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How to receive Holy Communion

The Blessed Sacrament is supposed to be consumed at once

By on Wednesday, 10 October 2012


Something unexpected happened to me the other day. A minister of another Church rang me up and said that he had been given a Sacred Host by a member of his congregation, with the request that the said minister should pass it to a Catholic priest.

Naturally, I said I would call round and collect the Sacred Host that very afternoon. I did so, recovered the Host, placed it in a pyx and heard the story.

A young lady had been at a Catholic Mass and had gone up to Holy Communion, even though she was not a Catholic – she had gone up because she had been urged to go up by the people sitting around her. Once at the altar the priest had placed the Sacred Host in her hands. She, not being in communion with the Catholic Church, did not want to receive the Host, so carried it away with her, and then entrusted it to the minister of her own church, who then called me.

Once I was at home, I disposed of the Host in the way that is prescribed by law.

This incident raises all sorts of questions.

First of all, such things can only happen when communion is given in the hand and the person receiving does not consume the Host at once. The Blessed Sacrament is supposed to be consumed at once, in sight of the altar; no one should carry it away, even if for only a few feet. How, though, can we stop them doing so? The only answer is that all, priest and congregation, must be vigilant and ensure that anyone attempting to carry away the Host is stopped. I realise that this may be difficult. I have heard stories of priests who have challenged people who were taking the Host away, and who have been abused for doing so.

Another thing we could do is emphasise to all that there is a correct way to receive Holy Communion.

Then of course there is the question of what to do when people present themselves for Holy Communion who seem unfamiliar with Catholic ritual. They ought not to be given Communion, but it can be hard to make this clear to them in the midst of the Communion procession.

While on this subject, I think most priests will have had, at one time or another, a request to receive Holy Communion from someone who is not a member of the Catholic Church. Refusal, no matter how carefully explained, tends to cause great resentment. I imagine most priests dread such approaches from our separated brethren. I certainly do.

  • JabbaPapa

    Pope Pius XII once wrote that the movemment to return to how things
    where done in earlier ages i..e early christians is not always right and

    Correct !!!

  • Patrick_Heren

    Along with 15 or 20 other adults, I was confirmed by Cardinal Hume at a Mass in a small church. The newly confirmed went to communion with their sponsors. As I prepared to receive communion, I became aware that the Cardinal’s attention  was elsewhere. His tall figure seemed to have grown, his face had hardened as he turned to watch a woman (I think a sponsor) who had just received communion walking away up the side aisle.
    “Come back!” he commanded.
    The woman returned meekly, and on being questioned revealed the Host still clutched in her hand. The Cardinal told her to put it in her mouth, and watched as she consumed it, before delivering a short sharp lesson in reverence for the Host.
    I was of course impressed, but also moved by the Cardinal’s vigilance, reverence and determination. I think the lady who had tried to walk off with the Host – perhaps as a souvenir – must also have learned something of prime importance.

  • Mr Grumpy

    Please explain to me how it can be a dreadful practice in one rite if it is the norm in others. “Is Christ divided?”

  • Rich

    I’m always amazed at how EEM think they can give blessings – they can’t!

  • Benedict Carter

    HEAR, HEAR!!!

  • JabbaPapa

    OK, I looked this up, and there’s an interesting pro et contra discussion of the more general question of the blessings themselves here :

    So it seems the Church has not declared anything one way or the other, though it would seem that the practice is more doubtful in the traditional Mass than in the Novus Ordo ?

    Thought-provoking, anyway…

  • Peter

    You have to distinguish what is liturgical from what is traditional.

    It is liturgically correct to receive Communion by hand, but that is not popular among traditionalists who have a right to their opinion but cannot change the Liturgy.

  • Marcella Carmen C.

    The good Father’s “dread” will become a thing of the past if he every priest instructs his flock: “From next Sunday, you will all receive on the tongue.”

