Monday, June 20, 2011

The Increasing Difficulty of Receiving on the Tongue

I have to say, I've been a little nervous lately about coming forward to receive the Eucharist at our new parish. With both hands full of baby I have the perfect excuse to receive on the tongue, which is what I'd do anyways. And over the years I've perfected the head back, tongue extended tilt, so no physical contact should be made with anyone's hand. In fact, up until this month, I could count the number of times that it's happened on one hand. But no more...

You see, despite the fact that there really doesn't seem to be that much of a necessity for them (other than perhaps on holidays), the crowd of extraordinary ministers that flocks to the altar each Sunday is huge. There's about nine of them, and the priest and sometimes a deacon, and while it means that the lines fly by (twenty people per extraordinary minister! The communion line only lasts a few short minutes! More time for announcements!), it also means that chances are, you aren't going to be receiving from a priest or deacon.

Not a big deal (to me)... unless... you begin to notice a look of panic as the extraordinary minister realizes that you are going to approach for communion on the tongue, as you juggle a struggling toddler or baby and do your best to keep them from grabbing the chalice.

I've only had one priest react in the same way, attempting to stuff the eucharist in my hand which was, well, full, with my child in my arms. And it only happened one time. So when I realize that the randomly chosen line for the week that the priest will be at isn't ours (and we're in the front row) I feel a little stuck.

Last week I went forward, holding Sadie and opened my mouth and extended my tongue, head tilted slightly back, having already seen the slightly panicked look on the woman's face. As I stood there, in the overpowering cloud of perfume that surrounded us (not mine), I held very still. And then I felt it. An entire hand that touched my entire extended tongue. And then perfume. The taste of very strong perfume.

So I have to say, I was a bit hesitant as I went forward yesterday, holding Mae, opening my mouth and extending my tongue and saying a silent prayer that the Eucharist would just make it into my mouth, with nothing else. She was much more careful this time (it was the same woman). Only her finger tips touched my tongue. But the Eucharist still had the very strong, chemically enhanced, taste of her perfume (which actually seemed to be on the Eucharist).

And I'm left wondering, why something so simple, something that's been a tradition for a very long time (receiving on the tongue), has to be so difficult now? It just seems like it should be a basic part of the training that extraordinary ministers receive (maybe it is? I'll admit I've never gone through the training so I don't know... but it seems to be a problem...).

We've been sitting in this particular pew because it's in the front, so the girls can see, but off to the side next to the organ, where it doesn't cause a stir if we have to get up and go to the back.... and it's working really well for Sadie and Mae... but wow... I'm not quite sure what to do. I'd think the perfume thing would even bother people receiving in the hand...


  1. I have experienced a similar thing. It always happens when the Eucharistic minister is new. So with that, I assume that it is NOT taught in their training. But since our church is semi-large and quite a few people receive on their tongue, they seem to learn quickly.

    I'm hoping our new church (when we move) will be just as good. I've never really thought about it being such an issue until now! Maybe you could bring it up with your priest and he could discuss the issue with the ministers?

  2. It's actually very frowned upon in the Anglican church, as is dipping your Host in the wine cup. We got Norwalk flu when Ella was a tiny baby from Christmas eve Mass. Since then I have actually only been taking the Host. Just can't bring myself to share a Communion cup again. I've always received Communion in my hands. But then I only had one baby )

  3. Traditional Latin Mass. Problem solved :)

  4. I don't remember any training when I was an extraordinary minister years ago. The perfume thing could be a case of dead olfactory cells leading to the woman overapplying it. My MIL does the same thing.

    We are fortunate to have a pastor who is the sole celebrant of Latin Mass in the diocese, so he doesn't balk at me or anyone else receiving on the tongue at a regular Sunday Mass. I haven't tried with lay people, though. And, my one time of having a priest not placing the host on my tongue was from the ailing priest being unable to lift his arms. For him, I was more than happy to receive on my hand.

  5. Sigh, It really isn't that hard. But I have had priest (a monsignor to boot) throw the Eucharist in my mouth once. Literally his fingers left the Eucharist before it touched my tongue. Lets just say, he got better after that, and them seemed to always be the line we were, whether he was celebrant or the helping distributing priest, which actually became nice, since then I didn't have to worry about how to receive from EMHC's.

