When I went through RCIA in 2013-2014, we were taught how to receive the Eucharist and had to go through practicing it several times. I remember that during one class, someone mentioned that it is possible to receive the Sacrament on the tongue, but no one described how to do this or demonstrated it. It seemed to just be an obligatory mention of something that almost no one in our entire parish ever does.
So, I naturally began my days as a Catholic by receiving Communion in my hands. To be honest, receiving it on the tongue seemed weird. I was so awed by the simple fact of being able to receive Communion at all, I just went along with how everyone else did it and never thought twice about it.
Then one day, very early in my days as a Catholic, I received the Blessed Sacrament while holding Sis. She would have been two at the time, and I was holding her in the crook of my left arm so that I could reach around her, receive the host in my left hand, with my right hand underneath, as you’re supposed to, and then take the host with my right hand and place it in my mouth. I had done this successfully before. No big deal.
Except this time, after the priest (or extraordinary minister, I can’t remember which) placed the host in my hand, she quickly reached out and smacked her hand on top of mine, breaking the host and knocking it in two pieces onto the floor. I was horrified, and immediately knelt down, picked up the host, and consumed it off the floor. I felt sick that this had happened, and vowed to never again receive Communion while holding a child in my arms.
At that time, since Sis was two and easily mobile, it seemed like a reasonable thing to assert. I could just put her down before holding my hands out for communion. I could even hold her in place with my mommy knee vice (see here) if necessary.
What I didn’t count on at the time was that I would someday have another little one to hold while receiving communion, one whom I would not be able to just set down so I could receive the Body of Jesus.
About a year after the Eucharist-on-the-Floor incident, I read this blog post by Kendra at Catholic All Year. It contains her assertion that the best way to receive Communion while holding a baby is on the tongue, and her statement that she always receives it that way even when not holding a baby, and that the rest of her family does too.
I remember finding the post interesting, particularly the fact that even her children receive the Eucharist on the tongue, and always have. But I didn’t pay much more attention to it. The Communion-while-holding -a-baby issue still was not relevant for me, and I was not interested in receiving Communion that way just as a regular practice.
Fast forward to my first Mass after Bubba was born. He was a super easygoing baby, but he was never one of those newborns who would sleep in his carseat through Mass. As soon as the music started, he was wide awake and wanted out of his seat. So, the first time I received Communion after he was born, I was holding him, and I knew I had to receive on the tongue. I don’t think I really thought about it ahead of time, I just did it. I was nervous, and I kind of messed up (I opened my mouth and received the Eucharist without remembering to say “Amen”). But it wasn’t as weird as I thought it would be. In fact, after doing it a few times, I began to really like it. I realized that it felt more reverent to me to receive Jesus that way. My husband was intrigued when I told him this, but still a bit uncertain about trying it himself. So each time we would come to the part of the Mass when it was time to receive the Eucharist, if he had been holding Bubba he’d hand him over to me for Communion.
After many months of this, he finally decided to try receiving on the tongue, so he made sure to be holding the baby at the appropriate time and went for it (at the time it made it feel less odd to receive on the tongue while holding the baby, as if the baby-in-arms was a good excuse for the otherwise strange behavior).
Since I wasn’t holding him, I found myself going up to receive communion with my hands free for the first time in about nine months. I reverted to receiving in my hands.
I didn’t like it at. all.
I found that I did not have the same sense of reverence when receiving the Body of Jesus in my hands as I did when receiving on the tongue. Frankly, it didn’t feel right to go back to receiving the Eucharist in my hands.
From that point forward, I have received communion only on the tongue, whether I am holding Bubba or not.
When it was time for my oldest daughter to receive her First Holy Communion, we discussed with her that her Dad and I receive on the tongue and why, but we let her decide how she wanted to receive. The people in charge of First Communion at our parish did not even mention receiving the Eucharist on the tongue in any of the kids’ classes, the retreat, or the rehearsal. I was quite disappointed by this (and afterwards requested that they correct this omission, which they have said they will do for next year’s class), but I taught Miss how to receive on the tongue, using some unconsecrated hosts that we were able to get from the parish for practice at home. Miss was concerned that she would feel weird and be embarrassed about being different from the other children if she chose to receive on the tongue. She ended up deciding to do it anyway, though.
It was an incredible moment that I will never forget (and I don’t think she will either).
I would like to point out that I do think it is possible to receive the Eucharist reverently in the hands. I have done it, and I have seen other people do it. I know people who do it. However, in my experience, it feels even more reverent and adoring to receive the Body of Christ on the tongue, and I think it is nearly impossible to receive it irreverently in this manner, as it forces one to recognize just Whom we are receiving (here’s some more info about receiving this way, with a quote from St. Thomas Aquinas that states that only consecrated hands should be allowed to touch the Sacrament). That’s why I do it.
I kind of stumbled unintentionally into the practice of receiving the Eucharist on my tongue. But now, it has become standard practice for my family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.