Cardinal Sarah: Receive Communion Kneeling and on the Tongue to be on the Side of the Archangel Michael rather than Lucifer

Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship, has written in the preface to a new book that Catholics should receive Communion kneeling and on the tongue. The book for which he wrote the preface is Fr. Federico Bortoli, La Distribuzione della Comunione sulla Mano: Profili Storici, Giuridici e Pastorali (“The distribution of Communion in the hand: a historical, juridical, and pastoral overview”).

In the preface the Cardinal says, in part:

[W]e can understand how the most insidious diabolical attack consists in trying to extinguish faith in the Eucharist, sowing errors and favoring an unsuitable manner of receiving it. Truly the war between Michael and his Angels on one side, and Lucifer on the other, continues in the heart of the faithful: Satan’s target is the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated host.

Why do we insist on communicating standing in the hand? Why this attitude of lack of submission to the signs of God?

[Receiving kneeling and on the tongue] is much more suited to the sacrament itself. I hope there can be a rediscovery and promotion of the beauty and pastoral value of this manner. In my opinion and judgment, this is an important question on which the church today must reflect. This is a further act of adoration and love that each of us can offer to Jesus Christ.

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With this development, I believe one of my predictions for 2018 has bitten the dust. I predicted last December 31:

11. I’m least sure about this one, but here we go: Cardinal Sarah will remain as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Sarah will not issue the kind of ROTR statements that get him swatted down by the pope.

I think the cardinal hit the bell as far is this being a “Reform of the Reform” proposal.

But there is a chance my prediction holds up: if the pope doesn’t swat down the prefect, then this will not have been the kind of ROTR statement that gets him swatted down. So I’m not sure what to hope for. I think I’d prefer that my prediction be wrong, and that the pope swat him down really hard. His grasp of what has happened in eucharistic theology in the last 75 years is simply shocking.

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See also Documentation: Approval of Communion in the Hand under Pope Paul VI.


  1. Not to mention his grasp of the history of the liturgy. Shocking ignorance, to say the least.

    But really, it goes beyond ignorance. It’s a scandal that he should be uttering imprecations against a practice that is fully approved, widely used, and derives from the first millennium of the history of Christianity. The spirituality of Christians who receive in the hand is being slandered by the prefect of the CDW. Talk about confusing the faithful!

    1. Where has he shown ignorance of liturgical history? Many people who advocate communion kneeling and on the tongue are often well aware of previous practices and consider the development a sign of our deepening understanding of the Eucharist over time. I ask this as a serious question and also politely ask you to please be respectful when answering.

      Personally, I haven’t seen the positive fruits of communion standing and in the hand that others see. However, I think Cardinal Sarah goes too far here and doesn’t help the cause of restoring communion on the tongue. It puts people on the defensive right away.

      1. I have the highest respect for the fathers of the church, who wrote extensively about the mystery of the Eucharist during the patristic era. I have the highest respect for the people of the early church who held to the faith under persecution, and even gave their lives rather than profane or give up the Eucharist. It seems to me not only absurd but grievously wrong to assume we are better Christians than they are, or better understand the Eucharistic mystery than they did. They took communion in the hand. We are not more devout. Or more believing. It’s an insult to them to associate communion in the hand with disobedience or an irreverent attitude toward eucharist. The lives of the saints refutes this. History refutes this. The only excuse for such a statement is ignorance.

        Yesterday I happened to be reading Philoxenus of Mabbug (c. 440-523) on prayer when receiving communion in the hand. Here is a bit of what he says: “I carry you, living God, who is incarnate in the bread, and I embrace you with my palms, Lord of the world whom no world has contained. You have circumscribed yourself in a fiery coal [an allusion to Isaiah 6:6-7] within a fleshly palm — you Lord, who with your palm measured out the dust of the earth. . .” And it goes on and on in this way, expressing the utmost reverence! And this reverence accompanies communion in the hand. This is a West Syrian text, but the Latin fathers were likewise able to express a lively and powerful faith in the Eucharist. I could give you more texts but this gives you an idea of what I mean when I say history refutes the charge that the first millennium was less than reverent toward the Eucharist. Communion in the hand is not inferior to communion on the tongue as a sign of obedience and faith.

        Thanks for your question.

