Wherein buttinski @austeni publicly insults @latinmassuk over his suggestion of Spiritual Communion in time of contagion. @fatherz subsequently rants.

Please follow! I’d like to get past 50K soon.

An unavoidable periergos of the extreme papalotry gang, Austen Iveriegh today sticks his nose in where it has no business in Tweet intended to denigrate Joseph Shaw of the UK’s long-established Latin Mass Society.  I am a dues paying member of the LMS even though I don’t live in the UK.  We have to support these good institutions and their work.  “Go and do likewise.”

Shaw posted at the Catholic Herald about reception of Communion during the Traditional Latin Mass in the present environment of contagion.

Shaw rightly states that it is not permitted to distribute Communion on the hand during according to Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form.  I add that the prohibition includes Communion in all rites of the Traditional Roman Rite, such as Communion outside of Mass, or Communion of the sick or dying.

Shaw then observes that the Bishops Conference of England and Wales advised that Communion should only be given on the hand, not the tongue, which leaves traditional Mass goers in a bind.

Well, not really.  There is, as Shaw notes, the possibility of a) not going forward for Communion and b) making a Spiritual Communion.

Enter the buttinski.

Liturgical fundamentalism.  That is clearly intended as an insult to Joseph Shaw and, indeed, to all who prefer the Traditional Roman Rite.   That from a guy who thinks that every word that droppeth from Francis is tantamount to the 11th apparition of Vishnu.

Firstly, note the antinomian attitude of this tweet: blithely ignore the law.   It really is the state of affairs that Communion cannot be distributed on the hand in the Traditional Latin Mass, etc.  If Ivereigh thinks that he and the New catholic Red Guard don’t have to obey laws, the rest of us do.

The more important the issue, the more important it is to obey the laws concerning that issue.  Communion is really important.

Furthermore, I remind the readership that frequent Communion is quite a new-fangled idea, which picked up speed at the time of Pius X.  Communion was rarer in times past, probably because people really believed what the Church teaches about the Eucharist and about the gravity of mortal sin.

Somehow, the greatest of the saints whom we venerate today managed to achieve profound holiness and only receive a few times a year.  Amazing, right?

Have there been benefits from frequent Communion?  I am beginning to wonder.  Look around.  What’s the state of the Church right now?

By the way, to be able to make an effective Spiritual Communion you have to be in the state of grace.

How many people going forward to stick their hands out for the “white thing” are in the state of grace these days?

Could that be a problem for the present state of the Church?  Maybe?

How many of Catholics know or, if instructed, believe what the Church teaches about the Eucharist?

But forward they regularly troop, uninformed and unshriven, to get the “white thing” that makes them feel good about belonging before they sing a song together.  Alas, that is what Communion time is for many Catholics, I’m afraid.  And I really am afraid on that score.

I sincerely think that, if that the number of well-instructed believers were to grow through sound and repeated catechesis, many Catholics would spontaneously choose to receive on the tongue, as their sense of the sacredness of the moment of Communion broadened and deepened.

Here is a prayer to make a Spiritual Communion.

My Jesus,
I believe that you are truly present
in the Most Blessed Sacrament.
I love You above all things
and I desire to possess You within my soul.
Since I am unable at this moment
to receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as being already there,
and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.    Amen.

“Never permit me to be separated from You.”

This reminds me of the ritornello in St. Alphonsus’ Way of the Cross, which the great saint probably derived from what the priest prays in his second prayer before his own Communion during the TLM: fac me tuis semper inhærére mandátis, et a te numquam separári permíttas… make me to adhere always to Your commands, and never permit me to be separated from You.

God’s laws and unity with the God who gave the laws.  Saying this over and over and over again for nearly 30 years has had an effect on me.  We are our rites.  We pray what we believe and we come to believe and live what we pray.

