Monday, December 8, 2008

Communion Lines Too Long?

Communion in the Hand; Communion Kneeling: or are there too many Communicants not in the state of grace?

Father Z has an interesting discussion going on over at his blog, What Does The Prayer Really Say about the problems of desecration of Holy Communion hosts by dropping them that occurs on occasion when Communion is taken by hand. His commenters, more than 50 in number, seem to prefer that all should kneel at the communion rail for reception, most probably with servers holding a paten under the chin of each communicant.

I think they missed the point and would like to raise an important issue that is rarely mentioned. This is especially important because of the problems the archdiocese is having with some parishes using the forbidden (except in case of real emergency or in areas with a real shortage of priests) General Confession as a regular method. This is my comment on Fr. Z's blog:

I think that a major point has been missed in this interesting discussion.

The real problem is that too many are going to Holy Communion not in the state of grace.

“If I were in charge”, I would establish a policy that Communion in the hand would not be given until 25% of the members of the congregation go to private Confession at least once every few months.

If a parish had 2,000 communicants, that would be 500 Confessions a month, or about 16 a day. If Father offered Confession daily, preferably before each Mass or after the last Mass so that he wouldn’t be under pressure if the line happened to be long and thus have to deny someone. It seems workable to me.

Once all 2,000 parishioners are going to Confession once every four months, one would hope that the Confessions would be shorter.

By the time that that had happened, a change to “kneeling only” would probably not be a controversial decision because they had been already become used to kneeling.


Anonymous said...

What about the use of eucharistic ministers? (I may be wrong about this) but wasnt the use of them supposed to address very large congregations (an indult or special permission?) If that is indeed the case, how many pastors of small parishes really follow this instruction?

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

Good comment, Ray! I don't know what to think of this subject. I've received on the tounge for a long time (since a teen) but I don't have any problem with people doing otherwise. It would be nice if everyone would kneel and receive from Father/Deacon only but I'm not in charge and I doubt that will ever happen again. I've never seen any really bad stuff happening with the hand issue but I did hear about a teenager once who didn't really know what to do and took the host back to the pew. She supposedly started goofing around with it until someone took it from her and consumed it (and hopefully explained things to her later). It might also bring some form of reverence back to receiving if we all received kneeling/from Father only but, like I wrote, it probably will never happen.

I DO know that I'm not going to let you get away with this typo: "expecially"?!? Sorry, the English teacher mom/spelling nazi in me will not have any of that today!

Unknown said...


RE: eucharistic ministers. The only Eucharistic Ministers are Deacons, Priests and Bishops. You are referring to Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

While indeed more EMHC's can shorten the lines, it also increases the probability that one of them might drop a consecrated host, the Body and Blood or our Lord Jesus Christ. Apparently many of them aren't trained very well.

Do you really want to have Jesus dropped on the floor?

Unknown said...


I generally receive on the tongue if I have confidence in the EMHC. Especially if they are not really short.

I've only seen one host dropped and that was by a priest. But if there had been a server next to him with a paten (a gold plated metal plate with a handle), that wouldn't have happened.

You hit the key word, Laura: Reverence.

There's not much reverence at most Masses and altering the way we receive Communion, changing the way the priests stand (facing the tabernacle and the crucifix and not the congregation where they becomes "performers") and maybe even a little Latin; all would gradually bring that reverence back to the Mass.

But it still would take a long time. It's been 40 years since Vatican II.

Now, with respect to spelling, I suppose I could blame it on Blogger, whose spell-check didn't catch it. But I'd prefer not to have to undergo another "Spanish Inquisition" that I didn't expect.

That happened to me last week.

So let's chalk it up to "geezer fingers."

Thanks for commenting, Laura.

Our Word said...


Although they didn't teach us this in our training, whenever I'm serving as a EMHC, I hold the ciborium under the communicant's mouth (if receiving on the tongue) or under their hands (if receiving in the hand). That way, if I fumble the Host or something else happens, I'm more likely to catch the Host before if falls to the ground.

Of course, this doesn't address the sanitary concerns if the Host should fall out of someone's mouth and into the ciborium (I'd probably have to eyeball it), but it does at least mitigate some of the concerns we all have.

The biggest challenge is in getting communicants to stand close enough to you that you can do this without having to stretch too far.


Unknown said...

That's a great practice, Mitchell. But I have never seen anybody else use it.

I'd bet that most EMHC's get very little instruction at all, let alone "technique" tips.

I once attended a training session at the Basilica for becoming an EMHC for taking Communion to a nursing home. Our training lasted about 15 minutes. I never went through with it, feeling that I was not prepared adequately.

When I began my volunteering at the VA, we had a four hour orientation session and I followed another volunteer, a Brother, three days, to prepare myself..

We have the advantage in that the patients are generally lying or sitting down and we can get quite close to them. But I did drop one once or twice in the early days.

I now carry a corporal with me to wipe the floor if I should ever do it again.