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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.

  • Peter

    Holy Communion abuses go on all the time.

    There are parishes where during weekday mass there are only a handful of communicants – less than  ten – and yet there are TWO extraordinary ministers distributing chalices which are quite full.

    This leaves copious quantities of the Precious Blood unconsumed after communion, leaving both extraordinary ministers themselves to gulp it down prior to returning the chalice to the altar

    I have always believed that the Precious Blood ought to be used as sparingly as possible, and that extraordinary ministers were to be used only when absolutely necessary.

    Is this the creeping of Protestantism into the English Catholic Church?

  • Peter

    A good rule of thumb is from a priest on the tongue, and from a deacon or extraordinary minister in the hand.

  • AReluctantSinner

    In the Roman Rite, kneeling is more respectful. Kneeling during the Canon, or Consecration at least, is required in the West. This does not imply that those who belong to other Rites must follow the Roman tradition — this is why the Catholic Church has so many rites.

    Having said that, I cannot think of anything more disgraceful than standing in the presence of God — surely, only a god is equal to a god? Scripture reminds us that the time will come when ‘every knee will bow’ before Christ — one wonders what some Christians will do on that dread day; will they stubbornly stand before the Judge of heaven and earth? Pope Benedict XVI, writing as Cardinal Ratzinger, even suggested there was something demonic about refusing to bend the knee (be humble) before God (cf Spirit of the Liturgy).

    I sometimes attend the Divine Liturgy in an Eastern Rite church, and always follow the norms for the laity during it. I remain standing throughout, though must confess that I have to at least genuflect once (or kneel for a while) before our Blessed Lord. But what really gets my goat is having to put up with attendees of Mass in the Roman Rite who insist on standing throughout the Canon. Sadly, most of these people tend to belong to the Roman Rite — I doubt Eastern Catholics would be so disrespectful to the norms of their Western brethren. They also appear to have such unbridled arrogance that some — especially in central London churches — place themselves right at the very front during Mass, so as to distract others, block people’s view, or cause scandal. 

    After Mass in a central London church one Sunday, I went up to a man who had blocked my view of the Elevation by standing in front of me during the Canon. I asked him if he was disabled. ‘No’, he replied. I then asked him if he was a god. Again, ‘No’. Then I asked him why he didn’t kneel at any point during the Mass. ‘Oh.’ he said, ‘It’s because I’m Swiss!’ Both of us had a cup of tea and he explained to me that he agreed with the reforms of Benedict XVI but was too anxious about kneeling whilst at Mass in his local parish — an anxiety he took with him wherever he found himself in the world. I replied, ‘Don’t worry about that, you’re in London now, where kneeling is good.’ Before saying goodbye, he told me that upon his return to Switzerland he would kneel, despite the malpractice of his local church. He also told me that he was studying for the priesthood, and knew of many seminarians who wanted to kneel, but were told not to by their superiors! Let’s hope that they, like the person I spoke with, will decide to ignore rotten orders, and will — during Masses of the Roman Rite, at least — kneel, kneel, and kneel some more!

  • nytor

    Communion on the tongue is the norm of the universal Church. In the hand is permitted under indult only and varies from country to country. Archbishop Nichols has persuaded Rome to make the reception of communion standing and on the hand the norm in England and Wales but this is improper and contrary to the norms of the Church.

  • nytor

    “yet there are TWO extraordinary ministers distributing chalices which are quite full”

    The use of extraordinary ministers to make the laity feel “included” is one of the most pernicious and widespread abuses going. They are only to be used in extraordinary circumstance – personally, I can’t see a circumstance in which I would use them – and yet they are everywhere, in vast numbers. At one parish in Jersey I had literally to dodge them.

  • nytor

    “it is a cause of great joy that there are circumstances in which non-Catholics may properly receive sacraments in the Catholic Church”

    Really? When? I can only think of where there is a danger of death and they wish to reconcile.

  • nytor

    Why is that a “good rule of thumb”? I can think of no reason to receive on the hand.

  • nytor

    “The universal norm for the reception of Holy Communion in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church is directly on the tongue while kneeling.”

    This is so, and it is the right of all faithful to receive in this manner. No priest has the right to insist on communion standing or in the hand.

