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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

A History of Loneliness is the story of a man  pushed into the priesthood by his over-devout mother (CNS)

A History of Loneliness is the story of a man pushed into the priesthood by his over-devout mother (CNS)

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.

  • Benedict Carter

    I point-blank refuse to take Communion from a layman or woman. Priest or deacon and no-one else, full-stop.

  • Benedict Carter

    Doesn’t make the practice right, Jabba, this is what you do not seem to be able to comprehend.

  • Benedict Carter

    “We used to find Hosts stuffed in the music books in the benches”.
    God in Heaven.

  • Cantabrigiensis

    In my parish church I kneel to receive Holy Communion on the tongue.  Given that the latest version of the Missal allows for individual members of the faithful to choose to receive Holy Communion kneeling, I informed my parish priest that I would like to avail myself of that option, and a prie-dieu is now placed next to where he stands so that I may do so.

  • Cestius

    This will probably not be a popular opinion here, but as an ex-Anglican one of the reasons I joined the Catholic Church was because the pope and magisterium have true authority and local bishops, priests and lay people do not have the right to ignore what holy Church says.  In the Church of England there seemed to be a lot of dogmatic priests and bishops, but very little guidance from the church as a whole. The result is a degree of chaos and confusion.  So I’m a bit depressed when in spite of holy Church saying that it is perfectly acceptable to receive communion either on the hand or on the tongue that some people think they know better and want to proscribe one option. I think this is a bit uncatholic – making it up as you go along is behaving more like a Protestant church.  Until such time as Holy Church changes its teaching on this I think we have no right to criticize others for using the option that we happen not to approve of. It is extremely divisive.

  • nytor

    Extraordinary ministers are not supposed to give blessings, no.

  • nytor

    I wouldn’t encourage it in the sense that it’s all very well having some places which are good and most which are not, but the faithful ought to be pressing for improvement wherever they are. I am lucky enough to live in the right area (not, technically, inside the parish boundary, but just outside it, so I think attending is justifiable). If you aren’t satisfied with standards where you are, do something about it – Summorum Pontificum does give the laity a right to the EF, after all.

  • nytor

    It’s not surprising that the SSPX are reluctant to deal with Muller, though, given his hostility towards them and the growing curial resistance to the EF generally.

  • Charles Martel

     I said “Communion in the hand started life in the 1970s”. I wasn’t talking about debates among protestants (heretics can talk all they want); I was talking about the introduction of communion in the hand into the (Catholic) Church in England and Wales. It happened in the 1970s. I remember it well, because, as an altar boy of 12 or so, I carried on placing the communion plate under the chins of the congregation as I walked backwards along the line. I knew very well that the people trying to get their hands on the host were somehow doing something wrong. I was a fully trained member of the Archconfraternity of St Stephen, and I, along with the other altar boys, knew where my duty lay: in protecting the sacred species from profanation. The parish priest fully approved of our actions, which came to us instinctively. We never talked about the subject – we didn’t need to. The priest and the MC and we altar boys fought a heroic fight, but within 10-15 years the altar rails had been torn out and the now-familiar queue of communicants traipsing up to the ‘Eucharistic Minister’ or the priest (pot-luck) with outstretched hands had become the ‘norm’. Suddenly everything I had taught had become outdated. Every sound reason for communion on the tongue was overnight ‘out of date’. Well…I don’t think so. That ain’t Catholicism. Luckily for me, my father was a convert who had actually studied the Faith and passed it on to me. I don’t accept communion on the hand as a valid development. I condemn it now, as in 1976, as a practice alien to our rite and our patrimony, and which was forced upon us by heretics, modernists, and cranks.
    I am appalled that the popes, despite condemning the practice (Memoriale Domini, 1969, Dominicae Cenae, 1980, etc.), have done NOTHING to stamp it out. The job of the pope is not just to teach or lead by example, but to govern. Pope Benedict XVI should heed the words of Innocent III, quoting Jeremiah: “See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to root up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Sometimes, even in the post-Vatican II world, the pope must intervene to wipe out practices inimical to the Faith. Please, Holy Father, do this, at least, before you die. We beg you.

  • nytor

    Well quite. What are these circumstances which enable a priest to deny a member of the faithful their right to receive communion according to the norms of Church law?

  • nytor

    In some circumstances yes. It is not helpful for Catholics, who will not be able to receive communion because of sin – they should be encouraged to go to confession rather than be blessed anyway – and blessings should never be given by those abominations known as Extraordinary Ministers, but it is helpful to offer it to non-Catholics, perhaps.

  • nytor

    Quite so. Hence my having to “dodge” them as they moved to intercept me in Jersey. They were present at masses in La Cathedrale in St Helier in quite extraordinary numbers.

  • Bob Hayes

    Benedict, why are you so rude to anyone who does not share your views? Perhaps it is time to reflect on St Anthony of Padua’s ‘Prayer for the help of the Holy Spirit’, particularly the second sentence:

    ‘Inspire me to speak with piety, holiness, tenderness and mercy’.

