Miscue at Communion


I’m going to say right off that this is NOT about CitH vs CotT, so please don’t get into that debate. It also is not really about the use of EMHC vs only ordained.

I prefer (and, except for this instance, have always done so) to receive on the tongue for rather practical reasons. I have some physical infirmities affecting my right hand which, for the most part I am able to work around or otherwise compensate. My choice to receive on the tongue is the compensation that I feel works best for me. Due to this particular infirmity, I can be very clumsy. I drop things a lot, and the smaller the object, the more likely it is to be dropped, which is why I really feel extremely uncomfortable with the idea of receiving in my hand.

So, this particular Sunday, I approached an EMHC who is not one that I had received from before. (And let me add that I am not the only one in the congregation who receives on the tongue.) As I reached the point to receive, she was not looking at my face, and she held the Host kind of low. Now, my hands are folded, more or less in the classic “folded praying hands” position with fingers pointing up. This is very obviously not the CitH reception position. So you can well imagine my shock/chagrin/terror when I feel that she is forcing the Host into the space between my fingers. My mind goes from “Body of Christ” to a panicked fear that I would drop the Host and, again as this is not how I normally receive, I’m a little befuddled on the how to maneuver the Host to my mouth while thinking more about “don’t drop” than “Body of Christ”. I managed, but honestly, I was terrified and embarrassed and rather bewildered as to what I could do when I felt the Host being forced into my hands (I have normal sensation in my left hand).

Other than making sure I don’t end up in the line that particular person is at, what more can I do to receive in the manner that I feel more comfortable with (again, it’s my physical disability which is at the root of my preference, and although I have some surgical scars on my hand, it’s not immediately obvious that my hand does not work quite right … until I drop something or accidentally burn myself because I couldn’t feel the heat)? Any suggestions as to what I can do in the event of such a miscue would be very much appreciated.


I would mention this incident to the pastor. I have been an EMHC and was trained to NOT do any of what you relate here. I was also trained, and we practiced with un-consecrated hosts, giving and receiving on the tongue. If there is a “training issue” the pastor needs to know, so that it can be fixed.


As you approach, put your hands behind you.


That was totally unacceptable. Rome has made it abundantly clear that the manner of reception of the Most Holy Eucharist is the prerogative of the individual communicant.
In those dioceses where permission has been given by the Bishop, for Communion in the hand, no priest, and especially no extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, may in any way, even try to INFLUENCE the manner of reception. That person should be reported to the pastor and if they are not summarily dismissed, then it is acceptable to present the case to the Ordinary of the Diocese.


Agree. I have been an EMHC for over 30 years. This must be brought to the attention of the Pastor. This is a “training issue”. This EMHC requires reinstruction.


I was just about to suggest this myself.

No, you shouldn’t have to do this: yes, you may always choose to receive via COTT; no, the lady shoudn’t have tried to force it in your hands; yes, she be (should have been) trained better…but I think in the long run maryjk’s suggestion offers the best way for you to avoid this in the future regardless of who the EMHC (or even the EM) may be


I think from a legal standpoint in case something is dropped, the burden/liability is always on the one who is the giver or the one handing off. That person must see to it that the receiver properly secures the object. In this case, it would have to be with the host firmly on the tongue or received with both hands. I believe one hand is not enough.


My guess is that with the flu season becoming so bad and the guidelines to encourage CotH the EMHC took the guideline too far. As you said it’s not obvious that you have any special needs with regards to your hands. Talking to Father would help all the EMHC to respect everyone’s needs.


I am also an EMHC, and have trained others. We also have a young girl who has a partial hand due to a birth defect. It is not obvious when she first approaches the Communion line, but if she is holding her hands together at mid chest height, I would promptly look at her face and if she opened her mouth, would give the Host properly on her tongue. She has occasionally received in the hand, usually when she has a cold. All of our EMHC’s are trained to make eye contact when saying “The Body of Christ”, THEN to look quickly at whether they are extending their hands or opening their mouths to receive. If you have a Liturgical Minister who is responsible for the training, this would be the person to privately report it to. If the Priest does the training, then he would be the one to report to, but also privately. This may be someone who is very nervous about placing the Host on the tongue, or just fairly new at being an EMHC. Believe me, when you are in front like that, and performing something you are not accustomed to, you can get really, really nervous!

I have been an EMHC for years, but we now have a Liturgical Minister who does most of the training, although I do some. She was doing all the scheduling for positions at Masses for a year or so, until I started doing the Saturday Vigil scheduling, and always had me doing the Chalice. When we got a new Priest, and he decided he wanted one Host Minister assisting (whereas our former Priest would allow no one else but himself to distribute the Host except when taking Communion to the sick, or up to the loft to the choir – only the Chalice), so we had to suddenly start to schedule two for Chalice and one for Host at every weekend Mass. She decided to have me do the Host for the first month, as I’d had the experience of several years of doing so, before our previous Pastor had been here for three years. The first Mass when I served as Host Minister, I was a nervous wreck, had trouble separating the Hosts so that I only picked up one, not three, etc… Yet, it was something I was well-trained for and had previously been accustomed to doing, but had not done for 3 years. A sudden change of position or duties is stressful when you are standing in front of the whole Congregation. I would give them a chance to correct and properly train this EMHC, or remove her if she really doesn’t want to do it (giving the Host on the tongue, rather than in the hand). I have one Minister who absolutely will not distribute the Host, it makes her too nervous, but serves for weeks at a time doing the Chalice, especially during vacations, so she’s a big help. Some people just don’t do some jobs as well as others.

