June 3, 2018
The Second Sunday After Pentecost
Corpus Christi Sunday
Properly Receiving Holy Communion
On January 30, 2011, the Very Rev. Fr. John Langeit, rector of Ss. Simon & Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, Arizona wrote to his parishioners, addressing some abuses commonly observed, seeking to correct them. The following seven points are excerpted from his letter:
“Here are 7 common Holy Communion profanations that I see all too frequently:
- Blessing oneself with the Host before consuming it. (The act of blessing with the Eucharist is called “Benediction” and is reserved to clergy alone).
- Receiving the Host in the palm of the hand, contorting that same hand until the host is controlled by the fingers, then consuming it (resembling a one-handed “watch-the-coin-disappear” magic trick).
- Popping the Host into the mouth like a piece of popcorn.
- Attempting to receive with other items in the hands, like a dirty Kleenex or a Rosary.
- Receiving the Host with dirty hands.
- Receiving the Host, closing the hand around it, then letting the hand fall to the side (as if carrying a suitcase) while walking away and/or blessing oneself with the other hand.
- Walking away without consuming the Host.
- Giving the Host to someone else after receiving (including animals)...yes, it happens!”
Has an arm in a sling or cast, etc.; is carrying a baby, a hymnal, or any other item(s) that would prevent one from receiving the Most Holy Eucharist with both hands unoccupied or unobstructed and completely empty. (No single-handed or snatching the Host receptions)
Has bandaged hands/fingers Is wearing gloves
Is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion who has a pyx in their hand to bring Communion to the sick One has unclean hands or things written on their hands (sometimes seen among young people)
Though the official, universal Catholic norm is still for reception of the Most Holy Sacrament on the tongue (Bl. Pope Paul VI was against reception in the hand, fearing a loss of faith in the Real Presence), if Holy Communion is to be received in the hand it should be so done in the following manner: While in line, the communicant reverences (makes a bow) to the Sacrament while the person in front of them is receiving. When the priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister says, “The Body of Christ,” the communicant responds, “Amen,” and puts out their tongue and receives; or puts out their hands as flatly as possible (one hand under the other); the Sacred Host is placed on the flat palm. The communicant then steps aside (so the next person can receive), immediately places the Host on their tongue with the other hand, and returns to their place in the congregation. (Intinction - the dipping of the Host into a chalice of the Precious Blood – is not permitted for the faithful to do by themselves.)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) gave instruction for the way the faithful should receive: "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 symbolic 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."
Presenting oneself to receive with hands that are curled, cupped, held down low to the body; held side-by-side and/or with open fingers… make it difficult for the one distributing to therein place the Sacred Body of our Lord. It also increases the danger of the Sacred Host falling to the floor. Please also remember that no communicant should ever “pluck” the Host themselves with one’s thumb and forefinger from the fingers of the Priest, Deacon, or extraordinary minister.
One is never required or forced to receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist; so if one is unsure of whether they should present themselves or not in the Communion procession, it is probably best to err on the side of not receiving. The inside front cover of the missalette / hymnal has a useful guideline issued by the U. S. Bishops for the reception of Communion in the Catholic Church. (And no one should ever be chewing gum in church if they intend to receive Holy Communion.)
Unfortunately, I have experienced numerous abuses in the reception of Holy Communion. Occasionally, parishioners find Hosts in the pews or on the floor!!! Please, please, please be vigilant: should you see someone not consume the Holy Eucharist, immediately alert the priest or deacon; or you may even take the Host back from them yourself and bring it to the priest or deacon. This is a very serious issue.
We cannot be too wary of abuses that can occur, either through ignorance or with evil intentions. Truly, there are practitioners of devil worship and of the occult who seek to obtain the Sacred Body of our Lord for use in so-called “black masses.” The main goal of this heinous act is to commit desecration and blasphemy towards God. Let us always remember that the Holy Eucharist is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ; so when we come to receive Him into our souls, may our demeanor, actions, and love be displayed accordingly.
In Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda