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Why You Should Receive Communion Kneeling and on the Tongue

POPE DISTRIBUTES COMMUNION AS HE CELEBRATES CHRISTMAS EVE MASS IN ST. PETER'S BASILICA AT VATICANIn the 13 years I have been a practicing Catholic, I have been a traditionalist all but two of them.  As a result, I have received communion on the tongue and kneeling for eleven years.  I’ve also found that the way we traditionalists receive communion is something that many Catholics outside of the Extraordinary Form can and want to do as well, but many of them never hear the reasons why we do so.  When they do hear something, it is a stock answer that it was the way done for centuries, the change to communion in the hand was of dubious legality, it promotes “reverence for the Eucharist”, etc.

I think these answers are true but unsatisfying.  They normally serve only to appeal to the person already doing it.  These defenses also only exist in a world where communion in the hand and communion on the tongue exist in opposition to each other.  This really isn’t the experience most Catholics have.  Instead of this, we need to offer them a reason why communion on the tongue and kneeling is appropriate on its own terms.  When we examine the Sacred Scripture and the nature of this symbolism, such reasons are abundant.

When John Paul II gave his addresses that became the Catechesis on Human Love, one of the most salient points was that we can’t speak of things we do “in the body” or “in the spirit”, since the body and spirit together comprise the human person.  When we sin, we sin through our bodies and through our spirit.  Both are wounded by sin, and both must be redeemed (Romans 8:23), and eventually reunited. (1 Cor 15:41-54)  This redemption is made possible through the Sacrifice of the Cross (CC601), and as the Catechism of St. Pius X teaches us (Article 4:19), the fruit of Christ’s sacrifice is applied to us in a very special way by the sacraments.

How This Impacts the Body

As a child I loved (and still love) The X-Men, especially their leader Professor Charles Xavier.  He was an incredibly powerful mutant with telepathic abilities.  He could communicate with people just by using his mind.  We humans aren’t that lucky.  We have to communicate by our words and our actions.  We often hear the cliché actions speak louder than words, and this is especially true in regards to how we live out the Catholic faith.  (James 2:24)  St. Paul speaks about how we need to use our actions to control our bodies.  (1 Cor 9:27)  This lesson applies in a profound way to how we receive Holy Communion.  When we approach Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Catholics today either bow or kneel.  Bowing implies (at least in Western culture) reverence.  For traditionalists, we try to take it one step further.  Here kneeling implies subjection.  You need to use your whole body to kneel at the communion rail.  This is the way we bring our own bodies into subjection, since it is the nature of the flesh to seek its own pleasure and desires.  (Matt 26:41)

We also kneel at the rail as a sign of our sinfulness.  In the Catholic liturgy the sanctuary represents the heavenly liturgy, and the communion rail represents the line between heaven and earth.  Another separation that is signified is the timelessness of the offering on the Cross being presented to the Father in heaven (in the sanctuary) and the fallible limitations of time here on earth.  For God, all things are present (CCC 600), yet for man, we measure things through time.

Holy Communion becomes the meeting of all of these things.  The infinite is given in the finite, the eternal given in the temporal, and heaven and earth are joined. For our part, we approach as close as we can to heaven seeking God’s grace, but we cannot enter into heaven yet due to our fallen nature.  Instead, we must wait with humility and patience for Christ to come and transform us.  Our reception of Holy Communion is a small participation of that transformation that will happen in the fullest at the end of time.

How This Impacts the Soul

While we might sin with the body, all sin begins in the interior, that is, in the soul.  As Jesus points out, it isn’t what we take into us that will defile us spiritually, but what proceeds from our fallen natures that is defiled.  (Matthew 15:10-20)  Within each and every soul lie many disordered tendencies that only we know about, and some we don’t even know about.  This is why salvation is a gift freely bestowed on God.  Left to our own devices, even our faith will not be sufficiently pleasing to God to merit salvation.  (Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter VIII)

When we receive Holy Communion, the life of Christ is infused into our soul, and combined with great faith, the defilement of our fallen nature is cleansed, and we become less and less attached to those things.  As a result, we who were predestined by God become slowly conformed to the image of His Son in time.  (Romans 8:29-30)  If we let the grace of God work within us through good works (Ephesians 2:8-10), we can truly say at the end of time it is not I who live, but Christ who lives within me (Galatians 2:20) and Christ can say well done faithful servant!  (Matthew 25:23)

Once we have been purified by Christ in this heavenly experience, we can then bring His Gospel to the world.  When we receive communion on the tongue, we are calling to mind not just the words of Christ above, but also the prophet Isaiah.  While we all know his prophesy of the suffering servant, we seldom talk about how his prophetic ministry entered a new stage in the book of Isaiah Chapter 6.

When King Uzziah died, the young prophet had a vision of Heaven, specifically what heavenly worship looks like.  He saw the Seraphim proclaiming the Sanctus and the altar of sacrifice.  Isaiah’s reaction is one Peter would proclaim in front of Jesus centuries later:  depart from me, I am a sinful man.  (Luke 5:8)  At this point something peculiar happens.  One of the Seraphim go to the altar and take a burning coal from the altar of sacrifice and approach the prophet.  The burning coal is then placed on Isaiah’s lips.  (Another way of saying that is placing the burning coal on the tongue.)  At this point the angel proclaims his sins forgiven, and God selects Isaiah as His chosen messenger of redemption and judgment to His people Israel.

