Monday, March 23, 2015

KNEELING AT THE ALTAR RAILING FOR HOLY COMMUNION: EVEN RECEIVING HOLY COMMUNION IN THE HAND LOOKS REVERENT!




As you know, our 12:10 PM Mass, a very Ordinary Form Mass that is exactly like our other Masses in the vernacular and in chants/hymns, is different in two ways only. Its Liturgy of the Eucharist for three years now is celebrated ad orientem (which nary a protest) and for the past month with Holy Communion distributed by the celebrant and the deacon at our newly restored altar railing.

I've already mentioned that no one is forced to kneel at the railing and that I've said each Sunday that one may stand at the altar railing to receive and either standing or kneeling one may receive Holy Communion on the tongue or hand.

Some would say that allowing the communicant to choose to stand or kneel brings a divisiveness into the liturgical assembly of that particular Mass and into the diocese which doesn't have other parishes that allow this option. I would have to ask the question of these naysayers if they would say the same thing about those who choose to receive on the tongue compared to those who choose to receive in the hand. And the same question concerning the common chalice and those who choose it and those who don't? Is there a flaw in logic here?

But let's get back to the altar railing and Holy Communion received in the traditional manner of using an altar railing. Everyone except for those who really can't kneel easily kneels. For those who kneel on my side where I distribute Holy Communion the majority are receiving on the hand.

This is my sacred observation about what is happening at our altar railing at communion time:

1. Receiving at the altar railing is less rushed for the communicant, who often is kneeling for a bit of time before the priest gets to them and then they don't need to leave immediately, they can pause in meditation/thanksgiving, make the Sign of the Cross and then depart in an unhurried way. Compare this to the communicant in constant motion from the time they depart the pew to approaching the minister of Holy Communion, receiving, moving and returning immediately to their pew. Who in the world thought this is a better method of receiving Holy Communion than kneeling at an altar railing when standing was mandated for the OF Mass?

2. Those who choose to receive in the hand do so more deliberately and remain at the railing until they place the host reverently in their mouth, they then pause in meditation and thanksgiving before departing. Even children receiving in hand do this. I know every priest out there who distributes Holy Communion to small hands know that their hands are a moving target when they come forward and remain in motion and walk off with the host in their hand until they pop it into their mouth.  Kneeling at the railing with the communicant remaining still makes Holy Communion in the hand even look reverent!

3. It takes less time for a priest and deacon (only two distributing Holy Communion) to distribute Holy Communion compared to having four (two Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion) distributing Holy Communion at four stationary  Communion stations. Yes, the priest and deacon get a workout going back and forth along the altar railing and yes they are moving fast to distribute, but the ironic paradox is that it is much slower and deliberate for the communicant who receives in the most unrushed manner! This is a mystery!

Thank Pope Benedict XVI for taking the stigma away from kneeling for Holy Communion by doing two things:
 1. allowing the more liberal celebration of the EF Mass where kneeling for Holy Communion at an altar railing is the norm.

 2. for distributing Holy Communion in the OF Mass to kneeling communicants.

Those who demanded that standing is better than kneeling up until Pope Benedict were fascists in demanding that everyone stand and would mock in the most cynical way those who would kneel and would see to it that a priest who allowed kneeling would be marginalized and ridiculed. Thus one sees the way of operating of liturgical progressives who in actuality are extremely narrow minded when in comes to the celebration of the Mass.

27 comments:

qwikness said...

Father,
This seems like a scientific sociological experiment of the liturgy: seeing results and coming up with conclusions. Had you formed a hypothesis before trying these? Were you prepared to revert back to the regular practices? Have you determined any failed results that you would recommend or caution against?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Prior to the restoration of the railing for about three years we have had kneelers at our stationary communion stations. The majority would stand and it was very easy to give the Holy Communion in the hand or tongue with the kneeler between. After the railing was installed and blessed the first Sunday of January, the communion ministers at four stations stood behind the railing to allow the same option as with the kneeler. No problem.

My first experience as a priest in distributing Holy Communion at kneeling communicants at the full length of an altar railing was our Jan. 4th EF Mass where I had blessed the railing (I had received Holy Communion at an altar railing from the time of my First Communion until I was in my very early 20's but never distributed at a railing, ever).

My fear with kneeling at the EF Mass was that people might trip over the legs of communicants sticking out in the asile. But that didn't happen at all, people were careful and watch what they are doing.

When we started distributing at the altar railing at the 12:10 Mass about a month ago, and to an almost full church compared to the smaller number at our EF Mass, I was shocked at that communion time did not take any longer with only two distributing compared to four, but that it actually took about five minutes less! That was totally unexpected.

The reason I do this at the 12:10 PM Ordinary Form Mass is because I can not in good conscience make this Mass an EF Mass every Sunday (although I might experiment in the future with doing our EF monthly Mass at this 12:10 time slot rather than at 2:00 PM. )

So my rationale with the 12:10 PM Mass is that it incorporates some elements of the EF Mass and is more traditional.

