From standing to kneeling during Communion

Ed. note: The following is the text of a pulpit announcement and bulletin insert published by the Secretariat of Worship and Liturgical Formation for the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan. It is intended for use this coming weekend, November 19/20.

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As we approach the First Sunday of Advent we have an opportunity to reflect on our liturgical celebrations while we prepare to use the new revised Mass texts of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal.

For some this might be a time of challenge as we cross the threshold between what we are used to saying and doing, to using the new responses of the Mass. For others, little difficulty will be encountered. But over-all, we must proceed through this portal together and united in our commitment to God to celebrate the best Eucharistic Liturgy we possibly can.

The Mass is a communal prayer, as demonstrated in our plural language of “we ask” and “answer our prayer.” There are also things that join us as one besides the words we use to pray. The gestures and postures we demonstrate also unite us as one throughout the Mass.

Most of the diocesan parishes have already begun to use some of the new texts in some of the music we sing, such as during the Gloria or the Mystery of Faith, but there are additional changes in store for all of us as we embrace the rest of the spoken words of the Mass starting next Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, especially on the part of the priest celebrant.

Along with the change of words Bishop Hebda, as the chief liturgist for his diocese, has decided to make a posture change during the Communion Rite.

This change is being made from a pastoral standpoint of what we do now, and has taken much prayerful thought as to its introduction. Presently, we all remain standing until the last person receives Holy Communion, which does help make us one in this most unifying moment of Mass. However, the Bishop has seen some people having difficulties with standing for this long, especially in larger parishes; and people want and desire to do as everyone else does, but the aged or physically challenged have difficulty at times trying to do as everyone is doing.

Bishop Hebda has also noted that the people at our Masses are very transient; both visitors and vacationers, as well as some of our own parishioners who have other homes they move to during the winter months, and attend Masses where the same posture was not chosen to be done at wherever that other diocese is located. Thus, it could be confusing for some when going from one place to another. What was meant to move us closer to a more ritualistic unified stance has instead divided us at times and caused confusion in many locations. Nevertheless, it has been noticed that the singing of the Communion hymn has increased greatly; another sign of our unity, through use of voice during the Communion Rite. Increased participation in singing the Communion song has worked well; and the posture maybe not so well in some churches. Losing this increased participation in voice was one reservation to consider in not changing posture, but the Bishop has weighed all things and made a decision to call for a change.

Therefore, beginning the First Sunday of Advent, next week, November 27 and 28, our posture will change to the following:

  • All will kneel at the Sanctus (Lamb of God).
  • All remain kneeling until standing to approach the altar for Holy Communion.
  • Upon returning to the pew the posture of kneeling will resume until being invited by the priest to stand for the Prayer after Communion; when he says, “Let us pray.”

This is a simple change that many Catholics will be able to make with no great trouble, but the pastoral reasons are noted because it will assist us in understanding the reasons surrounding the change…

As always taught, one is only held to the law as much as they are physically able to do. Therefore, if one cannot kneel, they may sit at anytime, even during other parts of the Mass when all are standing and they are unable to stand for a long period or become tired.

  • When one returns to their seat after receiving Holy Communion, it is for a time of short personal prayer of thanksgiving. However, if the selected Communion hymn has appropriately been selected and is about Holy Communion and the Eucharist, then joining in the singing of that song could be one’s prayer of thanksgiving, so everyone is encouraged to continue to join in voice in unity with others at this time by resuming and join in song with others.
  • There should be a time of complete silence when all will be able to go into a prayer of thanksgiving after the last person has received Holy Communion and a functionary part of the Mass of “cleaning” the altar and putting things away is completed by the ministers. Occasionally there may be a song chosen that gives thanks to God for His great gift of His Son, but again, this could be part of the individual’s thanksgiving prayer if a song of thanksgiving is done.
  • Musicians whose ministry it is to lead the assembly in song during the Sanctus and the Communion Song should remain standing to facilitate their voices better as they stand. These ministers will have the opportunity for individual prayer after the Communion Song has been completed.
  • After returning to one’s pew, it is each person’s choice to either remain kneeling until the next posture change is called for by the initiation to prayer, or if one is unable to continue to kneel, then they may sit anytime they need to, but there should be no general rule to follow such as “when the priest returns to his chair all sit” or anything similar. Kneeling “officially” ends when all are invited to stand unless the person has chosen to sit otherwise.
  • When to make that posture change is a personal decision and will not be determined by any other factor. Therefore, it is not in these instructions other than to kneel if able after returning to the pew and then to stand, from whatever posture one is in, at the invitation to re-join in communal prayer for the Prayer after Communion.

