Dear Fellow Parishioners,
I would like to take this opportunity for a frank discussion of a few points regarding Eucharistic reception and practice here at St. Vincent’s. While the reception of Holy Communion is intensely personal, it is not merely a personal devotion. It is a communal act of worship and service that requires a priest and a worshiping community – not just a group of individual, private communicants. If it were, anyone could do it at home by themselves, or by placing a loaf of bread in front of the TV during a televised Mass.
Since COVID, distribution of Holy Communion has gradually been adapted to accommodate both hygienic concerns and personal devotional practices. The result has been that there are now about 8 different combinations of preferences people express when presenting themselves at Communion time. This is, to put it mildly, bewildering for many priests, deacons and ministers who must make split-second decisions as to what people want. We are ministers, not mind readers.
At the same time, COVID and its variants are not behind us, and other viruses and flus are always afoot. As I understand it, COVID is transmitted through the respiratory function, whose exit point is the mouth and tongue. Parishioners who prefer to receive in the hand have not consented to the priest’s or minister’s previous contact with the mouths of parishioners who prefer to receive on the tongue.
Therefore, in all frankness I propose the following – which we have been doing by default for some time, anyway.
1) Those who wish to receive in the hand should approach first, plus those who indicate their desire to receive a blessing by crossing their arms on their chests.
2) After the hand-receivers have received, the tongue-receivers may kneel at the Communion rail on the left-hand side of the sanctuary and receive on the tongue. This is to distinguish between hand-receivers and tongue-receivers, and nothing else. My intent is maximally to support both the bodily and spiritual health of all people entrusted to my care, consistent with the pastoral norms of the Church. This is not a matter of rights, but of charity and voluntary accommodation of the needs and preferences of as many fellow-parishioners as possible.
Finally, I have heard people say they must receive on the tongue because they do not want to receive in hands which have committed sins. In my observation and experience, at least as many sins are committed by the tongue as by any other bodily part and, unlike all the others, it never wears out.
Fr. Bill Donahue
Dear Fellow Parishioners,