How NOT to Receive the Eucharist While Holding a Baby, Illustrated . . .

by | Aug 25, 2015 | Liturgical Living, Parenting, Parenting Advice, Sacraments | 72 comments

When I had my first baby thirteen years ago, I knew a lot of things would change. I was warned that sleeping, and showering, and getting laundry done would all suddenly require ingenuity and advance planning, and back up.

And that was true.

But no one warned me about trying to receive communion while holding a baby.

No one warned me. So I tried to figure it out myself . . . with the same ingenuity I applied to other things. And I gotta say, it was not always a great success. Since then, I’ve realized that the perfect solution already existed, I just had to be willing to give it a try.

I’ve seen plenty of other moms fumbling through communion trying various methods. So, I’m here today to show you what not to do, and why . . . with the help of my children, who will participate in pretty much any of my crazy schemes to get to eat crackers.

The guidelines for reception of Communion in the hand, as explained by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops are thus:

If Communion is received in the hand, the hands should first of all be
clean. If one is right handed the left hand should rest upon the right.
The host will then be laid in the palm of the left hand and then taken
by the right hand to the mouth. If one is left-handed this is reversed.
It is not appropriate to reach out with the fingers and take the host
from the person distributing.

But, if you’re holding a baby with one arm, that’s pretty much impossible. So, what’re ya gonna do? . . .

1. The Pluck and Pop

This one is tempting. You just reach out and grab the host in your fingers, then pop it in your mouth. Unfortunately, it’s right there in the guidelines that “it is not appropriate” to do so.

Oops, moving on.

2. The Lean and Lick

So, you can’t grab the host. What else can you do? You still have a baby in one arm. So you just end up sticking one hand out to receive the host. And then it’s just sitting there. So . . . you kind of lick it up off your hand. Right?

I’m thinking the big problem with this technique is that when Pope Paul VI introduced communion in the hand as a valid option for Catholics in the United States in 1969, he did so with the caveat that:

The condition is the complete avoidance of any cause for the faithful to be shocked and any danger of irreverence toward the Eucharist.

Licking up the Body of Christ out of one hand is probably going to seem both shocking and irreverent to anyone who’s really paying attention.

So that one’s no good either.

3. The Dodge and Dart

Trying to receive with two hands, while squeezing a small person against your chest with your forearms can get . . . awkward. And let’s be honest. Any receiving of any food is going to require avoiding the chubby, grabby little hands of the baby I’m holding. And she’s got two hands to work with, plus a lean. I’ve got a church full of people facing me, and I’m supposed to be focused and mindful and reverent in the reception of the Eucharist, plus not drop the baby, or squeeze her too hard.

So, in practice, there’s twisting and dodging, and trying to just get it in my mouth as quickly as possible. Not super reverent.

I think it’s just plain silly how many years and how many babies it took for me to realize that the perfection solution had been there since the beginning of the church . . .

Just Receive on the Tongue!

Yes. It seemed weird at first.

Yes. It took a little getting used to.

But then, once I did, I really love everything about it.

It solves ALL the holding babies issues. It helps me to be more focused and more reverent. It allows me to hold a newborn with two hands. It even allows me to be nursing a newborn while receiving communion. It allows me to use one arm to hold a toddler and the other to hold her arms down, so there’s no grabby grabbing.

I like it so much that it’s the way I receive now, whether I’m holding a baby or not. In fact, it’s how the husband and kids receive now, too. My kids have never known any other way.

Here’s Jack at his First Communion, receiving on the tongue . . .

Wait. Is that? Yes. Yes, it is. Cool story . . . 

It felt like a big transition for me, going from receiving in the hands to receiving on the tongue. But, really, it’s not a big deal. I think the two key things to remember are . . .

1. Be Obvious

Some extraordinary ministers of communion, and even some priests, are not that used to people receiving on the tongue. So, I try to be really obvious that that’s how I’ll be receiving. I make a slight bow while the person in front of me is receiving, then step forward. He says, “Body of Christ.” I say, “Amen.” Then, immediately, I tilt my chin up a bit, open wide, and stick my tongue way out. No confusion.

