Communion in the Hand…'flying fragments’…
I’ve explained how it causes fragments of Our Lord to encrust themselves in the crevices of hands. Then the fragments go wherever the hand goes. And I’ve got patronisingly sympathetic smiles from practising Catholics who tell me I’m ‘too young’ and ‘taking things too seriously’. And the secularists call this ‘nutty’ – we’re so concerned about the fragments of Our Lord’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity being scattered in places they should never go. Or are we really that concerned? Some people are adamant that you are only allowed receive in the hand. There is a perception that Communion on the tongue is ‘banned’. One chap in the US said to me, ‘but it’s obedience to the church to let the frag-fragments or whatever ya call them fly! They are flying fragments of God’s love.’ Slight modification; they are God.
How I usually get into a conversation about Communion in the hand, is that I’m asked why we receive on the tongue in the Tridentine Mass. As in, ‘don’t you think it’s a bit fuddy-duddy to only receive on the tongue?’ I always remain very gentle and refuse to get into an actual argument about what way a person receives – in an argument a person may feel compelled to defend their position and to stick to it. On a few occasions, I’ve been told ‘people who get a bee in their bonnet about fragments going missing are sickos, and into icky things anyway.’ Admittedly, I’m not very perceptive, but when I hear things like that, I pull back from the debate; if those of us who want to preserve Our Lord’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity from becoming ‘flying fragments’ and are called ‘sickos’ because of it, well the person who calls us ‘sickos’ has fundamental problems with the faith. One also hears, ‘why aren’t they more inclusive, and permit people to receive in a way where they are closest to Our Lord?’ Feeling close to Our Lord is just that – a feeling – and it jars with me that we want to feel close, but then do not give more respect i.e. by receiving on the tongue.
In opposing Communion in the hand, I’ve used Church doctrine and I’ve quoted renowned Catholics, but haven’t had encouraging responses. But maybe that’s because I have not understood that the way we treat the Host directly influences how we think of it, and the othe way round. Reading Fr. Hugh S. Thwaites, SJ’s concise little book Our Glorious Faith – and how to lose it, I found a section about Communion in the hand under the heading; ‘We should behave the way we believe.’ Fr. Thwaites wrote, ‘I remember a good example of this. It was in a convent of contemplative nuns, and I had just said Mass for them. They had all received on the tongue and I was telling the sacristan that I preferred people receiving on the tongue because of the danger of particles flaking off the Host, not being noticed in the palm of the hand, and falling on the floor. “After all,” I said, “in each tiny fragment there’s Our Lord.” She denied this. She said that there was not the Real Presence in a fragment of the Host.
Now how did she come to think that? No one had ever told her….The reason is that she had been behaving for some little time as though the fragments were of no consequence, and so she had come to believe that they were of no consequence….This is why the Church hedges the Holy Eucharist about with so much reverence and care, with sanctuary lights, and silk curtains, with genuflections and incense, with secure locks and safely guarded keys. The Church knows that these safeguards that we see and touch also safeguard our faith.’
So, in future, , I’ll carefully say that were I to receive in the hand, I would lose respect for the Eucharist, because tiny fragments are mislaid and that the way I behave influences how I believe.