Critics misrepresent Cardinal Sarah’s call for reverence in receiving Holy Communion

Why are so many avoiding the key question: Why has belief in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist diminished in recent decades?

Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, swings a censer as he celebrates Mass in Port-au-Prince in this 2011 file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

“It is stupid of modern civilization to have given up believing in the devil,” Monsignor Ronald Knox famously stated decades ago, “when he is the only explanation of it.” We might borrow his phrase and apply it to the liturgical life in the Roman Catholic Church in these last 50 years. Indeed, the chaos, disobedience, dreadful music, and irreverence that have characterized far too much of our liturgical life these last 50 years seem only explainable through the Devil’s machinations. How else to explain the twisted and tortured line that leads from “Panis Angelicus” to “Sing a New Church”?

But, please forgive me, if I am being gauche on three counts: First, numerous good people with good intentions have been involved in the Latin Church’s liturgical life in these last 50 years. Second, I’ve had the bad taste to suggest that the Devil exists. Third, I’ve tied the two together by suggesting that the Evil One might fool good people and even use good intentions to serve his purposes. This is a grievous offense. Or, so it would seem, if one reads the apoplectic reactions to a preface written by Robert Cardinal Sarah to a new study on communion in the hand published by an Italian priest, Don Federico Bortoli, under the title, The Distribution Of Communion On The Hand: A Historical, Juridical And Pastoral Survey.

In the preface, of which we only now have excerpts, Cardinal Sarah recalls the Fatima Apparitions and the Angel of Peace’s words to the poor children of Fatima that we must make reparation for men’s sins against the Holy Eucharist. Cardinal Sarah asks what these outrages are. He describes Black Masses, communion taken while in a state of mortal sin, and intercommunion. But these are not the only things that constitute profanations of the Sacrament. Other profanations include those “errors sown in minds of the faithful so they no longer believe in the Eucharist.” This means that “the most insidious diabolical attack consists in trying to extinguish faith in the Eucharist, by sowing errors and fostering an unsuitable way of receiving it.” The errors sown include “theologians who persist in mocking or snubbing the term ‘transubstantiation’ despite the constant references of the Magisterium.”

Cardinal Sarah then makes the seemingly straightforward and uncontroversial point that our praxis can foster or undermine our belief in the real, substantial presence of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine.

“If even the parish priest does not pay attention to the fragments [of the Host], if he administers communion in such a way that the fragments can be scattered, then it means that Jesus is not in them, or that He is ‘up to a certain point.’” To combat this “it is appropriate to promote the beauty, fittingness and pastoral value of a practice which developed during the long life and tradition of the Church, that is, the act of receiving Holy Communion on the tongue and kneeling.” (Note that Cardinal Sarah explicitly recognizes that this is a practice that organically arose in the life of the Latin Church; he doesn’t deny that it has not always been the practice.)

Cardinal Sarah then asks a natural question in light of the Church’s great tradition and plummeting belief in the Real Presence: “Why do we insist on receiving Communion standing and on the hand? Why this attitude of lack of submission to the signs of God?” With this book’s publication, Cardinal Sarah hopes “there can be a rediscovery and promotion of the beauty and pastoral value of” receiving communion kneeling and on the tongue in the Latin Church. “[T]his is an important question on which the Church today must reflect.”

None of this is controversial. In Cardinal Sarah’s typical firm but gentle manner he notes a problem—a lack of faith in the Real Presence—and notes some possible causes. He then suggests a potential response given the mystery we encounter in the Eucharist. If one believes what the Church teaches, including the true, real and substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist, it is not too much of a stretch to suppose that the Devil—if one indeed believes he exists—would try to find ways to undermine the belief in the Real Presence. And certainly one way the Evil One might do that is through a widespread practice by which communicants pop the Lord into their mouths like a mere Tic-Tac, not caring whether pieces of the host end up trampled under foot.

But this common sense was not well received by professional liturgists such as Father Anthony Ruff, OSB, or Rita Ferrone. Father Ruff’s response to Cardinal Sarah on the blog Pray Tell, is entitled: “Cardinal Sarah: Receive Communion Kneeling and on the Tongue to be on the Side of the Archangel Michael rather than Lucifer.” Rather than engage Cardinal Sarah’s actual argument and suggestions, Father Ruff states that Cardinal Sarah’s “grasp of what has happened in eucharistic theology in the last 75 years is simply shocking.” Father Ruff further states that he hopes that the Pope will “swat [Sarah] down really hard” (his emphasis, not mine.)

