Thursday, October 8, 2015

Communion in the Hand

From a recent reading from the Holy Rule of St. Benedict:
The fourth step of humility is that in this obedience under difficult, unfavorable or even unjust conditions, his heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape.
Before was this:
The third step of humility is that a man submits to his superior in all obedience for the love of God, imitating the Lord of Whom the apostle says: He became obedient even to death. (Philemon 2:8)
It is easy to obey when we agree. When the Church is just the way we like it. When we have a Pope we like. But St. Benedict talks about obeying under hard, or even unjust, conditions. Those times when we know we're right, but a higher authority demands something else of us.

Nonetheless, obedience may make us uncomfortable, because, seriously, we're right!

The Bear has been a "line jumper." If the priest is not in front of your line, you jump over to the other line to avoid receiving communion from a "eucharistic minister." The Bear doesn't much care for that tribe.

Nothing is less subtle than a Bear jumping from the right line to the left the moment a sufficiently large gap appears.

Some time ago, the Bear decided to take communion from whoever, dressed however, in his line. For awhile he was the only person taking communion on the tongue. He discovered that some EMs were less than expert with this strange practice, and he feared Our Precious Lord might be dropped. So he started taking communion securely in his hand like everyone else. Like it or not, this is the common usage in the Bear's parish.

How much of the Bear's previous antics were out of reverence to Christ's Precious Body and Blood, and how much were out of a psychological need or willful desire to "be right" in his own eyes? Only God knows the mix. What the Bear was doing was causing a minor disturbance every time he took communion, and was approaching his Lord with the attitude, "I'm right." There was probably a bit of unspoken, "and they're not."

The safer course is to exercise humility and obedience. Right or wrong, this is the way it is. The Bear will not argue the point, but it is self-evident to him that there is nothing inherently sacrilegious about taking communion in the hand from an EM.

Even if it is not the Bear's preference.

Ah, that is hard. It is always hard to put our own psychological needs, informed personal preferences and plain old prejudices in the background.

"But communion in the hand is an abuse!" some will object. That ship has sailed. The idea was that it would be an exception, but it became the norm. Abuse or not, it is the way things are done in much of the plain ol' Roman Catholic Church. The Bear hopes the humility and obedience he exercises will be more rewarding than being the Bear who is "correct."

It makes him more peaceful, at least.

And if someone should read this and wish to cite the history of the practice, and rail against the abuse, the Bear would say, with all due respect, that everyone must weigh the very substantial virtues of humility and obedience versus "being correct" all the time. You would not be educating the Bear. He knows the history.

The whole point is that, knowing that this is not what was originally intended, can you do as the Church actually does in a spirit of humility and obedience? Or is your attitude during communion going to be "I am right," if not also, "and they are wrong?" Risky, the Bear thinks.

The Bear does not urge one method or another. He doesn't care about that. Communion in the hand is more of an illustration, really. His own experiences are what came to mind when he read Father Benedict's Rule today. How do you know if you're exercising the virtue of obedience? When you don't like the rule, or the Abbot is unreasonable, or the prior is treating you unjustly. When it's hard and you have to grit your teeth and put your own will away.

Especially when you're right.


  1. It happens from time to time -- rarely. A comment disappears for reasons only Google knows. In this case I deleted my comment (only) and the comment "option" flipped to "no comments" by itself, eliminating all comments. I did not intend to delete anyone's comment. You are welcome to give it another try, as irksome as I know that is. I apologize.

    Comments remain welcome -- so long as they do not challenge the legitimacy of the Church or Kurds Mass. This was never a "can't disagree with me" policy, but a "no scandal" one.

  2. And how my Swype keyboard on my iPad would come up with Kurds is another mystery. If it wasn't so useful most of the time I would peck things out like a chicken on my normal iOS keyboard.

  3. No fish for you today, Bear. Counsels of perfection made obligatory are what started a lot of heresies. Our love and respect for Christ is to be reflected in the manner we receive Him.
    Here, let me scratch your back... aaah.