  • Bert Pooler

    When the Catholic Church alowed people to receive the Holy Sacarment by the Hand it certainly in my view down graded that it was the Body of  Christ that we are receiveing. Even priests of today show total lack if respect when as soon as comunion has been completed they just sit  down. No washing of the hands or sacred vessels what so ever. Even a chap at my church goes up to thje Tabernacle help himself to the Blessed Sacrement puts in in his Pix  & then into his satchel returns to his seat and SLINGS it under his seat the turns round &  talks to his mate about yesterdays football on T V.
    Bring back the old traditions now!! Priests should dress like priests not like a REP!!

  • firstparepidemos

    Mr Carter, Whilst truly I appreciate teigitur’s apology and acceptance that he may have (unintentionally) offended Eastern Rite Catholics (as well as our Orthodox brethren), all you have done is resort to baseless personal insult, which is the refuge of those incapable of reasonable contribution. Perhaps you will care to answer the question posed by Mr Grumpy below…and without insult.

  • firstparepidemos

    So you disagree with the law of the Latin Church that receiving Communion in the hand is perfectly acceptable provided the conference of bishops has approved?  I find it difficul to imagine that you consider yourself as possessing greater knowledge or authority than Church law or the Latin bishops.

    I wonder what do you think of the Early Church where Communion in the hand was common? St. Cyril of Jerusalem, writing around 350 A.D. said: “When you approach Holy Communion, make the left hand into a throne for the right, which will receive the King. Then with your lower hand, take the consecrated Host and place it in your mouth.” Surely you would not accuse these early Christians of being “Nu Church Komissars” (as you labelled me)?

    I write this as someone who normally attends the Divine Liturgy in my Ukranian parish, where we always receive in the mouth for it is done only by intinction which means that we adhere to the ancient practice (later abandoned then restored by the Latin Church) of distrbuting the Blood of the Lord…and, by the way, the bread we use in the Eastern Church is…horror of horrors…leavened.

  • scary goat

     Yes, I have also seen this done in one particular parish. But then I’ve seen a lot of things done in that parish. 

  • Benedict Carter

    Of course I disagree with it. Any Catholic should.

    It is a practice instituted by the modern Revolutionaries to bring us “closer to the protestants” – the experience and practice of the Eastern Churches wasn’t on their minds at all.

    The Protestants got rid of receiving on the tongue because they rejected the Real Presence. 

    The effect of reception in the hand has been to breed in Catholics the same rejection. 

  • JabbaPapa

    Oh sure, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, that terrible modern revolutionary !!!!

  • Alicia

    Here in the Philippines, Parishes have commissioned laity we called “Usherettes”. They are there to properly usher the faithful to the pew and see to it that the faithful do not stand on the aisles fronting the Altar. And some of them, see to it that during Communion they are properly lined up.  Two ushers are posted on each of the priest to see to it that the Communicants receiving the Holy Host on the hand will place it reverently on their tongue before returning to the pew.  They are also in-charge of putting a shawl on the shoulder of the Communicant before receiving the Holy Host on a woman wearing a blouse with low neck or wearing a sleeveless one.

  • Matthew Roth

    I must respectfully disagree. 

    It’s not about feeling invited and welcomed; it’s about acknowledging an assent to the Faith proclaimed by the Church. In fact, prior to the Mass of Paul VI, only the baptized faithful remained from the Credo onwards. Perhaps we need to go back to that. 

  • Matthew Roth

    He’s already seen dialogue-or from his view, a one-way set of incredibly generous offerings by the Holy See which have been met with scorn and derision from influential members of the SSPX and their supporters. 

  • Matthew Roth

    Besides, St Cyril would not approve of the disrespect shown to Our Lord from the following: dirty hands, improper cupping of the hands, bringing your hands to the face, and last but most important-reception in a state of mortal sin.

  • Matthew Roth


    It takes no more time for me to approach, kneel, and receive the Eucharist than it does for someone to approach, receive the Host in the hand, and bring it to the mouth. I would also suspect with one priest, he’d do one of two things: distribute at the rail, or (more likely) distribute to those seated in the nave, and alternate between lines-meaning someone is going to wait, either kneeling or standing.

  • Matthew Roth

    There’s also question as to whether these indults still apply with the promulgation of a new GIRM with the 3rd edition of the Missal. 

