Friday 12 July 2013

On the tongue

Father Ignatius considered himself a “traditionalist priest”, as he liked to call himself.

Sure enough, he accepted that changes happen in life generally as well as in the Catholic Church, and that he had to accept them; but it didn’t mean that he agreed with the changes that came his way from “earthly above” – a term he used to describe the church’s hierarchy, as opposed to “Heavenly above” when he referred to the Almighty.

One particular new development which the priest didn’t like was handing the Host during Communion to people in their hands. He preferred the traditional placing of the Host on the tongue, and for people to genuflect by the altar rail to receive Communion. But change he did, and he gave way to new procedures as an obedient priest must.

This Sunday, however, his concerns were put to the test.

As he gave out Communion to the queue of parishioners walking up the center aisle he noticed two youngsters, both aged about eighteen or so, coming towards him. He had not seen them in church before and assumed they were visitors to town. As they came to him in turn, they both held out their hands and he placed the Host in it.

A sixth sense perhaps prompted him to keep an eye on them as they moved away. And he noticed that neither placed the Host in their mouths but walked away slowly.

“Would you please stop” he said sternly, at which point they both hurried and then ran away. Unfortunately in doing so one of them dropped the Host on the floor.

The priest went to recover the fallen Host and shouted “Stop those two …” but unfortunately they escaped through a side door followed by two parishioners.

By the time they came out the parishioners found the car park totally empty … there was no one in sight.

“Which way did they go?” asked one.

“They were too quick … didn’t see them …” replied the other; and after a few moments’ conversation they went back into the church.

That would have been the end of it … but God had other plans.

At that very moment Father Donald was coming out of the parochial house and making his way to the church. He had seen the youngsters running and overheard the conversation of their pursuers. Rather than continue his way towards the church to find out what had happened he had the presence of mind to follow the youngsters at a distance.

They made their way into the park opposite the church and eventually sat down on one of the benches. Father Donald approached quietly and hid behind a tree.

“Have you got it then?” he heard one of them ask.

“Yeh … here it is” replied the second youth, “where’s yours?”

“I dropped it in church.”

“Idiot …”

“Sorry … let me see it … it looks like a piece of thin paper or card … why do they call it a Host?”

At this point Father Donald realized what had happened and knew he had to act quickly. He approached the bench from behind and grabbed both individuals simultaneously from the back of their shirts. He was really strong and knew how to take care of himself. A skill he had learnt in his native Glasgow where he fought many a street fight in his youth.

He asked them to turn round slowly and face him, kneeling on the bench whilst doing so.

Perhaps because of his broad Glaswegian accent, or perhaps because of his stature and the fact that they were taken by surprise, both youngsters obliged and turned round slowly. Neither made an attempt to escape or pull back. They knelt on the bench facing him whilst his strong hands held them tight by the back of the neck.

“Now then …” he said calmly, “which one of you has the Host?”

“I have Mister …” replied one of them.

“OK … I’ll let you on my right go. Please walk away slowly and stand by that tree.” said the priest releasing the youngster without the Host, who obediently walked way towards the tree.

“As for you young man, please place the Host in my hand,” continued Father Donald holding out his hand and retrieving the stolen Host.

After releasing the second teenager the priest stood there and asked them “Do you realize the seriousness of what you have done?”

They shook their heads “No …” said one of them.

It was certainly not the time for a discussion on Christianity or the reality that is the Eucharist. The priest had to say something to end this encounter.

“In the name of God whom you do not know I forgive you and so does He. I pray for you that you may yet get to know Him.”

He turned back towards the church and never saw the two of them again.

NOTE: Fr Ignatius and Fr Donald are characters from the book "Visions" by the same author. See details on the right of this Blog.


  1. What an awesome answer.

    As a catechist of young First Holy Communion students, I very much appreciate this story. Thank you, Victor.

    PS - When my students receive Communion, it is always on the tongue. I spend a lot of time covering this subject...

    1. Hi Hand-Maid,

      Although my Father Ignatius stories are fictitious they are sometimes based on truth. Not so long ago, whilst giving Communion, our priest noticed that a young girl took the Host in her hand but did not put it in her mouth. He stopped giving Communion and followed her with his eyes. I was at hand in case he asked me to intervene. Eventually, when she got to her pew she put the Host in her mouth.

      We discussed this afterwards. He said he preferred Communion on the tongue but these days he is not allowed to refuse Communion in the hand.