If I don’t have a baby in my arms, I’m careful to keep my hands together in prayer. Again, no confusion.

2. Be Confident

We always have the right to receive on the tongue . . . NO MATTER WHAT.

The USCCB says:

Those who receive Communion may receive either in the hand or on the tongue, and the decision should be that of the individual receiving, not of the person distributing Communion.

Pope Paul VI says:

It is a matter of particular seriousness that in places where the new practice is lawfully permitted every one of the faithful have the option of receiving communion on the tongue and even when other persons are receiving communion in the hand.

So if you decide to give it a try, know that you have every right to do so. Which is not to say that reception in the hand isn’t also valid and acceptable. It is. But only if it can be done in a non-shocking, very reverent manner. And if you can manage that and also hold a baby, well, you’re a better woman than I.


  1. Cassandra

    This is so true, and was the reason I started receiving on the tongue most of the time, even after I wasn't holding a baby for a little while. My biggest struggle with this right now is the elderly Eucharistic Ministers in my parish; if I end up in their line and have to receive on the tongue right now because I am holding a baby, the couple of ministers in my parish have shaky hands and it makes me SO nervous. As a rule for myself right now, at my current particular parish, if my hands are free and I am not in the priests line for communion, I receive on the hand. How do you feel about that if you happen to be receiving from a Eucharistic minister?

    • Kendra

      At our usual parish, there is just one minister assisting the priest, and he's tall and non- shaky, but I know what you mean. I've found that the three steps: chin up, mouth open wide, tongue way out have made receiving on the tongue successful wherever we go. And if, heaven forbid, the host fell down, I'd scoop the body of Christ up off the floor and consume it and feel like a tiny bit of a hero.

      • Fr. Chris

        Tongue WAY out is key.
        I cannot tell you how many times I have been licked and occasionally nipped by someone receiving on the tongue. Part of the issue is that, either way, on the tongue or in the hand people just don’t know how to receive the Eucharist properly. It’s reception on the tongue, not in the mouth. Big difference. Huge.

  2. Emily

    Yes! With my firstborn I was about to attempt the Lean & Lick, when our priest– a very orthodox and awesome Monsignor– smiled encouragingly, said firmly, "You've got your hands full," and held the host up for me to receive on the tongue. It was my first time doing so, and I felt really weird and self-conscious about it at first, but now I definitely agree it's the only way to receive communion while holding a little!

  3. kleinsch

    Yes, yes, yes! I made the same discovery myself. It is definitely true that some priests can be confused, and that your body's posture (chin up!) has to speak for yourself: "Tongue, please!" Now that we attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form, receiving on the tongue is the norm, so there are no problems for any of the several young, nursing mothers. And, as you say, it does feel more reverent.

  4. Isabelle

    Haha, I didn't have to figure it out, because the first time I went with newborn Jude in my arms, the priest just put the host in my mouth (I was the one with a split second of confusion, but it's ok, I understood quickly enough!)
    Now I also always receive on the tongue (and generally try to avoid the line of the extraordinary minister, yup, I am that naughty parishioner)

    • Karyn

      Me too, lol. THough luckily our priest nearly always goes to the same spot, so we just sit in that section.

    • Anonymous

      Glad to know I am not the only one that goes for the priest line! (or decon)

    • Rosa

      Yep, us too! It doesn't feel like a blessing to my youngest if "the man who lives at God's house" doesn't do it! And we only joined the Church 8 years ago, and I lived in fear of dropping the Host until I saw other people receiving on the tongue. I've never tried it the other way.

  5. Sarah Isis D

    This is how I receive the Eucharist when holding a baby. 🙂 awesome illustrations

  6. Mary Wilkerson

    oh my gosh, the first time I went to communion when holding a baby, I was holding my little sister. We always received on the tongue (and I still do, for various reasons, which makes it easy with the babies)… but when it comes to the chalice, I didn't know what to do. My 13 year old self, completely awkward and not thinking things through, kind of motioned for the EME to place the chalice at my mouth so I could just sip some down. Can you imagine?!?! The EME's face was horrified, but she did it, it wasn't till a few minutes later that I realized I should have taken the chalice or not received. It is over 20 years later and I am still embarrassed. Maybe time to let it go?

