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For your discernment:

FROM THE MAIL: VIEWERS EXPRESS STRONG VIEWS ON COMMUNION ON TONGUE VERSUS IN THE HAND

[Due to length, viewer may want to print article]

While Communion in the hand is fully approved by the Church, and is practiced by the large majority of Catholics, those who do receive on the tongue are vigorous in their advocacy of that way of receiving and raise a strong voice in urging a return to the older manners of reception. This was made obvious by the large number of e-mails in response to a recent commentary by retired priest Father Robert Lange of Fort Valley, Virginia [original article], who advocates Communion on the tongue.

 

For that reason, we will let their reactions to his commentary go on at length. Feel free to add your own view.

 

"I am a permanent deacon, ordained in 1989," noted Bill Townsend in Stevenson, Washington. "I went through the same thoughts as Father Lange. I was happy about the permission to receive Communion in the hand. I was a convert from the Episcopal Church and we always received in the hand. I felt the Catholic Church was finally coming of age with this permission.

 

"But through the years as I held the cup containing the Precious Blood, I noticed some people coming away from the priest holding the Host between their fingers, brushing their hands after consuming the host as if to brush off particles, or sauntering over to the cup in a sloppy manner. Since I am a deacon at the altar when I receive in the hand I am careful to note if there are any particles left in the palms; if so I put them in my mouth. This goes to show that more often than not there are sacred particles left over in the hands.

 

"I now, as Father Lange, am firmly opposed to Communion in the hand for the above reasons. Whenever I attend Holy Mass away from the altar, I and my wife now receive on the tongue. I have noticed more people in our church are receiving on the tongue than in the past. I would like to see the Holy Father remove the indult and have all people receive again on the tongue and again place a communion rail where people will again have to kneel to receive. To me this shows more respect for the sacred species and will remove some of the sloppy behavior that is so evident in our church today."

 

Wrote Mary E. McEnroe of Hazle Township, Pennsylvania: "I absolutely agree, Communion should only be received on the tongue.  I am almost seventy years old and I have never and would never receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in my hand. I believe it is disrespectful. The Priestís fingers have been consecrated in the Sacrament of Holy Orders and I believe he is the only person that should touch the Body & Blood of Jesus. I donít even believe in Eucharistic Ministers administering Holy Communion.  But again, that's only my personal opinion."

 

"I am convinced that Holy Communion in the hand is one of the greatest tragedies which has befallen the Church in the past forty years," opined another, Janet Wood of Michigan.

 

The views were certainly strong ones.

 

"I totally agree we should receive the Eucharist on our tongues," wrote a woman named Candace. "Our church has also seen the abuse of the Host.  It was found in the holy water fonts, prayer books, etcetera. I also would like to go one further:  I think the priest or deacon should give instructions that only Catholics in the state of grace are to receive Holy Communion. I see all the people going to Communion at Christmas, Easter, weddings, funerals and so forth. I would welcome them for a blessing from the priest. Let's stop worrying about offending people. Are they more important than offending Our Lord? Let's stand up for the faith, enough things are going askew.  Let's get our faith back in balance. Enough of the experiments."

 

Some even take exception to extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist.

 

"As time has gone on I have become more and more suspicious of 'change,'" said Dianna from Borden, Indiana. "Having been born in 1960, I have witnessed and been the victim of the chaos in the Church of the last fifty years. By the grace of God my faith has survived, but that of all my siblings and extended family has not.

"I prefer to receive Communion on the tongue as I did at my First Holy Communion (I would love to receive while kneeling too). I believe it is a way to show respect for the priesthood and the sacredness of the anointing of his hands. Many priests seem uncomfortable with the practice of communicants receiving on the tongue, however. Fortunately, my current pastor is 75 years old (an old pro at it) and now expects to do so when he sees me coming, so it is not awkward. 

 

"My thought is I prefer to receive this way as it seems more respectful to Jesus and expresses my faith that this is an extraordinary activity I am engaged in,  I am at ease that I am not inadvertently dropping any particles with the subsequent sacrilege that entails, and I am showing respect for the sacrament of Holy Orders. However, here is the conundrum: how to receive from an extraordinary minister?  I confess to being a bit curmudgeonly here and think the whole concept of these ministers has been bad for the Church for a number of reasons, too long to go into here. Since these ministers are not ordained, I receive from them in the hand.  I am not sure they have any kind of training to distribute Communion on the tongue, and I don't want them to accidentally drop the Host while trying to place It on my tongue. The whole situation is just messy at this point.  I miss the altar boys holding the plate under our chins as we receive, so as to make sure no particles fall on the floor."