      2. Thank you for your answer, and for being respectful towards me. Perhaps people could be taught to receive with the faith described by Philoxenus of Mabbug. I think a big reason people come to have a problem with the practice is that it largely isn’t instilled with the piety found in the first Millenium. Compared to communion kneeling and on the tongue, it often seems rushed, very un-communal, and even impersonal with little connection to the altar. I recall an article posted recently here on PrayTell describing people entering the sanctuary to receive from the altar in the past, and that struck me as having a totally different character from how we receive communion today.

        To me, a big eye opening about communion in the hand was my brief time as an usher. I knew ushers who found Hosts all over the place – in hymnals, holy water fonts, the parking lot, etc. This moved a couple of them to not like communion in the hand. Perhaps if the practice is to continue, it needs a more solid connection to that of the early Church.

    2. You should have told the soon-to-be Saint Pope Paul VI that he completely fails to grap the history of the Liturgy and to understand the Council.

      Go read Memoriale Domini. HERE :

      This is a true, traditionnal, organic – in a single word, Catholic – understanding of the historical and devotionnal development of liturgical practices.

      1. This tells us that Pope Paul VI was skeptical of communion in the hand in 1969, though even then he allowed it in France. He later allowed it elsewhere. He and his successors knew that it was allowed in most places and apparently accepted that.

        I don’t see this one document, giving an indication of where the Pope was at a point 49 years ago, as proof that Communion in the hand is the only practice faithful to the Council, or that Communion in the hand is not faithful to the Council – much less, that it is the work of the devil.

        I should add that I’m not necessarily opposed to various tweakings of our practice, perhaps including return to Communion on the tongue (though I honestly don’t see any good reason for that). I’m convinced, though, that the tweaking will succeed – will find consensus and widespread acceptance – if and only if it comes from fundamental acceptance of Vatican II, profound respect for and acceptance of the direction of the church since Vatican II, profound desire to make a good thing even better. I don’t see much success for the proposals that come from an “attitude.” I think everyone knows what I mean by that.


  2. Yeah… except the last ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church is deeply implicated in those theological developments. The two are intertwined. In fact I probably should have said the last 80 or 90 years. (Others might place it further back.) If the Second Vatican Council had wanted to reject all that eucharistic theology and revert to, say, the mindset of Pius IX against all modern theology, it would have issued entirely different, massively different documents. There’s simply no other honest way to read the documents of Vatican II.

    So your comment is helpful in naming the issue. Yes, there also is the chance you name. But if – only if – the Second Vatican Council is revoked or rejected. One would also have to reject the reformed liturgy, it seems to me – but the magisterium believes very strongly, and has repeatedly affirmed, and says on the front page of every missal, that the liturgical reform is in accord with the Second Vatican Council.


    1. Where in the documents of the Second Vatican Council is the reception of Holy Communion standing and in the hand mentioned?

    2. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how councils work – unfortunately, one that is found very widely in internet. Let’s start today to use internet to clear this up!

      Councils don’t reform liturgies and issue reformed liturgical books. Commissions do after the council has ended. Councils issue principles and decrees and teachings. (And it’s not an exact science, so sometimes they make rather specific decisions, such as e.g. suppressing Prime in the Roman rite. This is rather exceptional.)

      The 1570 Missal of the “Tridentine” rite included only four sequences – meaning that the thousands upon thousands of sequences in use up until across Europe then were abolished with the implementation of the new Missal. But where did the Council of Trent call for the elimination of sequences?? Not one word. The Council of Trent never mentioned the sequence. As far as I know, there was no outrage after 1570 that implementation of the reformed Missal did something that “THE COUNCIL NEVER CALLED FOR.”

      So, we have our work cut out for us. Please, everyone: the next time you see on internet that this or that reform is unacceptable because Vatican II never called for it, jump in and correct the misunderstanding.


    3. Fr Ruff

      I do wonder if some of the misunderstanding, at least in the Anglosphere and especially USA-inflected parts thereof, is about the nature of conciliar legislation. Particularly imagining that conciliar constitutions are analogous to the US federal constitution; while they share a word, after that, they differ greatly.

    4. Father, I first stipulate my astonishment that Card. Sarah would be willing to even risk the impression of equating ancient orthopraxis with diabolic attack. That said, I would like to caution against overstating the intertwining of one particular practice – Communion in the hand – with modern Eucharistic theology and specifically the Magisterium or liturgy of Vatican II and beyond.

