So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Communion on the tongue: IWC(s)D—It's what Catholics (should) do.

Many far more qualified than this blogger have written about it. Many are calling for it. Most have no idea why it ceased being the norm. Any reasonable person can see why it matters. Too many priests reject it. What is 'it'? Communion on the tongue.

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The document Memoriale Domini, cited in full below, concerns what might be the greatest act to damage the life and faith of Catholics in the history of the Church. I.e., the introduction of communion-in-the-hand. It is, as has been described by many in the blogosphere, a concession to the unjustifiable rejection of communion-on-the-tongue among bishops and laity in the 1960s.

The fear by many that there would be a loss of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament has been fully realized. Now more than ever, it seems, Catholics lack due reverence for the Real Presence. We have lost our vocabulary that identifies and conditions in us a deep appreciation for the profound reality of the Holy Eucharist.

In aboriginal culture, at least here in Canada where so many first peoples have lost their mother tongue, a corresponding loss of culture and dignity has occurred. People have become strangers in their own lands. We Catholics have allowed a form of secularism to invade the temple, and we have paid for that with a loss of sacral language which was both a sign of orthodoxy as well as an aid to conserving orthodox prayer. The reworking of the Missal (3rd Typical Edition) in English has begun a process whereby Catholics may reclaim a rich diversity of expressions which ground us in the theological gold of the Church.

Pay attention to the following terms used in Memoriale Domini:
  • reverence
  • holy sacrifice
  • august sacrament of the altar
  • sacred species
One could easily add a few additional words to the conversation:
  • Body and Blood of Christ
  • venerate, veneration
  • adore, adoration
  • Holy Communion
We hear those and similar words at Mass in the Eucharist Prayers (canons) and various proper prayers on a regular basis, but priests' and people's sense of the sacred is still missing. If one's common vocabulary is any indication of one's lived beliefs, the conspicuous absence of those words speak of a diminished faith. Or, to put it another way: lex orandi, lex credendi.
External gestures expressing and reinforcing an interior disposition, an inward bow or genuflection, so-to-speak, help cultivate a resilient orthodox piety which complemented one's formation in Christ as a saint. Few such gestures remain. The Sign of Cross is an orthodox affirmation in summary form of the Holy Trinity.
Change language and you change reality... or one's perception of it.

For a religion of the Word, how or why have we arrived at a place where words mean so little? Relativism. Catholics have been nearly as prone to the trivialization of language as the radicals, i.e., radical feminists and liberal protestants and others who have successfully emptied language of meaning and who have made it even more difficult for men and women to communicate with each other and with God. Why did this occurred? Radical feminists had to revise language in order to gain power to impose their wider agenda: e.g., abortion and contraception to aid hedonism and licentiousness. Protestants have had to empty language of meaning otherwise their lack of authority to interpret Holy Scripture and Tradition would be exposed. The passages in Scripture which are explicitly related to authority in the Church are usually interpreted to refer to all Christians, not just hierarchs. The protestant enterprise, lacking the authority Christ gave to His Church founded on Peter (not Luther nor Calvin nor Zwingli nor...), and lacking the depth of Apostolic Tradition, has sought to gain legitimacy for and acceptance of non-Christian practices such as contraception as well as divorce and remarriage by ignoring the Tradition received from the Apostles. The liberal-progressivist exegetical praxis, of which the historical critical method is so much a part, a method of analysis that is inherently suspicious of received history, has enabled protestants to empty Scripture of its orthodox and apostolic meaning. Better we employ the historical method which trusts eye witness accounts and refuses to impose a 20th and 21st Century mindset on the contemporaries of Christ and His Apostles.

