"Do you mind if I kneel for communion?" — UPDATED

"Do you mind if I kneel for communion?" — UPDATED April 20, 2011

A young woman approached me before mass on Palm Sunday to ask that question.

I replied, “Of course not.  That’s fine.”  She smiled sheepishly and said, “I know some priests don’t like it.”   I reassured it that it was okay, and she later came to my communion station, knelt, and received on the tongue.  It’s common practice at papal masses — Benedict has indicated he prefers to give communion that way — but in this country, it’s still somewhat rare.

Some background: the norm for reception of communion in the United States is standing.    And, despite what others might be saying, the universal norm (and official teaching of the Church) from 2002 states no preference for kneeling or standing.  This was underscored in Redemptionis Sacramentum

“The faithful should receive Communion kneeling or standing, as the Conference of Bishops will have determined,” with its acts having received the recognitio of the Apostolic See.

Of course, many churches in the U.S. have done away with altar rails, making kneeling more difficult and standing more efficient.

But there’s no question: getting down on our knees adds reverence to the sacrament, and requires more thought, effort, sacrifice and, well, humility.  In kneeling, we decrease so He may increase.  (I also think kneeling inhibits liturgical abuse, like people just grabbing the host and wandering away without consuming it, or stuffing it in a handkerchief or pocket.)

While the pope has made clear what he prefers — and the Vatican has issued a statement to that effect — it remains to be seen if the Church will go one step further and make Benedict’s practice, by law, the practice of all the faithful.

Meantime, both forms of reception are valid.  No one should have to ask permission to kneel, or make apologies for it — which is worth remembering as we approach tomorrow’s celebration of Holy Thursday, and the institution of the Eucharist.

UPDATE: A couple of readers have pointed out, correctly, that I failed to provide catechesis here (or in my initial encounter with the communicant) on just why standing is the norm in the United States, and why every communicant should conform to that norm.

Here’s how the USCCB explains it:

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal emphasizes that in matters of gesture and posture “greater attention needs to be paid to what is laid down by liturgical law and by the traditional practice of the Roman Rite, for the sake of the common spiritual good of the people of God rather than to personal inclination arbitrary choice” (Girm, no.42)/ Throughout their consideration of GIRM numbers 43 and 160, the Bishops repeatedly recalled the need for uniformity in all prescribed postures and gestures.

Such uniformity serves as a “sign of the unity of the members of the Christian community gathered for the sacred Liturgy” and it “both expresses and fosters the spiritual attitude of those assisting” (GIRM, no. 42). Likewise, a lack of uniformity can serve as a sign of disunity or even a sense of individualism. A particular example of this disunity has been cited by many of the Bishops in regard to a diversity of postures during the Eucharistic Prayer, “the center and summit of the entire celebration” (GIRM, no. 78). Thus, the variation from kneeling as the uniform posture during the Eucharistic Prayer is permitted only “on occasion” and when the circumstances found by GIRM (no. 43) are clearly present.

In describing the indispensable role of the gathered faithful at Mass, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal presents them as “a holy people, a chosen people, a royal priesthood” who “give thanks to God and offer the Victim not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him and learn to offer themselves” (GIRM, no. 95). Two responsibilities grow from this noble identity: “fostering of a deep sense of reverence for God as well as developing charity towards their brothers and sisters who share with them in the celebration” (GIRM, no. 95). Such a sense of reverence for God and charity for the other members of the liturgical assembly is concretely manifested by a unity in word, song, posture and gesture. Thus, this section concludes that the faithful are to shun any appearance of individualism or division, keeping before their eyes that they have the one Father in heaven and therefore are all brothers and sisters to each other” (GIRM, no. 95).

It could also be pointed out that standing for communion has remained the tradition of the Eastern Church for centuries, and undoubtedly harkens back to the very beginning of Christianity.

And, as another commenter noted, succinctly: “For centuries, reverence to the Eucharistic Presence of Christ was demonstrated throughout Europe and other parts of the world through a PROCESSION on Corpus Christi Sunday. We traditionally stand up to show reverence, and the act of solemn procession is every bit as reverent a gesture as the act of kneeling. Receiving communion is first a COMMUNAL act of the Church; kneeling in personal thanksgiving may be done after one returns to the pew.”

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105 responses to “"Do you mind if I kneel for communion?" — UPDATED”

  1. Not only is there reverence involved, but the feeling of waiting as the priest approaches you is one of great anticipation — something important is about to take place. So the act of kneeling is a sign of both the reverence due the Blessed Sacrament and of the importance of receving it. Take that sign away and you invariably start to lose what it signifies.

  2. From your lips (or keyboard) to the ears of many priests throughout the land who have given the laity a very hard time about kneeling for reception of Communion. What a shame.

  3. While I don’t necessarily disagree, there are some practical as well as theological cautions, however.

    If one is approaching the communion minister in procession, and the person ahead drops to his or her knees unexpectedly, things can get dangerous, since we don’t come equipped with brake lights. Great caution is advised, especially considering the advanced age of many communicants.

    Also, I have found it interesting to note that, far too often, communicants who show particular reverence before receiving the consecrated Host show an almost total lack of reverence toward the Precious Blood. Greater catechesis is needed about the Real Presence of Christ under BOTH forms.

    Finally, I would only point out that the worldwide NORM of reception (anticipated in the GIRM) is standing, after walking in procession, papal preference notwithstanding. I would note that for centuries, reverence to the Eucharistic Presence of Christ was demonstrated throughout Europe and other parts of the world through a PROCESSION on Corpus Christi Sunday. We traditionally stand up to show reverence, and the act of solemn procession is every bit as reverent a gesture as the act of kneeling. Receiving communion is first a COMMUNAL act of the Church; kneeling in personal thanksgiving may be done after one returns to the pew.

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill

  4. @Deacon Bill: I have never seen a communion procession line moving so fast that the person second in line was still moving when the person in front received Communion. I believe this is a spurious situation that has never, or almost never occurred in real life.

    Respect and humility are two different things. Kneeling is a sign of humility and subservience.

  5. I guess I have seen this devotional style maybe a half-dozen times in the 33 years I have been a deacon here in the Midwest. All were visitors from out-of-state. It has not been adopted by our local congregations at all.

    I have traveled out of the country fairly extensively — as has Deacon Bill — and I never fail to note how localized a lot of our religious ceremonial posturing is. Catholics in Poland generally stand during the Eucharistic Canon — only kneeling at that time when deacons kneel here in the US. The French adopted Communion in the Hand long before we did here in the US. I am sure there are more.

    I will admit, the only time I mess with the rule about “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” is at communion time. Coming up in a communion procession in a European country and extending your hands is just as much a statement of localized honor and devotion as is kneeling.

  6. While I bow to your office as an ordained minister, I am not sure that I agree theologically and/or liturgically. Sadly I do not have the time to go too deeply into this at this moment. I will try to return.

  7. A quote from the pope in his recent book “Light of the World”:

    I am not opposed in principle to communion in the hand; I have both administered and received communion in this way myself. The idea behind my current practice of having people kneel to receive communion on the tongue was to send a signal and to underscore the real presence with an exclamation point. One very important reason is that there is a great danger of super-ficiality precisely in the kinds of mass events we hold at Saint Peter’s, both in the Basilica and in the Square. I have heard of people who, after receiving communion, stick the Host in their wallet to take home as a kind of souvenir. In this context, where people think that everyone is just automatically supposed to receive communion—everyone else is going up, so I will, too—I wanted to send a clear signal. I wanted it to be clear: Something quite special is going on here! He is here, the One before whom we fall on our knees! Pay attention! This is not just some social ritual in which we can take part if we want to.