 

"The root reason against hand Communion is the belief that the consecrated Host must not be touched by anyone except the priest," says David Frantz of Hockessin, Delaware. "This was taught by Pope Sixtus I in the second century. However, if laity are unable to touch the Host then we wouldn't have lay Eucharistic ministers to the sick. In my parish a small army of these spread out after masses each weekend taking Our Lord to the aged, sick, suffering and dying. As a minister myself, I know this has increased my faith and that of those I visit. There are currently an insufficient number of priests available to replace these lay men and women. While we pray for more priests, I pray this blessed practice will be allowed to continue."
 

The light above to the left, by the way, is from a room at Father Lange's home where he has the Blessed Sacrament exposed -- a light that he says showed up in a photo even though no electrical light was on at the time.


Said yet another:

 

"I'm in agreement with the harsh condemnations of receiving the Eucharist in the hand. We don't have any business handling our Lord. I believe that receiving the Eucharist in the hand denigrates the sacrament by the logic that the Eucharist is a gift from God having supernatural properties and when persons handle the Eucharist they interfere with the gift exchange. By handling the Eucharist persons for a brief moment take control of the Eucharist and give the Gift to themselves. This might not seem like an erroneous action, but, how the act of receiving in the hand may have played a major role in the deterioration of faith among Catholics, in particular believing in the Divine Presence of the Eucharist, since Vatican II. Over sixty percent of Catholics born after 1960 rarely or never attend Mass. And among this group ninety percent don't believe in the Divine Presence of the Holy Eucharist. What has occurred over this period is generation after generation of children witnessed their elders, parents and grandparents receiving the Eucharist in their hands. What gets lost is the reverence in receiving Holy Communion. When children witness their parents bow or kneel before the Eucharist and then receive the Eucharist on their tongue, as if they were a baby bird, they appreciate the magnitude of the sacrament. To witness a procession of congregants receiving the Eucharist in the hand from a Eucharist minister makes the extraordinary appear ordinary."

 

"Since I was a little girl I always had a profound love and respect for Jesus present in the Most Blessed Sacrament," is the view of another. "Somehow I knew that the Host is Jesus. I was raised receiving Him in the tongue. Then I started to receive Jesus in the hand like everybody else in our church, but I never felt good about it. So little by little started going back and today thatís how I receive my beloved Jesus, my Lord and my God. I believe it is much more reverent in receiving Jesus n the tongue. I wish our Pope would make it an obligation."

 

"I teach RCIA in my parish and we spend one whole meeting on how much reverence should be shown to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament," wrote Linda Brooks. "I cannot stress this enough to them! Along with this, I also stress a proper genuflection (to our King in the Blessed Sacrament), the folding of their hands going to and from the Communion Rail, and how they should try not to chew the Host, rather to let Him dissolve in their mouth. (Can you tell how old school I am and probably my age?)."

Dissenting was Delores Koch, of Sylvania, Ohio, who said: "I like receiving the Host on the hand. I never liked receiving it on the tongue. My son was an altar both  in our church and at the convent  next to our church. He told of all the altar boys talking and laughing about all of us receiving communion on our tongue. They went into laughing about what we looked like when we opened our mouths. The priests at our church told us we could receive it either way. Some  receive on their tongue from choice and some do if they are holding a child when they go up to Communion. If you know anything about lay people handing out Communion I would like to find out if the Pope gave the bishops of the United States permission to allow this."

 

Does it open a can of worms -- and create division?

 

As always, we must be obedient to the judgment of Rome. In Rome, John Paul II gave Communion on both hand and tongue, while Benedict XVI is said to prefer the tongue.

 

But that does not preclude freedom of opinion.

 

Many wanted a return to the use of the paten (to prevent particles or the Host itself from falling), as well as kneeling at an altar rail. This was a constant theme -- in the flood of e-mails.

 

"Through my own spiritual journey I have only been receiving Communion on the tongue for the past 18 months," noted a viewer named Michelle. "I felt Jesus was speaking to me through various things I have read so I decided to return to receiving Communion that way."

Wrote a nun, Sister Marjorie Kuntz: "After reading your article, I will again start to receive Holy Communion on the tongue for the deep respect of the True Presence of Jesus. When I am asked why I wear my 'good clothes' even during the week, my response is always the same:  'Why wouldn't I, I am being visited by the King.' There is usually no response. I am forwarding this e-mail to our parish priest!"