Ferrone, another frequent contributor to Pray Tell, takes her ire out on Sarah in the pages of Commonweal. Her essay is stunningly disingenuous and uncharitable. She says that Sarah’s preface demonstrates “that what he really does best is sow division.” She cites his previous mild suggestion that, where possible, the Latin Church return to its ancient, venerable, and until the last 50 years, unbroken, historical practice of priests celebrating Mass ad orientem as one example of his fomenting division. (Ferrone tendentiously describes this as a call for Mass “celebrated with the priest’s back to the people.”)

With respect to his preface, Ferrone writes that Sarah “fulminates over Satanism and black masses, and then—astonishingly—links these phenomena with receiving communion in the hand. He evaluates this liturgical practice as pure evil, a tool in the hand of Satan, promoting unbelief. Those who take communion in the hand are on the side of Lucifer in the great cosmic struggle of good against evil.” She tells her readers, if “you think I am exaggerating, see for yourself,” by reading his words. Ferrone then shoehorns her interpretation onto Sarah’s words by doing a supremely dishonest thing: she quotes Sarah’s words regarding Satan’s attack on the belief in the Real Presence and through the creative use of ellipses excises 800 words. She then combines Sarah’s words regarding the Devil’s attack on the Eucharist with his questions regarding why we as a Church insist on “communicating standing in the hand.” This is her proof that Sarah thinks those who take communion in the hand while standing are in league with the Satanists. If you think I am exaggerating simply compare the quotation in Ferrone’s piece with the full translation of Sarah’s excerpts here.

This jury-rigged quotation becomes the linchpin upon which Ferrone calls for Pope Francis to remove Sarah’s as Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. In the process, Ferrone continues her dissembling. First, she suggests that communion in the hand was the regular practice of Catholics for nearly the first millennium of the Church. This is hardly an uncontroversial historical claim. Indeed, the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff has stated, the “history of the liturgy . . . makes clear that rather early on a process took place to change this practice.” Indeed, “[f]rom the time of the Fathers of the Church, a tendency was born and consolidated whereby distribution of Holy Communion in the hand became more and more restricted in favor of distributing Holy Communion on the tongue.” This was motivated by two things “first, to avoid, as much as possible, the dropping of Eucharistic particles” and “second, to increase among the faithful devotion to the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.” Thus, even granting that this practice was widespread in the early Church—even the 900 years Ferrone claims to be normative—it says nothing about whether we should do it now, especially if the Church had such good reasons to embrace communion kneeling and on the tongue.

Nor is Ferrone correct to say that the practice of communion in the hand standing “was revived after Vatican II.” Here, Cardinal Sarah, demonstrates that he is quite aware of the history of liturgical practice in the last 50 years—and unlike many, Sarah is unwilling to deny that truth, even if it is hard. The practice of communion in the hand was not revived after the Council. It was imposed. Unlike the communion practices of the first centuries of the Church, this is beyond historical dispute. Communion in the hand began as an act of disobedience prior to the Council in parishes in Holland and spread around the world. In 1969, Pope Paul VI allowed, through an indult, reception on the hand under certain, specific circumstances. This “option” soon became normative in the United States and elsewhere. Reports of Catholics who want to commune kneeling and on the tongue being denied communion are legion. Indeed, there is a reason the Vatican has had to instruct priests that they may not deny communion to those who kneel. Attempt to take communion kneeling in most parishes in America and you will be looked upon as if you just arrived from Mars.

Ferrone’s essay, however, avoids the very real question that Cardinal Sarah is willing to ask directly: Why has belief in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist diminished? (Some surveys suggest that most Catholics do not believe that Christ is really present in the Eucharist.) Why have communion lines gotten longer but confessional lines shorter? If we take seriously that we are embodied souls whose bodily actions both affect and effect what we believe, is it really so unreasonable to think that changing our practice of receiving communion, overnight, might undermine belief in the Real Presence and the sublimity of communion?

(By the way, I write this as a cradle Catholic who has probably taken communion in the hand 97% of my time as a Catholic. While I don’t believe I was lacking in faith in Christ’s real presence then, I do believe kneeling and receiving on the tongue has strengthened my belief. I certainly don’t believe I am in league with the Devil when I take communion on the hand. But I also don’t believe that Cardinal Sarah thinks I am or that he is suggesting I was less of a Christian when I communed this way. Rather, I think Cardinal Sarah is doing exactly what he is called to do as prefect of his congregation: help us deepen our love and understanding of Christ’s true presence in the Eucharist and respond to that presence by bringing Christ to the world.)