It is hoped that this change, along with all the changes about to take place, will enhance our worship for years to come. It may take time for these changes to become “common-place,” possibly even a year or so, but over time we will come to know this revised Mass setting and make it our own just as many have done so with things in the past.
May you be guided by the Spirit as we make our changes and may God the Father, through the Son, continue to nourish you as we celebrate the Eucharist together each week.

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71 comments

  1. Without any directions from above, our parish and many others in the diocese, observe this common sense practice. Through effective catechesis, good musical direction, and the selection of songs the people enjoy singing, few people return to the pews to bury their faces in their hands for private prayers. There is silence as the few remaining consecrated hosts are taken reverently to the tabernacle in the adjacent tabernacle (completely visible to all).

    Speaking of common sense. Rather than direct the people to stand for the misnamed thanksgiving prayer only to have them sit for announcements, I have taken to leading the prayer as they remain kneeling, then invite them to be seated. Countless parishes have customarily done announcements prior to standing for the prayer and closing rite. Unlike the folks who write rubrics who seem to have little or no direct experience leading parishes in a truly inculturated worship, caring about the flow of movement is of importance here. This does not involve any kind of substantial rearrangement in my view. It certainly doesnt disturb in the least The Law of Prayer.

  2. “…observe this common sense practice.” Why is kneeling during Communion a common sense approach? Do you have any documents or instruction to back this claim up, or does it just “feel right?”

  3. Therefore, beginning the First Sunday of Advent, next week, November 27 and 28, our posture will change to the following:

    All will kneel at the Sanctus (Lamb of God).
    All remain kneeling until standing to approach the altar for Holy Communion.

    Doh! That’s “Agnus” not Sanctus folks! Proofreading needed.

  4. I think there is a misprint in the line “all will kneel at the Sanctus (Lamb of God).” That should be “Agnus Dei.”
    But the uniform practice described by the bishop for his diocese is the common practice in the Diocese of Savannah and since Vatican II, except our people normally sit after the Hosts are reposed in the tabernacle and for the normal silence after Holy Communion.

    1. When do they sit when you don’t go to the tabernacle? I certainly hope you wouldn’t be going there at every Mass, Father.

      1. Yes, we have hosts left over after every Mass and I would also suspect that most parishes of our diocese do; but I can’t speak for your parish or diocese. But theoretically if no hosts were left for the tabernacle they would more than likely sit when the priest does since they believe that Christ’s presence is in the gathered sacred assembly, the word proclaimed , the the Blessed Sacrament and the priest.

  5. Fr. Allan J. McDonald :

    Yes, we have hosts left over after every Mass and I would also suspect that most parishes of our diocese do; but I can’t speak for your parish or diocese. But theoretically they would more than likely sit when the priest does since they believe that Christ’s presence is in the gathered sacred assembly, the word proclaimed , the the Blessed Sacrament and the priest.

    At our parish, 1000 families, the sacristans have it worked out that we only go to the tabernacle on occasion. It’s really not that difficult to calculate and adjust during the Mass. And if there are just a few hosts left, the pastor will consume them, just like any unused Precious Blood. After all, it is the sacrifice of the Mass, not a Communion Service.

    And, theoretically, if they waited for you to sit, does that mean the Presence of Christ in the Priest is more important than Christ in the Assembly, or the fact that those who have received are now tabernacles themselves?

      1. Well, I’m baffled by why you would want them to wait for you to be seated. I’m unaware of any rubric or philosophy that backs your belief either. Perhaps you could direct me to a document on the topic?

    1. Bob – agree with your comments. Find that more and more folks choose to sit whether the presider is still giving communion or not.

      Your point about “left overs” – that fight has been going on for centuries…..liturgy experts have tried to legislate, insist, educate, etc. but to no avail.

      Had an experience last week watching a deacon finish purfying the vessels and then took the ciborium, covered it, lifted it high, and one step at a time, processed to the side chapel. Thought I was watching a 1950’s horror film and someone was taking sacrifice to the temple gods.

      1. And yet at my parish, it works. It’s not rocket science. Take counts for a few weekends and average it out. Adjust during the homily if there are more or less people than usual. We rarely go to the tabernacle anymore.

