Do We Really Believe It’s Jesus?


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.

Posted on August 29, 2015, in liturgy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I was just writing on this or something akin to this.
    “Catechetical Sunday” is fast approaching,

    I think a Eucharistic procession with Exposition and Adoration would afford the Church more “catechesis” than all the classes taught by all the teachers in all the religious ed programs, and all the sermons preached by all the priests in all the parishes in the US, put together.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  2. Raymond F. Rice

    People at the Vatican received communion on the tongue because too many recipients were not swallowing the Eucharist but taking it home as a souvenir.

    Have you ever felt the spittle of the previous recipient on your tongue from the priests finger, especially in flu season??

    • I absolutely have not.
      There is no reason, whatsoever, for the priest’s finger to touch your tongue. That’s the whole point of opening your mouth and sticking out your tongue just a little – so that he can easily and securely place the host on your tongue without having to actually touch you or worry that you will let it fall from your mouth.

  3. Non nobis Domine

    Raymond, this article — — together with the first comment there address your fears.

  4. I hope very soon, our Bishops will tell the faithful how to receive Holy Communion. I believe people don’t want to receive on the tongue because they learned to receive in the hand and feel silly holding their tongue out, because almost no one receives that way.

  5. IMO, whatever the original source of “Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity” to emphasize that what looks like bread, isn’t, but is The Real Jesus, God Almighty, was at a time-like that described in this essay-that needed an explanation of the mystery that they could understand. Eating Jesus, God Almighty is a Mystery of our Faith, and as St. Thomas Aquinas commented, the idea of eating another person is super fantastic, but Jesus-Consideration Personified-makes the event so very easy to stomach.

  6. I am going to be very blunt! I receive in my hand communion most my life. Jesus told us to “take and eat”.

    In the USA, people are free to choose and what I don’t understand is why there has to be debate about this. I have given Communion thousands of times and I do not agree that one posture is more reverent than the other. I have seen deep reverence with both. I have also, frankly, seen irreverence with both. The one receiving should use the posture normative for where they are receiving. They should use the method of receiving they prefer.

    In any event, among the most reverent and touching receptions of Communion I remember are where the person is neither standing or kneeling. It is when they are in a hospital bed or propped up in a chair and are receiving the Lord for one of the last — if not the very last — time in this life. That is deeply touching for its reverence. May we all have that grace of Viaticum before departing this life…whether we can kneel, stand or even sit.

    And, yes, there is always need for care. The Host can fall as It is passed from minister to communicant or as the communicant places It in his/her mouth…It can also fall if either the minister does not place it in proper contact with the tongue, or It does not adhere to the tongue or the communicant takes not the necessary care in retracting their tongue and closing their mouth. All of these have happened to me.

  7. “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.” ~absolutely.

    Kneeling and receiving Holy Communion on the tongue is the most reverential way to receive, with only the consecrated fingers of the priest touching the host and giving out Communion.

    I know people continually point out that the early Christians received in the hand, but according to a very informative article in the “Homeletic and Pastoral Review” it WAS NOT A WIDESPREAD OR UNIVERSAL PRACTISE. It was only during PERSECUTION TIMES and USED AS AN “EMERGENCY” when priests weren’t available. The article also notes that the famous text of St. Cyril of Jerusalem mentioning Communion in the Hand may NOT HAVE BEEN WRITTEN BY HIM at all, but by his rather unorthodox follower “Patricarch John” judging from strange additions in that text. You can read the whole eye-opening article by Jude Hunzt here (March 1997):

    RE: comments about ‘getting sick’ from receiving Communion: I’ve never become sick from receiving Communion, but since I’ve stopped doing the ‘handshake’ thing, so far I’ve never fallen sick since other than one sinus attack, (which make me realise it wasn’t receiving Communion that was making me ill.) I haven’t caught a cold in years since I stay kneeling and try to avoid getting grabbed and smooched in the Middle of Mass in addition to avoiding crowds when I can, but everytime before then in the winter when we would shake hands in Church, I always used to come down with something. Just my personal experience and observations.

    There was never a ‘handshake of peace’ at the Latin Mass, and its addition to the modern Liturgy seems to me like we’re focusing on the ‘wrong’ peace. We’re supposed to concentrate on the Peace of Christ and having a clean conscience, and a willing, loving obedient heart. It was considered a laxity, even a sin depending on the distraction, when you didn’t prepare properly to receive Christ Himself, and now the ‘happy-clappy handshake’ does exactly that: distracts everyone from the solemn preparations were are supposed to make before receiving our Creator and King that we may partake of every grace and blessing that the Sacrament grants to us when we are correctly prepared. There are other times when we may show our peace to our fellow neighbours, but that is not the time. I feel it is “charity malpractise”.

    Them the introduction of Communion servers is abused these days as there is no need for them in many parishes. It’s ‘false inclusion’ of the layity. They were only supposed to be employed an an emergency situation like a mission country, etc., that is very short on priests, not on a day to day basis. In Fatima, I’ve seen such at times abuses when there are priests at the altar sitting down during Communion and lay servers come up and give out Communion. I could go on a whole ‘rant’ here, but I think I’ve said enough already…

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