      Communion in the hand did not result from a consilium’s or pope’s rendering conciliar theory into concrete norm, at least not in their own understanding. Permission did come from the soon-to-be-sainted conciliar pope (i.e., from his curia “de speciali mandato Summi Pontificis Pauli VI”), but without a ringing endorsement. In fact, the instruction Memoriale Domini expressed hesitance on grounds, condemned on this thread, that Communion on the tongue resulted from “a deepening understanding of the truth of the eucharistic mystery” and resultant demand for “a greater feeling of reverence towards this sacrament and a deeper humility” when receiving it. Accordingly, Communion in the hand began as a limited indult, and while the scope of that indult has steadily expanded throughout the years (and for all I know may cover a majority of the Catholic landmass) it has never ceased to be an exception to the universal law (cf. the current IGRM 161).

      The propriety of one form of reception or another depends on a complex matrix of not only Eucharistic theology but also the cultural valences of practices and their consequently relative effects upon recipients. So those who accept the plausibility of Communion standing/in the hand while also considering it to be sub-optimal “taking the present situation of the Church in the entire world into account” should not be accused of dissenting ipso facto from a post-conciliar settlement. While Card. Sarah has clearly fallen overboard here, I fear that the thrust of your comments might have you perched on the opposite gunwale.

  3. If the Cardinal is correct that Satan has turned his attention to the eucharist in his eternal war against God and the Church, then is it possible that “what has happened in eucharistic theology in the last 75 years” could have been affected in some way by the machinations of the evil one?

    (Please note I attend Ordinary Form Mass, and receive standing, albeit on the tongue)

    1. “If the Cardinal is correct that Satan has turned his attention to the Eucharist,” could it not be manifested by a high ranking prelate throwing up road blocks and objections to wholesome developments such as the revival of the salutary and ancient practice of communion in the hand?

      Just sayin’.

      1. Maybe it is manifested in the polarization and division that has occurred over the two manners of receiving communion.

      2. I agree with Jack. A charitable attitude is certainly something that Satan would want to disrupt.

        (Maybe we will find out later that Cardinal Sarah really didn’t make these remarks. It was a Russian bot!)

    2. Chip, I responded to this above in my reply to the first commenter. I won’t repeat it here, except to say that the claim would have to be that Lucifer worked through all those episcopates around the world that approved it, as well as all the devout Catholics, many of them daily communicants, who receive standing in the hand. The suggestion is outrageous.

      1. And it’s certainly not designed to persuade those already not persuaded, but rather to antagonize them.

  4. I attend only the Ordinary Form and receive communion standing and in the hand. I used to receive on the tongue but stopped due to fear of an accident happening and also learning the hard way that older priests often don’t wash their hands after applying cologne.

    There can be a reasonable case made for communion on the tongue and kneeling as the modern Roman rite has numerous occasions of kneeling and adoration in front of the sacrament and bodily postures can lead to to more fuller participation. Also the avoidance of fragments is a concern of the post VII Magisterium and as it was in the Patristic era.

    But Cardinal Sarah’s use of hyperbole (to put it charitably) doesn’t advance his cause at all. In fact, if I were prone to conspiracy theories, I would say that he was a liturgical progressive attempting to sabotage the ROTR movement from within.

    1. I think there is also a very legitimate concern, especially in this day and age of emerging viruses that require only a minute amount of viral material to cause an infection, about the spread of disease with Communion on the tongue. I have seen priests distributing in this way where their finger tips have come in contact with someone’s tongue. As to a previous commenter who said ushers found Communion hosts in various places the simple measure of the Eucharistic minister ensuring the person has put the host in their mouth before they turn away will solve that problem. People can be taught that they will need to do this. I just think that if people are forced to go back to Communion on the tongue only people will receive less frequently because of their concerns of contamination. I know I would.

      1. Hand holding during the Our Father, greeting before Mass by ushers, communion from a common chalice, distribution from one hand to another (what if they didn’t wash?) and the sign of peace should also be eliminated for the sake of our health.

  5. Karl, if you click through the link that Anthony provides and then scroll, down, just below the picture of Mother Teresa you will find another link, “LEGGI LA VERSIONE INTEGRALE”, that will take you to the entire preface — in Italian. Anthony’s translation of the “war” passage looks accurate to me:
    E allora si capisce come il più insidioso attacco diabolico consista nel cercare di spegnere la fede nell’Eucaristia, seminando errori e favorendo un modo non confacente di riceverla; davvero la guerra tra Michele e i suoi Angeli da una parte, e lucifero dall’altra, continua nel cuore dei fedeli: il bersaglio di satana è il Sacrificio della Messa e la Presenza reale di Gesù nell’Ostia consacrata.

