Monday, 28 February 2011


I thought that I had posted enough on the subject of kneeling to receive Our Blessed Lord by mouth but, Francis Phillips of the Catholic Herald has opened up the debate still further and the blogosphere has got a tad worked up by it.
So here are my last words, really. Prompted by the fact that, up until January of this year I had never, in 66 years (doggie ones), laid hand on a consecrated host.
What happened in January was, for me, a shocking experience. I was fortunate enough to serve an EF Mass at St Mary Maggiore's in Rome. It took place in a side chapel with a congregation of four. By the time the priest was ready to distribute Communion, the congregation had swelled to 10 or 12 souls - such is the power of the Mass of all time!

Faced with this dilemma, the priest, most reverently, broke up each host into segments but, horror of horrors, one segment fell to the floor. The priest suffered from acute arthritis and I knew he would not be able to retrieve the host so I began to place the communion plate over the fragment for retrieval later (standard practice in times past). However, the priest, being a little more worldly wise than I, did not wish to leave the host unprotected as there were crowds wandering around the church and chance is not an option where the safety of the host is concerned.
He whispered to me that I should pick it up.....I bent down with hand outstretched but then froze...I was incapable of movement..."Pick it up" whispered the priest more insistently...still I could not move...rational thoughts were racing through my head. I knew this was the only thing to do and the right thing to do but I was still doing a reasonable impression of Lot's wife. "Pick up the host" whispered the priest commandingly, so I did.
Afterwards I was in a state of mild shock; I was very disturbed and it took a day or two to wear off.
Now this story will be pooh-hooed by many. I can hear cries of "inbred superstition," "religious maniac"and much more besides but, it is a fact that those of us who believe in the True Presence and the divinity of Christ also believe that He should be accorded not just reverence but the greatest reverence we can reasonably show when we receive the Blessed Sacrament.

Here are some of the specious arguments that I have read over the past few weeks (and my responses in red):

1. "I can be just as reverent standing up" Really? Is that possible? It's an outward sign as well as an inward one we are looking for and kneeling is more reverent than standing for these reasons - it requires more effort and it is a recognised way of humbling oneself.

2. "Our Church doesn't have Communion rails" Install them

3. "It takes up too much time to kneel" What! can't we afford God a few extra minutes?

4. "Our priest does not like to give to those kneeling" Speak to your priest and if you don't get any joy, write to your Bishop and then Rome

5. "We have Ministers of Holy Communion who will not give to those kneeling"
Get rid of them. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are only permitted to distribute the sacrament under exceptional circumstances (not likely to be normally encountered in most parishes) - See Ecclesia de Mysterio

6. "Receiving by mouth spreads diseases" No one has died from receiving the Body of Christ yet!

7. "Priests do not kneel when they receive, why should I" Because you are not a priest - simple

8. "I want to kneel but I would be the only one doing so" Our Lord was the only one to offer up His life for us....surely we can take a little embarrassment (and snide comments) on His behalf?

9. "But we wish to receive under both kinds and kneeling would be impossible"
Each species is entire and complete, each host is both body and blood and each drop of precious blood both body and blood. It is unnecessary to receive both*
*as an extra note: reception of the Precious Blood is fraught with safety issues. How do you recover from a spillage? You cannot leave the Body of Christ there on and in the fibres of the carpet, so what do you do? You know the answer!

10. "The Apostles did not kneel to receive at The Last Supper" As priests and Bishops of the Church they had the privilege of receiving (as far as we know) by hand


  1. You can receive on the tongue while standing up. Many of the other Catholic churches sui iuris receive Holy Communion standing up. Sometimes it looks as though kneeling might create a great risk of the Host being dropped or the Precious Blood spilled (tall elderly priest standing on the edge of a high step, for example, or the priest is giving Communion under both kinds by intinction) - kneeling would be daft.

  2. I think true respect for Holy Communion is a gift from God, it starts in our hearts, once they have been opened. I don't have any preference re receiving, as long as the Pope says it's OK, it's OK. I have enough to battle with, in my own will. I used to fear touching the host with my teeth as a nun told me that if you bite the host, the whole world would end. My early memories of approaching the communion rail are terrifyingly watching other people to see if they had moved their mouths in chew like ways!!!

    Up until lately, last couple of years, I was not taking part very much in Mass atall, until I started to pray the rosary regularly and Our Lady seemed to almost be with me, during Mass sometimes. I went into Church once, not knowing Eucharistic adoration was happening and for the first time, I sensed Jesus was there, as a living person. I mean, I always believed He was present in the host, but I had never 'met' Him before. I didn't feel afraid or massively in awe, it was like meeting someone I love, very much. It was also familiar, but I don't know what I mean by that?

    I am still very far from being who I ought to be, but by the grace of God, I am not who I was. One day at a time.

    I am frightened (in the flesh) of traddish type blogs, but your's holds appeal to me, for some reason.

    Don't look at mine, you'll think me a real recalcitrant type!

    By the way, how old is sixty in dog years anyway? About fifteen? I'm nearly fifty in earthly years!! Half a century, oh dear.

    God bless!

  3. I've no idea where people get the idea that the Apostles received in the hand and standing up; certainly not from the Gospels. It is just wishful thinking. We simply are not told.

    We are told how Our Lord fed Judas with His own hand. The implication is that this was directly into Judas' mouth and this was customary at the time, as a sign of honour. If we are going to play with probabilities it seems probable that Our Lord did the same with the Consecrated Species.

  4. Such a very good post. Thank you!!!
    I always liked so much your blog but now I'm liking more and more.

  5. sorry in a mad rush so have to be quick: Ever heard how Earl Godwin died?