When we receive communion, we kneel before the heavenly worship service going on in the sanctuary, and have the burning coal of Holy Communion placed on our tongue, which purifies not just our lips but our whole being, both soul and body.  Once we have been purified, we hear the Ite Missa Est, or a command to go preach the Gospel.  We become God’s chosen messengers not just to Israel, but to the entire world, making disciples of all nations.  (Matthew 28:19)

The best part about all of this is you don’t need the Latin Mass to do this.  You can do this in whatever liturgy you attend.  It also serves as a powerful reminder of how we live our faith through the body.


  • kneeling catholic

    Thank you for this article, Kevin!
    I do have two points of contention however, I think you should also point out that kneeling is just plain INTENSE.
    Saints and Angels in heaven (who are sinless) still kneel.
    Even our Lord knealt in the garden.
    and, one other point. Eucharist means ‘gratitude’. A good scriptural example of intense gratitude is the one grateful leper who fell at Jesus’ feet.
    a respectful bow, or even standing ramrod straight at attention, both seem tepid gestures when compared to kneeling.

    • While that’s true, there are a few things to remember:

      I’m writing about why kneeling is a good thing. Focusing on how “intense” it is probably won’t be a good thing.

      Second, communion rails really mitigate that stuff.

      Third, we can’t always kneel. I myself can’t kneel if there isn’t a rail more often than not. I’m a big man who has bad knees. I can genuflect easily enough, but a full kneel without the support of the rail is a difficult task.
      In short, kneel when you can, but when you can’t, do a real bow, not just a head nod. 🙂

      • kneeling catholic

        Sorry for not being clearer, Kevin!
        I think that modern day Communion lines—-with people chewing gum, strolling, grabbing our Lord in an-old-way-one-handed-two-handed some stroll off to consume Him—– have taken on a rather lackadaisical appearance. (you always attending the Extraordinary Form probably shields you from just how bad things are)
        Think of the iconic picture of Grace Kelly kneeling for Holy Communion. That’s not lackadaisical.

  • noelfitz

    Kevin,

    many thanks for this brilliant article.

    You present your view with clarity, respect and reason.

    I am reminded of parts of 1 Pet 3:15,16 (NRSV) “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”

    Some time ago a post of mine elicited responses from senior people in CL, which (to my surprise) I considered hurtful and unfair, however you contributed to the discussion in a fair and balanced way, which meant a lot to me.

    I am very grateful to you.

    • I really can’t speak for that thread, but at the same time, I also don’t want to be the kind of person dogging on my fellow colleagues. And I will have a natural instinct to defend them when said dogging is perceived to be occuring. All I will say is sometimes, people disagree, even in a spirited fashion. It happens. 🙂

      I don’t think anyone looked to deliberately be hurtful, sometimes miscommunications happen on both sides on the internet. So stick around and make it an enjoyable place.

  • ace

    I totally get the kneeling… and, I do kneel and receive on the tongue, but I still would prefer to receive kneeling, but in the hand. The Institution at the Last Supper, the Passover meal, the breaking of the bread at Emmaus (first break open the Scriptures and then recognize Him in the breaking of the Bread – the first Mass after the Resurrection), the miracles of multiplication of food, the gathering of manna in the desert… are such strong biblical images. The burning coal placed on Isaiah’s lips for purification of his speech just does not override those other biblical images for me. Nevertheless, I agree with consecrated hands of priest or deacon being the ones to distribute the Eucharist and do recognize that Communion on the tongue accomplishes the good of preventing desecration of the Eucharist.
    OTOH, the banqueting table in Song of Solomon, the wedding feast at Cana, the wedding feast of the lamb… for me, much better images if you use the image of the bridegroom feeding the bride the cake with fingers… Works much better for me — My sweet Jesus; fully intimately present, body, blood, soul, and divinity; true bread, both spiritual and physical sustenance.

    • Jose Luis

      Why are the priest required to purify his hands after touching the
      Sacred Host and lay people whose hands are not consecrated do not?

      To understand God’s instructions to humans we must study the Old Testament. Remember Jesus did not give any liturgical instructions about Sacred Mass except for the Consecration of the Holy Eucharist. God gives detail instructions in the Old Testament. Jesus and his Apostles knew all of them well. The little Jewish kids were instructed early in age to know what was sacred and what was profane. Anything associated with Divine Worship was Sacred and everyone knew that these were to be handled differently. The washing by the priest after worship was just as important as the one before. The priest washed the Sacred Particles of the Host after he has touched the Host, just as the High Priest did after worship in the temple, although sacrifice of the old testament was not God Himself as it is in the New Testament Sacrifice. There are certain Sacred Hots that the priest can consecrate at Mass that when broken cause many particles of Jesus to be created. These are the large consecration hosts that are used so that the people can see it better in the congregation. When the Ciborium that contained the Consecrated Hosts is purified thousands of particles of Jesus are there. Many more were left on the hands of the persons who received in the hand, to be brushed on their clothe and finally trampled under foot. This is a true abomination to God. No wonder the USA is in trouble.

    • Marietta

      The apostles were ordained as priests at the Last Supper. Therefore theirs were consecrated hands. Ours are not consecrated. We should receive kneeling and on the tongue.

  • phaedrus

    Were the apostles kneeling throughout the last supper. No of course not, case closed.

    • kneeling catholic

      Phaedrus!
      The apostles were most likely reclining on the floor. I don’t understand what case that closes. What are you advocating?
      My friend, kneeling for Communion did not come from someone guessing how the Disciples were postured for the Last Supper. The practice of Kneeling for Communion gradually spread and enveloped the entire Western Church as the Church’s appreciation and understanding of the Eucharist grew.
      The undoing of those centuries of development -in just a couple of years– was, quite simply, a denial of the developed Faith and understanding that caused kneeling to become widespread in the first place. Modernists’ correction to what they saw as a medieval faith.