    1. Jonathan

      Thank you. I found Cdl Sarah’s prefacing of his preface with the use of episode of the Angel of Peace at Fatima a rather odd kind of conclusory form of hooking his intended audience. In a political context, I might call it pandering. The visions and experiences were, of course, as private revelation received in the mode of the receivers.

  6. Just a curious question: are there any recent studies on the development of preferences about receiving standing/kneeling, on the hand or on the tongue, linking these preferences with age, frequency of coming to Mass, if they have ever changed their preferences and why, and (and this is naturally tricky for any kind of questionaire) why those faithful go to Communion and what they believe they receive there.

    1. I’m leery of this curious question and why one would think age or frequency or what they think they’re receiving is data that helpful.

      1. Me too.

        There are loads of bad polls in St Blog’s that merely illustrate reader demographics and the ability of bloggers to prime-the-pump on poll responses.

        We also know that minor tweaks in the framing of questions and in what series can produce equivocal results.

        I’d love to have good data for many things that are largely assumed in liturgical argument in the church today. Data isn’t dispositive, but good data can help us identify self-serving assumptions, and that can in the long run help winnow out the chaff in argument.

  7. I asked this because I have the feeling that now more younger than older Catholics receive on the tongue, and since most Catholics under 50 were brought up receiving on the hand, I find this change of behaviour rather intriguing, and I wonder what it signifies.

  8. This is a nonsense. I’m not going back there (though I respect the choice of those who still prefer to receive on the tongue).
    Has the Church ever taught that the hand is a less honourable part of the body than the tongue, or that standing is a less ‘reverent’ posture than kneeling?

  9. Discussions of this nature both rile and sadden me.
    What about prioritizing our energies and gifts to address the reality that thousands of Catholic communities throughout the world will not celebrate the Eucharist this Sunday because there is no priest. I lived in a community in the Western Arctic where the priest was seen every six weeks if we were lucky. Communion services were normative. The extraordinary form was the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist. Over 150 years of Catholic missionary presence and not a single indigenous priestly ordination: “Why this attitude of lack of submission to the signs of God?”
    “Satan’s target is the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated host.”
    Bingo: no Sunday Eucharist, let alone communion in the hand, or in the mouth, or standing, or kneeling.
    St. Michael, pray for us.

  10. Dear Cardinal Sarah: you do understand, since you brought Satan into this battle, that you are playing into the division Satan seeks.

    Whether or not one receives Communion in the hand or on the tongue does not affect the presence of Christ in the Eucharist or Christ in the world to fight evil. In reality it is Cardinals telling people that they are not submitting themselves to God by standing and receiving Christ in their hands. When one throws out that as division in the practice of the faithful, evil triumphs.

    In the word’s of Don McLean in American Pie “I saw Satan laughing with delight…” every time one questions the desire in the heart of a faithful person who on a cold Sunday morning, takes themselves to Mass and moves forward to that altar to receive the Lord and the Cardinal asks “Why this attitude of lack of submission to the signs of God?” Really Cardinal? Is that the attitude that is there?

    This “which is better” rhetoric has got to stop. The ROTR is playing into a division of the heart that beats in the faithful. Praise that heart rather than questioning its attitude.

  11. This makes me tired. Sarah is yet again trying to revive an imagine past. Yawn.
    I wonder if this will force Francis to yet again make a public correction of Sarah’s statements.

  12. How dare he imply that I am on the side of Satan because of the way I receive the Eucharist.
    How dare he!

  13. Apparently, Pope Benedict XVI’s principle in Summorum Pontificum (which, N.B., I support) that what was sacred for our forefathers must be held as sacred by subsequent generations, does not extend to the ancient practice of receiving standing and/or in the palm of one’s hand. That’s disappointing. If the principle is true, it ought to be true for all ages of the Church. And no, arguing that we are now somehow holier, more devout and “understand” the Eucharist more than our earliest Fathers in the faith (hence we have “organically developed” from CitH being normal to it being “satanic,” which if anything ironically betrays a heretical modernist hermeneutic of theological development!) is not a legitimate counterargument.

    As someone who worships regularly (but not exclusively) in the usus antiquior and fully supports its expansion as a legitimate option anywhere it’s desired, I find emissions like this latest by Cdl Sarah to be completely unhelpful. I think there is a legitimate debate to be had within the Church about the collapse of the faith among so many over the last several decades, and yes, questioning prevalent liturgical practices can and should be part of that conversation. But how can we have that conversation and move forward if we start from the premiss that “my opponent is allied with Satan against St Michael?!”

