24 May 2007

Communion in the hand & the Real Presence

"Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand."
Mother Teresa of Calcutta

After reading other blogs about Rainbow sashers,
dress at Mass, etc., I thought I would get cranky about something that troubles me: Communion in the hand.

I am so grateful to the priests and the parishoners of St. Agnes for standing strong about how you should be attired at Mass, not just because it's a honor you should certainly afford your God and Creator, but because He has condescended to come to us in Holy Communion. Got that, HOLY Communion. Not Happy Hour. Just being in the presence of God should create a sense of awe within us, a sense of the supernatural, a sense of the All Powerful. Not just movie star awe, not just world leader powerful, but He who created you and loves you more than you will ever comprehend.

Because of that you should come to Mass properly disposed: soul, attitude, and dress. It's not too hard to find what time Mass starts, not too hard to find a parish offering Confession, not too hard to find a mall that sells a pair of dress pants. If we put as much effort into getting ourselves prepped for Mass as we do for a first date or a football game, people might actually start to think that we believed that God was truly present in our Masses. I can't even count the number of times my Protestant friends have said that we Catholics are just like them; our "services" are just like theirs. Contrare mon frere, we are different, that's the point.

We are different because God is present. Not just present in the "where two or more are gathered" sense. That same Jesus that died on Calvary, died to save your soul and mine, is present in the Holy Eucharist. If you ponder that for just a moment, it should help with many of the problems mentioned above. Trouble is, in some cases, sadly even with some priests, they don't believe it is the Real Presence.

Here's what that good Protestant revolutionary, Martin Bucer, believed:
"Every superstition of the Roman Antichrist is to be detested... I have no doubt that this usage of not putting these sacraments in the hands of the faithful has been introduced out of a double superstition; firstly, the false honor they wished to show this sacrament, and secondly the wicked arrogance of priests claiming greater holiness than that of the people of Christ, by virtue of the oil of consecration. I should wish that pastors and teachers of the people should be commanded that each is faithfully to teach the people that it is superstitious and wicked to think...that the hands of the ministers are holier than the hands of the laity; so that it would be wicked, or less fitting, as was formerly wrongly believed by the ordinary folk, for the laity to receive these sacraments in the hand: and therefore that the indications of this wicked belief be removed-as that the ministers may handle the sacraments, but not allow the laity to do so, and instead put the sacraments into the mouth—which is not only foreign to what was instituted by the Lord but offensive to human reason. In that way good men will be easily brought to the point of all receiving the sacred symbols in the hand..."

That almost sounds like the pap I hear from some Catholics.

In military terms, we need to "get squared away." We need to start believing in the Real Presence then we might start acting like it's the Real Presence.

That brings me to communion in the hand. From what I understand, and correct me if I'm wrong here, folks, is that communion in the hand started out from disobedience and even when approved it was a dispensation that wasn't to be a permanent thing.

The practice of Communion in the hand was first introduced in Belgium by Cardinal Suenens in disobedience to the rubrics of the Holy See. Not wishing to publicly rebuke a brother bishop, Pope Paul VI decided to lift the ban prohibiting Communion in the hand, leaving the decision to individual bishops. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, then president of the United States NCCB, initiated two unsuccessful attempts to introduce Communion in the hand in 1975 and 1976. In the spring of 1977, the bishops’ vote again fell short of the required two-thirds majority. Nevertheless, for the first time ever bishops in absentia were polled by mail after the conference meeting; subsequently the necessary votes materialized and the measure was declared passed. Several canon lawyers have stated categorically that this procedure was illegal. An interview with Bishop Blanchette in the National Catholic Register (June 12, 1977) confirms that Communion in the hand was unlawfully introduced into the United States.

According to a lengthy explaination at EWTN's website, communion in the hand has been approved, but is to be considered an option. I don't really find it optional in many parishes.

St. Agnes has retained its communion rail. People receive the Sacrament on their tongues. The action is to be passive on the part of the recipient...God comes to you, not you take God and place Him in your mouth. No other church that I've been in nearby makes it possible to receive the Holy Eucharist in this manner. It's standing or nothing. Fortunately, I have young ones that I carry up to Communion with me, making it pretty difficult to receive in the hand. You should see the looks on the EM's faces. Just how are they going to get that "wafer" in my hands? I've had them look at me like, "Well, what do you want me to do?" Carrying the kids up is pretty much just a ruse; my way of getting Communion on the tongue. Once they realize that I'm not setting my kid down, they timidly place the "wafer" in my mouth, careful not to touch my tongue because that's just eewwwwww. But, what about THEIR hands touching the Holy Eucharist then placing it in my mouth. To me, that's EEEEWWWWWWWW! It's bad on several levels. They're not the priest, they didn't just wash their hands and many (not all) seem to get more of a kick out of being the ones distributing the Holy Eucharist, then being aware of the Real Presence.

I won't even talk about all the abuses that can come about with communion in the hand. Am sure the Devil is laughing at how easy we make it for people to take the Body of Christ and use it for the unthinkable.

Some folks going to Communion aren't much better than those flippantly distributing it. Instead of concentrating, or even thinking, about the Sacrament they are about to receive, they are looking around, winking at people they know, paying no attention to God. They receive the Holy Eucharist with indifference, slap the "wafer" into their mouths, and don't bless themselves upon receiving. Once back in their seat, they don't kneel, they don't pray, they don't seem changed. On the other hand, there are some very saintly people I have seen going to Communion. They look like they are so happy they are going to cry, they look sorry for their sins, they feel unworthy to receive. I hope to get to that point some day, where receiving the Holy Eucharist is a rapture, pure ecstasy.