  8. To offer an ecumenical perspective on a related point likely to come up in the comments, kneeling and reception on the tongue are different questions. We Episcopalians usually kneel for Communion but receive the host in the hand.

  9. Kneeling for communion is only appropriate if the recipients come to altar that that is set up for this practice.

    In my old church in the 1970’s we used to do that. Folks would come down the isle knee on the altar and brace against a altar rail for support.

    Now, there is a evangelical trend in the Catholic church for these types of ‘show boating’ styles of receiving the Eucharist.

    I have even seen one women walking on her knees the entire time while queued up.

    These behaviors are call ‘individual protestations of faith’ and are disruptive to the Mass as they draw attention to the parishioner and not the primary objective – Jesus.

    As far as what happened at the Vatican:

    Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican press office, said he did not think the May 22 Mass marked a permanent change; “according to current norms the faithful may receive in the hand while standing,” he said.

  10. Yes kneeling is an option and a beautiful gesture, but so is standing which in Christian Tradition is a “salute” to faith the Risen Lord. There is essentially no difference between the two postures and what matters is what is in the heart.

    In Liturgy it is esstenial to its nature to have a common posture which is why the Vatican asked each national conference to choose their custom. With that in mind if a Catholic wished to worship with the mind and heart of the Church then s/he should receive the Eucharist standing in the USA (and kneeling when in the Vatican).

    I forget what saint it was but in some ancient writing a holy woman tells her bishop that when she was on pilgrimage in Rome, the Church there did this or that thing differently from what she and her local Church were accustomed to do. Her bishop answered than “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” (which I think is where we get that phrase).

    So various psotures is not an innovation. Kneeling or standing really do not matter if one believes in the reality of the Eucharistic Presence and receives with the proper faith and disposition.

  11. The “practical problems” of people kneeling for communion would all be solved if the use of the altar rail returned.

    I first experienced the altar rail while attending a Protestant church. I remember wondering why on earth did we not do this at my old Catholic parish.

  12. I was wondering since Deacons are always to be Ministers of the Cup why you were giving the bread. If you are reminding us that we have to be respectful about knelling we also have to be faithful to instruction about deacons and the cup.

  13. A few months ago, I was harshly scolded by the celebrating priest for kneeling to receive. It was not the first time for me.

    Deacon Bill: It is precisely because of reverence for the Sacrament that many Catholics decline to receive the Precious Blood. Administration of the Precious Blood to the faithful at large is unnecessary and imprudent. It is more time-consuming and logistically complex. It creates an artificial demand for additional “extraordinary” ministers. There is a greater risk of accident. There is a strong risk of contamination. Finally, there is the danger of bad catechesis, of inculcating the false belief that the Sacrament has not been received unless both forms are administered. It’s another instance of neo-clericalism, in which laity receive the impression that full liturgical participation is a matter of adopting actions and postures formerly or even still reserved to the clergy.

  14. John…

    Deacons are not “always” ministers of the cup.

    The deacon is an Ordinary Minister of Holy Communion, like a priest, but historically with a special connection to the cup. There is nothing in the instructions to prohibit him from distributing the Body of Christ to the faithful.

    Dcn. G.

  15. John (Post #12)

    That’s an interesting question. I have done it both ways depending upon the preference of the local pastor. HOWEVER, I am always the “minister of the cup” to the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

  16. There is another consideration that is also covered in the GIRM and that is one of unity. The GIRM (#42) states that “A common posture, to be observed by all participants, is a sign of the unity of the members of the Christian community gathered for the sacred Liturgy: it both expresses and fosters the intention and spiritual attitude of the participants.”

    We do have a few people in my parish that receive on their knees and we (pastor, priests and deacons) would not require them to do otherwise. That said, I do think it is helpful for the faithful to understand the communal aspect of the Mass. Sometimes the understanding that we are to participate in the Mass as a unified community of faith, as opposed to just an individual encounter with the living God in Word and Sacrament, they change their posture to conform with the practice. Then again sometimes they do not.

    As my wife correctly says, “If someone approaches the Eucharist with the right disposition in their heart, with love and reverence, does God really care if they kneel, stand or (in the case of the elderly or infirm) sit?”

    I think that it is entirely possible to show our Christian unity and deep reverence simultaneously. In the Archdiocese that I live in and generally throughout the US that has generally been done by standing to receive. I also think that it is entirely possible for someone to very reverent or to be less than reverent no matter what posture they assume.

  17. just to clarify, only those who receive communion from the Pope are the ones who receive kneeling. At the masses at St Peter’s or on his apostolic travels, a few people are invited to receive communion from the Pope and they receive kneeling. The rest of the congregation receives from priests and deacons standing.

    I guess people can debate which posture, to kneel or to stand, is more reverent. The problem is not the posture, but allowing one to fall into routine. Also the Eastern churches have kept an unbroken tradition of standing, not only at communion but throughout the liturgy. in the early church there were even canons written that did not allow kneeling on the Lord’s day.

  18. Diskonos09: you are thinking not of a holy woman, but of St. Ambrose. Standing to receive is not in the tradition of the Latin Church. It’s a novelty promoted and eventually imposed by theorists with an indecent contempt for the tradition they’ve received. The Catholics of all centuries are the Church no less than our wonderful selves, and they no less than we are all mystically present at the same Sacrifice — so what about keeping a common posture with them? Since common posture is “essential” to liturgy, it would be interesting to know your views about which direction the celebrant ought to be facing.

  19. “We Episcopalians usually kneel for Communion but receive the host in the hand.”

    Communion for Catholics and for Episcopalians are totally different things.

  20. Romulus #18

    “Standing to receive is not in the tradition of the Latin Church. It’s a novelty promoted and eventually imposed by theorists with an indecent contempt for the tradition they’ve received.”

    I doubt very seriously if you can prove from historical data either of your statements here. If you can, give me the source text and the library that holds the manuscript.

  21. Dear @Ian,

    Far from spurious, my description happens all too often, and anyone who has ministered communion for any length of time at all has encountered it.

    We all want this moment to be full of reverence; that’s the goal. The wisdom of the Church is to permit a wide variety of expressions of that reverence. None are necessarily “more reverent” than another. As Deacon Norb has written here, practices vary greatly around the world, and even at St. Peter’s itself (where I have assisted on several occasions).

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill

  22. Kneeling for the reception of the Eucharist and receiving on the tongue is the norm for every daily Mass televised on EWTN.

    I remember hearing or reading that, in the early church, kneeling at prayer was not acceptable, because that was how the pagans worshipped the god(s) of the underworld. (Sorry I can’t validate the truth of that statement.)

    For me, it is more appropriate to stand. We stand at the Nicene Creed. When we respond: “Amen,” to the words “Body of Christ,” we are making another Profession of Faith.