    It’s little wonder that Benedict and his philosophical and theological compadres (de Lubac, Balthasar et al) all found themselves to have become whipping-boys of both the neo-Scholastic right and the dawning-of-the-age-of-Aquarius left. Demagoguery (whether “Trad” or “Mod”) is easy; consistency is hard and its reward is not in this life.

    1. Popes are not always well-served by their fanboys. I’ve thought for the past five years that one (perhaps not large) factor in Pope Benedict XVI’s renunciation of office was being tired of having his fairly carefully nuanced arguments and opinions cherry-picked in gold/red-pen fashion* by his erstwhile fanboys fancying themselves at the barricades.

      * Notorious example, published within hours of release of the subject encyclical letter:

  14. It’s surely grievous that the head of one of Francis’s dicasteries is so out of step with his pontificate – seemingly even rowing against the stream of the pontificate.

    I suppose that many of us, in our own more modest spheres of ministry and service, have observed instances of “out of step-ness”, as when a conservative pastor is installed to lead a parish staff and community that is not conservative. For both pastor and staff, this produces a dissonance that may escalate from conflict to crisis. “He wants me to do and say things that run against my beliefs” / “I need her to get on board and promote this program, but she is being very reluctant and may even be subverting it.”

    It’s possible to feel some sympathy for both parties, and perhaps we need to resist the natural instinct to portray one as the good guy and the other as the bad guy. We can pray for both of them.

    Even so, these situations can’t be allowed to linger indefinitely. Someone has to bend or go, and almost always it is the subordinate. It would be admirable and even honorable if Cardinal Sarah were to conclude that he’s not in the right post at the right time, and let the Holy Father know that he now has an opportunity to fill the post with someone more aligned to his program.

    1. I would assume that he is in a dicastery of the Roman Curia, not in a dicastery of Francis, and the question should be if he is out of step with the doctrinal tradition of Catholicism, and not with one pontificate that will end sooner or later (and, given the latest scandals about child abuse and shady financial transactions, rather sooner).

      1. No, this is just plain wrong. The curia works for the pope. The doctrinal tradition of the Church is articulated by the current pope, not blog commentators. Playing off the “doctrinal tradition of the church” against what the magisterium has taught at and since Vatican II is wrong – it’s all one tradition. Vatican II, and everything since, is the doctrinal tradition of the church.

  15. Well, leaving St. Michael and Lucifer out of the question altogether, together with wounded feelings and whether Cdl Sarah’s Eucharistic theology is congruent with developments of Eucharistic theology over the past 90 years or not, has the revived practice of receiving Communion in the hand led to greater or less belief in the Real Presence on the part of the Catholic people? Of course, there is danger of falling into a post hoc propter hoc logical fallacy, but everything I have read on the topic indicates that there is far less belief in the Real Presence now than before this practice was revived.

    There are very obvious reasons why this would be so. One can say that receiving the host in the hand while standing is just as reverent as receiving on the tongue kneeling, but aside from anyone’s interior dispositions, as a liturgical gesture kneeling is in itself simply and obviously more reverent and humble than standing, whatever liturgical scholars may say. And with that gesture of reverence the Catholic people communicated to one another their belief that they were in the presence of God. Now they approach the priest standing, which emphasizes their dignity as children of God. Fine, but reception of the Eucharist is not about us, but about God, and the decision not to kneel is a decision not to demonstrate humble reverence in this Presence. No amount of Eucharistic theology can overcome the argument framed by our posture.

    In assessing the effect of this revival of communion in the hand on the faith of Catholics and on their participation in the liturgical life of the Church by the principle of “by their fruits you will know them,” what exactly are the good fruits that we have experienced since it was re-instated? This is a fair question, is it not?

    1. “… but reception of the Eucharist is not about us, but about God.”

      Sorry, but this is just plain wrong. See this post, for example:

      Your comment rests upon a distorted understanding of Real Presence which is not what Aquinas believed or what the deep Catholic tradition offers us. If that distorted understanding has been diminished, that’s a good thing.


      1. Well, in CCC464 I read that Jesus Christ is true God and true man; and at CCC 1374 that in the Eucharist the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained body, blood, soul and divinity; therefore in receiving the Eucharist we receive God. Surely we do not disagree about this! I don’t see anything in the Turnbloom article that gives any other understanding

      2. Lee,
        So you missed the point, then, and your starting point remains untouched. Let’s leave it at that.

    2. “This is a fair question, is it not?”