      It's good your students receive on the tongue. The Church must make a decision on this for all priests to abide by.

      God bless.

    2. Sadly, I have witnessed the "taking Communion back to the pew" twice. At each incident, the priests (two entirely different priests & parishes) followed the communicant, having the person consume the consecrated Host.

      I should clarify, I also teach my students to receive both on the tongue and in the hand so that they know how to do so properly. In case they are ever "denied" on the tongue - whether out of ignorance or malice, usually from extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers (laity). I understand and completely follow the Church that you can receive both on the tongue or in the hand. As for me and my family, we always receive on the tongue.

      As I mentioned, during our First Holy Communion Mass, every child receives on the tongue...but also, every child wants to receive on the tongue. One reason;
      I teach them this way:
      (I ask the children) If you take the Holy Eucharist and break in half, so that you have two pieces, do you have half of Jesus in one hand and the other half of Him in the other hand? (By this point in the year) They always answer emphatically "NO, both are Jesus..."
      I go on, "If you take one half and break that in half, do you have a quarter of Him?" Again..."NO", but some children at this point are quiet. I continue, "If you take the quartered Host and keep breaking it...until you have the very smallest, tiniest, particle, do you still have Jesus - entirely?" (long & short of it) If Jesus is placed on your hand, how do you know that some small crumb or particle is not still remaining on your hand? *silence* I leave them with this to ponder...until the next lesson.
      Sorry for the long post. Hopefully it is not too confusing...

    3. Your explanation of breaking the host in half and so on is excellent, Hand-Maid. This is what concerns me about Communion in the hand. The small particles of Host. Time was ... many many years ago ... when everyone genuflected by the Altar rail and Communion was on the tongue only, and the Altar boys (I was one) carried a little silver plate which they placed under the communicant's chin in case any particles of Host fell.

      I know of a priest in London who does NOT want to give Communion on the tongue. When someone opens his mouth and tongue out the priest makes the point by expressly pressing the Host on the communicant's tongue. What a bad example of priesthood!

      God bless you Hand-Maid, and thank you for all the good work you do with your pupils.

  2. Victor,

    This story reminds me of a funeral Mike & I went to for our dear friends mother. There were many people in attendance, not all were Catholic, and when it was time for Holy Communion, the priest forgot to mention that those who were either not Catholic or were unable to receive Holy Communion, should, should place their hands in a crossed position and he would give them a blessing.

    Well, the group in the pew in front of us apparently were not Catholic and did not know what to do with the Host and started passing it to one another. My husband Mike move forward with lightening speed took it from the young mans hand and quickly put the Host in his mouth, then returned to his knees with his eyes closed in prayer.
    He received many dirty looks from the group in front of us, but he never acknowledged noticing.

    I was actually very proud of my husband and considered him to be a guard of Our Lord at that moment.

    Thank you for sharing this story. I enjoyed it very much.

  3. Thank you Daily Grace for sharing your story. Your husband is very brave and you are right to be proud of him.

    The question of Communion in the hand is an issue which the Church has delayed tackling once and for all. There have been many stories of the Host being taken by those who do not believe and in some cases miss-used. The clergy have a special responsibility as guardians of Our Lord's body; and for too long our priests, at all levels, have neglected their duty in this respect.

    God bless you and your family.

  4. I agree with you Victor, completely

    1. Thank you Daily Grace. God bless you and yours.

  5. great sense of drama, I was completly caught up in the story- powerful answer, perfect for the character

    1. Thank you Melanie. I try in my stories to put in an element of reality - most of my stories are based on true events.

      Look out for the sequel soon.

      God bless.

  6. We had this happen at our church, too, a few years ago, Victor. The priest went up to the person concerned and sorted things out. The funny thing was that this same priest once told me he disliked giving communion on the tongue. He found it disgusting to have to face someone's tongue. I wonder if he ever reflected on the practical benefits - though, he left the priesthood to get married so, maybe, he didn't.

    Great post, Victor:-)

    1. Hi Vicky,

      I agree with your sentiment about that priest. As you say, he left to get married, perhaps his heart was not in his vocation. I've known three priests who left the church to get married; but I've not written any "Fr Ignatius" stories about them because it's such a touchy subject. One of my stories just hints at the subject. I'll look it up and publish it here shortly.

      As you know, I alternate my stories between humourous (Gertrude type) ones and the serious Fr Ignatius ones. I have to be careful with the Fr I stories if the sunject is contentious.

      God bless.



God bless you.