A friend of my mother said that we should receive communion only on the tongue. Is that correct?
July 26, 2020, 12:00 PM
No. Your mother’s friend is trying to make a personal preference the universal law of the Church. It is true, however, that communion in the hand has been a practice in the United States only since 1977. Prior to that, Catholics in this country (and indeed around the world) were required to receive on the tongue. On June 17, 1977, the bishops of the United States, following a permission given them by Rome, allowed us to receive communion in the hand as an option. So, while there are some countries in which you can receive only on the tongue, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), the official “rule book” describing the rituals of the Mass, states that a person can receive either on the tongue or in the hand: “The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant.”

Some may prefer to receive on the tongue because they perceive it to be more reverent, because there is less chance of dropping the host, because they do not want to have crumbs on their hands after receiving, or because they would prefer that fewer people handle the host. Others may prefer to receive in the hand out of fear of germs or because some extraordinary ministers are awkward in distributing communion on the tongue. There could be many reasons, both spiritual and practical, for either preference. Whatever the reason your mother’s friend has for preferring to receive on the tongue, it would be wrong for him to require more of you than the Church does. On the other hand, it would also be wrong for anyone, even a priest, to make a communicant who prefers to receive the Eucharist on the tongue feel awkward about his or her preference.