We are in the Communion line, eight of us dressed in our Sunday best. We move forward. Seven of us genuflect and one kneels. We look up. Our Lord is there waiting. He is placed upon our tongues. Another genuflection and we receive the Precious Blood. And then we are filing back into our pew to pray, and to remain on our knees at least until the moment Our Lord is returned to the Tabernacle.
We are different. Most people have adopted the new practice of bowing, and very few people will receive Our Lord on the tongue. I don’t really like being different. I would love to come to Mass and not be noticed. But how can we do that with so many children in our pew? And when we retain the customs of more traditional days?
I went to see our parish priest when the new custom of bowing was introduced. Would we be forced to bow too, out of obedience? No. Bowing is now permitted but not obligatory. The ‘default setting’ for receiving Communion is still on the tongue while kneeling. Genuflecting and now bowing, are permitted. So we are doing nothing wrong. So why is it so hard sometimes?
To be honest, I would like to be like everyone else. I don’t enjoy seeing the anxious look on an extraordinary minister’s face as she realises she has to place the Host upon my tongue.  I don’t like to worry when we attend a parish other than our own. Will the priest be comfortable with ‘on the tongue reception’ or will he look distastefully upon us as we open our mouths? Will he order our kneeling communicant back to his feet before allowing him to receive Communion? How much easier it would be if I could accept Our Lord into my hand like everyone else. But I can’t. It doesn’t feel right.
Some people believe it is more humble to do what everyone else is doing, to melt into the crowd and not to stick out. Perhaps being different is drawing attention to myself. Perhaps the other parishioners will get the impression I think I am better than them: Is bowing not good enough for me? ... Or is it not good enough for Our Lord? Who is right?
And if bowing is not good enough for Our Lord, is genuflection good enough? Or should we all be kneeling? I think we probably should. If there was an altar rail where we wouldn’t all get in the way… eight lots of down and eight lots of up and then the downs and ups repeated over again… I am too weak (at the moment) to really consider that.
If I could convince myself that being like everyone else was in fact being humble, this would solve all my problems. How much easier it would be. The question is: is the easy way, the best way? Does it matter how we receive Communion as long as we approach the altar? Or is Our Lord worth all the agony of being different, of standing out from the crowd?
Please share your thoughts.

You might like to share Susan's blog post, Pride, Veils and Vindication at Barefoot in My Catholic Bubble

Post a Comment

  1. Sue, this is thought prevoking. I recieve the Lord on the tongue as well. I also genuflect. I really don't care what others think. It is how I choose to reverance Our Lord. I would love alter rails again. Brid knelt down not long after homeschool camp, and was denied Our Lord. This was very upsetting for her.
    Dermot & I receive both forms of Our Lord side by side as a symbol of our marriage and unity. This I know gets people talking, but for us, its all about unity and being before the Lord together.
    Its OK to be different. It may encourage someone to receive or reverance the Lord the same as you.
    Thanks for posting this.

    1. NO ONE is allowed to deny a communicant the Eucharist because they kneel to receive Our Lord! It is so frustreating to hear those kinds of stories.

      We are blessed to attend the Traditional Latin Mass in a Church where we all receive Our Lord knelling at the Altar Rail. I love it!

      I firmly believe that the practice of standing and receiving Our Lord in the hand is what has decimated the Catholic belief of the True Presence. Very sad...

    2. Karla,

      I agree with all you say.

      My son has been ordered up from his knees before a priest will give him Communion. Not our parish priest fortunately. What could he do at the time? I guess we could have complained afterwards to the bishop.

      We live in a small community away from the city. We don't have the same choices in where to attend Mass as in more populated areas. But we do have a good priest and the monastery isn't too far away. But I feel it shouldn't matter which church we go to. We should always be able to receive Our Lord in the reverent manner we know is right. In theory we have that right but for some reason it can still be very difficult.

      Karla, your church sounds so beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

  2. It was a sad day when we took away the Altar rail and people stopped kneeling down beside it to take Communion on the tongue.

    And the Altar boys carried a little plate which they placed under your chin just in case the Host fell, or little crumbs fell away.

    The little plate captured any crumbs that fell and they were carefully collected after Communion was given to the congregation.

    Ah ... those were the days all those millions of years ago; before our Catholic Church modernised and ruined a lot as it did so.

    (Sorry for this gloomy comment).

    God bless.

  3. Leanne, what a lot of good points you've made!

    I totally agree with you about encouraging others by what we do. We've had fellow parishioners come up to us and say, "We know you genuflect... receive on the tongue... can you tell us what is allowed?" They want to do the same as us.

    I love your custom of receiving side by side as a sign of unity in marriage. How beautiful!