  6. JS - A retreat for priests given by ++ Fulton Sheen the great man quotes "They (The Apostles) dipped the bread in the sauce (wine) as was the Jewish custom". Those are, more or less his precise words from memory.I no longer possess the CD but am absolutely certain of the accuracy of the quote.
    OTSOTA - he choked on a piece of bread or had a stroke depending on whose version you believe.
    Shadowlands, thank you, I do read your blog and enjoy it....despite its recalcitrance!

  7. Mr Collins, In point one you write: "I can be just as reverent standing up" Really? Is that possible?"

    The simple answer is YES! We who are Eastern Rite Catholics (as well as our Orthodox and Coptic brethren) always "stand in awe" to receive during the Divine Liturgy. We never kneel. How dare you imply that we are less reverent for doing so! Your comment in this regard demonstrates an ignorance of the catholicity of the Church.

    Those who are Latin Rite have every right to receive standing or kneeling, on the tongue or in the hand. You can proclaim your own preference but the presumption that you are more reverent than others simply by kneeling and receiving on the tongue brings to mind the story of the two men who went up the synagogue to pray.

    Regarding how the Apostles received Communion; it was a Passover Meal and the tradition of the time was to recline at table, so it is likely that was their posture. While there is absolutely no indication of whether they received on the tongue or in the hand, sticking out one's tongue remains an extremely rude gesture to this day in the Middle East.

    As an Eastern Rite Catholic, may I reword the title of your post: I WON'T KNEEL FOR COMMUNION!

  8. Mr Collins, Sincerest apologies. My previous (rather heated) post was meant to be addressed to Mr Philips, not you. I get rather annoyed when Latin Rite Catholics act as though they are the only ones around. Careless of me.

  9. Oh dear, I have just re-read the article and must now retract my retraction of 20:46. My original comments stand.

  10. Chris - deep breathing is recommended.

  11. Some thoughts,

    The first is regarding the difficulty you had in retrieving the Sacrament from the floor. Obviously the Body of Christ deserves great reverence, but in fact your reluctance allowed unacceptable state to persist longer than it might have otherwise. I wonder if perhaps your might suffer from some scrupulosity when it comes to matters of the Eucharist? Mind you, that attitude is probably better in the long run than not being scrupulous enough, but still proper reverence to the Eucharist should enable us to act properly regardless of the situation (and I am by no means perfect in this regard).

    I have to agree with Chris regarding reverence. Outside posture may or may not indicate internal reverence. I am quite sure that there are many Catholics who are too young to remember when kneeling at the Altar rail was normal who are just as reverent if not more so than many who did kneel at the rail at one point (or still do). Outward signs of reverence are culturally defined. Western Culture has for most of the last 2000 years has made kneeling a sign reverence; but we should never mistake the outward sign with the inward reality it should reflect.

    Oh, and final thought, I am not sure my pastor would appreciate it if I decided to install an altar rail all on my own :)

  12. I must say that I echo Chris's comment and his passion. The inability to be just as reverent standing or kneeling speaks not of the inherent reverence of the postures, but the inherent reverence of the one standing or kneeling.

    It is also worth noting that, as our Holy Father has reiterated, standing to Commune is the ancient practice of the Church, and neither posture is inherently more reverent.

    I can go along with 2-9. Of course everyone is entitled to their preference, but your #1 puts you at odds with orthodox Catholic teaching, and thus against the sub-title of your blog.

  13. Trying not to be unkind, but it's difficult.
    It really looks to me that you're very scrupulous. Being actually disturbed for the rest of the day, nearly depressed, from touching the host? Good grief! I regularly spend time at the Trappist Monastery (New Melleray). They actually (gasp!!) stand during the consecration!!! It's perfectly reverent. These are the most holy reverent men I've ever met. Yet I'm sure you'd go off the deep end at such a practice.
    Richard, talk to a psychologist-priest. Really, please do.

  14. I have received kneeling and standing at the EF Mass, e.g I stood at outdoor Masses, on pilgrimage etc.

    I would like the Church to move back to altar rails and kneeling... but at the moment my big bugbear is Communion in the hand.

    "We" all think we are priests! I even heard a sermon quite recently that the laity are all priests.

    This protestant idea is most alien to me. I am not a priest. I have no power to consecrate the host. I have no wish to handle the host. It is enough that the Church is there to supply priests, to give us Our Lord in the Sacred Species and that I am allowed to witness the Sacrifice of the Mass and receive Our Blessed Lord.

    Communion in the hand is really an affront to Our Lord. It leaves open all manner of bad things (dropping, mixing with dirt, pocketing for other usage etc.)

  15. Well said Gareth. Standing is the norm even in the Vatican due to the crush of people. Common sense rules!

  16. Wine in the Water - 1. orthodox Catholic teaching is for kneeling and by mouth.

    .said - thank you for your kind comments.

  17. We are all priests - read your scriptures.

  18. I'm 32 yrs old (human years..ha, ha) and was taught to receive in my hand. It never seemed as reverent to me as receiving on the tongue, and I was exposed to this as the norm when I went to a more conservative Catholic school.
    I receive on the tongue now, but standing up, and I find that it is quite reverent. I do long for the days when there were altar railings and everyone knelt, as you do. I never got to experience them and they do seem as if they were a more reverent (in the Latin Rite. I can't speak for the Eastern Rite, and certainly respect your rich traditions!) time in general.
    However, I do know people that receive in the hand, and it is a beautiful and reverent gesture for them. I try not to judge either way.