Skip to comments.
St. Catherine Review: Communion in the Hand
St. Catherine Review ^
| May-June 1996
Posted on 07/08/2002 6:45:15 PM PDT by narses
Communion-in-the-Hand: An Historical View
from the May-June 1996 issue
If you are among the many who have wondered over the past decade just how the practice of communion-in-the-hand originated and for what reasons, the following provides a concise history as well as a brief look into what has resulted from the institution of this curious practice.
The practice of communion-in-the-hand was "first introduced in Belgium by Cardinal Suenans, in flagrant disobedience to the rubrics given by the Holy See. Not wishing to publicly reprove a brother bishop, Paul VI decided to lift the ban prohibiting Holy Communion in the hand, leaving the decision to individual bishops" (Von Hildebrand, The Latin Mass Society, Nov 1995).
In 1969, Pope Paul VI polled the bishops of the world on the question of communion-in-the-hand and subsequently proclaimed that, while there was no consensus for the practice worldwide, in those areas where a different practice prevails it may be introduced by a two-thirds vote of the bishops (of each conference).
In 1976 Call to Action, an influential group of Catholic dissenters (recently condemned in Nebraska by Bishop Bruskewitz), added to their agenda the promotion of communion-in-the-hand. Other publicly-dissenting Catholic groups, already holding wildly disobedient do-it-yourself liturgies, also actively promoted it. Outside these circles of dissent, however, the practice of receiving the Blessed Sacrament in one's hand was rare. In truth, only a handful of self-styled "progressive" parishes had disobediently introduced the practice and the only demand for it came from dissenting clergymen and chancery apparatchiks.
Despite the fact that communion-in-the-hand could hardly be considered a prevailing practice in the United States, the Archbishop of Cincinnati, Joseph Bernardin (now cardinal archbishop of Chicago), then president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), initiated two unsuccessful attempts to introduce the practice in 1975 and 1976, stating that communion-in-the-hand had become universally popular as a natural expression of the pious sentiments of the faithful.
In the Spring of 1977 at Archbishop Bernardin's last meeting as president of the NCCB and with San Francisco's Archbishop Quinn acting as the chief designated lobbyist for communion-in-the-hand, the bishops' vote again fell short of the necessary two-thirds majority. Nevertheless, for the first time ever, bishops in absentia were polled by mail after the conference meeting; subsequently the necessary votes materialized and the measure was declared passed. Soon thereafter the practice of communion-in-the-hand spread rapidly throughout the country, and in a few years the new practice became normative amongst American parishes.
Frequently it is said that those who place any importance on how the Blessed Sacrament is received are no better than the biblical Pharisees who focused upon the externals of faith rather than the internals. For the Pharisees the external replaced the internal, but it does not follow that the lack of external reverence today can be divorced from the internal disposition of the faithful.
The consequences of introducing this practice are far-reaching, and one need only look to the parish Mass for proof. Not the least of these consequences is the common lack of respect shown for the Blessed Sacrament. Only with the belief that the Holy Eucharist is not supernatural, can this practice of communion-in-the-hand not matter. Since it is truly the most extraordinary substance on earth, surely our comportment should reflect that? Surely our faith in the Holy Eucharist, which deserves our greatest reverence, should reflect into our actions in actually receiving the sacrament?
Alas, it is not so! Communion-in-the-hand weakens faith in the Real Presence. The consequences are profound. May we make up in our love of the Eucharist for all the outrages and indifference which now surround Our Lords magnificent gift to us.
[ home | respond to this article | subscribe ] ]
Copyright 1997 Aquinas Publishing Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
TOPICS: General Discusssion
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-20, 21-40, 41-60, 61-65 next last
posted on 07/08/2002 6:45:16 PM PDT
To: tiki; maryz; *Catholic_list; afraidfortherepublic; Antoninus; Aquinasfan; Askel5; livius; ...
posted on 07/08/2002 6:45:54 PM PDT
Communion in the hand hasn't weakened my belief in the Real Presence.
posted on 07/08/2002 6:52:08 PM PDT
I agree. I wish we still had communion rails, but the communion in the hand doesn't bug me. I'm stronger in my faith today than ever.
posted on 07/08/2002 6:53:54 PM PDT
I don't find anything more reverential about the mouth vs. the hand. God created our hands as well. The apostles ate at the Last Supper with their hands. More germs in our mouths anyway. While I like Communion rails and kneeling where this is still the practice, like in England, I can't get worked up about this. That's how I see it. Now...I wonder if I will be warned of Hell by anyone...
Nor should it. What did happen was the degradation (not elimination) of the sacred aura and respect for the Sacrament by both the clerics and the laity involved. Not unlike the use of mufti by the religous and the casual address between them and the laity. Fr. Wilson becomes Fr. Bill and Sister Rose of Lima becomes plain old Beth. The key here is the how and why it happened. What was the intent of those pushing this "reform" and what were and are the fruits thereof? Frankly, in the early Church Communnion in the hand in in both species was not uncommon. Like so many of the dozens and dozens of the "reforms" inspired by the "Spirit of Vatican II", this one was not, by itself fatal. In fact, NONE of them are fatal, as the gates of Hell will not prevail. The question is why, and how did the "reform" help save souls?
