21 February 2008

Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship Reiterates: It's Time to Rethink Communion in the Hand

Again, only rarely do circumstances lead me to lift another blog's post in its entirety, but this post at New Liturgical Movement is a must read.  Following on the heels of a prior interview with Archbishop Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, about reviewing the practice of communion in the hand and returning to communion on the tongue, here is yet another public interview on the subject.

In this interview, the Archbishop states his view that communion on the tongue, kneeling, is the most proper way to receive our Lord in the Eucharist.

The importance of these public comments cannot be easily overstated, as they could not be occurring on multiple occasions without the approbation of the Holy Father.  The liturgical restoration continues, and continues its momentum:


by Gregor Kollmorgen

Bruno Volpe, of Petrus, has interviewed Msgr. Albert Malcom Ranjith, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Here is my translation:

B. Volpe: Your Excellency, unfortunately Holy Mass, in Italy and in various other parts of the World, continues not to be celebrated as it should be, with priests putting themselves at the centre of attention and inventing impromptu texts and rites that are absolutely not loyal to the Magisterium.

Msgr. Ranjith: It is true, and I think it is really sad that some priests, fortunately not all, continue to abuse, with inexplicable extravagancies, the liturgy which, it should be remembered, is not their property but belongs to the Church.

Volpe: Would you like to make a public appeal?

Ranjith: I remind these priests that they must, and I stress must, respect the official liturgy of the Catholic Church. Enough with the abuses and the personal interpretations: Mass is not a spectacle, but sacrifice, gift and mystery. Not coincidentally the Holy Father Benedict XVI continually reminds us to celebrate the Eucharist with dignity and decorum.

Volpe: We come to a practical case. Some priests indulge in homilies excessively long and not always attuned to the readings of the day.

Ranjith: First of all I think that a good and healthy homily should never exceed 8-10 minutes; having said that it is necessary that the celebrant studies in depth the Gospel of the day and always stick to it, without flourishes or unnecessary turns of words. The homily is an integral and complementary part of the Eucharistic sacrifice, but must absolutely not dominate it.

Volpe: Your Excellency, let us come to the question of Communion in the hand: What do you think about it?

Ranjith: I 'simply' believe that this practice needs to be reviewed. How to do it? To begin with, a good catechesis. You know, unfortunately, many are not even aware of Whom they receive in the Communion, that is Christ, and so approach the Eucharistic banquet with scarce concentration and very little respect.

Volpe: Specifically, what needs to be done?

Ranjith: We need to recover the sense of the sacred. I speak only for myself, but I am convinced of the urgency of reviewing the practice of Communion given in the hand, returning to giving the particle to the faithful directly in the mouth, without them touching it, reinforcing thereby that in the Eucharist there is really Jesus and that everyone must receive Him with devotion, love and respect.

Volpe: Would it not be appropriate to return to kneeling at the moment of Communion?

Ranjith: I think so. This gesture would represent a true act of respect towards the gift and the mystery of the Eucharist.

Volpe: But some, even inside the Church, seem to express “embarrassment” only at the idea of seeing restored kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament.

Ranjith: Beyond the office I occupy in the Vatican, as a Catholic I ask myself and wonder: why be ashamed of God? Kneeling at Communion would be an act of humility and recognition of our nature as children of God.


The other interesting point made by the Archbishop is the need to avoid the possibility of the sermon dominating the Mass.  It is a protestant practice, in services without the Real Presence in the Eucharist, to focus on the preaching.  Since the Second Vatican Council the novus ordo Liturgy of the Word has become co-equal, in practice at least, to the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Yet the Mass is first and foremost the Sacrifice of Calvary, and is not designed to be a didactic moment.  That reality is undeniable in the traditional Mass. Not that the faith isn't strengthened and informed by the Mass, the readings, the scripture-rich prayers, and the sermon, but that the primary focus is undoubtedly the cross.  Proper celebration of the liturgy leads to proper understanding of, and adherence to, the faith itself.


Anonymous said...

We can ALL support this worthy cause by ALWAYS receiving on the tongue, and ALWAYS receiving ONLY from a priest (the priest's hands are consecrated, and besides, most lay people have not been instructed on how to place the Body of Christ on the tongue without touching their fingers to the tongue... ick). Kneeling is more problematic, because some priests get really upset when a parishioner bucks the trend and kneels for Communion... as I found out at my parish. As another option, support your local Traditional Mass whenever you can, where kneeling and receiving on the tongue is the norm. What we also need to do is to start convincing our fellow parishioners about kneeling and receiving on the tongue... and about the need to restore the altar rails in all of our churches. Most churches still have some sort of raised platform for the altar area - it would be simple enough to add an altar rail to its perimeter. Even the Lutheran churches I used to attend had altar rails!

Anonymous said...

Convert to the Lutheran Church, you Papists. We don't spend years and tons of money that could be spent on better things agonizing over whether to let parishoners take communion in the hand or not.

semperidem said...

Please God let it happen soon...that the Holy father abolish this wicked practice. Communion in the hand is an abomination that serves only to destroy the faith of millions...

thetimman said...

