LIBERA ME, Domine, Iesu Christe, ab omnibus iniquitatis meis et universis malis,
fac me tuis semper inhærere mandatis et a te numquam separari permittas. Amen.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Dare We ?

I am a Catholic.

I am eternally grateful that God was good enough to bring me home to the Catholic Church; and to give me the grace to know that it was true . . . and that, in particular, when I receive Holy Communion, I receive the Body & Blood, Soul & Divinity, of my Blessed Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

One of the consequences of that, for me, is a serious commitment to treating the Blessed Sacrament with the greatest possible reverence – and I have to be honest and say that I had that even before I became a Catholic; but, as you might expect, it has got more committed since I recognized the complete certainty of the nature of the Sanctissimum.

I am very well aware that I’m by no means alone in this : indeed, although I can’t now find the actual post, I clearly remember reading, a while ago now, a post by Gem of the Ocean about the occasion when, after many years of loyal service to a particular church, she parted company with it after the Pastor reprimanded her publicly (during the Mass) for taking issue with someone’s very irreverent treatment of the Host s/he had just received.

One thing I find particularly uncomfortable is reception of Holy Communion into the hand; if only because there is plenty of evidence – not least with one’s own eyes (and the ‘black glove test’ provides further evidence) – that this leads to particles of the Host ending up on the floor, or on clothes, or elsewhere . . . potentially thereby being desecrated, but in any event certainly not being treated with the reverence which they deserve.

Now : I know that I’m not alone in this either, not least because (as I’ve mentioned before) Bishop Athanasius Schneider wrote a splendid little book called Dominus Est’ calling for a return to Holy Communion on the tongue for exactly these reasons . . . and the Holy Father obviously recognized the merits of his arguments, because it is noticeable that His Holiness has, since it came out, returned to distributing Holy Communion only directly onto the tongue.

Further, no-one has – so far – been able to come up to me with a good reason why people should receive Holy Communion in the hand. There’s clearly no need for it, and no valid theological argument for it . . . so why do it, when there’s so much against it ?

Let me say at this point, by the way, that I’m not suggesting that all those who choose to receive Holy Communion into the hand do so for any irreverent or improper reason : and indeed my own experience is that many of them show marked reverence. My point is only that they cannot provide a good reason why the practice should continue, when there are so many obvious reasons why it should not.

What I was wondering was whether those Catholics on Great Britain who share Bishop Schneider’s viewpoint (which appears to be the Holy Father’s as well) might conceivably dare to ask the Holy Father to use this trip not only as an opportunity to Beatify Cardinal Newman, but also to publicise the Church’s real position on the reception of Holy Communion : that is, to make it quite clear that the ordinary form of reception should always be directly onto the tongue, and that reception into the hand is only an extraordinary form . . . which should only be permitted when circumstances make it absolutely necessary. (I have to say that I find it difficult think what those might be : about the only one I can think of might be to allow a newly instituted Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist to do so, as a sign of his or her right to handle Our Blessed Lord.)

Dare we ?


  1. I ws taught in my confirmationclass to hold my hands so as to 'make a throne for God' - it would need Fr Hunwicke to find the Father of the Church who first said that. As for receiving kneeling, this is the authorised Anglican practice, though sadly often it is not done. And receiving on the tongue? Since invariably, however carefully done, there will be occasions where saliva in transferred to the priest's hands (and so potentially to other communicants) reception in the hand seems to me a more decent option. Nor can I imagine Our Blessed Lord giving the Apostles communion on the tongue - but maybe I am wrong?_

  2. More than any practical reason, such as falling particles, my own preference for receiving on the tongue is owed to the fact it reinforces a sense of humility, which I would think is vital in approaching Our Lord.

    To kneel at the sanctuary, to receive the Blessed Sacrament handed down as if from on high, as you dare not even to proffer your unworthy hands, but simply open your mouth like a chick being fed by an adult bird. For that is what we are, in God's eyes. I am deeply sceptical of any argument - such as one often hears in favour of Communion in the hand - that we are somehow 'grown up'. Holding out one's hands to receive Our Lord seems to me presumptuous, almost impetuous somehow!

    On the other hand, I sometimes receive from a priest who is so wobbly of hand in his great age that he frequently misses the mouth altogether... for this reason, to avoid something terrible happening, it might be best to receive in the hand in such cases!

    As to you question, 'dare we' - well we can try, but I suspect that this Pope prefers to lead by example and start an intellectual movement within the Church rather than utter dictats from on high... but a few more catechetical reminders would be no bad thing!!

  3. Ah. "The Incident" at the Communion rail. It's been almost a year now. Here is the report of the initial incident and here is the follow up.

    NO apology, EVER was given in the last year. I did send a letter of formal complaint to the bishop, and naturally NO response was given.

    I am holding him now as far more guilty than Fr. Mark. Fr. Mark I pray for. The bishlop can pray for himself. Ditto the incompetant, useless chancellor.

    As to Communion in the hand. A person bent on wrongdoing will take it out of his/her mouth when back in the pews, so that's no argument. (and yes, that's been done - there's video of someone who stole a Host that way two years ago - when that idiot "professor" in the Midwest was urging people to steal Hosts. The guy recieved it on the tongue, from a priest, kneeling. So all that is a fictional "Guarantee."

    As to the "only in extraordinary circumstances." Well. Put me in Athansius's camp. AFter having given Communion out thousands of times, I can confirm that there IS a small minority of people who WILL insist on slurping your fingers. "Lizard tongues" I mentally called them. Readers who are priests, deacons, or have been EMs will know exactly the type of Communicant I mean.

    And Communion in the hand was the way for almost 1000 years. Then, as now, the knuckleheads amongst us ruined it. I've never been one for "only the priest's sacred hands can touch and not our unworthy selves. Well, gee, my "unworthy" tongue touches the Host.

    The one good argument, is the crumbs issue. IF the hosts are especially crumbly, then perhaps. If the priest cleans ALL the ciboriums properly at Mass after Communion, then this isn't much of a problem, really. But I've known some dumb deacons not to and a dumb priest or two...not naming names here...

    As far as kneeling goes. I'm all in favor of providing Communion rails so people can kneel ... and that still accomodates those who need to stand.

    I'm ALL for the catechetical reminders.