Perhaps this might seem wired to some, but we need to talk about that because Holy Communion, as desired by the Church should be received the right way by everyone, and clearly some Catholics simply don’t know the right way to receive the Eucharist.
Receiving the Eucharist is a great deal. It’s such a big deal, that there are all sorts of rules about it just like other big deals and we don’t just let anybody do it without sticking to the rules.
Before we go to the point of this topic, let’s talk about being properly disposed of first. If you’re not properly prepared, then you shouldn’t receive Communion. This means being free from mortal sin and having followed the communion fast in addition to being a practicing Catholic. Being free from mortal sin is self-explanatory. This means that in other to receive the Eucharist, you should not commit a grave sin. If you happen to commit one, then refrain from receiving Communion until you’ve been able to make Reconciliation, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1415. In some places where there is a tendency for everyone to automatically get up and go to Communion. It’s rare for someone to stay behind in the pew at some point they might even get funny looks if they do. In many other parts of the world, not everyone goes to Communion and it’s more common to see people remaining at their seats. It is definitely not because there are more sinners in those countries. I think they are just being more mindful about being properly disposed of.
Again, following the communion fast is also something that needs emphasis. According to Canon 919, what this means for Latin rite Catholics is refraining from food and beverage for one hour before receiving the Eucharist.
While to some people, this means they can eat up to 30 minutes before Mass starts since the Communion rite is typically 30-45 minutes into the liturgy, I think one should be able to refrain 1 hour from the start of the Mass because it’s weird to walk into a Church on a full stomach. Besides, what if a daily Mass takes only 25 minutes, then eating 30 minutes prior doesn’t actually work.
Now let’s get to the point! What Is The Right Way To Receive Holy Communion?
With the decree Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the United States of America, the USCCB permits the reception of Holy Communion in the hand. The decree refers to St Cyril of Jerusalem who wrote:
“When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, taking care that nothing is lost.” (Paragraph 41)
Unfortunately, sometimes the contrary does happen. It’s gut-wrenching when the sacred host is snatched out of the priest’s hand, or if the communicant casually shuffles the sacred host from the palm to the fingertip of the same hand like a poker chip before they shoot it into their mouth. On the other end of the spectrum, some wave the host in a large cross-like fashion before consuming it. That might seem pious, but the best thing to do is to just place the sacred host in your mouth because you don’t get more grace by doing anything else.
Taking out the chewing gum from your mouth before receiving is also very advisable! Why would you have anything in your mouth besides the Eucharist, by the way?
It is very important to point out that while receiving Holy Communion in the hand is permitted by decree in the United States and many English speaking countries, it isn’t permitted in the rest of the world. Therefore, for Americans traveling internationally, never assume that where ever you go you can receive in the hand. You have to follow the norms of the local place. If you don’t know them, then play it safe and receive on the tongue. If you’re not used to it, it’s actually quite reverent.
Finally, parents should make sure their kids are receiving Communion correctly. It’s hard for the priest when you have an 8-year-old holding his/her hands down at their waist. The priest has to bend down when he eventually sees the hands that low. Whether you’re a child or an adult, the communicant’s hands should be held up and out, closer to the ciborium or patent so that the sacred host doesn’t have to travel far. This way, there is less risk of the Body and Blood of our Lord falling to the ground.
Also note that the appropriate response to the prompt, “The Body of Christ” or “The Blood of Christ” isn’t silence. It isn’t “We are,” or “Yes it is,” or even “Thank you Jesus” too. The best response is “Amen.” Yes, it’s simple, yet profound. It’s also what the Church asks us to do.