    1. All things considered, the Bear would rather have fish.

      Having said that, the Bear might say that there's a whole Old Testament and New Testament, come to think of it, that say interior disposition is more important that observing externals. The Bear believes he approaches his Lord with respect and devotion. If what little humility and obedience God has given me permits me to do what every single person in my parish does, then I doubt a poor old Bear can be faulted too much for failing to make an exhibition of himself. If an altar rail were installed and the custom changed, then he would be happy with that, too.

      I would most respectfully ask people -- being in an indulgent mood from the back scratch -- to be careful when one proceeds from the premise "My position is the correct one before God, and You are faulty and disrespectful." I am not accusing you of this, but it provides an opportunity to mention the subtle workings of Pride. Old St. Benedict was a smart dude.

  4. When I first became Catholic, a couple of years ago, that was why I received in the hand. In my own case, however, I became concerned about being proud of how I was more submissive than more ostentatious traditionalists, so I decided, screw it, I'll just do the best I can with what I have until told otherwise by a relevant authority, and I started kneeling and receiving on the tongue. So, superficially at least, more or less the same motives as you have described led me in the opposite practical direction.

    Not that this contradicts your basic point. Humility is the goal; the practices and disciplines which we use to get there may vary widely.

    1. That's funny :-) Yes, I think one might consider standing-in-hand vs. kneeling-on-tongue depending on the predominate practice. As you observe, the idea is not to stand out one way or the other. In my parish, where literally nobody kneels or receives on the tongue, I would look holier-than-thou if I did the latter.

    2. I would caveat that the idea is NOT to not stand out. The idea is to be humble. In practical terms, the two often, even generally, go together, but not always. I am reminded of Chesterton's line about the Church being like a balancing act; it is very like my own experience.

      I am also minded of this excerpt from a very brief account of St. Simeon Stylites:
      "He bound a rope round his waist till the flesh was putrefied. He ate but once in seven days, and, when God led him to a solitary life, kept fasts of forty days. Thirty-seven years he spent on the top of pillars, exposed to heat and cold, day and night adoring the majesty of God. Perfection was all in all to St. Simeon; the means nothing, except in so far as God chose them for him. The solitaries of Egypt were suspicious of a life so new and so strange, and they sent one of their number to bid St. Simeon come down from his pillar and return to the common life. In a moment the Saint made ready to descend; but the Egyptian religious was satisfied with this proof of humility. "Stay," he said, "and take courage; your way of life is from God." Cheerfulness, humility, and obedience set their seal upon the austerities of St. Simeon."

      And in any case, while I'm not the only one who kneels to receive in my parish, we do have four Masses every Sunday (well, one is on Saturday evening); I'm frequently the only one who kneels to receive at a particular Mass, so don't give me to much credit for blending in, here, though I would, of course, stop kneeling to receive if so instructed by bishop or priest.

      A second caveat that it is not always good to worry about looking "holier than thou." Pray and fast and give alms in secret, of course, and certainly don't go out of your way to put on a show. But it can get a bit like hipsters or goths or other folks who worry so much about defying society or popularity or what have you that they end up letting it define everything they do by opposition, if that makes any sense. And at any rate, while it's bad to do things simply because they appear holy, it's also bad to avoid doing actually holy things simply because they might look like what they are.

      Not, again, that any of this undermines your point that humility and obedience, and all or any of the virtues, really, are more important than kneeling to receive on the tongue, etc.

      In other news, I think you might like this:

  5. In essence our bishops and priest are being disobedient to the Church's official documents on the NO Mass (GIRM). So isn't our "obedience" to this disobedience (their sin) akin to us aiding and abetting a sinful actions and thus a cause of our own sin? Shouldn't we do what we can to be obendient to the Church rather than sinful actions of Her members?

    1. Respectfully, your premise is wrong. You are defining your religion by "being correct," and would stand out by doing something quite different from everyone else at the very moment everyone should be in communion and have their minds on reception of Our Lord, which is primarily an interior event. Reading the GIRM and forming opinions therefrom is not your duty. It is an example of defining one's religion by being correct, rather than belonging, and humbly conforming to the common practice of your parish.

      Would you really divide the Church into kneeling Catholics, and standing tongue Catholics, and standing hand Catholics at the most intimate moment of Catholics' religious life?