    Regardless of how I feel, I continue to do what I feel is right. Our children don't seem to worry, but it can be distressing when something happens to them like when a priest refuses Communion because they are kneeling.

    Yes, it's OK to be different!

    Thanks for sharing, Leanne.

  4. Hi Victor, I quite understand about your gloomy comment. It's a gloomy topic and not one for jokes. Everything you say is so true. I wonder what the situation is like over in the UK. Here, there are some great parishes and some not so great...That reminds me of my other hate: shopping around for a good parish. But maybe sometimes it is unavoidable?

    Thank you so much for sharing. God bless!

  5. in america (pennsylvania)...it seems almost recieves in the hand andno one kneels, bows or genuflects at all thye just walk up like it is nothing and recieve in the hand and sometimes even drop it! This was my norm growing up and I knew no different. But, after I met my husband we moved around a lot. In California, most of the parishioners in our parish were Hispanic. they bring with them such strong Catholic traditions that most Americans should be ashamed. So I really loved the church we belonged to there since it taught me so much about my faith that stupid me didn't even know...so many traditions that they did away with in my growing up churches...I knew nothing of them until the Hispanic culture taught me. the priest there refused to gived anyone communion in the hand and only on the tounge...so that was a first for me and I came to much prefer it that way...they also kneel at the altar rail there. I also prefer that. Anyway...we moved back to Pennsylvania and I love it here but I do think this area is not as fervernt compared to CA hispanic catholics. Like I said they do not kneel or even bow etc...my husband continues to genuflect though and the children follow him. Since I am a blender-in-type and hate to draw attention to myself I do not...but I think he is right in the genuflecting at least.
    Awhile back, our parish priest put a little column in our paper and discussed this issue. Interestingly enough, his opinion was that you should not bow or genuflect becuase we are there to worship as a community in the church and doing that would not unify the community and not worshipping as you should be and that if you did was kind of vain or ostentatious...I see his point but I still disagree. For awhile I wondered if doing so was a sin, but I do not think so now. I think he is wrong in that assumption. People should worship as they feel right.

  6. Thank you for your comment, Kim. It is good to see you here!

    When I became a Catholic I didn't understand all the customs of the Church either. I didn't genuflect and I received in the hand. I followed everyone else and it didn't occur to me that there was a better way of showing reverence to Our Lord.

    Attending a church with a parish who show respectful behaviour makes all the difference. I love the sound of your CA parish. So many people are influenced by their priest. I guess priests have a great responsiblity to teach us what is right. I do not think they are always correct in their views however, which can be difficult as we must show respect to the clergy.

    I like what you said about worshipping as a community and being united. I talked about this with our parish priest. I can see how we can process up to the altar as a united community but I also think the moment when we receive Our Lord is a very personal one, and we should be able to do what we feel is right.

    I hope all is well with you, Kim. God bless!

  7. I have prayed and reflected so much on this issue and I know that the Lord hasn't finished leading me, yet, but, here is where I'm at, right now. After reading the book on Elizabeth Leseur, I prayerfully felt drawn to melt into the crowd and adopt the majority form of receiving the Sacrament. It is less stressful, but, at first, I was still anxious about showing less reverence, after years of receiving on the tongue. At this stage, it keeps coming back to me that a humble heart is the most important thing - it is possible to receive on the hand with reverence and humility, and it is possible to receive on the tongue with pride.

    I feel uncomfortable admitting that I receive Jesus in this way because I feel vulnerable to judgment, but this is where I'm at, right now. Maybe, the Lord will think I'm ready for bigger things, later on, but, until then, I'll work on my other issues as He reveals them to me.

    When I was an Anglican, we had altar rails and could receive on the tongue. It was really beautiful - such a shame it wasn't the real presence of Jesus:(

  8. I would never judge you, Vicky. We must all do what we feel is right. I just feel sad that some priests and parishioners assume that those receiving on the tongue are doing it out of pride. It is not easy sometimes. It is not a matter of pride at all. It's all about reverence and Our Lord.

    If receiving in the hand and bowing had never been permitted, these issues would never have arisen. The level of reverence decreases with each change. Where will it end? And should we keep fighting for what we believe? Or let the Church we love be changed forever.

    It's distressing to think the Anglican Church shows more reverence for something that is just bread than we show for Jesus.

    Thank you for your comment and adding to the conversation, Vicky!

  9. I know you wouldn't judge, Sue. In fact, you've got me thinking about the whole issue of reverence, all over again - it may be time to reassess:)

    Yes, it's a shame that the beautiful customs of the Church are being lost so thoughtlessly. We've found some modern churches sadly sterile and the beautiful old churches positively soul-lifting.