      2. What was meant to move us closer to a more ritualistic unified stance has instead divided us at times and caused confusion in many locations.
        —————————————————–
        I think this is another case of more confusion arising in the bishop’s chancery than anywhere else. I’ve yet to see confusion in the people because they usually choose the posture they want to take anyway.

        Surely, the bishop has better things to do than engage in liturgical minutia management of this type. Who amongst the laity take this stuff seriously?

        You take the posture most comfortable to you and do adopt the posture you’re moved to take. I think of those who choose to stand throughout the entire liturgy and always select a place where they can do that, those who sit from beginning to end, and others who kneel or prostrate. Do what moves you.

      3. @Dunstan Harding – comment #12:

        I among the laity takes this seriously…every head should bow and every knee should bend before Jesus Christ Our Lord, in Heaven on earth and under the earth.

      4. Really?

        Every knee?

        I ask because the priest stands in the Roman rite presently.
        And everyone, priests and laity, have always stood in the Eastern rite churches.

        I’m not sure your Biblical quote really applies to this question.

        awr

      5. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #14:
        It doesn’t apply to the general question of the post, but it certainly does apply to the comment to which he is responding:

        You take the posture most comfortable to you and do adopt the posture you’re moved to take. I think of those who choose to stand throughout the entire liturgy and always select a place where they can do that, those who sit from beginning to end, and others who kneel or prostrate. Do what moves you.

        Against this complete latitudinarianism, he implicitly takes the position that Catholic worship should always normally involve kneeling. That’s not an extreme position. In fact those Eastern rite priests and laity do bows and prostrations and the Roman rite priest presently does “bend the knee” at several points in the liturgy. He doesn’t say that it should be at every moment or at every liturgy… just that we have biblical suggestion beyond “Do what moves you.”

    2. Bob, you act as though I’ve mandated this, when in fact it is a custom in my parish and other parishes in our diocese going back to the late 1960’s. So it is not what I demand; I’ve allowed the status quo to remain without my clerical interference and if the status quo was for everyone to sit or stay standing that’s what would happen. (In fact in my parish there are a variety of postures after Holy Communion). But I would also caution you that there is no rubric or general instruction on exactly what is to happen with left over consecrated hosts and what the congregation should be doing in the meantime. When not prescribed, I would suggest one allow a more charismatic approach to how the Spirit has led a particular congregation according to their customs, so don’t change the method in your parish and trust me I would change our method either.

      1. Having dealt with parish faith formation for a number of years now, whenever the topic arises, I will question people why they wait for the presider to sit, the only, repeat only, answer I’ve ever received was it being out of respect for the priest. Spirit led? Hardly. Poor catechesis? Yes.

  6. While every effort is made to consecrate always and only the precise amounts, with the number present that just isn’t always possible. I’ve repented of being a pathological perfectionist….or am trying hard to.

  7. Oh my, what klutzy, cumbersome and tacky letter!

    Did the more appropriate “standing” posture begin under a previous episcopate and a new bishop is taking this as an opportunity to do things “his way?” Is about half of this letter a rationalization for accommodating the liturgical proclivities of a certain bishop?

    What is with these bishops, anyway, that they all feel the need to keep reminding their people that they “are the chief liturgist” of the diocese? Any how many of them, really, have had any liturgical training beyond their non-academic M.Div.? It’s a disgrace.

    Frankly I’ve always found it to be a warning when ANYONE prefaces a remark or letter with an appeal to their office. “As principal of this school . . . , ” “As pastor of this parish . . . , ” blah, blah, blah. If people are already not listening to you staking your case on your office really is not going to cut it.

    BTW, here we stand from the Doxology/Amen until the last person (the DLM) has received communion. Then everyone sits. The EM’s are in the sacristy consuming remaining hosts if necessary. If there are more than 50 they are permitted to reserve them, but we prefer to consume them. By the time the EM’s return to their seats it is time to stand for the Prayer After Communion.

    A weird custom has developed around here where some presiders choose to remain seated for the Prayer After Communion. I don’t know the history behind that, but I’m not a fan . . . it seems to ruin the symmetry between that and the other presidential prayers.

    1. According to the website, Patrick Cooney was bishop until 2009. This Bernard Hebda is a canon lawyer and translator. I would agree with you that this is just him using the new missal to do things his way. The reasons listed are simply ridiculous.

    2. Thanks for saying this, Jim – bears repeating:

      “…..reminding their people that they “are the chief liturgist” of the diocese? Any how many of them, really, have had any liturgical training beyond their non-academic M.Div.? It’s a disgrace.”

      In this day and age with a few exceptions, the MDiv has become the equivalent of an Associates Degree. Wander through the typical US seminary theologate course and MDiv degree requirements – if it includes more than 2 liturgy courses, I would be surprised. And most still do celebration practicums when the clerical student has time and can fit it in.

      Now, if you imagine that bishops have little liturgical education, think about the liturgy directors they appoint in their respective dioceses – that becomes even more concerning. And all while there are probably many more qualified, MA or PhD educated lay folks in those same diocese – but of course, we must have a cleric or the pastors will ignore what they say and do.

  8. When the bishop says kneel “at the Lamb of God” does he mean at the start of the Lamb of God?
    In any church I’ve ever went to, kneeling has begun after the “…… grant us peace.”

    We then remain kneeling, except for standing to go to receive Communion, and when we return to the pews we would kneel again.

    Then, we would remain kneeling until the tabernacle is closed, at which point we would sit.

  9. the Church makes it clear that our unity of posture and gesture is an expression of our participation in the one Body formed by the baptized with Christ, our head. When we stand, kneel, sit, bow and sign ourselves in common action, we given unambiguous witness that we are indeed the Body of Christ, united in heart, mind and spirit.

    This is from the USCCB’s 2010 bulletin insert Postures and Gestures at Mass. Explanations for postures and gestures are included. The change in Gaylord is based on an ambiguity in the directive: the bishops of the United States have chosen standing as the posture to be observed in this country for the reception of Communion, ie does “the reception of communion” refer to the Communion of individuals or the Communion of the community?

    1. We’ve gone over the matter of sitting or standing or kneeling after having received Communion before on PTB.

      The question was answered by Card. Arinze back in 2003:

      5 June 2003 (Prot. n. 855/03/L)

      Dubium: In many places, the faithful are accustomed to kneeling or sitting in personal prayer upon returning to their places after individually received Holy Communion during Mass. Is it the intention of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia, to forbid this practice?

      Responsum: Negative, et ad mentem. The mens is that that the prescription of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, no. 43, is intended, on one hand, to ensure within broad limits a certain uniformity of posture within the congregation for the various parts of the celebration of the Holy Mass, and on the other, to not regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free.

      (source)

      1. Not the answer to the issue posed by the bishop of Gaylord — everyone kneel from the Agnus Dei until you’ve returned to your place after receiving Communion — as the Dubium quoted here refers to the immediately following period.

      2. Ah, I see. You’re asking about whether the posture of a person AFTER the Agnus Dei and BEFORE they go to receive Communion?

        The practice I’ve seen in places where the custom is to kneel after the Agnus Dei and after having received Communion, is that once the priest is ready to distribute Communion to the congregation (or while he is distributing it to the other ministers), most people sit again. Then they stand when they’re going up to receive.

        (This is as opposed to kneeling right until the moment one stands to walk up to receive Communion.)

      3. That’s not my experience. In every state where I’ve attended Mass — and that’s quite a few of them — where the people kneel after the Agnus Dei they only stand when an usher tells them it’s their turn to come to communion.

  10. OMG! As the church burns they rearrange furniture! Hmm…why not state, for all the same reasons, if all stand, one if need be, can sit? Rather than, all kneel, but if one needs to, sit? If its all really “common sense.” But again, this is just another version of Phoenix. An agenda made possible by all sorts of “reasons.” Documents, elderly, visitors, piety, Holy See, tabernacle doors, clergy oh so tired recumbent, on and on ad nauseam.

    Here’s an idea: sing God a simple song.

    I live with a priest from Mozambique. He speaks of walking 150km to find – read to find the furthest christian community charged to his care. They don’t need a lesson on how to worship God, they do what they do based upon their encounter with God everyday of their lives. And yes, they are Roman Catholics …probably more truly than we could hope to be.

    1. “Hmm…why not state, for all the same reasons, if all stand, one if need be, can sit? Rather than, all kneel, but if one needs to, sit?”

      Bravo. You’ve put your finger on the false logic of this argument. And, I would observe, it is identical with the quote from Cardinal Arinze that Jeffrey Pinyan cited earlier in this thread. The instruction to stand never forbids someone to sit or kneel if standing is arduous.

      Here it is again:
      “The mens is that that the prescription of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, no. 43, is intended, on one hand, to ensure within broad limits a certain uniformity of posture within the congregation for the various parts of the celebration of the Holy Mass, and on the other, to not regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free.”

