proper method of receiving communion : LUSENET : Catholic Pages Forum : One Thread

Could anyone tell me what is the current legislation about the method of receiving Holy Communion? 1. Is it the priest's choice or the communicants whether they receive in the hand or on the tongue? 2. Is in the priest's choice or the communicants whether they receiving standing or kneeling? 3. If one is not kneeling, what is the proper reverence for the Blessed Sacrament before receiving? Is the practice of genuflection mandated? Encouraged? Allowed? Prohibited? By the current legislation I would be interested in knowing in what documents I can find the answers to the above questions. Thanks much

-- Anonymous, May 13, 1998


Communion law

Most of your questions are answered in Inaestimabile donum which was issued in 1980. You can read the entire document online at The Catholic Liturgical Library.

In brief, the manner in which a person receives Holy Communion is his own choice. If not receiving kneeling, a reverence should be made while approaching the altar. Since the standard form of reverence before the Eucharist is a genuflection, this seems most appropriate. However, the document does not specify what form the sign of reverence should take. Note that "should" in Church documents does not mean "opitional." "Should" is still a command.

-- Anonymous, May 15, 1998

Another answer to your questions can easily be found in a pamphlet given out by our priest entitled, The Good News About Expressing Reverence in our Celebration of the Eucharist by Bart Karwacki, OFM Conv. This can be obtained through The Companions of St. Anthony Conventual Fransiscan Friars 410-988-9833.

-- Anonymous, May 18, 1998

I referred back to the document "Inaestimible donum" and found a clear reference to taking the Holy Eucharist in the hand:

9.Eucharistic Communion. Communion is a gift of the Lord, given to the faithful through the minister appointed for the purpose. It is not permitted that the faithful should themselves pick up the consecrated bread and the sacred chalice; still less that they should hand them from one to another.

This is very clear, although it was aparently not deemed important in this venue to explain why, possibly because there was an assumption on the part of the writers that we SHOULD all know why. The reason being that the Holy Eucharist may not be touched by unconsecrated hands. Only the priest's hands are consecrated through Holy Ordination. It is a tragedy that in these post-conciliar times that so many faithful Catholics are so confused and cannot even trust their own priest, in many cases, to give them lawful guidance. It has become the responsibility of the laity to make sure they have been catechised properly by READING THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, and referring back to all the Vatican Council II documents and so many others that have been issued since then to clarify the original document. Are any of us too good, to high and mighty to kneel in the Presence of God? That is the answer to "should we kneel while receiving Communion." We should all try to remember that we ARE CATHOLICS and this DOES set us apart in the way we worship from protestants. As the referring document again states, "26.The venerable practice of genuflecting before the Blessed Sacrament, whether enclosed in the tabernacle or publicly exposed, as a sign of adoration, is to be maintained. [37] This act requires that it be performed in a recollected way. In order that the heart may bow before God in profound reverence, the genuflection must be neither hurried nor careless." In other words, this should not be a tiny little bob down and up, but rather a touching of at least one knee to the floor while making the sign of the cross. Remember these are acts of REVERENCE AND ADORATION. No one should worry in the least about how they look to anyone except God.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 1998

I do so wish people would take some time and did some historical studies. The Eucharist has not always been handled in the same way via the centuries. In the early church it was very much a communal expereince, an agape, with everyone involved. No talk then of conscrated hands versus non-consecrated hands. Indeed, the bishop and his deacons were one with the people, not set apart as they will become in later centuries. However, as time passes and our church becomes more formalized its Eucharistic practices also changed and became more formalized. The idea of being unworthy to even touch the Eucharist became the norm. Many people went without the Eucharist for weeks, months out of this sense of unworthiness. The Eucharistic Cup was withdrawn from people and only reserved for priests . In some instances the king is the only other person allowed to let the Chalice touch his lips on his coronation. Lest I drone on about history....I shall say this: Thank God for Vatican II !!! Once more we are reminded that all of us ALL of US are the People of God. We are sinful people who stand in need of the Eucharist. The priest is not a extrodinary person who is the only person worthy to touch Christ. All of us are. If my lips, tongue and innards are worthy to recieve Christ in the Eucharist then so are my hands. My heart is open and filled with JOY as I recieve the Eucharist into my cupped hands. I receive with all humilty, standing before my God. My whole self is worshiping God in adoration when I recieve and when I sit back in my pew. That is my genuflection. I believe God likes it just as much as any other thing someone might wish to do.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 1998

