped off in the past few decades while Satanic black masses are on the rise, it’s incredibly easy to obtain the consecrated Host. I’ve received in the hand once when I was still a new Catholic, and I’ve felt guilty ever since. I should not be in a position where I am touching the Eucharist with my unconsecrated hands. I’m not trying to pass judgment on the spiritual disposition of those who receive in the hand, but there has to be a serious lapse in recognition of what exactly they are handling.

  2. JesusFreak84 says:

    I look a bit like the head-back-no-tongue guy because the Lord did not give me much of a tongue XD Maybe it was meant as a hint that I’m not getting? =-p

    Anyway, what about saying, “Amen,” when receiving on the tongue in the OF? I once got into an argument with an EMHC over this, (not during Mass, I swear,) and I figured, “Well, my [stubby] tongue is out, so I’m hardly in a position to say anything. It’d come out as ‘eh-heh’ if I was lucky!” Is there a rule for this in the GIRM?

    [As a matter of fact, there is. In the Ordinary Form, the communicant is instructed to respond, “Amen” when the priest says, “The Body of Christ”.]

  3. Gab says:

    Video of a bishop refusing Communion to those who kneel

    [Alas, there are clerics like this, who lord it over people. This is the worse sort of clericalism. That video also shows a lay person using intinction to receive which is absolutely forbidden. So, abuse concerning Communion is allowed, but legitimate custom, protected by law, is forbidden. Shame.]

  4. capchoirgirl says:

    JesusFreak: I say “amen” and then open my mouth to receive.

  5. APX says:

    I also say “Amen” before sticking my tongue out in the OF.

  6. Luminis says:

    Thats so sad to see this video.

  7. RichR says:

    We have more and more younger Catholics in our parish receiving on the tongue. Many will kneel, and Fr. doesn’t bat an eyelash. I think priests who offer both Forms of the Roman Rite don’t even think twice about it.

  8. APX says:

    FWIW: the reason the communicant responds “Amen” before receiving in the OF is because the communicant is affirming, “Yes, I believe” (that that’s the Body of Christ). In the EF the priest is giving the communicant a type of benediction before and thus says “Amen” as one would at the end of a prayer. The “Amen” is being used differently in each case.

  9. maternalView says:

    Well I’ve been to a few churches that graciously recognized that there are those who wish to kneel to receive and thus have provided kneelers. It seems to have increased the number of people kneeling. It is much easier than dropping down to the floor and hoping the person behind you doesn’t trip over you. There’s one church with an old priest who will give communion to the kneeling people in Latin.

  10. scholastica says:

    I primarily attend a SSPX chapel now and once asked a priest there of the best way to receive on the tongue. He said it is the priest’s responsibility to assure the host is administered properly and only added that it is difficult with stiffened tongues.
    When I occasionally go back to the Novus Ordo Mass, I manage to sit and “tolerate” the dramatic readers, sappy music and even the person who stands during the Eucharistic prayers blocking all behind him from attending the consecration. But, the thing that always sends me running back to the safety of the Latin Mass, is the way the priests give communion. One seems to use it as a weapon and jabs it into my tongue, the other tosses it into my mouth. Both, wear looks of disgust and annoyance. (I’m usually veiled and kneeling too)
    I hope that I’m misinterpreting, but it grieves my heart greatly.

  11. FN says:

    I regularly receive on the tongue at my local Novus Oedo Mass. No one’s ever refused me, but I have been told that it’s disfavored because it slows the line down, and we are a huge congregation so they try to move people along at assembly line speed. So, I make a point of getting down on my knees and back up again FAST! That said, I am sure that even an old and creaky person would not be refused.

  12. BrionyB says:

    Fr. Z said: ‘In the Ordinary Form, the communicant is instructed to respond, “Amen” when the priest says, “The Body of Christ”’

    I have been to at least one OF Mass (in English) where the priest said what sounded like the full “Corpus Domini nostri…” formula in Latin. I assume this was a permitted option for the OF, and that the communicant would not say “Amen” in that case, though I can’t say for sure whether anyone did or not. This is just what I observed from my pew. I actually didn’t go up to receive on that occasion, mostly because it was the first OF I’d attended at that church and I wasn’t sure how it was going to be done; I have great anxiety about doing something wrong and messing up such a sacred moment.

    Similarly, I just don’t receive in churches where I would have to join the “procession” then make a nuisance of myself and hold everyone up by kneeling down on the floor (plus the potential for embarrassment and upset if the priest refused me Communion as in that video). Maybe I should be braver, but I am not, so I make a spiritual Communion instead.

    It must have been a lot easier in the days when there was a standard procedure everywhere!