    • Shirley Roberts

      Dear Mary….I am an EME…and retired Parish DRE….long time Catechist…and I Loved your post! …yes, my dear, let it go with this thought, Jesus was so proud of you as a 13 year old helping your family by carrying one of its youngest members…coming up to receive Him…we EME's encounter many many situations…but with God's Grace, we provide. God bless you and I pray your family is abundantly Blessed! Peace be with you!

    • Kendra

      Mary, I somehow missed your comment until Shirley replied. But, yes! to everything she said. God knows your heart. I figure you and Jesus and that EME will have a chuckle about that when you get to heaven.

  7. Elisa | blissfulE

    So glad I was given the advice to receive on the tongue by our RCIA sponsor – I had no idea the amount of hassle it's spared me while carrying a baby. I prefer to kneel, as well, which helps me be more reverent and also keeps my head tilted back – correct direction – rather than tilted down since I'm tall. I do stand when I'm nursing while receiving the Eucharist, unless I'm at a church with a kneeler.

      • Diana

        Your link nails it, thank you so much for posting, Elisa. I was wondering why so many moms were hesitant to receive communion on the tongue, when it’s the norm at our parish. As Cardinal Arinze says: “Holy Communion is received on the tongue, that is the normal Latin rite.”

  8. Jennifer

    This post is so perfect and the illustrations add a lot to the fun factor. I shared this on FB. This may be the first post I ever shared. It's just that good.

  9. Alicia Copley

    I was so happy to start receiving the Eucharist on the tongue after my baby was born. It had been something that I had thought about for quite a while before I was even pregnant, but I always felt self-conscious in my parish where it's pretty uncommon. Once the baby arrived, it was like a free pass to no longer feel awkward since I didn't have another choice. And, now the priest just knows that I receive on the tongue, so there's no confusion at all.

    I do sometimes still revert to receiving on the hand when I'm not at our home parish. Sometimes I get nervous that a Eucharistic Minister might drop the Eucharist in the process if they're really not used to it.

  10. Kandace

    I do like to receive on the tongue. I once saw a video of Mother Teresa receiving on the tongue and it was….inspiring. She looked like -it's hard to explain- that she just couldn't wait and receiving in her hand would take too long.
    I've unfortunatey had a EM tell me to open my mouth wider—which was awfully embarrassing but good information to know. Then when my oldest went through First Communion, our priest said to tip the head back. LIFE CHANGING. It was like a lightbulb!! I haven't had any trouble since!!
    Thanks for sharing!! The pictures were great!

  11. Jenny

    I have to say this post made my day 😉 I love the "not to do" pictures…quite fantastic! I grew up in a church where we had to receive it on the tongue so I've never thought twice about it but I have noticed there are some Eucharistic ministers at our church that are uncomfortable with it. Oh well 😉

  12. Sarah

    So now Kendra, you have to tell us, what about receiving from the chalice. I usually skip with baby as I am too nervous to possibly drop it.

    • Elizabeth

      I second this request. I was received into the Church in January, and I have never received the chalice because I have no idea what is appropriate! I knew Christ is fully present in both species and that lay people haven't always even had the option of receiving the chalice, and so I don't worry about it too much, but I'd love to know the proper way to do this.

    • Elizabeth

      Same here! I haven't received the chalice in a long time. My biggest problem is that the chalice is usually positioned so close to the host, that my mouth is full of host. I have no time to let the host dissolve a little (exacerbated by my small mouth problem again). So I don't want to try to receive the chalice with my mouth full of host, let alone juggle a child :). Anyway…Catholic problems! I do take comfort in knowing that Jesus is fully present in both, and you are not required to receive both. My sister and stepmother cannot have gluten, and they often skips the host and go to the chalice if no gluten-free host is available.

