A Privilege of the Ordained

Published on the Web with Permission of the Author

10. Communion in the Hand---A Symptom
of Irreverence

The abuse of Communion in the hand is just one example of a widespread pattern of decreasing reverence for the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. When the Council closed, the practice throughout the Church was for kneeling communicants to receive the Host on their tongue from the consecrated hands of a priest. Now It is commonly placed in the hands of standing communicants by lay distributors, sometimes while the priests sit in their presidential chairs and watch. Similarly, the many signs of reverence on the part of the priest have been abolished, simplified, or made optional. An example here is the practice of keeping the thumb and forefinger together from the moment of consecration, until the meticulous ablutions which followed the communion of the people. Now, before the Communion, the priest is often seen rushing about inside and outside the sanctuary, shaking hands with as many people as possible.

What, then, should be the reaction of a faithful Catholic to the abuse of Communion in the hand? Clearly, out of respect for the Blessed Sacrament, which is God, he should insist upon receiving It only upon the tongue from the consecrated hands of a priest, and to receive It kneeling. Alas, in some churches today this means that he will be refused Holy Communion. This has happened in London's Westminister Cathedral. But, surely, although we receive Holy Communion to unite ourselves with our Divine Saviour we can manifest our love for Him more clearly by depriving ourselves of this consolation where it would involve receiving Him without due respect. Those who kneel to receive Our Lord upon the tongue are following the example of countless great Saints throughout the centuries---and acting in the manner which the present Holy Father clearly prefers.

However, we should certainly refrain from passing judgment, in private or in public, upon any of our acquaintances who receive Holy Communion in the hand. While the practice has certainly led to much irreverence, it does not necessarily denote irreverence on the part of every individual who now receives in this manner. Where a parish priest has made it clear that he wishes Communion to be received this way, where it has been made clear that this is the wish of the diocesan bishop, where an incessant campaign of cleverly slanted propaganda has been aimed at ordinary members of the faithful, it is hardly surprising that so many have succumbed. But this does not mean that, perhaps by distributing pamphlets such as this, we should not attempt to persuade our friends and relatives to return to the traditional practice. Any effort we make to achieve this is an effort intended to increase reverence to our Eucharistic King, and surely we could engage in nothing more worthwhile than this.

Remember then, O Savior,
I supplicate of Thee,
That here I bowed before Thee
Upon my bended knee;
That here I owned Thy Presence,
And did not Thee deny:
And glorified Thy greatness
Though hid from human eye.