Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Please don’t touch my tongue — comments?

July 4th, 2017, Promulgated by Hopefull

I think it is time to post on something relevant to the Year of the Eucharist, and to encourage comments on a subject for which almost every communicant seems to have an opinion, and nobody is saying anything. First, let’s say what this is not — it is not about changing any church policy.  It’s not about any particular church or priest. It’s more about awareness and care, and ultimately even more reverent reception of the Eucharist.

To recap current practice, and risk oversimplifying:

1) the Novus Ordo (OF) permits receiving the sacred host in the hand or on the tongue, and allows the celebrant to offer the Precious Blood to the congregation, or not.  Most (but not all) parishes long ago ripped out their altar rails, making kneeling or rising again from the floor of the church, unaided, difficult for some of us. Therefore, Novus Ordo communicants principally receive communion by standing in line.

2) the Latin Mass (EF), while not widely available in most dioceses, in my limited experience, only makes the sacred host available on the tongue, kneeling, at an altar rail or kneeler where available.

What I want to dialogue about here is tongue-touching. It’s bad enough from a priest, but from the lay Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion in the Novus Ordo, positively yucky — IMO. It must be yucky to them too! (It was for me, when I was a “Eucharistic Minister” as the title was in those days.) Of course it does not change WHO we are receiving, nor the awesome gift of the Eucharist, but it is a distraction at a moment when we most want to be recollected, thankful, intimate with the Lord. (And even thinking “Please, don’t touch my tongue” is, itself, a distraction.) For the most part, I think tongue-touching is unnecessary, could be avoided with a bit more awareness.

Pope Benedict’s Preference:

During Pope Benedict’s last visit to the US he gave Communion on the tongue and only to recipients kneeling. See excerpt below and picture from the Vatican Website:

That fact alone makes receiving on the tongue worth considering, even for diehard “in the hand” communicants.

Three observations:

  1. When the smaller hosts began to be used, I wondered if it were a plot to force us all to receive in the hand. The incidence of tongue-touching increased, it seemed, with use of the smaller host, understandably so. I don’t really see any good reason for the smaller hosts, except perhaps for First Communicants?
  2. It appears to me that the OF moving Communion line introduced more risk of dropping the Eucharist, even when someone is receiving in the hand. And bowing, saying “Amen” before the host is received, then quickly getting out of the way for the next person is, in itself, a distraction. I actually think the priest walking down the line at the altar rail is quicker, without rushing the communicant, but I’m not sure there is less tongue-touching, as the priest may have a more obscured view, a greater distance from his eye to the communicant’s tongue, than in the communion line. (BTW — I was instructed in growing up with the Latin Mass NOT to rise until the person beside me had already received for two reasons: 1) to avoid stumbling, falling into the priest or onto the Eucharist, but 2) also to avoid distracting the person receiving. Sometimes, with kneelers, it isn’t possible to delay.)
  3. In the last few years, I’ve noticed (again, in my limited experience) that there are two ways of placing the host on the tongue. The most common way is that the priest’s index finger is below the tongue, and his thumb above. Virtually all the tongue touching experiences I’ve had were in this configuration, underneath and out of the priest’s view. But the other configuration is with the thumb (just the tip of the thumb) on the bottom and the index finger on top. Although I’ve had no tongue-touching in this configuration, perhaps it isn’t common enough for any valid statistics? I’ve also noticed this configuration allows the priest to press gently on the host if there seems to be a danger of its falling.

So what do you think? And does it vary by whether we are in flu season or not? Or if your health is already compromised? Do you ever choose from whom to receive Communion based on your past track record with a particular priest or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion? Is it a distraction at Communion waiting for a wet finger jolt? Why does this seem to be too sensitive to talk about?


“Oh where have they laid my Lord?”

         On July 22, Feast of St. Mary Magdalene,         

the following clipping was added here:



Bishop Matano giving Communion during March for Life 2018 with ‘thumb down’ position.


7 Responses to “Please don’t touch my tongue — comments?”

  1. gaudium says:

    I had trouble avoiding touching the communicants’ tongues while distributing Holy Communion until I switched to the finger on top, thumb below method — just to see if it worked better. It works beautifully and flawlessly. Every priest, deacon, and EMHC should be trained to use this method.