  • nytor

    Frequent availability of confession is the best way of showing, by example, the conditions for reception of communion. Where priests don’t bother, then it is not surprising that a lackadaisical attitude to communion springs up.

  • AReluctantSinner

    A) Standing is less reverential than kneeling — which is a sign of humility; humbling oneself before one’s God. In some Eastern Rites, this might not be the case, always, at least. But in the West, in the Roman Rite, it is, and has been for centuries.

    B) You asked “Weren’t diocese in England and Wales given permission from the Vatican to allow the Eucharist to be given by hand.” But every Latin Rite Catholic has a fundamental right to follow the norms of the universal Church, to kneel and receive on the tongue — which is always the preferred option. (“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” [ie why was he allowed to bend the rules?] Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard and you were unteachable. But it was not this way from the beginning.” — Mt 19:7-8)

    c) The norm in the Diocese of Rome is for the laity to receive Communion on the tongue. The norm for receiving from the Pope is on the tongue whilst kneeling. If we ‘Roman’ Catholics did as the Bishop of Rome wants, we wouldn’t need special dispensations to do our own thing.

  • nytor

    Indeed, perhaps so.

  • nytor

    At high mass you are told this as well, now it’s EF :)

  • nytor

    Oh he’s perfectly in tune with it – as it was in Liverpool in the 1970s.

  • Ignatius

    Read ‘Ut unum sint’ and see the provisions in canon law if you want to know.

  • Ignatius

    See ‘Ut unum sint’ and the provisions in canon law if you want to know.

  • nytor

    Answer – don’t go to an extraordinary minister. Don’t encourage their use. If people boycott them maybe parishes will end the abuse of the provisions permitting them.

  • Andrew

    It is a disgrace not to receive the Host on the tongue while kneeling in Adoration.  As we ‘celebrate’ Vatican II and try to find the fruits it is said to have produced then we can reflect on all of the above and the comments below.  This stuff was unknown before the robber Council.

  • Peter

    The abuse of Holy Communion by extraordinary ministers goes further.

    At weekend masses when an extraordinary minister assists the priest in distributing the Sacred Host, there is the tendency for the extraordinary minister to bless anyone – such as children – who come forward with their hands across their chest.

    It appears that the line between laity and clergy is being deliberately blurred, as part of the creeping Protestantism in the English Catholic Church.

  • South Saxon

    I am sorry but I must disagree. My wife is not a Catholic but Father likes her to receive a blessing. That way, she is part of the family coming forward; she feels invited and welcomed and, in this way, is edging closer to eventually being received.

  • whytheworldisending

    Incidents arise when people are not told by the priest before communion what to do if they are not going to receive communion. Younger people particularly when on holiday can find themselves being given the Host if they have gone along with family members who aren’t familiar with their situation. Lately priests have stopped giving information for non-communicants except where the congregation is swelled by lapsed relatives and people attending as part of a social occasion at a family member’s First Holy Communions or Baptism, aswell as at Christmas and Easter. I think the advice to come up for a blessing should be extended to include, “…or you are welcome to stay in your seat and pray.”

  • Uomosenzanome

    A church I know of deals with the problem of non-Catholics (or rather, those not in Eucharistic communion with the Catholic Church) receiving the host *accidentally* as it were, by having the priest announce as he positions himself to administer the host, that those who are not prepared to receive the host (including Catholics who are in a state of unabsolved sin, too) are welcome to come forward for a blessing, indicating this desire by crossing their arms across their chest. It works very well.

  • Joyfully

    “pulling an Oliver Twist” — Love!
    But, yeah, at first it is uncomfortable. I am a vain person and Our Final Judge is well aware of the extent I will go to not to be embarrassed by myself. Therefore I live with the hope that
    he understands that when I receive on my tongue (which I only do with a priest) is an act of humility.
    Also, there is strength in numbers. When we receive on the tongue it gives others who may have been wanting to do so the courage to do it. Also, it is a profound witness to our dependency on Him.
    Eucharistic reverence…that’s the phrase; we need to understand, speak and carry in our hearts. On our forehead, lips, heart….

  • JabbaPapa

    there is the tendency for the extraordinary minister to bless anyone

    Blessings are NOT the sole right of the clergy.