    • I suppose we should get rid of pews as well. And also pianos and organs. So make us just recline on the ground against each other, and we all just pass around communion to each other!

      As was pointed out, over time things develop due to our understanding, and they help reinforce reverence.

      While our Eastern brethren don’t kneel, for them the symbolism is a bit different and developed through the centuries along a different path. (They however do receive on the tongue.) I would never be one to condemn what Holy Mother Church has allowed, but also remember that receiving kneeling and on the tongue has been repeatedly called the preferred method of receiving communion over the past 50 years, and on the tongue (when kneeling is not practical) is the practice of the Bishop of Rome and in Rome. So I humbly suggest your rather flippant response is not what the Church likes to see.

    • jose luis

      To really understand what happened at the Last Supper, we need to not only read the Gospel, but what they were required to do at the Passover in the Old Testament. Were the apostles already priests at that moment? Priests can receive from another priest that is from Jesus in the hand. Neither are priests even today required to receive kneeling whether Latin or Novus Ordo Rites.
      When did Jesus ordain His Apostles to be priests? Was it not at the Last Supper when He said do this in remembrance of Me.
      So there would be no need for priests (the Apostles) to receive on the tongue or to kneel at the Last Supper

  • I agree with all you said Kevin, accept for your final paragraph. While I agree it’s supposed to be that way, many..dare I say most Catholic churches strongly frown on anyone trying to receive Holy Communion on their knees. I have personally witnessed a priest tell a family that desired to receive kneeling to, “stand up”. I was personally told to stop genuflecting before reception, “because it made some of the EMHC’s uncomfortable” and “it could be perceived as a holiness competition”. The ability to receive Holy Communion on my knees from the priest was the #1 driving factor for my initial interest in the traditional Latin Mass. While I recognize the validity of the Novus Ordo, I would strongly encourage any Catholic parent who wants their child to remain Catholic beyond their teen years to find a TLM community immediately.

    • As one who spends extensive time in both (and who has an extended Catholic family I married into who attends the OF exclusively and has all remained Catholic), I don’t think that’s how we should phrase it. Parents keep their kids Catholic via sound instruction, including emphasizing how important the liturgy is, no matter where they go, whether it be OF, EF, or an Eastern Rite.

      If you have to be at a Church where kneeling will cause an issue, for that time, receiving standing, but still on the tongue. At Churches without a communion rail that’s what I have to do. It isn’t a huge issue. (Though almost every Church I go to nowadays has a communion rail)

      There are bad priests everywhere. But not all priests are like that, and we shouldn’t operate from the standpoint that the priest is a jerk like the ones you mention until they provide clear evidence they are.

      I want people to attend the Extraordinary Form, and if they do it exclusively, then its a win. But I don’t think it needs to be in competition with the OF/Novus Ordo whatever you wish to call it. When Benedict promulgated Summorum Pontificum, he was hoping the EF would influence the OF. This is one of those ways in which it can happen.

      • Mary Kochan

        Hmm… respectfully suggest that if competition is not your intent, then the word “win” ought not to creep in there. Ok?

        • Win in that if people find holiness through what the Church has allowed, that is indeed a “win.” But point taken boss emeritus. 😉

      • kneeling catholic

        Kevin >>>If you have to be at a Church where kneeling will cause an issue, for that time, receiving standing, but still on the tongue<<<
        I disagree, Kevin. Pope Benedict's 'kneeling initiative' clarified that kneelers were not to be marginalized. the question is: is it right for certain priests/bishops to conduct their own personal eradication campaigns? I think for them to do so is 'clericalism' in spades. hence 'no' it is not right. Kneeling in anti-kneeling parish lets others know it is 'ok' [to kneel before the King of Kings] and even some of those, who -in the past- have feared being scolded by an angry cleric, might kneel as well.
        The American GIRM has been corrected recently to remove the need to 'catechize' kneelers.

  • NYer

    Kevin, thank you for a wonderful article!! My childhood was pre VCII and we received kneeling at an altar rail and on the tongue …. and ONLY from a priest! I lived through all the changes that rapidly took place following VCII, including communion in the hand, from an EMHC. The adjustments never settled very well.

    I now attend a Maronite [Eastern] Catholic Church where the liturgy is chanted, the incense wafts heavenward and the priest chants the words of consecration in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus, our Blessed Mother and the Apostles. Communion is ONLY distributed by a bishop, priest or deacon. It is by intinction and on the tongue. There are no armies of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, nor is there communion in the hand. In most of the Eastern Churches, there are also no kneelers. Just as we stand, out of respect, when the Gospel is proclaimed, we also stand, out of respect, when communion is distributed.

  • Matt

    In line with this article, I know of a video that goes into receiving communion on the hand versus on the tongue, and I found parts of it to be insightful.

    Here is the URL link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbAZezVk5Gk

  • Bart Triesch

    I went to Catholic school for 12 years and I’ve had enough of this hocus pocus. A perfect Sunday morning for me is sleeping in, then having coffee while reading the Sunday paper. I did my time in church.

    • Matt

      (The
      intention of this response is not to be harsh, but to try to understand things
      better, and to see the truth on all sides of an argument. I mean no hard feelings if any seem to come, and I look forward
      to your response.)

      I know what you mean, Bart. Why go
      to church on Sundays if you do not get anything out of it? (You seem to imply this when you say “I did my
      time in church”, almost as if it was a burden rather than a blessing, like
      being in prison: “I did my time in prison”) Well, here’s my answer. You’re not supposed to go in order to get
      something out of going to church on Sundays.
      You are supposed to give of yourself: your time, your talent, your
      treasure. You may ask two
      questions from here: first, why should I give of myself? Second, to whom should I give? With the first question, think of the
      opposite, and think of its extreme: imagine that you never give “for the sake
      of giving”, but rather for some other motive.
      Now, why should others give but not you?
      These other people decide not to give either. So, basically, no one gives. The result of this is a kind of ‘imprisonment’,
      where one is always “thrown back upon oneself” when one tries to get out of
      oneself (the term for this is Solipsism).

      You then might ask, “Well why should I care if I am by myself?” I would respond with this: imagine that you
      had a sandwich and a brand new car.
      Which one would be worth more? Odds
      are, you would say the car. Now imagine
      that you had a brand new car and you owned all the land in Hawaii. Which one would be worth more? You would probably say Hawaii. I could continue to do this until I got to
      the Earth and the Sun, and I could go further, but say that I stop here. Then I ask you the following question: Which
      is worth more, the Earth and the Sun, or a human person? If you say the Earth and the Sun, then I
      would respond with the following questions. (1) Which of the two can use
      reasoning? (2) Which of the two has free
      will? (3) Which of the two, when dying,
      know that he/she/it is dying? (The third
      question comes from Blaise Pascal)

      “The greatness of man is great in that he knows himself to
      be wretched. A tree does not know itself to be wretched.” “I can well conceive a man without hands, feet, and head.
      But I cannot conceive man without thought; he would be a stone or a brute.”
      “If I am killed by the universe, I at least know that I am being
      killed” (Blaise Pascal quotes).

      So, if you
      agree that a single human person is worth more than the Earth and the Sun, then
      it should not be a giant leap to say that a single human person is worth
      infinitely more than any Earth or any Sun for those reasons listed above. Now, this still does not answer the question
      but it makes progress.

      The next thing to ask is the following: is it better to give than to
      receive? I will show this by using a
      famous quote of Socrates: “it is better to suffer injustice than to commit
      injustice.” Now, why is this the
      case? Well, if one were to suffer
      injustice, then one experiences pain for the time while that happens, but when
      it is not happening, they do not experience that pain from that particular
      instance again. However, for the one who
      commits the injustice, it seems to stay in their mind permanently. They can see their action 15 years from now
      and it pains them (for those say they feel no pain any time afterwards, one can
      say that they are ignorant, but then if they find out that they were unjust,
      then the only way they can lose this pain is to lie to themselves and say that
      they were unjust, but this is bad because lying leads to closing communications
      with others (how can you communicate with someone (communication always
      involves at least 2 people) who only lies to you?), and hence Solipsism.

      If one were to say “well, what if they lied only some of the time and told
      the truth the rest of the time?” Well, I
      would respond by saying that they would be Solipsistic during those times that
      they lied and communicating the times that they told the truth, and that it is
      worth communicating to others rather than ignoring them because of how high a
      value that they have. In fact, they have
      such a high value that it is wrong to treat them purely as a means to your own
      ends. I appeal to the golden rule for
      this: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (this is justice-
      giving to others what is their due, what they deserve (justice is not based on
      what I think justice is (subjective),
      but based on reality (objective), meaning outside of any single human person).

      Now, with Socrates’ claim that it is
      better to suffer injustice than to commit injustice, we could rephrase this as
      saying that “it is better to be given bad things than to give bad things”. Finding the contrapositive of this statement
      (I am using logic here to show that Socrates’ statement is logically equivalent
      (i.e. the same) to the statement that I want) (contrapositive- type of
      conditional proposition: in logic, a conditional proposition that negates
      another conditional proposition and also reverses its clauses (Bing dictionary,
      “define contrapositive”), it would go as follows: “it is [not] better to be
      given [not] bad things than to give [not] bad things”. Treating “[not] bad” to mean good, and [not]
      better as worse, the sentence goes as thus: “It is worse to be given good things
      than to give good things”, or “it is better to give than to receive”. And what better way is there to give than to
      give the greatest thing you have: yourself!

      Now, the second question that I
      asked at the very beginning, “to whom should I give”, is in light of the
      question, “why should I go to church on Sundays?” Well, let us look at this by the process of
      elimination. You most certainly would
      not go to church because of yourself, for you do not want to go. Would you go because of the community,
      because of others? Well, you could do
      that in other ways too. Why does it have
      to be at church? So, why should I go to
      Church on Sundays? I go to Church on
      Sundays in order to give myself (as much as I can) to God. Why give my whole self to God? Well, if God created me (which assumes that
      God exists), then does not God deserve my whole being? Aren’t I the creature, He the creator? (If you do not believe in the existence of
      God, then this is a completely different question that I will not answer in
      this present response, but can answer in a subsequent response)

      Now, in regards to the specific
      things you say, I have a few responses on these. When you say “I’ve had enough of this hocus
      pocus”, you equate Catholicism, and indeed Christianity itself with magic. If this were the case, then I would be with
      you on that, for magic is itself irrational (irrational- (1) lacking in
      reason: contrary to or lacking in reason or logic; (2) lacking logical thought:
      unable to think logically (Bing Dictionary, “define irrational”)). Now I see logic as being important in many
      ways, from proofs to winning at chess and checkers. I see logic as important in “connecting
      different things together into a unity”, like in combining Tinkertoys or Legos
      together. Now, with my faith, I do not
      see it as a disordered mess, but as something that is clear with many aspects
      or faces to it, like a diamond. A
      mystery for me is not something that we are unable to understand altogether,
      but rather, it is so (infinitely) rich that, despite is clarity, we could
      ponder over it for many lifetimes and still learn something new about it. So, I see Catholicism not so much as about
      irrational objects, but rather superrational objects, or objects that are above
      reason, but do not contradict reason.
      Faith and reason actually go together.
      “Faith certainly tells us what the senses do not, but not
      the contrary of what they see; it is above, not against them”
      (Blaise Pascal).

