Communion; Hand or Mouth?

Yesterday at Mass, my husband noticed that on the floor of our pew, by our feet, was a quarter of an unconsumed Host. He picked it up and consumed it.

Discussing it on the way home, my husband chose to think the best, not the worst. “Maybe [at a previous Mass] the wedge was part of Consecration Host, and it somehow got picked up with another one and missed, or dropped onto a sweater, or something.”

My husband is always quick to think the best, especially when a matter is too troubling to consider, otherwise. We don’t want to think the worst, that someone simply threw the Blessed Sacrament on the floor, or had casually nibbled at the Host, as though it were a cookie – although such things do, sadly, happen.

Nevertheless it brought home to us, again, the reasonableness of receiving the Eucharist by mouth, rather than by hand. My husband currently receives in the hand; I have, over the years, gone back to receiving by mouth; neither one of us has an issue with the other’s choice – they’re just our personal preferences. But my husband has said that if the choice disappeared, he’d have no problem receiving by mouth again.

So, it is very interesting to read Pope Benedict’s thoughts on the matter:

“I am not opposed in principle to Communion in the hand; I have both administered and received Communion in this way myself.”

But, he explains: “The idea behind my current practice of having people kneel to receive Communion on the tongue was to send a signal and to underscore the Real Presence with an exclamation point. One important reason is that there is a great danger of superficiality precisely in the kinds of Mass events we hold at Saint Peter’s, both in the Basilica and in the Square. I have heard of people who, after receiving Communion, stick the Host in their wallet to take home as a kind of souvenir.

“In this context, where people think that everyone is just automatically supposed to receive Communion — everyone else is going up, so I will, too–I wanted to send a clear signal. I wanted it to be clear: Something quite special is going on here! He is here, the One before whom we fall on our knees! Pay attention!

It seems like Light of the World is allowing the pontiff to address some negative assumptions that are immediately made about his every move–like, why he wore the camauro:

For example, in December 2005 Benedict XVI once sported the camauro, a thick woolen cap last worn by Pope John XXIII. Several commentators touted it as an example of Benedict’s traditionalism, but in the Seewald interview the pope says the reality was far more prosaic: It was a cold day, Benedict has a sensitive head, the camauro was lying around, and he simply put it on.

Benedict says he’s never done so since, “in order to forestall over-interpretation.”

My husband is quick to assume the best about even the worst situations–to try to credit the good, until something else convinces him otherwise. Wouldn’t it be great if the media–or even some Catholics–could do that, once in a while, about the Pope?

Or if we all could do that, just a little more than we do, about others, in general–assume the best, rather than the worst about others–whether they are in the pew behind us, or personal acquaintances, or media folk, or even some politico-types–until we have a real reason not to? That’s a lesson I know I keep needing to learn, over and over.

To that end, I think I am going to close comments for the first week of Advent. I am becoming convinced that the internet–wonderful as it is as a tool for information and communication–is also turning people into curmudgeons or hand-wringing hysterics. Too much time in the forums and on the comments threads and in the echo chambers–all that noise–it can’t be good for us, or our souls. We’ve all gotten into the habit of instantly jumping to respond to stories, events and people–instareactions–that everyone seems kind of edgy and unhappy. Maybe a little quiet time will make us more reflective, and that will make for a fruitful Advent.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • DaTechGuy

    About 12 years ago I started receiving by mouth, it has been part of a slow drift toward more reference.

    There is not really a place to kneel while receiving the host at my church but I go to one knee when I receive the wine.

    The worst result of Vatican II was the march away from reverence, it was not an intended result but there it is.

    These are all baby steps, each baby step toward virtue leads in the right path

  • DaveW

    I deliberately held this comment until this thread was well dead.

    Four days each week I show up an hour early for Mass. I serve as an acolyte/sacristan and Eucharistic Minister. I’ve done this now for over 3 years.

    I clean the altar and the surrounding area on my hands and knees. I straighten the altar cloth and reverently lay out the Corporal(s). I set up the Lectionary to the proper reading. I set up the Sacramentary. I also ensure the sound system is properly set up and the lighting is properly tuned.

    I light all the candles and spend a good minute or so on my knees before the Tabernacle asking God to wash away my iniquities and make me worthy of serving him in this capacity, asking especially for Him to forgive my sins and to help me be reverent and not cause scandal to anyone watching me closely. Gingerly I open the Tabernacle and check to see if there is enough Host to serve the Mass. I especially beg Him to help me to avoid any mistakes.

    I am astonished at the disrespect and disdain shown in this thread for people like me that give our time to serve our brothers and sisters at the Mass.

    I am further astonished and disheartened to see myself JUDGED by people that show up at Mass 5 minutes early and spend their time judging whether my hands are clean enough to serve them communion.

    When the Mass is over I extinguish the candles, check and lock the Tabernacle, ensure the area is clean of crumbs and yes, I’ll lick my palm to collect any crumbs that cannot be plucked by hand. Then I help the others that participate in the Mass as I do clean the sacristy, pick up the altar cloths and cleanup the credence table, set up the flowers for the next Mass.

    Perhaps those of you that are so worried about whether my hands are suitable to hand you the Host should think about whether you are worthy to receive it with the attitude you bring to the Mass.

    This thread, more than my health problems that make what I do very difficult, is absolutely dismaying to me.