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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 History
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.

The Results

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 Lord’s magnificent gift to us.

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Copyright 1997 Aquinas Publishing Ltd. All Rights Reserved.



TOPICS: General Discusssion
KEYWORDS: catholiclist
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To: NYer
Our parish church was constructed post Vatican II and never had a crucifix (or communion rail or any other pre Vatican II accoutrements). The back wall, just behind the altar, is adorned with one of these "Risen Christ" pieces. During Advent, the pastor covers it up with a huge blue cloth, covered with the symbols of Advent. During Lent, the "Risen Christ" is replaced by a simple wooden cross. The new pastor likes to stick things behind it ... like palm leaves or forsythia branches. I just keep my gaze fixed on the Tabernacle with the candle flickering above. That is the ONLY reminder that this is a catholic church. 38 posted on 7/9/02 12:13 AM Pacific by NYer

I'd like to hear the ideological/theological explanation which explains why such an iconoclastic design is necessary, why they think this improves Catholic worship, and why they think traditional Catholic aesthetics in Church design are wrong. Neo-iconoclasm is one of the nuttiest post-conciliar travesties. I sort of doubt that those promoting it have any sound, scholarly, or professional training in the history of Western art and Catholic sacred architecture. I know that the pastor who removed our crucifix didn't.

51 posted on 07/09/2002 9:56:38 AM PDT by HowlinglyMind-BendingAbsurdity
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To: narses
Good post narses.

One thing I haven't seen mentioned in the discussion is that the practice of communion in the hand leads to tiny particles of Our Lord being strewn across the floor of the church. This does not happen when communion is administered at the communion rail with an alter server holding the pan under your chin. I know I wouldn't be afraid of shaking hands with Jesus were he to appear before me, but would I stomp him under my foot?

52 posted on 07/09/2002 10:31:52 AM PDT by Bellarmine
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To: narses
It boggles my mind how anyone can argue that faith in the Real Presnce is not weakened, or that lack of respect for the Blessed Sacrament is not common, as they "deal with" fragments of the Host strewn all over the floor of the Church. I guess just blocking it from your mind is not the same as denying that Christ is now Really Present under your feet.
53 posted on 07/09/2002 3:59:56 PM PDT by Dajjal
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To: sitetest
Errors happen. I take your points (does that make them well taken?). I am here, in no small part, to learn. Your posts and others here help me and I appreciate that.
54 posted on 07/09/2002 7:37:32 PM PDT by narses
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To: narses
Dear narses,

Thanks!

By the way, I'd still be interested in any guidance you might have in response to my post #49.

sitetest

55 posted on 07/10/2002 5:28:33 AM PDT by sitetest
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To: sitetest
In some cases, most probably you cannot. But when you see public sinners -- folks who are engaged in clearly sinful activity -- regularly accept the Sacrament, that can speak volumes. The casual approach, dress and demeanor of the faithful can as well and the comments made in discussions with regards to topics such as abortion, birth control and the like. Proof? I have none, although I repeat what I said earlier, many faithful are reported as no longer believing in the Real Presence (and yes, they aren't taught that well in Catechis, but the Liturgy is also our teacher too, at least imho), no longer approaching Confession in the regular way (depending on a semi-annual 'absolution' en masse) and practicing and advocating things clearly sinful.

I'd be interested in your opinions regards the posts at 51/52/53.
56 posted on 07/10/2002 6:27:02 AM PDT by narses
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To: narses
Dear narses,

I'm not really sure that any of the stuff that you cite has anything to do with reception in the hand. I think that public sinners approached the Sacrament prior to 1977 or 1978, when reception in the hand was approved. And Catholics had been out of touch with the teaching on artificial contraception since prior even to the publication of Humanae Vitae.

Prior to 1977 or 1978, one could find folks talking loudly in church, dressing in shorts and t-shirts, etc. In fact, in my own parish, it seems things have improved a bit in these areas over the decade that I've been there.

However, even if someone is objectively sinning, reverence is a pretty subjective sort of thing. A person may accept that contraception is okay, abortion can sometimes be justified, etc., and still receive reverently, with respect for the Sacrament. It may be that objectively they are receiving unworthily, but that doesn't necessarily go to their subjective state of mind and approach to the Sacrament.

I agree that a substantial number of Catholics no longer believe in the Real Presence, at all. But I believe that a large majority (around 65%) of Catholics believe in the Real Presence, though they are confused about the theological details. Considering that only about 40% of nominal Catholics attend Mass weekly, that suggests to me that most of the folks in the pew believe in the Real Presence.

I really can't speak about the folks who can't even be bothered to attend Mass once a week.

I'll respond to posts #51-53 in another post.

sitetest

57 posted on 07/10/2002 7:09:58 AM PDT by sitetest
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To: narses
Dear narses,

Regarding post #51, I have little comment at all. I'm just an ordinary Catholic, and I have no expertise at all on church architecture or interior design, or anything related thereto.

I prefer Catholic churches that look like Catholic churches. I prefer Catholic churches with stained glass, pews with kneelers, the tabernacle behind the altar (otherwise, I have a hard time figuring out where it is). I like the regular vestments & things. I like well-done statuary, votive candles, etc. I don't care for felt banners & all that.

