Hello Friends! One of the things that I have wanted to address concerns the very foundation of our lives as Catholics…namely, the most holy sacrifice of the Mass. If the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, then no part of the Mass may ever be accounted as small, trivial, or insignificant. One such area concerns the reception of Holy Communion.
Ever since churches began to reopen, different dioceses around the country have issued different directives. Many of them are very similar, i.e., social distancing within church, use of masks, and having hand sanitizer available. Some, however, have differed in their approach to receiving Holy Communion, namely, if they will allow communion to be received on the tongue.
Each diocese has been free to issue their own directives as they see fit, although the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in consultation with the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., has issued their own directives. According to the USCCB, communion on the tongue may take place, provided every precaution is followed. The following is taken from their directives: “We have carefully considered the question of Communion on the tongue vs. Communion in the hand. Given the Church’s existing guidance on this point (see Redemptionis Sacramentum , no. 92), and recognizing the differing judgments and sensibilities that are involved, we believe that, with the precautions listed here, it is possible to distribute on the tongue without unreasonable risk.
Opinions on this point are varied within the medical and scientific community: some believe Communion on the tongue involves an elevated and, in the light of all the circumstances, an unreasonable risk; others disagree. If Communion on the tongue is provided, one could consider using hand sanitizer after each communicant who receives on the tongue.”
The document referenced above, Redemptionis Sacramentum, is a very important piece of liturgical legislation, which carries the force of law. It spells out that Catholics have a right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue and any attempt to curtail that right should be avoided. I believe receiving on the tongue can indeed be a safe and hygienic option, even in the midst of
pandemic. Ideally, receiving on the tongue was done hand in hand with kneeling at a communion rail. Having a priest distribute communion on the tongue while the communicant kneels is a very safe option because of the downward motion of the priest. With the help of gravity, the sacred host can safely be lowered onto the tongue, without risk of contact with the fingers. As a priest who offers Mass in the Extraordinary Form often, I speak from personal experience.
Although I believe each Catholic should be free to choose for his or herself how they will receive Holy Communion, we must still respect the directives issued by our own diocese. These directives were carefully considered and constructed and ought not to be disregarded. However, I desire that the rights of the faithful should be respected in so far as possible.
Therefore, if you are a parishioner who wishes to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, please know you can always come to me personally during the Mass. Please be aware, however, that some extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be comfortable distributing on the tongue for various reasons. Once again, if you wish to receive in this manner, or even if you wish to kneel out of reverence for our Lord, please know that I am more than happy to distribute Holy Communion in this way.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help…pray for us! May the heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, be praised, adored, and loved, with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even to the end of time. Amen.
~Fr. Martin Gallagher