Receiving Communion Q. Must I receive Communion in the hand, or can I receive it on the tongue like in the old days?

A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:

 On May 29, 1969, in his instruction Memoriale Domini, Pope Paul VI (in a document prepared by the Congregation for Divine Worship) granted certain European bishops’ conferences the privilege of determining whether to allow the faithful to receive Communion in the hand. The permission was later extended throughout the universal Church, and became official in the United States on June 17, 1977. By that time, however, many Catholics had become used to the practice, especially in states near Canada, as Canadian bishops had granted the permission seven years earlier.

Because Church law is always careful to respect the rights of individuals, such pronouncements are very interesting; they seldom impose a new custom, and almost always respect an existing practice. That is the case here. Pope Paul’s letter states: “The new manner of giving communion must not be imposed in a way that would exclude the traditional practice. It is a matter of particular seriousness that in places where the new practice is lawfully permitted every one of the faithful have the option of receiving communion on the tongue and even when other persons are receiving communion in the hand. The two ways of receiving communion can without question take place during the same liturgical service” (No. 1).