This month children all over the diocese will be receiving their First Holy Communion. After months of instruction from their religious education teachers about how they will be receiving the body of Christ when they receive the Eucharist, and how that requires a certain protocol that shows our respect, these children will for the first time partake of the ritual that is at the core of the Catholic faith.
Dressed in their First Communion dresses and suits, shoes shined, and on their best behavior, they’ll approach the priest or Eucharistic minister. They’ll press their palms together prayerfully, try to receive the host correctly, say ‘Amen,’ make the sign of the cross and then return to their pews to say prayers of thanks.
So what happened to the rest of us?
While these children have been deemed to be at the age of understanding, a requirement to receive communion, we can learn from watching them.
If in fact we truly believe that we are receiving the body of Christ, is there any moment in our lives that could be more important? Why, then, are we showing up to Mass as if we’ve just rolled out of bed? Why are we approaching the person distributing Communion thinking of the big game that afternoon? Why are we (I’ve seen people do it) reaching to take the Eucharist from the priest instead of reverently receiving it as the gift that it is?
This Sunday, watch for yourself. And then try to be an example for others.
Direct from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, here is the right way to receive communion:
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. If Communion is received in the hand, the hands should first of all be clean. If one is right handed the left hand should rest upon the right. The host will then be laid in the palm of the left hand and then taken by the right hand to the mouth. If one is left-handed this is reversed. It is not appropriate to reach out with the fingers and take the host from the person distributing.
The person distributing Communion says audibly to each person approaching, “The Body of Christ.” This formula should not be altered, as it is a proclamation which calls for a response of faith on the part of the one who receives. The communicant should audibly respond, “Amen,” indicating by that response his or her belief that this small wafer of bread, the wine in this chalice are in reality the body and blood of Christ the Lord.
When one receives from the chalice, the same proclamation is made by the person distributing Communion and the Communicant again responds, “Amen.” It should be noted that it is never permissible for a person to dip the host he or she has received into the chalice. If, for some reason, the communicant is not able or willing to drink from the cup then that person should receive only under the form of bread.
Adhering to the guidelines above will make every Sunday feel as if it is your First Holy Communion.