Monday, January 28, 2008

Receiving Holy Communion

Archbishop Ranjith's intervention into the debate about recieving Holy Communion can only be helpful.

I am trying to train myself to always say "Holy Communion" rather than just "Communion".

I think being able to receive under both kinds is a good thing.

My problems with it are:

  1. The multiplication of vessels, the ideal is the biblical, "one bread and one cup", it is an important sign of unity. Even in the ancient Papal Masses there seems to have been only one ciborium and one chalice.
  2. Where there is no deacon the priest vested and standing in the centre of the church distributes the Sacred Host and an Extrordinary Minister of Holy Communion dressed in lay clothes or as an altar server distributes the Precious Blood to one side, this seems to say the Blood of Christ is less than the Body of Christ.
  3. The use of Extraordinary Ministers, though valuable, is hardly a good idea, even though in this parish it means the sick can receive weekly rather than monthly, the fact they are used diminishes the role of the priest (or deacon) and their connection to the Eucharist and introduces a heirarchy into reception of Communion and into the Church. Being "Extraordinary" means that they are not normal, and the church craves normality: more priests.
  4. Despite having allowed, and encouraged it in our diocese for twenty-five years the reception under both kinds is very patchy, I was at a Confirmation Mass at which less than a third received from the chalice. Most people ignored the Sacred Species under the form of wine which seemed to suggest it was less than that received the form of bread
Receiving Holy Communion in a procession, which is what it should be; though when I said this to an elderly nun some years ago she said it was really a queue (American - line), seems to minimise the horizontal/vertical nature of Holy Communion. There is something very beautiful about families receiving together as opposed to one after another. On Friday evenings we receive Holy Communion at the altar step, it was a pleasure a few weeks ago to see a young married couple receiving the Lord on the tongue whilst they held hands.

People ask me to restore the altar rails, not as a means of separating the sanctuary from the nave but simply so that the elderly might have something to hold onto whilst receiving.

One good thing, so many of our younger people genuflect before receiving, younger people seem to want to receive on the tongue according to the Church's norm rather than in the hand according to the special indult, this could be because here in Brighton we are a multi-cultural parish.

For our Polish community the problem is that so many people simply do not recieve Holy Communion for the rest of us the problem is the other way round.


gemoftheocean said...

Regards # 4 -- This may be a little blunt, but I suspect it might be for hygenic reasons. It may seem overly paranoid, but I knew someone to have AIDS I really would not want to chance drinking from the cup after them. If they have bad gums to the point where they might bleed a bit, and if someone else has a cut in the mouth....

Even not going to that extreme, there's always the idiot who hacks, coughs thinks they're over the common cold and they're not.

Just saying.

Anonymous said...


I think administering Holy Communion under both species leads to a degrading in the belief that the whole Christ is present in either species alone. Too many of the lay faithful who receive only the Sacred Host feel like they are missing out on something - when in reality they received Christ Jesus in His fullness.

IF the Laity insists on their "right" to Holy Communion under both forms, I think intinction is the best option -- this allows for communion under both forms but it has some valuable side-benefits -

- No communion in the hand.


- No use of extraordinary ministers (the laity are NOT suppose to self-intinct)

I've always noticed very conservative Novus Ordo priests using intinction as a way to satisfy the rule of law whereby the laity are allowed to receive under both species, but still safeguarding the Sacred Hosts and Sacred Blood from abuse (accidental or intentional), and also retaining the exclusivity of the ordained priest in distributing Holy Communion.

(Proper training and use of the Paten is a must for Holy Communion by intinction!)

Fr Ray Blake said...

I am sure hygiene is one of the reasons, and an important one, but Christianity demands fraternity should overcome that, like Francis embracing the lepper.

Another significant reason why many of my people do not receive is alcoholism. Many do not risk even a drop, I tried intinction, it is a bit difficult when someone comes up and says, "No blood, Father", What do you do with the host you have already inticted? One should have already intincted the host before saying "the body and blood of Christ".

Sacramentum Caritatis said the communion plate should not be dispensed with, we use one here when there is a server.

Et Expecto said...