  23. With all due respect, how can one honestly claim that there is no essential difference between standing and kneeling. Surely, kneeling is an external sign that signifies a particular reverence or respect for what is before oneself more than just standing. Sure what is going on within the heart is essential as well but it is our postures that externalize this inner reality. In fact, our external postures also in turn help to interiorize the reality before us.

    There is no doubt in my mind that, if the norm in the U.S. where to be changed to kneeling before the Holy Eucharist, instantly a greater respect and awareness of the sacred host as the true presence of Christ would be heightened within the Church.

  24. Deacon, this post is extremely pertinent to me. I have expressed to my pastor, via a letter that included the Vatican document to which you link, my desire to receive Communion kneeling. He responded emphatically that such an act would be “divisive.” This is painful, because I do not want to be seen as publicly countering my pastor.

    Next Tuesday, I am meeting with my pastor face-to-face to discuss this issue. Please pray for him and me.

  25. My Pastor, Fr. Mike Nimmocks (St Mary, Marion, OH) has used his homily time several months ago to expressly prohibit anu one from kneeling or jenuflecting prior to injesting the Blessed Sac. His concern was that someone might get injured??? He also discouraged anyone from taking communion on the tongue. What has happened that priests find a problem with being pious?

  26. HMS, the practice of kneeling during Mass was not forbidden in the early Church because it was a pagan custom, but because kneeling was a penitential posture, while standing was considered more respectful. That was why even after some kneeling was permitted at Mass, it was always forbidden during the Easter season.

    I’ve seen some parishes use kneeling for this ancient posture of penance by kneeling during the confiteor (“I confess…”) during Lent.

    As far as I know, the U.S. is the only (or one of a few) countries where we kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer. This was an exception granted at the request of the U.S. bishops. I don’t know why they requested it; presumably because of the modern devotional idea that kneeling is more respectful.

    All that being said, nobody should be refused communion for either standing or kneeling!

  27. I am 52yrs. old and have no memory of the communion rail. But, when i went to my first Extraordinary Form mass a few years ago something struck me. As a knelt at the communion rail with my family and i looked down the row as it were i had an image of the great banquet that awaits us in heaven. The boundry between heaven and earth. That image of being at table and being fed by the heavenly food was only evident to my at that old, ‘get rid of that monstrosity’ communion rail. I much prefer the EF mass and the rail.

  28. I had occasion to kneel while receiving communion in Rome last year, and I liked doing it. I’d be really fine with bringing back the communion rails.

  29. Unity? During Mass? Let’s see….half the congregation mimick the priest with their hands; half hold hands during the Our Father; one of deacons always adds to the readings to include females; one of the deacons never kneels at the altar; out of three priests, only one says the Mass without adding any of his “additions” to the liturgy. As for communion, everyone does it there own way-standing, kneeling, on the tongue, one hand out, one hand under the other, taking the host back to the pew to consume; and the traffic back up due to the cup! But, hey, it’s all the norm, right?!

  30. From my understanding, the Roman liturgy does not foresee standing for the reception of Holy Communion. Indeed, special recognition is required from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments for a Bishops’ Conference to give this “norm of standing” the effect of law. No such recognition is required for the “norm of kneeling” thereby making kneeling the de facto “standard” position for receiving Holy Communion in the Roman Rite.

  31. I have restored our altar rail and use it for daily Mass, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Corpus Christi. As time goes on, more people receive kneeling and on the tongue. All we have to do is follow the example of the Holy Father and all else will fall into place!

  32. I have a feeling communion in the hand will eventually disappear, like the superficial handshake we’ve been doing for the last 20 years or so.

    If we saw Jesus standing in front of us, how many of us would not drop to our knees? Maybe some would be comfortable just shaking his hand, but I don’t think most would. It is no different with holy communion.

  33. Woody #29

    “one of the deacons never kneels at the altar;”

    Woody: Cool your jets. Many of the deacons in my area of the world are over 65 and some have bone disease that is not evident. As one of my colleagues put it, “I could probably kneel but it would take EMS to get me back on my feet.”

  34. Deacon Greg,

    So what was the catechesis you offered the communicant in your story, so that you followed this instruction in the US GIRM:

    The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.


    Seems like you have stepped into a hole here.

  35. George …

    That’s adorable. Where’d it come from? It almost looks like it’s the priest asking the question in the headline of my post 🙂

    Dcn. G.

  36. The Holy Spirit commands: “At the NAME of Jesus, every knee must bend” (Philippians 2:10). If such reverence must be rendered at the mere mention of the Holy Name, how much more so should we show our reverence when we are about to consume His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity?

  37. I was away from the Church for decades. When I left, the Mass was in Latin and we received the Holy Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling. The Mass I came back to was the Novus Ordo. For me, there is no comparison with the Latin Mass in terms of reverence and cohesiveness. No insult intended but it was a little coming back to hear Gregorian Chant and hearing Peter, Paul and Mary instead.

    And there is no way in the world that I could ever receive in the hand. I’d kneel but the rails are gone and it would physically inconvenience my 80-year-old pastor who inspired my return and hold up the line, something not liked too much in my parish.

    The Holy Eucharist is the one thing that makes it impossible for me to be anything but Catholic. No Real Presence and I might have taken the easy route (for me) and become a Baptist. Baptists love Jesus, no question, but we have Him. And my hands will never be worthy enough to hold Him.

  38. You’re right, RP. I could have used that for a teachable moment. I didn’t.

    I got the impression she was just grateful to be in a place where she wouldn’t be ostracized or punished for wanting to kneel.

    She was also unfamiliar to me and I suspect, since it was Palm Sunday, she may have been from out of town.

    But regardless: I should have said more.

  39. Jesus taught by example, washing the apostle’s feet. Our Holy Father feeds Holy Communion to the people as they kneel and only on the tongue, and few if any bishops follow his example. I remember well alter rails and churches dead silent before Mass, older people mostly, praying the rosary. His house was a house of prayer, and we all acted reverently because of His holy presence in the tabernacle. All the changes effected since then have diminished reverence to Him in His own house. Any wonder why some 70% don’t believe in the real presence?

  40. George, I wonder if we like that picture because we have been conditioned to respond to sentimentality. Everyone in the photo means well — but the whole setup is disordered. No one does children any favors by giving them an inverted understanding of the right order of things.

    It might be mentioned that priests have successfully communicated children for a long, long time without having had to resort to this. Why does everyone have to think his ideas are an improvement?

  41. If it doesn’t matter, why is that we are commonly required by the priest to stand? If it doesn’t matter, why is it so common to have the communion denied while we are knelt?

    As for more reverence in the communion, I strongly suggest a recent book by Bishop Athanasius Scheneider, “Dominus Est”. The paper book is found at Amazon for about $10 and I think the PDF may be found freely on the internet.

  42. to follow up with RP’s question, it seems you steeped into the hole twice? once in your response to the person at your church and second time on your blog? at least how i read your post, it does not seem to give a catechesis “on the reasons for the norm” but to encourage them to use their right to kneel if they want.

    [Excellent point, anthony. I updated the post to correct that oversight. Dcn. G]

  43. Donal Mahoney, fellow Catholic of Irish descent and, hopefully, with a Irish sense of humor :

    “And my hands will never be worthy enough to hold Him.”

    And your tongue is more worthy?

    (I am just paraphrasing the words of a priest at a retreat I attended years ago when we started going back to the earlier tradition of receiving communion in the hand.)