    When the swine flu came through the north east when we were there they suspended the chalice and demanded that everyone receive on the tongue. The first Sunday I went up and ended up receiving one handed and had to suck the Eucharist into my mouth because I was holding a heavy, squirmy baby. Of course right after that the priest laid his hands on the baby's head to give him a blessing. I just winced,since all before that time, baby was spiting up, and drooling like crazy (teething)and touching the pew and putting his hands in his hair.

    Really, you won't put your hands close to my mouth, but you will lay your entire hand on my child's drool and spit-up filled hair and then touch everyone host?

  6. Ewww.. I am so sorry!

    Its a non issue here... thankfully. Maronite Catholics don't have EM's & we only receive Communion on the tongue. Which took some getting used to since I grew up the other way lol, but def does make life easier with squirming kids. I prefer it now anyway...

    Hope it gets easier for you again though!

  7. I am absolutely sure you will not have that problem in Ave Maria.

  8. Even back when my children were young (my youngest is now 17), I used to make sure I had a child in arms so I had to receive on the tongue. In NO churches, I only receive from the priest and only the Host. Otherwise I go to the Latin Mass whenever I can. It just shouldn't be this hard.

  9. Ugh! I couldn't imagine receiving a host that was laden with perfume! In our parish, the priest is pretty consistent about which line he has. And so we sit on that side. Although I've received in my hands for as long as I can remember, I have thought about receiving on the tongue, but the contact has always turned me away. That being said, I have this friend who goes up to Communion with her husband and they both receive in their hands, then step to the side and receive Jesus at the same time, as a reflection of their union with him and to each other. I have always thought that it would be nice if my husband and I could do that, but as we are unequally yoked (Baptize/Confirmed Catholic, but not practicing) right now, I don't think that's going to happen any time soon.

  10. I won't receive on the tongue from an EMHC (I counted 11 yesterday). Twice EMHCs have dropped the Body of Christ that I was trying to receive on the tongue. It's not worth it (receiving on the tongue, that is) if there is a risk of Jesus falling to the floor.

    On another note, how do you feel about the EHMCs blessing your girls?

  11. We have the same problem. The same terrified looks. fingers and hands in the mouth. Perfume and cologne enough to make a person nearly throw up. It makes me nervous receiving and I feel rather convicted about receiving on the tongue. I'll line hop to receive from the consecrated and steady hands of a priest. :) And yes, I almost always have a babe in arms so my options are limited.
    Fewer (or no) extraordinary ministers and altar rails would be lovely!

  12. Hi Cam! I go through the same thing. I prefer to receive on the tongue, but I find that I tend to receive on the hand from an EMHC unless my hands are full with a baby. It's kind of tough. I'm sure the EMHC's do dread when people want to receive on the tongue, because so few people do it these days, and like you said, this makes me a bit sad. I was just grateful that I didn't get any looks for receiving the precious blood while I was visibly pregnant. :)

  13. It's just not a big deal here in our very large parish. Perhaps there is better training of EMHCs, but there are always folks who prefer to receive on the tongue, and I've not seen any disasters, hands or fingers in mouths, etc. (double yuck!)

    I think it must just be a very "live and let live" parish when It comes to these things, in the same way that no one looks funny at the few ladies who wear hats or chapel veils.


  14. UGH! I can't stand when people where so much perfume/cologne. I know it is awful, but I grew up partly in South Florida (East Coast) and it was not uncommon to see elderly women wearing tons of makeup, big jewelry, immodest clothes, and way too much perfume so we used to joke that they wore so much perfume to hide the fromaldahyde. (I know it is awful. I was a teenager. Teens do much worse things don't they?) I think maybe some people really don't realize they have to much on. I think others think they should have so much on. And it can be particularly bad at Church where you are all so close together but it is awful to have an EMHC wearing it such that it gets on the Eucharist.

    You have my sympathies in that regard. Personally though, I'd struggle through it. I have a general policy that I only receive in the hand when I am/have been sick and don't want to risk spreading known germs.

  15. For me, the perfume would set off my allergies and my chest would be tight, my head throbbing, my sinus' and eyes burning and my whole body aching as if starved of oxygen for the rest of the day.

    Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should NEVER wear anything that might set off parishioners allergies.

    At least if they sit in the pew behind me I can get up and move.

  16. As for anyone besides the Priest blessing my child, they best not!

    Honestly, if they are so ignorant as to try to do a priestly blessing then they should NOT be Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. If they are not ignorant then they are heretics and should not be Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

    For these reasons I send donations yearly to Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary-- we need more priests with THAT kind of training!


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