Anon, with respect, if it were Lutheran communion we were receiving it wouldn't make any difference how we received it. Which is one reason why I wouldn't look for many of this blog's readers to convert to Lutheranism any time soon.

Anonymous said...


Tell you the truth I wouldn't be surprised if we end up with the kind of arrangement you see in the confessional where a prie dieu and a screen are set besides a chair so that the penitant can face his confessor or not.

Crazy as it sounds what we might end up with is a prie dieu line and a in the hands line.

thetimman said...

I am a little slow today, obviously, but I don't get the point of the "Papists" nomenclature. Please enlighten those dim of us if you are intending to be ironic. Thanks so much.

Latinmassgirl said...

I only pray that this sacrilegious practice of fast food communion will end! It is scandalous to see these blue jean and shorts clad lay people tossing Our Lord and Savior into peoples hands as they snatch it up and gulp Him down, as if they were receiving french fries from McDonalds!

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

I absolutely agree with the Archbishop, Communion in he Hand needs to go. It's not the norm of the Church, it just takes a simple denial of the indult for it. Let us show people by our example in kneeling and recieving on the tounge. When I become a priest, I'm restoring altar rails :)

Br. Andrew M. McAlpin, O.P. said...

Interesting thread. I agree that this issue needs to be revisited for the very reason of a return to a deeper understanding of Who it is we are truly receiving, However, I would never use the words "wicked practice" or "sacrilegious". If you and I actually believed that, we would be required to stand in protest outside of every church and chancery in the country. One can argue that our Lord told us to "take and eat" which can be interpreted as taking with our hands and feeding ourselves.

Let us make sure we are not mistaking human/Church law with Divine Law and Revelation. This issue is important, and it requires clarity of speech and thought so that we do not charge faithful Catholics with the crime of sacrilege.

If you want to bring someone into greater reverence for the Church and Her Sacraments, be very careful what you call the opposition and what you accuse them of doing. This is the clearest example of not judging the hearts and intentions of other people. I would guess that nearly 100% of the people who receive communion in the hand do not intend to harm Our Lord. But if you tell them that objectively that's what the are doing, they will most likely dismiss you as a crackpot. Our traditional and conservative cause does not need any more charges like that. It's a honey or vinegar question to me.


Andrew, OP

thetimman said...

Brother, I appreciate your post. A Salesian approach, if you will.

Anonymous said...

So my 90 year old grandmother who has been a faithful Roman Catholic all her life, attends daily Mass, has been involved in many parish committees during her active years, has lived on both side of Vatican II and considers the changes in the church that were inspired by the Holy Spirit to be for the good, you are telling me she is committing a wicked and sacrilege act by receiving communion in the hand? Oh please...!!!

Latinmassgirl said...

Sacrilege - n. Desecration, profanation, misuse, or theft of something sacred.

I did not mean that people receiving communion in the hand are committing a sacrilege. They are, however, innocently participating in a practice that is in itself a MISUSE of something sacred. Sometimes, in the case of someone literally snatching the host out of the priest's hand, or holding it in their hand until almost to their seat, it is a profanation of the sacrament.

semperidem said...

Anonymous and Br.Andrew,

Whether you wan't to believe it or not, Communion in the hand as it exist today has never existed in the history of the Church and whether you wan't to believe it or not, it is a sacrilege...look at the definition posted by Latinmass girl. Nobody here is judging pesons but the practice itself with is detrimental to the faith. The fact that a person receives in the hand in good faith thinking what they're doing is fine is another question. Yes, the practice needs to be revisited and eventually abolished and it needs to be done through proper instruction but this needs to come from above...the Vatican and to do this they need to reinforce and promote the traditional practice of receiving on the tongue which still remains the customary manner to receive Holy Communion. Let's be charitable certainly but let's also look at it for what it is and stop being politically correct about these abuses...remember all of these thing started out as abuses and were unfortunalely regularized.

Latinmassgirl said...


I really agree with you that although we need to confront the issue charitably, the truth MUST come out, and it does need to be abolished!

During his Good Friday 1989 serman at St. Agnes in New York, Fr. George Rutler reported MOTHER TERESA of Calcutta as telling him, "Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receive Communion in the hand."

I also think that "extraordinary" ministers need to go because that also leads us to irreverence.

There are obvious results from this casual attitude acquired about the Eucharist, such as: Catholics don't go to mass, or confession, they don't dress up at all for mass, they talk in the church loudly, they receive in the hand, and many of them do not even realize that they are truly receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

"......they (The Vatican)need to reinforce and promote the traditional practice of receiving on the tongue which still remains the customary manner to receive Holy Communion."


The word customary does not mean mandated. Therefore, communion on the tongue is not by definition a mandated act.

thetimman said...

Actually, in canon law an immemorial custom has the force of law. This is why the sufferance of communion in the hand is considered an "indult", or exception to the law's application in some circumstance. No one disputes that it is currently allowed in many places, with or without official permission, but rather that it is a bad idea. It is a practice born out of dissent from the law, allowed to fester and unchecked, until its widespread use was merely acknowledged.