  44. For what it’s worth, here’ s my position:

    Kneel, stand, tongue, hand
    There’s confusion all across the land!
    But regardless, Lord, of which we choose to do
    we’re not worthy to receive you.

    Kneel, stand, tongue, hand
    We disagree, we misunderstand
    Or we can just take solace in what’s been revealed:
    Only say the word, Lord, and we shall be healed.

  45. This is quite an interesting topic of discussion. I tend to follow the idea of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” As long as we’re not talking about sin, I think it does show respect to blend in with the locals.

    In my parish we follow the U.S. norm of standing. Some receive in the hand, others on the tongue. A few people genuflect on one knee but then stand to receive the host, usually on the tongue, but not necessarily.

    When I attend Mass at the nearby Carmelite Nuns Monastery, there is a Communion railing, so I kneel and I also receive on the tongue. The two seem to go together for me. Most of the Mass attendees do likewise. Yet, a few remain standing and receive in the hand.

    So, I guess I’m “bi-functional” or something! I don’t feel holier or more reverent one way or the other.

    Once I asked a Sister whose opinion I respect and who is, in my perception, a holy woman, “Is it holier to receive Communion on the tongue or in the hands?” She answered my question with a rhetorical question, “Do you sin more with your hands or with your tongue?”

    This made me think. I don’t know about others, but I sin more with my tongue than with my hands. Bottom line, though, I don’t let myself get all discombobulated about this.

    They only thing that bothers me is when someone INSISTS it HAS to be a certain way.

  46. It is not a question of which is ‘holier,’ it is a question of how do humans traditionally show great respect and that is by kneeling.

  47. I guess what as perplexes me is how many people write with such apparent objective certitude about things that are culturally (and by definition, historically) contingent.

  48. Dear Brother Jeff,

    So, when a person enters a room and you wish to show respect, do you kneel or stand?

    Never mind. Rhetorical question.

    Seriously, have a blessed Holy Week, especially the Triduum!

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill

  49. Rome, 1 July 2002

    Your Excellency,

    This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has recently received reports of members of the faithful in your Diocese being refused Holy Communion unless while standing to receive, as opposed to kneeling. the reports state that such a policy has been announced to parishioners. There were possible indications that such a phenomenon might be somewhat more widespread in the Diocese, but the Congregation is unable to verify whether such is the case. This Dicastery is confident that Your Excellency will be in a position to make a more reliable determination of the matter, and these complaints in any event provide an occasion for the Congregation to communicate the manner in which it habitually addresses this matter, with a request that you make this position known to any priests who may be in need of being thus informed.

    The Congregation in fact is concerned at the number of similar complaints that it has received in recent months from various places, and considers any refusal of Holy Communion to a member of the faithful on the basis of his or her kneeling posture to be a grave violation of one of the most basic rights of the Christian faithful, namely that of being assisted by their Pastors by means of the Sacraments (Codex Iuris Canonici, canon 213). In view of the law that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them” (canon 843 ß 1), there should be no such refusal to any Catholic who presents himself for Holy Communion at Mass, except in cases presenting a danger of grave scandal to other believers arising out of the person’s unrepented public sin or obstinate heresy or schism, publicly professed or declared. Even where the Congregation has approved of legislation denoting standing as the posture for Holy Communion, in accordance with the adaptations permitted to the Conferences of Bishops by the Institution Generalis Missalis Romani n. 160, paragraph 2, it has done so with the stipulation that communicants who choose to kneel are not to be denied Holy Communion on these grounds.

    In fact, as His Eminence, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has recently emphasized, the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favor a centuries-old tradition, and it is a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species.

    Given the importance of this matter, the Congregation would request that Your Excellency inquire specifically whether this priest in fact has a regular practice of refusing Holy Communion to any member of the faithful in the circumstances described above and – if the complaint is verified – that you also firmly instruct him and any other priests who may have had such a practice to refrain from acting thus in the future. Priests should understand that the Congregation will regard future complaints of this nature with great seriousness, and if they are verified, it intends to seek disciplinary action consonant with the gravity of the pastoral abuse.

    Thanking Your Excellency for your attention to this matter and relying on your kind collaboration in its regard,

    Sincerely yours in Christ,

    Jorge A. Cardinal Medina Estévez

    +Francesco Pio Tamburrino
    Archbishop Secretary

  50. As for the need to counsel or catechize those who choose to kneel, please see below, esp. the end of paragraph 3:

    Congregatio de Culto Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum
    Prot. N. xxxx/02/L
    Rome, xx February, 2003

    Dear _______:

    This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has received your letter dated xx December 2002, related to the application of the norms approved by the Conference of Bishops of the United States of America, with the subsequent recognitio of this Congregation, as regards the question of the posture for receiving Holy Communion.

    As the authority by virtue of whose recognitio the norm in question has attained the force of law, this Dicastery is competent to specify the manner in which the norm is to be understood for the sake of a proper application. Having received more than a few letters regarding this matter from different locations in the United States of America, the Congregation wishes to ensure that its position on the matter is clear.

    To this end, it is perhaps useful to respond to your inquiry by repeating the content of a letter that the Congregation recently addressed to a Bishop in the United States of America from whose Diocese a number of pertinent letters had been received. The letter states: “… while this Congregation gave the recognitio to the norm desired by the Bishops’ Conference of your country that people stand for Holy Communion, this was done on the condition that communicants who choose to kneel are not to be denied Holy Communion on these grounds. Indeed, the faithful should not be imposed upon nor accused of disobedience and of acting illicitly when they kneel to receive Holy Communion.”

    This Dicastery hopes that the citation given here will provide an adequate answer to your letter. At the same time, please be assured that the Congregation remains ready to be of assistance if you should need to contact it again.

    With every prayerful good wish, I am

    Sincerely yours in Christ,
    Mons. Mario Marini

  51. It is interesting that receiving whiile standing, while ancient in origin, had lost favor in the west long ago. It’s revival coincides nicely with the advent of fast food restaurants where we all que up to be fed. Is that a coincidence?

  52. Notice that the pope’s use of a single kneeler where he does not move is different from the communion rail. Walking (processing?) in line past a communion minister who stays in place, or kneeling at a rail in a line while the priest moves back and forth — both of them are quite practical ways of accomplishing an inherently communal action.

    But the pope’s innovation? He stands there, waiting, while an individual comes forward and kneels (something that is a minor athletic accomplishment for some of us!) Then he gives the person communion. Then the person gets up (which might be even more of an athletic feat.) While the pope stands and waits. The person moves away from the kneeler. While the pope stands and waits. The next person moves on to the kneeler. While the pope stands and waits. All of this is in front of tens of thousands in the stadium, and millions of TV viewers. Completely different from allowing people to get down on their knees and off of their knees at the rail while the priest is somewhere else giving someone else communion. Which functions equivalently to lining up and receiving in line. In neither of those cases will anyone notice at all if you take a moment completely to yourself just after you receive Our Lord — you won’t be in anyone else’s way.

  53. Also, for you people who want to kneel when you get to the front of the communion line — do look behind you and see if the person behind you is carrying a child. Because that person will not be able to see you when you kneel, and will have no idea that you are still there when he trips over your legs and sends all three of you crashing into the communion minister.