  10. I have been pondering this article since I first read it yesterday. This is definitely a topic worth discussing. I did used to receive in the hand, but now I only receive on the tongue. I won't say it's wrong to receive on the hand since the Church doesn't. But I do agree with your comment, Sue, about "Where will it end?" And I agree with Victor's comment that the doing away with the altar rail has led to a loss of the sense of the sacred. Again, "Where will it end?"

    It really isn't too much of an issue for me. We often attend the Tridentine Mass where a communion rail is used. Even when we don't attend the Tridentine Mass, many people in our parish receive on the tongue, so standing out in either a manner of embarrassment or pride is not an issue. I know it can be, though, for people attending Mass under different circumstances.

    We have enough altar boys at each Mass for the patens to be used (the small gold plates held under the communicants' chins or hands). I blogged about it here: http://mostlybluewithatouchofpink.blogspot.com/2011/04/future-of-priesthood.html

    We are very blessed. We live in a very solid diocese and, on top of that, have extremely holy priests and many devout families in our parish.

    Thanks for covering this topic, Sue. I'm interested in what others have to say.

  11. Hi Sue,

    Here in the UK it depends very much on the priest rather than the church. Some parishes have good (old fashioned) priests. Others have modern (always busy doing something or other) priests.

    Priests are in short supply. Four years ago our church was joined to another by the Bishop and we now have one priest serving both churches about two miles apart.

    Communion is received in the hand or on the tongue, as you wish, but no kneeling or genuflecting or Altar rails either. Just queue up in two single files in the middle aisle and one file is served by the priest and the other by a helper. Then move left or right (depending on your queue) to receive the wine from other attendants.

    I've known some churches where the priest refuses to give Communion on the tongue.

    On a separate matter - I'm researching what you asked me and will write to you. As you can see my E Books are simple PDF files with a picture at the beginning.

    What did you mean by links - do you wish to say something in Page 13 then with a link it jumps to Page 35 within your book? I'll check if you can do this in PDF.

    I normally write my books in Word and then get someone else to PDF it for me and load it onto my personal website www.holyvisions.co.uk then I ask people on my Blog to download from my website.

    I don't know if Blogger allows you to load your PDF book onto them and your readers to download from there.

    God bless.

  12. Vicky, I think it is good for every one of us to reassess periodically. And not just about how we recieve Communion.

    Yes, the Church is changing. A 'good' reason for the changes can always be found. I remember when you were an Anglican and you were telling me how your parish had decided not to have communion any more so as not to exclude those that weren't eligible to receive: everyone can't receive so none of us will. Sounds reasonable but...how the devil must have laughed over his victory. And how he must be laughing at us now that we are all so confused and not sure if we should be worshipping Jesus with the reverence He deserves.

    I think it takes courage to discuss an issue like this and be open with our opinions. Thank you for joining in!

  13. Stephanie, thank you for your comment. How blessed you are with your parish. And you can attend a Latin Mass too!

    We have a good parish and we live within travelling distance of the Pauline Fathers Monastery but there is no Latin Mass near us. But although we are in a good situation at the moment, things could change if we have a change of priest. I don't really like parish hopping, looking for the ideal priest and Mass. Mass is Mass. Or should be. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we didn't have to think about where we attend Mass or which priest is the celebrant? Definitely the beautiful and reverent customs of the Church are worth fighting for.

    I shall follow your link, Stephanie. God bless!

  14. Victor, it sounds like your church is similar to ours in at least one way: we no longer have a priest of our own. Our parish and a neighbouring parish are served by one priest. They are supposed to be regarded as one parish with one priest and two churches but it's not the same as a few years ago when there were two priests. But what can we do? We have been told there aren't enough priests in the diocese. To be honest, our priest does a very good job looking after the two parishes. It must be very difficult for him.

    No sign of reverence at all before receiving Our Lord? What would happen if someone genuflected? Could a genuflection that doesn't hold the queue up be frowned upon?

    Thank you Victor for all the info about ebooks. You are very kind and generous with your time. I need to look at it properly but I appreciate all the links you have sent me.

    God bless!

  15. Writing from Ohio...
    We attend a WONDERFUL church run by the Dominican Friars within the diocese of Columbus in Central Ohio. It's called St Patrick's (or lovingly, St Pat's). It is not a Latin Mass but is very traditional. We have an alter rail and the little golden plates mentioned earlier and a few women wear chapel veils. I grew up in a diosocean parish here that was very modern and still love visiting. I sometimes receive in the hand when visiting and sometimes in my mouth. I sometimes genuflect and sometimes bow when there. I do whatever is comfortable while holding a 20 pound 5 month old!!! I am honestly unconcerned most of the time with what will be thought if I do X, Y or Z because my tattoos and hippie dippie way of wearing and patenting my children get more stares and whispers than the way I receive our Lord, lol!