  2. christian says:

    Yes, I think the finger on top, thumb below method is an excellent method when giving Holy Communion on the tongue. During my many years of distributing Holy Communion as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, I encountered getting my finger(s) wet from someone’s tongue when distributing Holy Communion on the tongue, but thankfully it was quite rare.

    I cannot help but think in a good many of those cases, it had to do with the recipient moving their mouth and tongue forward (which also involves a bobbing movement of the head, or a diving movement of the head and upper torso) while I was in the process of placing the Eucharist on their tongue. It may have been due to a concern that I would miss their tongue, or it may have been out of zealousness for the Holy Eucharist.
    (I think there are those who may not be conscious that they are doing so). There is more chance of missing someone’s tongue when they are moving. Again, thankfully these instances are rare.

    In any case, it would be more advantageous for the recipient to prepare for receiving Holy Communion on the tongue, by opening their mouth and sticking out their tongue, and after doing so, remain in that same position without moving, until they have received the Eucharist.

    Sometimes the method and coordination of a priest or Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist may be to blame for a recipient’s tongue being touched. But sometimes a bobbing or diving recipient with their mouth and tongue moving during the placement of Eucharist on the tongue may be to blame.

    I can tell you that it’s a very unpleasant experience getting a finger or fingers wet from a recipient’s tongue. Not only does it feel gross, but you feel contaminated by oral bacteria and additionally feel that you will be passing that bacteria to others receiving Holy Communion after them.

    Another concern of mine is someone(s) receiving the Cup when they are sick with a cold or respiratory infection, or have a communicable disease that can be spread orally. There are those who are under the false impression that because it’s a Communion Cup, there is no danger of bacteria and viruses spreading. It’s not being considerate of others to take the Cup if you are sick with a cold or respiratory infection, or have a communicable disease that can be spread by sputum, oral secretions, or mucous membranes of the mouth.

    Perhaps during this Year of the Eucharist, we could all be more cognizant on how we distribute and how we receive Holy Communion, as well as how we prepare our hearts, souls, and bodies to receive Holy Communion.

  3. raymondfrice says:

    I have seen extremes on this. In St Peter’s in Rome , I have heard that everyone receives on the tongue because many people receiving in the hand would take the Holy Eucharist home with them as a souvenir. I also have personally received from a Polish priest who put the cyboreum in front of me and said “Take and Eat” and told me to pick the HE out of the cup!!
    I prefer the present way with a appropriate placement of the servers’s fingers: except slow down the line so things can be done properly!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

  4. true faith says:

    Let’s be very frank. Difficulties with touching the tongue while receiving communion is a modern Catholic problem because of the modern post Vatican II liturgical practice of standing instead of kneeling(or staying seated if you are physically unable to kneel) to receive communion.

    It took the once centuries old practice of being at the Lord’s Table on your knees waiting to be fed the Eucharist in a more contemplative fashion – to receiving the Eucharist in a more hurried fashion on your feet ( which by comparison )is a walk through a buffet line.

    I remember all things pre- Vatican II as a child. I was in one of the the last Confirmation Classes who made their Confirmation at age 10 during the last few years before Vatican II. I remember the confirmation slap by the Bishop and the exhortation that we must be ready to suffer persecution for our faith. I remember Mass pre Vatican II “taking as long as it needed to take.” There were only two Mass times on a Sunday. There were no Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening Masses. People understood that church was central to Sunday, there was no rush to finish Mass as soon as possible to get out the door to participate in their recreational pursuits, household shopping, and social activities. Strict Blue Laws were in place. Sunday was for church and family. I remember having Sunday dinner after coming home from church and then watching Bishop Fulton Sheen on T.V.

    I still remember waiting directly behind those kneeling at the altar railing across the entire front of the altar to receive the Eucharist. Receiving the Eucharist was not a rushed affair then. It took a while. Mass was not timed down to the minute by the priests. I don’t remember these touching the tongue “accidents” occurring while receiving the Host on the tongue then.

