From the Pastor: Tutorial on Receiving Holy Communion
If the following article seems strangely familiar to you, congratulations! You actually read it less than two months ago! I usually don’t re-run articles for at least a few years, but this helpful tutorial just ran over the 4th of July weekend and I see that I need to run it again. It really is helpful for the person receiving Our Lord to know how to do so properly as well as being very helpful for the one distributing Holy Communion when everyone knows what to do.
This is either a reminder or a tutorial on how to -- and how not to -- receive Holy Communion at a Traditional Latin Mass. It is a reminder for those who have been attending for a while and a tutorial for all of the new people, whom we are welcoming by the busload, it seems! Due to the covid “condition red” we are experiencing, there are a few guidelines from the diocese to which we must adhere. First of all, by now everyone knows the drill about staying 6 feet away from everyone who is not in your household. The lines in the aisles are reminders of how great a distance that is and we ask you to stay back from the person in front of you in the Communion line. Of course, you don’t have to stay away from your family members, so everyone else sees you bunched up like a normal family going up to Communion during normal times, and they have a tendency to revert to normalcy as well. How can I put this? We are asked to refrain from being normal in oh, so many ways! Stay back! Have some fun with it. Bring a six foot stick and... no, no, no, not at Mass. Leave that for the grocery store. Ok, so you have now approached the front of the church and there is an altar rail, or Communion rail, in use. Please be anti-social there as well. It is permitted to kneel down together as a family, you know, side by side as if you like each other, but leave a gap between you and any non-family member who is already kneeling at the rail. I know, you don’t breath out of your ears, so it seems silly to have to stay away from people to your side when “they” claim that the anti-social distancing is to keep you from breathing virus globs into other people’s eyes, nose, and mouth, but then they also want you to avoid what? Ear to ear infections? Or perhaps they are worried that there are aliens among us with breathing apparatus on the side instead of in front. Laugh at it if you will, but then just do it.
If you cannot kneel due to physical infirmity, don’t panic. Stand at the rail and I will still give you Holy Communion. Or, if you are in a wheelchair, come to one end or the other and I can easily step down to give you Our Lord. Holy Communion is distributed from the priest’s left to right and he will be accompanied by an altar boy holding a paten. I will hold the Host before you and give you a blessing. While I am doing that, tilt your head slightly back, open your mouth and stick out your tongue slightly past your bottom lip. Don’t stick your tongue out all the way unless you can keep it straight instead of reaching down toward the floor à la Gene Simmons of the old rock band, Kiss. There is no safe way to place a host on a tongue which is pointed downward. You do not say “amen” or “howdy Father” or anything else as you do at the Novus Ordo Mass. Please don’t wait until the Host comes close to your mouth before you open up and reach out with your tongue. People who do that usually also lunge forward with a licking motion. If you stay silent and still and already have your mouth open and tongue slightly out, you will not lick me. If you are a “licker” you will lick the back of either my index finger or thumb. That doesn’t normally affect anyone else, since I grab the next Hosts with the dry pad side of my thumb and finger, but the next “licker” will get a mouthful of whatever you put on my fingernail, and if there was a licker before you, you got what s/he left behind! Seriously, though, don’t speak or lick or lunge. It’s been a long time since I have been licked, but some of you give my reflexes a workout!
When kneeling it is quite natural to keep your hands folded with palms together in front of your breast but please don’t do that at the altar rail. The paten must go under your chin to catch the Host or particles of the Host that may fall. If your fingers are in the way, the paten cannot do its job. Also, if you wear a mask, please, for the same reason, don’t leave the mask under your chin. The mask is supposedly only protecting others if you have the coronavirus and if you do, the virus will be concentrated on the mask, which then gets transferred to the paten when it touches it, which then passes it on down the line to every other mask or fingers that get in the way and, finally, to the priest as he purifies it. So please take your mask off completely before receiving Our Lord. And that’s enough for today’s lesson.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka