by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki
There are a variety of reasons why people do not receive holy Communion when they come to Mass. In some cases, they are children who have not yet received their confirmation and first holy Communion. Others do not receive because they are not Catholic. It could be that a person is conscious of having committed grave sin but has not yet had a chance to go to confession and receive absolution from the priest in the sacrament of penance. It might also simply be that a person has had something to eat right before Mass and hence has not observed the required one-hour fast before receiving holy Communion. Whatever the reason, it has become customary in the United States and some other countries for people to present themselves to the minister of holy Communion with their arms crossed in front of their chest to indicate that they do not want to receive holy Communion but wish to receive something else. The question is: What is it that they should expect to receive if they are not receiving holy Communion? Often they would receive a blessing. Other times they would be invited with various words to make a spiritual communion.