A 2008 Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) survey found that over 40% of Catholics questioned view the Eucharist as only a symbol of Jesus. Other surveys have reported that possibly as many as 70% of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
At no time is the Church better able to demonstrate its belief in the Real Presence than during Holy Communion at Mass. This is that most sacred and sublime of moments, when the faithful receive Jesus in the Eucharist: His body, blood, soul and divinity. Indeed, Holy Mother Church teaches us that the Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life.” (CCC 1324)
How we receive Holy Communion therefore is not only a matter of spiritual disposition, but also of physical disposition.
Unfortunately the vast majority of Catholics today receive Our Lord like this:
Standing. In the hand. From a lay person. One can easily see how this pedestrian manner of receiving the Eucharist could be detrimental to belief in the Real Presence over time.
Gradually, however, we are beginning to see the recovery of the traditional manner of receiving Holy Communion: on the tongue while kneeling.
These two pictures explain far better than I can how the supernatural reality of the Eucharist can be influenced (positively or negatively) by the manner in which we receive Communion. To this very point the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff stated in 2008:
From the time of the Fathers of the Church, a tendency was born and consolidated whereby distribution of Holy Communion in the hand became more and more restricted in favor of distributing Holy Communion on the tongue. The motivation for this practice is two-fold: a) first, to avoid, as much as possible, the dropping of Eucharistic particles; b) second, to increase among the faithful devotion to the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Understanding this to be true, Pope Benedict spent the final five years of his papacy distributing Communion to the faithful only on the tongue while they kneeled.
In the end we are left asking ourselves:
Do we really believe that it is Jesus we receive at Holy Communion?
As with many things in life, our actions speak louder than words.