Even the Protestants got it right on this one (despite not having the Real Presence,) it is a Sacrament.

"Communion in the hand has not been, and will not be accepted by Heaven. This is a sacrilege in the eyes of the Eternal Father, and must not be continued, for you only add to your punishment when you continue on in the ways that have been found to be unpleasing to the Eternal Father." - Our Lady of the Roses, June 30, 1984


Cathy_of_Alex said...

swissmiss: Great post! I had never seen those quotes before. Very interesting and disturbing.

Communion in the hand is one of my peeves. However, it is allowed in this country. I always receive directly on the tongue. I prefer the rail but not all parishes, including mine, still have one that survived the blast (the 70s)

swissmiss said...

Thanks for the comments. I should mention that St. John's in St. Paul still uses a communion rail...at least at the weekday masses I've attended. At least they still have a communion rail!

Cathy_of_Alex said...

swissmiss: My parish is St. Andrew but I have been to St. John's. Incidently, it's the childhood parish of Terry of Abbey-Roads2 and Abbey-Roads blogs.

swissmiss said...

I did a posting a few days ago that mentioned Father Pingatore who was pastor at St. Ambrose and Terry said (on his blog in response to one of my comments) that St. Ambrose was his home parish. He must have the chrism of bilocution.

Terry Nelson said...

No - my family moved a lot. St Johns was my parish from 1st to 2nd grade. St Patricks from 5th to 7th grade. I lived in St. Ambrose parish from 8th to 12th grade. I was baptised at Immaculate Conception parish in New Richmond Wisconsin.

BTW - Do you know the OL of the Roses appariti is condemned?

Terry Nelson said...

At least - I think it's the same OL of the Roses apparition I recall.

swissmiss said...


Didn't know about the OL of Roses being condemned. Will have to look into it. Sloppy post on my part to have missed that.

Unlike you, my family bought a house out in the 'burbs and that was home for all my life. I always thought it would be neat to move, until I actually did it myself!

Xavier Martel said...

Well, I sort of felt like you did, but the following text from Cardinal Ratzinger gave me a different perspective:

"If we read what the Fathers say, we can see in what a spirit of reverence they received Communion. We find a particularly fine passage in the writings of Cyril of Jerusalem, from the late fourth century. In his catechetical homilies, he tells the candidates for baptism what they should do at Communion. They should make a throne of their hands, laying the right upon the left to form a throne for the King, forming at the same time a cross. This symbollic gesture, so fine and so profound, is what concerns him: the hands of man form a cross, which becomes a throne, down into which the King inclines himself. The open, outstretched hand can thus become a sign of the way that a man offers himself to the Lord, opens his hands for him, that they may become an instrument of his presence and a throne of his mercies in this world. Anyone who reflects on this will recognize that on this point it is quite wrong to argue about this or that form of behavior. We should be concerned only to argue in favor of what the Church's efforts were directed toward, both before and after the ninth century, that is, a reverence in the heart, an inner submission before the mystery of God that puts himself into our hands. Thus we should not forget that not only our hands are impure but also our tongue and also our heart and that we often sin more with the tongue than with the hands."

-God is Near Us: Banquet of the Reconciled, 2003, Ingnatius Press p71

swissmiss said...


Thanks for the great quote! I still think communion in the hand is not the preferred "option," but the thing that is most important is how we are disposed to the sacraments, and outward appearances can be telling, but also deceiving. Like we are told, "Judge not, least ye be judged."

Adoro te Devote said...

This is a great post. I'm blessed at my parish...many of us recieve on the tongue, although a few of the EHMC's don't seem to like it. I figure they can get over it.

There are occasions when I will receive in the hand, but it's rare.

Great quote from the anti-Catholic...amazing how so much insight can lead us to the truth, even from a twisted source.

And XM, that quote from Pope Benedict XVI was awesome! It makes perfect sense...I might need to take that and use it next year in RCIA to help explain the reverenc due the Lord as most will receive in this manner.

Ma Beck said...

Hip hip, hooray! Great post!
I'm also very blessed. My pastor forbids EMHCs and receiving kneeling at the rail, on the tongue, is the parish norm.

Regarding Pope Benedict's remarks:
They are absolutely spot-on.
But I really think his remarks were less about methods of receiving and more about the reality of what is happening when one receives.
Surely no one would argue that Person A might very well be more properly disposed while receiving in the hand than Person B, who receives on the tongue.
Here's what scares me:
Today, unlike in antiquity, ANYONE can present themselves for Holy Communion - satanists, sasher-supporters, people who want to sell the Eucharist on eBay. In the past ten years, members of every single group I just named have gone up, extended their hands, and subsequently been able to commit heinous sacrilege.
If Holy Communion were ONLY distributed on the tongue, satanists would NOT be able to walk away with the Body of Christ for use in their black masses.
Sasher-supporters would not be able to "redistribute" the Body of our Lord to people in a state of grave sin. And the Lord would NEVER be for sale on eBay.
Done properly, and watched by priests to ensure the Body is consumed at the altar, I don't see much wrong with receiving in the hand, if that's your bag.
But the fact is that this does not happen in many, many, many cases.
Until people are instructed on how to receive in the hand (you aren't taking an ATM receipt) and priests start ensuring people don't walk away with Jesus, I won't be comfortable.

swissmiss said...

Dear ma beck:

Thanks for visiting and your comments! I agree with you totally. Communion in the hand wouldn't be sooooo bad if the rules were followed about how one should receive in that fashion. It is just rife with laxity which is a slippery slope to abuse and worse.