Monday, March 16, 2015


With the wonderful permission to be able to celebrate the older form of the Mass, we are able to recover some wonderful aspects of the Mass that were reduced to ashes almost overnight in the late 1960's. What was recovered and mandated (not the idiosyncrasy of the celebrant or some obnoxious liturgy committee)?

1. Latin and Greek--it is required in the EF Mass and not left to the priest to decide if he will use it or not.

2. Ad Orientem (or at least an altar with strict rubrics about its decoration even when facing the nave).

3. Kneeling for Holy Communion.

4. Strict rubrics and clear instructions for the choreography of the Mass which in this broad sense could be viewed as a "liturgical dance." In fact, the liturgy itself is a sacred dance, but scripted to the tee as not to make it appear secular, banal or sexual in any sense.

Prior to the restoration of St. Joseph's altar railing, we had to place a kneeler out for people to come up individually to kneel for Holy Communion.

After the restoration of our altar railing and for the first time in my priesthood, I was able to distribute Holy Communion to communicants kneeling at the full length of the altar railing, communicants awaiting the priest to process to them after they had processed to the altar railing, a true liturgical procession with the Lord's procession the most important. (Of course up until about 1974 in my home parish, until I was about 21 years old, we knelt for Holy Communion even in the revised Mass.)

I have to say that the traditional method of distributing Holy Communion to kneeling communicants is much quicker in terms of the overall time it takes to distribute Holy Communion to a congregation, but much slower and deliberate for the communicant--thus the both of best worlds. The communicant makes his/her way to the altar railing, is able to wait for the priest to process to them, and then can wait briefly after receiving before returning to their pew.

On Sunday we have four Ordinary Form Masses. Because I can't be guaranteed two parochial vicars as I have now from year to year and I can't be guaranteed that a parochial vicar that I have is willing or capable of celebrating the EF Mass, I do not offer it weekly on Sunday but only once a month at at 2 PM. I am able to offer the EF Low Mass every Tuesday at 5 PM but can easily cancel it if no priest who can celebrate it can be present or we could simply make it an ad orientem Ordinary Form Mass for a priest who would be available but not capable of celebrating the EF Mass.

Thus, recognizing that it would be nice to have a weekly Sunday Mass more like the EF Mass but still an OF Mass, we have made our 12:10 PM Mass on Sunday more traditional (or better yet using options that are completely permissible in an OF Mass!).

For the past three years, we have celebrated this Mass ad orientem for the Liturgy of the Eucharist to which I have not received one complaint from a person who normally attends this Mass. I gave a very brief catechesis for it prior to beginning this. We have many visitors passing through Macon on I-75 who are blown away by this Mass simply for the ad orientem part of it and compliment us for it!

At all our Masses we stand behind the altar railing to distribute Holy Communion. For those who stand, which is the majority, the railing does not get into the way when they receive either in the hand or on the tongue. Those who choose to kneel can do so easily, but everyone receives Holy Communion one by one whether kneeling or standing.

Three weeks ago I decided to take tradition one step further at our already more traditional 12:10 PM Mass. We invite the 12:10 PM Mass communicants to use the full length of the altar railing whether they choose to stand or kneel. To my surprise for the past three weeks, the vast majority kneel although the vast majority continue to receive in the hand, many placing their elbows on the railing to make a throne with their hands to receive our Precious Lord. Even this looks very, very reverent! And no one takes Holy Communion in perpetual motion. It is deliberate while kneeling and no one gets up with the host still in their hands, they pause before departing many making the "Sign of the Cross."

The other thing that has truly be astounding to me is that we can distribute Holy Communion at the altar railing only with two doing so (usually the priest and a deacon) in shorter time than it takes four of us doing so at four communion stations! I would we have reduced the communion rite by five minutes! But again, the communicant isn't rushed as they are at communion stations. That's a paradox isn't it! The same was true on Ash Wednesday when we used the altar railing to impose ashes on penitents kneeling at the full length of the railing, it took two ordained men less time to distribute ashes to a packed church than it takes four people to do so at four stations! I kid you not! For Ash Wednesday it cut the ash time by at least 10 minutes! The the ashees were not rushed!