Please correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that holy communion under both kinds was introduced as an indult, ie an exception to the norn, which should be reserved for special occasions such as the couple just maries at a nuptial mass. I believe that this is still the case.

Secondly, I think that communion in the hand is highly undesirable for two reasons.

Most people do not have the oipportunity to wash their hands prior to receiving Holy Communion, and consequently the sacred host is exposed to disrespect.

There is also the possibility of abuse. You probably can remember th occasion when a supposedly consecrated host appeared on ebay.

Anonymous said...

"Most people ignored the Sacred Species under the form of wine which seemed to suggest it was less than that received the form of bread."

Also there are those of us who would rather not receive from a lay person...

The fullness of the Sacrament is received under one kind... if there aren't enough priests/deacons to have reception from the chalice then why have it?

Also the hygiene concerns are very real...

I think the Eastern method of intinction is an excellent way to receive Holy Communion. Both kinds, one go, for more hygienic.

Dr. Peter H. Wright said...

Yes !

If the priest needs the assistance of "Extraordinary Ministers", so be it.

But by all means let them wear the cassock and cotta.

Laymen standing in the sanctuary wearing lay clothes sends all the wrong signals.

Anonymous said...

Our previous PP re-introduced the Communion plate after Sacramentum Caritatis was published. The first thing our new PP did on arrival a couple of weeks ago was to abolish it. Sad.

Physiocrat said...

When I first became a Catholic it was exceptional to receive under both kinds. Was there less faith then in consequence?

I am not keen on receiving from the chalice for various reasons, nor am I keen on being asked to distribute it. But it is awkward to have to decide not to when everyone else does. Equally is is an awkwardness to receive on the tongue when everyone else is receiving in the hand.

Please can we go back to the system as in 1965. ie Kneeling in a row at the altar rail, and receiving the Body of Christ only, on the tongue, except on special occasions. And not at all if there is any reason for going to confession.

This might start with having a word with the servers who set the example.

Wanderwide said...


With all due respect, I'm afraid that I can't agree at all with you that for the laity ordinarily to receive Holy Communion under both kinds is "a good thing".

1. One of the reasons for which the protestant "reformers" insisted that the laity should receive under both kinds was that they perceived the restriction of the Chalice to the Priest as being an expression of the ontological difference between the Priest and the laity. That is not the Church's intention, because she does permit lay people to receive the Precious Blood under certain circumstances. But limiting this to special occasions, such as First Communion, Confirmation and Marriage, does indeed serve as a subtle and salutary reminder that this important distinction exists. In my experience, both the Priests and the laity who are most insistent on Holy Communion under both kinds tend to be those who wish to blur such distinctions. That, surely, is reason enough for us to oppose it.

2. When I have visited parishes in Britain, on numerous occasions I have seen Priests - sometimes even the Principal Concelebrant - go and sit down at the time of Holy Communion for fear of offending an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion by "usurping" their function. The constant need for Extraordinary Ministers to administer the Chalice makes their service seem "ordinary" - indeed, something to which they have a right. The best way to check this is to make the reception of the Chalice "extraordinary", rather than the norm. And, surely, anyone who comes to Holy Communion busy worrying about their "right" to receive or to administer the Precious Blood is no fit state to do either?

3. The fact that some lay people receive the Precious Blood whilst others do not is itself divisive. Whichever they do, none receives more and none receives less, so it is hard to see a theological justification for such diversity of practice. Logically, either ALL of the people should ALWAYS receive under both kinds - except when prevented for reasons of health - or none of them should: except on special occasions such as First Communion. However, the GIRM (#284) simply makes it clear that the laity always have an explicit right to receive in ONE kind. "Any of the faithful who wish to receive Holy Communion under the species of bread alone should be granted their wish."

4. Concern about hygiene is certainly one of the reasons for which some lay people refuse to receive the Chalice. They, at least, have a choice in the matter: the poor Priest or Deacon who has to take the ablutions does not! You are extremely fortunate if you have never been presented with a Chalice to cleanse that contains a revolting mixture of slobber, lipstick and fragments of half-chewed Host. "Quod ore sumpsimus, Domine, pura mente capiamus." Indeed!