    Any Christian may provide a blessing for any other person, Christian or otherwise.

    It is neither a Sacrament nor a sacramental to provide a simple blessing — it is a prayer.

  • JabbaPapa

    Typically it’s during Masses that are provided with a Charism of plenary indulgence — though the absolute condition is that these non-Catholics must be validly baptised and that they personally accept the validity of the Eucharist, even when their church or denomination might not.

    No non-Christian may take Communion under any circumstances, though of course any sin attached to doing so is forgiven if that individual is later baptised into the Catholic Christian Faith, because Baptism provides forgiveness for all past sins.

  • JabbaPapa

    Standing is less reverential than kneeling — which is a sign of humility; humbling oneself before one’s God

    That is not the proper understanding of the standing position.

    Standing — one presents oneself to God in humility, as one is, as if naked before Him. The standing position of the body corresponds to an honest inner presentation of the self, and one’s sins and errors and defects, for the judgment of the soul.

    It is a penitential stance.

    As for your other remarks — I will simply point out that priests must accede to a Communicant’s desire to receive the Host on the tongue ; priests (or their Bishops) may insist that Communion be given on the tongue ; bur nobody can insist on either giving or receiving in the hand.

    This certainly does not invalidate communion in the hand, but it does clearly establish where the preference lies…

  • JabbaPapa

    They were given permission in a very roundabout manner. It was
    originally permitted under indult for some nuns for a specific reason,
    as I understand it

    Wrong, the practice has existed since Antiquity, and people have been continually arguing about it since the Middle Ages.

    Mainly because Scripture is perfectly silent on the question.

  • JabbaPapa

    The unwillingness for dialogue is, currently anyway, more to lay at the feet of the SSPX than the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    I do have a modicum of optimism remaining though — the latest quasi-official statement from SSPX of the remaining doctrinal differences was reduced to three points — Collegiality, Ecumenism, Religious Freedom.

    This is a MASSIVE advance towards agreement, previously I think there were about seven or eight points of “total” disagreement dixit SSPX

    And the SSPX position on Collegiality is BTW blatantly irrational, given that they are demanding some independent pastoral rights that only Collegiality can provide, whilst teaching that this sort of independence is wrongful and bad… they can’t have their cake and eat it ; so this “demand” will collapse of its own accord.

    As for Ecumenism, ALL Catholics are free to disagree with it anyway. This is a doctrinal non-problem.

    The only difficult doctrinal issue is Religious Freedom, but this is for the Magisterium to clarify, not for SSPX or any other not-the-Magisterium to try and impose upon.

    Finally — they simply HAVE to accept that denying an *entire* Ecumenical Council is perfectly uncatholic.

  • JabbaPapa

    Priests can in some circumstances insist on Communion to be taken standing.

  • polycarped

    I have seen this happen a number of times and am now always very vigilant – but we wouldn’t have to be quite so vigilant if clear instruction were given at Masses (in writing and by means of a clear announcement) so that non-Catholic visitors know whether they are able to receive or not. In nearly all the cases where I have seen this happen, it has been because the person was not a Roman Catholic and was either very naive or perhaps felt compelleed to join the queue (e.g. being ushered out of pews in the assumption that receiving HC is somehow mandatory). At a Mass celebrating a family event to which many friends of diferent walks of life were invited, I helplessly witnessed more than a few non Catholics (and non Christian) friends receive Holy Communion. I had antitipated this happening well ahead of the Mass and had included the standard spiel in the draft Order of Service. I was asked to remove it by our our priest on account of it being “embarrassing”. He also would not make an announcement of any kind. There’s nothing embarrassing about it; we have an obligation to be obedient to the Churc’s teaching on the Eucharist and to be deeply respectful to the Sacrament.Last but not least, visitors to Masses need to know where they stand (or kneel – ‘scuse the pun). Of course, all of these risks would be reduced considerably we returned to the norm of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue (whether kneeling or standing).

  • frjww4


  • frjason

    This kind of thing happens often at funerals and weddings.  We used to find Hosts stuffed in the music books in the benches. In my opinion, the only way to stop this sacrilege is to require that Communion be received kneeling down and on the tongue.  Not only is this the properly reverent posture for receiving Communion, it is also practically good – it prevents people from carrying the Host away and it also makes it much easier for the Priests to distribute Communion.