How can Ferrone so badly misunderstand and misrepresent what Cardinal Sarah says? Ultimately, the answer lies in the lens through which Ferrone views the cardinal’s words. Hers is apparently the lens of power and politics, not of faith and service. Her essay is suffused with language more appropriate to a political campaign than the context of faith. She accuses Sarah of “extreme rhetoric.” She says Sarah is “playing to his base.” He is a dilettante with a “mainstream post in a field about which he knows little.” In her short essay, Ferrone employs the term “mainstream” four times. According to Ferrone, Sarah is trafficking in “talking points” taken from the “reform-of-the-reform movement” which is “clearly shaping his agenda.” Sarah is “not serving the church.”

Naturally, if one views Cardinal Sarah as playing to a base, she is going to fail to apprehend what Sarah is saying. But anyone who has spent time with Sarah’s God or Nothing or The Power of Silence has spent time in the company of a spiritual master. This is a man of prayer, a priestly man, a man without guile. Cardinal Sarah is a man deeply in love with Jesus Christ. He is utterly convinced that Christ is the answer to every question of the human heart. For Sarah, the Devil is not a metaphor but a reality who prowls around the world seeking the ruin of souls, attempting to divide us from Christ, our Lord and Savior. If this is the lens through which you view the world, you will want to do everything in your power to help men and women grow in their knowledge, love, and reverence of Jesus Christ. Cardinal Sarah wants each of us to be able to say with Saint Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” Kneeling as humble pilgrims when we receive Him might be a good way to start.

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About Conor Dugan 16 Articles
Conor B. Dugan is a husband, father of four, and attorney who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


  1. Rita Ferrone is heterodox.

    Reading her columns is a study in exasperation and a woman with a political progressive agenda attempting to define the Church that way.

    Cardinal Sarah has a grasp of theology that Ferrone and that sometime priest Ruff do not begin to understand.

  2. Cardinal Sarah can and did speak for himself. He is doing nothing more than making himself papable. He sowing discord among the faithful and does nothing more than to take the church back to the middle ages.

    • No, at most he’s wanting to take the Church back 45 years or so, before the sneaking duplicitous people in their overweening arrogance (“I’m an adult, I feed myself”) unlawfully changed to the practice of Communion in the hand.

      Not that returning to the Middle Ages would be a bad thing. It was also known, with reason, as the Age of Faith.

    • Would you say that a zookeeper, seeing his colleagues and visitors treat the animals in a way that harms the animals, and who then tries to teach everyone how to respect the animals and not cause them pain is “sowing discord”?

      Really – is no one allowed to admonish, correct, or even encourage people to give greater honor to Christ in the Eucharist because *some* people might feel bad? If I sin, I ought to feel bad! If through no fault of my own I was taught to receive Holy Communion casually, I need someone to help me to correct that so I can honor Christ and grow in love for Him.

    • You prove the author’s point when you accuse Card. Sarah of writing for a political motive, i.e. to gain votes in the next conclave. For those with a worldly worldview, it is unimaginable that a man might act out of love for God and His Church. Worldliness is the joyless reduction of anything good or true or beautiful into a weapon to gain power and status. What a thumping bore!

    • God is not limited with time. The Traditional Latin Mass is the Mass of All Ages, the Novus Ordo, is NOT!

      What was good and sacred did not become bad in time!

  3. Thank you for such a truth centered and heart-felt support of Cardinal Sarah’s writings. May God bless him and allow him to continue his authentic Catholic teaching in the beautiful manner in which he shares it.

  4. I am afraid that our author does not take seriously enough that the Cardinal’s principal point is, precisely, that Communion-in-the-hand is a serious abuse and an assault on two sacraments at one and the same time: the Holy Eucharist and the Sacred Priesthood. The “revival” of the practice came at the time of the Protestant Reformation, especially through the influence of Bucer, who is eminently clear as to why reception on the tongue is to be eschewed in favor of reception in the hand, namely, to eradicate belief in the Real Presence. Of all the liturgical aberrations after the Council, in my estimation, it is the worst, followed immediately by lay distribution of Holy Communion. That is the Cardinal’s point, pure and simple, and not the scaled-down version the author seeks to present. Which is why the Cardinal says it needs to be abolished.

    • I should also recommend that readers pick up a copy of Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s blockbuster on the topic, “Dominus Est,” available from Newman House Press.

      • I’m so glad to see Abp Athanasious Schneider mentioned. I greatly esteem his teachings and comments along with Cardinal Burke and Cardinal Sarah. They are so comforting as I feel great distress and alarm at what is happening at the Vatican. I have lost so much respect for Francis, some cardinals, bishops, priests and religious. I am frightened at the priests who are same-sexually active, the outrageous changes being made to accommodate and endorse purely evil acts. I cannot even bear to watch him celebrate masses on tv. All of the aberrant behaviors seem to be accepted by so many. I have always and still recieve my LORD on the tongue and want very much to kneel, but cannot get up from the floor. Many things have changed and not for the better.