Why was the method of distributing Holy Communion changed from the Latin Rite's time honored, organically developed tradition from kneeling at an altar railing in most churches throughout the world to standing at communion stations?  It was done so for dubious reasons and for some ideological reasons too! Let me count the ways!

1. The most inane reason is that "standing" to receive Holy Communion is a "sign and symbol" of being raised up in Christ and that kneeling is a "penitential act" that should only be used as a sign of being penitential. Hogwash of course, let's say that pure and simple. A person laying on their back in their death bed and receiving on their back are still receiving Holy Communion being raised up in Christ!

2. It was thought that receiving standing is the older tradition of the Latin Rite, but it is not the longest tradition in the Latin Rite, kneeling is and for good reasons.

3. Receiving Holy Communion standing was thought to be quicker which it is for the communicant who is rushed at the moment of receiving to move on but much longer in the overall time of the communion rite.

4. Standing to recieve allows for more Communion stations and thus the proliferation of Extraordinary Ministers who are not actually needed if kneeling at the railing had been maintained!

5. Standing stations also allows for the common chalice to be distributed by a hoard additional extraordinary ministers (keep in mind communion under both kinds is meant to be for certain prescribed situations and even in the USA's revised GIRM intinction is a valid options in the Ordinary Form's Missal.

It seems that ideology with hints of history and theology to manipulate the lay faithful and recalcitrant bishops and priests to buy into standing for Holy Communion at Communion stations is at the heart of this much shorter tradition in the Latin Rite and its mandate in the Ordinary Form of the Mass since the late 1960's.


Anonymous said...

Since the method of distributing and receiving Communion is the topic, let me ask you a question: I have a daughter enrolled in one of this diocese's Catholic schools. She has already received her First Holy Communion, before she enrolled (she is 7) and no one else in her class has. She told me on Friday that she was not allowed to receive Communion at school Masses, because she had to sit with her class at Communion time. I wrote a note to her teacher, asking her to let my daughter go to Communion and told her that the office had a record of her First Communion. When I picked her up later that day, I asked if she was permitted to go to Communion. Her reply? "Yes, but I didn't go, because they told me I HAD to receive it in the hand." I taught my children to only receive on the tongue. Now I don't want to go stirring up trouble with the school, but this sounds just plain wrong. Do you have any suggestions about to handle this? I am afraid that no matter how I approach this, they are going to try to twist this around to make me the bad guy.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Who mandated that she receive in the hand? I would speak first with the principal who should then instruct teachers who are extraordinary ministers to respect the choice of communicants to receive on the tongue. If a priest did this you should speak to them personally. If you don't get the proper response speak to the pastor and if unsuccessful there go to the bishop and if unsucessful there to ROME!

Anonymous said...

I had this same issue at our Catholic school (also this diocese). The teacher insisted she make her First Holy Communion on the hand. The DRE had to be involved, then the pastor. Eventually it was "allowed" but with great annoyance that they did not pretend to hide from her and made her very uncomfortable. Whenever the class practiced, she was forced to practice in the hand so as to not "confuse" her classmates.

Speak to the teacher with great kindness, as undoubtedly they don't know any better. Be persistent but polite. Finally, consider homeschooling. If they truly don't know better, why are they the ones teaching your children?

Cletus Ordo said...

Father, maybe you can answer this one:

Why are DRE's and pastors permitting children to be instructed to receive in the hand ONLY when the NORM is on the tongue and we only receive in the hand because of an indult?

Is that how it works for First Communicants at St. Joseph's?

Rood Screen said...

Father MacDonald offers very good advice, Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Fr. McD asked: Why was the method of distributing Holy Communion changed from...kneeling at an altar railing standing at communion stations?

