Saturday, February 17, 2007

Communion in the Hand: A Fuller Sharing of a Venerable Practice or Contrary Usage?


I can't help but wonder why the Church ever reverted back to Communion in the hand after reading Memoriale Domini, Instruction On The Manner Of Distributing Holy Communion. This was published on May 19, 1969 by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and still bears the status of being the most recent official document on the subject.

It seems clear the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship was not in favour of the faithful receiving Communion in the hand, and that the Holy Father only caved to pressure from the bishops where the practice was already prevalent. "Indeed, in certain communities and in certain places this practice has been introduced without prior approval having been requested of the Holy See, and, at times, without any attempt to prepare the faithful adequately."

Indeed, the Holy Father petitioned the bishops to decide if the traditional rite of receiving on the tongue should be changed to Communion in the hand, and the result was a resounding no:

From the returns it is clear that the vast majority of bishops believe that the present discipline should not be changed, and that if it were, the change would be offensive to the sentiments and the spiritual culture of these bishops and of many of the faithful.

Therefore, taking into account the remarks and the advice of those whom "the Holy Spirit has placed to rule over" the Churches,(11) in view of the gravity of the matter and the force of the arguments put forward, the Holy Father has decided not to change the existing way of administering holy communion to the faithful.

The Apostolic See therefore emphatically urges bishops, priests and laity to obey carefully the law which is still valid and which has again been confirmed. It urges them to take account of the judgment given by the majority of Catholic bishops, of the rite now in use in the liturgy, of the common good of the Church.


Communion in the hand is referred to as "contrary usage" in Memoriale Domini and regulations were laid down for "hierarchies who ask for and are granted permission to introduce the practice of holy communion on the hand."

Even with this permission, it's sad to know that the practice was "forced" on us by a minority, even though the vast majority of bishops did not desire the faithful to return to the ancient practice of receiving Communion in the hand. As stated so clearly in Memoriale Domini,"It carries certain dangers with it which may arise from the new manner of administering holy communion: the danger of a loss of reverence for the august sacrament of the altar, of profanation, of adulterating the true doctrine."

Enough said?

7 comments:

Mark said...

If we are to "revert" to the ancient practice, then we should do so fully. Ever wonder why Father washes his hands? All the faithful did, but then they put on gloves; only the priest actually touched the Blessed Sacrament.

That's the "ancient practice" as it's been explained to me. But then, I don't imagine that the blessed sacrament was found crumbled up in the pews, in the pages of the missalette, or in the collection basket either (all reported abuses in my former and current parish).

Michael Leggett said...

Also, Satanic & Witchcraft Practitioners, especially at All Hallows Eve or on All Saints Day, are known to smuggle the Sacred Host, for purpose of profanation at "Black Masses":

I take my Host on the toungue & consume it on the spot, in Prayer.

Vox Cantor said...

When I received my first communion in 1962 (now you know my age) it was on my knees. The Altar Boys would come to the communion rail and turn over a white linen cloth that extended from one end to the centre gate and then the other end. We would hold this up under our necks AND; the Altar Boy would still use the Paten to catch any tiny crumbs or incase the Host dropped.

When I was an Altar Boy (1966) everyone stood as at McDonald's to receive so you could not kneel if you wanted to. But we still used the Paten. When I placed it on the Altar for the Purification, I could see little flakes of pepper-sized parts of the Eucharist. These were cleaned by the Priest using his fingers which we would then pour water over into the Chalice at the Purification Rite. He would then consume the Remains.

What we were doing was a precious act to a precious substance.

Anita Moore said...

When you point out the abuses such as those Mark and Michael mention, the response is always that it's possible to commit sacrileges even when Communion is received on the tongue. This is true; but when you can receive on the hand, sacrileges are that much easier. Why should we want these things to be that much easier? The mere fact that receiving on the tongue does not prevent 100% of abuses is not a reason to abolish Communion on the hand.

Anita Moore said...

I should have said, "is not a reason NOT to abolish Communion on the hand." Whoops.

Angela Messenger said...

I had a chance to go to Mass at a different parish last summer. We actually had a choice regarding how we wanted to receive. They even had a prie-dieu set up so one could receive on their knees, on the tongue. I did that because I have never in my life received kneeling. It was a much more profound experience.

paramedicgirl said...

Angela, I'm with you - there is nothing I know that compares with receiving Communion kneeling at an altar rail, on the tongue and wearing a veil. These all speak of humility and love of the Lord. That's the stark contrast between the NO and the TLM.