You’ve heard of the three R’s of school – reading, writing, and arithmetic – and the three R’s of the environment – reduce, reuse, and recycle – but did you know there are three R’s for receiving the Eucharist? Bishop Bill Wack of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee stopped by Morning Air® recently to share his guidance on how to properly receive Our Lord in the Eucharist, and broke it down into three easy steps.
Recalling a recent poll in which only one-third of Catholic respondents believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, Bishop Wack pointed out that one way to foster the Church’s teaching that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ is by the way we receive Him.
“The way we receive informs that and reminds us that this is like nothing else we are receiving or consuming,” he said. “Nothing is like that, and so we need to treat it very differently, and receive it into our hearts, receive it into our bodies, and let it transform us.”
While most people are taught the proper way to receive the Eucharist during their First Communion preparation or during RCIA, sometimes people forget or get nervous, which can lead to awkward or irreverent moments in the Communion line. Bishop Wack said that it’s good to have continuing education and reminders of how we should receive the Eucharist, so that Catholics feel more prepared to receive Our Lord at Mass.
“Over 25 years of being a priest, and now too as a bishop, I think I’ve seen everything,” Bishop Wack said. “And of course I try to teach people, I try to do what I can at that moment if there’s an awkward exchange, or if they clearly don’t know what they’re doing, I try to teach them. But I think it’s good to do this now at a time outside of Mass to help educate people on the mechanics of how to receive.”
To help educate Catholics on how to properly receive the Eucharist, he shared the three R’s – reverence, receive, and reflect.
I think it’s safe to say that at the Last Supper the feeling that overcame everyone without a doubt is just that wonder at what is He saying? What is He doing? And not understanding it in their mind, but just obeying Jesus when He said, ‘This is My Body, this is My Blood. Take and eat, take and drink.’
I like to say, ‘My Lord and my God,’ the words of St. Thomas after he saw Jesus. It’s that sense of awe and wonder. I think that we would do well to recapture that and have it grow in us so that we can receive worthily.
It’s important for people to know that both forms are acceptable – to receive on the tongue or in the hand. But no matter how you receive, it really needs to be done properly and reverently.
We are not used to receiving from people. We get impatient. People try to meet you halfway and they grab the Eucharist, or with their tongue they bite at it. My biggest thing when I teach people this is that you are receiving this. You receive all the sacraments, you don’t take them from anyone.
What I want to tell people, and what I do tell parishes, is relax. Maybe because I’m a bishop perhaps people are a little bit more anxious or something, but there’s a lot of frantic moving and they’re not sure or they just grab it, or they meet me halfway with the Eucharist as I’m coming to the hand or tongue. And I want to say just relax.
If you receive on the tongue some people like to close their eyes. So after you say ‘Amen’ you close your eyes, tilt your head back and just put your tongue out there. So many people put their head down or open their mouth a little bit and you have to kind of go underneath to get it in there.
On the hand just imagine you’re cradling a baby, but something greater, much greater than a baby. You are a throne, you’re making a throne for Jesus Christ Himself. So relax and receive.
Go back to your pew and delight in the fact that God has just shared His very self with you. … [Jesus] said, ‘Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I abide in that person.’ So it’s not just ‘I’m coming to them,’ but ‘They abide in Me.’ It’s an awesome thing.
Like St. Paul said, we are already citizens, in some way, of heaven. While we live here on earth we are citizens of heaven. A part of us already exists with God in heaven in Jesus Christ. And that is renewed and celebrated in the Eucharist every time we celebrate the Mass and receive Communion.
Listen to the full conversation with Bishop Wack below: