The following guidelines are based on the norms for the reverent reception of Holy Communion at Mass contained in the General
Instruction of the Roman Missal and in Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States.
- Stand up and step out of your pew to join in the Communion procession. If you are not carrying a child in your arms or using a cane or other walking aid it is appropriate to join your hands in front of you in a prayerful position as you process forward.
- Remain standing for the reception of Holy Communion. This is the standard posture for receiving Communion in the United States.
- As the person in front of you is receiving Holy Communion, bow your head and shoulders slightly as a sign of reverence toward Our Lord in the Eucharist.
- You may receive the Sacred Host either in your hand or on your tongue. The choice is yours.
- If you intend to receive the Sacred Host in your hand, extend both hands palm upwards toward the minister, placing one hand directly on top of the other. You should do this as you approach the minister so that it is obvious to the minister that you wish to receive Communion in the hand.
- The minister will hold the Sacred Host in front of you and say, "The Body of Christ." You respond by saying, "Amen." The minister will then place the Host on your open palm. Do not attempt to grab the Host from the minister with your fingers.
- Once the Host has been placed in your hand, step aside (to allow the person behind you to come forward to receive) and immediately consume the Host as you stand facing the altar. You should pick up the Host from the palm of your hand with the fingers of your other hand and reverently place the Host in your mouth. Then either join the procession to receive the Precious Blood from the minister holding the chalice or return to your pew.
- If you are going to receive the Sacred Host on your tongue, keep your hands joined as you approach the minister. After the minister holds the Host in front of you and says The Body of Christ and you respond Amen, tilt your head backwards, open your mouth and stick out your tongue. The minister will then place the Host on your tongue. Once you feel the Host on your tongue, take the Host into your mouth with your tongue.
- If you wish to receive the Precious Blood - the choice is yours - bow your head and shoulders slightly as the person before you is receiving from the chalice. Approach the minister with your hands joined. The minister will hold the chalice in front of you and say, "The Blood of Christ," to which you respond, "Amen." The minister will then hand you the chalice. Grasp the chalice firmly with both hands and bring it to your lips, taking care not to spill any of the Precious Blood. Take a small sip of the Precious Blood and hand the chalice back to the minister who will wipe its rim to prepare it for the next communicant.
- After receiving Holy Communion, return reverently to your pew and either sit or kneel for your private prayers.
What to avoid when receiving Holy Communion
- Do not chew gum in church. There should be nothing in your mouth when you receive Holy Communion.
- Do not wait until after you have responded "Amen" to extend your hands toward the minister to receive the Sacred Host in your hand. Also, do not extend your hands when it is your intention to receive Communion on the tongue. The minister should not have to guess whether you want Communion in the hand or on the tongue.
- Do not receive the Sacred Host in the hand by extending only one of your hands. Two free hands are necessary for receiving the Sacred Host - one hand to receive the Host, and the other hand to pick it up and place it reverently in your mouth. If you are carrying a child in your arms or using a cane or other walking aid, you should receive the Sacred Host on the tongue.
- Do not take the Sacred Host out of the hand of the minister with your fingers. An important liturgical principle is that the communicant receives rather than takes Holy Communion from the minister.
- Do not fail to respond "Amen" when the minister says either "The Body of Christ" or "The Blood of Christ," or substitute another expression for it such as "Thank you." The minister in saying "The Body of Christ" and "The Blood of Christ" is making a declaration of faith about the nature of the Eucharist and the Church which you as the communicant must affirm with your "Amen" before you receive.
- Do not forget to bow your head and shoulders slightly as a sign of reverence before receiving the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood. Do not substitute this standard gesture with some other one, such as the sign of the cross or a genuflection. Do not wait to make your sign of reverence until you are face-to-face the minister. This delays the procession. Make the sign of reverence as the person in front of you is receiving Communion.
- After receiving the Sacred Host in your hand, step aside and consume the Host immediately while facing the altar. Do not begin walking back to your pew before consuming the Host.
- Do not carry the Host with the intention of dipping it into the Precious Blood (self-intinction). Communicants may not dip the Sacred Host into the chalice for two reasons: first because of the liturgical principle stated above, that the communicant should receive the Precious Blood rather than taking it (in this case, by dipping the Host into it); second because there is danger of spilling some drops of the Precious Blood. In the Catholic Church self-intinction is considered highly improper and is not to be done.
- Do not fail to make an act of thanksgiving for the gift of the Eucharist when you return to your pew.