      Not a fair question. It’s a trick question which invites invidious comparisons between those who receive on the tongue or in the hand, or standing versus kneeling. If you see fruits on one side and not on the other, it sets up a competitive stand and spirit and divides the faithful into better and worse disciples. In fact, it furthers the divisiveness which many have discerned in the Cardinal’s comments. I won’t do that.

      1. Surely, Rita, this is a legitimate question and one that any enterprise would pose to itself: We have made this decision; now what are the results? And it is not about persons, but about practices. In our case, it is perfectly reasonable to ask about any given practice in the Church: Is it building up the Church, deepening the faith of Catholics, leading to greater participation in the sacraments? Or, is it having the opposite effects?

      2. Lee, I could answer, “This practice has had this, that or the other fruit in our time.” Then you could answer, “But that practice had this, that, or the other fruit in the period before the Council.” (Gotcha!) I’ve been through these discussions too often. It’s a recipe for competition.

        Competition does no one any good in this, and has sown discord, lack of charity, feelings of superiority to one another, and feelings of being denigrated, rather than sowing mutual love, concord, and trust. Do not compete. Let a generous graciousness be seen overall in our dealings with one another. Never judge another person’s motive. Don’t attempt to draw a straight line from any one practice in church to growth in holiness.

  16. Father,

    Quick unrelated question….well, sort of related.

    Is there a way to add a Thumbs UP or Thumbs DOWN mechanism to comments? Sometimes I agree or disagree but lack the time for a lengthy response.

    Thank you!

    1. I am not Father, but perhaps I can assist on this query.

      The typical textual way to to a thumbs up is:


      (Meaning: adding my voice to what I want to thumbs up)

      However, -1 is not normally used because it comes across as rude and people in a forum of this kind try to provide some substance to a critical apprehension of a comment.

  17. I think it is fair to say that all of us believe the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord. I think we would also agree that it is mortifying to think of even a single crumb of the Eucharist falling to the ground. Over time the church fathers recognized this and rubrics and traditions evolved to ensure the greatest respect and care for Our Lord. One example of this is the requirement for the priest to rub his thumb and index finger together over the paten after performing the consecration to catch the fragments. When one receives in hand there are almost certainly fragments (usually microscopic) leftover after consuming the Blessed Sacrament; this cannot occur with reception on the tongue, which is why it became the standard of the church for centuries. While there are certainly examples of early Christians receiving in the hand, that it was likely considered best practice at the time, and that VII indicates one can receive in the hand in a manner respectful enough of our Lord, it doesn’t mean that standing and in the hand is the most reverent means of receiving. It simply means that Mother Church has now opened the matter up to the individual to decide what is most reverent.

    Another point worth considering is our behavior in the presence of God. When our time of judgement comes, we will at a minimum kneel, if not lie prostrate before our God. Is the Eucharist different? Consider this: The devil is usually depicted as not having knees.

    These are questions each of us must contemplate. God blessed us with free will so that we may love him in the manner we see fit. Perhaps it would be most fruitful to approach Card Sarah’s statements as a means of stimulating an honest evaluation of our beliefs and the way we approach Our Lord. I think many would find great consolation in receiving communion kneeling and on the tongue .

    God bless each of you.

    1. With all due respect, I think your starting point in this comment is unhelpful. I encourage you to engage the issues in a post such as this:
      And see the very important link to Turnbloom in that post.

      A focus on the microscopic crumbs is not necessarily a sign of deep faith in the Real Presence. In fact, it could well be a distortion that puts the emphasis in the wrong place and distracts us from the point of the eucharist. And as I say in my post linked above, it masquerades as deep faith in the Real Presence, which makes it difficult to address it without being misunderstood.

      I see no evidence in the New Testament, in any of the preaching of Jesus, in any of the accounts of the Lord’s Supper in Paul, to support worrying about crumbs. None. I see emphasis on something else: love, reconciliation with God and one another, dying and rising with Christ, participating in the banquet of the end times, serving one another, giving ones life for one another and for the world, etc.etc. If the focus on the crumbs helps us do all those things, it would be good. But I see a possible danger that it distracts.

      I’m sure there are good intentions, laudable desire to respect God and be reverent, and desire to have a strong faith. But the sacraments of the Church, which are a precious means of grace, also carry with them (like all signs and symbols) the possible danger of idolatry. Mistaking the means for the end is ever a temptation.

