In Alaska, the changes at Mass go beyond the new missal

The bishops up north are implementing changes in posture at certain points in the liturgy — and even giving very explicit instructions on how to receive communion, right down to which hand to use and how to open your mouth:

On Sunday, Nov. 27, Roman Catholic parishes across the United States and much of the English-speaking world officially began using the newest translation of the Roman Missal — the sacred text for the Mass. In Alaska, those linguistic modifications were coupled with several posture changes for the faithful and other instructions regarding the celebration of Mass.

Most noticeable is that parishioners are now asked to kneel or sit immediately following the Lamb of God prayer and again after receiving Holy Communion.

The changes are two of several guidelines instituted in the Anchorage Archdiocese by Archbishop Roger Schwietz. Similar changes are being implemented in the Dioceses of Fairbanks and Juneau.

A Nov. 17 document sent to pastors and parish leaders across the Anchorage Archdiocese details many of the instructions.

The decision to ask the faithful to kneel or sit after receiving Holy Communion reverses a 2005 instruction by Archbishop Schwietz in which he asked the faithful to stand after Communion.

At that time, the decision was met with mixed reception and some confusion. A number of parishioners preferred to kneel in prayer after Communion and many visitors to Alaska were confused about the standing posture, which is not the norm in most of the rest of the United States.

Archbishop Schwietz said the decision to return to kneeling after Communion is an effort to bring Alaska into greater conformity with how the liturgy is celebrated across most of the United States.

“The other problem is that we have so many visitors to Alaska, especially in the summer,” Archbishop Schwietz told the Catholic Anchor. “It is confusing for the visitors also. The three bishops from Alaska have been looking at the most common practices around the country to help reduce the confusion.”

For the reception of the Holy Eucharist, the guidelines explain that those receiving the consecrated host on the tongue should do so with “mouth open, tongue outstretched and head still: not with the lips.”

For those receiving Communion in the hand, the document states that the “dominant hand should be placed under the receiving hand with the palm open wide facing upwards.” It also states that after receiving the Eucharist, the communicant should “consume it immediately” to avoid the risk of “dropping the host.”

The document also explains the duties and preparations for deacons, lay liturgical ministers, lectors, altar servers, greeters and musicians during Mass.

In a section on the appropriate postures and actions while in the church building, the document states, “As the faithful enter or leave their pews, they should genuflect in the direction of the tabernacle (if the tabernacle is located in the sanctuary).”

Read it all.

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11 responses to “In Alaska, the changes at Mass go beyond the new missal”

  1. I’ve always followed the “dominant hand under the receiving hand” rule, but as I am right-handed I am often the target of glares for receiving the Lord into my “sinister” left hand! I wish a similar clarification were made here in Ohio for the posture after the Lamb of God and after Communion. The practice in my parish (where there are no kneelers in the main church, and we stand for the Eucharistic Prayer) is to continue to stand after the Lamb of God, but folks tend to drop like flies as soon as the Communion hymn is announced; that seems to be the point at which middle-aged and older knees start to buckle. We don’t remain standing through and after Communion, because it would be too difficult to get out of and back into our rows around those who are not receiving, but I would like to see some instruction on either rejoining the Communion hymn or maintaining a reverent silence after Communion, instead of using that time to get the kids back into their snow gear so you can jet out on the last note of the one-verse Closing Hymn. 🙂 I know, I know–I wouldn’t have these problems if I just gave up and went to an EF parish, but then I’d have to worry about what the Alaskan bishops mean by that “not with the lips” clause in the instructions on receiving on the tongue.

  2. In these here parts, we’re told — when receiving Communion in the hand — to place the right hand under the left to receive the sacred host, then to take the host with our right hand and place it in our mouth.

  3. As one of the many Alaskan bloggers, I can say that this is a DEFINITE improvement. While Matthew above is correct, that it is a baby step, it is great to see things like this occurring.

    While most of Alaska is very remote and wild, there are still many in areas outside of Anchorage and Fairbanks that long for more authentic and orthodox parishes. Yet, Rome wasn’t built within a day… so it must start somewhere. These changes are steps in that direction.

    I do know that there are many changes occurring, slowly and quietly, and much to the chagrin of many of the “powers that be” within local parishes. Keep your eyes open for more Alaskan Catholic news in the days and weeks to come.

  4. One other observation: The posture changes have been handled well by one or two of the priests locally, but the faithfully are still having trouble somewhat. It is interesting because what has essentially happened is that the Archdiocese has reverted to following the GIRM as written. The fact that the faithful are having “trouble” with it (especially the kneeling after the Agnus Dei) shows how important these changes are. The Archbishop outlines that one of the reasons he is asking that we now do this is to bring us into union with the universal Church. So that visitors are more comfortable and “at home” when they are here visiting.

    I know when we first moved here, we were confused because it seemed that every parish did something different, and for 2 years we never really knew what we were supposed to do. Trying to do what everyone else did was almost impossible because while a majority were doing the same thing, it did not seem to match either the GIRM or any approved options. Now that catalyst for confusion has been removed – and in a short time we will all be doing the same thing and for the right reasons.

  5. I really don’t understand the communion in the hands protocol. Whatever hand goes on top and touches the holy host is dirty. It’s held hands during the hour father in some churches as well as during the sign of peace handshake, exposing the hands to germs and such. Many can’t help it but they have to blow their nose during the mass. Is this fitting for our Lord? Doesn’t he deserve better? I wish they would go back to putting the holy host in the mouth. I tried presenting myself to priests at mass for this (it is still an option ) and for the most part was successful. Until I confused one priest and he didn’t know what to do. I haven’t done it since but I feel very uncomfortable putting Jesus in my dirty hands.

  6. Archbishop Schweitz is asking people to kneel when they return to their pews after receiving Holy Communion so that they will be more in conformity with how the rest of the country is doing it. Good grief! How about having them kneel because it is a much more reverent position for someone who has just received Almighty God the Son in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity!

  7. Let’s not forget that the United States has an indult to kneel. The rest of the world honors the Lord by standing in His presence just as we should stand for OUR SAVIOR and KING!

  8. Most of us believe that our hands cannot reasonably be called “dirty” from a handshake or touching the sorts of things one normally does between home and church, so it’s not a concern for most people. But if you’re worried about it, no problem: bring a moist towelette and wipe your hands after the Sign of Peace.

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