"I agree we should only receive communion on the tongue," said a woman named Carolyn Davis, from Ottawa, Ontario. "In the Mass the priest washes his hands before changing the host and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. This is part of the Mass. The faithful have not washed their hands as part of the mass nor have they been ordained to change the bread and wine into the Body of Christ. When I see the faithful digging around in the tabernacle it makes me sick to think that there is so little respect for the host. Also when the faithful are handing out the Host, I wonder what has really happened to the whole idea of the Mass."

Countered Dianne Masciere of Denton, Texas: "If father is desiring to avoid desecration of the host by receiving on the tongue, he can forget it," said . "People will still remove it from their mouth and pocket it away, if that is what they want to do. And picture this:  the host is placed on the tongue, in a germy mouth where it may be chewed, slides down the esophagus and lands in one's stomach, where it mingles with the remains of one's last meal and is assaulted with hydrochloric acid.  Can holding the Host in your hand for a second possibly top this for irreverence?" 

"I would most happily receive Holy Communion on the tongue if I were permitted to kneel with the paten held under my chin," commented RoseAnn Opferman of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. "With priests and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist being of different heights, I am always afraid the Sacred Host might fall on the ground if all the conditions aren't ideal. I have the utmost respect for the Holy Eucharist, but if we are to resume Communion on the tongue, I think it should be kneeling with the altar server holding the paten. I am of the opinion that we should never have changed to Communion in the hand in the first place --  kneeling and receiving on the tongue is much more reverent and we owe that reverence to our God for this precious gift of Himself."  

"In the Rochester, New York diocese, receiving in the hand was declared the norm by Bishop [Matthew] Clark," said another. "I know, I saw the letter, I was there. To receive otherwise or even genuflecting before receiving earned you immediate public correction right there while in line and in one case a refusal of Communion to a young woman who wanted to receive on her knees. I know this woman personally."

What about kneeling?

"I totally agree," was another strong opinion, from Lynne A. Lemoine of St. Bernard, Louisiana. "I would love to be able to kneel again.  I always receive on the tongue and I also cover my head when I'm in the church. I have never been a person to really dress up but the least I can do is cover my head in the Presence of the Lord.  Unfortunately, I feel we have become very disrespectful when we attend Mass by not dressing up -- I do not like seeing people in shorts and sports outfits in a hurry to get out so they can get to the ballpark."

Added Christine Majta of Toronto: "I returned to practicing my faith in 1992. One day, after receiving Jesus kneeling and on my tongue, I was approached by the priest at the end of Mass and told 'we donít do that here' (kneel to receive Jesus). He seemed to think I was new to the country Ė though I was born here. And he told me that I would have to stand to receive Communion. Needless to say, I stopped attending Mass at that parish.

"Years ago, I had a dream where I saw an altar and on it lie very tiny specks of the Eucharist.  When I told my dream to a sacristan, he affirmed that to be true and immediately went to the altar and tabernacle to check for pieces of the Eucharist (as was his custom). I often watch priests when they celebrate Mass and wonder if our Lord remains on the altar after Mass is over."

And that other aspect: how we dress during Mass!

From Sri Lanka, Marianne Johnpillai writes: "Oh if only we Catholics come to understand what a glorious act of Godís mercy is it when He  humbles Himself, hides in a little white host for us to look with eyes of faith and adore! As an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion in our parish, I begin to experience an increased heartbeat at times when I am distributing Holy Communion (on the tongue, as we do here in Sri Lanka, praise God!).  I have stopped wondering why it happens because right in front comes a lady clad in anything but a decent manner. I was told by the priest who instructs us that I cannot refuse Holy Communion but I wish I could! With great, great reluctance I offer Holy Communion. May the Blessed Eucharist be adored always!"

The tricky part: if the Vatican allows something, should there be a campaign against it? Or is this exactly how things should work: that those uneasy with reception of the Host by hand be allowed to air their views and perhaps change policy back to what it was? Is it a can of worms, when it gets to matters like extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist?

Strong opinions here too.

"I think that the second biggest mistake in the Catholic Church in my lifetime has been the misuse and emphasis on the extent and use of extraordinary ministers, who should , as their proper and full title states, be used only in exceptional circumstances," believes Jim Lynn of Wicklow, Ireland. " It is not uncommon here in Ireland that Holy Communion is distributed by lay persons, even where there are several priests available. I have several times noted that some priests concelebrating Mass will remain sitting, as lay-persons come forward."

At the same time, there was concern over the priest touching the tongue. "In my youth at college, at daily Mass, I felt revolted when a priest who gave us Communion on the tongue would brush his thumb on our tongues in the process," said Maria Almeida of Surrey, England. "Is it not possible for the priest to pick up virus from someone's tongue accidentally as he places the Host?"

