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Respecting the Real Presence: How to be reverent in Mass

We should enter church with our heart and actions ready to match an encounter Jesus

Published: March 4, 2022      
Anthony Reiter
Father Erik Pohlmeier, pastor of Christ the King Church in Little Rock, displays how to receive Communion reverently for a video on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Feb. 9.

The idea of reverence toward the Real Presence is not reserved for the Communion line. It starts before a person even walks into the sanctuary, making sure their heart and soul are prepared to receive Christ. 

Upon entering the sanctuary, Father Erik Pohlmeier, pastor of Christ the King Church in Little Rock, diocesan faith formation director and theological consultant for Arkansas Catholic, said sometimes people are “unaware of the truth, the Real Presence,” thinking about it only when they walk up to receive Communion. 

“The Real Presence is present in the church in a unique way,” Father Pohlmeier said. “So we should enter the church aware of the reverence, aware of the true presence. So we want our heart and our actions to match an encounter with Jesus.” 

Reverence can be everything from not carrying on conversations to not rushing through the traditions. Father Pohlmeier suggests: 

  • Arrive on time. He said those who consistently try to arrive just in time “for it to count,” are missing the point of Mass. 

  • Dip fingers into the holy water when you enter church and carefully make a sign of the cross. “It's important to do things one at a time. Like don't do a fly-by on the holy water,” he said. 

  • Be quiet upon entering the sanctuary. 

  • Walk to the pew and genuflect with care and not just “falling into the pew,” he said. Those who cannot genuflect for health reasons can bow toward the altar instead. If a person must leave during Mass, genuflect or bow when exiting. 

“The point is to step out of our normal life and into this encounter with God and so I should pause and take it in a little bit. And so these gestures are meant to help us pause and take in what's happening,” Father Pohlmeier said. 

Proper ways to walk up and receive Communion should be followed: 

  • Bow head when approaching the priest, either while the person in front of you is receiving or right before you receive the Body of Christ.  

  • Extend hands out flat, palms up, with your dominant hand on the bottom. A person should not grab the host, put just one hand flat or cup their hands side-by-side, something Father Pohlmeier said he sees often, as that can lead to confusion on where the priest can place the host without the risk of it falling. If a person is receiving on the tongue, “barely put out your tongue so that it’s easy for the person to place the host onto your tongue,” he said. 

  • After saying “Amen” a person may reach with their dominant hand and consume the Body of Christ immediately, not bringing the host back to the pew. 

  • Spend time in prayer and stay until Mass has ended. 

“If we've received Jesus, then we shouldn't leave early. We should take care for personal prayer and being a part of a community of faith,” Father Pohlmeier said. “We call it Communion, both because it's a unity with God but also a unity with the community. So being part of that community is part of the larger idea of Communion.” 

Visit for a how-to video guide. 

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