      • After I read this book I never received Holy Communion in my hand ever again. I now kneel down and receive on my tongue.

    • Thank you Father Stravinkas.
      My Dad before he passed away would council me that when he was growing up (40s) that only half the people in Church ever went to Communion. Reason being it was a Mission Church and the Precious Blood Fathers were spread so thin that confessions were held only infrequently. It was good advise to only receive Communion worthily.
      My Question is how to change the hearts of the Faithful and our Priests and Bishops to be couragous and follow the example Cardinal Sarah is asking of us.

  5. Touché Trish,
    I agree that Conor Dugan responded to Rita Ferrone’s politically INcorrect assessment of Cardinal Sarah’s message regarding ‘communion in the hand’ in a candid, responsible, intellectual, and liturgically correct manner!

  6. I remember a very intelligent friend (1963) who attended a session where one of the deacons from the Chicago (Mundelein) seminary was in fact denying the real presence after the consecration. I told him to report it; of course, the deacon denied that he had said any such thing, but the rot had clearly set in already.

  7. First, let me say how honored I am that Fr. Stravinskas, a priest who I have admired and learned much from for the last 20 years, would comment on my article. (Thank you to everyone who has, but I wanted to respond in particular to Fr. Stravinskas.)

    I thought of including discussion of how communion in the hand being revived now has to be understood in the context of the Protestant Reformation and its dual attack on the Real Presence and the priesthood, but I didn’t see a good place to work it in. I tried to hint at this by saying that just because some in the Early Church communed on the hand does not say anything about whether we should do it now.

    That being said, I would push bad, gently, on the idea that the Cardinal’s principal point is that communion in the hand is an attack on both sacraments. I don’t see that in his actual words. He really does seem focused on the question of reverence. I am certain that he would agree with Fr. Stravinskas, as do I, but I don’t think that was the point he made in the excerpts in English that we have. (Maybe he does in the full preface.) My limited point was simply to respond to the uncharitable attacks on his actual words.

    It is striking to see how Ms. Ferrone made her quotation come together to make her point. She cut 800 words out between the first sentence she quoted from Cardinal Sarah and the second. One might as well take a sentence in the the first paragraph of a book and with ellipses tie it to a sentence in the final paragraph of the book to make one’s point, even if it isn’t what the author said!

    So thank you Father for weighing in! It is a great honor to think you read what I wrote.

  8. With all due respect to Cardinal Sarah for his knowledge and dedication and to the writer of this article, I find the arguments presented unconvincing to me. I believe that at the first Eucharist Christ faced the apostles and distributed His body and blood by handing to them in a similar manner as today. Further it would not surprise me to discover that it was passed from one to another. When, at times, I have not shown proper reverence, it was not due to the liturgy practiced at the time.

    • The Apostles were priests at that point! Further, in all likelihood, they did receive in the mouth and not on the hand because a custom prevalent to this day in Semitic culture is that the host of a meal places the first morsel directly into the mouth of the guest — a remnant of which in our culture is the bride and groom feeding each other the first bites of the wedding cake!

      • I do appreciate the comments and arguments presented in regard to the Cardinal’s observations, but continue to prefer the liturgy as it is practiced today. Half of my life was lived in the before the changes and half after. I was uncomfortable at times when the changes were taking place, but have come to appreciate much as a result of the changes. I believe the reverence remains for those who believe.

        • Have you read the recently released Pew Research Poll? 70 percent of Catholics don’t believe in The Real Presence. Maybe bringing back reverance wouldn’t be such a bad thing

    • Also, John, even if we grant you just for the sake of argument that people at the beginning received in the hand, there is good reason why, for the last thousand years or so, people received kneeling, and on the tongue. Cardinal Sarah addresses this in his introduction, and it is well worth reading the whole thing. Any time in recent centuries that communion in the hand was promoted, it was always by people who wanted to diminish the importance of the Eucharist (the Reformers, the Jansenists,) or diminish the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist in favor of the community meal idea. The Last Supper was the unbloody Passion of Christ, celebrated for the first Priests of His Church, with the understanding that this would be the new and permanent sacrifice offered to God on behalf of sinners. The Apostles knew what a sacrifice was, and they knew how to offer it. They basically used the form of the temple sacrifice, but offered Christ as the perfect victim. If we in some narrow historicist way take only the Last Supper as the model, then are only men allowed at Mass? Ought we to recline at table? You get the point. I would urge everyone to read the whole of Card. Sarah’s introduction. This is the link to the fullest translation in English that I know of.