    We've talked about how people dress in Mass before... Sunday best vs. jeans and a t-shirt? I feel very similarly about this. I truly don't think that it matters how you physically approach the Lord. He can see the truth of your heart, KWIM?

    All that being said, I do tend to wear skirts, cover up when breastfeeding, and what not so as not to be a stumbling block for my brothers and sisters in Christ. I know that how I approach the alter physically IS a big deal for some of my fellow parishioners and I would rather them focus on the Lord's message delivered through our holy priests than wig out about one of my silly tattoos :D

    Much love,

  16. Shannan,
    Thank you for sharing! It sounds like you feel very comfortable and at peace with your church, receiving Communion etc. You are obviously doing what you feel is right for you.

    I do what I feel is right but sometimes I feel judged. I just hate that look on some priests' faces or the extraordinary ministers' nervousness or the orders to stand up. And to have a genuine feeling of wanting to be reverent interpreted as pride...I would like to go to Mass and concentrate on what is important: Jesus. I hate how other things get in the way.

    I appreciate you adding to the conversation, Shannan. God bless!

  17. Hi Sue, we not only wear our Sunday best, genuflect and receive on the tongue but sit in the front row so the kids can see and only go to receive communion from the Priest. I believe that only a Priest, who has been consecrated to do so should be the only one touching our Lord. And of course the kids want a blessing from the priest. This causes me anxiety on a weekly basis. will the Priest be on our side this week, will we have to wait till the end and dart across to him. I would sit further back but with Elijah being an Aspie he has a small melt down if he can't see the Priest at all times so we learnt early on with him that the front row was the only place he would be happy. I feel very aware of everyone looking at us but also believe that giving reverence is the most important thing. No one has ever said anything bad to us, I don't know what they think about it all. It's a pretty modern parish and I would prefer to be in another but out here we have no other choice, we go to the 8 am Mass as it is the one with the least rubbish going on.
    Recently we went to the Parish where Paul grew up and the Priest there refused Elijah communion on the tongue, he told me about it later and I was so angry. I felt it was totally uncalled for to do that to a little boy, how childish and immature.

  18. Julia, it's so kind of you to stop and share. Thank you!

    You said, "This causes me anxiety on a weekly basis." I understand completely! We used to go to a Mass where there was one priest and one extraordinary minister distributing Communion. Would the priest come to our side of the church? Would Gemma-Rose get a blessing? (Though I also understand that a priest isn't obliged to give a blessing). I also prefer to receive on the tongue from the priest than a fumbling extraordinary minister. I should have be thinking about receiving Our Lord but I ended up thinking more about such practical matters as where the priest would stand. Now we try to go to a Mass where there are no extraordinary ministers and the priest gives Communion to everyone. But wouldn't it be wonderful if we could go to any Mass and receive Our Lord how we feel we ought to without anxiety?

    I have to say that in our own parish, though we might stand out, everyone is very friendly to us, even the extraordinary ministers who look so nervous when we approach with open mouths. We try not to visit other parishes...

  19. It is a sign of spiritual maturity to follow your heart and mind and spirit as to what "rules" and laws you choose to follow (not just Catholic laws and rules.) This is what Jesus taught: if your animal falls into a pit on the Sabbath, rescue the animal. [Even though the rule/law at the time forbade people from doing this because of a very pious view of what holiness looked like and how the word "work" was defined in the context of keeping the Sabbath holy and contemporary beliefs about the coming of the messiah.] Christ taught that laws/rules were made for people, not the other way around.

    Wouldn't the world (not just our church communities) be a much better place if everyone followed only those rules/laws for living/behaving that they believed were right and True and resonant with their view of how things should be done? Well, Yes and No.

    Yes, if the indivual is one who is able to see reality and what should or should not be done in any given situation with clarity of perception and is also free and wise and loving enough to accurately respond to that situation. No, if the individual is unable to see reality as it is (because they are stuck in the habitual way of seeing reality as they are instead of how it really is) and thus unable to respond accurately due to their lack of wisdom in knowing what the loving thing to do is and their lack of freedom to choose to do that loving action, no matter what the consequences. This is the only definition of holiness that makes sense: to see clearly and accurately respond as freely and wisely and lovingly as one is able.

