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Communion on the Tongue – One Priest’s Thoughts and Experiences – Part II

April 8, 2017 by  
Filed under Eucharist, Fr. Bryan Jerabek, Sacraments

One Priest’s Thoughts and Experiences
Concerning Communion on the Tongue

Part II

for post on Communion on the Tongue

Editor's Note: In Part I, Fr. Jerabek introduced the topic of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue, the dangers of inadvertent–and sometimes purposeful–profanation present in receiving Communion in the hand, and why there seems to be less regard for how we receive Our Lord these days. Today, in Part II, the author discusses whose hands are consecrated for handling the Blessed Sacrament, what other priests and bishops think of the practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand, and provides recommendations (and links) for further reading.

Among the other reasons in favor of Communion on the tongue, there is also the fact that the priest’s hands – and his alone – are consecrated for the sake of handling the Most Blessed Sacrament. Unfortunately, in recent decades the practice has been approved of allowing lay people to handle the Blessed Sacrament as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion; this is regrettable inasmuch as their hands are not consecrated for this purpose. And some may claim that because lay people can now handle the host, therefore everyone should be able to receive in the hand. Yet note well: those who function as extraordinary ministers are given a mandate by Church authority to do so, and are (or should be) provided with training as well.

As I said, I am certainly not the only one who is bothered by Communion in the hand. Many priests share this concern; even a few bishops. Some people suppose that I am scrupulous, given my worry about this matter at all or the care I take, for example, in purifying the sacred vessels: I take great care to remove all of the visible particles of the Precious Body and drops of the Precious Blood that remain. Besides those who flippantly chide me about how I “do the dishes” (they are not dishes!), I have been reprimanded by brother priests and even a bishop. People will say things like, “Jesus is a big boy; he can take care of himself! Don’t worry so much!” This is true. Christ is very great indeed – but in the Blessed Sacrament, he becomes very small and very fragile and he entrusts himself to our care.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider

Among the very few bishops who have spoken out against the practice of Communion in the hand is Bishop Athanasius Schneider – an auxiliary bishop in Kazakhstan. He has written at least two books on the subject, one of which is entitled, Corpus Christi: Holy Communion and the Renewal of the Church. In this excellent and concise book, the good bishop presents convincing arguments as to why our current practice and form of Communion in the hand is both imprudent and unprecedented. Maybe “imprudent” is too light of a word: it is offensive to God and is hindering authentic renewal in the Church!

Bishop Schneider also published another excellent book on this subject: Dominus Est! It is the Lord! Reflections of a Bishop of Central Asia on Holy Communion. I cannot recommend this little book highly enough. In it, he recounts the story of the “Eucharistic women” who, living during times of communist persecution, safeguarded the Eucharist and handed on to countless others a proper belief in and reverence towards the Most Blessed Sacrament. He also argues in this book why the practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand is to be discouraged and, if possible, abrogated. If you would like to read some inspiring stories about the sacrifices that holy people made to protect the Eucharist, and grow in your faith, I very much recommend this brief book.

The Church does give us the right – in the United States and in some other countries – to receive Holy Communion in the hand. But, as Bishop Schneider says, our Lord Jesus Christ has rights also: above all, to be treated with the respect and adoration that belong to the Divinity. If you were to ask me, I would advise you against ever receiving Holy Communion in the hand. I encourage all to receive Holy Communion not only worthily (i.e., in the state of grace) but also on the tongue.

O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine!

 

Father Bryan W. Jerabek, J.C.L. is Rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham, Alabama and is Chancellor of the Diocese of Birmingham. He blogs at http://fatherjerabek.com.

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Art for this post on Communion on the Tongue: Partial restoration of San Carlo Borromeo comunica San Luigi Gonzaga (St. Charles Borromeo communicates St. Aloysius Gonzaga), tapestry by unknown artist, photographed by Giovanni Dall'Orto, June 22, 2007, copyright holder allows use for any purpose, provided copyright holder is properly attributed; Detail of Bishop Athanasius Schneider O.R.C. celebrating Traditional Latin Mass in Tallinn, Estonia, photographed by Marko Tervaportti, 10 December 2009 own work; both Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. Bryan Jerabek

Father Bryan W. Jerabek, J.C.L. is a priest of the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama, currently serving as Rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham, Chancellor of the Diocese, and Judge on the Marriage Tribunal. He received his License in Canon Law from the Pontifical College of the Holy Cross in Rome. His personal blog is fatherjerabek.com. Besides his native English, Father also speaks Spanish and Italian. He enjoys traveling and so far has been to 18 countries. Father’s present favorite food is Spanish tortilla.