  9. To me what is important is what I do after receiving the Holy Communion. I like to spend a few minutes kneeling down adoring and talking to Him even when everybody else is standing.

  10. “Father Ruff further states that he hopes that the Pope will ‘swat [Sarah] down really hard’”
    There are two ways of taking this. First the insulting way: that the enemies of Cardinal Sarah think him no better than a fly. Next the (unintended) complimentary way: that the enemies of Cardinal Sarah think him a gadfly (like Socrates) and that his words are like sharp stings to their very thin skin.

  11. What happened at the Last Supper, as far as the distribution of the Bread, after He prayed, was without a doubt, the bread was passed around the table to all of the apostles. They were not concerned, as we are, of gems, or disease being spread along with the Communion. Today, many people would refuse Communion because so many hands had touched it in the process.
    The correct method is the placing on the tongue, by the Priest, or Deacon. This is what the church taught for years, as well as unconsecrated hands could NEVER touch the Chalice, or Ciburium. All of a sudden, we have unconsecrated people giving Communion to the faithful. It is now also permitted to touch these sacred objects with impunity. Is it necessary for us to go to these lengths? I think what they possibly had in mind was the shortage of Priests, and they thought of “how can we get away with this?” That was their answer.
    Go back to the Latin Mass, the one which formed our faith, and obey the rules the church had implemented for hundreds of years. Let’s put the Priest back where he belongs. It is he which stands in the place of Jesus, during the Mass.

  12. Cardinal Robert Sarah is a fresh water in the middle of a desert. How can he maintain such beautiful wisdom, and love for Christ in this era?
    In his age, and about to leave us, I hope he can live with us a little longer, and strengthen us.

  13. Cardinal Sarah is a very holy man and so it stands to reason that there will be those who attack him and referencing Satan in that discussion would be appropriate also. Jesus is alive in the Eucharist. God of all is alive in the Eucharist. Jesus to St. Faustina: “When I come to a human heart in Holy Communion,” He said, “My hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul. But souls do not even pay attention to Me; they leave Me to Myself and busy themselves with other things. … They treat Me as a dead object” (Diary of St. Faustina, 1385) That was the Lord before Vatican II. Wonder what His comment would be now?

  14. I don’t feel good when I help distribute Communion, yet I continue to do so. I quit for several years. Was asked to come back to help out. Our little church was down to 5 Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers. I know Fr. Sarah is right. It was how I was raised. We were taught well back then (pre Vatican II). Then chaos hit. Everything changing all at once. Nuns leaving. Priests marrying. Church music changing. Liturgical dancing in the aisles. Girl altar servers. Eucharistic Ministers. Statues disappearing. Need I go on? We were all so confused. It wasn’t the laity’s fault. We were led.

      • Exactly!
        I remember standing in line while the pastor, often with the help of the assistant priest, distributed the Eucharist.

        We now have Eucharist Ministers in the state where I live.
        I try not to look at then as they cough, use a handkerchief, etc. and then handle the host.

  15. Blessed Paul VI permitted the practice of CITH, while expressing a preference for the traditional practice.

    He also wrote the Encyclical Mysterium Fidei, setting forth, defending, and vindicating the Church’s Faith regarding the Eucharistic Presence. As well as the Credo of the People of God. He can certainly not be accused of disbelieving in the existence and activitty of the evil one.

    It will not do for the defenders of the traditional practkce to cast aspersions on the character, faith, or orthodoxy of those Catholics who have availed themselves of the permission to receive CITH that was granted by that Pope. And it is not easy to understand how a cardinal can call satanic a practice permitted by a beatified Pope.

    “In the preface to a new book on the subject, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, writes: “The most insidious diabolical attack consists in trying to extinguish faith in the Eucharist, by sowing errors and fostering an unsuitable way of receiving it. Truly the war between Michael and his Angels on one side, and Lucifer on the other, continues in the hearts of the faithful.”

    “Satan’s target is the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated Host,” he said.

    The new book, by Don Federico Bortoli, was released in Italian under the title: ‘The distribution of Communion on the hand: a historical, juridical and pastoral survey’ [La distribuzione della comunione sulla mano. Profili storici, giuridici e pastorali].”

    To describe in the way the cardinal does a practice permitted by a beatified Pope, is concerning, to say the least. And it is deplorable that his remarks are being used as an excuse to attack others for doing what they are allowed to. Why can the two modes of reception not grow together in peace, without recriminations on either side ?