    • Kendra

      This is the only thing the USCCB guidelines say about receiving the precious blood from the chalice: When one receives from the chalice, the same proclamation is made by the person distributing Communion and the Communicant again responds, "Amen." It should be noted that it is never permissible for a person to dip the host he or she has received into the chalice. If, for some reason, the communicant is not able or willing to drink from the cup then that person should receive only under the form of bread.

      So I'm comfortable holding the baby or toddler in one hand and taking the chalice with the other, and taking a sip one handed. I usually swing the toddler back behind me a bit.

      But, yes to Jesus being fully present in each species, so if I had a particularly wiggly, squawky, or grabby baby, I'd just pause, and make a small bow towards where the cup is, but not receive the precious blood.

      One handed has worked for this for me, though.

    • Theresa Thorne

      I have always received on the tongue before children, but was seriously confused about the chalice once I had my baby. Everyone is different, but my priest encouraged me not to receive the chalice with one hand – not necessarily because ti is disrespectful, but because ti is a bit precarious and could be dropped. I would say if you feel confident, go for it, but I skip, or the hand the baby to my husband to hold ti with two hands. I would hate to see it dropped. And ditto to the bow. That was weird for me at first, but it does feel reverent.

    • Marie

      Perhaps it's worth noting for those who are curious… it is ok for the Eucharistic Minister to offer the Precious Body and Blood together by intinction. The host is dipped into the chalice and then given to the communicant (as opposed to the communicant doing it themselves, which Kendra notes above is never permissible). My grandma's church did this sometimes when I was little, but the only place I see it now is my sister's parish… they use the novus ordo, but with a lot of Latin and a communion rail and servers who follow along with the priest/deacon. Their former pastor would use intinction for Christmas, Easter, and the like.

  13. Hannah Gokie

    Luckily around here receiving on the tongue is somewhat the norm for people of all ages, and I had started receiving on the tongue in college (imitation as flattery, then I found I just preferred it for so many reasons) so transitioning to baby was easy! I do wish more new moms knew this so I'm glad you wrote the post. 🙂

  14. Mia Jude

    Yup. Me becoming a mom made me become a tongue receiver only. And I'm so happy motherhood forced me into this. I wished I'd been doing it my whole life!

  15. Liesl

    I switched to receiving on the tongue a number of years ago (sans baby!) because I just felt really pulled to do that – it acts as a reminder of reverence to me personally. The problem is when I attend Mass in my hometown – the EM's have no idea what to do when I go to receive on the tongue. After having the host dropped more than once, I went back to hands there, but the hosts they use (homemade no-yeast bread) are so crumbly, that I end up with Jesus all over my hand so I end up licking my hand. I just… do not know what to do there. I know it looks weird licking my hand, but I can't leave Jesus crumbs on my hand!

    • Caroline

      There is a solution, but it seems many churches don't choose or know to use them. The altar boys used to assist during communion by holding the paten plate under the chin of the communicant in the event that the host would fall, it would not fall to the floor. Nowadays in many parishes, the altar servers do not even assist the priest during communion.

    • Kendra

      Yes! We are fortunate that the church we usually attend on Sunday uses pattens. It's nice for my altar boys to have such an important responsibility.

      • Carolyn

        I’m jumping over to this older post from your link in your August 2019 post about Catholics not believing in the Real Presence. Can I just say… BRING BACK THE PATTENS! The image of an altar boy reverently holding the patten for each person to receive is a beautiful reminder of the Real Presence.

        • Diana

          It might’ve been Kendra’s autospell that added an extra “T” to paten, that little plate used in Eucharistic ceremonies, but wanted to let you know in case your autospell was doing the same thing. Wish I knew how to make it stop when autospell does this. One time I capitalized my son’s name & now autospell insists on capitalizing his name every single time!

  16. Tanya Seibel

    I wear my baby in a beautiful ring sling that I made specifically for Mass and other more formal occasions. I have found that having my babies safely and comfortably secured to me allows me to engage much more fully in Mass. It also keeps both hands free for Communion.