      To be free! Who’d have thought it?

      1. Thanks, Rita…and so my next post gets at the cluelessness of this bishop. Appears that he (like other bishops) do not understand the GIRM, the history of the GIRM(s), or even much of liturgical history.

        And so, why this pronouncement? It has nothing to do with the implementation of the new translation?

      2. Bill, I suppose the pronouncement is being made to implement the decision of the CDWDS in the diocese. Although, to be fair, it would have been better if the bishop had simply said, “your posture is up to you” rather than to legislate a different posture (with exceptions permitted).

      3. There was no decison by the CDWS – Arnize is outdated by the new GIRM and his statement basically blessed anything goes. Sorry, Mr. Hale has the most accurate take on this whole issue.

      4. The 2003 response by the CDWDS was in regards to the “new” GIRM, which has been around since 2000 or 2001.

        Are you saying that the new English translation of the GIRM for the 3rd edition of the Missal overrides the 2003 response from the CDWDS about the same GIRM, differently translated?

  11. On some other posts esp. comments by some (e.g. Rita Ferrone), there was a plea that the new translation be implemented honestly and that bishops don’t then take the opportunity to justify their own desires, interpretations, biases, and ideologies with ad hoc liturgical changes that they justify by using the new translation.

  12. So many words, so little content! Here’s the same text cleaned of its useless parts. It also helps see the weakness of the argument.
    ——————————————
    Sisters and Brothers,
    Starting on the First Sunday of Advent we will use the new revised Mass texts of the Roman Missal. Along with the change of words Bishop Hebda, as the chief liturgist for his diocese, has decided to make a posture change during the Communion Rite. Presently, we all remain standing until the last person receives Holy Communion. However, the Bishop has seen some people having difficulties with standing for this long. Bishop Hebda has also noted that vacationers attend Masses at other dioceses where a different posture was chosen. It could be confusing and divisive. Standing is better for singing, but the Bishop has weighed all things and made a decision.

    Beginning the First Sunday of Advent, next week, November 27 and 28, our posture will change to the following:
    • All kneel at the Lamb of God, and remain kneeling until standing to approach the altar for Holy Communion.
    • Upon returning to the pew, people kneel again, and remain kneeling until the priest says “Let us pray” to introduce the Prayer after Communion.
    If one cannot kneel, they may sit at anytime.

    May we be guided by the Spirit as we make our changes.

  13. Every word of GIRM 42, ¶1, is new to this edition of the GIRM:

    42. The gestures and bodily posture of both the Priest, the Deacon, and the ministers, and also of the people, must be conducive to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity, to making clear the true and full meaning of its different parts, and to fostering the participation of all. Attention must therefore be paid to what is determined by this General Instruction and by the traditional practice of the Roman Rite and to what serves the common spiritual good of the People of God, rather than private inclination or arbitrary choice.

    Standing during the communion song “bring[s] out more clearly the ‘communitarian’ character of the procession to receive the Eucharist. The singing is prolonged for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to
    the faithful.” (GIRM 87, every word of which is also new to this edition). Yes I have applied GIRM 87 to singing, not standing—we’re processing after all!

    1. Really!?!?!? This is news – there is something substantively different between the GIRM draft in 2001 and the retransliterated GIRM?

      Another night waking up at 4 in a cold sweat . . .

      1. Fr. Jim, I don’t think that’s what Paul’s post meant. I think he was referring to the GIRM for the 3rd edition of the Missal and the GIRM for the 2nd edition. See here:

        Earlier translation of the new GIRM, 42.1:

        42. The gestures and posture of the priest, the deacon, and the ministers, as well as those of the people, ought to contribute to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity, so that the true and full meaning of the different parts of the celebration is evident and that the participation of all is fostered. Therefore, attention should be paid to what is determined by this General Instruction and the traditional practice of the Roman Rite and to what serves the common spiritual good of the People of God, rather than private inclination or arbitrary choice.

        New translation of the new GIRM, 42.1:

        42. The gestures and bodily posture of both the Priest, the Deacon, and the ministers, and also of the people, must be conducive to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity, to making clear the true and full meaning of its different parts, and to fostering the participation of all. Attention must therefore be paid to what is determined by this General Instruction and by the traditional practice of the Roman Rite and to what serves the common spiritual good of the People of God, rather than private inclination or arbitrary choice.

    2. Also, we already have bishops “reminding” their pastors the the EP’s for children become “ilicit,” even though we don’t have new ones yet.