I would stop using the altar railing only if asked to do so by my bishop. I would hope he would understand though that I am doing this at the 12:10 PM Mass in lieu of making it a total EF Mass which would not be welcomed by the majority of those who attend this Mass, not because of the Order or ritual of the EF Mass, but because of its language. They don't want an all Latin Mass in the EF form or OF form--Latin is the problem, not the EF Mass's rubrics, ritual, choreography of perceived "clericalism" which of course there isn't any. But the OF Mass is more subject to clericaism and often is extremely clerical in terms of the liberties priests take with this Mass.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I had forgotten that we used the altar railing to distribute ashes at all Masses on Ash Wednesday. When just had two clergy doing it and I notice then how much faster than with four standing stations and all our Masses were packed

JBS said...

kwikness,

Since kneeling was long the norm in the Latin Church, it seems to me that a more scientific approach should have been taken to the introduction of standing for Holy Communion, with regular evaluation of the effects of this novel practice.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

JBS AMEN! I happen to think that the manner in which Holy Communion is routinely distributed at of Masses today and since day one has contributed to the loss of Catholic Faith in tea substantiation and a loss of reverence.

Henry said...

"I might experiment in the future with doing our EF monthly Mass at this 12:10 time slot rather than at 2:00 PM."

This would be a very interesting experiment. I would conjecture that those coming now coming to your weekly 12:10 OF Mass would still come on the monthly Sunday when it's an EF Mass. And that the "mutual enrichment" that Benedict urged would thereby be furthered tangibly.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you really covered it all. Well done. I suppose there will be no need for additional detailed reports about the Communion rail, Right?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Tea Substantiation - an intriguing theological concept!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Dang auto correct!

Anonymous said...

It looks like tea....smells like tea....tastes like tea....but is ACTUALLY....tea.

Tetley T. Lipton said...

In the theology of Tea Substantiation, Jesus says, "I will not leaf you orphans."

Also, "In my Father's house, there are many tea rooms."

Lipton T. Tetley said...

A theology of Tea Substantiation gives a whole new meaning to seeking a land flowing with MILK and HONEY..

Henry said...

Since tea is obviously invalid matter, one can readily understand why so few nowadays believe in its transubstantiation. Other, perhaps, than those gullible enough to accept almost anything as a miracle, even tea transubstantiation.

JBS said...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh,

You might enjoy reading "The Book of Tea" by Kakuzo Okakura.

Joe Potillor said...

Awesome, may you extend this practice to all Masses that are offered in the parish.

qwikness said...

"not because of the Order or ritual of the EF Mass, but because of its language."

This reminds me of your hope to do the Anglican Ordinate form. What a happy medium!

JBS said...

Joe Potillor is the scientist here. Father McDonald, he can help you put together the paper on your findings for publication!

qwikness said...

I think Father Kavanaugh is a scientist too. I wonder if he would be interested in experimenting with his liturgy. Other than a new building, not much has changed at Holy Spirit for the last 40 years.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

ouch! I thought I was the only one who noticed that! I filled in at Holy Spirit for almost a month after I was ordained. I think it was in July of 1980, different location (current hall) but same liturgy!

Anonymous said...

I think I may have missed something... the liturgy is supposed to change a lot? I thought the deal was that it stayed pretty much the same for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The Mass was basically the same in every parish in the world for about 1500 years until the Mass was revised beginning around 1964 and the vernacular became the norm by 1970. The vernacular Mass can be very different from parish to parish today not only in language but style of music and attitude of the priest and congregation toward stablity and reverence.

Henry said...

"I thought the deal was that it stayed pretty much the same for hundreds and hundreds of years."

And, as Fr. McDonald points out, so it did--until the chaotic aftermath of Vatican II.

It seems to me that liturgical stability can now be regained only by going back to the fork in the road where the wrong branch was taken. This does not mean going back to the 1962 missal--which itself has the fingerprints of the innovators all over it--but at least by a reform of the reform that (as Benedict urged) re-establishes visible continuity with tradition. It appears to me that this amounts pretty much to the kind of steps Fr. M. frequently enumerates here.

JBS said...

The rite of Mass should neither stagnate nor revolt, but evolve in a gentle dialogue between the Church and the Holy Ghost.

Anonymous said...

When you're driving a car along a highway and take a wrong fork, it's easy to go back and take the other one. Fr. AJM did it recently.

Time is different though. It doesn't go back....only forward. I believe that Henry's fork is gone for good.

Henry said...

I take it then, Anonymous @ 5:16 pm 3/24/2015, that you join me in favoring "reform of the reform" rather than going back to 1962 to pull today's liturgy out of the ditch it's fallen into.

Paul said...

Truth is neither constrained by nor contained within time.

Lourdhu Robin said...

Kneeling for Communion is the best way for receiving Our Lord into Our Heart.
But receiving Holy Communion is not a correct way to receive. Because only blessed hands (Priests & Deacons) should touch the Communion. Faithfuls SHOULD get in their Tongue.