      Real Presence is meant to help us see that we can’t control God, contain him, hold him between our fingers. Our faith in the Real Presence is actually deeper if we can give ourselves over to that realization.

      God bless you too!


    2. Microscopic crumbs! I forgot that part.

      Next, there will be a prohibition on brushing one’s teeth, as microscopic particles of the host could still be adhering between the teeth!

      This seems to me to be scrupulosity, not faith in the Real Presence.

      Thank you, Anthony, for your good reply, to which I say amen.

  18. I always find the phrase ‘real presence’ scary. Everyone presumes that there is a well articulated definition of what it means, but in actual fact, the understandings range from the crass realism of the Berengarius controversy to a ‘real presence’ rooted in the subjective assent. so we are more apt to be able to define what it is not. There also seems to be a tendency to reduce the “Eucharist” a specific moment in time, and mere physical instant, thinking of Eucharist as only a noun. Much as baptism, confirmation, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, marriage, and ordination cannot be reduced to t thing, why do we diminish Eucharist to a specific noun. For me, one of the great epiphanies was been the discovery of the four modes of ‘real presence’ which besides the privileged presence of the Eucharist as a ritual action, but includes the Scriptures proclaimed, the office of priest, and the assembly gathered. It seems to be that the former three are in service to the latter, that the Eucharist, the Scriptures proclaimed, and the office of priest, exist precisely for the Sacred Assembly. And just as Eucharist is not an end in itself, but rather directed to the absolute and ultimate unity of God and creation, and humanity with each other, as is prayed in the second epiclesis in the Eucharistic prayers ,we have diminished the significance of the Eucharist to a thing to our own impoverishment. I think that is was Pius X meant when he said (and I paraphrase) that we run the risk of separating the Eucharist from its liturgical action. This is exactly what we do, and so the practice of receiving on the tongue, rooted in the pre-occupation of our unworthiness seems misdirected dedication or reverence. It we believe that God answers the petition to send the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into the body of Christ (and only God knows what that truly means), that God answer’s the petition to make all who partake of this meal one then certainly God answers the petition to make us so. Why argue with…

  19. Please correct me if I’m wrong. But, when our ancestors received communion on the hand, didn’t they ritually wash their hands, and bow down to receive the host; not bringing Jesus up to them, but bowing down to him; and weren’t women excluded from touching the host with their hands; didn’t they use a white cloth over their hands? I ask this because it seems to me like what we’re doing today has no resemblance to the ancient reverent practice of the early Church. They didn’t treat the Eucharist as ordinary food, much less tossing the host like popcorn into one’s mouth as many do today. It is this type of carelessness and irreverence that seems to me to be neferious.

    1. Let’s try not to miss the point here: WHAT is Communion for? That seems to get lost when people get hung up on the externals. (This is why I keep referring to Turnbloom.)

      History shows that practice has varied a lot. Tradition keeps developing, meaning that things keep happening, at certain points, for the first time ever. It is wrong-headed to attack Communion in the hand (which the Church approves of, for heaven’s sake!) because there is not precedent for it. To think we need a precedent is a misunderstanding of Catholic tradition.

      If we can focus on WHAT Communion is for, then we’ll be in a better position to ask WHAT kind of reverence, and WHY? We can’t assume that whatever is the most obsequious and “respectful” is better. Not if it distorts or misunderstands or distracts from what the PURPOSE of Holy Communion is.

      My capitalization is meant to focus on the primary issues on which there are different views. I hope it helps clarify what’s going on in this discussion


      1. It seems to all boil down to this: One side feels that the end is what matters and the manner in which one receives Communion is immaterial. The other side feels the manner in which one receives is an important means to understanding the end.

        Truly I hope we are all correct!

  20. I serve on the pastoral staff of St. Michael the Archangel parish in Canton, Ohio. Some of our parishioners even ask St. Michael to “defend us in battle” from time to time.

    Among our biggest battles right now, and perhaps St. Michael is with us in this, is a suicide and mental health epidemic among young people in our wider community. Whether our parishioners receive communion in the hand (as most do), or on the tongue (which some do), I pray and believe that this ritual moment is one of encounter with the brokenness in our hearts, and with the abiding presence of the broken heart of Christ.

