Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Communion in the hand

Yesterday I was having tea with two friends when one of them volunteered the information that another friend had recently shamed him into receiving the Host on the tongue as opposed to his usual habit of receiving in the hand.

I gather my face conveyed my shock and disapproval of the fact that he did not always receive on the tongue. Our other friend enquired of him why he thought priest's hands were anointed if not to signify the sacredness of the eucharistic species.

Having found my voice I quoted Bl. Teresa of Calcutta:

"Wherever I go in the whole world, the thing that makes me the saddest is watching people receiving Communion in the hand."

As it happens I was recently pointed to a website called, slightly misleadingly, Communion in the Hand which explains why one should not receive in that manner.

I moved to reception on the tongue back in 1997 whilst I was still an Anglican precisely because I accepted the Catholic arguments about the Eucharist. Theology, tradition and practicality are all in favour of that mode of receiving. I get the impression that it is very much a generational thing, and also, I think, gender related. I am not suggesting we all start look as to who receives how, but some people might be encouraged to think at a higher level than that of contemporary kitchen hygene.


the little cat o' st benet's said...

Having done a little research, it would appear that this was misquoted. Fr George Rutler, to whom she made the remark, has written as follows:

This has been misquoted. Mother Teresa told me she thought the greatest sadness to her was how people receive communion unworthily. She made clear to me that she was not condemning communion in the hand per se and instructed me to make this very clear. I told her that I'd pray about it and write a clarification to which she responded, "We need it right away. I pray. You write." I have published this statement many times and people willfully ignore it. This is bad faith. Mother preferred communion on the tongue, as do I, but her point was that the disposition of the heart is what matters, not whether one received on the tongue or in the ancient manner of in the hand. There are fanatics abroad who twist her words.

cornelia blight said...

even if mother teresa never said it, the quotations and materials at the link clever boy has posted are sufficient to give any reflective catholic >>GREAT<< pause about continuing to handle the eucharist. we should all follow the holy father's example on this matter.

davidforster said...

Regardless of what Mother Teresa actually said, we have it in black and white what John Paul 2nd said. In his Encyclical letter, Dominicae Cenae, he recalled that "To touch the sacred species, and to distribute them with their own hands, is a privilege of the ordained."

He also said: "In some countries the practice of receiving Communion in the hand has been introduced. This practice has been requested by individual episcopal conferences and has received approval from the Apostolic See. However, cases of a deplorable lack of respect towards the eucharistic species have been reported, cases which are imputable not only to the individuals guilty of such behavior but also to the pastors of the church who have not been vigilant enough regarding the attitude of the faithful towards the Eucharist."

That was 1980. 30 years later, these sacriligious activities are still going on. Who is responsible? Don't ask me - read what JP2 said!

Kevin said...

What I find sad to a great degree is that many worthy persons receive the Sacrament with one hand, for they are far more concerned with what is in the other hand, notably a child or a cane that is keeping them from falling over. Their fine gesture of shoving the Sacrament away reminds me of people tossing peanuts into their mouths.