      As to
      when you say that “A perfect Sunday
      morning for me is sleeping in, then having coffee while reading the Sunday
      paper”, I shall let Blaise Pascal do all the speaking for me. “If our condition were truly happy, we would not seek
      diversion from it in order to make ourselves happy” (I would say
      that if those two things are the only things that make a Sunday morning
      perfect, then this would be a diversion, for I could easily see myself, let
      alone anyone else do this, and yet find themselves wanting for more (especially
      sometimes in the news) (again, Solipsism)). “It is not good to be too free. It is not good to have
      everything one wants” (Blaise Pascal).

  • A point of order…… this is NOT about why you don’t like communion in the hand. I don’t either but we need to consider on the tongue on its own merits.

  • Jim M.

    The Sacrament of Holy Orders was instituted at the Last Supper and thus, the hands of the Apostles were ordained. I for one am not worthy to touch the Eucharist. Yet at some Catholic churches there is not an option. And I personally would rather kneel. For me it is a sign of respect, giving honor and glory to our Lord. But again, kneeling is not an option in most churches today, where the “server” already stands a step above the floor where the Communion rail would be.

    And while I applaud lay participation, I shudder at the common practice of having laity distribute consecrated hosts. One whose hand touches the body of Christ should be ordained.

    Humility seems to be a lost virtue these days. As does respect for the sacrifice.

  • bigmo

    Sadly it is not always possible to knell when receiving Holy Communion. In my church I have a choice, either I can genuflect and receive from the priest while standing or if I choose to knell at what is left of the old altar rails then I must receive from a eucharistic minister. I would prefer to knell and receive from a priest but I can’t do this because I need physical support to rise again after receiving. Personally I think we should knell to receive the King of kings, our Lord and our God. People curtsy when they are presented to royals but yet we stand as if equal to the Creator of everything.

    • Diane Therese

      I am in awe and reverant upon receiving The Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Saviour Christ Jesus. I don’t like it being inferred, it is less than that I receive by bowing and in my hand. Obedience to church rulings and paramount, not what I FEEL is more reverant. It is confusing at The Eucharist when every other person is receiving it different. One crawls barefoot to the altar and more!!! This reverence can be interior; one does not have to display such ways to receive Jesus. Yes, some people are lax…this will always be until The HolybSpirit wakes them up!

      • kneeling catholic

        Hello Diane Therese!

        you stated >>This reverence can be interior;<<<
        Yes, if you are at work or doing other duties, then no one might guess that you are actually praying inside. This is a necessity, and a way of making what we do with our hands also a gift and a prayer.
        I don't think such a division of body and soul should be necessary for us when we come to Mass specifically to *worship*. How we treat and receive the Eucharist is our closest encounter with God. Why should we allow clerics to lord it over us when they tell us to treat the Eucharist–(God Himself)–like any normal food? Why should we not be allowed to recognize and pay homage to our God?
        Pope Benedict, and now Pope Francis have both worked to eliminate hand Communion during papal liturgies. Shouldn't this have a message for us as well?

  • TabithaRaised

    I kneeled for the first time Saturday morning. I had been wanting to for several years, but was afraid I would not be able to get up. I just went for it and the experience was so profound. I am still in bliss about it.

    • Glad to hear it. Hopefully continuing to kneel increases your piety and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament!

    • Buiochas

      The only reason for kneeling and receiving on the tongue is to give our God the homage to which He is due.
      Nothing less than the very heart of God, is what we receive

  • OK, Kevin, so a couple aspects of this post seem unclear to me. Given that my bishops and the US bishops in general–and the Holy Father (even Pope Benedict at the time)–have never said to the faithful that we “should” receive kneeling and on the tongue, I am a bit uncomfortable with the post title’s use of “should”.
    Particularly since, in the US, the “norm” for reception has been declared to be Communion in the hand. Even when we may prefer something other than the norm, it’s important to recognize that reverent reception in the hand, standing, is not only possible but is called for as the norm.
    Also, above you seem to suggest that you think that it is “true” that the “change to Communion in the hand was of dubious legality.” But, again, that would seem to challenge the clear history and practice involved. Do you really mean to suggest that you think Communion in the hand is only “dubiously” legal when none of our Holy Fathers have said this?
    These seem to be important aspects to clarify.
    God bless,
    Deacon Jim R

    • Considering we have had over 10,000 views on this article along with countless shares, I’d like to humbly submit that I was rather clear, as you are indeed the first to even suggest those things, and I’m going to wager the only one.

      Nonetheless, to humor the good Deacon:

      When I tell my friend “We should hang out, go grab a steak and a beer”, am I implying that we must, that there is a law on the books requiring us to do so? If his wife would rather get together that day instead, am I going against his wife’s wishes by suggesting we do something?

      I believe that people should do this, for all of the powerful symbolism I gave. Just as I believe all of you should attend the Extraordinary Form. But nowhere is it implied that I say you must. The only way you get that is if you read that into my statements. Now others might indeed say that, but here, we treat each other as individuals who make individual statements.