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  • nancyveronica

    Thank you for featuring this story. Fr. Jerabek’s love for Jesus just shines. His remark about others remonstrating his “washing the dishes” wounds my heart, because it is clear that there is great mis- understanding/believing about the Eucharist.

  • Liz231

    What about deacons – is it ok to receive from them on the tongue?

    • Margarett Cahill Zavodny

      Of course it is! They are also considered Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

    • Pamela

      I would say yes, because the deacon is ordained.

  • Pamela

    Father, I could not agree with you more. Excellent post, and I hope many people read and recommend it. It was Bishop Schneider’s book, Dominus Est!, that compelled me to resume receiving communion on the tongue a few years ago. After reading his accounts of the great lengths taken to revere and preserve the Real Presence in his home country during a time of persecution, I could never again approach Communion so casually.

    There are priests who show their reluctance, and one priest very visibly recoiled when I opened my mouth to receive. But I am persistent. And to make a statement, I will stand in line to receive Communion from the priest even if there are EMs standing by with no line, no waiting. Let us pray for a return to this sacred practice.

    • Charles Saliba

      Let us pray for a return to this sacred practice.

      Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you EAT the flesh of the Son of man, and DRINK his blood, you shall not have life in you. 54He that EATHS my flesh, and DRINKS my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. 55For my flesh is FOOD indeed: and my blood is DRINK indeed. 56He that EATHS my flesh, and DRINKS my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. 57As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that EATHS me, the same also shall live by me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did EAT manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever.

      From Jesus own words it is more than emphatically clear that we should EAT,and DRINK Him, not swallow him.

      In the beginning of the church the Eucharist was a normal meal, and they chewed the bread, and drink their wine, and for sure they never washed their hands as much as we do.

  • jesspinosa

    I favor receiving communion on the tongue but I think priests should be trained how to give communion on the tongue properly in such a way that their hands do not touch the side of the mouth of the communicant. I have experienced feeling the priest’s hand slide on the inside of my mouth, making me wonder how many more mouths (and the saliva in them) were touched by his hand before mine. Especially during flu season, receiving communion on the tongue could present a serious health issue. I apply hand cleanser before I receive communion on the hand.

    • A. Crawford

      There are a couple of issues here. First, if you’re going to receive on the tongue, I would assume you know that you have to stick your tongue out. Way out. Further than makes you comfortable! The problem with the priest touching your mouth is also the angle. When people receive Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue, it is seldom that the priest touches anyone’s mouth because the angle is right for him. Another reason we need to go back to receiving kneeling, as in all TLM parishes.

  • Charles Saliba

    May I ask!

    What is more filthy, our hands or our tongue?

    Considering the fact that without a doubt we wash more our hands than we do our mouth in general.

    Also, are we as clean as our hands are when we present ourselves for communion.

    The fact that Jesus said:

    YOU CLEAN THE OUTSIDE OF THE CUP………………..

    • Pamela

      I don’t see it as a matter of “cleanliness” but of reverence. To receive the Real Presence of the Creator on our hands seems patently profane. Opening our mouths to receive Him is an act of holy humility. Also, tiny particles from the host can remain on your hands and end up who-knows-where, but any particles in your mouth are dissolved and swallowed.

  • Danijela Brekalo

    This all boils down to one question-Do we believe the Sacred Host is truly Our Lord? If we do, the only way to receive Him is with the utmost respect and deepest humility the way the Church always did, from the consacreted hands of the priest onto our tongues. Consider that not a single Saint ever received Our Lord in their hands. All the rest of the discussion is of no consequence.

    • Marty Kulak

      What about the apostles at the last supper. I’m quite sure those saints received communion in their heart via their hands.