The Church’s liturgical laws are important.  Our sacred liturgical worship shapes who we are.  We are our rites.  Change those rites or disobey the laws and you harm the Body of Christ, both in the person of our baptized neighbor and in the Person in the Host.

The world doesn’t come to a grinding halt if a faithful Catholic goes to Mass and, even when in the state of grace, chooses not to receive Communion.  The world does grind more grittily, however, if someone – even one person – receives without discerning the Body and Blood of the Lord.

We are all harmed by sacrilegious Communions because we are all in this together.

I add now something I noted – also at the Catholic Herald – from the Archdiocese of Portland, where my old friend Archbp Sample carries his heavy mandate.   He is deeply imbued with the spirit of the liturgy and he is a fine canonist.

The article states that people can receive on the tongue in this time of coronavirus, but precautions should be take to avoid finger contact with the tongue.  Obvious, right?  There’s more.

The right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue has been affirmed by the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon, which noted Monday that the risk of transmitting infection when receiving on the tongue or hand is “more or less equal.”  [I’m not entirely convinced.  But wait!]

We consulted with two physicians regarding this issue, one of which is a specialist in immunology for the State of Oregon. They agreed that done properly the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue or in the hand poses a more or less equal risk,” the archdiocese’s office of divine worship wrote March 2.

“The risk of touching the tongue and passing the saliva on to others is obviously a danger however the chance of touching someone’s hand is equally probable and one’s hands have a greater exposure to germs.”

One’s hands have a greater exposure to germs.

So, it isn’t “more or less equal”, it seems.

The instruction from Portland, citing Redemptionis Sacramentum, goes on also to stress what I have said over the last days: Communion, either way, should be received properly.   PROPER reception will greatly reduce the risk of contact hand to hand or hand to tongue.

There is quite a roundup in that article about different reactions and policies in these USA and in the UK.   There’s some boilerplate blah blah from a bishop about Communion on the hand “is every bit as respectful as receiving on the tongue” and “there is nothing ontologically preferable to receiving on the tongue”.  No, in the first place and, of course in the second place.

The manner of reception of Communion doesn’t ontologically change the Host, which is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.  However, as the old adage runs, “Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur … Whatever is received, is received in the manner of the receiver.” How we receive Communion makes a big difference for us!

The manner of reception is not indifferent.  How could it be, given the importance of the act and the moment?

Whatever manner you, dear reader, are presently using to receive Communion, consider well…

Are you in the state of grace when you receive?  If you know you are not, reception means big trouble.  Sacrilegious Communion is a terrible sin.  If are are not sure about your state, you might be able to go forward, but it could be better for you to abstain and go when you are sure.

GO TO CONFESSION!   Do you want to receive Communion and not have the slightest worry?  Go to confession.  FATHERS… do you like the idea that your parishioners might be in a state of turmoil about reception of Communion?  HEAR confessions!  Teach and preach about confession, the state of grace and Communion.

Bodily postures both reflect our inward attitude and they can shape our inward attitude.  Communion should be approached with awe and humility.

Which posture more effectively embodies and then reinforces awe and humility?


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Liberals, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, New catholic Red Guards and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. The Astronomer says:

    Father, to paraphrase you, I think this is how the guys at Lutheran Satire might put Austen Ivereigh’s attitude:

    “That from a guy who thinks that every word that droppeth from Francis is tantamount to the 11th apparition of Horus the sky god.”

    [For the Lutheran Satire reference. Horus… yes. That’s good.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  2. JustaSinner says:

    What a bunch of blather, these Bishops and ‘learned’ theologists! Is the Eucharist the Body of Christ? If so, it deserves the utmost respect. This not-on-the-tongue diatribe is merely the Leftist Churchers not letting a good crisis go to waste. And after a while, the sheep in the pews will be indoctrinated and another wonderful mystery of the Church will be forgotten.
    These Bishops and so-called learned men are paving their path to Hell. I don’t particularly care for anyone of them burning, but they’ll take many Innocents with them. I am just a sinner, so the jury is out to whether or not I will be joining them on the Eternal Burning Spit tm., but that doesn’t prevent me from speaking the Truth of Christ.