Under the old rules, ONLY a consecrated man could touch the Host. Now the Real Presence can be, and is often (at least in chapels near me and nursing homes in my area) carried about and distributed by women who are divorced, remarried and living in public sin. Valid? Yes. Licit? Under the Indult, yes. Respectful? Not in my opinion.
posted on 07/08/2002 7:05:23 PM PDT
"I will tell you a secret, since we have just a thousand close friends together, and also because we have the Missionaries of Charity with us...
"Not very long ago I said Mass and preached for their Mother, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and after breakfast we spent quite a long time talking in a little room. Suddenly, I found myself asking her -- don't know why -- 'Mother, what do you think is the worst problem in the world today?' She more than anyone could name any number of candidates: famine, plague, disease, the breakdown of the family, rebellion against God, the corruption of the media, world debt, nuclear threat, and so on.
"Without pausing a second she said, 'Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand.'"
-- Fr. George William Rutler, Good Friday, 1989 in St. Agnes Church, New York City (a precise transcript taken from a tape of his talk available from St. Agnes Church)
posted on 07/08/2002 7:09:23 PM PDT
Well, narses, the article concludes with:
"Alas, it is not so! Communion-in-the-hand weakens faith in the Real Presence."
If you wish to make other arguments, have at it. But the argument of the article that you have here posted concludes that Communion in the hand weakens faith in the Real Presence.
And I noted that it hasn't for me.
posted on 07/08/2002 7:10:46 PM PDT
Understand the argument. Don't agree with it. Kneeling, etc., were devotional practices not essentially tied with theology or the matter and substance of the sacrament.
Have we seen a decline in reverence? Yes. Are our hands part of that problem? I don't see it that way. I understand why people are emotionally attached to all of the old styles of devotion. I actually prefer the kneeling with communion rails. It doesn't upset me to see faithful Catholics touching Christ with their hands as opposed to their tongues. This is not a problem theologically for me.
I can can agree to disagree on this. Our entire bodies reflect the image of God. Our hands can be reverential. Our wedding rings are on them.
To: narses; sitetest; Gophack; HowlinglyMind-BendingAbsurdity
No argument from me. I agreed and in fact stated that it should NOT. Our Lord is, in fact Present, Body and Blood in the Validly Consecrated Host. I posted the article, I didn't write it. Nonetheless, the facts presented appear consistant with my research and many "modern" Catholics are no longer certain of the Real Presence (according to press surveys), for example: Last Year, Seattle Archbishop Alexander Brunett and Auxiliary Bishop George Thomas attended a National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Along with over 200 other American bishops, they discussed a number of topics of "concern" to the Church and issued several statements.
The most important of these statements concerns belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In the Archbishop's recap of the document, he states that: "...surveys have indicated that many Catholics do not believe Christ is truly present in the bread and wine consecrated at Mass. Our statement ... affirms that in the Eucharist the whole Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul and divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine ... This is a central mystery of our faith." (The Progress, 21 June 2001)
posted on 07/08/2002 7:18:57 PM PDT
If we were to meet Christ in person would we reach out to shake hands with Him or give Him a hug or a kiss? Just something to think about.
I don't know that we disagree. The question I pose is NOT should one feel less than Catholic for having stood to receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament rather than kneel. It is how and why did this particular "reform" come about and has it, does it and will it save more souls than had it not been instituted. If, as this article posits, the "reform" came from rebellion, what then?
posted on 07/08/2002 7:23:04 PM PDT
Me, I'd fall to my knees and pray to be allowed to touch even the strap of His sandal that I might be healed and made pure in His sight.
That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth:
posted on 07/08/2002 7:26:34 PM PDT
Good posts, I'm bookmarking them (now that I've figured that out).
posted on 07/08/2002 7:27:23 PM PDT
As I said, I remain unconvinced that the inside of our mouths (esophagus, stomach with its acids, etc.) are more reverential or pure than our hands.
A...uh...hug usually includes touching someone with one's arms and hands in my experience.
I appreciate and respect the people who are attached to the older style of receiving Communion (which I indicated I prefer), I just don't agree with a theological denigration of human hands. Before the 20-century, back in old Europe, when a Church was loaded up with uneducated peasants lacking the conveniences of flush toilets and running water...maybe there was a realistic and easily understandable non-theological reason then. I really don't think Christ is offended by our hands which he created.
OK. The history of sacramental practice is interesting.
I can see that for some people it may reduce their sense of appreciation perhaps. It doesn't for me. I still feel in awe, reverence, thankful, prayerful, etc.
posted on 07/08/2002 7:31:14 PM PDT
posted on 07/08/2002 7:34:00 PM PDT
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-20, 21-40, 41-60, 61-65 next last
Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual
posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its
management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the
exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson