Sunday, December 25, 2011

To Kneel or Not to Kneel

The archdiocese of Halifax/Yarmouth in Nova Scotia has a new direction from the archbishop. We are to remain standing from a few moments after the Consecration until everyone has received Communion and is back in their seats. And then wait until the ciborium is placed in the Tabernacle. Then we may kneel to pray after having received the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

The Eucharist is the consummate sacrament of the Catholic Church. It is the fundamental tenet that divides us from all other Christian denominations. We truly believe that this piece of bread and this cup of wine is changed - trans-substantiated - into the body and blood, soul and divinity of Our Saviour.

Standing is not the attitude of reverence. Standing may signify some unity amongst the congregation, but at this point in the Mass, I would expect us to be showing reverence rather than unity.

If this is the type of new evangelisation that is being promulgated across the diocese, and I fear that it is, then the new evangelisation will be as empty of content as this new directive is.

Evangelisation is nothing unless it gives witness to the saving power of Christ on the cross. This is the only point of evangelisation: to bring someone to the point where they realise they need a Saviour, not that they need to be part of a church or a body of believers. First and foremost, they need to recognize that they need to be saved and that Someone has done that for them - at a tremendous price.

Someone said to me today that this is not a big deal, that we should just be obedient and continue to pray as we stand. But if standing or kneeling is not such a big deal, then why is the Archbishop making such a big deal of it?

As Cardinal Arinze says, "if you believe that this is Christ, why don't you kneel, why don't you crawl?"

His final word, leave people in freedom, they are not soldiers. Amen


Jenna said...

It's funny you wrote about this because it's been nagging at me for weeks and I was likewise thinking about how this doesn't bode well for the New Evangelization-mission they're trying to promote in the diocese. I just can't fathom why the bishop is getting us to kneel LESS and yet not requiring the parishes that don't kneel during the consecration to kneel. The GIRM never actually states we have to stand, or kneel, or anything, after receiving; the bishop doesn't actually have the authority to command us to do so. It does however make explicit the need to kneel during the consecration.

The last thing we need is to de-sacralize the Blessed Sacrament!

At our parish, people take the new standing posture awkwardly, and so whisper or talk after receiving. It's distracting and doesn't allow for much reverence.

Very faithful families we know (well one) won't have their children serve at Mass anymore because the priest told them their kids would have to stand after receiving. And I wouldn't be comfortable having my children, when they are old enough, serving if they had to stand around like their pumping gas after receiving Holy Communion.

What will this do to vocations?! I am very very distraught over this, and feel like this new 'innovation' is like a man leaving his wife for a younger woman, and we are the children left behind.

Julie Culshaw said...

I have been thinking about this for a while, but wasn't really prepared to write publicly until our daughter told us that Fr. James had told them all they must stand. He had asked the diocese for precise instructions, so they are doing it. She told me there are only 5 dissident parishes that aren't complying. St. Thomas is one of those. We will support Fr. Mark in his policy of letting people express their respect in whatever posture they wish. He has said nothing about this, the only change has been in the responses.
I don't know if this will come to a showdown in the diocese, but the whole thing seems "silly", what a dumb thing to spend your energy on.
And you're right on, future vocations must come from some kind of example. Not much to be seen.
What we need is holy priests, not changes in physical posture.

Julie Culshaw said...

Nick remarked that for most clergy, they don`t understand what kneeling means for us the laity. They never kneel during Mass. Their posture is either to stand or to sit, even after Communion. No wonder they haven`t a clue.

Roseberry said...

I'm pleased that you have raised this issue, and that your take on it is so perceptive and to the point.

In many ways, the changes in the missal are disappointing. Years of study and wrangling to produce a translation that, while far better than the one we've been using, compares unfavourably with the one on the right side of any hand-missal in use in the 1950s.

And if the translation is a half-step forward, the regulations on "posture" are two steps back. Your reasons to continue kneeling after Communion are persuasive, as are Jenna's for *not* standing. Add to those the divisiveness created by having to stand and watch people approach the Blessed Sacrament inappropriately dressed, talking, chewing gum, etc.

And what do we have to guide us through the revised Missal? That wretched little brown book, filled with a collection of dreary songs -- it would be a travesty to call them hymns -- all composed between 1980 and the early 2000s.

So far the New Evangelization looks to be as successful as New Coke.

Anonymous said...


I found this passage in a Letter to the Archdiocese of Ottawa on the Implementation of the Third Edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal from Archbishop Terence Prendergast:

What is new is that, except for kneeling at the Consecration, the General Instruction says that the faithful should stand ?from the invitation, Orate, fratres (Pray, brethren) until the end of Mass. How this is to function in practice will have to be worked out in particular circumstances, as #43 also says that the faithful may sit ?if appropriate, during the period of sacred silence after Communion. Some liturgical experts have suggested that the congregation remain standing until the last person has received Holy Communion at which point people kneel or sit in reverent prayer. When queried whether people may kneel or sit on returning to their place after receiving Holy Communion as, generally speaking, we have been accustomed to doing, the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship said that the expression of unity should not be so emphasized that people are not free to kneel or sit in prayer after Communion.

Read it that last sentence again ...That is the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship!


Anonymous said...


After my previous post I thought I should add my view on "to kneel or not to kneel". I should say that I am just an ordinary layman and that this is my own personal view, however most of my opinions are influenced by our current Pope.

I think the "standing in unity" during or after communion is inappropriate. There are many times during the liturgy where standing in unity makes sense, examples are the Our Father and the prayers of the faithful. However after receiving Christ in communion is a personal, silent, and meditative moment. It reminds me of when we die, we will meet Our Lord individually not as a group. There are times in the Mass when we pray as a group and pray alone. I think we need both at the appropriate times.

I also believe that kneeling, to me, is more reverent. I stand in the secular world for certain people, I only kneel in Church and I will only kneel in front of my Creator and Lord .

God Bless, Bruce

PS- That’s Bruce(the book hound) from St. Mary’s.

Julie Culshaw said...

Bruce, I'm with you on this. Actually I have noticed that, at St. Mary's, Father Mabee asked people to do this once that I know of, but people have been kneeling for the most part and he has said nothing further. Today, everyone was kneeling after Communion. Perhaps this will simply fade away.

Chantal said...

Oh Wow, I'm of the Edmonton diocese (Bishop Richard Smith) I've always knelt after communion (even as a child in another diocese) My natural response after communion is adoration and quiet prayer. Thankfully the diocese, I think, has asked for people to kneel, not stand. If I were to be standing, I would still have my head bowed and eyes closed, I've just received Jesus and want to focus on him. It is not so much a time of unity as union with Jesus. Also, if they want you to stand are there a 5 minutes of silence after everyone had communion for quiet prayer? Usually there are only a few seconds on silence. So you don't even have that quiet time with Jesus. I pray the bishop changes that.