      If you wish to do whatever you find to be most correct, the Bear has no objection. He does object to you suggesting that anyone who does not agree with you is a sinner. This is the inevitable problem when we go down your road of reading the GIRM, or otherwise putting ourselves as judges of the Church. All of a sudden there are "more correct" Catholics saying everyone has to do one thing or another, and reprobate Catholics who won't follow the rules. And I guarantee you, there will be even more correct Catholics who say you receive unworthily because you didn't adhere to the old fast, or some other technicality.

      We are receiving Jesus, not demonstrating our ability to form an opinion from the GIRM! Kneel if you will, but when you condemn those who don't, realize you don't know their interior disposition, and come close to looking like the tax collector putting on his show at the front of the Church, thinking "ah, all those who don't follow the GIRM, I am glad I'm not one of them."

      Note I said "looking like," because I don't know your disposition any more than you know mine. I presume it is better than mine, because I am weak and easily distracted.

      But that is not because I don't kneel and receive communion on the tongue.

  6. I am obviously still learning googlecrap - this is my 4th attempt. Now I am just stubborn enough to keep at it.

    Bear, you make me laugh, you make me think and you help me to hold up a mirror to see my horrible pride. The humiliity of obedience is hard. What comes before obedience? I think a love greater than ourselves. When we understand that, we "get" obedience. In the past, I would do things so people would think I am holy & pious. I would confess sins and be sorry because I was disappointed in myself for messing up, not really because they offend God. Six months of clueless Adoration (trying to look holy) finally started to sink in...then years of Adoration! A holy & patient priest who pastors the parishioners & community, and teaches the Faith is vital. I will never forget once when I was complimenting him about how much he "loved the people, blah blah blah" told me in no uncertain terms "It is because I love God!" Eventually people will begin to see that is our motive if that is true of us.
    I sure enough liked your blog before you switched gears, but felt I was mostly waving my fist in the air saying "go get 'em". Now I find my hands in a more prayerful posture. Deo gratias.

    1. A lot of insight there. Now, a lot of the time I feel like the Bear being hunted by the villagers yelling "Go get him!" So I appreciate the kind words. This is definitely harder. Who wants someone to tell them they need to be careful about pride? Or that it's not our business to master the GIRM and decide what our fellow Catholics must do when they receive our Lord? The real battles, and occasional victories, as you discovered, are in our plodding, private lives. That is what will determine our place in eternity. Not our opinions on ecclesiastical politics, or intellectual grasp on Church discipline. I sometimes wonder if I have not run away in the past from the real work of love by passionately arguing Church politics that will go on long after I'm gone. Of course, they won't want to hear that, either. It seems that some of the Church's harshest critics are Catholics. Pax.

  7. The universal norm for reception is on the tongue. An indult in the US permits reception in the hand, but in no sense overturns the universal norm which remains fully in force in this land. Many of us who prefer to receive on the tongue have been scolded for ostentatious piety. That is tiresome and it's bullying of a diabolical nature, as we're tempted to spirals of scrupulosity and shame. The day will come when the same accusations will be flung at those who receive the sacraments at all, who cling to the apostolic faith, or even those who make a point of going to Mass on Sunday. Much better to admit that the faithful will always be a minority in this world, frequently scorned and persecuted -- and make one's peace with it.

    As for me, when it comes to mode of reception, I am unable to forget the Evangelist's account of our Lord's arrest in the garden: "then they laid hands on him and seized him".

    1. Well, the Bear understands the feelings of some about this. It's rather missing the point of the essay. I think your scripture quote is inapposite to the point of being insulting. Do you really believe when you receive in the hand, that your disposition is the same as the guards that came to seize Our Lord? If not, why quote it?

      Aren't you bullying those who receive in the hand the same way you claim to have been bullied? Ah, but you're "correct," which gives you license.

      This is not about which way is better. I'm talking about receiving Jesus, and some of you are throwing law books at me! Poor Bear feels like he's in court again!

      If anyone cares to discuss the essay, they are more than welcome. We're done with the discussion of norms and indults and the GIRM and whatever rules, exceptions and sacrilege are associated with reception of communion in the hand. As for insistence on "correctness," see the very following essay!