      • Elizabeth L. Smith

        The apostles were priests as per a local priest in our parish

  • Fr. JPS

    I agree that Father makes some good arguments but I still think it is okay to receive with the hands as long as it is done properly with reverence. One problem with receiving on the tongue is that some people stick their tongues out farther than others and not everyone opens their mouthes as wide as others do. Sometimes my hands have hit someone’s tongue after giving them Communion because they put their tongue further out than I expected and if there is a big difference in height it can be difficult. We have a few parishioners who are very tall as one man is close to seven feet.

    • Elizabeth L. Smith

      The answer is simple. BRING BACK THE COMMUNION RAIL!!! people will kneel and automatically receive on the tongue as it should be. Years past the laity NEVER touched the sacred host. We are lazy Catholics and there are progressive/liberal clergy who really don’t care that much….one lame excuse after another. The rail will eliminate the Eucharistic Ministers as we don’t need them except for extraordinary events. After the reverence of the consecration the priest plops the sacred hosts in people’s hands. A document in regard as to how this horrible practice came into being is in the archives at Notre Dame. I have a copy. It took place in 1977. Also, as to the apostles taking the communion in their hands – THEY WERE PRIESTS. Amen.

      • kmqf1031

        Best answer in this entire thread!

      • Pamela

        Amen! On Sundays, I attend an FSSP Mass where communion is received kneeling at the communion rail and on the tongue. I have never had a priest’s finger touch my tongue or lips at the FSSP Mass … but it’s an almost everyday occurrence at my Novus Ordo daily Mass!

    • Cathy L.

      Fr. JPS, who says no when it is done improperly? We were taught that the right hand should be beneath the left creating a “throne” for Our Lord. In reality, I see many receive in the hand that cannot and do not receive in such a manner. Eg, those using canes and those carrying infants in their arms.

      • Fr. JPS

        Cathy,
        Yes, you are correct that some cannot receive in such a manner because they have a child in their arms or they have a cane but we do not tell them no. Thank you for your reply and have a blessed Easter!

        • LizEst

          …and some may be holding someone else up as they both approach to receive Jesus!

          • Boo

            I’ve often picked up my baby to take with me going to Holy Communion even if I didn’t have to. Sometimes there is an unwillingness to give Holy Communion on the tongue (either by the odd priest who thinks this is too antiquated or by extraordinary ministers who feel awkward doing it this way). Holding a baby or infant somehow made it more ‘necessary’ or acceptable for me receive on the tongue. And they get the priest’s blessing too – bonus!

  • Helen Losse

    Father, I am a relatively new but well-read Catholic (two years this Easter). I know it is our choice as to how receive, and I choose to receive on the tongue. I receive from the priest (rather than a Eucharistic minister) if at all possible. I agree with everything you said but have questions. Why, as a child, were you told to let the host melt on your tongue? Didn’t Jesus use the word “gnaw”? Wasn’t that what made many turn from Him? I thought we were supposed to chew the Body of Christ. Yes, particles do get stuck in one’s teeth, but I simply dislodge them with my tongue. The 15 minutes that we are told to wait before consuming food seems long enough to get every piece swallowed.

  • I received on the tongue for many years, enduring the obvious discomfort of many Eucharistic Ministers and the confusion of a few priests. I’ve finally returned to usually receiving in the hand as an act of charity towards the EM’s who don’t seem to be adequately trained. Many of the EM’s are fine, but for me it became too much the “how” that took away from the “Who.” Now I’m compliant with the acceptable custom in our area.

  • Totus tuus

    Thank you and bless you Fr Jerabek!!! This article is AWESOME.

  • Diane

    What about obedience to our Pastors? A spirit of defiance removes you from receiving in a state of grace no? Reveriance is not a virtue or a gift if it’s sprinkled with defiance I believe. If you truly love Christ with all your heart, mind, body, and soul, receiving Holy Communion reverently would be humbling yourself before the Lord in obedience and submission to your priest whom happens to be in Persona Christi. Christ judges the heart. I see plenty of people receive on the tongue and in the hand with what would appear unreverently but how do we know what is going on in their souls? I don’t think we are seeing this whole thing as Christ sees it. We are just doing a lot of judging or stating our own opinion in a matter that is not our place. If our own Pope Francis has allowed this matter of receiving Communion in the hand then why is this matter any concern of ours?