I'm fortunate to attend Mass at a parish where the exterior and the interior of the church are pretty "old fashioned", in that we have all these things, and more.

I've seen some Catholic churches which are more modern, and still are for me, inducive of reverence.

But even in the most modern, iconoclastic church, once Mass begins, I usually lose some of my focus on these things.

Post #52.

I'm personally quite careful about any particles. But, I rarely find them, though I check whenever I receive Communion. I suppose that reception on the tongue reduces the potential of this problem, but I know that it doesn't eliminate it. Typically, we have several hundred folks receive Communion at each Mass per weekend. That's over a thousand folks. Whether everyone received on the tongue or in the hand, there are bound to be some particles that reach the floor. It seems to me that this problem is part and parcel of distributing Communion to a thousand or more folks a week. Do you have any suggestions?

As for post #53, I've just never seen particles strewn all over the floor of the Church. Judging from how seldom any particles break off in my own hands, I suspect that at least in our parish, this isn't a problem.

But, I certainly could be wrong.

sitetest

58 posted on 07/10/2002 7:36:54 AM PDT by sitetest
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To: sitetest; narses
Very interesting post! I used to receive Communion in my hand, and have returned to receiving it on my tongue. The thing which changed my behavior was something which hasn't yet been discussed (I don't think)...

I know that priests and eucharistic ministers must make sure that the host is ingested upon reception - that people do not attempt, intentionally or not, to walk away with the host outside of the body (shall we say).

I believe that this effort at monitoring the proper ingestion of the host to be something for which I, by taking the host on the tongue, can perhaps minimize. OK, OK, I know that someone with evil intent could still walk away and spit it out, but there's not much more I can do in that regard to minimize the minister's concerns.

This is why I receive the eucharist on the tongue. I don't deny that I believe it's more reverential than taking it with my hand, but the additional reasoning that I've detailed above is what tipped the scales for me.

59 posted on 07/10/2002 8:01:27 AM PDT by COBOL2Java
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To: narses
I'm wondering if the use of lay persons as Extraordinary Euchartisiic Minister has weakens faith in the Real Presence among the Faith communities.
60 posted on 07/10/2002 8:20:45 AM PDT by Charles_Bingley
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To: Charles_Bingley
I'm wondering if the use of lay persons as Extraordinary Euchartisiic Minister has weakens faith in the Real Presence among the Faith communities.

I believe that would depend on a number of things within the individual themselves. Is their position one of necessity, approached with awe and reverence or is it done out of pride? I don't know.

On a related subject (I think), do you pray before meals at a restaurant? I mean do you and your family visibly bless yourselves and say a slightly audible prayer thanking God and asking Him to bless you and your food? There was a time when I didn't and I approached a meal like an animal without recognizing Who provided the food and Who permits me to enjoy it.

61 posted on 07/10/2002 8:37:24 AM PDT by Sock
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To: Charles_Bingley
I don't know, but it has certainly led to other outrages. In a chapel near me they have divorced and remarried women acting in that capacity.
62 posted on 07/11/2002 6:20:30 AM PDT by narses
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To: sitetest
"Do you have any suggestions?"

More priests?
63 posted on 07/11/2002 6:21:35 AM PDT by narses
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To: narses
Dear narses,

"More priests?"

*chuckle*

I remember when I was young, I went to a parish with I guess over a thousand families. There were typically three or four priests assigned to the parish at any one time, not including the pastor emeritus. They were generally all relatively young men. When it came time for Communion, it seemed almost as if a small army of priests came out of the sacristy to assist in the distribution of Communion.

I remember one of the priests in particular, he was always after me. I spent lots of time alone with him. I'd visit in his room in the rectory. We'd go places together. I knew what he wanted... he wanted me... TO JOIN THE PRIESTHOOD! What a good and holy priest he is.

It would be nice if God gave the Church more vocations (and it would be nice if the vocations He gave the Church weren't thwarted by others). At every Knights of Columbus Council meeting, we close by praying for vocations.

However, narses, I'm not sure how that would help with the problem at hand. Do you think that priests are more careful in the distribution of Communion than are extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist? That hasn't been my experience.

sitetest

64 posted on 07/11/2002 6:31:54 AM PDT by sitetest
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To: sitetest
"It would be nice if God gave the Church more vocations"

God will, but it would help Him if the Church promoted Catholic Education. In my area the Church (flush with the "Spirit of Vatican II") GAVE all of it's schools to the public schools and told the people to stop "being different". The only Catholic K-12 schools here for many years were established years after that fact and run by the regular clergy as opposed to the diocese (and under very strained relations with the Ordinary). A few years ago, in opposition to the parish priests, the PARENTS organized a lay run "Catholic" school. No support comes from any of the local parishes, the parents do all the work themselves.

As for the current "crisis", clearly there are many places where the extraordinary ministers are necessary. There are also clearly places and times where they are not and they are misused.
65 posted on 07/11/2002 7:17:54 AM PDT by narses
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