Re: Martha Therese Hisington's remarks about reception of Holy Communion. Vatican II in no way, shape or form changed the way the Catholic faithful received the BODY,BLOOD, SOUL, and DIVINITY of JESUS CHRIST. History will teach Miss Hisington that our Catholic liturgy and practices have been adapted over the centuries and she is bound by Catholic law as it exists today as we all are. History will also teach those who have been so deceived by the AMCHURCH agenda that early Protestants took Communion in the hand to show and demonstrate their DISBELIEF in the REAL PRESENCE. How sad to see so many Catholics imitating Protestants who do not believe in the Eucharist. Perhaps Miss Hisington might read the Early Church Fathers to learn how the Early Church saw themselves in relation to each other, the ordained and in their relationship to God. It was certainly not in the horizontal "lets worship each other" attitude that Miss H.suggests. By the way, a genuflection is not sitting in your pew reflecting upon how much like God you think you are. Please if you cannot follow the teachings and laws of our beautiful Catholic faith, be honest, leave and follow the Protestants you so admire.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 1998

Apology to Miss Hisington

Mea Culpa. My letter was intended to reply to the letter of Connie Ostlund which preceeds my letter in this thread. I am very sorry.

-- Anonymous, May 24, 1998

Hi Patrick

We should not misread para. 9. It is stating that the faithful may not pick up a host out of the ciborium or the chalice from the Altar. That a minister must distuibute communion. If you read the "Instruction on the Manner of Distributing Holy Communion". This is found in the Document on the Sacred Liturgy in Vatican II It is the Bishop that decides what is best for his diocese. But some choice is left for the faithful in most areas, however reception on the tongue must always be an option for the faithful. Kneeling or genuflection when everyone else is not doing the same may cause disruption in the disrtibution of Communion which should be avoided. I have distributed both the Body and the Blood at the Sacrafice of the Mass over the years and have even had the privilege of distributing the Body of Christ at a Papal Mass and believe me sudden, unexpected actions by persons approaching communion are not good.

-- Anonymous, May 25, 1998

In no way do I wish to prolong this but I do need to make a answer. I used to be a Protestant. I only admire Protestants in asmuch as they are fellow Christians. I have read the Early Fathers and the history of the Early Church, in fact I have done some graduate studies on the subject. I have no intention of resuming life as a Protestant. I am very much a happy joyful Catholic I guess you are just stuck with the likes of me in this wonderous Church of ours. May God bless you