    It is, after all, not in the posture of the body, or the externals of the rite, that piety consists, but in the direction of the heart.

    • Michael Davies wrote a booklet called COMMUNION IN THE HAND AND SIMILAR FRAUDS. It’s available online:

      Part of it is this:

      “The consequences of this rebellion became so serious that the Pope consulted the Bishops of the world, and, after obtaining their opinions, promulgated the Instruction Memoriale Domini, in 1969. This Instruction is included [click link above or refer to contents page of this section (back button below)] and will be referred to from time to time. The principal points contained in it are:

      1. The Bishops of the world were overwhelmingly against the innovation.

      2. The traditional manner of distributing Holy Communion must be retained.

      3. It is a sign of reverence which does not detract from the dignity of the communicant.

      4. The innovation could lead to irreverence, profanation, and the adulteration of correct doctrine.


      “The Apostolic See strongly urges bishops, priests, people to observe this law, valid and again confirmed, according to the judgment of the majority of the Catholic episcopate, in the form which the present rite of the sacred liturgy employs, and out of concern for the common good of the Church.””

      “However, a calamitous error of judgment then followed. It was agreed that wherever the practice “has already developed in any place” a two-thirds majority of the episcopal conference could petition the Holy See for permission to legalize the abuse. Quite clearly, the phrase “has already developed” meant by that date, May 28, 1969. Countries where the practice had not developed by that date were obviously excluded from the concession—–and all the English-speaking countries come into this category. Liberal priests in certain countries had found that if they broke the law then the Holy See would amend the law to conform with their disobedience. Liberals in other countries presumed that, if they followed suit, the Vatican would continue to surrender. Their judgment was correct, and not simply as regards Communion in the hand. ”

      There’s a lot more, but I didn’t want to paste all of it here, so here’s the link:

      Essentially, Pope Paul VI gave them an inch, and disobedient Catholics took the proverbial yard, or more.

      “It is, after all, not in the posture of the body, or the externals of the rite, that piety consists, but in the direction of the heart.”

      Oh, yes? So you think it’s okay to kick back and relax and prop your feet on the back of the pew in front of you during the Mass, slouch down to the altar to receive the Host, flip It up and catch It in your mouth the way your would a peanut, and go back to your pew and relax again, as long as “the direction of the heart” is okay, since the postures of the body and the externals don’t matter?

      I doubt it. The postures of the body and the externals of the rite *demonstrate* the direction of the heart. And by dropping all of the postures and externals which had always been connected with the belief in the Real Presence, the Church allowed the impression that since they had changed, so had the belief. And goodness knows there weren’t any homilies being given that discussed the Real Presence, or not many.

      • Where do you live or attend church that you could have ever seen the puerile and gross actions that you describe in this paragraph? “So you think it’s okay to kick back and relax and prop your feet on the back of the pew in front of you during the Mass, slouch down to the altar to receive the Host, flip It up and catch It in your mouth the way your would a peanut, and go back to your pew and relax again…etc

        • I haven’t seen them, I was using them to make a point that postures and externals do matter, contrary to jamesm’s claim that they do not.

    • jamesm, did you read my article? He isn’t calling the practice satanic. He is raising questions about the practice and talking about how the Evil One can use good people and things to chip away at reverence and belief.

    • Paul VI did not so much grant permission as he did to acquiesce in a practice that had been introduced in defiance of Church norms at that time in the Netherlands and in Belgium. I’ve wished that he had been more resolute in condemning and prohibiting it, even if the defiance had continued. Instead, he legitimized it, even if that as not his intention.

  16. It is because I believe in Our Lords Real Presence in the Eucharist that I am exceedingly grateful for the opportunity to reverence Him as I receive Him in my hands. I shall always be grateful for this blessing, and, if the Pope or our Bishop decree that receiving Him in the hand is not permitted, i shall always be grateful for having had this blessing.

  17. Last Sunday I went to the Latin Mass in Lewiston @8:30. The Basilica was quiet when I entered, it was quiet as people arrived for the service except for the Rosary, it was quiet until the entrance of Fr. Parent, at which point we stood for the entrance hymn, and it was quiet when it was supposed to be quiet.

    After the service was over we all exited quietly and as we got to the back of the Basilica the people arriving for the Novus Ordo Mass were assembling, and it was more like a church social gathering than a group of people gathering for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    Cardinal Sarah’s latest book speaks of the virtue of silence and the battle of silence against what he refers to as the “dictatorship of noise”.

