Crossing your arms at Communion

I was wondering if I did the right thing…

Myself and my young son (who did receive the Eucharist) were in line. I was aware that I would be sinning by receiving Communion since I would be breaking the 1 hour fast by a few minutes. So I crossed my arms as per others who have done so for various reasons and I heard a “God Bless You” from the Eucharistic Minister.

Was this proper? Hopefully not sinful.


No, not sinful.

Another time, why not go into the sacristy and ask the priest if it’s alright to receive? I really don’t think a few minutes should keep you from Our Lord in Holy Communion.

This not according to the level of interests we have. Do have a concern for faith, it expands your awareness to understand the logical meaning of what the church has to offer, which is infinite love.

See this link:

Thanks everyone.

I was not looking for a “blessing” from a lay eucharistic minister as I know it is not valid for obvious reasons, it was more as a spur of the moment reaction being in front and knowing with certainty I would break the fast if receiving. I guess it is better to either remain in my seat or clarify with my priest in these situations.

I think you did a wonderful thing. :slight_smile:

Father posted a link to a post that contained a letter from a Dicastery. I’m not sure whether or not the letter’s fifth observation implies that no one is ever to approach Holy Communion for a blessing, or if only people who are in some way separated from the Church should not do so, such as those who are excommunicated. Given the context, I’m inclined to believe the second interpretation is the correct one.

No obligation to receive the Eucharist (except 1x a year at Easter) according to the precepts.

Honestly, part of the reason why I don’t get trained and commissioned as an EMHC is because of the expectation by much of the faithful for the EMHC’s to confer blessings if approached. In fact, trainings in many parishes explicitly mention that the EMHC’s are to confer blessings primarily to avoid people in the congregation complaining that “I went up with my arms crossed to receive a blessing and I was denied one!”

Honestly, the blessings thing is an apparent abuse, started for what seemed to be good reasons (priests have often blessed babies being brought up by their parents, then started the “arms crossed” thing to differentiate more easily when it came to older children who were coming up with their parents but may or may not have had their first communions; eventually, it blossomed out of control as pastors allowed non-Catholics to receive blessings, and now anyone who can’t receive Communion for any reason). But now, people feel entitled to blessings when they can’t receive Communion, even wondering why priests outside of North America don’t do this (not even realizing that individual blessings for non-communicants probably isn’t even allowed).

Crossing your arms at communion is not sinful. If this is something that concerns you, speak to your priest to learn his preferences and get his advice.

Advice from the internet on this matter, and similar liturgical, is usually well-meaning, but can be unnecessarily distressing.

This I never realized as a convert but have heard a bit with disagreement . Is it legally( canon law) something very wrong to do or just not addressed? All I can say is that after becoming Catholic it meant SO much to my husbad( no catholic) to decieved the blessing. He eventually became Catholic. He told me this blessing was so special from the priest( he always made sure it was the priest he approached in the correct line) Also… It makes it easier for those It is helpful for Catholics who might feel they need confession to be able to proceed up but not receive rather than sit and not to go up as just the Blessing will help them before getting to Confession but I don’t canon law and will abide by canon law of the Church in obedience. I only am expressing my opinion and wondering the official rules…

In fact, what your husband experienced – and a great many others, I might add – is echoed by the bishops in the United Kingdom, as you will see in their text quoted below.

You should ask the priest in your parish what is the accepted practice in your diocese. This is not a matter in canon law…canon law does not legislate this type of issue.

If you are in the United Kingdom, the matter is spelled out in directives from the Bishops’ Conference:
*Celebrating the Mass: A Pastoral Introduction was published by the Bishops Conference to address matters and provide clarification on the Mass. In Number 212, page 95, we read:

Even though some in the assembly may not receive 'sacramental' Communion, all are united in some way by the Holy Spirit. The traditional idea of 'spiritual' communion is an important one to remember and reaffirm. **The invitation often given at Mass to those who may not receive sacramental communion -- for example children before their First Communion and adults who are not Catholics -- to receive a 'blessing' at the moment of Communion emphasises that a deep spiritual communion is possible even when we do not share together the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ**.*

The Americans have differing opinions on this matter and we await a determination from the responsible dicastery of the Holy See. (I hasten to add, however, that this matter has been pending for many years; the matter was proposed as an issue at the Synod of Bishops in 2005 and the Holy Father chose to leave the question open, in spite of the fact that it was the bishops asking for guidance.)

As it happens, the bishop who wrote the above quote has just been appointed by Pope Francis as the number of two official of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments…one hopes he will bring the clarity to this matter for the rest of the Church that he provided in the United Kingdom.

The determination of the bishop of the diocese should be complied with in what determines.

As but two examples, the Diocese of Saint Petersburg has published online their determination to this matter
*Blessing by an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion

Question: Can an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC) give a blessing to a person who comes to them in the communion line with arms crossed?

Answer: The answer is yes.

The determination of the Archdiocese of New York, by Cardinal Dolan, is:
*Should an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion give a blessing to one who comes forward in the Communion procession, but who does not wish to receive the Eucharist?

No. In this case, an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion should direct the individual who wishes to receive a blessing to the nearest priest or deacon. In general, the practice of giving blessings in the course of distributing Holy Communion is discouraged (see Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, (Protocol No. 930/08/L). [Text quoted on page 9]*
In fact, the document referenced in the thread is actually not dispositive, which is why the determination is worded the way that it is.

It is not an “apparent abuse” but is an action which Pope Saint John Paul II .