  14. In the Diocese of Pueblo, we’ll be moving to this posture as well. The official directive, which has been ignored or countermanded by various pastors and parishes, has been to stand from the Great Amen through the end of Communion.

    1. Hedba has the slightest care about the need of the people of Gaylord?

      What he cares about is he doesn’t want to be buried there.

    2. I wanted to say a bit about Gaylord. The former bishop, Patrick Cooney, was from Detroit where he actually served as liturgy director for the diocese before they made him a bishop and gave him his own diocese. He has a master’s degree in liturgy from the University of Notre Dame. Informed decisions were made and followed during his tenure as bishop. The diocese is young and mostly rural, with priests covering two and three parishes, and some parish life coordinators at communities that don’t have a resident priest. The atmosphere was enviable between priests and their bishop under Cooney istm, and also among the pastoral life coordinators and the priests.

      I have the impression that the new bishop came in with an agenda. I hope he knows the value of what he has inherited. I suspect he does not, however, and that this will be the first of many steps in dismantling the heritage of his predecessor. I hope I’m wrong about that.

  15. In my home parish back east through the 70’s, people would kneel after returning from Communion, then be seated after about a minute or so while the Communion procession was still continuing.

    It was only when I moved to the Midwest in 1988 that I noted the people continuing to kneel until the priest sat.

    This regulation–any way: standing, kneeling, or even sitting–is not terribly relevant, imo. People should feel and be free to do as they wish, as long as there’s no unreasonable distraction. My wife has pain in her knees. She returns from the Communion Procession and sits. I note a number of my elderly parishioners do likewise. This is perfectly acceptable.

    These changes in liturgical posture demonstrate a de facto irrelevance for outward unity at this moment in the Mass. Perhaps that’s lamentable, but it’s what we’re given at this time and date.

  16. I’m very old and arthritic but don’t need a wheel chair. It would be impossible for people like me to receive Communion kneeling at the altar rail. What are we supposed to do?

    1. This isn’t about kneeling to receive Communion, this is about kneeling after you’ve returned to your pew: “All remain kneeling until standing to approach the altar for Holy Communion. Upon returning to the pew the posture of kneeling will resume…”

      For those who are unable to kneel: “one is only held to the law as much as they are physically able to do. Therefore, if one cannot kneel, they may sit at anytime…”

    2. Even in Extraordinary Form communities, where kneeling at the altar rail is expected, it is not uncommon to see those who physically cannot kneel receiving Communion standing.

      Likewise, in this situation, it would be appropriate for those who cannot kneel to sit.

  17. Bob Hale :
    Well, I’m baffled by why you would want them to wait for you to be seated. I’m unaware of any rubric or philosophy that backs your belief either. Perhaps you could direct me to a document on the topic?

    Bob, the presence is more real when he’s seated. It’s a long story, one which you’ll never understand if you don’t think like poor Allan.

  18. This all really looks like a return to the congregational posture for low Mass that I remember from Boston in the 1950s and 1960s, before the liturgical changes:

    Kneel until the gospel, stand for the creed, sit for the collection, kneel at the Sanctus bell, sit when the priest does the final clean-up after communion, kneel at the final prayer and blessing, stand for the last Gospel. You knelt for 75 percent of the Mass.

  19. Many people after communion neither stand, nor kneel, nor sit but simply walk out of the church! This post and discussion is much about fiddling with the rubrics while many people are literally leaving the church.

    Think of it from the perspective of the people who are leaving.

    There really is not much of interest to keep them, only the post-communion prayer and blessing. Only rarely does the choir sing anything. Waiting while the ordained ministers wash the dishes? Announcements? They are in the bulletin and on the internet. Technically the recessional hymn although customary is not a part of Mass. It is often sung after the first verse or two by the choir while people leave. Very few parishes have any post-service activities such as socialization. So why not get a head start to the parking lot and beat the traffic jam leaving?

    Psychologically it might be very reinforcing, even in a religious sort of way.

    If one is alone, the following car ride is likely to be a far better quiet time for reflection than remaining in church (one of the major reasons people do not car pool is that they like that quiet time alone in the car).

    If one is with one’s family or friends, the car ride could possibly be a very communal experience, of greater quantity and quality than remaining in church, especially if one is on the way to brunch, perhaps an appropriate continuation to the Eucharistic meal.

    Pastorally, it seems advisable to give people the greatest flexibility after communion if for no other reason than making the dash to the door less attractive.