    • Elizabeth

      Ah, yes! And the sling. I have worn many of my babies to keep both hands free too. I almost forgot about that. We are in between carrier ages right now, so it's not on the top of my mind.

  17. Anonymous

    Recent convert here, and I have just always received on the tongue. And, having twins now, it just makes the most sense.
    I avoid the extraordinary ministers, too because often they are short little old ladies and the Priest or Deacon is raised above me, so it is easier to receive on the tongue. But, when the extraordinary minister is shorter than me it makes it so awkward receiving on the tongue, especially since the receiving on the hands is more commonplace at our parish. There are plenty that do receive on the tongue, and even one man who gets down on his knees before the priest. Our clergy are all from Peru and seem to be much more receptive to receiving on the tongue as I think non-American clergy usually are?

  18. Bethany Sonnier

    I started receiving on the tongue when I was pregnant with my first. It occurred to me that I wouldn't have two free hands and wanted to practice how without the baby first. Having a friend with a baby a little older than mine helped; I could watch how she did it.

  19. Amanda

    The kids are having fun being not reverent with crackers 🙂

  20. Maddy

    I usually get my husband to carry the baby up to Communion because he's used to receiving on the tongue. Sometimes baby is sleeping in my arms, though, and I still haven't yet gotten used to receiving on the tongue well enough that I don't feel overwhelmingly anxious leading up to it and during prayers afterwards (because I am really good at somehow not sticking my tongue out properly in this particular context). I must remember to practise in front of a mirror.

    • Diana

      Haha Such a cute story

  21. Elizabeth

    Receiving on the tongue is perfect! Maybe someday I'll feel comfortable with it. I've never had trouble shouldering a baby or even a toddler while using both hands properly. I shift the baby/toddler to my left side, put my hands together properly, and receive in the hand as usual. I've never had trouble with baby toddler grabbing or squirming then — they always seem mesmerized by the priest and what's going on in front of them. That being said, I know that not every baby or toddler will stop squirming or keep their hands to themselves :). So no judgment on other moms who don't find this doable.

    Also, if I have a toddler, I would occasionally put them down right before receiving and scoop them back up after receiving reverently. Again, this hinges on general confidence that your toddler won't bolt, so I only do that during certain confident stages. And then there are many instances where my husband is happy to hold the baby for me anyway.

    I've just never felt comfortable with the tongue. I did it a few times when I was younger, pre-babies, and I have a small mouth. Sometimes the host would hit my teeth and there would be a scramble. It's not about opening wide enough — my dentists and orthodontists had similar problems and would comment on my small mouth and large teeth. Large teeth are generally prettier than small teeth once you are an adult, but they do have their downsides. And the risk of baby/toddler grabbing the host on the way to my mouth is about as great as on the way to my hand, for me anyway. But, like I wrote, my kids don't have a huge risk of grabbing.

    Anyway, I am so thankful for the option to receive in the hand. I would be a nervous mess every weekend if receiving on the tongue was required. I think it's great that the tongue offers a reverent way for most parents to receive, though. Sometimes I find it a little hurtful when my faithful friends post articles on why receiving on the tongue is the *only* reverent way for anyone, ever. It definitely makes me feel self conscious and inferior, but I'm not changing anytime soon. I take a little comfort in knowing that the host in the Last Supper was received in the hand. I appreciate that your blog post outlines both reverent ways, clarifies the right and wrong, and shows a great way for moms to receive :).

  22. Jenny Cook

    Lucky for me, this is the way I started out doing it, so it feels normal. In fact, I get all nervous the few times I try to receive it on the hand…"Is it right hand over left or under left? Under left, okay…is this my right hand? ACK!" I think everything about receiving it on the tongue is better, whether baby holding or not.

  23. Natalie Conseur

    It's a brilliant solution, and it's one that I have finally settled on, three kids in. Thank you for the tip about being intentional with the body language! As someone noted in the comments, the chalice is tougher, especially once the baby gets old enough to reach out and grab. But it is do-able if you feel moved to take the blood and can do it quickly.

