Hands under cloth? What does it mean

I went to a Latin Mass this weekend at another parish in my area that’s been permitted to offer the Mass in the extraordinary form. They have an altar rail (which is something we don’t yet have at the parish I usually go to) and when we received Communion everyone put their hands under a white cloth that was upon the rail. Does anyone know why they do this? I’ve been to other churches with altar rails before but this was the first time I’d seen it.

I have heard of that at some TLM venues, but it’s not common. Here’s more:

I’ve seen a cloth placed on an altar rail before, but nobody used it as a houseling-cloth. It was “just there” and served no purpose.

At the TLMs I’ve been to, and holy cards I’ve seen, the hands go under the cloth to catch the Host if dropped.


I’ve never seen people putting their hands under the cloth.

It seems to be a remnant from the days when people did receive communion in the hand while kneeling at the communion rail. It’s not common at the TLM anymore. Patens are placed in between the priest’s hand and the communicant’s chin.

And, yes, hosts and fragments do fall. I’ve handled many a paten, as an altar server, where there were visible fragments on the paten, and IIRC, once or twice, the host fell as well.

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Another thought that came to me as i was reading this is the possibility of the cloth being a protection from hand oil. Typically, the hands are placed on the rail in prayer pose.

Putting the hands under would drive home the significance of the event.

That being said, Ive come to appreciate receiving in the hand. Ive not been nearly as sick since doing so.

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How do you explain that effect - less sickness since “in the hand”? I’ve never heard that before.

Seems like it’d be common sense – no germs from the communicant before oneself. Our pandemic pastor explained that spit gets onto the fingers of whomever is giving out communion. They don’t have a chance to clean their fingers until afterwards.

We made it policy that whomever wanted to receive on the tongue needed to come up last.

Ironically, the healthiest I’ve been was during the pandemic when everything was being cleaned thoroughly. (That is, until my family got the Delta variant).

Communion-in-the-hand was prevalent in the early church. I’m wanting to say that it was St John Chrystosom who said to “make a throne of your hands”.

The extraordinary min’s in our parish always stop for hand-disinfecting squirts from the bottle before approaching the priest celebrant at Communion. I was concerned at first because some of the min’s would touch my hand with theirs during the placement of the Consecrated Host in my hand. This would/could have been a process of accumulation of touches of non-disinfected recipient hands of many parishioners. In any case, I never got sick, but I don’t know of any other’s experience. Later on, I grew more and more cynical about the warnings anyway. And the whole “emergency” - as to whether the “precautions” and “forbidden non-orthodox medications” were wrongly enacted in either ignorance or driven by ideology, not actual medical judgment.

All I can say is, if someone wishes to receive CITH, examine your hand for any visible crumbs. They, too, are totally and entirely the Body of Christ. If you wish to avoid such distractedness at that holy moment, you might just wish to receive on the tongue, where the paten catches any such crumbs. (And they do exist, I have served many, many Masses, both TLM and Novus Ordo, and have seen many a crumb on those patens, which the priest removes after everyone has received.)

Here’s more on the situation:

I always do. Sometimes the Celebrant/minister gives me part of the big host. Then I lick my palm.

I always receive COTT.

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