“Ask a Priest: Is Communion in the Hand OK?”

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Q: Our youth minister is truly trying to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church. She comes to me with questions, and I need to give her the correct answers so I am coming to you. 1) Her mother has told her that it is wrong to receive Communion in the hand and that the Church has not approved this practice. 2) The girls in their family wear veils out of reverence for the presence of Jesus. 3) Almost the entire congregation extends and holds hands for the Our Father and raises each other’s hands when the priest does. Her mother does not allow her family to do this as it is “disruptive” in Mass. 4) Her mom also says the Latin Mass is the true way to offer Mass. Please assist me in finding the right resources. –S.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Briefly, Communion in the hand is fine. A post on the U.S. bishops’ conference website says, “Those who receive Communion may receive either in the hand or on the tongue, and the decision should be that of the individual receiving, not of the person distributing Communion.” Here is the post.

Veils are fine (though you wouldn’t have to go far to find other points of view). They are certainly not required. My colleague Father Edward McNamara, L.C., once wrote:

“During St. Paul’s time it was considered modest for a woman to cover her head, and he was underscoring this point for their presence in the liturgical assembly.

“This custom was considered normative and was enshrined in Canon 1262.2 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law alongside the recommendation that men and women be separated in Church and that men go bareheaded. This canon was dropped from the new Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983, but the practice had already begun to fall into disuse from about the beginning of the 1970s. Even though no longer legally binding, the custom is still widely practiced in some countries, especially in Asia. It has been generally abandoned in most Western countries even though women, unlike men, may still wear hats and veils to Mass if they choose.”

(The full column can be found here.)

The raising of hands by laypeople at the Our Father is not in the rubrics. If families or individuals want to do it, there is no big difficulty. But the whole congregation should not be obliged to do it; that would be demanding something that isn’t prescribed in the missal. (For further reading Father McNamara has a column on this subject too.)

As for the Latin Mass being the “true way” to offer Mass, Latin is still the official language of the Church, so there is certainly no problem in offering the Eucharistic celebration in that ancient tongue. But the very fact that the Holy See has approved Masses in the vernacular (English, Spanish, French, etc.) is a sign that Masses can be validly celebrated in a variety of tongues. The Church has the authority to adapt the liturgy. Besides, Latin itself is something of an adaptation, since Jesus would have spoken Aramaic, not Latin, when he instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

I hope some of this helps. And please don’t hesitate to send more questions if they come up. God bless.

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