I have to be an Adult Server at a Mass in about 3 weeks, and I haven’t done this except a couple of times about 25 years ago!! I’m taking a couple of hours of training this week, to re-learn the correct procedures. I’m sure I’ll be shaking like a leaf this first time, especially since as Server I’ll be on the Altar for the whole Mass!! But, I’m sure others will forgive me if I’m a bit awkward the first time. They know me and know I’m trying my best, whatever I do.

There is also the possibility that she is immune-compromised (like those with RA form of arthritis and other problems medically) and unwilling to have her fingers accidentally touch someone else’s lips for fear of flu, pneumonia or whatever.


Pax Christi!

One could simply have a friendly chat with the EMHC.

God bless.


I’m very sorry this happened to you :frowning:


I would agree with the others who said talk to the priest about this. I am an EMHC and try to establish eye contact as this is a good way of working out whether someone wants Communion on the tongue or in the hand.

I hope the lady in question receives gentle retraining, and is not made to feel embarassed.


There is no need for her to be “summarily dismissed” if it is a training issue. Now, if she’d been properly trained, and chose to do this anyway, that’s different. But it sounds like she simply didn’t know what to do.


I certainly agree with this. For heaven’s sake, be charitable.

Here’s my advice to the OP, who asked how to avoid miscues.

I go back and forth when it comes to receiving the Lord in Holy Communion. The one time that the host was dropped was when I received on the tongue from a lady who seemed clumsy with this method. It was not “mistraining” or any deliberate attempt to force people to receive in the hand–she was just clumsy when it came to putting something in someone’s mouth. I would probably be the same way. I don’t like people’s mouths. They’re germy and wet.

So what I do now is avoid receiving on the tongue from those EMsHC that I don’t know well, and that’s almost all of them. I also avoid receiving on the tongue from EMsHC who are elderly, who are young (teens), or who are shorter than me.

I usually receive on the tongue only from a priest or a deacon. I don’t deliberately seat myself to receive from a priest or deacon, although I think this would be a good option for the OP and anyone else who prefers to receive Holy Communion on their tongue. I know that it’s also acceptable for people to enter the priest’s line instead of staying in their own line, but I would only do this if I could get to the end of the priest’s line; I would not budge into a line.

I prefer to meditate on the Lord Jesus and the mystery of receiving Him Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, rather than thinking about the mechanics of receiving Him, and worrying about whether He will be dropped. I hope that my suggestions help the OP to do the same.


Are you kidding me? :rolleyes:

How about a little charity?

Talk to the woman. Could be she was totally flustered. Maybe she hadn’t been scheduled. But stepped forward to help because they were short a person. Could be that she was doing her best, but trying to remember which way to hold the Host for someone receiving on the tongue vs. someone receiving in the hand was getting her confused.

Heck, it could be that when she said “the Body of Christ,” and the OP responded, the OP didn’t open her mouth. Or didn’t open enough to indicate that she wanted to receive that way. And instead of having to play slot machine, the EMHC tried to put the Host in the OP’s hand. Yes, it happens. People walk up, say “Amen,” then hold out their hands with mouths open. Or they say “Amen,” with their mouth open like they are a ventriloquist and keep their hands folded.

This seems to have been a one time event. That means that no one is trying to INFLUENCE anyone. It was a mistake.

If the OP is upset, then she can talk to someone. Be it the EMHC or the pastor.

If the OP just wants to make sure no one does it again, to her. She can simply put her hands behind her back.


This. I agree that you should mention it to your pastor so that EMHCs can be “refreshed” in their training. As an EMHC I will say that it is sometimes difficult to know how someone prefers to receive.

If you approach with your hands held low and close to your body, or even behind your back, it should be obvious that you would like to receive on the tongue.

I am so sorry this happened and praise God you did not drop the host!


I had similar situations where I didn’t know how the person wanted to receive. One put her hands out in the position to receive in the hand but also stuck out her tongue. When I went to put it on her tongue she raised her hands up to receive in the hand.

Many times a person won;t stick out their tongue and you have to put the host between their lips. The person receiving has to make the right cues as well. Most people who receive on the tongue stick their tongue out, hold their chin up and close their eyes.

The EMHC probably just missed the cue or it was very subtle. Give the woman a break.


I am an EMHC and my suggestion for CotT people is to say amen and the lean in with your mouth open and tongue out. Too often CotT people do not open their mouth very much and show very little tongue.


Thank you for the suggestions.

I truly do not think there is any agenda in place, which is why I termed it a “miscue” in the title–whether it was that she missed the cues or I didn’t give enough cues. I have some better ideas as to how to avoid the miscommunication in the Communion line.


I do not know the horror of dropping the host. My husband did this and quietly picked it up and placed it in his mouth. No biggy!
Would not the horror be to leave the host on the floor? Yes. Error does happen.

We are human and we all make mistakes.:rolleyes:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.