-- Anonymous, May 25, 1998

Thank you for the correction, "Mr. More"..I was very confused until I read your apology. In response to Connie and Mr. Pohlman: I appreciate your information, and yes, I understand what Paragraph 9 means. The implications of p.9, however must be understood to carry over to any touching of the Holy Eucharist by the communicant because this document follows hundreds of others that have spelled out in so many words this policy, tradition, act of obediance and faith. Connie, I also "used to be a protestant." That is neither here nor there as I am now a Catholic and worship as a Catholic. Yes, Mr. Pohlman, it can be "disruptive" to the communion procession, that glorious, choreographed show that Cardinal Mahoney envisions for his Archdiocese by the year 2000, when a devout Catholic takes it into his silly head to kneel. Let me relate a short story about a devout older man (friend of a friend) who went to the rail to receive communion, knelt down, and lifted his head and opened his mouth as the bishop who was distributing approached. The bishop ordered him, "stand up." The man stayed where he was, his eyes on the tabernacle in adoration. The bishop ordered more loudly, "STAND UP, I SAID!." The man knelt. After the third order, the bishop flushed with anger as the man kept kneeling, he finally gave him the Eucharist on the tongue. During the homily, the bishop took the opportunity to publicly humiliate the man by ordering him to his office after Mass. The man obediently went to the bishop's office and asked him one question, "Are you too good to bend your knee to your God?" The bishop reddened once again and said, "No, sir." That ended the interview. WHO disrupted that Communion? I feel pity and compassion for those clerics who are on their way to the Jubilee year with Cardinal Mahoney's script under their arms and are so flustered by an act of reverence and adoration of God, that their whole day is ruined. How do you know how saintly that person may be? You may be refusing the Eucharist to a saint and not know it. Please, let people be as devout as they wish!!! I am not suggesting allowing someone to proceed to the altar rail walking on their knees, but we DO have valid traditions in the Church that call for kneeling and genuflecting, and Connie, we do not have to "put up with you" except out of fraternal charity and the desire that you conform to Church law and tradition. If the mangled manner in which many priests and ordinaries have misinterpreted Vatican II is what attracted you to joining the Catholic Church, I am sorry you were so misled. The Holy Mass in NOT a hootenanny as Mother Angelica said in her response to Cardinal Mahony. Form DOES matter and God DOES know the difference. Yes, in "modern" churches that have no holy pictures or statues, where the tabernacle is no where in sight, where the priest faces the congregation over a table with his back to the altar (if there still IS an altar!), no crucifix in sight, where there are dancing girls in short sleevless costumes gyrating in front of the congregation, it IS very difficult to remember why you are there. It WOULD be rather embarrassing to stop the "proceedings" with a reverent genuflection. That's why I stay away from that kind of church and why I drive 120 miles to go to a Latin Mass where reverence is practiced. I am not suggesting that a mass in the vernacular is wrong, as long as all the lawful liturgy is used and the altar has not be cut in half or removed and the Eucharist has been consecrated with the CORRECT words. It doesn't take a college degree in theology to learn how to worship God in a Catholic manner. And I am willing to take all the heat any modernist wants to dish out because I will never be anything but happy to suffer insults for My Lord. Just remember folks, this is your eternal salvation you are fooling around with, and this is not just an intellectual debate. I will continue to pray for "the conversion of sinners, the union of all Christians and our final union with Him in Heaven."

-- Anonymous, May 25, 1998

Eastern Catholic method of receiving communion

I am a recent convert to Catholicism, and was received into the Church in the Byzantine Catholic rite.

In the Eastern Catholic rite, we receive communion standing up. The priest holds a chalice in which are fragments of the consecrated bread soaked in the wine. Each communicant comes forward, lifts a little napkin that is beneath the chalice and holds it beneath his chin, to prevent any fragment of the Blessed Sacrament falling to the floor. The priest, using a golden spoon, places the Body and Blood of Christ into each communicant's open mouth. Having received communion, the communicant courteously passes the end of the napkin to the next in line, blesses himself, and returns to his pew. While communion is being served, the cantor and the congregation are continuously singing communion hymns.

The point here is that it is not kneeling or standing that matters, but the atmosphere of reverence that is of critical importance. Americans seem so unaccustomed to revering anything or anybody above themselves that it is often difficult to find that reverential atmosphere. I am happy to have found it in the Byzantine Catholic rite, and I hope that those in the Latin rite will find the way to restore reverence to communion, standing OR kneeling.


Paul Fox

-- Anonymous, May 30, 1998

Response to Eastern Catholic method of receiving communion

Dear Paul,

You are correct, Paul. The communion at your church sounds very reverent and beautiful. One of the problems in the Latin rite, however is that lack of reverence as was cited by Susan in an earlier question on the subject of kneeling at mass. Paul McLachlan and John Gibson both answered her with the correct information. But, in Susan's church the priest is once again, misinterpreting and "modernizing" the rubrics and liturgy and the faithful are forced into disobediance of their priest in order to do what they lawfully must and what their hearts tell them is right.

And Susan dear, try to remember that the Catholic Church was banned in Japan for 300 years and it was ONLY THE FAITHFUL, WITHOUT ANY PRIESTS WHO KEPT THEIR FAITH ALIVE. We need good priests, but we can get along without bad ones.

-- Anonymous, June 02, 1998

About the proper way to receive communion, I'd say reverently and frequently.

Many others in this thread have already covered the reverently part much better than I ever could so I'll leave that be.

About the frequently part, I'm refering to the previous mention about some people feeling not worthy enough to receive communion. My mom is one of those and will not go to communion if she thinks she doesn't deserve it. My belief (and I *think* this is the view of the church but someone please confirm it or correct me!) is that God wants to come to us, and most especially when we are in need. So at those times that we think we are least worthy, that's the time we have the greatest need for communion and the time that God wants most to be a part of our lives.