    • Riverboat

      Who’s defying whom? “The new manner of giving communion must not be imposed in a way that would exclude the traditional practice” (SACRED CONGREGATION FOR DIVINE WORSHIP, Letter “En reponse a la demande, 1969”).

      • Diane

        A while back I had a problem with receiving communion in the hand and I started receiving on the tongue and even on my knees. One day my pastor got angry and told me that because I was a Extrodary Eucharist Minister I had to receive communion the same way as everyone else. I got very upset and left the Church. I discovered in time that it really wasn’t about how I received Christ but the fact of the matter was that I was disobedient to my Pastor and indeed defiant. And that if the Holy See has approved this method of receiving communion than who am I to say how Christ feeds His sheep?

    • Elizabeth L. Smith

      Diane,
      Did you watch Palm Sunday Mass in the Holy Land? There were scattered people with their hands projected. The Host was placed on their tongues and their hands were ignored. The Pope was there. It’s very difficult to receive on the tongue irreverently.

      • Diane

        I think the fact of the matter is that whether Pope Francis prefers to give on the tougne he still allows the receiving in the hand. My main point was that we as mere creatures can not see into the hearts of others. Only God can. Just because our eyes see what appears as irreverent does not justify classifying others under this label. Some days I frown but that does not mean I’m angry. I’m all for receiving on the tounge trust me. I receive this way everyday but who am I to say that those that receive in the hand are irreverent? Even if they are, isn’t it Christ’s nature to love those that don’t love him? Aren’t they the ones that he came for? The sinners, not the just….

      • Charles Saliba

        It’s very difficult to receive on the tongue irreverently.

        Matthew 15:18 But the things which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and those things defile a man.

        19 For from the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies.

        20These are the things that defile a man.

        But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.

        Acts 2:46 And continuing daily with one accord in the temple,

        and breaking bread from house to house,

        they took their meat with gladness and simplicity of heart;

    • Gypsy Rosa

      It concerns me greatly because I has seen people try to walk off with The Body of Christ. There are many people who are involved in the occult and they will use Catholic items including stealing The Body of Christ for their purpose. Communion on the tongue (unless there is a serious communicable disease and with permission from the priest) and then that will eliminate problems and arguments,

      • Charles Saliba

        It concerns me greatly because I has seen people try to walk off with The Body of Christ.

        Receiving the Holy Host on the tongue doesn’t make any difference! I myself saw people rushing out of the church straight after receiving communion definitely with good intention I believed. Here under is an excerpt which I cut and paste from a list of miracles related to the Holy Eucharist!

        Santarem, Portugal, mid-13th century

        …….Despite her trepidation, the woman went to Mass and received, but did not consume, the Sacred Host. After hurrying from the church, she placed the Most Blessed Sacrament in her kerchief. Intent on her mission, the woman did not notice that the Host had started to bleed profusely. Another villager worried that the woman herself was injured, and drew the blood to her attention. Horrified that the Host was bleeding, she rushed home and placed the Blessed Sacrament in a trunk. …………

  • Joy Inskeep

    I have no issue with anyone who can handle receiving on the tongue. I think for many it is an issue of the utmost respect. However, has anyone considered that for some who have traumatic boundary issues this could be an extreme distraction? Some who have abuse issues will simply not be able to focus. Why argue over this? Let him who can receive this way do so. For someone for who this mean of receiving is a serious distraction, let them still receive Christ. Those given the responsibility of making the decision of an option understood what they were doing. Let Christ be received with an open heart. Let Christ be the judge on this. No man knows the heart of another as Christ does.

    • Marianne Dobbs

      Not judging, only offering a suggestion. Whether one takes the Body or Blood, it is still full Communion. I know some who bypass the Body due to Celiac’s disease and drink instead. Would this be an option?

      • LizEst

        Certainly those who have celiac may receive the Precious Blood. There are special hosts available to be consecrated for people with this disease. As well, if they are severely affected, they must drink from a special chalice.

  • LizEst

    Indeed, Elizabeth, it is quite long. Please see our FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) here, especially question number 4 and its subquestions: http://www.spiritualdirection.com/frequently-asked-questionshttp://www.spiritualdirection.com/frequently-asked-questions

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