  • Lukewarm9901453

    “Having said that, I cannot think of anything more disgraceful than standing in the presence of God — surely, only a god is equal to a god?”Standing is actually a sign of deference, which is why you stand when someone enters a room.
    The Council of Nicaea actually forbids kneeling in church on Sundays!
    “But what really gets my goat is having to put up with attendees of Mass in the Roman Rite who insist on standing throughout the Canon.”It is much more common to stand for long periods of the Canon on the Continent, where that is the norm, not kneeling.
    ” despite the malpractice of his local church. “It’s not malpractice, it’s the norm for much of the Church on the Continent. Stop turning your personal views into laws.

  • Lukewarm9901453

    Ah, but offering a blessing is also, it seems an abuse.

  • Ignatius

    The Code of Canon Law, canon 844, sets out the conditions under which non-Catholics may receive the sacraments – not just at the moment of death, but where there is a “grave and pressing need.” Those who are not over concerned with Catholic exclusivity may choose to interpret this provision in a generous Christlike way – the cause of great joy referred to Pope John Paul.

  • Benedict Carter

    First and foremost, the faithful should receive on their knees (not through, in the first instance, a desire to protect Our lord’s Body from profanation or sacrilege but because we are in front not only of our King but our very Creator) and to banish to possibility of the Host being carried away, the faithful should return to receiving ONLY on the tongue. 

    Cue all the armchair Church historians, repeaters of the excuses given for continuing all the modern abuses, to witter on about practice on the early part of the 2nd century.


    Communion in the Hand is a gross abuse (and has been seen as such for many, many centuries) which is one of the elements that has led to a collapse in adoration of the Blessed Eucharist. 

  • Benedict Carter

    And the PRIEST should be saying at the start of Mass that non-Catholics must not take Holy Communion. See how in the article the Catholics urged the non-Catholic to take Holy Communion, and the priest just went along with it?

    This is a total failure of catechesis and a total failure on the part of the priest; and of course is the consequence of INCORRECT DOCTRINE.

    I utterly detest nu-Church/anti-Church.

  • Herman U. Ticke

    “In reality, the body and blood of Christ does not mean the physical components of the man Jesus during his lifetime or in the glorified corporeality. Body and blood of Christ’s presence here means rather having the character of the medium of bread and wine. “… 

    We have
    ” fellowship with Jesus Christ now, mediated by the food and drink of the bread and wine. Alone in inter-personal relations can something like a letter of friendship between the people be established and at the reception, one can say the affection of the addressee can be seen and embodied. ”

    (The Mass – source of Christian life , 
    St. Ulrich Publisher: 2002, 
    pp. 139 f )

  • Benedict Carter

    100% right.

  • Benedict Carter

    “Is this the creeping of Protestantism into the English Catholic Church?”

    Where HAVE you been?

    This WHOLE Church globally has been protestantized for God’s sake!

  • Benedict Carter


    What does this do but blue the line between the laity and the Sacramental Priesthood?

    You have shocked me a great deal in recent days, this is another example.

  • Benedict Carter

    There is no reason whatever to receive in the hand. 

    Indeed there is EVERY reason NEVER to touch the Lord with our profane hands. Only the priests hands have been anointed to touch the Body of the Lord.

  • Gary

    I wish I could get to the Birmingham Oratory for the Extraordinary Form rather than what I am stuck with in my parish! :(

  • Benedict Carter

    Standing os a fruit of the New Theology, which you indiscriminately champion. 

    Kneeling before God has always been the norm in the Catholic Church.

  • Benedict Carter

    You are WRONG and if you read Michael Davies’ booklet on this whole question you would actually learn something. 

  • Benedict Carter

    That’s how Nu-Church worships Our Blessed Lord!

    It’s “not involved” with Him at all. 

  • Benedict Carter

    Absolutely correct.

  • Benedict Carter

    All true.

  • Benedict Carter

    Those being?

  • Benedict Carter

    You’ve offended no-one. 

    You’ve just been ticked off by a politically-correct nu-Church Kommissar, for whom “offending” is the only sin.  

  • Benedict Carter

    Hear, hear!