    Of course, this is a lifelong process, this journey toward wakefulness/holiness. Those who possess this definition of holiness do not for one second consider what others may think about their actions; they are irrelevant. Holy/wakeful people knowingly, freely and willingly accept the consequences which flow from their decisions/actions with the same humilty with which they accept reality. This is what it means to be Christ-like. We are not called to imitate Christ so much as to become Christ. We can be no more succesful at imitating our way to holiness by watching what Christ did than a monkey can imitate his way to playing in a symphony orchestra by watching his owner play the violin! Or that one might become a better writer by imitating the handwriting of a Pulitzer prize winning author.

    Might I suggest something for reflection: What is Love asking of me as I make my way from my seat to become one with Christ and all who are gathered here? Does Christ care more about the rules of reception or about the person receiving? When reflecting on the second question, be sure to include everyone in your answer, not just you.

    If your choice incites hostility and/or judgment from your fellow parishioners, look what you've brought to light. If your decision evokes admiration and/or praise for your actions, pray that you don't succome to spiritual pride.

    Think about it this way, if you invited Christ to a dinner party in your home, do you think he'd prefer sitting in an elelvated chair apart from all the other invited guests who are your friends and neighbors or do you think he'd prefer to be sitting in the midst of everyone, laughing and telling stories around the table as one of the group? Your answer says more about you than it does about Christ.

  20. "No sign of reverence at all before receiving Our Lord? What would happen if someone genuflected? Could a genuflection that doesn't hold the queue up be frowned upon?"

    Good questions. I've never seen anyone genuflect before receiving Communion. In both churches which I attend, and others I've visited, it's the same. You walk up the centre aisle, take Communion in the hand or on the tongue, and walk away.

    If one person were to genuflect, and this started a trend with others doing the same, I bet they'd be told to stop it. Guessing of course.

    When we had an epidemic of flu in the UK the priest stopped giving Communion on the tongue and withdrew the chalice with wine at Communion. He also withdrew the holy water at the back of the church which people use to make the sign of the Cross.

    God bless.

  21. Hi Victor,
    How could anyone be told to stop genuflecting? Something that can be done one person back in the queue without interferring with anyone else - surely there is no reason to ban genuflection? And no bowing either. It doesn't make any sense. It's like someone is saying, "I refuse to allow you to show reverence to Jesus. It's just not permitted." Sorry, Victor - this is not aimed at you. This just sounds crazy to me. Thank you for sharing. It's been a very interesting discussion. God bless!

  22. This is an interesting topic, Sue! I loved reading the comments, also. My daughter made her First Communion this year and I taught her both ways of receiving just in case. Our regular Parish is very good about allowing genuflecting before and making the Sign of the Cross after Communion but I have been to some churches that just try to keep the line moving as quickly as possible. As for receiving on the tongue versus the hand, I think the tongue may be more reverential but ultimately it's the heart that matters and the love in which the person is receiving Jesus. If a person is ill I think they should take it in the hand to protect the priest. Our pastor, who died recently, actually gave a Homily about this once because people were not staying still when they received on the tongue or were not sticking their tongues out far enough :) Great post!

  23. Here's a link to what Cardinal Canizares says about Catholics receiving communion on the tongue and genuflecting.


  24. Here's what Cardinal Canizares said about receiving communion on the tongue in his own words. I've taken these from the link I posted above.

    “It is to simply know that we are before God himself and that He came to us and that we are undeserving,”

    He recommended that Catholics “receive Communion on the tongue and while kneeling.”

    Receiving Communion in this way, the cardinal continued, “is the sign of adoration that needs to be recovered. I think the entire Church needs to receive Communion while kneeling.”

    “In fact,” he added, “if one receives while standing, a genuflection or profound bow should be made

    If we trivialize Communion, we trivialize everything, and we cannot lose a moment as important as that of receiving Communion, of recognizing the real presence of Christ there, of the God who is the love above all loves, as we sing in a hymn

  25. "Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it."
    — St. Augustine of Hippo

  26. Thank you Mary, for joining the conversation.

    Yes, keeping the line moving - it's a pity we have to hurry Mass but that is the way it is. We genuflect one person back in order not to hold up the line.

    I can understand your priest's comments about illness and receiving on the tongue. I wonder about a sick priest who touches all the Hosts. No one seems to object. I never would.

    Receiving on the tongue would be so much easier if there was a paten under the communicant's chin just in case. I guess in the old days everyone coped with opening their mouths in the right manner. There was no choice so people learnt the best method.

    Just some more musings, Mary! There has been lots to talk about and I appreciate you stopping by and adding to the discussion.
    God bless you!

  27. Thank you for the link, Imogen. This is a very thought provoking quote.

  28. Susan, so true! We have shared so much discussing this issue. Thank you!


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