    Especially be aware if the child is on the hip on the side that is in the direction that you are turning. Because the child-carrying person expects that you will disappear behind the child as you move to the side, and so if you have disappeared because you are down too low for him/her to see, then this will be a total surprise.

  54. I would like to add that when I grew up the norm for receiving Holy Communion was always kneeling. Why was it changed to standing? I have not seen a good explanation of that anywhere. Does anyone know?

  55. A priest I know made an interesting observation for why they won’t be bringing back mandatory kneeling for communion.

    “Everybody’s gotten too old,” he said. “Hip replacement, knee replacement, we have all this stuff that people didn’t have 50 years ago, and everybody’s living longer, and kneeling is just too hard for too many people.”

    He had a point.

  56. I like the updated version, Deacon Greg. When we attended mass at St. Peter’s in Rome a couple years bAck, people seemed to think it more important to follow whatever postures were used back home than to show some respect for the rest of the congregation. So we had some people standing up during the Eucharistic prayer in front of others who were kneeling–and now unable to see. If concern for unity in the Church was not evident there, no wonder it is sorely wanting in Backcountry USA.

  57. The First Council of Nicea in 325 called anathema on Catholics kneeling during the liturgy on any Sunday and on any day during the 50 days of Easter. But at the same time gave as rationale that everyone in a diocese should have the same postures — so from the very beginning this norm has been subject to being overridden by a local bishop.

  58. to Deacon Steve, of course it shows respect in that context, but that is respect shown to a person; here we are dealing with respect and worship shown to God. There is a not insignificant difference..

    One kneels when knighted by the King or Queen of England. We genuflect to one knee when we enter church. Men kneel before women (sometimes) when they propose. We also kneel at the moment of consecration. Obviously, it is much more important that we be in a state of grace when we receive (and since everyone at masses I go to communicates at every mass without exception, I know I am surrounded by very holy people), but our body language can and does speak volumes.

    At the church I attend there is no danger of the parent with a baby falling. Lol. you make it sound as if the person suddenly drops to their knees and there is a concert-like momentum behind that person. Hardly.

  59. “Everybody’s gotten too old…”
    Not at my parish, run by the FSSP. LOTS of big families with LOTS of kids. All kneeling. 🙂

  60. Okay, at the church I attend, they have asked everyone to remain standing until all have received communion. After everyone has received communion a person then announces over the microphone, “You may now kneel or sit.”

    The rational given was that we are to remain standing out of respect to all the others still receiving communion. (this church is near Seattle, Washington).

    So is this how it is being done elsewhere??

  61. Deacon Greg,

    I think that the section of the GIRM you excerpted was intended to deal primarily with the posture of the congregation in general during the Mass — not specifically the reception of communion.

    In my opinion, your approach to the communicant who wanted to receive kneeling was absolutely the right one. Why should anyone want to make an issue out of this?

  62. Ref: D #25

    Sorry it took so long to get back to you. Long story — Fr. Mike, your pastor, was a formation classmate of mine. One of very few men I know who accepted ordination as a Permanently Ordained Deacon, lived that life for a number of years, then applied for the priesthood. I had not realized he was still at Marion.

    My suggestion to you is what I have on occasion told our folks. “You really do not have any right to complain against the Pope, your Bishop, your Pastor or even your local Deacon UNTIL and after you have prayed for them — not once but many times.”

  63. A couple of notes:

    1) A desire for uniformity is expressed as a benefit. Indeed, the guidelines say so. Yet, does this desire take precedence over the rule of law – which says nothing may be added or chanded from the Mass? That is, is adding additional restrictions affecting the rights of the faithful, let alone being licit?

    The law says either is fine – if a pastor sees that one is preferable over the other for the sake of unity, is he free to prohibit what is expressly permitted?

    2) It’s also a fallacy to think that just because something is ancient that is preferable. A lot of our traditions come from centuries of understanding of the faith and development of doctrine.

    3) Regarding standing when someone enters the room – we’re not just talking about a man – we’re talking about God here. We should be prostrate on our faces if we truly internalized what is there before us.

  64. I dont really understand why so much time and effort is expounded over the Standing/kneeling argument. Reverence for what is actually happening at the eucharist is the essence of it all. If you truly believe that you are about to receive the body and blood of almighty god then you would be more inclined to be on your face before the real presence . I think however that our loving father will know what is in our hearts and minds and provided we approach with that in mind god will be happy with us.
    If the people who went on the church wrecking spree after and despite vatican II had simply left the altar rails intact there would be no arguments now. I specifically note the specious arguments from the “trendies” about love, and if all else fails obedience and would respectfully remind them that these are two way streets. Why is one simply obliged to obey the very same people whose gross dereliction of duty in the past has brought shame and scandal on the very church that Christ gave us to save our immortal souls . Seems to me that some of these people ought to simply retreat to a monastery to contemplate the damage and more importantly atone for it!

  65. Forgot to mention the question of unity. I thoroughly agree we want to be united at mass but clearly what is being proposed is uniformity not unity.

  66. Too old to kneel?

    How was it done back in the day when there were ONLY communion rails?

    This whole thing sounds like a big excuse for “drive-by” communion. The irreverence makes me very uneasy.
    We have become too proud.

  67. I have been reading this blog for a while now, and enjoying it immensely. Normally, I would not comment, but on the subject of kneeling for communion or standing something has been on my mind for a while. Psalm 95, the Invitatory Psalm from the Liturgy of the hours, has one section that reads, “Come, then, let us bow down and worship, bending the knee before the Lord, our maker. For he is our God and we are his people, the flock he shepherds.” Christ is the Good Shepherd, and here in this psalm there is reference to bending the knee in worship of him. The summit of all Christian worship is Holy Communion. With this said, why would someone be reprimanded or prevented from receiving Holy Communion while kneeling, when of all times to kneel during Holy Mass, the moment of reception of Communion is the most appropriate? After all, in the Book of Revelation, there are 4 references to the 24 elders throwing themselves to the ground in worship in the presence of God. If one should choose to kneel in the Real Presence of Jesus, and especially when receiving Holy Communion, one should not be scolded or denied. One is, in fact, not only following a long tradition, but a tradition based on Scripture.

    I completely understand and respect receiving in the hand or on the tongue while standing, and I sometimes do. But I prefer to receive kneeling because it feels right. None of the priests or deacons, nor the archbishop, from whom I have received communion, have ever objected. Having read over the past year or so several stories of people being denied Communion for kneeling, I am grateful for having never been denied for doing so. And I will pray for those who must bear that cross and those who ask them to.

  68. Although I’ve always received the Body of Our Lord on the tongue I enjoy watching as the other communicants approach Our Lord with empty hands outstretched, like a beggar. It seems more humble to me.

  69. Deacon Greg — re #14, it seems to me that the deacon’s role with respect to the cup is more than a merely historical association.

    THe GIRM states, “At Mass the deacon has his own part … in the Eucharist to the faithful, especially under the species of wine.” (No.94)
    “If Communion is given under both kinds, the deacon himself administers the chalice to the communicants … .” (No. 182)
    “The chalice is usually administered by a deacon … .” (No. 284 a)

    So there is something in the instructions, and wile it does not absolutely forbid a deacon to distribute the Body of Christ at a Mass where the Blood of Christ is also being administered to the faithful, it seems that it is at best a confusion of roles, which can confuse the faithful.

    I’d be afraid that a deacon’s preference for administering the Sacred Host arose from a feeling that the form of bread was the “real” Communion and the Precious Blood just window dressing. Or it might spring from a desire to have a more central role by administering the sacrament to more people than he would if he ministered the cup or perhaps from a desire to minister to certain persons who do not communicate from the cup.

    Well, the deacon’s motive is a matter of speculation on my part. But I’m confident that when a deacon more than very infrequently abandons his role in ministering the cup, it suggests to the faithful that the species of bread is the real Communion and the “wine” is not important. Thus it undermines a correct understanding of our sacramental theology in which both species are equal as the Body and Blood of Christ, and to some degree it hinders appreciation of the fact that “Holy Communion has a fuller form as a sign when it is distributed under both kinds,” (GIRM No. 281) and “the faithful should be encouraged to seek to participate more eagerly in this sacred rite, by which the sign of the Eucharistic banquet is made more fully evident.” (GIRM No. 282)

    Get with the program. 😉

  70. My favorite Eucharistic hymn has the refrain, “Thus may we all one bread, one body be, in this bless’d Sacrament of UNITY.”

    I thank you Deacon Greg for correcting yourself. While no one is ever to be denied communion for kneeling, the quote you finally gave from the USCCB states that the person should be informed of the norm. Unfortunately, too many ordinary and extra-ordinary ministers of the Eucharist are not familiar with the norm, or have become “cafeteria catholics” and have chosen to disregard the direction of our bishops which has the ‘recognitio’ of the Holy See. The Sacred Congregation’s quoted earlier was a response to a question has to deal with those instances in which a person was unfortunately denied the Eucharist. It was not intended to usurp the legitimate authority of the episcopal conferences.

    I’m very frustrated with this whole discussion because it always grinds down to and gets blamed on the Second Vatican Council. That’s a cowardly cop-out. How sad the Holy Spirit must be at the most recent resurgence of venom spewn upon this graced time in our Church’s history since Blessed John XXIII had the courage to let the Holy Spirit move.

    Nonetheless, there seems to be a disregard and a lack of respect for the current norms based upon this negative view of Vatican II. People want to go back to the way it was, and I can understand a sentimental attachment to the past. To this end, Pope Benedict has allowed more freely the celebration of the Extraordinary Rite of the Eucharist. May I please be permitted to compare the two for a moment?

    (NB: Please note that I prefer to respect the norms of the present Ordinary Rite for the United States (standing for the reception of Holy Communion, with a bow as our common sign of reverence before receiving.)

    If I were to attend a Mass offered in the Extraordinary Rite, I would approach the reception of Holy Communion according to the norms of that Rite which would be: kneeling, receiving only on the tongue and NOT saying AMEN. To remain standing and put out my hands to receive the Eucharist and to say “AMEN,” would be a total disregard and an insult to the norms of the Extraordinary Rite! I would never think to “choose” my preference of receiving the Eucharist over a simple respect for the norms of the Extraordinary Rite.

    Why, however, is it OK for others while attending Mass in the Ordinary Rite to ignore the norms of the Ordinary Rite, and choose to do their own thing or to apply the norms of the Extraordinary Rite instead? Is that not an insult to the norms of the Ordinary Rite? I don’t believe we are allowed to pick and choose or swap norms at our own whim. But it’s happening, and, as a priest, I’m tired of the norms of the Ordinary Rite getting ignored and insulted by those who think they know better.

    I think there is a double standard here. Seems like some feel they are above the law in regards to this issue….but woe…they’ll be the first to condemn a priest who will challenge others to follow the norms.

    Seems like we have a long road to go before we can embrace the truth of the hymn: “Thus may we all one bread, one body be, in this bless’d Sacrament of UNITY!”

  71. Naturgesetz …

    One other thing that I just remembered: last Sunday, because of the larger-than-usual crowds, the pastor elected not to offer the Precious Blood at any of the masses. So that wasn’t an option for the deacon anyway.

    And it’s not my choice, or my preference. I don’t know how they do it at other parishes, but where I’m assigned, it’s the celebrant at the mass who decides who will distribute what, and where.

    Dcn. G.

  72. It’s easy to grow weary of the super-traddies for being rigid and generally annoying. Then I read (some of) these comments, and realize that it’s not actually about being traditional or liberal. It’s a mindset, and it can happen to anyone regardless of liturgical POV. (62–“You may now sit or kneel.” Please!!! We’re not Father’s personal drill team)

  73. Dcn. Eric: “As far as I know, the U.S. is the only (or one of a few) countries where we kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer.”

    I hear this claim made a lot, but it needs a bit of nuance. Americans are unusual (though, I suspect, not unique) in kneeling for the *entire* Eucharistic Prayer after the Sanctus.

    My general experience is Europe is that people kneel from the epiclesis until the memorial acclamation, so it’s not like there is no kneeling during the Eucharistic Prayer.

    An exception I have seen to this is in Belgium, where, bizarrely, most people *sit* for most the Eucharistic Prayer, standing up for the consecration and sitting down afterward.

  74. This is a very interesting discussion.

    But I wonder, how many priests and deacons, who publicly state that no one should kneel when receiving Holy Communion, would publicly state that if you support abortion (administer, procure, obtain funding, etc.), are living in a homosexual relationship, etc., should refrain from receiving.

    Just a thought.

  75. Charlotte, as a Capuchin monk once said, to live is to be annoyed – – and to annoy. Name calling surely falls into the latter category.

  76. I agree with the comment that Holy Communion (Is it still even called that?) should be a sign of unity. I do think however think that “diversity” in unity is not only possible but necessary. God did create us all unique. He must have had a reason for doing that. After all are we not the Catholic IE, Universal (all men and women for all time in all places and circumstances) and a conspiracy of Divine Love. Weather you kneel or stand for Communion perhaps really doesn’t matter so much as long as you Love God and neighbor and Holy Mother Church. I do believe in this One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, “Conspiracy of Love” Church. It makes me sad that so many people are not getting it!

  77. I did once go to a mass with communion both kneeling and standing. It was a choral festival mass and my kids were singing. The celebrant was a bishop, and 3 priests were concelebrating. The bishop and one priest distributed communion to people in line, the other two priests moved back and forth distributing communion to those kneeling at the two rails.

    They did not distribute communion to the children who were singing. So as soon as they finished singing the postlude, the kids, led by my son :-), marched down the 4 flights of stairs from the loft and rousted one of the priests out of the sacristy to give them communion. The kids formed an orderly and reverent line threaded through the crowd that was moving down the aisles and out of the church.

  78. Until the Missal of Pope Paul VI, the behavior of the laity was little regulated. While you often see in hand missals for the older Missal directions on when to stand, kneel, etc., these were customs, not law.

    But since the new Missal was promulgated, there seems to be a need to regulate the laity, at the same time as the clergy are given multiple options on what to do; and even then, as we all know, most clergy fail to follow the directions they are given about posture, vestments, and what to say.

    If altar rails were still in place, that would be a far more effective sign of the communal nature of the Eucharist than whether all stood or knelt. Some could stand, others kneel at the rail as devotion prompted. But all would be together at one place to receive, which much more resembles being at table together than a processional line, which resembles nothing so much as a fast food counter.

    At my Anglican Use parish, we choristers go up to receive during the singing of the Agnus Dei, being communicated once the chant is done. Some stand because of bad knees, others kneel on the altar step; but no one thinks we are not united in Christ because of the different postures.

  79. Kneeling is not a doctrine, it is a devotional exercise. How about giving each other permission to receive in the way that means most to the individual and who cares if it takes longer to accommodate? This is mass, not a TV segment. And Deacon Bill, when someone comes in the room, I may rise out of respect if it is another mere human. I suspect I would crash to my knees (or maybe even my face) if Jesus walked in. How about you?

  80. Steve, I think a big part of the need to control the laity’s posture so closely has to do with the phenomenon of liturgy that’s “made” rather than organically developed. Don’t anyone blame me for pointing this out. it was noted by the Holy Father.

  81. In 1978 my family traveled to Europe for a month-long vacation (made possible by airline deregulation!) We arrived on a Saturday morning in Frankfurt, and checked in to a hotel, and then the next day we went to Mass at the nearest Catholic church. I was astonished by communion! The congregation went to the front in two orderly lines, but then when they got there they turned into a crowd. People pushing forward towards the communion rail and then when they were done wriggling their way back through the crowd to get back to their pews.

    As far as I could tell, this was just “how it was done” among German Catholics. When our pope talks about reverent posture during communion, I always wonder how much he is thinking about behaviors which he has seen lots of but which are simply unthinkable in a lot of the Catholic world.

  82. I have had priests tell me, when I have knelt to receive the Body of Christ to “get up now”, to which I tearfully stood and received, as the priest rolled his eyes. Then again, I also cover my head in Mass and have been asked to remove my head-covering (which is not long or elaborate, merely a small symbolic bit of lace), when lectoring or cantoring in Mass.

    I know have found a happy medium, my priest doesn’t get as angry if I genuflect prior to receiving, which I do before the Body and before the Blood.

  83. BHG #81

    “I suspect I would crash to my knees (or maybe even my face) if Jesus walked in. How about you?”

    I’m not Deacon Bill but I’ll answer anyway.

    If Jesus the Christ were to suddenly appear here on earth, I would run up to him, give him a big bear hug and say: “Brother Jesus! Welcome back home! What took you so long?” And then I guess we’d both cry a bit — like you would with any other family member you have not seen in many years.

    In fact, this prayer style is not something new with me. I’ve used this example for years. You see, to me Jesus has always been the older brother I never had in this life.

  84. I myself see no problem with how a communicant receives, as long as they are reverent
    I usually receive in the hand. I have attended Mass at a local Fraternity of St. Peter mission, and under the Extraordinary Form, I received on the tounge at the rail.

    From time to time, women in chapel veils have knelt in front of me to receive. Knowing that these communicants are traditional in their practice, I will even say “Corpus Christi” when I give them the Host. That’s what they are comfortable with.

    What’s the big deal?

  85. The BIG DEAL, is that this is NOT Burger King, and you can’t have it YOUR way! These ultra traditionalists are the first to complain when a priest does something against the rules, but for themselves it’s A-OK! I just don’t get it! Oh, I guess because they “think” it’s “more reverent” they can disobey the norms.

  86. Deacon Norb, I had to smile at your response, for the image was wonderful, warm and entirely accessible. I’d like to think I would do just that–run up to Jesus and give Him a hug, but knowing myself, I am pretty sure I would not, because that’s just not the way I was raised and now, not the way I express myself to those I respect greatly. I’d wait for invitation and I’d be overwhelmed (at least I think I would–guess I might find out one of these days…) But it proves my point–we respond in a way that communicates in our bodies our great love for Christ. Some one way, some another. Just as we might choose different words to greet, so we choose different postures. There is a need for SOME uniformity, but also a need for SOME individuality, and it is always a tension. That’s the great thing about the Catholic faith, not usually either/or–mostly both/and.

  87. BHG: Tell that to the Catholic Right, the ultra-traditionalists, the neo-pharisees of today (or whatever they’re being called today). Bishop’s offices are flooded with letters from these rubrical legalists when priests vere even a tiny bit from the letter of the law. But there seems to be a tolerable different standard when it comes to this issue. Like Jim said in post #72: there should be respect for the norms of the Ordinary Rite and the Extraordinary Rite, but the two should not be mixed at the personal preference of the individual.

    I believe we would not even be having these discussions if Pope JPII would have never allowed the re-introduction of the Tridentine Rite. There was no divisions like there are today regarding these issues. JPII gave the traditionalists an inch, and now they have taken a MILE and try to justify ignoring the norms of the Ordinary Rite.

    Brother Jeff, I suggest you read what Deacon Greg added from the Bishops.

  88. Sadly again, the post-VatII era sowed confusion and trouble in the minds.
    The NORM in the past for communion was kneeling and on the tongue.
    There was no valid reason to change that, but anyway the change happened and the abuses too: Hosts falling on the ground, hosts put in one’s pocket, host glued with chewing-gum under a pew or found in the pages of a missel, not speaking of those brought outside the church for satanic purposes.
    I always wondered what may bring a catholic faithful holding the body of Christ in his hand since anyways he will swallow it immediately after. Then the priest placing the host is best, less risky and most respectful way of giving communion.

  89. Sorry, Jacques, you don’t just get to make up your own facts. The NORM for receiving communion for the first 11 or so centuries of the Church was in the hand, standing. The NORM for receiving over the next 2 centuries evolved to kneeling and on the tongue. And then for the next SIX centuries, the NORM was for Catholics not to receive communion more than a few times in their entire lives. Then, starting about a century ago, a series of popes wrestled Catholics back into the practice of frequent reception of the Eucharist. Using the same form that had been in more-or-less disuse for 8 centuries. Then a quarter century ago, our bishops — perhaps mindful of how disastrously the FIRST experiment with communion on the tongue had gone — restored communion practice to the original.

    Haven’t you ever wondered how it was possible that entire nations full of Reformation-era “Catholics” could so easily and casually shrug off the Eucharist as trivial and not believable? You think it might be related to the FACT that those “Catholics” had almost no experience of communion? Jesus left the Church with a only a few instructions — and celebrating the sacraments with His people was at the center of those. Which the Church badly botched for centuries.

  90. Cathy F #92

    Thank you very much. You are absolutely correct on all accounts and I was not courageous enough to state it first!

  91. Eric, such vitriol on this topic on Good Friday surprises me. The update does not state what you claim, i.e., that standing is the norm when receiving communion; it talks about kneeling during the “eucharistic prayer.”

    Deacon Greg’s response to this communicant was entirely correct and in keeping with well established traditions of the Church.

  92. Those of us who have grown up with the Latin Mass remember the beauty and solemnity of receiving at an altar rail: kneeling down and composing oneself, waiting peacefully for the priest to arrive, having all the time needed to close our eyes, open our mouths and feel the sacred host glide onto the tongue as if it were always there, “Corpus Domine Nostri …”

    I’m sorry, but for the most part, receiving Holy Communion on the tongue while standing is just plain difficult: gauging when to step forward, getting oneself planted, saying Amen, and opening the mouth all within several seconds. It is made more difficult when the priest, deacon or EMHC are in a hurry (and they often are), or are uncomfortable giving the sacred host on the tongue. Frankly, except for a few priests I know who carefully and artfully give Communion, it is an unnecessary logistical nightmare.

