While visiting a church this Fall, my personal moral compass was challenged. The woman making opening remarks stated that “Communion must be received in the palm of one’s hand, with one’s arm fully extended.” As soon as those words exited her mouth, my heart began beating heavily, and my mind started racing. I knew our church’s stance on this issue. The Eucharist may be received in either the hand or on the tongue.
In fact, the USCCB recently reiterated this when it announced that:
“Those who receive Communion may receive either in hand or on the tongue, and the decision should be that of the individual receiving, not the person distributing Communion.”
The GIRM, The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, in its directives for distributing Communion, states:
The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. . . . The priest raises the host slightly and shows it to each, saying, Corpus Christi (the body of Christ). The communicant replies Amen and receives the sacrament either on the tongue or, where this is allowed and if the communicant so chooses, in the hand. (160–161)
However, it is challenging to go against instructions individual parishes have provided to us or go against the social norms imposed for the just purpose of proactively preventing the spread of COVID-19.
On this particular day, throughout the Mass, the decision that I was going to make was eating away at me, “should I act in accordance with the instructions to receive our Lord in hand or should I do what feels most reverent in my heart and mind?” Eventually, I came to my senses; of course, the answer was in prayer. I asked the Blessed Virgin Mary to allow me to see what God wished of me at that moment to best please him.
The homily was next after this silent prayer. And what do you know, the homily content was about knowing what is right and acting on it. The priest shared how so many individuals know what is right but lack the courage to act on it. Whether they are fearful of others’ opinions, the challenge itself, or even the law in some cases, they choose to ignore what they know to be right in their heart.
With this prayer I mind, I also assumed that the individual that accompanied me to Mass would choose to receive by mouth before me in the communion line, and it would be easier for me to do so as well.
When it came time to approach the altar for Communion, my friend stepped out… and into the other line. My heart dropped, and I was immediately filled with fear, but I knew what I was being called to do. I reverently walked up to the extraordinary minister and knelt onto the linoleum, waiting to receive our Lord. The gentleman kindly blessed me, most likely assuming my knelling was a personal practice in my home parish. I continued to wait, kneeling on the floor, and the gentleman blessed me a second time. Finally, he realized that I would not go anywhere and lifted up the host, almost asking me a question. I quietly said, “yes, please,” and he hesitantly administered our Lord and Savior on my tongue.
While none of this was easy, I knew it was what I was being called to do. I walked back to my pew and was tearful the rest of the Mass. I was incredibly moved by this experience. I knew that no matter what, I must do what the Lord was placing on my heart, even if it is not accepted socially or standard practice. In this monumental moment in my spiritual life, God granted me the courage nessesary to do his will. I hope to continue carrying that courage throughout the rest of my life.
As you go about your day-to-day life, I encourage you to consider the opportunities where you can demonstrate the gift of courage that the Lord has granted to you. In these often terrifying moments, I beg you to remember that the only thing we have to fear… is the Lord. Keep strong in your beliefs, and never turn from what is right, even in moments of most challenging adversity.
“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them: for it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail or forsake you.”