    Just a thought…..

  • Gildaswiseman

    Benedict, If half of the people in the Church had read Michael Davies’ books it is quite possible that the modernist profanity that has occurred in the Church over the last fifty years would of been prevented.
    As you will know another great book worth reading is Pope John’s Council. It is an absolute mine of information of how the council fell into the hands of progressive bishops, periti and the all pervading press.

  • Benedict Carter

    This is not “teaching” as such, it is disciplinary. we are entirely free to criticise it. Yet, while disciplinary, the new practice DOES reflect a New Theology which Catholics Cestius are more and more rejecting – because it ain’t Catholic but protestant! 

  • Benedict Carter

    Gildawiseman, I concur of course. He was a man sent providentially to the Church.

  • Benedict Carter

    He evidently believes in Transignification. 

    He has recently said publicly that of course he accepts transubstantiation, and we’ll have to take him at his word, but his earlier written works are replete with examples of this New Theology. 

  • Benedict Carter

    I agree Matthew. If it’s not in the Missal, then it should not be done. Follow the rubrics! 

  • JabbaPapa

    Sometimes you need a bit of a jolt, dear Benedict :-)

    A blessing is a blessing.

    I’ll give you one right now — God bless your Faith and your Zeal, dear Benedict !!!

  • JabbaPapa

    Council of Nicaea (325 AD)

    Canon 20

    Forasmuch as there are certain persons who kneel on the Lord’s Day and in the days of Pentecost, therefore, to the intent that all things may be uniformly observed everywhere (in every parish), it seems good to the holy Synod that prayer be made to God standing.

  • JabbaPapa
  • JabbaPapa

    It’s OK Bob, Benedict and I simply have a certain type of dialogue, but we each listen to the other.

  • JabbaPapa


  • JabbaPapa

    IIRC the circumstance is one single priest and a very massive congregation, or other such punctual needs (such as diplomatic protocol in some State weddings or etc).

    They do NOT apply to any typical ordinary Sunday Mass with a normally sized Congregation.

  • JabbaPapa

    It is wrongful when abused.

    And not “comprehend”, dear Benedict — “agree with”.

  • Benedict Carter

    Amen to that Jabba and the same to you.

    But NOT at the altar as a layman ….. 

  • Benedict Carter

    Mr Hayes in a recent thread chucked some rather nasty insults in my direction. He is like sweetjae, a stalker. 

  • James

    Are you the Pope to declare that the Catholic church is no longer Catholic anymore?
    Speaking of armchair idiots, I think Benedict Carter is one of those to a T.

  • Kathb2012

    I’ve read comments from Cardinals in the Vatican about their concern about how the Protestants will take our veneration of the Blessed Mother, as if they are loathe to promote the issue or ashamed of it. Who cares about the damned Protestants.

  • Fran Dresden

    My ex-brother-in-law is an on-an-off British Anglican with the attitude of Henry VIII, and a bit of a dope smoking ‘free thinker’ who dabbles in all religions, including pagan Hindu and Buddhism. He has statues of buddhas, hindu deities, as well as the occult hexagram around his house. My sister hasn’t been to Mass since she was about 13 years old, 47 years ago, but she developed a liking for a certain young priest who dazzled her with his sermons; so she, her husband and 2 kids would attend Mass sometimes. One Sunday I was sitting about ten rows behind them and was surprised and horrified to see the whole family get up and queue to take Communion from the priest. There was nothing I could do; but the priest should have known better because he knew the locals in that town. You can’t really make a scene when people do that.

  • Rizzo the Bear

    A few weekends ago, I went to Holy Mass with a friend at a different parish.  Everything was done ‘just so’ … that is, until the celebrant stayed where he was at the altar whilst the Extraordinary Ministers were ‘given the job’ to administer Our Divine Lord!

    The celebrant wasn’t exactly infirm, as far as we could see.

    After Mass, we couldn’t stop talking about it. We went from feeling bemused to distressed. 

    Has anyone else ever witnessed this happening at Holy Mass before? 

    Could the good Father help us fathom out whether this is allowed or not, against the Liturgy etc. etc.

  • Benedict Carter

    Often. One of the reasons I try to go only to the Old Mass.

  • Benedict Carter

    Well, we want them to be saved, hence we should all be working to make them Catholics. 

    Which isn’t helped by the Arch-Druid being invited to a Catholic Synod of Bishops. He and all other Anglicans are thus encouraged to think there is no need for their conversion.

  • Benedict Carter

    Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me.

  • JabbaPapa

    The only case where that would be permissible as far as I know would be if he were ill with a contagious disease, and were limiting his contacts to others to a minimum — it sounds a LOT like an abuse though, and I’ve never seen anything of the sort.