    I suspect I shall not live long enough to see the rail come back, but I’m sure a return to this solemnity is in the offing.

  93. Donna Ruth — I remember kneeling at the altar rail, or walking backwards beside the briskly moving priest as I held the paten, and he’d place the hosts on the tongues of maybe six or more people each time he said “Corpus Domini Nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animan tuam in vitam æternam. Amen” Even apart from the fact that grammatically he should have said “animas vestras” since he was talking to multiple people (if he was really speaking to anybody) it was hardly the picture of reverence for each individual reception of the sacrament. And the alternative was generally a highly speeded up run through the formula at low volume with each communicant. No priest in my experience ever said the words at normal volume and normal conversational speed to every communicant.

  94. The bottom line ought to be clear: while standing is the norm, kneeling is a legitimate option and no one should should be denied communion while kneeling.

    As Deacon Greg made clear in his orginal post, both forms are valid and no one should feel that they should have to ask permission or apologize for receiving Holy Communion kneeling.

    Perhaps I’m in the minority, Deacon Greg, but I don’t think you were obliged to offer any catechesis at all to the young woman who approached you. It was right before Mass. You had other responsibilities more pressing at that moment (safe to say?). You didn’t know the woman outside of this particular encounter. And, as you say, kneeling to receive Holy Communion is an option. I thought your response to her was succinct and gracious. I think had you attempted on-the-spot catechesis with this young woman who didn’t know you and whom you didn’t know would have placed an unnecessary burden on her to reflect on the matter when what she ought to be allowed to reflect on during the Palm Sunday Mass is the Mass. Your response un-burdened her of her fear that she would be rejected for communion if she knelt, and so you put her at ease and allowed her to put her mind and heart where it ought to be.

    I have to say that some of the comments here are so filled with anger, hostility, smugness and lack of charity that I’m surprised that the subject being discussed is receiving our precious Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and not who got the better of whom at the most recent WWF championship bout!

    I gave up reading and commenting on Catholic blogs for Lent to give myself a rest from all the anger, hostility, smugness and lack of charity. Hmmm … I guess I’ll be back and try again after Pentecost!

  95. If everyone would simply obey the bishops’ directives which have been given the recognitio of the Holy See, this would be a mute topic. END OF STORY.

  96. Dear Deacon Bill,
    Do as the Anglicans and have a communion rail – we all kneel at the rail – the only exception is arthritis – and nobody trips – at the name of Jesus ‘every knee will bow’ how much more so when He is present.
    Michael Arch

  97. Eric, the pope has immediate and plenary jurisdiction in every parish of the United States, as canon law clearly states. His jurisdiction supersedes that of the “USCCB” and every individual bishop and cardinal.

    This USCCB document you keep referring to does not trump documents on the same topic from the Holy See, nor does it say that standing is mandatory. Give it a rest brother.

  98. Please quote the canon and provide documentation where the pope has mandated a change in the reception of communion. I know what his preference is, but that doesn’t constitute jurisdictional superiority. Please provide the canonical backup for your argument. The pope’s supreme authority is in union with his bishops, and his personal preference does not trump the legitimate teaching authority of each bishop in his own diocese.

  99. You have it a tad backwards. The pope’s jurisdictional primacy does not depend on any individual bishop or group of bishops consenting to it. To the contrary, they cannot exercise collegiality or partake in the exercise of the ordinary magisterium unless they are in communion with him. And as this pope stated while a cardinal, national conferences of bishops have no theological basis nor any teaching authority of their own accord.

    The pope’s authority is unique, absolute and independent, as Christ desired it to be. It is codified in Canons 331 and 333. They are crystal clear. Canons 336, 337, 338 and 341 shows that the bishops depend on the pope for the authority, not the other way around.

    While it is true that the pope does not (and could not for practical reasons) govern each diocese on a day to day basis, it is equally true that great respect should be shown to his pronouncements and preferences on matters such as this, which involve the “source, the center, and the summit” of the Church’s life, i.e., holy communion.

  100. Deacon Greg ~ It’s customary at Our lady of Fatima in St. Petersburg, Russia for all of us to kneel in trhe center asile and fr or the priest walk down it with an acolyte holding the patten. I recieve communion standing here at home but there it’s “when in Rome.” I must say however that as a 63 year old cradle catholic I can only remember three times I’ve seen a host not properly and immeditely consumed. Twice, the communicnt accidentlly dropped it and didn’t know what to do. The third was a street crazy who just held on to it until he was convinced to “eat it.” If this business of putting the Body of Christ in one’s pocket common in churches in your area?

  101. This issue has become troublesome for me personally. I follow the direction of the Bishops here in the US and stand, bow and receive in the hand but that’s not my preference. I’m bothered by the lack of uniformity displayed by priests when saying the Mass and more so by Bishops who appear to be in a power struggle with the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. I’ve read with interest the book ” A Concise History Of The Catholic Church” by Fr. Thomas Bokenkotter and each time I read it I am reminded that there has been and likely will be such a struggle for authority. My take is that that is not an option that Christ gave the Apostles and the fruits of the French Revolution should make it clear that whomever looks to “modern society” and the secular world for guidance as it regards faith and morals, is on the WRONG SIDE. And that is what I am observing in the Diocese and parishes I attend. There is much confusion and disharmony and I am required to discern who is doing the best job of helping me, my family, friends and classmates and fellow parishioners to enter into Heaven, and even worse, who might be leading us to be separated from God eternally, and more than one priest or theologian or even bishop, have done just that. All that considered, I must place my trust where I believe it will best serve my faith and that must be in the person our Lord gave the keys to the kingdom. So with the authority given him by our Lord as His Vicar, I will follow the direction of our Pope and sadly not be in communion with the American Bishops. I truly wish they had not made this a him or her issue and had they accommodated the Vatican’s directive to allow each person to choose from the two postures, all would have coexisted peacefully but it has been made into an illicit act to receive communion in a manner one finds more reverent or respectful if you will. While it is not actually illicit, one is made to feel that it is and there are priests who ignore the directions from Rome and refuse communion to those who wish to kneel and receive on the tongue. It’s an all around bad deal and now I feel forced to act upon my conscience and not be in communion with the norm for receiving communion in the US. Again, what a lousy deal for the little person standing, sitting and kneeling in the pew.

  102. How is the primary purpose of receiving Communion a communal act of the entire church as one body? That is completely silly. The PRIMARY purpose is to commune with GOD! “If you do not eat my flesh… you shall have no life in you, etc” … not “If you do not eat my flesh you will fail to be one with your fellow man”. I do not attend church every Sunday to be one with my neighbor. How anyone can even make that claim is stunning to me. I don’t care how scholarly someone is, or how how many theologians have said this or that. The point of church and of communion is ETERNAL LIFE — NOT communing with everyone in there with me and being unified with them by adopting the same posture. That is hogwash. If we happen to be unified through Christ, great. But that is not the primary purpose, and posture doesn’t unify us anyway- the Eucharist does.

    And PS – that whole bit about “catechizing” those misguided kneeling Catholics was ADDED into the USCCB’s English translation. If you read the GIRM in Latin, or even the Vatican’s English translation of the GIRM, it says nothing whatsoever about catechizing anyone!

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