5. Although parishes in a rich country like Britain may be able to equip themselves with numerous Chalices, those in poorer countries may well find this difficult, and might well end up using unworthy or inappropriate vessels if the laity are to receive the Precious Blood all the time. Fortunately, however - at least in the developing country I which I live - this problem does not arise because Holy Communion is only given under both kinds on special occasions, and then only be intinction.

Perhaps one way of weaning people in rich countries away from the "ordinary" reception of the Chalice would be to teach them that the act of receiving Holy Communion under one kind (perhaps, at first, only in Lent) is an expression of solidarity - indeed, of "communion" - with their less fortunate brothers and sisters elsewhere.

Anyway, Father, what with one thing and another, I really find it quite extraordinary that faithful Catholics should devote so much time and energy to the issue of which way the Priest faces at Mass, and then simply ignore the much greater perils of false teaching, misunderstanding and irreverence that may be associated with the "ordinary" administration of Holy Communion under both kinds.

JARay said...

I hope that I may give my thoughts on this matter, accepting the fact that they are only my thoughts and that others see things from aa different perspective.
Where I live (Perth, Western Australia, Acolytes have been around for may years. I have been one for 32 years. All Acolytes wear albs and assist on the altar. Unlike your Extraordinary Ministers, Acolytes do have the privilege of cleansing the sacred vessels after Holy Communion. I think that this is mentioned in that document detailing the rights and wrongs of lay ministers assisting Ordained Ministers.
In my own parish, Holy Communion is always distributed under both kinds except on Sundays. On Sundays we have it once a month, whereas in the neighbouring parish it is every Sunday. We actually have a very nice matching set of 6 chalices and all of them are the proper thing in that, if they are not each made of gold, then all are completely gold-plated. I usually assist every Saturday morning and our usual congregation is around 50 people. I know because I have actually counted them. On Saturdays we use two chalices, one on the left and the other on the right. It is only an estimate but I would say that 90% all receive under both kinds.
We used to have intinction but as self-intinction is prohibited (although some still try it on), those who receive from the chalice do so properly.
In the matter of reception of the Sacred Host, I prefer to distribute in the hand. I find that some of those who want to receive on the tongue barely put their tongues out or even hardly open their mouths. Thus, I have found the saliva of some on my fingers. Whilst I quickly draw my fingers across my alb to clean off their saliva, I have, on a couple of occasions had this saliva cause the next host to stick to my fingers when I placed it on the hand of the next Communicant, with the result that the Host finished up on the floor!
Hence my preference for distibution in the hand. I fully understand, and know, the arguments for reception on the tongue alone. I don't subscribe to them.
Just my opinion!


Anonymous said...


In my experience with intinction, if a communicant doesn't want the Precious Blood, the priest administers the Host to the next person and then comes back to the original person with a new Host, without the Precious Blood.

I must also say that the times that I've seen intinction the most was at a parish where a regular guest priest would fill in for the normal pastor and he would always use intinction -- so because it wasn't his parish perhaps a proper system or routine never developed.

For instance, if you were to introduce intinction into your parish as the norm, perhaps you could have a special kneeler, or a special line, or something like this for those who want to receive only the Sacred Host without the Blood.

Anonymous said...

Don't you have altar rails Fr? i'm shocked!

Adulio said...

The urge to have communion under both kinds is a Protestant invention - specifically the Hussites who professed the Utraquist heresy that both communion species are necessary for salvation. The position was condemned at the Councils of Constance, Basle, and Trent.

The church in her wisdom prohibited this practice and would do well to do it again, as this line of thinking is starting to creep up.

Francis said...

Fr. Ray,

John's comment about his preference as an acolyte to distribute Communion in the hand sheds light on some of the non-heretical/ non-modernist reasons why 99% of priests have acquiesced in this practice. I don't like other people's saliva on my hands (or their bad breath) either.

However, as a communicant, I long for the day when the altar rails are re-installed and I can kneel down for communion -- from a priest, on the tongue. Until then, I will just have to put up with joining an ungainly and unmeditative queue, shuffling up to a 50-something woman who scowls at me unless I cup hands...No wonder there is no understanding of the Real Presence any more.

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