    It also might be helpful to have post-Mass possibilities (e.g. socialization) to give people greater reason to stay. One local parish has a very successful coffee and donuts in the narthex after Mass. A lot of people stay which means little or no traffic jam. They have a self service coat room for a far more leisurely arrival and departure from church.

    Replace concern with rubrics with empathy for others.

    1. Good point Jack, in my first assignment the parish had a communion station at the rear of the Church in the narthex. I constantly saw people receive Holy Communion and walk right out the door! It drove up my blood pressure so I got the liturgy committee and pastor to eliminate that station and only have them at the front. That didn’t stop people from leaving after Holy Communion, but at least I didn’t have to witness it!
      There are different levels of commitment in our parishes compared to Protestant Churches where membership is more intentional and alike and etiquette more enforced. No matter how wonderful the liturgy and dynamic the post communion prayer and social activities afterwards, there are people there just to fulfill their obligation so they come late and leave early. All you can do it to invite them to consider things differently; but you can only lead a horse to water, you can’t force it to drink, not that these people are horses or less dignified variations of that beast.

  20. This is not about posture, but about what “after communion” means. It means “after I receive” AND “after we all receive,” but which is being used in the GIRM? Hedba sees the silent thanksgiving after communion as happening after the individual receives. Other commenters see us as collectively in a procession until everyone has received, after which comes silent thanksgiving. (I think this why Paul Ford talks about singing during the communion procession, unlike silence of postcommunion)

    Hedba’s solution grounds the behavior Jack Rakosky describes: it is personal time, so I can leave. I do not think the same thing happens if people think their communion is only completed when everyone has received, completed the procession, ended the song, etc. There will always be those who see it individually and sense that the procession should be out the door, so it is hard to tell. Look again at the dubium Jeffrey posted, which asks about “after individually received Holy Communion” and gets an answer about shared postures during various parts of the mass, which means during Communion, not postcommunion.

    1. But the basic problem is that parishes are not communities. Our people want community according to Vibrant Parish Life Study of 129 parishes and 46,241 people.

      “The parish as a supportive, caring community” ranked 2nd in importance but 18th out of 39 in being well done.

      “The parish exhibiting a spirit of warmth and hospitality” ranked 4th in importance but 19th in being well done.

      “New members of the parish are welcomed” ranked 6th in importance but 24th in being well done.

      “Parish leadership that listens to the concerns of parishioners” ranked 7th in importance but 29th in being well done.

      “Support for families who have experienced death” ranked 8th in importance but 17th in being well done.

      Compare this extensive lack of community with a several things that are important and well done:

      “Promotion of respect for human life” ranked 3rd in importance and 8th in being well done.

      “Religious education for children” ranked 5th in importance and 7th in being well done.

      “A church large enough for worship” ranked 9th in importance and 1st in being well done.

      People have little reason to come early to be with people or stay late to be with people. Parishes are operated more like business which provide services to individuals not as communities. In that context we cannot blame people for behaving as individuals, especially when they are crying out for community.

  21. The posture of those who have just received Holy Communion has no bearing on the unity effected by the sacrament. If you’ve ever participated in a Mass where there were numerous priest concelebrants, you’ll have noticed that the priests sit afterwards. In some places the people kneel or sit afterwards. In some places everyone remains standing. The often smarmy suggestion by some liturgists that there’s only one appropriate posture simply isn’t credible. There are simply differing perspectives. If you’re trying to slay the dragon of private prayer immediately following Communion, you’re likely to advocate everyone standing and singing throughout. I have found that selecting very singable communion songs that people seem to enjoy adequately support sacramental unity.

    1. I often see many priests concelebrate, right up to ordinations and Chrism Mass, and I only see the elderly priests sit. The rest of the priests stand.

      Unity in posture is a smarmy goal? May I kneel during the Gospel? Can I lay prostrate during the Eucharistic Prayer?

    2. I wonder what the bishop of Gaylord would think of celebrants inviting the people to come into the sanctuary just before Holy Communion is distributed to stand around the altar, to kneel, or to stand to receive? A practice I’ve seen in some European Catholic parishes and many Lutherans do regularly.
      Everyone goes back to his seat, or in some larger churches and cathedrals, they take a seat in the choir stalls. No fuss, no pronouncements on what to do or not to do when you return to your seat.

  22. OK, so let me get this straight.

    1. The Communion procession is too long for people to stand. The aged and infirm struggle to stand for that long. Question: How do parishes in dioceses where standing is the norm handle this? I can only believe that churches in the Los Angeles Archdiocese are far larger than then most in the Gaylord diocese.

