Thursday

"Should you receive Communion on your knees or standing up?"


By Paul Dion, STL


There are some practices in the Catholic Church that are not universal. For example, in some countries the faithful do not genuflect nor do they kneel for adoration. In some countries there are several postures that become a part of the public participation at liturgy.


Even some of the "standard" prayers are not as standard as we would believe. The "Our Father", for instance has different wording in English as spoken in Canada than it does here in the United States. In fact, the wording of the French language "Our Father" is different in Canada than it is in France.


In Italy, and specifically in Rome, rarely does anyone kneel for adoration. I have even seen on television that the Pope gives his blessing at the Wednesday general audience in Italian rather than Latin. In fact, the Pope rarely, if ever, addresses the world in Latin any more.

Postures and translations of prayers are therefore not a part of the infallible teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. There are excellent, theologically sound reasons why the Bishops of certain countries, the United States among them, have decided that the liturgically correct posture for the reception of Holy Communion is standing.

Much is being made of a Vatican document issued in 2004 which forbids the priest to deny communion to those who would kneel for this sacramental act. In places where the norm is to receive Communion standing up, some people frown on those who receive Communion on their knees.


So we thought we should tackle this issue and get all of you into the discussion. Our Burning Question of the week is therefore this:


"Why would it be at least as reverential as kneeling to stand during the act of receiving communion? Give some reasons why standing is a proper posture for adoration and sacramental participation."


Join the lively discussion. Post a comment today.

12 comments:

  1. Marge Simmons2:22 PM

    In the Diocese of San Bernardino, my parish priest said the Bishop asks that we receive Communion standing up. I receive it standing up out of respect and obedience to my priest and Bishop. Openly disobeying their requests and defiantly kneeling for Communion is not very reverential to me, not very Christian-like.

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  2. Alfredo Medina in Rancho Cucamonga, CA2:26 PM

    This 1994 Vatican directive is quite clear that we cna receive Communion kneeling down. I was raised that way and to my culture it is the most reverend way to show respect for the Eucharist. How did we end up standing up anyway?

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  3. Dear Alfredo,
    The directive was issued in 2004 not in 1994. We have an article in the Catholic News section of ParishWorld.net that explains this directive. We will explain this specific directive and its US applications as the discussion moves forward in the next few days. Thank you for your comments and God bless.

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  4. Anonymous5:43 AM

    Either posture should be acceptable. It is what is in your heart that matters. Christ said He does not desire sacrifice but mercy. To be critical of others because one stands or one kneels is not mercy.

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  5. Jesus was quoting Hosea (6:6)to the Pharisees. Both times he was being critical to the Pharisees because their behavior was outside the covenant of love of which Jesus was the ambassador.
    Those who defy the nationally mandated liturgical norms of the church put themselves in a position to be reminded of the fact that they are out of compliance. Even Jesus then, would criticize them.

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  6. Laurence: First I would like to respond to the first two comments on Mr. Dion’s site:

    Marge Simmons said...
    In the Diocese of San Bernardino, my parish priest said the Bishop asks that we receive Communion standing up. I receive it standing up out of respect and obedience to my priest and Bishop. Openly disobeying their requests and defiantly kneeling for Communion is not very reverential to me, not very Christian-like.
    2:22 PM [END]

    I can understand where Ms. Simmons is coming from, but I think proper distinctions ought to be made. We cannot judge hearts and therefore, if we observe a person whom we consider “openly disobeying”, that doesn’t mean they are, since that would mean we would have to know their intentions. I think it rather hypocritical sometimes, when much is said of the people who desire to receive Jesus Christ on their knees, an acceptable posture by the way (GIRM #160; Redemptionis Sacramntum #90-91), even though against the norms in the US, while nothing is said about the liturgical abuses which are legion, most commonly the use of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (The only acceptable descriptor). Being “reverential” is not related to our obedience to our bishop, in my opinion. After all, “reverence”, in the context of our discussion pertains to reverence to Christ’s Presence in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, and as such, a profound bow, a genuflection, or a kneeling posture are all valid signs of reverence, but again, acknowledging that bowing is the norm. I found it interesting how deep this double standard is. I was chastised not too long ago for genuflecting, while at the same time told, “we can’t judge the disposition of those who show NO sign of reverence, since we don’t know their hearts.” And yet, I was being “judged” for being “too external”… Hmmm… In submission to authority, I have since stopped genuflecting.