    It seems that an unintentional byproduct of Vatican II was a new casualness with all things holy. Churches were redecorated to look ” hip ” to fit in to the culture. People showed up to Mass in shorts, mini skirts, jeans and flip-flops. Extra Masses were added on Sunday to accommodate parishioners. Mass seemed sped up and I would watch adults walk down the aisle to receive communion while standing and then continue walking out the side door to their car. Soon people would keep their cars running in the parking lot and walk out after receiving communion to get into their cars which were left running. Saturday Masses were later added so that parishioners could meet their Sunday obligation in advance, and have their Sundays free.

    Receiving communion in the hand has come as a natural necessity to keep the line moving, as it is too difficult to land the Host on the tongue of someone standing and moving along at a fast pace to get back to his or her pew in time for when the priest begins the after communion prayer, announcements, and the proclamation of the ending of Mass. After all, Mass seems to be timed down to 30 to 40 minutes depending on the priest and the parish.

    Whatever happened to the silent time set aside for personal prayer after receiving the Eucharist ? I remember being instructed to either place my hands over my face or to close my eyes in prayer after communion for several minutes. from what others have responded, this is a practice from the past and there is no time allotted for this in most Masses in today’s world.

  5. Diane Harris says:

    True Faith, my memory is exactly as yours, except for the cars running …. the gasoline crisis (and alternate day fill-ups) probably took care of that! I remember hosts being larger (they are still available today) and I do think the smallish hosts have exacerbated the problem. I also remember waiting at the altar rail until the next person received, so that my getting up wouldn’t distract them, or risk falling into the ciborium. I also remember that the paten gave me some sense of protecting the Body of Christ. Perhaps some near misses are caused by concern that the host will drop? I have often thought as I receive on the tongue in line that I’d like to extend my hands as a paten under my chin, but I’m afraid the priest might think I wanted to receive in my hands! We need time to make a true thanksgiving and unless one is among the first few to receive, there often is not enough time. Priests who refuse to purify the vessels at the altar also cause the time for thanksgiving to be too short. Sometimes it seems to me that just to remain kneeling and offering thanksgiving is a better solution than trying to resume thanksgiving after the recessional, when most everyone is talking up a storm. Is there another solution? Thanks for the memories, True Faith.

  6. Diane Harris says:

    The good news in the the media story this evening is about Bishop Matano’s suggestions for mitigating the chance of catching the (now widespread!) flu in Church. Hopefully, the pastors will implement all his suggestions. However, there are still further opportunities I’d like to see included. One, mentioned above, is using the larger hosts to minimize tongue touching. When my tongue gets touched at the communion rail week after week I have to assume it is happening to others receiving before me as well, and that I am receiving a petrie dish full of organisms, not my own. I have adjusted my own Mass attendance in this flu season where needed to avoid the tongue touching risk.

    A larger host leaves room for the priest’s fingers and for my tongue, without having to contact each other. I just don’t understand the desire for smaller hosts. There is a hand configuration (thumb down) that seems particularly effective at avoiding tongue/finger contact. Some would say the answer is to receive in my own hand, but NO, that is not the solution. That is forcing me into a practice which is abhorrent to some, myself included. AND we have the right to receive on the tongue without being intimidated by tongue-touching (and sometimes hand reception isn’t even an option.)

    I would like to point out other sanitary practices which churches could follow to help reduce the potential to spread disease. Let’s remember the spots which thousands of people touch every Sunday morning — door handles of the church (entering and leaving), missalettes and hymnals, and the top back of the pew in front as we kneel (or some of us help ourselves up from kneeling). Also, a little investment in sanitizer, available in a few spots around the church, would be very helpful, not just for the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, but to those present to help us convey fewer germs. Keep those door handles and pew backs sanitized on a regular basis. I don’t know what can be done about the hymnals and missalettes. I buy and bring my own missalette, hopefully isolating my own germs!

    If you have other ideas to post, please do so. I understand this input will be sent to His Excellency in the next few days, and to thank him as well. Be healthy! And let’s keep each other healthy too. It seems like the Christian thing to do!

  7. Diane Harris says:

    In one of the March for Life pictures we can see clearly that Bp. Matano is using the ‘thumb down’ position which some feel is much safer, and less likely to ‘tongue touch’ which can lead to spreading illness. Maybe this picture (just appended to the post above) will encourage other priests to give it a try too?

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