    Week by week, our people gather as a eucharistic people, listen to the stories of brokenness, hope, and healing in our sacred scriptures, pray for the Spirit’s transformation, and accompany one another to the table. Week by week, we open ourselves to the grace of these rituals and this sacrament – grace which heals, unifies, transforms, and sends us as missionary disciples, so that we can accompany one another and the wider community in the brokenness of our daily living. Week by week, our people return – opening themselves again for this transforming encounter, which promises a little more wholeness, a little more healing.

    As a ministry leader and a member of the assembly, my overwhelming feeling as I observe this ritual of accompaniment, this streaming mass of humanity towards the altar table, is one of awe and reverence. In this journey towards the table, our people carry with them the journey of their lives and the Spirit’s movement in their hearts.

    Not once have I felt that Christ’s transforming presence has been diminished by the posture or ritual expression of this living body of Christ. Certainly, both are important. But the grace of Christ seems to break through in our embodied praying, however imperfect. And if St. Michael is concerned for us – even battling for us – I have to believe he is able to use these humble human maneuvers, deeply imbued with sacramental grace.

  21. I feel sorry for Cardinal Sarah. He is obviously regarded as a great churchman, but he is clearly out of step with the great renewal of ecclesiology and sacramental theology that was inspired by Vatican II. It is clear to me that with some exceptions those who wish to reform the reform really want to dismiss Vatican II as an authentic source of renewing the gospel and the mission of the church. Partical physics is a legitimate enterprise but not partical theology. I consume particles that can actually be eaten, but not because I’m protecting or defending the real presence, but because Jesus said, “take and eat.” Legitimate reverence and devotion for the Lord present in the Holy Eucharist is far better expressed by the manner in which we encounter him in the least of his friends than in our kneeling and the way we hold our hands during Mass. I pray that Pope Francis will finally appoint a new leader for the CDW. If he does so, how many believe the good cardinal will return to Africa to take up humble, pastoral work?

  22. Bishop Schneider pretty throughly showed that the modern practice isn’t the ancient one, that the effects of Communion in the hand have not stopped at changing the manner of reception, and that the church eliminated the stricter practice for the same reasons we complain about it today.

  23. As far as standing versus kneeling is concerned, you only have to ask people what they do when the President or the Queen (or the Pope, for that matter) comes into the room. They stand up. Standing is a posture of showing respect, as well as being the practice of the Church for the first half of its lifespan.

    I can’t believe that a Roman Cardinal seriously believes that receiving Communion in the hand, standing, is a major factor in the battle between the forces of light and darkness.

  24. Perhaps we should keep in mind how the notion of “real presence” likely began. It was on that first Easter night in a little house in Emmaus where two of the disciples invited a “stranger” to dine with them. This was no ordinary stranger but one who had instructed them about the many scriptures that referred not only to the Messiah but to his suffering and death. It was only when he broke the bread that the disciples recognized Jesus as risen from the dead. When he vanished from their sight, they recalled how their hearts were burning when he explained the scriptures on the road, and they rushed back to Jerusalem to announce the Good News! If Jesus is really present as food and drink–as we believe him to be–then it is that nourishing presence that should impel us go and glorify God by the way we live our lives. It was some 13 centuries before it occurred to anyone that we needed to embellish the “house” in which the fragments of the Eucharistic Sacrifice were placed so that it could be a fitting place for adoration. From that time until following Vatican II, the Lord’s presence–contra St. Thomas–had tended to be localized in the tabernacle creating the impression that we should visit him there as we needed to adore, worship, and beseech him. It seems to me this practice gave rise to the notion that the purpose of the Mass was to make Christ present in the consecrated species which in turn could be housed in tabernacles so that we could adore and worship him. While this practice is associated with the Mass it is surely not its purpose. While great benefit may be derived from
    praying before the Presence of Christ in the tabernacle, is it not his real presence in us that should impel us to focus on keeping the Great Commandments and the Great Commission?

  25. Speaking simply about practice and not about theological. liturgical underpinnings of any practice, I can affirm as one who has distributed and receiandved communion on the tongue and in the hand, kneeling and standing, that distributing to people who knelt and received on the tongue was frequently an effort to keep them kneeling long enough for me to place the host reverently on their tongue, or somehow maneuver it past barely opening teeth, or try to avoid gagging as I saw what they had eaten for breakfast (even several hours before Mass), and so on. Yes, people move rapidly past you while standing or pausing just long enough to receive the host in their hand, but I found just as much irreverence among people kneeling and receiving on the tongue.

    1. Well, I have over a period of nine years frequently served a priest distributing communion to people kneeling and receiving on the tongue and have never seen anything of the kind, not once.

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