  24. Laurel

    I've always received on the tongue so this wasn't a dilemma, but you're absolutely right about being obvious and confident! Even now when I don't have any hands available because they are tightly gripping the baby's hands so she doesn't try to grab the Host herself, the person handing out Communion is still confused about where he/she should place the Host despite the fact I'm standing there with my tongue out!

  25. Schafergal

    I love everything about this! Especially the pics. Your kids look like they enjoyed this assignment 🙂

    I agree with many of the above commenters- I started receiving on the tongue for these exact reasons, but then enjoy it so much I've continued. In the (rare) circumstance that I'm receiving without a little in my arms, I still receive on the tongue. In our parish, this is quite the norm, so there's no confusion. There have been some awkward moments when traveling, though. I like your suggestions for more "obvious" posture. Thanks!

  26. Kate

    Love the picture demos!!! And yes, on the tongue is so much easier! It's only awkward at churches with tiny little old lady EMs who can barely see up to my head, much less reach it 😉

  27. Megnanimity

    You forgot about his you still have to grab little people's hands at various stages as they will try to "block". I have some future basketball players I think!!

  28. Anonymous

    I am a recent convert and have always received on the tongue (by recommendation of my RCIA sponsor), so when I first read the title of this post I was like, "Just receive on the tongue! Duh." But then I realized that most people (in the US anyway) probably don't receive on the tongue so that wouldn't be the most obvious option. This is a great post, thank you!

  29. Ingrid Vooglaid

    In my country almost everyone receives on the tongue. I have seen receiving on hand only a few times and they were all with tourists from other countries. I`ve never experienced or seen any confusion or difficulties for anyone in the process of receiving on the tongue. The receiver crosses herself (and perhaps kneels or something else for reverence), the priest lifts the Communion, each says their part, the receiver opens her mouth, in goes the Communion, the priest blesses the baby on the hip or toddler on the ground and off they go.
    Why are ministers in US afraid of it? Could it be because of a lacking in training?

    It is interesting to read that while receiving communion you are facing the congregation. Here we stand in lines facing the tabernacle behind the priest so that the only person seeing the receiver`s face is the priest. Usually there are two lines between the rows of seats and if there are unusually many people, a third line is added to one side. I believe no-one is really paying any attention to how well someone else performs the receiving, being busy with their own preparation, and the only things that stand out here are receiving on hand (very rare) and kneeling (happens quite often).

    • Elizabeth

      In our parish, we are facing the tabernacle. So it varies. I imagine it is much easier when receiving on the tongue is the cultural norm. Ministers here may not see it as often and have to focus and be more careful when they encounter it. Maybe that's why it makes them nervous. Kneeling would actually be a nice norm — It might be easier to keep a gentle hand on a potentially flighty toddler when on your knees.

      I have noticed — at least in my communities — that there is quite a bit of angst over methods of reception. With that angst, I think people notice others a little more. Hopefully, the noticing doesn't take too much mental energy, though.

    • Kendra

      I think it is a lack of experience. Probably 80-90% of US Catholics at Novus Ordo Masses receive in the hand. So I think the ministers just don't practice that much!

      And yes, we do face the altar for communion. We go to one of the Califirnia Mission churches, built in the 17th century, for Sunday Mass, and it has a very traditional layout, with the tabernacle in behind the altar. But for daily Mass (where I am in the photo) we go to our neighborhood church, and it's kind of in the round, with pews on three sides of the altar and the tabernacle in the back corner in the adoration chapel.

  30. Brianna

    I'm glad I instinctively did this while taking my baby sister up for communion when I was 14. (It helped that we were in a traditional, heavily Mexican, culturally Catholic town where many women veiled and many received on the tongue for mass. So it seemed not so scary and kind of obvious since I saw about 1/3 the church receive that way.) However, since my son is on the small side, I always found I could somewhat gracefully hold him or have him in a carrier and receive Eucharist as usual. However, his little sister on the way is already measuring pretty big (and I'm sure of my due date being correct)… So, I may go back to receiving on the tongue if she's more of a handful to hold. Thanks for the reminder!

