Reception of Holy Communion
In this great country of Australia, belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and regular Mass attendance for Catholics have been in decline. In 1954 regular attendance was 74% and by 2011 it was down to 12.2%. We are currently reducing in number by almost 20% every 5 years and we have very few vocations to the priesthood (ABS Census Data, NCLS 2006, 2011). It is therefore necessary that we be open to change and consider new ideas and perspectives that could enable us to reverse these trends.
There needs to be a greater emphasis on teaching our people to receive Holy Communion very well and with the necessary preparation. Recently there was a debate at the Synod on the Family in Rome where a minority argued in favour of giving Holy Communion to civilly divorced and remarried couples as well as people in homosexual relationships. This is against Catholic doctrine and is unbiblical (1 Cor. 11:27-30). The root cause of this confusion must be understood to be the lack of knowledge among Catholics about the necessary conditions for reception of Holy Communion. An important condition is that the person must be in a state of grace and free from unconfessed mortal sins (Ibid & CIC 916).
We should consider ways to introduce greater reverence and respect towards Jesus in the Eucharist. If we truly believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist, we would show great reverence for the precious host. Communion in the hand could be viewed as a very casual way to distribute something we claim to be so important. Yet it has become the norm in nearly all parish communities.
Each particle of the host is Jesus and must be treated with great care. We know that the sacred host is Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity. The Church teaches us that if a small piece of the host breaks off, this piece does not cease to be Jesus’ body (CCC 1377). It can be observed by viewing the paten after Communion that many particles break away from the hosts in each Mass. Where Communion is distributed in the hand, particles separate, fall on the ground and are trampled underfoot. A very interesting experiment done by a seminarian shows how this occurs. Would Christ not bless His Church so much more if we were to reconsider this practice?
Communion in the hand also provides a lesser degree of security for Jesus in the host. There are increased incidents where hosts are being stolen for evil purposes. In an extraordinary recent example, in Spain one person stole more than 200 hundred consecrated hosts undetected by clergy and ministers. If the practice had been to distribute Communion on the tongue, this type of theft would have been far more difficult.
The new evangelisation must start with respect for Christ in the Eucharist. We believe a new spring time in the Church will begin when greater reverence is shown to Jesus in Holy Communion. Who could put it better than St Thomas Aquinas who prophetically wrote “The Lord will come and visit His church with His graces in the measure we pay Him due worship” (Sacris Solemniis).
Many Catholics believe that the best way to receive Jesus is with an act of adoration during this special moment. They would like to receive Him on the tongue whilst kneeling down. However, in the majority of parishes this is not presently an option due to kneelers or communion rails not being provided.
The Catholic Church favours the traditional method of receiving Communion on the tongue whilst kneeling. Vatican II states, “This method of distributing Holy Communion must be retained…” (Memoriale Domini). Communion in the hand is only permitted as an “indult” or “concession” in some parts of the world but in such cases ”The new method of administering communion should not be imposed is a way that would exclude the traditional usage”(ibid). The Church continues to favour this method.
The current arrangement can cause problems for children aged around 9 to 12 years old who wish to receive Communion on the tongue. When these children approach, the priest or minister will often give them a blessing rather than Communion, assuming that because they did not put their hands forward, they have not yet made their first Communion. This can be a cause of distress for both people involved.
How can you help with this important foundation for the new springtime in the Church? Please share this petition as far and wide as you can. Please email and talk to your friends, share via text and share on social media. You may also wish to talk to and provide information to your parish priest.
With respect, we ask the Catholic Bishops of Australia to:
- Encourage greater education in the necessary preparation for the reception of Holy Communion.
- Consider that a new approach to the reception of Holy Communion could show a greater love and respect towards Jesus.
- Ask all parishes to provide members of their communities an option to receive Communion on the tongue whilst kneeling down by providing kneelers to left and right or a Communion rail.
- Since it is a unique strength of our Church, consider methods to better inform Catholics about the greatness and beauty of the Eucharist. Consider strategies to foster greater reverence by moving away from the practice of Communion in the hand after engaging in a process of education and support.
- Consider that an efficient way to achieve this is to install Communion rails to be used for the reception of Communion.
- Encourage the use of altar servers with a paten to further minimise any chance of particles falling.
- Have an open mind to this proposal. We believe young people will be receptive to this change because there will be greater alignment between what we believe and the way we worship.
- Consider this proposal because we believe this change will bring many blessings for the Church in Australia.