  13. Il Ratzingeriano says:

    Based on suggestions from a priest I know who says Mass in the extraordinary form, the instructions that I keep in mind when receiving are: 1. Open wide! 2. Eyes shut!

  14. I know that picture! It’s in “Know Your Mass”, correct? I love that book; my mom says the priest looks like Roc Hudson.

  15. OrangeBlossom says:

    Our parish has recently added an altar rail and even more recently an altar railing cloth. Also, the parish no longer has a ‘picnic table’; that’s what our previous pastor called it. :) … just the high altar.

    From the pictures, it looks like the hands are under the altar railing cloth but on the altar rail. This is still new to me.

    The only way to receive communion is along the altar railing for both OF and TLM. Love it!

  16. bobbird says:

    I have had numerous Hosts dropped because the EME, and even the modernist priests, are not used to either kneeling communicants or reception on the tongue. They try to jam the Host into my mouth, even before I can say “Amen”, tilt my head back, or stick out my tongue. Some Hosts have been dropped because it came right at the moment I was trying to respond with the “Amen”. There is NEVER any altar boy [server] with a paten. They don’t even exist in our parish.

  17. veritas vincit says:

    Whatever the propriety of allowing the communicant to receive the Body of Christ in unconsecrated hands, it is undeniable that receiving on the tongue is a much clearer sign of the great unmerited grace that is receiving Our Lord for our spiritual nourishment.
    For a long time, I went back and forth between receiving on the tongue, and receiving in the hand (which seemed much less of a risk of a dropped Host). A few months ago I decided to receive only on the tongue, and I have had no mishaps since. But I have gotten quite good at catching Hosts, even snagging them between my lips on occasion. (Recently I had to tilt my head way back to ensure I could swallow a Host I just barely caught between my lips). Also I frequently have to bend my knees slightly if I am receiving from a priest or EMHC who is shorter than I am.
    All of which makes a really good case for bringing back the communion rail.

  18. John Pomeroy says:

    The priest at the Newman Center parish that my daughter attends who has no problem with reception on the tongue. In fact, While I was “watching” from one of the back pews at the Vigil on Saturday, it seemed like 20 or 25% of the students received while kneeling. And the majority of students (and even a few of the parents) received on the tongue.

    According to my daughter, the kneeling and tongue reception really “took off” when the current priest , who doesn’t appear much older than the students, arrived maybe two years ago. Oh, yes…. He also has times for Confession 5 (maybe 6) days a week.

  19. Glennonite says:

    My retired priest (Father “Gameshow-host”) will give me Communion while I’m on my knees, But he usually “cuts” the side of my mouth with the host (as a penalty, I suppose). Sometimes he’ll bang it into my upper lip and gums so hard that I can still feel it on the way home.

    One other version of using the sacraments as weapons, is that he seems to make a point of not showing up for Confessions SPECIFICALLY on the First Fridays/Saturdays. I’ve taken to drive 70 miles roundtrip to the next town in order to guarantee having a confessor. After so many failed attempts, I finally completed nine consecutive First Fridays so-as-to finish my Novena to the Sacred Heart this past April. I really think that he thinks the sacraments….are jokes.

    BTW Father, your website started taking approximately two minutes to load new pages, about one month ago. FYI.

    Maybe this is God’s pay-back for all of the times that I held my little sister’s hat above her reach…

  20. Thorfinn says:

    You don’t have to stick your tongue all the way out … but …

    our congregation was advised to do so by a good retired priest and I’ve found it helpful. Don’t worry about looking silly. Stick your tongue out. Not far enough is a problem; too far is not. It’s hard to know the optimal distance when you first start out, and you can always dial it back when you get the hang of it. And, frankly, if you’re ever receiving from someone who is not used to placing the Host on the tongue (most extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, many deacons, some priests), you want to make it as easy for them as possible.

    More helpful hints (for OF Masses):

    Receive kneeling, particularly (from a strictly practical perspective) if you are the same height or taller than the priest/deacon/EMHC. I’ve tried receiving on the tongue, standing, from a 5 foot (tall) nun. I guess we made it work, but it’s a recipe for disaster. Just kneel.

    Keep your mouth closed, head slightly bowed, and hands tightly folded until you say Amen. Then head back, tongue out. Don’t make the priest/deacon/EMHC guess how you’re receiving. Kneeling helps here, too. The shock of seeing you kneel gives them time to reconsider dropping the Host on your unprepared hands.

  21. nycdreamr says:

    “Communion in the hand, along with turning our altars around, has been one of the most powerful corrosives on our Catholic identity for the last few decades.” Right up there with sexual abuse, sexual abuse cover ups and corruption scandals at the Vatican bank. Let’s keep things in perspective.

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