If the New Evangelization is to be successful, language must be redeemed, reclaimed from the radical-progressivists who have done so much violence to English and other languages and to human relationships. The power of gesture—kneeling, bowing, receiving communion on the tongue, etc.—accompanying acclamations and responses draws attention to the words we use and reinforces intention. Ergo, to foster an appropriate inner disposition, ensure the congregation kneels from the Sanctus to the Memorial Acclamation, and restore kneeling at the elevation/Ecce Agnus Dei. We could also do with a reminder to bow our heads when the name of Jesus, Mary or a saint whose feast is being celebrated is mentioned. And, at the very least, a bow during the phrase in the Creed which recalls the Incarnation is entirely appropriate. The rubrics call for a bow, and a genuflexion on Christmas and on the Feast of the Annunciation.

Liturgical gesture is to the Mass as the various acts of affection exchanged between husband and wife are to a marriage. It's one thing to say 'I love you'; it's quite another to physically express those words to a spouse. The Liturgy without reverent physical gesture is like a marriage without physical love making.

The restoration of the word requires the Word.

We can do nothing apart from Jesus Christ. A people formed in the Word by the word of God must necessarily preach and model the word. Our acts of mercy and mission must be rooted in an unfailing appreciation for the most glorious gift of God in our midst: the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ our Lord, the Word Incarnate, our Saviour present among us.
For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.—1 Corinthians 11:29.
Because most Catholics do not discern the Body of Christ, profanation is common. One does not need to be a reader of souls to identify impiety. One need only observe at a typical Sunday Mass the number of communicants who pop the Body of Christ in their mouth like candy to be convinced of the preceding proposition. No attempt to shirk responsibility for permitting Catholics to persist in ignorance may be used to excuse priests and bishops from their duties to safeguard the Sacraments and to properly form disciples in the Catholic Faith. We laity, too, bear a responsibility to model for our brothers and sisters proper decorum before the Lord of Hosts. If our appreciation of the Holy Eucharist lacks conviction, our attempts at evangelization will be impotent. Truly, if we save the Liturgy, we save the world.

Most of the concerns articulated in the document below have largely been ignored and even ridiculed. How often have you heard a priest call people's attention to the Real Presence? In our diocese, with a couple of exceptions, it is the younger priests and priest-converts (Ordinariate and Pastoral Provision priests) who are the ones forming Catholics in the teaching of the Real Presence. Thanks be to God, a new generation of priests is emerging that points to the Sacrifice of the Mass and all that implies for the world. Let's call them "Pope Benedict priests", for many have been formed with an appreciation of the ars celebrandi promoted by the Pope-Emeritus.

More priests could and should make the teaching on the Real Presence a priority in their homilies, catechetical programs and RCIA classes. With the exception of two or three parishes, most RCIA programs in our diocese are, sad to say, abysmal. If the New Evangelization is to be anything of substance, it must necessarily include a strong focus on the belief in the Real Presence.

Check out the site:

Pay particular attention to the results of the three questions asked of bishops regarding the introduction of communion-in-the-hand.

Instruction on the Manner of Distributing Holy Communion
Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship
Issued on May 29, 1969

When the Church celebrates the memorial of the Lord it affirms by the very rite itself its faith in Christ and its adoration of him, Christ present in the sacrifice and given as food to those who share the eucharistic table.

For this reason it is a matter of great concern to the Church that the Eucharist be celebrated and shared with the greatest dignity and fruitfulness. It preserves intact the already developed tradition which has come down to us, its riches having passed into the usage and the life of the Church. The pages of history show that the celebration and the receptions of the Eucharist have taken various forms. In our own day the rites for the celebration of the Eucharist have been changed in many and important ways, bringing them more into line with modern man's spiritual and psychological needs. Further, a change has taken place in the discipline governing the laity's participation in the sacrament. Holy communion under two kinds, bread and wine has been reintroduced. It had once been common in the Latin Church too, but had subsequently been progressively abandoned. This state of affairs had become general by the time of the Council of Trent, which sanctioned and defended it by dogmatic teaching as being suited to the conditions of that time.[1]

These changes have made of the Eucharistic banquet and the faithful fulfillment of Christ's command a clearer and more vital symbol. (Let's argue the merit of that premise another time, shall we.) At the same time in recent years a fuller sharing in the Eucharistic celebration through sacramental communion has here and there evoked the desire to return to the ancient usage of depositing the eucharistic bread in the hand of the communicant, he himself then communicating, placing it in his mouth.