As one reads in Ut Unum Sint, paragraph 72: [For clarity, the Pope is speaking in the first person of his experience…the celebrant of the Mass he mention is he himself.]
In this respect I would like to mention one demonstration dictated by fraternal charity and marked by deep clarity of faith which made a profound impression on me. I am speaking of the Eucharistic celebrations at which I presided in Finland and Sweden during my journey to the Scandinavian and Nordic countries. At Communion time, the Lutheran Bishops approached the celebrant. They wished, by means of an agreed gesture, to demonstrate their desire for that time when we, Catholics and Lutherans, will be able to share the same Eucharist, and they wished to receive the celebrant’s blessing. With love I blessed them. The same gesture, so rich in meaning, was repeated in Rome at the Mass at which I presided in Piazza Farnese, on the sixth centenary of the canonization of Saint Birgitta of Sweden, on 6 October 1991.
I am not sure where geographically you are speaking of in your post but I can personally assure you that we who are priests outside of North America assuredly do give blessings at the time of Communion for those who come forward but indicate they are not receiving Communion.

The sign used on the continent is actually a different gesture from that used by the Americans. The American gesture, if I may say, is confusing to Europeans since the gesture of crossed arms is used by Eastern Catholics when they are in the act of receiving Communion…(they cross their arms)…often even when communicating at a Roman Rite Mass.

I will add that one of the forms I use when I give the blessing was a gift to me by an American Cardinal – it was what he used when he would bless those approaching him in the Communion line but indicated they could not receive.

Besides crossing arms what is the sign they give?

From my perspective as a priest, this is simply not a hill I’m willing to die on. In fact, I think the practice can actually be quite helpful. Let me give you an example.

We often (rightly so) lament the state of affairs that sees so many people come forward to receive Holy Communion who are not in a state of grace. I would say this is especially prevalent at funerals and weddings. Often times, non-Catholics who don’t know any better will come forward to receive at these events. I can’t speak for what other priests do, but if someone presents him/herself for Communion, I have never refused the sacrament. I simply have no way of knowing if the person is Catholic or not, in a state of grace or not, has kept the fast or not. That’s up to each individual person to determine for himself.

That said, when I have a funeral or wedding that A) has many non-Catholics present, B) has many people who clearly haven’t been to Mass in awhile as is evident by their responses (or more appropriately, lack thereof) or C) some combination of the two, just prior to the distribution of Holy Communion, I will make a brief announcement that at this time, all Catholics who are prepared to receive Holy Communion are invited to come forward. I also add that anyone not receiving Holy Communion that day, for whatever reason, is welcome to come forward for a blessing, and to please cross your arms as a sign to the priest.

Now, as a point of fact, what I do is not actually a blessing. I encourage my EMHCs to do the same. Instead, I will place my hand on the person’s head, and say, “Receive the Lord Jesus in your heart.” So, it’s not a blessing, per se, it’s an “invitation to a spiritual communion.”

The bottom line, from my perspective, is this. In the United States (where I presume most are reading this), people are going to come forward. Don Ruggero correct me if I"m wrong, but my guess is that this would be the case in much of western Europe as well. If I were talking to a predominantly Latin American group, it would be different, as it’s routine for half of the congregation to stay in the pews in Latin American culture. But again, I’m talking about contemporary US of A. And here, people are going to come forward. That means people are going to come forward at Communion time who probably should not be receiving the Eucharist on that one occasion.

Shame and reputation are important factors. It’s sad but true that most people would rather receive the Eucharist while not in a state of grace, than have to even think that everyone is staring at them, wondering why they didn’t go forward with everyone else.

It seems to me the option for a blessing/invitation to spiritual communion is a happy way to remedy this situation. People can still come forward without fear of shame or embarrassment (as most won’t be able to see if Father is giving Holy Communion or putting his hand on a person’s head), but not commit sacrilege.

To the OP, from where I’m sitting, you absolutely did the right thing.

I would encourage you to think beyond this. Yes, this is technically the precept. But, let’s think about this for a moment.

  1. In this is eternal life, that they would know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
  2. At the end of time, the Son of Man will say to those on His left, "Depart from me. I never knew you.
  3. They came to know him in the Breaking of the Bread.

If eternal life is this mystical union with God, and that mystical union begins on earth, we ought to want to unite ourselves with our Eucharistic Lord as often as we can, even daily if possible.

I see the above said quite frequently, and it’s the trap of legalism. Tell me, how healthy would a marriage be if the spouses never told each other they loved each other? I mean, there’s no requirement that spouses tell each other they love each other. Canon Law doesn’t say, “You must tell you wife you love her x number of times a day/week/month/year.”

It was the heresy of Jansenism that led to the erroneous thought that we ought to receive the Eucharist infrequently. Provided that someone is a Catholic, prepared to receive the Eucharist, that person should present him/herself for Holy Communion each time he/she goes to Mass.

I’m getting old and crotchety and I long for the days when people poured into the aisles and went to kneel at the rail, willy nilly, at whatever time they felt ready and if they never felt ready they stayed in their place and no one gave them a second glance because almost everyone would find themselves in the same boat for at least one Sunday between confessions. If they guy in the middle of the first row was ready after everyone in that row had received and returned, nobody thought he was a nuisance if they had to rise to let him by. If the old lady in the middle to church headed up the aisle before everyone else,well, she was just ready then.

Yes, I remember those days. Those who were going to communion did so in a random access sort of way–no ushers going pew by pew. Those not receiving stayed in the pews. It was not a problem either way. Everybody received a blessing at the end of Mass, as they do now.

Actually, it is not a sign they give besides crossing arms. Instead of crossing arms, the gesture one makes is to place your right hand on your left shoulder. That is the sign.

We don’t have ushers to direct traffic in my parish but we still file out, row by row, starting with the row closest to the altar.

In our EMHC meetings our Priest would dicuss this. He told us that we were not to touch the person or say “I bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirt.” We were to just say “May the Lord bless you and kept you.”

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