Instructions on Receiving Holy Communion

By Fr. John

  1. Both our bodies and voices are required in the Rite of Holy Communion: We process together to the altar. We sing together a Communion song, “its purpose being to express the spiritual union of the communicants… [and] the ‘communitarian’ character of the procession to receive the Eucharist” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal #86) “All sing together until all have received Communion.” (Ibid., emphasis added)
  2. The Posture and Reverence to be shown in receiving Holy Communion: In the United States, the Bishops with the approval of Rome, mandated that Holy Communion should be received standing after a bow of the head before receiving. It is not more reverent to receive kneeling than to receive standing. The U. S. Bishops mandated posture should be followed.
  3.  Manner of Receiving the Host: “The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the precious blood.” (GIRM #160) It is not more holy or reverent to receive on the tongue or in the hand. Either is equally reverent.
  4.  The Minister of Holy Communion: The Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are ordained Bishops, Priests and Deacons (the term “ordinary” is referring to this “ordination.”) Extra-ordinary ministers of Holy Communion are laity commissioned by the Bishop to assist with Holy
    Communion when there are many communicants at a Mass. It is not more holy to receive Communion from an ordained Minister or one that is not ordained. The person giving Communion does not affect the nature of the Eucharist, which would be a heresy.
  5. Forbidden Practices: It is forbidden to not consume the Host at Communion and take the Host outside the Church. In other words, upon receiving the Host at Communion in the hand, one must immediately eat it. It is forbidden in the Catholic Church for a lay person to take the Host and dip it into the Chalice of the Precious Blood. Only a Priest may dip the Host into the Chalice and give Communion in this manner, obviously on the tongue of the communicant (referred to as “Intinction.”) This method of giving Communion is rare and even discouraged in the U.S. Some lay persons may have been permitted to dip the Host in the Chalice at some other parish, but
    that permission was wrong.
  6. Posture when Communion Concludes: Communion does not conclude when any remaining hosts are returned to the Tabernacle.

In many churches, the people have been kneeling in the pews during Communion and when the last of the Hosts are returned to the tabernacle or when they see the Priest sit down, everyone sits, with a lot of noise. There is nothing in the Church documents that call for this change of posture.

At Holy Faith the Priest remains standing and most people remain kneeling until called to pray the “Prayer after Communion.” It is only when this Prayer is prayed that Communion ends. A period of silence is usually observed. To sit when the Hosts are returned to the Tabernacle is noisy and interrupts this time of silence. Fortunately, at Holy Faith we have learned to remain in silent prayer after the Communion song and do not have any shift to sitting when the remaining hosts are taken to the Tabernacle.