Thursday, January 26, 2012

On Receiving the Eucharist

Dear Theophilus,

Apparently there is a web based movement to have the Catholic Church change the practice of receiving the Eucharist either on the tongue or in the hand to strictly receiving on the tongue. As Todd Flowerday at Catholic Sensibility points out, such a grassroots movement to have the Church change doesn’t really merit the dialogue. The Church will make its decisions based on the 2,000-year revelation of the Catholic faith – not on what a group of people with an internet petition want it to do.

For the record, the catechism does not state a preference for one method or the other for receiving the Eucharist. What the catechism does state on the issue of receiving communion can be found in paragraph 1387:

To prepare for worthy reception of this sacrament, the faithful should observe the fast required in their Church. Bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest.

Keeping this directive in mind, what does deserve our dialogue on the issue is the need to educate the laity on how to receive the Eucharist with the respect, solemnity and joy it deserves. In my experience as an extra-ordinary minster of the Eucharist (in both my parish and at catholic school Masses), these are some of the travesties I’ve come across”

  • “The Body of Christ.” – “Yup!”
  • Snatching the Eucharist from my hand.
  • Popping the Eucharist with one hand – like popcorn.
  • Filthy hands (dirt or ink).
  • Intinction (dunking the Eucharist in the Chalice like a donut in coffee).
  • Not immediately consuming the Eucharist.

Some of the most reverent receivers of the Eucharist are actually the children who have most recently been formed in catechism class. So, what has happened from childhood to adulthood to lose this reverence for the Eucharist and what can be done to rectify the problem?

A great place to begin is to reinculcate an understanding of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. I recently came to a heightened awareness of the real presence in the Eucharist and was moved to tears at communion at Sunday Mass. Once the laity comes to a deeper understanding of the real presence, the reverential reception of the Eucharist will come naturally.

This education of the real presence needs to begin with the pastor; through homilies, bulletin articles and direct instruction at communion time. There also need to be, however, an accountability on the part of the laity to educate themselves. The Mass should not be a passive experience. The laity are called to be active participants in the sacrifice of the Eucharist. To be active participants, there must be some responsibility on their part to deepen their understanding of the sacrifice and real presence that is before them on the altar.


  1. Robert,
    I followed you here from a link on Fr Barron. I think I have met you...Hint-Did you lose an electronic device a couple years ago in the Adoration Chapel and get a late call from me? I'd like to hear from you cuz when I read the list of travesties I thought...Yep, sure sounds like St.______________ . Specially the Sunday evening so-called youth mass which I now refuse to take my 10 yr old son to.
    I know, all parishes have some problems...I just hate to see some that are relatively easy to address lay ignored.
    By the way , the dunking you mentioned is quite often done by well meaning folk who haven't been taught better and by some who have, but because of the alcohol that's still present and their desire to receive "Body and Blood", still do it anyway.
    Your list is good and we all need to prepare and receive reverently. That's why I don't need a well meaning but clueless usher wishing me peace and trying to shake my hand on my way to communion. Distractions abound because most folks don't have a clue or have been allowed by a feelgood type parish to forget.
    If you're the same Robert here's my email:
    Peace, Gary

    1. Hi Gary,

      Thanks for stopping by. Unfortunately, I don't believe I'm the person you're thinking of. My parish doesn't have a Sunday 6pm Mass. This said, your comment is telling of the need to revitalize the understanding and belief in the Real Presence.

      I too have problems with so called 'Youth Masses', as they tend towards entertainment instead of reverence. At the end of the day, it is the pastor's parish and their responsibility for their parishonners understanding of the Mass and the Eucharist.