  31. Kristen

    Where I live I went back to receiving in the hand. The reason being that EMEs in the parishes around us are not trained in how to properly place the Body of Christ on the tongue. If one were to look at the pic of the priest putting it in your mouth, his hand is in one distinct position. EMEs (Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist) here are taught to hold up the Body of Christ by the bottom and after hearing "Amen" to simply straighten their arm at the elbow not to simply turn their arm so that their backhand is now facing heavenward. This lack of training (and I have no idea who exactly is responsible for how it is done in the Deanery) leads to EMEs often looking like they are depositing change into a soda machine and causing the Body of Christ to nearly fall out of any mouth. Older EMEs do, for the most part, know how to do it correctly, but are typically out of practice. Even some priests are not as familiar. I'm very pro-Communion rails and this is one part of the reason. And I guess I lucked out that typically whatever baby or toddler I was carrying…fell asleep typically during the Consecration.They did grow out of that eventually though 😉

  32. Anabelle Hazard

    Bravo Kendra! Our family receives Eucharist on the tongue as well. Id like to add a caveat that when holding grabby babies, hold down their hands so they don't reach for the host.

  33. Munchie Mommy

    Wow, for once, a solution that I found pretty much right away after having a baby ( unlike so many other things which have taken several babies to figure out). In my neck of the woods, I had always received on the hand, as most people did, however, there has always been a small minority of people receiving on the tongue, so ministers and communicants alike are prepared for that option.

    Ps. I have also taken a baby into the confessional – booth AND face to face.

  34. Ingrid Vooglaid

    I`m sorry for rambling, this is such a fascinating subject, it doesn`t give me peace.

    How is it ensured that hands are clean for receiving Communion or eating anything out of your hand? I mean, after:
    *handling money during Mass
    *shaking hands for peace with several people, some of whom may be carrying a virus
    *touching doorknobs which are among the most contaminated spots in towns
    *perhaps wiping a toddler`s nose or changing a diaper (or presuming someone you shaked hands with had just done that).

    The priest has just washed hands and made sure that everything is hygienic on his part so receiving on tongue would be the cleanest option in my understanding.

  35. Elizabeth

    With all due respect, I have never understood the cleanliness argument for tongue vs. hand. I think cleanliness is more about intention and effort within the context of reality than actual real cleanliness. I know that might sound odd at first, but consider a few things:
    1. Is your tongue ever really "clean". Throat? Stomach? Digestive tract? It would be difficult to actively clean those areas, except the obvious oral hygiene, so it's not required. But it's never "clean", although we do our best effort with fasting beforehand.
    2. In addition, if cleanliness were actually of very high importance, then the Eucharist would be refused to anyone who showed any hint of illness — Is your mouth clean if you've been coughing or sneezing? Is your system clean if you struggle with GI issues? What about sick and bed-bound folks who might not have the opportunity to brush and floss before receiving? We certainly wouldn't deny them. Their best effort given their state in life counts more than actual cleanliness, and that is also true of parents with small children. Do your best.
    3. And while it is true that some people *could* have cleaner hands and don't put the basic effort in, this is also a problem with oral hygiene too. Some people don't put the minimum effort into that either.

    So I guess I just don't every buy the argument that our tongues, mouths, and GI tract are truly "cleaner" than our hands. I think we are just humans who can only do our best given our circumstances, and our best is what's required. If you feel that your mouth is personally a better option than your hands then — by all means — receive on the tongue. But a blanket policy proclaiming tongues as cleaner than hands baffles me from a realistic and scientific perspective, given all the possibilities.

    It is true that the hand adds an extra body part, but I just doubt that it significantly "dirties" anything more than the mouth and GI tract. Just my two cents having pondered this argument many times :).

    Pondering the reality of cleanliness also reminds me of God's mercy. We can never be good enough to receive God all by ourselves, but we should put our best effort forward. We obviously need His grace.