  • South Saxon

    Your words sadden me.
    By seeing and hearing the Mass, my wife will, I pray, come to love the Eucharist, the centre of our Faith, and be received. I am sad that you think that a non-Catholic spouse should not be welcome to attend Mass with their Catholic family. Forgive me for saying that I believe such an attitude repels converts.

  • Matthew Roth

    You misunderstand the point of coming forth during the rite of Communion. Coming forth for a blessing is not in the Missal, so it should not be done. 

    I hope she comes to love Christ in the Eucharist as well, but, going up for a blessing isn’t what the Church anticipates as the tool of conversion. The Mass is where the priest celebrates the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, for the benefit of the faithful. 
    Really, it repels converts? Then perhaps we should return to it. Chesterton, Tolkien’s family, and a litany of other famous converts dealt with the exclusion from the Mass of the Faithful in the centuries before the council. I think it better fostered the Catholic spouse’s interior life, which allowed them to set the good Christian example which ultimately led the other to desire Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

  • 1leatitia

    That comment is very vey disrespectful indeed. You should practise what you said in the last paragraph & pray!!

  • 1leatitia

    Just to add to all comments from those who believe in receiving the Blessed Sacarmement in their hands as said on the T V this morning most peoples hand are in the same state as a toilet bowel!! Shop assistants have to put thin gloves on when handling food!!! So taking  H.C. by the mouth is far more hygienic too

  • Ronk

     Even if they were properly instituted Lectors or Acolytes (which would be impossible if they were female) the Church’s laws say that if any priest is available (even if he did not attend the whole Mass) he must take precedence in administering communion. Lay people are allowed to distribute communion only when there are not enough priests and deacons to do so properly and there would be a very lengthy extension of communion time if the lay ministere/s were not used..

  • Rizzo the Bear

    Oh, how I DESPISE people walking up to receive Our Lord as if they are in the queue for ice cream or tickets for Lady GaGa! 

    The worst offenders are – horrors! – old people!!! They know who they are! 

    The recitation of The Holy Rosary before Holy Mass should be de rigeur in ALL parishes. It will give us a focus and our tongues will be conversing with God.

  • Rizzo the Bear

    Er, what’s so disrespectful in what Bob Hayes has stated?

  • Rizzo the Bear

    Thank you for your input, good people!

    What gets me is that, at another church a few miles away, there is a priest who celebrates Holy Mass and he uses a walking cane BUT insists on administering Our Lord… and there is not an EO in sight!!!

    I’m counting the days until the Manchester Oratory is up and going!

  • Rizzo the Bear

    Just as something wonderful is music to my ears, reading your post is beautiful art to my eyes!

    I’ll wager (for want of a better expression) that there will be more who will avail of this opportunity.

    I wish more priests were as considerate as yours.

  • Rizzo the Bear

    In a word – YIKES!!! 

    However, the situation you find yourselves in is – disturbingly – not uncommon.

    I’ve read of church cleaners sweeping them up from under the kneelers and benches in church! 

    Situations like these still shock and upset me to the core. I’m not desensitised to it and never will be.

    One time, I found a Host on the floor after Mass. I promptly told the priest and handed the host to him for to do what is prescribed.

    In the second instance, at another Mass, I had knelt down to gave thanks to God for coming to me in Holy Communion like you do. When I got up from kneeling, my attention was drawn to the floor of the aisle to my left-hand side and spotted a half-consumed Host! I picked Him up gently and ran up to the priest,(who was closing the lids on the pyxes on the altar), showed him the Host, explained the situation and he did what he needed to do.

    To this day, I don’t know what made me look in that direction. It is something I don’t normally do.

    For a kick-off, I could not bear to see Our Lord trampled under foot even by accident – this is what prompted my actions, rightly or wrongly.

    This next bit will probably shock you. I am an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and have been for a few years (it was my parish priest who asked me if I would do the honour. I didn’t volunteer and would never volunteer for it off my own volition)…

    Before I ascend the altar, I pray hard for Our Lady to protect me as I dispense her Son to the communicants. It is a huge deal for me to gingerly descend the marble steps to my place. I am no priest and never aspire to act as such – but I am fully aware as to WHO is contained in the sacred vessel. 

    I promise you, it can be a stressful business but I offer my anxiety to Our Lord and His Holy Mother between uttering ‘The Blood of Christ’ to each one.