    But in essence it is this statement that is amazing and deeply depressing – “Critics misrepresent ?Cardinal Sarah’s call for reverence in receiving Holy Communion.”

    How else should we receive it?

    • How do we get the kneeler back I would love that! I am so impressed by the majority of responses for Our Holy Mother Church by what has been written here and passing this information on to my friends, children, and extended family. The rebirth of our church is happening do not fear I see a rise of people turning back to the traditional mass, Natural Family planning, veils, the rosary…Let us keep our eyes set up to Christ not down in the muck where Satan wants us. We should all go out and talk about the wonderful things Cardinal Sarah is doing- I agree that he would make a wonderful Pope. I think most Catholics still need to be informed of the truth so please tell those around you. I was told by our parish priest that the Holy Eucharist must not be popped in the mouth like you would a potato chip- that made perfect sense to me! Thank you for this article and Thank you God for Cardinal Sarah we know every time our Holy Mother Church is attacked it is the acts of Satan and his jealousy of a beauty he cannot create and truth he cannot stand.

  18. A priest named ‘Ruff’.
    Something about that name makes it very difficult to take seriously anything he has to say., and reading what he actually had to say makes it impossible.
    But that’s just me.

  19. It is good to treat the symptoms of a disease. It is better to treat the cause. Over recent decades, there have been a lot of complaints about problems in the Church. The best diagnosis of their cause which I have read was written by Fr. William McNamara, OCD, in “The Art of Being Human”: “Christ is not only our mediator. He is ‘God in His most attractive form,’ and ought to be, therefore the most magnetic and influential force in our lives.
    “To date, the biggest hole in our educational system is the failure to convey to young students a meaningful, vital awareness of Christ. This conclusion is the result of years of experience, during which Catholic high school and college students and adults in all part of the country were examined as to their impressions and knowledge of Christ and as to the part He played in their lives. The general response was not good.
    “Their ideas were vague, general, unreal, sentimental, impersonal, academic. To many Christ was a myth, to others merely a historical figure; to others divine all right, but quite remote and not an influence in their everyday life. But a religion without Christ is a corpse; an education that does not convey ideas of Christ that are vital, real, precise, and compelling is a farce. If people are ready to worship a hero and follow a leader, then it is a mistake to obscure the person of Christ behind a welter of abstractions. If they are going to be raised to a higher stature, it will not be by moral coercion or intellectual persuasion, not even by the high ideal of becoming perfect, a saint.
    “Such an ideal is too abstract; and most people need something concrete, dynamic, highly personal to shape their thinking and influence their behavior. They need the infinitely attractive personality of Christ…”
    Fr. McNamara wrote this in 1962, when all the traditional practices of the Church were still in force. So the problem goes deeper than silence or communion in the hand. It goes to the very heart of what it means to be a Christian, to be someone who can say “I live, not I, but Christ lives in me.”

  20. About a dozen years ago now, I was a long-time daily Mass participant, a Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist and a Sacristan. This was back in the days when the Sacristan would take the empty Chalices back to the Sacristy and wash them in soapy water as if they were ordinary vessels. I didn’t have any issues with people receiving in the hand, but — believing fully that this WAS Christ physically present in both the Body and the Blood — I was greatly disturbed at the lack of reverence I saw in so many people who took the Eucharist and casually plopped it into their mouth.

    One day in Adoration, I was telling the Lord how this bothered me. So many people just really didn’t care — they were receiving Him with bored looks on their faces, not realizing WHO they were consuming.

    He told me that we lost our reverence when we began receiving from UNconsecrated hands. I suddenly remembered my childhood when the priests would hold their thumb and forefinger together from the moment of Consecration right through to the end of the Eucharistic celebration when they would wash their hands. Their thumb and forefinger were deliberately set apart in a visual sign of the Sacredness of the moment, not touching anything other than the Eucharist until they washed.

    That sign was now missing. People no longer were drawn to the Sacredness of the Consecrated Host….so much so that the ordinary laity were now allowed to dispense the Sacred Body and Blood….as Eucharistic Ministers. My Lord quizzed me as to why should I be shocked that the laity at large no longer revered the Host or the Blood?

    The Lord impressed upon me that He considers this a Sacrilege. ONLY Consecrated hands should ever touch the Consecrated Host and the Precious Blood. I resigned my position as Sacristan and Eucharistic Minister and have received on the tongue ever since, impressing upon my children and friends this first-hand story so as to help them see the Sacrilegious nature of receiving on the hand.

