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Friday, 12 August 2011

A puzzling letter

My Catholic Dilemmas article in the Catholic Herald for 15 July was about Holy Communion. In view of a letter that appears in this weekend's issue, I give the text of my piece here:
I have always received Holy Communion and on the tongue but in my new parish most people receive on the hand. I am worried that I am standing out.

In the 1970s, permission was given by the Holy See for Holy Communion to be received in the hand. Although this permission has been granted to most Bishops' Conferences, it remains the case that receiving on the tongue is the universal practice in terms of liturgical law: a particular diocese could rescind permission for communion in the hand but it would not be lawful to forbid communion on the tongue.

Your reluctance to appear singular is understandable and your instinctive humility in this matter is praiseworthy. If we do something different from others, there can be a temptation to think that we are more devout, or to question the motives of others. Many people were taught to received Holy Communion on the hand when they were children, and others were introduced to the practice as though it is somehow more “adult.” People can and do receive Holy Communion on the hand with devotion and reverence.

A reciprocal respect should be shown to those who wish to retain the traditional practice. Pope Benedict himself, at the Papal Masses, now gives Holy Communion only on the tongue and the communicants are asked to kneel down. The papal MC has explained that this is done to emphasise the reverence and care due to the Holy Eucharist. Therefore you need not have any scruples about receiving Holy Communion on the tongue. The temptation to pride is part of our ordinary human frailty and can arise in many situations: it is not essentially related to the manner in which we receive Our Lord.

As a part of our prayers in thanksgiving for Holy Communion, in addition to prayers of adoration and praise, it is good to remember to pray for others. If you include in this a prayer for those who are receiving Holy Communion at the same Mass, that will contribute to the reconciliation at the heart of the Church which is a major concern of Pope Benedict.
This weekend's Catholic Herald carries a letter from Mr Alan Pontet-Piccolomini responding to the article. I agree with all the points that he makes about receiving Holy Communion, but am at a loss to know why it should be thought that
Fr Finigan might inadvertently have given the inquirer the impression that by continuing to receive on the tongue they are showing themselves to be "different" to their fellow communicants
The question was asking about precisely the case where the communicant was different from most people in the parish.

Even more puzzling was the assertion that
Fr Finigan's response also appeared to gloss over the example being set by the Holy Father who requires those receiving from him to kneel and receive the Host on the tongue
I do accept that there are many other things that "Fr Finigan could also have suggested to the enquirer" but the Herald is kind enough to give my column a rather prime site in the paper under the leader column, and I am limited to 350 words (an excellent writing discipline, by the way.) So the many other things that could be said on any particular question have to be said on the blog or elsewhere.
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