A few years ago I changed parishes. I loved the parish but had to leave when a new mid-life aged priest was assigned there. This priest seems to think the Mass needs to be a kind of familiar, friendly time, a family gathering of sorts, and he's the MC. He has a wonderful singing voice, a lot like Robert Goulet. Given that he's wearing a mike, and loves to sing, and his demeanor of friendliness, the Mass began to seem a little like a dinner theater. So, I stopped going there.
But yesterday I went there due to some scheduling problems. There was a guest homilist, a priest who did a fine job with a Lenten homily. However, from the beginning Fr. Friendly Goulet did this:
-greeted everyone with a sort of howdy before the first sign of the cross;
-before the Alleluia, interrupted to "introduce" Fr. Visitor, telling us a little about him, and what a fine priest he is;
-just before the canon began, interrupts again, telling us Fr. Visitor has to leave to get back home (catch a plane?), so bye bye and thank you Fr. Visitor and then he begins the applause (which people joined in) and Fr. Visitor leaves the altar;
-at the end, just before the final blessing, after the announcements done by the Lector, (in which we get a full explanation of St. Patrick's Day and St. Joseph's Day celebrations, including that these feasts allow us to break the Lenten fast), Fr. Friendly Goulet makes sure we know how much he loves pazki (jelly filled donuts) and looks forward to having many of them this Thursday (laughter from the audience);
- he bestows the final blessing and then says something akin to see ya' everybody and have a good weekend and leaves the altar.

THIS is why communion became standing only. Because priests (and bishops) lost the faith, and abuse the Mass (oh, excuse me, the LITURGY!), because in their own heart the Mass doesn’t meet their needs, and they assume it doesn’t meet the needs of the people either, and every change is a hope that the change will bring some relief from the stifling boredom and deadness they experience saying Mass.

Michael said...

I think in most places since the 1970's, reception in the hand has been treated—quite against the intentions of the Church when the practice was permitted—like THE way to receive Communion.

When my mom became Catholic in the 80's, the only way she was taught to do it was...You guessed it! In the hand!

A friend of mine said he was only taught reception in the hand when he made his First Communion.

At a former parish of ours, a couple years ago, when one of the instructors was telling kids on the day of their First Communion how to go about receiving, she said: "And you're gonna go right up to Father and stretch out your hands, with your left hand over your right..." No mention of Communion on the tongue, even though that is the normative manner of receiving Holy Communion even today.

rcg said...

I think Bee is basically correct. I had the same experiences and still do when I go to NO parishes. It seems to stem from a lack of respect as well as boredom and lack of faith.

As far as what is older, that is eyewash and I think only an argument to the traditionalists. Blood sacrifice and burned flesh ante dates the bread host so why not go back to that while standing, loins girded? Because we have learned better.

Православный физик said...

As some may know, in the Eastern Churches, one receives standing (of course never in the hand) and yes, standing is a symbol of the resurrection, and kneeling is a penitential posture (primarily). The metania (bow touching one's hand to the floor is the Eastern equivalent of the genuflection (prostration saved for Lent and Penitential seasons)

So I call much of the changes to the Roman Liturgy Byzaninizations, attempting (and epically failing) to match posture and theology of the East..

Sometimes people need to learn things the hard way before realizing that the Church had it right all along. I do pray that the west get back to kneeling and reception on the tongue.

Anonymous said...

I had an experience with a DRE back in the 1980's when I was teaching CCD. I taught the 6th graders, and the text we used did a sort of review and deepening theology of the sacraments for this age group. So we get to the chapter on the Eucharist, and Sister DRE (of the progressive ilk) was in my classroom, "observing." Not thinking much about it, I began to tell the kids about how we used to receive communion; how the railing near the altar is a communion rail, and we used to kneel along the railing and receive communion on the tongue and.... Well, Sister DRE nearly went apoplectic. She turned bright red in the face, interrupted my class to tell us the BISHOPS have MANDATED receiving in the HAND, STANDING for our diocese.
I had no idea what she was doing at the time. I was pretty innocently telling the kids about the olden days, and had no intention of giving any other instruction besides receiving reverently in the hand, standing. At that time, I didn't even KNOW we had the option of receiving on the tongue.
When I think back on it I have to laugh. Sometimes I think the Holy Spirit likes to give them a pitchfork right in the rear end.

Anonymous said...

I am the first anonymous with the daughter in the Savannah Diocesan school. Here is my update:

This morning my daughter told me that there would be another school Mass this week. I told her that when she went for Communion to open her mouth, extend her tongue and wait.