      Now in regards to the issue over whether or not I think communion in the hand is of “dubious legality”, nowhere was I making a point for or against it. Instead, I was pointing out why I feel it is a weak argument and dismissing it.

      Now if anyone is actually interested in my own view on a topic long held settled for the past several decades….. When the practice was first introduced, it was clear that the Holy Father’s wishes were not being followed, especially in the American Church. A far wider permission was originally given out of pastoral concern. It was the same as altar girls. It was clear a lot of people were disobedient to the wishes of Rome when they allowed the practice originally, but for pastoral reasons John Paul II changed the practice. One can agree or disagree with the idea: they are not free to say he didn’t have the authority to do such, and they are not free to disrespect said authority, or imply that altar girls are sinning, less catholic, etc.

      The same applies with communion in the hand. While it may have had a questionable start before most of the people reading this article were even alive, that is clearly not the situation today since the Apostolic See in Rome has clearly ruled different in allowing the practice to continue, albeit they clearly demonstrate a “preference” for communion on the tongue. For the reasons outlined in the article, we should do as the Romans do, even when we aren’t in Rome.

      Hopefully that helps provide a bit of clarity.

      • ****”When they do hear something, it is a stock answer that it was the way done for centuries, the change to communion in the hand was of dubious legality, it promotes “reverence for the Eucharist”, etc. I think these answers are true but unsatisfying.”****
        Kevin, it was your quote above that gave me pause, since it suggests you think it “true” that the change to communion in the hand was of dubious legality. That, in turn, tipped the ambiguous “should receive Communion kneeling and on the tongue” of the headline in favor of thinking it meant a bit more than “it would be great for you consider receiving kneeling and on the tongue.”
        So we then agree, presumably, with our bishops, that Communion in the hand, received standing, remains the “norm” for reception in US dioceses. This is turn leaves quite open the question of whether we “should,” in fact, “do as the Romans do” with Communion on the tongue. We “may” do as the Romans do, of course, but there is also something to be said for an obedient and reverent Catholic who chooses instead to “do what the US Bishops say is the norm in our dioceses.”
        In that sense, it remains a big “both/and” for the Church.

        • As long as we understand that norm to mean that people cannot be refused communion kneeling, that Rome has said the rights of individual Catholics should be respected on this manner, hey, whatever works for you.
          Those who kneel aren’t being “disobedient” or “irreverent” to their local bishops who have decreed that people should receive standing….. because in this manner, it is the Bishop of Rome who has the final say. And, whaddya know, the Bishop of Rome has said its okay to kneel.
          Roma locuta est, causa finita est.
          Once again, nobody thought that about my quote outside of you. Perhaps that should tell you something.

          • Kevin–frankly, I try to avoid making stuff “about me.” I’ll just assume everyone else is way smarter than me on this….
            But, to be even more clear, this is not merely a “local bishop” and “Bishop of Rome” thing–this has to do with the adaptation to the 2000 GIRM for use in all US dioceses. The *US bishops* affirm in that adaptation that it’s okay to kneel to receive, that reception shouldn’t be denied because of kneeling.
            The additional modification made to that adaptation came about with the start-date for using the New Roman Missal in 2011. The modification dropped the text about “catechizing” the faithful who kneel as to the meaning and purpose of the “norm.”
            So, again, a “both/and”–the US bishops *and* the Holy See have been in synch on both the “norm” of standing/in the hand and the “permission” for kneeling/on the tongue…

          • Kevin–please advise as to which of my statements is “just not true”–I said nothing in contradiction to what the US bishops or Holy See have said on this issue.
            My point as I clearly say above is that this is another big “both/and” for the Church–both standing/in hand/on tongue *and* kneeling/on tongue. Isn’t that what I said?
            Might not hurt for you to edit out the last sentence, I’d think…

          • Kevin–do you think I’m somehow “pressuring” anyone by pointing out that the communion posture issue is a “both/and” offered to the faithful by the US bishops?
            Put it this way–the Church gives us “multiple choice” on this one, not “true/false”.
            I’m sure we agree on that.
            [For the record, if the “norm” were distribution from the Communion Rail for all, I’d be among the happiest guys alive….]

          • One last try–so you don’t like communion in the hand, you suggest its origin wasn’t quite “legal” enough, and you assert (without rational basis) that non-Romans should still do “what Romans do” (communion on the tongue) when not in Rome. Finally, you assert that I’m saying something untrue without citing it and then suggest I’m not properly serving my parishioners and need “re-education.”
            Forthright and charitable discussion for the good of the faithful should not go down that road, in my view.
            You made a strong case for the beauty and dignity of communion kneeling and on the tongue in your post above.
            But the credibility of that case is diminished because you seem to express inadequately in the comboxes the “both/and” that is the mind of the Church on this matter: namely, that it is also both possible and permissible to reverently receive communion according to the US “norm”, and that, in fact, no US Catholic is really expected to “do as the Romans do” on this issue, any more than we would expect or encourage an Eastern-rite Catholic to “do as the Romans do” even when not in Rome.
            In comparison, for example, would you insist on receiving communion kneeling rather than standing if you attended a Byzantine Catholic Liturgy? Or should it be “when in Byzantium…”? While the US and Rome are both Latin Rite, local/regional adaptations and norms exist and ought to be, minimally, presented as a legit option alongside of whatever one’s personal preference might be.
            So, while I agree with how you present the positives in your OP, I feel like I’ve been subjected to a defensive/aggressive combox response from you in my attempt to frame this question as the “both/and” that it really is in the life of the Church.