    The closest I’ve seen is at Mass co-celebrated by multiple priests and deacons.

    hmmmmmm — it’s of course possible that those people were Ordinary Ministers rather than Extraordinary (no matter how very unlikely that sounds, strange things can happen sometimes), which is the only other case whereby that would be possible. I mean if they were all Lectors or Acolytes, rather than simple ordinary lay persons, then it would be conceivable in that scenario too…

  • Gildaswiseman

    I have not read his books and would not presume to quote him out of context, however if he believes something different from the Catechism of the Council of Trent that God help him.
    Christ Whole And Entire Is Present In The EucharistHere the pastor should explain that in this Sacrament are contained not only the true body of. Christ and all the constituents of a true body, such as bones and sinews, but also Christ whole and entire. He should point out that the word Christ designates the God�man, that is to say, one Person in whom are united the divine and human natures; that the Holy Eucharist, therefore, contains both, and whatever is included in the idea of both, the Divinity and humanity whole and entire, consisting of the soul, all the parts of the body and the blood,� all of which must be believed to be in this Sacrament. In heaven the whole humanity is united to the Divinity in one hypostasis, or Person; hence it would be impious, to suppose that the body of Christ, which is contained in the Sacrament, is separated from His Divinity.

  • Gildaswiseman

    I intended to write then God help him. Is it possible to edit a post once it is posted?

  • JabbaPapa

    Is it possible to edit a post once it is posted?

    Yes — click on the “Edit” word, that you will find instead of “Like” on your own posts.

  • Guest

    There are some, often because of a physical infirmity, are unable to kneel. Personally, I always receive the host on my tongue, but when everything boils down it is really the state of mind at that moment when the host is received and ingested.

  • Peter

    Lamentably this practice does go on.

    For example, where extraordinary ministers distribute the Precious Blood for the first time, and where a concelebrant priest and/or a deacon are present, the principle celebrant may sit down during communion to make way for the new exrtraordinary minister.

    This practice is in contravention of paragraph 158 of Redemptionis Sacramentum.

  • polycarped

    This subject has, of course, come up many times in discussion forums and online articles over the past few years – arguably demonstrating a longing among many for a return to dignified practices in relation to reception of Holy Communion. For anyone open to persuasion on the arguments for receiving on the tongue (not that I think any are really needed!) I’d definitely recommend a read of Archbishop Athanasius Schneider’s small book ‘Dominus est’. Also,, here he is talking about the subject on EWTN:

  • Cjkeeffe

    I think this happens a lot because people are encouraged to go up for a blessing which is essentially meaningless (spelling) as shortly after Holy Communion we all recieve teh Final Blessing at Mass. The question is what is the the effect of and poingt of going to Father or whose an EEM for a blessing at Holy Communion time?
    I think one gains as much if not more from quietly staying in their place and making a spiritual communion than going for a blessing.

  • Benedict Carter

    Jabba, WHY do you CONTINUALLY think up the most unusual, unlikely, rare instance to justify people’s outrageous behaviour? This is a pathological trait you have. Call a spade a spade for God’s sake. 

  • Benedict Carter

    No, it isn’t really the “state of mind” that is important, but the “state of soul”.

    To receive unworthily is to damn oneself. 

  • Cjkeeffe

    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 laudable. The Depoist of faith is settled, how its expressed may change and develop.

  • cephas2

    I had never really given this topic much thought until we moved to the US and I became an Extraordinary Minister in a city church. On one occasion I followed a woman down the aisle and asked her to consume the host. After Mass her husband berated me in the church for being ‘so rude.’ Another time I caught a woman leaving the church with the host in her handbag – it had a little pouch at the front where she had just dropped it in. She refused to give it to me and it was only when others joined me that she very reluctantly acquiesed. It’s quite shocking how we are allowing Our Lord to be abused.
    Communion in the hand is so open to abuse that we must return to communion on the tongue. I now attend a parish where great reverence to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is shown and communion is received the old fashioned way – kneeling at the altar rail, on the tongue, thanks be to God.

  • cephas2

    Amen to all of this! 

  • Benedict Carter

    Well done. Was she a Satanist you think?

    On the knees, on the tongue. 

    Then the problem is solved.

  • JabbaPapa

    That’s a good point, especially your comment on spiritual communion, but I disagree.

    Receiving such blessings is a normal procedure prior to First Communion for both chldren and adults, as well as being a part of one’s initiation as a Catechumen.

    Spiritual Communion is of course an essential party of ANY Eucharistic action, including presenting oneself for the receiving of such a Blessing.

    Also, the act of presenting oneself for that blessing is technically a Posture, illustrating externally and corporeally one’s inner and holy desire for full Eucharistic Communion, even though it may be presently impossible.

  • JabbaPapa

    No, it isn’t really the “state of mind” that is important, but the “state of soul”

    Yes, exactly right.

    It’s an obvious materialist Error to confuse the Soul with the mind, and liable to hinder one’s salvation.