  8. Not long after my reconversion some years ago, I looked into the whole communion in the hand thing. And I started to receive solely on the tongue. I do love it when I can kneel as well and one local parish puts out kneelers during the week so we can do that. I appreciate it! I myself have found Hosts in the church. Cleaning people always do. And there are particles dropped from hands such that Our Lord in His Blessed Sacrament is trampled on. Here is a short video:

    1. That's great that your parish is accommodating. BTW, this is not really about which method of reception is better, and we probably won't be going down that road further. This is about a reflection concerning the particular realities of my parish and my efforts to apply St. Benedict's rule in my life. I understand that reception in hand is a litmus test for trads, so everyone is welcome to make any judgments they wish on the merits or sacrilege of the way I receive Our Lord.

  9. Bear,
    Since your combox was full, I included a response to this post at my place under a "Blog Content" update catch-all. I won't repeat it all here. I agree in principal with humility of obedience. We have to attend abusive novus ordos to meet our Catholic obligations. But no one is forcing communion on the hand to us. We should not be ostentatious in external pieties. We should not be embarrassed either. That seems prideful too. Should we tell our children to do what every one else is doing so they don't stand out and attract attention for doing the rare, right thing? I say no.


  10. Sorry to hear your descent to in-the-hand. That practice was started by DISobedience by modernist prelates, and then an indult - special exception - was made by the corrupt Vatican officials (not the pope's back then) to allow local bishops to decide or not. Card. Bernadin LIED in the USA to get it. "Altar girls" was pushed through the same corrupt way. The NORM is on the tongue while kneeling, but you would never know as the exception has become the rule - by intent. "Eucharistic Ministers" are clergy - look in canon law. EMHCs are the laity. More N.O. confusion - by intent - confuse the laity and clergy roles - like Protestants. And Bear, you will stand in front of the Judge on this matter in court. Why? Sacrilege of course, a very grave sin for the Eucharist. You will certainly respond "the Church allows it." Not really since the real rule says as long as there is no danger of sacrilege, which is impossible. Inaestimabile Donum says that laity are never to hand Communion one to another, also ignored. There are always Sacred Particles - Our Lord Himself! - which drop onto the floor and get trampled upon, or get put into clothes pockets which then get thrown into the wash. You will answer to God for that, and priests spend *many* hard years in Purgatory for giving Communion in the hand. St. Thomas Aquinas explains why only priests should handle Communion, and not laity, but those reasons are discarded. You can't say that you don't know so invincible ignorance won't save you now. Stop your reception in the hand. After the 6th Seal you will know for sure and the real Church will stop such practice forever.

    1. So the whole Church does it, but since it isn't as good of a method as the one to which you ascribe, and you say there were irregularities in establishing it, and furthermore the Church has continued to allow it for decades despite its inherent sacrilege, but you know better than the Church who employs this method exclusively in my Parish and many, if not most others, and only your tiny number of tongue-kneelers are correct (like in everything else, come to think of it) -- no. This is not going to fly and I'm done with it and your portentous talk of False Prophets and Seals. ! When I say we're done with a particular issue, we're done! There are a million blogs to bash the Church on. This is no longer one of them, as I thought I made abundantly clear! As for standing before the judge, if I have been given a path of humility and obedience in difficult times, perhaps that may be of more worth than being careful to color inside the lines and never looking at the picture.

    2. Error is error even everyone does it. I won't bother you with False Prophets and Seals and prophecy, since obviously your ears are closed. You clearly are blind to Tradition and the constant teachings of the Church in certain matters.

      The new cub is likely to get buried in his den in the coming earthquake. What is highly ironic is that your attacks on Vatican II implicitly agree with the corruption that has entered the Church. But it seems you are selective on what corruptions that you choose to see and which you choose to follow. Pick and choose is the modernist heresy, the protestant way.

      Don't worry, I wipe the dust off my feet from your blog.

  11. I think you just may have chosen a bad example to illustrate your primary point of humility in obedience, even to bad direction. We do have choice on this matter of reception of communion. This has devolved into a discussion of whether we are wrong to engage in traditional external pieties because we may draw attention to ourselves or we may make others look bad.