    BUT – and this is a BIG BUT… mark you…

    If the Holy Father decided to put an end to the EMHC as he has done with other things (including the preposterous Liturgical Dancing – don’t get me started!), I would not feel sadness, nor regret nor a sense of bereavement. I would neither protest or dispute the word of the Holy Father on these matters.

    There would be a sense of relief inasmuch as I would no longer go through the ordeal of  witnessing the majority of communicants who treat the Precious Body and Blood like a sample testing of Angel Delight in Sainsbury’s!

    If I feel this way about it, how does my parish priest feel?

    I appear to be the only EMHC in my parish to receive Our Lord on the tongue and that, dear friends, is the way it is going to stay.

    It is painful to read about abuses of The Holy Presence of Our Lord. Painful. Heartbreaking.

    Thank God and His Holy Mother for Prayers of Reparation!

  • Josie & Roy Wooltorton

    In our church which is Methodist all people  are welcome at Gods table to receive communion or a blessing, we have relatives in Malta and we go to a Catholic Church with them we are not allowed to receive communion, as we are all christians  and followers of Jesus, Jesus welcomed all with open arms.

  • PeterTheRoman

    Do not be afraid. Before the Lord God it is right to bend at the knee and recieve him on your tongue. Dont worry what everyone else is doing, do right before God and keep your conscience clear. If more people started to do this I might start to change hearts. I always do this and rightly so before God. Be courageous. Be upright. Be humble.

  • Cerys11

    Priests who “challenge people … for taking the Host away” –  
    Once my son, aged about 9 at the time, took the Host back to his seat – he was visiting grandparents, unused to their Church and, of course, very young.  The priest broke off his duties and went over to my son, admonished him publically and left the lad feeling miserable.  My mother wrote a polite, measured letter to the priest explaining that this wasn’t a deliberate act on my son’s part to take the Host away from the altar and expressed her concern that his – the priest’s – actions were disproportionate.  The priest must have thought twice about his actions after getting her letter as he sent my son an inscribed book – actually about the windows in the church which he himself had written – but, nevertheless, it was a decent thing to do.

    Another church – another time – during a Mass that was being said for my late dad, my husband (not a Catholic) went up behind me to the altar, took the Host and went back to his seat to receive it.  I hadn’t a clue – but the priest had and called out, loudly, ‘Sir, what do you think you’re doing?’  Neither incident was willful – neither incident was dealt with sensitively or sensibly by the priest.

    Now, I have a question for you Father – ‘What would Jesus do?’

  • L3187GQ

    Charles Martel – ‘ lets return without any compromise whatsover’ that usually solves the problem !  If some one wants to receive communion, let them, if they take it away with them, so what ? its only up to them and their personal relationship with God surely ? or is it more about the importance of the preservation of the custom and tradition at any cost?  


  • H Pooler

    Mr Cartel!! 

    Its about respect for the Blessed Sacarment my friend and the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Sadly a lot of so called Catholics do not have that!!

  • Martin

    Many years ago whilst I was a serving Prison Officer in a Borstal Institution I saw an inmate receive Communion during an Anglican Sung Eucharist. He initially received the host on his tongue and quick as a flash transferred it to his pocket. I mentioned this to the Senior Officer in the Chapel but he didn’t take any action about it, and it was only later that I was able to talk to the Anglican Chaplain about it. From that day onwards that particular inmate wasn’t allowed to receive the Eucharistic bread, although he was never stopped from attending Chapel on Sundays.  I gather that he continued to receive the communion wine as one could ensure that that was swallowed before he left the Chapel.
    The lad was, according to his paperwork, a Satanist and therefore shouldn’t really have been allowed to attend Divine Services – but then that’s the Home Office for you. 
    Equally I don’t imagine for one minute that the lad was, at 17, a “card-carrying” Satanist BUT the clear and admitted intention of that lad was to take the host back to his cell and desecrate it. 
    He’d tried to get to the Roman Catholic mass on previous occasions and had, I understand, offered money to other inmates to get him a host for desecration.
    I can only pray that the grace of Conversion of life reached him before he got further along that path.