"I believe the Holy Father should issue a rule against receiving the Holy Eucharist in the hand and then these abuses would stop," said Marcia Weisz of Lemoore, California. "There is more respect receiving it on the tongue, though during disease outbreaks, bishops and priests in our diocese don't permit the receipt of it on the tongue. They should have more faith than that."

"Every day I fear we are going to be denied the Host on the tongue," says Laura Vettoretti of Sudbury, Ontario. "Sadly many priests in this area show their disdain for my family when we present ourselves for Communion.  I am going to share your article with as many people as I can."

"I cry, I cringe at the disrespect for Jesus' Presence in the Eucharist!" is yet one more, from Dottie Thomson. "I think Communion in the hand has been one of the ways that this disrespect has grown.  I see people walking to Communion chatting with the person in front of them or behind them - then taking the host -- yes taking, and chomping on it as if it were a cookie! The fact that we no longer kneel -- and believe me no one wants you to kneel for Communion -- has also been a way to deter any meaning to the host as the real presence. At a Monastery chapel in my area, the bishop sent a directive that no one is allowed to kneel for Communion anymore."

And another deacon said: "For the most part I agree with article, however, as hands must be clean, some mouths are much dirtier via foul, harsh, ill temperate, vile language as well. What to do?"

How many receive with love in their hearts -- along with the devotions?

"These articles are understandably welcomed, but also consider us real Catholics who do not condemn the Church's stance on either way to receive Holy Communion," said another who varied. "We do not condemn the Church's decision until the Church leaders (under the guide of the Holy Spirit) say it is a sin to receive in the hand. Until then we will accept the Church's decision. We respect the teachings of the Church in totality, and believe the Church's earliest traditions, etcetera, but we have friends who have denounced Vatican II, have denounced John Paul II's teachings, have denounced the Holy Spirit's guidance in these turbulent times and have used receiving Jesus in the hand as just one of the ways that Satan has 'tricked' the church or is a 'demonic' trait of how the Church has been under the influence of Satan for at least the past forty years, so it just gives them fuel for their fire, which is painful to hear because it speaks against our Church and feeds their dissent agenda."

"Though I personally receive the Body of Christ by hand and at times by mouth, I have to agree with Father Lange," says Glen Misko. "The best is by mouth. I am a Eucharistic minister and I, too, am appalled at the sometime irreverent behavior by some folks who receive the Host in the hand. It is more of a challenge to distribute the Host on the tongue but I think it is worth it. Concerning the light from the chapel, my own experience is this:  In the chapel of one of our Catholic hospitals, on a few occasions, I have witnessed a light coming from the tabernacle."

That tells us something.

As for patens:

Bring them back, says Walt Gartner from Nassau, New York. "I used to receive the Eucharist on my tongue out of respect for the Lord. Years ago, patens were used to prevent the Lord from falling to the ground. Thatís not the usual situation today. A few years back, a priest missed my tongue, and the Lord fell to the ground. I immediately picked Him up and consumed Him, but I got a message. I donít want my God falling to the ground for whatever reason. Today, I receive on the tongue if there is a paten; if not, in my hand." 

Said a viewer named Sandy: "One year the Lord asked me to give Him a Christmas gift -- receiving on the tongue.  When I came back to the pew after Communion, it felt as though Heaven opened up and poured love down on me.  I began to cry from all the love I was receiving." 

"I respect and understand Father Robert Lange's concerns about receiving Holy Communion -- the Body of Christ on the hand," notes an extraordinary minister named Sheila Persdon. "Being a 'cradle Catholic,' I had a very hard time receiving our Lord on my hand (growing up, we were told we could not let the Body of Christ touch our teeth or chew) and I had an even harder time receiving our Lord from an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. I would like to share my reason for receiving the Body of Christ on my hand. As I receive Him, I proclaim silently -- 'my Lord and my God,' and I lovingly kiss my Lord before consuming. This moment is a very intimate time between me and my Jesus -- I truly feel that He will strengthen me and remain with me throughout my day - I know this is true with my whole being!  I am a eucharistic minister for nursing and assisted-living homes and one of the ladies also lovingly kisses our Lord before consuming. I can see the love in this lady's eyes as she receives our Lord in this most precious Sacrament. Since we, the people who believe in the Real presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist are a minority; I pray that our little tender kiss puts a smile on our Lord's Face."

And a final one: "Praise the Lord!!!  I am a new Catholic. I am 65 years old and joined the Catholic Church two years ago. What a blessing!!!"

[resources: Secrets of the Eucharist and Celebrate Mass with Your Heart]

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