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.

It is certainly true that ancient usage once allowed the faithful to take this divine food in their hands and to place it in their mouths themselves.

It is also true that in very ancient times they were allowed to take the Blessed Sacrament with them from the place where the holy sacrifice was celebrated. This was principally so as to be able to give themselves Viaticum in case they had to face death for their faith.

However, the Church's prescriptions and the evidence of the Fathers make it abundantly clear that the greatest reverence was shown the Blessed Sacrament, and that people acted with the greatest prudence. Thus, "let nobody . . . eat that flesh without first adoring it"[2] As a person takes (the Blessed Sacrament) he is warned: " . . . receive it: be careful lest you lose any of it."[3] "For it is the Body of Christ."[4]

Further, the care and the ministry of the Body and Blood of Christ was specially committed to sacred ministers or to men specially designated for this purpose: "When the president has recited the prayers and all the people have uttered an acclamation, those whom we call deacons distribute to all those present the bread and wine for which thanks have been given, and they take them to those who are absent."[5]

Soon the task of taking the Blessed Eucharist to those absent was confided to the sacred ministers alone, so as the better to ensure the respect due to the sacrament and to meet the needs of the faithful. Later, with a deepening understanding of the truth of the eucharistic mystery, of its power and of the presence of Christ in it, there came a greater feeling of reverence towards this sacrament and a deeper humility was felt to be demanded when receiving it. Thus the custom was established of the minister placing a particle of consecrated bread on the tongue of the communicant.

This method of distributing holy communion must be retained, taking the present situation of the Church in the entire world into account, not merely because it has many centuries of-tradition behind it, but especially because it expresses the faithful's reverence for the Eucharist. The custom does not detract in any way from the personal dignity of those who approach this great sacrament: it is part of that preparation that is needed for the most fruitful reception of the Body of the Lord.[6]

This reverence shows that it is not a sharing in "ordinary bread and wine"[7] that is involved, but in the Body and Blood of the Lord, through which "The people of God share the benefits of the Paschal Sacrifice, renew the New Covenant which God has made with man once for all through the Blood of Christ, and in faith and hope foreshadow and anticipate the eschatological banquet in the kingdom of the Father."[8]

Further, the practice which must be considered traditional ensures, more effectively, that holy communion is distributed with the proper respect, decorum and dignity. It removes the danger of profanation of the sacred species, in which "in a unique way, Christ, God and man, is present whole and entire, substantially and continually."[9] Lastly, it ensures that diligent carefulness about the fragments of consecrated bread which the Church has always recommended: "What you have allowed to drop, think of it as though you had lost one of your own members."[10]

When therefore a small number of episcopal conferences and some individual bishops asked that the practice of placing the consecrated hosts in the people's hands be permitted in their territories, the Holy Father decided that all the bishops of the Latin Church should be asked if they thought it opportune to introduce this rite. A change in a matter of such moment, based on a most ancient and venerable tradition, does not merely affect discipline. 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.

Three questions were asked of the bishops, and the replies received by 12 March 1969 were as follows:

1. Do you think that attention should be paid to the desire that, over and above the traditional manner, the rite of receiving holy communion on the hand should be admitted?
Yes: 597
No: 1,233
Yes, but with reservations: 315
Invalid votes: 20
2. Is it your wish that this new rite be first tried in small communities, with the consent of the bishop?
Yes: 751
No: 1,215
Invalid votes, 70
3. Do you think that the faithful will receive this new rite gladly, after a proper catechetical preparation?
Yes: 835
No: 1,185
Invalid votes: 128
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. (So then, what happened? Why has communion-in-the-hand been permitted? Rather than answer those questions, it should be enough for bishops to insist on communion on the tongue. I.e., a return to the venerable practice which safeguards the Blessed Sacrament.)