    • Elizabeth

      Also, one more thought — I think the cleanliness requirement is more for us than anything. Our outward appearance and cleanliness is a reminder to us that we also need the cleanest soul possible. It's a physical sign of what we hope to achieve spiritually. I think it is more about that than actually attempting to prevent germs, bacteria, microbes, dirt, etc., from touching God, mostly because preventing that is physically impossible. That doesn't excuse us from the effort. On the contrary, it reinforces the effort. But that perspective re-frames the requirement into one that prevents us from being overly scrupulous about physical cleanliness and re-focuses the requirement on being our best inside and out for communion.

  36. Kendra

    Ingrid and Elizabeth,

    The way I interpret the guidelines about cleanliness is more about respect and less about hygiene. I think it means that if you spent your Saturday out in the garden or working in a factory, you'd wash your hands so they are visibly clean as a sign of respect for our Lord. Not to avoid potential cross-contamination between communicants. That's my take anyway.

  37. Jessica C

    Kendra, you would love Mass in the Melkite Catholic rite! The Eucharist is dipped into the Precious Blood of Christ and goes directly into the mouth of the recipient. The altar boys are always right there on either side of the priest, holding out the Communion plates in case anything falls.

    . . . The only thing you have to watch out for is if you attend Mass at a parish where the priest doesn't know you personally, and therefore is not aware that the beaming 2 year-old girl on your hip was baptized in the Roman rite. Because he will present the Eucharist to her lips first, and she will eagerly accept it, leaving you paralyzed in fear that you just witnessed sacrilege. Oops.

  38. mel

    Wow, same! I started receiving on the tongue for the same reason. And it was really weird and awkward. And I got over it. lol. I really don't even think about it anymore. My oldest learned to receive by hand,,,she is 19 now and I think she receives on the tongue now, but I really haven't paid much attention to know for sure. The rest of my kids have/will be taught to receive on the tongue. We don't go to a particularly traditional parish, and sometimes I get some alarmed looks when I walk up to the EM and stick my tongue out, but I figure I'm expanding their skills….lol

  39. Mommy's Going Grey

    I laughed so loudly reading this entry, Kendra, that I woke my baby (6 months)…but I didn't wake the preschooler!

    Where was this blog in April! I'm so glad you "penned" it. Thanks! I considered the idea of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue because baby + shy preschooler accompany me to receive the Eicharist, and the elder required my hand to guide her to turn and leave the front of the church.

    I've baby worn in mass but usually by the time we go up for the Eucharist baby has been free'd so Daddy can take a turn holding her. But Daddy isn't practicing so he remains seated and baby usually wants to go with Mommy. This blog entry gives me more confidence that I won't be the only mom to receive communion this way!

    Thanks again for posting it!

  40. Belinda Boone

    Do people even realize that receiving communion on the tongue was the norm for the better part of 2000 years?!? It's not about whether you are holding a baby or not. It is about reverence for the Eucharist.

  41. Sarah Blake

    I have never dared to try receiving in the hand! I would be worried that my hands weren't clean enough or I'd drop Our Lord! But as you so rightly point out, it did mean that I never had any problems with holding a baby while receiving. Of course, receiving in the hand in widespread but as you say, even when I am not receiving from my own priest, who knows me, there is no difficulty in making my intention clear. I don't put out my hands and I do open my mouth, so what choice does he have? Loving your blog, by the way, which I've only just discovered.

  42. Makena

    You can also carry your infant, baby or toddler in a wrap! SO perfekt! And then you can resive the communion eigher by hand or on the toung. Also very pratical during the rest of the mass. At the moment a wrap on the back stops my 10 mounths from crawling away all the time :)) /María

  43. Maggie

    I receive on the tongue as well now, holding littles or not. I’m so glad our priest has placed two kneelers at the front, which he and the deacon stand behind like an altar rail. Those who wish to receive standing do so.
    When I was preparing for First Communion my protestant cousins were really jealous, but wanted to “practice” with me. I would tell them what I learned and had seen. But they INSISTED that they hold the cup while the recipient drank. I remember the big glass tumbler we decided was our chalice and filled with water. When we spilled on each other we just said we were practicing for baptisms too.


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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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