Friday, September 30, 2011


My comments first:
There are many people who believe that there is a lack of at least the appearance of reverence when it comes to receiving Holy Communion today. Often it is rushed, people who receive on the hand do so as they walk away, thus "eating on the run." Small children cup their hands in odd ways as do adults, move too quickly and seem to receive unthinkingly. As a priest who celebrates school Masses each week where the children are quite reverent during Mass and sing and say their parts (even the new parts) quite robustly, I don't believe they have the same reverence for the Holy Eucharist "internally" as my generation of children who received kneeling and fearfully not wanting to desecrate the host in any intentional and even in an unintentional way. We knelt and waited our turn for the priest to arrive to us, we closed our eyes, tilted our heads slightly back, slightly stuck out our tongue and then received, bowing our heads and praying briefly before we got up and walked back to our pew. We often made the sign of the cross after receiving. When we returned to the pew we knelt, swallowed the host, but never chewed like cows chewing cud. We were reverent internally and externally.

The Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief. I believe this also extends to the outward signs of respect we show during Mass. If these are sloppy, quick and we receive in a way that "appears" to be less than reverent, then this will effect others who participating in the Mass might be less than edified or find the lack of reverent looking individuals confirming for them that we don't owe God love, respect and honor, not to mention, glory and praise because He's just one of the boys no greater no lesser.
Most Rev. Thomas Doran, Bishop of Rockford * Bishop Doran 2011 Columns * May 27, 2011

Reverence and Respect of The Blessed Sacrament

From time to time people make inquiries of the Bishop’s office that demand more than a private answer. One of the things that disturbs practicing Catholics more and more is the seeming lack of reverence and respect for our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in our liturgy and in our devotions.

As I go about in the various parishes and observe people, a surprising number of people do not genuflect toward the Tabernacle on entering or leaving church and many more do not know how to do it (it is the right knee, not the left that touches the ground when genuflecting). Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament has almost completely disappeared because neither clergy nor laity know how to perform it, and the beautiful hymns that we used to sing on that occasion, all of them replete with deep meaning about the Holy Eucharist, are largely forgotten.

One lady recently wrote me that she had just been informed by a deacon that to receive the Holy Eucharist while kneeling was in disobedience to the Bishops’ Conference and to me as bishop directly. I am grateful for this reminder that this is a subject that we all should take to heart.

First of all, bear in mind that many people have difficulty genuflecting and would have difficulty kneeling for Holy Communion. Obviously, if doing so imperils health or wellbeing, one is not obliged to do it. Reverence for the Blessed Sacrament starts in the heart. Whether it is reflected in our posture depends on many things.

One thing that matters much to me is the practice of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, when he gives Holy Communion. His practice is to distribute Holy Communion on the tongue of recipients who kneel as they receive communion. That should say something to all of us. I would make this personal observation that I usually do not distribute Holy Communion when I say Mass in the parishes because every parish has its own peculiar way of ordering Holy Communion and I am confused by such a variety of practices, and so since discretion is the better part of valor, I do not get involved in it.

Then there is the fact that many of us identify unity with uniformity. The two are distinct. We are bound to unity in faith, not necessarily to uniformity and how we receive Holy Communion. Now, the Third General Instruction of the Roman Missal now in force, at n. 160, permits receiving Holy Communion kneeling or standing, on the tongue or in the hand. That same instruction allows the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to establish norms for this practice. This was done by Archbishop Wilton Gregory when he was President of the Conference in 2002. The bishops decided that standing was the normative posture.

It is, therefore, permitted to Catholics to receive Holy Communion standing, receiving the Blessed Sacrament on the tongue or in the hand, depending on their choice, and this is the usual way in which Holy Communion is to be distributed in our churches. Cardinal George asked about this in 2003 and the Holy See responded that posture at Holy Communion is not to be so rigidly regulated as to interfere with the freedom of people receiving Holy Communion. If you have to read this two or three times to understand what is being said, that is alright. The whole matter is somewhat confusing.

I am old enough to remember when, in a flurry of “me-too-ism,” communion rails were ripped out of our churches, something that was never advised, commanded or imposed. Most churches had suitable communion rails with padded cushions upon which communicants could kneel. And it seems to me looking back on the early days of my priesthood, that communion was distributed more reverently and was received more reverently when people knelt for Holy Communion. A few found it difficult and even then those who had difficulty kneeling could stand. Few did, but it was allowed. It would seem that if anyone who wanted to go back to this method of receiving Holy Communion, they would find that communion would be received more reverently, in a more orderly fashion and in less time than it now takes. But time is not the most important thing and order is not a virtue, but rather a convenience.