    I was the "goody-goody" among siblings in my family as a teen. I got better grades and hung out with more savory kids. I went to college, unlike the others. For the record, it is all a wash in the end. We all went ways that worked for us and became well-adjusted and productive people. We get on well as grown ups. All is good.

    I was once accused of being arrogant. A religious man and even a priest on another occasion assured I had nothing to apologize for. I am who I am. I chose the path that worked for me, fit my skills, interests, etc. I can't be different than who I am.

    We should not act with pride. We should not be self-centered in eschewing or exhibiting external pieties. We each will make our own judgment on our own situation. But we should not let the opinions or feelings of others deter us from our own decision, regardless of what we conclude.


    1. Pete, what it has devolved to is a raiding party condemning outright communion in the hand! I never even expressed a choice as to which was "better," unless it was that communion on the tongue was preferable. The objection was practical -- inexpert EMs putting the Precious Body of Our Lord anywhere but my mouth. To that I could add assuming an odd crouching position so they could have a chance at hitting my mouth at all (since I am very tall). And also, if I managed to get on my knees without breaking anything, it would take two strong man to get me back on my feet, But these are all makeweights.

      The premise was that in Benedictine spirituality we don't "stick out" by being "extra holy," because it is more important to cultivate humility. To me, it is a reasonable application of parts of the Rule to receive in the hand like every other person in my parish. Even recognizing that I prefer communion on the tongue, and knowing all the arguments usually cited for its superiority (which many, it seems, would turn into exclusivity), to me I felt that I was "sticking out." Since I do NOT believe that communion in the hand is either banned by the Church or inherently sacrilegious, I chose to submerge my own will and not divide myself in any way from the rest of the people receiving communion.

      This really had nothing to do with receiving communion, and everything to do with an example of me trying to put in practice the Rule of St. Benedict under my particular circumstance. I thought (and still do) that it would be a valuable topic for a little essay to remind people that one may benefit out of humbly submitting on an matter.

      That's all. I wouldn't turn a hair if someone knelt (never happens in my parish). The thought wouldn't enter my mind that they were being holier-than-thou. I wasn't condemning standing-tongue-Catholics, or kneeling-tongue-Catholics, or advocating communion in the hand.

      It wasn't a bad example. It was a GREAT example, because you're right, we DO have a choice. It perfectly illustrated how a person might exercise the virtue of humility and obedience by having a reason for doing something that was not, in his estimation, the best. To give up his will on a matter and not fuss over it.

      It was also HORRIBLE example because I had forgotten what a hot-button topic that still was. At the monastery, I have seen people take communion in hand, although receiving standing on the tongue seems the norm in more formal masses. On the other hand, at my parish, hand-reception is the method without exception. What happened was that people spread disinformation about the legitimacy of receiving communion in the hand, threatened Judgment of Hellfire when the Sixth Seal was opened (or something), and my beautifully crafted little essay turned into a free fire zone for tongue-Catholics.

      I think we should always spare a thought for others, and where they're at. St. Paul talks about Christians who are "correct" in eating food offered to idols, but who should nonetheless not do do if it causes others to scruple. This is, perhaps, the only place where we have a mild disagreement, and I'm sure that will vanish once you consider the correctness of my position :-D

      I can tell you this. Taking the Precious Body of our Lord reverently (and securely!) in my hand does not seem sacrilegious at all. If it turns out that a method approved by God's Church and practiced 100% in my parish is inherently sacrilegious, evil, damnation-worthy or whatever, then that's not on me. As with so many issues, people really seem to have a problem with the Church, not some poor old Bear who is having flashbacks to being Bear baited. Which BRINGS ME BACK to the topic of my essay :-D

    2. Seriously now, we're done.

      Any comment about standing-tongue-Catholics vs. kneeling-tongue-Catholics vs. standing-hand-Catholics will never see the light of day.

      If you want to share an example of where you voluntarily put your will aside and humbly chose to go along with something you didn't like, or even a time when you suffered unjustly without a murmur, that would be great! And it is for our edification plus anonymous, so it won't be boasting!

  12. This issue is closed -- really. I don't want to have to make a career of arguing with people about what the Roman CatholicChurch has decided.


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