Pars Secunda: Why Avoid It?

If you happened to read the first post (, you saw that the scope of allowance for Communion in the hand involved a lot of precautions. Precautions which, it seems, are largely unknown in the hand-receiving public. And there are more as well, but I think I’ve sufficiently made the point that care is to be taken.

So then, the Church allows it in limited cases. But, generally, why should it be avoided? That, my friends, is the topic of this post.

First of all, the Council of Trent, Session 13, Chapter 4, stated the following: “a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood”. The whole substance of the bread. That means that any particle of the consecrated bread is Christ, whole and entire. God. The Almighty. Your Creator.

And contrary to what many advocates of Communion in the hand want to think, fragments of the host–which, now, is God–do end up falling or getting attached to things. I saw a video on YouTube which was actually a test of this very thing. A guy took a bunch of unconsecrated hosts and set them on various objects, including his hand–and yes, when he picked them up, there were crumbs. That means that wherever those crumbs are left, God is left. So if someone receives Communion in the hand, and then picks his nose, he ends up covering God in nose funk, or wiping Him on his jeans, or something.

This whole fragments-falling-issue is why, if you go to a more traditional parish, it’ll probably use a Communion Paten. This goes under the chin (or hands if he receives in the hand) of the communicant so that during the transfer of Christ’s body from the hand of the priest to the person’s mouth, no fragments–which are Christ, no matter how minute–will fall to the floor. Oh, and as a side note, Vatican II never got rid of the Paten, either. In fact, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said in 2004 that “the Communion-plate (or paten) for the Communion of the faithful should be retained, so as to avoid the danger of the sacred host or some fragment of it falling” (Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum). Makes me wonder, why is the paten so scarcely seen these days?

OK, so that’s one danger of Eucharistic reception by hand: fragments being unnecessarily disrespected. And let me ask, do you wash your hands before receiving? You’ve been touching grimy things constantly, and now you’re gonna touch the Second Person of the Trinity, without washing your hands? The priest has to wash his. And he’s the ordained one who is, as per his ordination, eligible to touch Our Lord’s body without any special precautions. Yet if he needs to purify his hands, why don’t you?

Another point, if the Eucharist is received on the tongue and the communicant isn’t allowed to touch It, there’s a heightened sense of the solemnity of the act of reception. Whereas if Our Lord is received in the hand, the magnanimity of the act is downplayed.

I don’t remember who said this, but it was really awesome: “Communion on the tongue is Jesus feeding you, Communion in the hand is you feeding yourself”. Let’s think about this: it is the nature of gifts that they be given by someone, not taken by the recipient. The Holy Eucharist is the Highest Gift, so why should we desire to take It for ourselves rather than be given It?

As I said in part 1, the pope prefers Communion on the tongue. And no matter how many Vatican documents you read through, it is inevitably the case that Communion in the hand is the exception while Communion on the tongue is the preference.

To recap:

1. Communion in the hand involves a greater risk of fragments–which are Christ–falling, being walked on, being wiped on things, etc.

2. Communion on the tongue brings with it a greater since of the majesty of God than does Communion in the hand

3. If you receive on the tongue you don’t need to wash your hands painstakingly

4. Communion on the tongue better expresses the Eucharist’s nature as a gift

5. Communion in the hand is far and wide the exception, while Communion on the tongue must always be respected

6. The pope prefers Communion on the tongue.

In the end, why not just receive on the tongue?

May Our Lord in the Eucharist bless you, may His mother give you her prayers, and please, if you don’t mind, follow this blog,



6 thoughts on “Pars Secunda: Why Avoid It?”

  1. Unless I have a contagious sickness that I don’t want Father Mark getting any germs from to pass on to other congregants, I receive on the tongue. And for the past few weeks, I’ve been going on my knees for communion too (you should see the “Catholic for my nephews baptism” people stare!)


  2. Definitely loved that quote! I think another thing — receiving on the tongue emphasizes the fact that we aren’t just receiving bread. If it was normal food, we’d just eat it with our hands. But it’s not. And that’s why we do something we normally wouldn’t do. I think God deserves that. ;)


  3. I agree, the priest should touch the Eucharist, but our own contaminated hands ideally would not. When I first started going to the Tridentine Mass with Tom, he explained that when you kneel at the rail and prepare to receive Jesus, you should avoid resting your elbows on the rail, as is most people’s natural inclination. Instead, keep your arms down and your hands below the rail so that if the host falls and somehow misses the paten, it doesn’t fall onto or bounce off your hands. I suppose this also helps keep Christ contained, minimizing the number of things the host touches.

    Years ago at St. Paul’s, I remember receiving on the tongue from one of the Eucharistic Ministers who, in an effort to avoid touching my tongue with her fingers, let go too quickly and the host fell from my mouth and onto the floor. We both gasped, and I quickly picked it up again, put it in my mouth, and returned to my pew. Looking back, I realize I should have taken more care to ensure no crumbs were left on the floor. Frankly, I should have gotten down on the floor and picked it up with my tongue, and then licked the floor clean. Sounds gross, I know. And can you imagine the stares I’d have gotten? BUT it would have been a more correct solution. I wish I had just received from the priest. I wonder what he would have done? In any case, I agree patens should be used everywhere to avoid these situations.


    1. My biggest complaint is that Communion in the Hand, the EXCEPTION, has more or less become the norm in the US. Same with extraordinary ministers, you’ll see at least one at every Mass, but they’re only supposed to be used in limited cases. :( It’s so frustrating.


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