Now, back to the reverence part. I've got a question about that. When I was in grade school, I used to have terrible allergies and asthma and was always highly prone to lung and bronchial troubles. This made talking (not to mention singing) in church very difficult. Countless times, I had to eat a whole package of cough drops or chew gum just to soothe my throat to avoid hacking continuously (especially during incensing!!! Even though I sat at the very back of the Church.) And, it has happened, on occasion that I forgot to get the stuff out of my mouth before going up for communion! How embarassing. So, I'd try to stick it up in my cheek or under my tongue and red-faced, mumble my Amen.

Not exactly reverent, not exactly the proper way to receive communion, but it was an honest mistake. And I don't know what, if anything, I should do about it now. Actually, it's a little amusing to think about it now. Any comments?

-- Anonymous, June 15, 1998

I am a Catholic Convert of one year. I have never received the Eucharist except on the tongue and never will, God willing. Why, because it is how God has led me and while I know it is up to the individual, I can't understand why anyone would "want" to do otherwise. I understand that the Pope will not serve except on the Tongue and at the Monastery of the Angels (Mother Angelica) that is the only way it is served also. We are talking about Jesus, do you believe in the "Real Presence" of Jesus in the Eucharist, I do and, therefore, want Him right into my mouth, my body. It is my way of showing my love, my respect, my reverence, my trust and oh the love with which it fills me. The song we love "Fill my cup, Lord, I lift it up Lord, come and quench the thirsting of my soul..." and he does as only Jesus can each time I receive the Eucharist. When you kneel and say "Lord I am not worthy.......try following it with Fill my Cup and then go take the Eucharist and see the difference if you receive on the tongue. A challenge from one who has not been Catholic long but loves it. God Bless!

-- Anonymous, June 23, 1998

communion in the hand

Dear Lisa Congratulations on your becoming a Catholic. I can assure you that I believe in the Real Presence and in every other doctrine of the Church taught by the Pope and the bishops in communion with him. Like many other Catholics I prefer the ancient method of receiving Holy Communion in my hand and always do so except when I am receiving in one of the Eastern Rites where it is done by intinction. Actually, the Holy Father does distribute Holy Communion in the hand, though I think somewhat reluctantly. When the Italian Bishops' Conference petitioned for the permission, the Pope granted it for Italy, but not for his diocese (Rome). Then he granted it for Rome, but not for St. Peter's. Finally he permitted it except for people receiving from him. On his many trips around the world, however, it was pointed out to him that this practice is almost universal and he acceded to the custom in the places he visited of giving communion in the hand to those people who were designated to receive from him. I have often been present at Masses which the Holy Father has celebrated in Rome an d seen him give communion in the hand. You will also notice, if you watch a papal mass on television (at Christmas or Easter for example) that the people receiving from him do not genuflect before receiving Holy Communion. This brings me to my second point, just because you see something on Mother Angelica doesn't meant that it is the authentic practice of the Church. Mother Angelica is on the board of directors for Adoremus, a society which is dedicated to the task of replacing the novus ordo mass of Paul VI with a variation of the 1962 Missal of John XXIII, the last of the authorized Tridentine revisions. Mother Angelica, Father Fessio, and other members of Adoremus have made it clear that they believe Paul VI exceded the mandate of Vatican II in the liturgical revisions he issued in 1969. The Mass at Mother's monastery stays technically within the norms of Paul VI's novus ordo, but executes much of the ceremonial in a way rather unique to Adoreums and its proponents. It seems from what I see when I have seen their mass that the nuns all receive directly on the tongue, and Mother Angelica as abbess may have ordered them to do so--it would be within her competnency as their superior (and the nuns themselve may prefer this method) but I think I have seen members of the congregation receive on the tongue. Certianly just as liberal priests cannot refuse to administer communion on the tongue, neither may conservative priests refuse the communicant's option of receiving in the hand. The legislation cleary leaves the choice to the communicant. Communion on the tongue is dying out as a practice, but I have noticed that the majority of those receiving on the tongue are teenagers so it may be going dormant and someday see a revival. Here in DC, at the National Shrine and at St. Matthew's Cathedral--two pretty mainline churches, probably 80% of of the communicants receive in the hand. So, while I do not make the same choice as you do, I am happy for your becoming a Catholic and grateful for your belief in the Real Presence. Patrick

-- Anonymous, June 28, 1998

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