Communion on the hand verses on the tongue
In light of COVID-19

Many church services were canceled, and might be again, while others have a strict protocol of avoiding communion on the tongue. We are concerned that there is a disproportionate clamp down on the Church, while "essential services" such as abortion houses and liquor stores remain open, but that is another issue. With COVID protocols, many diocese are suspending communion on the tongue.

Which is preferable, the hand or the tongue?

Naturally, a physical posture that represents the most humility and gives the Lord the most dignity is preferable. That would be kneeling and receiving Communion on the tongue. However, the Eucharist has been approached in various ways over the centuries. It is valid to receive it in the hand. Its also acceptable to abstain from Communion and take Spiritual Communion if there are health concerns, but don't abstain because of a disordered understanding of the history of communion fostered by a philosophy that is critical of Vatican II, the Novus Ordo Mass, and popes since the council.

The traditional blogsphere was telling Catholics not to receive communion at all, and just have "Spiritual Communion" if they can't receive it worthily on the tongue while kneeling. They sometimes said that communion is no safer in the hand than in the mouth, which seems difficult to defend since saliva is a primary viral source while the hand is a secondary source. Our opinion, however, is that all Catholics should be allowed to receive communion on the tongue even though there might be a slightly higher risk of transmission. Unfortunately that is not the reality right now.

Regarding communion on the tongue, it is true that the Lord is sovereign and can remove any physical virus from the Eucharist or the priest administering it, but we have the examples of St. Faustina, St. Therese, St. Damien, St. Kateri, and countless more who died from contagious diseases. Many priests died during the black plague, while giving communion to the sick and administering last rights. This was heroic, but it also demonstrates that God's purification of contagions and his healing of the sick is more nuanced than prosperity gospel advocates and our Catholic counterparts would like to believe.

Is taking communion in the hand receiving the Eucharist unworthily?

St. Paul was concerned about communion being received worthily, but he was worried about our faith, our intentions, and the state of our souls. (1 Cor 2:27-30). It is most likely that early Christians received communion in the hand. Jesus said "take this and eat it." There are no traditionalist apologists who argue that Communion in the mouth was common in the first centuries of Christianity. Instead they defer to later disciplines.

Frequent verses infrequent reception

For many centuries it was rarely taken because Catholics felt unworthy. Pope Pius X was the champion of frequent communion, issuing Sacra Tridentina to encourage it in 1905.

In the early Church, Christians received the Eucharist frequently, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46), so it seems that frequent communion is preferable under normal circumstances.

Here's how to prepare your heart for communion

  1. Believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. If you don't believe this, don't take it.
  2. Go to confession before receiving Communion. Don't receive it if you have serious sin that is unconfessed, and confess at least once a year. We recommend once a month.
  3. Be intentional: Don't be distracted, try to have a slow Saturday and extra prayers on the Saturday before Mass. Two of the devil's favourite tricks are:
    • To create a fight or annoyance or disruptions with family members before leaving for Mass, or on the way to Mass.
    • To get men to think about attractive women in the communion line or in a pew in front of them just before reception.
    • To create a situation where you are late for Mass, or to encourage you to leave early. (Judas was the first Christian to leave Mass early)
    Battle that, and focus on the Lord.
  4. Follow up: Pray sincerely after Mass. I (Hugh) like to visualize the Lord moving through my body healing problems, and then moving though my marriage, and children, and my work and then radiating out to the wider Church and then the entire world.

Related Articles