  21. Very well-spoken, Jamesm. Yet I noticed at least a few posters here, denied that Sarah had described reception of Holy Communion in the hand as diabolical/satanic. However, it is your brief, concluding sentence that goes to the heart of the matter, isn’t it ?

    Clericalism has defaced the church for far, far too long. Through a strange interpretation of the straightforward concept of ‘commemoration’, as in Christ’s words : ‘Do this in memory of me,’ to equate with time-travel, so that Golgotha is transported to the Mass now, and the minister, becomes the actual person of Christ, rather than impersonation as an ‘unprofitable servant’, an immense imbalance had grown vis-a-vis the laity, so as to thwart Christ’s purpose – and which Vatican II was to remedy. Like so much else, it has been a simulacrum of the behaviour of the Pharisees, scribes, etc.

    Holy Communion was not instituted by Jesus to discipline us for an eternity in heaven under a martinet of a God. Indeed, it could not have been more completely otherwise. So infinite is God’s love for each one if us – yes, even lay-people – that our intended destiny in heaven is to share in his very divinity, his own divine nature and life – and to a degree no priest, not even St Thomas Aquinas, will enjoy/have enjoyed here on earth saying the Mass. So enormous is such love that it is difficult to imagine that he would not have had us share in his own divine nature as God in our own right, with himself, the Father and the Holy Spirit, were it at all possible – which of course it is not, nor ever could be, and is as it should be.

    I’ve tried to imagine the disciples ordering the famous Five Thousand tired and hungry, largely Anawim followers of his, in the eponymous account of the loaves and fishes (and the other such event), to kneel down to be hand-fed the bread and fish by him or an officially-appointed neighbour. He, it strikes me, would have had more respect for their adult, human dignity.

    And as for obsessing over particles of the Sacred Host, coughing with the Host in your mouth, etc, do you really think God is not sufficiently loving and solicitous for our welfare to have made the procedure as UNpedantic as possible? That, as regards, the coughing, etc, he would allow himself to be well, we won’t go into the details, because of an unfortunate reflex cough, for instance. Nobody will do it deliberately with the host in their mouth, other than to clear their throat a little perhaps.
    He is certainly most real in the Sacred Host, but not without the imagination or means to avoid his glorious body being affected unintentionally or otherwise.

    Regrettably, it seems to be the pedantry of the Pharisees, whom Jesus upbraided with his question as to whether they would have left their donkey in a ditch, etc on the Sabbath, and their making a big issue of their own ‘traditions of men’ – while preventing the rest of the people from gaining closer access to God.

    Holy Common, it seems to me, should be the centre-piece of the Mass. Departure from it (from ‘elder’ to ‘priest’) leading to the excesses of the throne-room mindset from start to finish. Even though I believe it should obtain precisely until Holy Communion. Christ came as a servant, THE Servant, to elevate US, individually and personally. And nowhere was that more emphatically expressed than on Golgotha. We’re going to get the graces he won for us AT THAT TIME, by the bloodiest of means, without any need for his crucifixion to be supernaturally, spiritually transported to today, to bloodlessly incorporate the celebrant, who is acting on our behalf. Someone has to represent us at the Mass, and it is only fitting that the person charged with the holy things should be honoured in various ways – but the enormous imbalance was not part of God’s plan, as the Prince of the Apostles, Peter, made clear to the Centurion, Cornelius, and the angel to John in the respective quotes from Revelations, below it :

    ‘As Peter was about to enter, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet to worship him. But Peter helped him up. “Stand up, he said, “I am only a man” myself ‘….. Acts 10:26

    So I fell at his feet to worship him. But he told me, “Do not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who rely on the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” – Revelations 9:10

    And I am John, the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had shown me these things. – Rev 22:8

    With this emphasis – so eschewed and rightly so, at Confession – on the apotheosizing of the priest, it will have led inevitably to that very pernicious failing of the church, constituted by its clericalism – even to the point of sullying the vow of chastity, by making it subserve the ‘sacrifice without spot’ notion of the divine priest-victim.

    • “Through a strange interpretation of the straightforward concept of ‘commemoration’, as in Christ’s words : ‘Do this in memory of me,’ to equate with time-travel, so that Golgotha is transported to the Mass now…”

      “We’re going to get the graces he won for us AT THAT TIME, by the bloodiest of means, without any need for his crucifixion to be supernaturally, spiritually transported to today, to bloodlessly incorporate the celebrant, who is acting on our behalf.”

      So, you’re saying that the Eucharist is *not* the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary. So you aren’t Catholic, then, or else you’re a Catholic so woefully ignorant of the Faith that you really aren’t worth listening to.

      (See the Catechism, 1366, for example: )

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