  3. paxbenedict says:

    ‘’I sincerely think that, if that the number of well-instructed believers were to grow through sound and repeated catechesis, many Catholics would spontaneously choose to receive on the tongue, as their sense of the sacredness of the moment of Communion broadened and deepened.’’

    Absolutely correct Father. As that is exactly what happened to me. After going through the rigmarole of RCIA I actually began the joy of learning about and really living my faith. And all that here in oh so modernist Scotland. As I I’m 250 miles, flight or ship, from the Latin Mass I receive our Lord gratefully and when I can on the tongue here in novus ordo land, one of only 2 others in the parish to do so.

    Well, at least until yesterday when receiving on the tongue was banned by the Bishop. Thanks for the spiritual communion prayer…. most helpful and very beautiful.

    Fabulous blog btw Father. Thank you.

  4. veritas vincit says:

    Kudos to Archbishop Sample, who seems to have taken a commonsense approach, too often lacking in this discussion, of taking expert medical advice as well as keeping in mind the requirements of canon law regarding the reception of Holy Communion.

    Thank you, Father Z, for quoting him. And thank you for reminding us all about the need to receive properly, in a state of grace and properly prepared (even if you are mostly “preaching to the choir” here). :-)

  5. JabbaPapa says:

    There are reportedly secret Masses now being held in Italy.

    O Tempora ! O Mores !

  6. WmHesch says:

    Americans might look to pastoral practice during the late 19th century cholera epidemics. With respect to the Sacraments themselves, Holy Communion was NEVER withheld (notwithstanding the 50%+ morbidity rate of cholera). The possibility of being a martyr of charity comes with the job, so to speak.

    Our forefathers were more concerned about proximity during confession and made provision for prudent distance- General absolution was often employed, as well as confession by telephone (although I think that received a negative dubium reply in the early 20th century).

    There’s an interesting article on the subject in the 1892 American Ecclesiastical Review, vol. 7, pg. 278 et seq.

  7. Dan says:

    Do the KoC still fund that guy?

  8. The very clerics and other liberals, who complain that to refuse Communion to pro-abortion politicians and other public sinners is to make a political football out of the Eucharist, are the same who implement/promote:

    1. Forcing people to receive on the hand;
    2. Banning kneelers and Communion rails so that people who can’t get up off the floor unassisted are forced to receive standing;
    3. Priests stationing themselves in unpredictable places from Mass to Mass to distribute Communion so that people are forced to receive from lay ministers;

    thereby making a political football out of the Eucharist.

  9. Zelie Therese OCDS says:

    Does Spiritual Communion cover the requirement to receive once during the Easter Season?

  10. ex seaxe says:

    Thank you Father for the Spiritual Communion prayer.
    Frequent Communion is not the main topic here, but people had over the centuries rather forgotten that the Council of Trent wanted it. “Session XXII; Chapter 8: The sacred and holy Synod would fain indeed that, at each mass, the faithful who are present should communicate, not only in spiritual desire, but also by the sacramental participation of the Eucharist, that thereby a more abundant fruit might be derived to them from this most holy sacrifice: but ….”. On the other hand, no doubt the Council Fathers also desired that all the faithful should be free from any attachment to sin.

  11. abdiesus says:

    While upon reflection, it does make sense, this is nevertheless the first time I had ever heard that making a Spiritual Communion requires that one be in a state of grace already. I am 100% sure that there are a lot of Catholics I know who believe that if they haven’t been able to get to confession they can just make a Spiritual Communion instead. However apparently that is incorrect!

    How is it possible that this important piece of information has been, seemingly, entirely ignored/suppressed? If, unaware of this, one attempts to make a Spiritual Communion in such a state, what is the result? Is it an unwitting but nevertheless mortal sin?

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  13. Dan says:

    Meanwhile, in my own NO parish, Today 2 kneelers were set out at Mass, (for the first time in my lifetime, possibly in the history of the parish) to make it easier for people to kneel and receive on the tongue. we are blessed with a priest willing to go to battle for the souls of his care.

  14. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: Easter obligation, the Church does not require us to do the impossible. So you would be dispensed, presumably, and the spiritual Communion would be a delightful extra.

  15. APX says:

    Zelie, no, it doesn’t. One has to actually physically receive communion to fulfill the precept.

    I’m wonder what the Byzantine Catholics are doing? Communion in the hand isn’t even a thing for them n

  16. JakeMC says:

    I would love to be able to kneel to receive Communion. But in my parish (a Novus Ordo parish), the only place to kneel is directly on the floor. Since I have spinal muscular atrophy, if I kneel on the floor, it is literally impossible for me to get up. So the best I can do is to bow before receiving…which I do on the tongue.

  17. Charles Sercer says:

    You spoke of not being so sure that frequent reception of Communion has had good results. I agree (i.e. “not so sure”) in the context of today’s Church, yet I believe that theoretically it can have good results for individuals who are well disposed. Any daily Mass goer who leads a life of prayer faithfully each and every day according to his state of life will likely be well disposed to frequently communicate. It is not limited to the monastic state, but those faithfully living it are more likely well disposed than those who are not in a monastic or religious community. My time at monastery showed me what that could look like – 99+% of the time, daily reception was in the early morning (7am-ish) before anything was eaten, and directly after Matins and Lauds when one had already been saturated in prayer since 5am or earlier. This was one of the greatest blessings in my life – the 2 hours of prayer followed by Low Masses set the mood – rather, the soul and mind – perfectly for Holy Communion. The handful of times when I had to miss Matins and Lauds, I dearly missed the long preparation and truly felt less-prepared – even though certainly still relatively well disposed and in a state of grace – to receive Holy Communion.

    To me it is less than certain that those who only go to Sunday Mass are well disposed. Certainly there are a number of Catholics who follow Church teachings and are in a state of grace each Sunday, but to me that is not enough to ensure one is well disposed. Maybe I am too much of a perfectionist, but Father also mentions the saints who obviously received less frequently than most Catholics today, although it is true they were only “going along with” the customs and rules of the times.

    The bottom line for me is that, while allowing that frequent reception for those well catechized about, and practice, what “well disposed” means is a good and holy thing, it seems at least as good to acknowledge that for many people – perhaps even most people, in today’s society – less frequent but more emphatically prepared for reception would be best. I.e. fasting for 3+ hours before (from midnight if the Mass is early enough), and more purposefully immersing oneself in a spirit of prayer in the hours leading up to Holy Mass. Because if we are honest with ourselves, many of us will find that even outside of the 3-hour-fasting question, we do not make silence/reflection and prayer as high of a priority as we can and should in at least the hour (ideally more) before Mass.

  18. JonPatrick says:

    @abdiesus It would seem to me that if one was not able to get to confession before Mass it would be a catch-22 if one was neither able to receive communion or make a spiritual communion. The way I interpreted those words is that the the spiritual communion is more effective if one is in a state of grace. But I don’t see how it can be a mortal sin for making one if one is not in the state of grace because (e.g) they weren’t able to be at the church on Saturday from 3 to 3:15 PM for the only confession time their parish offered.

  19. TRW says:

    Over the past while I’ve been reading the encyclical Mediator Dei (issued by Venerable Pope Pius XII in 1947). It does a great job of explaining away the notion that the purpose of the Mass is for the laity to share a “communal meal”. Communion for the laity is not the telos of the Mass. The so-called “Spirit” of Vatican II really did(albeit illegitimately) introduce a new theology concerning the Mass. And this was published less than twenty years before all the madness that preceded and followed the council.

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