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.

Where a contrary usage, that of placing holy communion on the hand, prevails, the Holy See—wishing to help them fulfill their task, often difficult as it is nowadays—lays on those conferences the task of weighing carefully whatever special circumstances may exist there, taking care to avoid any risk of lack of respect or of false opinions with regard to the Blessed Eucharist, and to avoid any other ill effects that may follow.

("Communion in the hand: don't do it; but, if you really, really, really have to... ." Ugh.) In such cases, episcopal conferences should examine matters carefully and should make whatever decisions, by a secret vote and with a two-thirds majority, are needed to regulate matters. Their decisions should be sent to Rome to receive the necessary confirmation,[12] accompanied with a detailed account of the reasons which led them to take those decisions. The Holy See will examine each case carefully, taking into account the links between the different local churches and between each of them and the Universal Church, in order to promote the common good and the edification of all, and that mutual good example may increase faith and piety.

Note: in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (pp. 546-547) the Instruction was accompanied by a sample of the letter (in French) which is sent to hierarchies who ask for and are granted permission to introduce the practice of holy communion on the hand. The letter laid down the following regulations:
1. The new method of administering communion (in those places "where a contrary usage prevails" as an exception) should not be imposed in a way that would exclude the traditional usage....
2. The rite of communion in the hand must be introduced tactfully. In effect, since human attitudes are in question, it is linked with the sensibility of the person receiving communion. It should therefore be introduced gradually, beginning with better-educated and better-prepared groups. It is, above all, necessary that an adequate catechesis prepares the way so that the faithful will understand the significance of the action and will perform it with the respect due to the sacrament. The result of this catechesis should be to remove any suggestion of wavering on the part of the Church in its faith in the Eucharistic presence, and also to remove any danger or even suggestion of profanation.
3. The fact that the lay person is now able to receive holy communion in the hand should not suggest to him that this is ordinary bread, or just any sacred object. Rather ought it to strengthen his sense of his dignity as a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, of which baptism and the grace of the Eucharist make him a part. He will thus experience an increase of faith in the great reality of the Body and Blood of the Lord which he touches with his hands. His respectful attitude should be proportionate to what he is doing.
4. (A most dangerous proposal! Dangerous, because it empties the proscription against communion-in-the-hand of any force.) With regard to the manner of administering the sacrament, one may follow the traditional method, which emphasized the ministerial function of the priest or deacon, in having them place the host in the hand of the communicant. One may also adopt a simpler method, allowing the communicant himself to take the host from the ciborium. In either case, the communicant ought to consume the host before returning to his place, and the minister's role will be emphasized by his saying, "The Body of Christ," to which the communicant responds, "Amen."
5. No matter which method is adopted, one will be careful not to allow any fragment of the host to fall... .
6. When the communion is distributed under both kinds, it is never permitted to place in the hands of the communicants hosts which have first been placed in the Blood of the Lord.
7. Bishops who have been permitted to introduce the new rite of communion (Note: the new rite is a limited introduction of an exceptional consideration. Universal permission is not given.) are asked to send a report to the congregation, six months hence, on the outcome.
[Translated by Rev. Austin Flannery, O.P. from AAS 61 (1969), pp. 541-547.]


1. Cf. Council of Trent, session 21, The Doctrine of Communion under Both Kinds: Denz. 1726-1727.
2. St. Augustine, On the Psalms, 98, 9.
3. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystagogic Catechesis, V, 21.
4. Hippolytus, Apostolic Tradition, n. 37.
5. Justin, Apologia, 1, 65.
6. See St. Augustine, On the Psalms 98, 9.
7. See Justin, Apologia 1 66.
8. Instruction Eucharisticum Mysterium n. 3.
9. Ibid., n. 9.
10. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Mystagogic Catechesis V; 21.
11. See Acts 20:28.
12. See Vatican II Decree Christus Dominus, n. 38, par. 4.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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