  • convertedfundy

    First, thank you for this article. As a convert who saw, literally SAW the light of Christ at consercration, (that light is what converted me and led me to the RC), I am astounded and saddened by not being allowed to show exterior respect for my King.

    As many of you know, the newly built churches are made in the round. This leaves no room for communion rails. And, in my jaded opinion, this makes every service as if Christ was some sort of magic trick performed by the star of the show; the priest!

    How tragic this is.

    While we are on the topic of kneeling, why is it that in many churches, one is ordered to stand when the priest proclaims “this is the Lamb of GOD” and then stand again after receiving? Why do some of you cradle Catholics feel that this is acceptable behavior towards the presence of Christ?

    • In the East, standing is a lot more prevalent. Yet in the West, we kneel during such situations. Priests are given the authority (I think) in the GIRM to have standing during the Ecce Agnus Dei, but for the reasons you outlined, one is free to question why that is really a good idea.

  • Texas Gal

    I would love to kneel because I love Him so much and it is one of the few things I can do for him.

  • Lorraine

    Thank you for your article, which I whole heartily agree with. It is unfortunate our eccliastical leadership does not agree with the humblest reverence, of which for over 1,000 years Church history, has exhibit before the Blessed Sacrament, kneeling and receiving on the tongue.

    The USCCB states on Reception of Holy Communion, 7th paragraph from bottom, (on the website) the USCCB “has determined that in this country, Communion will be received standing and that a bow will be the act of reverence made by those receiving. These norms may require some adjustment on the part of those who have been used to other practices, however, the significance of unity in posture and gesture is a symbol of our unity as members of the one body of Christ should be the governing factor in our own actions.”.

    The first time I knelt was an impulsive action, inspired spiritually, inside the Vatican at a English Mass. Already wearing the veil, then at the moment before reception of Holy Eucharist, I knelt, surprising the priest and myself, Oct. 2012. I never stood again. Eventually, early this year, I decided to attend SSPXchapel Latin Mass. WHICH IS VALID. I thank God for “grooming” me to tradition of His church. Latin Mass honors God as I believe He wills to be honored, focus of Mass is solely to offer God His Son, remembering Jesus sacrifice, the laity join their own sacrifices along with priest with intercession of the Saints. St. Pius V declared, Infallibly, that 1570 missal (1962 with few additions) is the missal to use for all ages (I paraphrase).

    • While I am glad you receive on the tongue….. I cannot in good conscience praise you going to an SSPX parish. valid yes, but also illicit. That is, illegal.

      Besides, see the reference I offered elsewhere in this thread: it is a “norm” only if you want it to be a norm. If you want to receive kneeling, go right ahead, and Rome has already said you are not to be pressured to receive stanidng. Sure, as we’ve already seen even in this thread, people will try to pressure you. Just be humble about it, and let them know you are excercising the right Rome has given.

      And if they still say no, look for a Church with a communion rail and send a message.

  • Just another convert

    I’ve been praying for a long time that the Communion rails would be reinstated. When I became Catholic in the late 1980s, there was still one Church with a Communion rail where everyone received The Lord kneeling and on the tongue. I went to Mass there whenever I could. The holiness was palpable.

    • A lot of the Churches which thrive nowadays receiving communion kneeling on the communion rail is a staple of them. And I don’t mean the Latin mass. Everyone knows traditionalism is a youth movement, and little things like that is a huge reason why.
      But even with the Ordinary Form, Churches with active communion rails tend to skew younger now. CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) found that things like the communion rail or churches with traditional architecture is what attracts younger Catholics as opposed to a lot of the other things most believe used to believe attracts the young. (Hint: youth groups or young adult programs, no matter how good, rarely attract anyone from that demographic.)

  • Tim Morgan

    JMJ
    All of England was once profoundly Catholic, the Protestants had to destroy this Catholic Faith. One such practice was the intense hatered of the Eucharist. Catholics kneel because before we recieve Jesus, we must firstly Adore Him, this is a profound sign of repect for what we believe is true, namely before us is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus, second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
    How awesome is that!
    How does one destroy the Faith of a Nation have a read. Cranmer’s Godly Order by Michael Davies ( Convert)
    Michael Davies shows that Henry VIII and Thomas Cranmer understood that if you change the way people pray, then you will change what they believe. Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer (1549) began a process that changed the Catholic Church in England to the Anglican sect. Davies compares these changes to the modern liturgical “reforms” and the similarities are shocking.
    Cranmer’s Godly Order is a classic…revised and expanded by Mr. Davies during his final years. Drawing upon the best of Catholic and Protestant scholarship and on primary sources, Davies traces the steps by which the ancient Catholic Mass became the Lord’s Supper in the Church of England. And these steps were changes – as Popes and Reformers alike were at pains to stress.
    Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII and Edward VI and architect of the new liturgy, was a master of the theology of the Mass, and hated it. The parallels between the Anglican liturgy and the New Mass of the 1960s will be uncomfortably obvious!
    This book forms volume one of Davies’s Liturgical Revolution series with volumes two and three due out by the end of 2008. Nowhere will you find a more thorough example of the axiom Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi est – “As you pray, so will you believe.”

  • Louie Soper

    I’m going to be honest, I really did enjoy your exposition of this tradition and the Catechesis.

    I am a faithful Catholic – I do not identify as Traditionalist, Charismatic, nor a Crazy (just kidding). I receive communion on the tongue. I was very turned off by the opening of this article.

    “In the 13 years I have been a practicing Catholic, I have been a traditionalist all but two of them. As a result, I have received communion on the tongue and kneeling for eleven years.” – To me, this screams, “ME ME ME.” In my observations, it seems that elitism is a trend among those who identify as “traditional.”

