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Here in the Diocese of Motherwell, our Bishop, Joseph Toal, has released a letter concerning the reception of Holy Communion during these times of pandemic.

The letter concerns the difficulties some Catholics find themselves in at the prospect of having to receive Holy Communion in the hand rather than on the tongue, which might be their usual preference. Bishop Toal noted that different people have difficulties with different aspects of the practice of their Faith and that for some, this particular aspect is perhaps more problematic than for others.

He went on to look at the options such people might have when it comes to receiving Holy Communion at the present time and he noted this –

“I don’t think the right answer is to come forward in the communion procession and put out your tongue. This imposes your dilemma on the minister giving out communion – they either accede to your demand against the present emergency regulation, or they decline to give you communion with the possible upset that may cause. There is spiritual integrity in play here also as part of our shared integrity as Catholics is to respect the rules put in place by the appropriate authority, which in the case of a Diocese, is the bishop. A respectful submission to the will of the Bishop in the present situation is asked for, even although there is some pain involved and some spiritual desolation.. I would suggest also that those who find it too difficult to receive communion in the hand should speak to their parish priest about their dilemma and ask if they can receive the Eucharist at another time.”

Towards the end of the letter, the Bishop added –

“There is an opportunity also to extend our thanksgiving for the gift of the Eucharist into our homes and family life. Perhaps a short time of prayer could be set aside once we do reach home to give thanks together, including those from the household unable to attend Mass, and to seek the Lord’s blessing on our homes and families. The gains from the increase in prayer and devotion in our homes which have been apparent during the lockdown can be consolidated and built upon now that it is possible to return to Mass and to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion.”

My impression was that this was a very thoughtful letter, well-considered and warmly worded. It felt like the firm but gentle admonition of a much-loved father or grandfather, to whom we had gone for advice. 

And I hope it will help anyone who finds themselves in this particular difficulty.

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