I have noticed, over the past few years, an increase in the number of people who are electing to receive the Sacred Host on the tongue directly from a priest, deacon or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion at Holy Mass instead of in the hand.
My archdiocese is located in the United States of America which presently has permission in the form of an indult for communicants to receive the Sacred Host in the hand. Most people reading this in the U.S. are aware that the majority of those approaching for Holy Communion in this country receive the Sacred Host in the hand. This indult is an exception to the universal law of the Latin Rite for communicants to receive Holy Communion on the tongue. It is your right, if you are able to receive, to do so according to the universal norm on the tongue.
Unfortunately, many of those who have now elected to receive on the tongue have never been instructed as to how to properly receive Holy Communion in this manner. In the past, people received while kneeling at the communion rail. Now, for the most part, those receiving on the tongue do so while standing before the minister. This presents some challenges to the minister, but they are simple to overcome if several simple guidelines are followed by both the minister and the communicant.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful if you choose to receive on the tongue.
- First, regardless of how you receive, approach the Sacrament with reverence and humility; in a state of grace and properly disposed. One should never be interiorly casual or ambivalent about receiving Our Lord. One’s interior disposition often manifests itself externally. If you are aware of having committed a mortal sin you have not confessed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, don’t receive. Instead, make an Act of Spiritual Communion (see below).
- As with any reception of Holy Communion, after the priest or other minister has said, “The Body of Christ,” respond with “Amen.”
- Then, with head straight or tilted slightly back, open your mouth wide and extend your tongue – the tongue need not protrude far out of the mouth, but it should block the view of the lower lip. The minister will place the Sacred Host on your tongue. Two things are very important here – open wide and extend the tongue. I have noticed that many people only slightly open the mouth and others do not extend the tongue; others do both. It is difficult and sometimes impossible for the minister to safely place the host on the tongue under these circumstances.
- Wait until the Sacred Host is safely placed on the tongue and only then return your tongue and close your mouth. It is not proper to use your teeth to receive and it is never a good idea to bite the minister’s fingers. So wait until the Sacred Host is safely on your tongue before moving.
- Speaking of moving, it is also impossible for the minister to “hit” a moving target. This is where standing is at a disadvantage over kneeling at a rail. First, it is more difficult to remain motionless while standing. But secondly, I have noticed a tendency for the communicant to move their head towards the Sacred Host as if “to help” the minister to distribute. This does not work. The minister needs a stationary target, so remain motionless, head straight or tilted slightly back, mouth wide open and tongue extended. For some people, it may help to close you eyes; for others, look above the minister and don’t watch the Sacred Host.
- On the part of the priest, deacon or extraordinary minister, it is a good idea to allow the communicant achieve this posture before attempting to place the Sacred Host on the tongue.
I mentioned above that if you are unable to receive Holy Communion (due to mortal sin, having not kept the communion fast, being non-Catholic, or some other reason) it is a good practice to make a Spiritual Communion. The following is a simple, yet profound Act of Spiritual Communion you can pray while kneeling in your pew:
An Act of Spiritual Communion
“My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.”
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