    The article continues, “I’ve also found that the way we traditionalists receive communion is something that many Catholics outside of the Extraordinary Form can and want to do as well, but many of them never hear the reasons why we do so.” Again – elitist.

    I have the absolute respect for the Latin Extraordinary Mass as it has deep roots in tradition of the Church. You are very correct in the need for Catechetical attention on the issue of “reverence for the Eucharist.” At the same time, I think many people are turned off by, essentially saying, “We are more respectful of the Eucharist because we kneel and receive the Eucharist on the tongue on our knees.” I think there needs to be more “horizontal” outreach rather than “in the clouds” looking down scrutiny of those who have less understanding. Is this not the goal of the New Evangelization?

    • Hello Louie,

      Thanks for your comments, even the biting ones. 🙂

      From my perspective, I don’t view it elitist. When I got married in the Extraordinary Form, a lot of people who had no concept of these things were fascinated by things such as communion while kneeling and on the tongue. Heck, my little cousin wanted to practice it over and over with his local parish priest, but he wasn’t sure why. That extended to a lot of the adults there as well.

      Most of the explanations I hear from a lot of the people who engage in the practice I haven’t found very persuasive, because they are ultimately just preaching to the already convinced. If I’m an “elitist”, it’s only looking down upon those who advocate on the tongue and kneeling in that we don’t talk about the biblical roots for the practice. Myself included.

  • Huey Dash

    Sempre Fi!

    This reminds me of a grand ole story about a bridge. Once, in the city of Lower Ungston, there lived a humble cobbler by the name of Meebers. Meebers worked night and day making the finest shoes in the city. On Saturdays, though business had been poor, he would carry his shoes across the bridge so that he could offer them at the central market. One particular day, a would be patron, a young man not know to these parts, stopped to inspect his wares. The young man inquired if he might simply have a pair of shoes for free. Poor ole Meebers became indignant. Yet the young man persisted until Meebers gave in and let him take a pair of shoes. The young man chose the most expensive pair and then handed them to Meebers as a gift. Surprised, Meebers asked the meaning of this gesture. The young man said, “Sir, I noticed that while you are about the business of telling others they need better shoes, you have neglected to look at your own. This is why you have difficulty selling your shoes. Everyone can see that you do not practice as you preach.” Meebers looked at his own ragged shoes and then hung his head in shame. He went home and tied a rope to his ceiling fan.

    I suppose that story isn’t really about a bridge but it has a bridge in it. I wish it had a part about Marines just trying to keep low on a battlefield in it but it sadly does not.

    At any rate, in a recent debate with a former friend over this story I encountered a very serious issue on exactly the matter of Communion. I was confronted with the argument that since the priest, himself, stands and commingles both species on the altar after consecration, then there is nothing sinful about doing the same in one’s mouth while standing. I quickly retorted words that could have only been divinely inspired. I said, “Do you eat that way?” Do you stand up and publicly stuff in a fist full of M&M’s while you already have a mouthful of Skittles?” Although this did not change his mind, it did seem to make him think. In fact, he got up and left. Getting a person of faith to think is a great accomplishment in my book.

    I feel I must add one more thing. We must not, in discussing this matter, confuse illicit Public Oral Commingle or Asynchronous Tongue Intinction with the form of these acts made licit by valid petition to the local ordinary’s faculty to dispense with the demands of Canon Law regardless of posture. For a licit and properly sanctioned POC or ATI is in no way to be understood as contrary to Catholic orthodoxy and orthopraxy. As long as it is sanctioned you may even hop while doing it. Does not the scriptures say “we will meet the Lord in the air?”It is the illicit form of these, despite resembling exactly the licit form of these, which rightfully draws our righteous and utterly justified rebuke and condemnation.

    Yes. The pope, himself, might agree that the mouth must be clear and that some part of the body should be touching the floor. Otherwise, the same thing will touch the same thing and become one, big thing of sameness whether up or down. I think this is the biggest problem facing the Church today. Too many people are refusing, sinfully I might add, to swallow on time and while kneeling. In some sense, this is a theological nightmare if you think about it too long. Christ wants those things separate until they are well past the epiglottis. Let them touch and who knows what might happen. I for one do not wish to find out.

    Come to think of it, if you read the Synoptic Gospels closely, you’ll see that Judas was in a big hurry at the last supper. He stood up from the table. No doubt, he also committed an illicit erect Public Oral Commingle or Asynchronous Tongue Intinction, if you prefer. I use both terms as I think something this terrible requires great description. When we think of Judas, we tend to only focus on his betrayal of the Lord. But I think this standing while chewing was even worse.

    Thank you for bringing this atrocity of sinful mouths swallowing the Eucharist while standing erect to the attention of many who were worrying about it. I hope the Pope does something about this blatant epidemic of impiety.

  • ralph

    Kneeling for Communion ( Christ Himself ) is PERFECTLY appropriate in all space & time in the history of the world…..& beyond, & forevermore. The 3 kings themselves did so in the manger. Bishops kneel before The Pope ( Christ’s vicar on earth ) when being elevated to Cardinal. Some clerics have been temporarily
    “blinded” in whatever manner, regarding whatever, throughout all of History.
    Our times are no exception. MOREOVER, there is a particular GIRM of Church Law that specifically states that anyone that chooses to kneel for Communion MUST be allowed to do so…..& if refused that Priest is guilty of PASTORAL ABUSE. This is directly from Rome, & supercedes anything “American”.
    So, have no fear, & adore…..& pray.