    Alfredo Medina in Rancho Cucamonga, CA said...
    This 1994 Vatican directive is quite clear that we cna receive Communion kneeling down. I was raised that way and to my culture it is the most reverend way to show respect for the Eucharist. How did we end up standing up anyway?
    2:26 PM [END]

    We can speculate until the cows come home on that last question. It was probably the same principle which took some people all the way to the end of not kneeling at all. I went to two parishes in this diocese which had no kneelers, and I was pretty much the only one who knelt at the Consecration. I don’t think kneeling or standing is “better” or “worse” than the other. Both are signs of reverence and/or respect. The liturgical posture of reverence in the Eastern Church is standing. Some would then conclude, rather foolishly, “See, so we should be standing and not have to kneel!” Wait a second, try forcing an Eastern rite Catholic to kneel… The Western Church has traditionally knelt as their sign of reverence and the East stood. I think neither posture is “better”, but I would prefer to kneel, since, as much as is possible for me, I attend the Tridentine Mass, which kneels at the altar rail for Holy Communion.

    Then we come to Mr. Dion’s last comment:

    Paul Dion, STL said...
    Jesus was quoting Hosea (6:6)to the Pharisees. Both times he was being critical to the Pharisees because their behavior was outside the covenant of love of which Jesus was the ambassador.
    Those who defy the nationally mandated liturgical norms of the church put themselves in a position to be reminded of the fact that they are out of compliance. Even Jesus then, would criticize them.
    8:47 AM [END]

    The Pharisees were condemned by Jesus not because of their practice of piety; pious practices are commendable. Their problem was that it was an empty piety. Externalism without faith or internal disposition is Pharisaical. But, a person who expresses his internal disposition through external expression, well, that’s not Pharisaical at all. For years I would hit my chest with my right fist after the Rosary, without ever understanding why. Only in the last few years have I started doing it at the Mass also without any understanding… Until I read the Gospel of St. Luke:

    "Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner. I say to you, this man went down into his house justified rather than the other: because every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." -Luk 18:10-14 DRB

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say Jesus would criticize those who kneel.

    "That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth" -Php 2:10 DRB (Isa 45:23; Rom 14:11)

    God judges the heart. And if their heart is where it needs to be, and their external expression is in congruence with it, more power to them. I have come to Novus Ordo Masses where I have seen some kneeling for Communion, young teens too. I am edified by their practice, but I do not follow suit because my internal disposition does not require me to kneel or genuflect before Communion. I genuflect sometimes, except in places where I have been “spoken to”, shall we say.

    If only more serious liturgical abuses were targeted with as much vigor, I would feel more at ease at Holy Mass. Perhaps another question can be: “Do we really need so many Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, or any at all, especially at a Weekday Mass?”; “Why do we use glassware at the Holy Sacrifice when Rome has said ‘precious metals’?”; “Where’d the Tabernacle go?”; “Why is music playing during the Eucharistic Prayers?”; “Why is Father breaking the Host BEFORE the Consecration?”; “Can Father add his own made-up prayers to the Mass?” “Why are lay people giving “reflections” when Father should be giving a Homily?”

    Since I am a busy guy, and always trying to find a conveniently timed Mass on weekdays, I am all over this diocese. You wouldn’t believe the things I’ve seen. From experience, I know that if I as much as raise an eye-brow, I and everyone else are labeled “liturgical police”.
    Since this prompt was for our opinions, then I will give my opinion: I think all postures should be valid AND licit. I don’t think there should be an imposed “norm” in posture for receiving Holy Communion. Since all postures are either done before of during reception of Communion, I don’t see it as a disturbance. Perhaps there ought to be a kneeler on either side of the priest, in case a person chooses to kneel for Communion.

    God Bless,
    Laurence

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  7. Deacon Eric9:55 AM

    The liturgy, by definition, is a communal celebration. It is a defining hallmark of our Catholic Faith that we are aved as a community, not as individuals. So when we gather in the Sunday assembly, we are to act as one, as the Body of Christ, and to put division aside. It's not "my private time with God." The other seven days of the week are for our private time with God.

    The time-honored position of respect for the Christian is to stand. In fact, for several hundred years Church law forbad kneeling on Sunday, because kneeling is a penitential posture, and Sunday is a day of rejoicing, a celebration of the Resurrection. If you go to an Eastern Catholic or Orthodox church, you won't see anyone kneeling, because they have kept this tradition. It wasn't until around the 16th Century, when churches began to have pews, that people started kneeling during Mass in some places.

    The universal law of the Church is to stand all during the Eucharistic Prayer and for communion. In the United States, the bishops asked for and received permission to have the people kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer. It is not liturgically correct, or in line with our ancient custom, but the bishops — for whatever reason — decided that would be best, so we kneel.

    The bishops, however, did not ask for an exception in the matter of standing for communion. Because some people refused to follow the guidelines, this caused disunity, and the Vatican was naturally concerned. So they said one could also kneel. This was not an endorsement of the posture, but a way to stop people from arguing about it.