One thing that should be clear is that at present, to receive Holy Communion kneeling is not a sign of disrespect to all the bishops or to anyone. I would add, however, that practicing Catholics generally like to follow the reasonable requests of their pastors so that Holy Communion may be distributed reverently and in a dignified fashion. It is also true that among those in Holy Orders, bishops and priests are our teachers.


Marc said...

Thank God for bishops like this one!

The lack of kneelers/communion rail to allow us to receive Holy Communion kneeling is troubling to me because of the following logic:

If there is a kneeler, one can still receive Holy Communion standing quite easily and it is possible for more people to receive kneeling, if they so desire.

If there is no kneeler, it is much more difficult to receive kneeling and could lead to embarassment if one knelt and was not able to get back up easily.

In other words, in either case, as the bishop points out in this article, the ability to receive standing is unchanged. Therefore, if they are both legitimate options, why not give some assistance to those who want to receive kneeling by having a kneeler available?

Anonymous said...

The speed of communion while kneeling at the rail seems faster than while standing with EMs. The EMs seem to feel they are to sam the wafer into my hand and move on to the next person and trudging up in line reminds me of a cafeteria. Kneeling is faster and the priest is moving with a purpose, but I am kneeling whilst awaiting the sacrament. It feels very different.

It seems like a no-brainer that if a person cannot kneel they should not be forced. Likewise if a person choses not to, as long as it is not an act of defiance, again, no big deal. I think it would not be long before those who can will want to.


Templar said...

God Bless you Marc. I'm sure Father is glad to hear this from someone other than me for a change.

For my part, while I resent being made to kneel without the aid of a kneeler, I will never receive standing again, for I can not do otherwise.

" For it is written: As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me and every tongue shall confess to God."
Romans 14:11

"That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth:"
Philippians 2:10

The practice of standing for Holy Communion was the protestant way of showing that the priest was an ordinary man and that the bread was just bread and not the Body of Christ. So in essence they protested the Real Presence of

Marc said...

RCG, I agree with everything you've written, but hasten to add: Why are we so concerned with the speed of the line for Holy Communion?

Robert Kumpel said...

I can tell you why I am so concerned about the speed of the Communion line: My three children under the age of 9.

Seriously the speed isn't so much an issue for me, but the lack of reverence and inefficiency of the current practice is discouraging. Fr. Z had a great post on his site over a year ago, where someone took photos of unconsecrated hosts being placed on a hand with black gloves and the particles stuck. As Fr. Mac stated, our generation did not want to desecrate the Host in any possible way, but that seems to be of little concern for whoever is catechizing today's young Catholics. The indult for Communion in the hand needs to be reversed once and for all. With that, we also need to eliminate Holy Communion under both species for the laity. Why isn't so many of us can't get it through our heads that BOTH the Body and Blood of Jesus are present in the Host? Communion under both kinds has turned into just another reason for the laity patrol to march up around the altar, grab their chalices and play priest at every Mass. I am not a priest and neither is any other layperson. I am not equal to a priest. I am not worthy to touch the sacred Host which is the privilege of the ordained.

And yes, kneeling at the Communion rails was much more efficient (and quicker). Maybe the elimination of the Last Gospel gave the architects of the Novus Ordo the idea of prolonging Communion.
Blessed Anna Katherina Emmerich had a prophetic vision of a future Mass that was unrecognizable to her. We've been living that prophecy for too long.

Anonymous said...

Marc I was only commenting on the Bishop's comment about speed. It is a practical concern I think the thoughtful celebrant considers after ensuring the congregation has access to the sacraments and prayerful contemplation. For myself I am content to meditate on the readings and prayers for quite a while. I will admit, being terminal ADD, that have a practical limit that is sometimes affected by the music selection. (see Fram's selection I previous posts).


Anonymous said...

In our parish the Blessed Sacrament is in a separate chapel. I seem to recall being told to reverence the altar with a bow instead of genuflecting before entering the pew. In the chapel which is used of daily Mass, parishioners genuflect.