Hand or Tongue? Sanitary Reception of Holy Communion

Hand or Tongue? Sanitary Reception of Holy Communion


This is my view, based on 32 years of experience, as well as reading as much as I can on this topic.

Is Communion in the hand more sanitary? The answer is, “No, but conditions can warrant it to be so.”

What do I mean?

First, we know our hands are filled with germs, so “hand to hand” contact should be avoided during a time when seasonal viruses are present. I believe Communion in the hand sees frequent “hand to hand” contact. How so? The Host is not dropped from midair, so it is more than likely that the EMHC (or priest) will touch the communicant’s hand as they lay the Host in their hand. Thus, “hand to hand” contact.

That said, I believe the most sanitary way to receive Holy Communion is kneeling and receiving on the tongue … “from the priest.”

Let me explain. 99% of our parishioners receive this way (kneeling, and on the tongue), and I have become quite proficient (experienced) at distributing Communion while not allowing my finger to touch the communicant’s tongue. I would say this “finger to tongue” occurs maybe 1 in 1,000 times.

A couple of things are at play:

1) My experience (as I stated above)
2) The angle is better with someone kneeling

The problems arise with Communion on the tongue when …

1) Less than experienced (than the priest) EMHCs distribute Holy Communion
2) The “standing angle” greatly increases potential “finger to tongue,” as the distributer’s finger is closer to the tongue, at that angle

So, when we see Bishops recommend receiving Communion in the hand, it is because they know that they are dealing with two factors which would, normally, make Communion on the tongue more sanitary …

1) The excessive use of less experienced (than the priest) EMHCs in most parishes, so more frequent “finger to tongue” can occur
2) Most parishes do not offer a Communion rail for kneeling, so the “standing angle” is poor for avoiding finger to tongue

Until we move away from excessive use of EMHCs and install Communion rails, the Bishops appear to be correct in encouraging Communion in the hand … in my opinion

But, if you can find a parish that allows you to kneel while receiving on the tongue, and you can receive from the priest, this is the most sanitary option.



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