    Liturgy is not about "me," it's about "us." So if someone wishes to kneel because they do not understand the history of liturgical postures, we are called to let them be and accept them as they are, without judgment. That's the way to community. At the same time, those who seek to convince others they must kneel are being divisive and encouraging people to privatize the liturgy.

    What the Vatican is saying in allowing some to kneel for communion is "Live and let live." That's the spirit of the law, so we should not get caught up in the letter.

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  8. Anonymous7:24 PM

    Paul, you say that "Both times he was being critical to the Pharisees because their behavior was outside the covenant of love of which Jesus was the ambassador."

    Jesus was most critical of the Pharisees for worshipping God with their lips through actions, and not with their heart.

    I wonder if Jesus would be equally critical of us wondering whether we should stand or kneel (or sit like the disciples were during our only example of communion), rather than focusing on the meaning of the elements themselves...

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  9. Father Gregory Elder2:04 PM

    Laurence raises many very important liturgical points in his last email. As
    a parish priest, please allow me to reply, although anything I say I defer to
    the judgement of the Church.

    I have never, ever, refused the Holy Sacrament to a person because of their
    physical posture, eg kneeling, genuflecting, standing. I have know priests
    who have made such refusals. Such actions are wrong and I apologize on
    behalf of the Chuch for such attitudes. Anyone with the slightest
    familiarity with ecclesiastical history knows that there are many different
    ways of honoring Jesus Christ in the Sacrament. We regularly give the body
    of Christ to the drugged, the intoxicated, the mad, the depressed, the
    retarded. How can we refuse to give it to the reverent?

    But to other issues. We should have the deacons and priests to give the Most
    Precious Sacrament to the people. But we simply do not. We need lay
    ministers to distribute the Holy Sacrament to the people of God or the Mass
    would take a lot longer that it should. Families with small children - and
    we must always affirm the abundant young family and their needs and concerns
    - cannot sit though a long mass.

    As for Glass vessals; my understanding of the position of the Church is that
    our Bishops have accepted the mandate of Rome, and that all further vessals
    for the Precious Blood will be metal. Glass vessals which have been in use,
    may continue in use, but will be replaced when they are damaged by ones made
    of precious metals. Remember that once a vessal has been used for the Mass
    it cannot be returned to common use - those glass cups cannot go back to the
    wet bar!

    As for priests adding prayers; this is a sensitive issue. They certainly can
    do this, but the Prayers of the Faithful are the place to do it, not the
    canon of the mass. There are times when one does have to translate parts of
    the canon of the mass so that people can understand it. For example, when I
    say mass for the children of our Parish School, I sometimes use words the
    first graders can understand, eg. saying "Jesus friends" as opposed to
    "apostles". But to willfully stick verbage in where there is no mandate for
    it is not appropriate. I am glad to correspond with anyone who has concerns
    about this sort of issue.

    Thanks Laurence for your email ministry - I and many others very much
    appreciate what you are doing. Best wishes

    Fr Gregory Elder

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  10. To Father Elder:
    Thanks for participating. It is a relief to know that we can continue to use our Waterford Crystal containers. Maybe they aren't "precious" but I do know that they aren't cheap.
    Electronic Evangelization is very important to the vitality of the Church. We at Parishworld.net and many others who join us in the effort from around the world take it seriously and thank God for it.

    Stay tuned.

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  11. Indeed, thank you, Fr. Elder, for your input and insights. That's the first I heard of it. Certainly, I don't mean to use the normal glass "vessels" and return them for common use. But, I can imagine that just as the metal chalices were stored away in many parishes, in exchange for gaudy earthenware and common glass, I dont see why we cant store the consecrated glasses away...

    Also, Mr. Dion, I did read your personal email you sent me about the waterford crystal. I had a conversation with a cousin about this, and I mentioned that I heard waterford crystal was acceptable. She responded that it wasnt and that I should read Redemptionis Sacramentum a little closer...

    The relevant passage reads (#117):

    "It is strictly required, however, that such materials be truly noble in the common estimation within a given region,[206]so that honour will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided. Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily. This norm is to be applied even as regards metals and other materials that easily rust or deteriorate."

    Now, certainly, Waterford Crystal, is "noble" by local estimation, as Mr. Dion has pointed out, it isnt cheap... But, the concern is that it is "breakable"... I would gather that it would then fall under the document's reprobation.

    God Bless,
    Laurence

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  12. Re: Waterford Crystal:

    I like this discussion, even though it is somewhat of a bifurcation from the original question. My mentioning of Waterford crystal was "tongue-in-cheek", but half serious. I agree with you both, and for the edification of our readers, I am convinced that your interpretation of the document is correct. Waterford crystal is breakable. Furthermore, it contains high percentages of lead. So, "noble" or not, it could also present a health hazard, right?

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