Well, she revealed more to me about what has happened. She said the first time she tried to receive like that, the EMHC told her to cup her hands together, but she didn't. I told her that if they tried that again, so quietly say to the person, "I receive on the tongue." It will be interesting to see just how tolerant of diversity they are. Frankly, I'm disgusted by the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

This is a seven year old girl we're talking about! That's quite a weight to put on her shoulders. The momma bear in me would want the name and number of the principal, all extraordinary ministers, and pastor. Don't make this her battle - she should only be focused on receiving Our Lord with love. Go crack some skulls for her - or pull her from that stupid school and teach her yourself. It is unacceptable for them to drag children into this poppycock!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The pastor should be informed and with the expectation that he will inform those who are EMHC at the school to respect the two options for receiving Holy Communion.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 9:37:
I disagree to a degree. This IS the child's battle. And she is learning to stand up for her faith against those who are in authority but misusing it. Yes, the parent should go and do the discussing, but the child should be shown she CAN stand up for herself and what is right. No helicoptering parents in the Church!

When my mom was a girl about 12, her mom had a disagrement with the priest and began going to the Polish National Catholic Church, which was not in communion with Rome. My mom, a girl, decided that was not for her, and went to confession for missing Mass at the Roman Catholic Church. The priest refused to give her absolution (! maybe he recognized her voice as my grandma's daughter) so what did my mom do? She went to another priest in another confessional, received absolution, and took herself and her sister to Mass at the parish each week.

Faith is faith, even in kids. We need to encourage them to stand up for the faith, on their own, not take over the challenge for them.

Anonymous said...

Well, she DID stand up for herself at Mass today, she went to Communion, opened her mouth and was given the Host on the tongue.

I wanted to see what would happen before raising the issue with the school. I live in a parish where it's very easy to be relegated to the "fringe", and the more I interfere, the more that is likely to happen to all of my family. I am willing to move forward to deal with it, but cautiously. Gratefully, they gave me no reason to today.

Anonymous said...

Why is the tongue so much better than the hand? I'd rather somebody touch me with their hand than lick me. I was an altar boy for many years and probably carried a communion paten for numerous miles in my time. I can still remember how lots of people, just as the priest was about to put the Host on their tongue, would curl their tongue up and "lick" the priest's finger.

Anonymous said...

Why is the tongue so much better than the hand? Oh where to begin? First, receiving on the tongue greatly reduces the risk of the Host being abused or profaned or used for sacrilegious reasons. Since the advent of Communion in the Hand, just about every parish reports finding Hosts in various places throughout the church building after Mass. When you receive on the tongue you do not risk fragmenting or spilling particles of the Body of Christ. See the black glove experiment here:

And finally, well probably not finally, as there are likely more reasons, Communion in the hand is not a Catholic tradition and the only reason we have it is because of the lies of the US Bishop's conference under the dubious leadership of the late Cardinal B, who pushed and pushed and pushed for it, and finally, when he didn't have the votes the Vatican wanted, he changed the rules and allowed bishops not in attendance to vote long distance. Rome only granted its SPECIAL PERMISSION (see "indult") if bishop's conferences insisted that Communion in the hand had been a longstanding tradition in their country. The whole business started in the Netherlands. Well, it had NEVER been a tradition in this country, which makes the whole thing a LIE. For more information, go here:

The worldwide norm for receiving Communion is on the tongue. It is a sign of us RECEIVING Christ, not "taking" Communion. It is a sign of our submission and humility to Christ.

I can't speak to your accusation of people curling their tongues, but I have never heard a priest complain and I have certainly never licked a priest or EMHC's hand.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't making an accusation.....only an observation.

Anonymous 7:29 AM. though we share a fake name, we live in two different worlds.

John Nolan said...

Whether one stands or kneels, going forward to receive Holy Communion is in no way a 'procession' in the liturgical sense. One should approach reverently, of course (hands joined, eyes downcast), but it's basically a queue.

If there is a rail, fan out to the right and left so that you can occupy a place as soon as someone vacates it. Don't cause a bottleneck by stopping when you reach the head of the centre aisle. A bit like using the Underground where you move along the length of the platform. (Foreign tourists usually block the entrance to the platform, much to the annoyance of the natives.)

And approach the rail in your own time. Don't troop up row by row. I read that some US bishops have ordered everyone to remain standing until everyone has communicated. Their lordships should be told in blunt Anglo-Saxon terms to get lost.

Anonymous said...

If the host is placed in your hand by a minister of communion, you are RECIEVING communion. You are not TAKING it.

Michael said...

Still, Anonymous at 8:24 PM, I would say the "reception" symbolism is more profound on the tongue.