    2. Visitors get confused. Really? Do people truly lack such intelligence that if worshipping in a parish where you stand, and you notice 99% of the people remain standing after the Lamb of God, they will be confused as to what the posture is? Parishes couldn’t include this info in the greeting before Mass, or in the worship aids, if they have one?

    I’ve never been to the Gaylord diocese, but I’m absolutely insulted by these vacuous concerns of Bp. Hebda. If he’s concerned about creating a negative effect to the singing at Communion, then DON’T change the current posture. I travel often, and there IS a difference between assembly participation between parishes that stand and those that do not.

    As others have pointed out, how ridiculous to say if you can’t kneel, just sit. Why not leave things alone? As if the new translation won’t be hard enough on people, now you make a large change in posture.

    And what’s with the point that if the song is about Holy Communion or Eucharist, the people will have more incentive to join in as their “personal prayer of thanksgiving?” Who says CommUNION is about personal prayer, and what if a Eucharistic song is not used? Didn’t Paul Ford have a presentation at NPM on how few Communion antiphons in the Missal and Gradual are Eucharistic based? Is he trying to shove the blame for the assured lack of singing on the musicians?

    How the episcopate has ANY credibility anymore is beyond me.

    1. If I’m not mistaken, kneeling after Communion is the more usual practice in many parts of the world until some liturgists started making noise for standing. It never gained strength except for some places.

      The Bishop is probably just putting an end to a lousy suggestion and restoring the older practice. I think it will help people appreciate that there is a great mystery that is happening.

      1. Do you have any facts to back this up? Or are you assuming most parts of the world kneel?

        Isn’t the entire conference of Scotland standing now for Communion?

  23. Bob, you might want to consider lightening up. My diocese does not qualify as Neanderthal, but most people here kneel upon returning from communion…..and keep right on expressing their unity in song.

    1. I don’t see anything in this letter that warrants a real need to reverse such a decision, just a lot of fluff. That’s not the right way to tinker with Liturgy.

  24. The Mass is a communal prayer, as demonstrated in our plural language of “we ask” and “answer our prayer.”

    I think he’s forgotten something. Maybe he meant The Mass is a communal prayer, as demonstrated in our plural language of “we ask,” “answer our prayer” and “I believe.”

  25. JP – “Lord, I am not worthy….” you might want to read the next post from the English Jesuit monthly and the article on this phrase. Puts it in context and explains comprehensively the I vs. We.

    1. I’ve read the three articles on thinkingfaith.org about the new translation. (Fr. Cameron-Mowat’s article was posted here last month, too.) I wonder when the third article will be posted and discussed here!

      Paul’s remark was about the non-plural language of “I believe” juxtaposed with the plural language of “we ask” and “our prayer”. That non-plural language is also in the Confiteor and the Domine non sum dignus. This language does not make me think the Mass is not actually a communal prayer.

      I’m not entirely sure what point Paul was making. If he could elaborate, I’d have a better idea.

  26. Jack, I’m happy to hear YOUR “kneeling” congregation keep on expressing their unity in song after communion. I am fearful, however, that the PRESENT “robust participation in song” from our “STANDING” faithful will be greatly compromised with Hebda’s directive emphasis on a kneeling posture through the entire communion experience. Such posture reflexively sends one into “personal prayer,” so when an individual returns from communion and kneels, they rarely pick up the hymnal to join in (better participation, though, seen from those who choose to sit). (Under this new instructive), with the only “standing” participants being those processing to communion (virtually ALL WITHOUT hymnals in hand), raising our collective voices in a song of thanksgiving will elicit the same lame version heard in “the good old days” — which appears to be where we’re headed with these reactionary – tainted missives that continue to obfuscate (rather than enlighten) what had come to be a more inclusive/truly COMMUNAL, celebratory, progressively ecumenical — dare I say “Protestant-like” — and PROFOUNDLY MEANINGFUL/SPIRITUALLY FULFILLING experience!! P.S. The demographics in our diocese of Gaylord would be equally served by “going easy” on the kneeling, just as much as the bishop’s deference to those who had mentioned to him their difficulty in standing (“especially in large parishes” ??? I’m curious as to what constitutes a “large” parish in our Northern Michigan diocese of Gaylord). Thanks for the opportunity to vent on this blog! God Bless.

  27. I’m in the Diocese of Gaylord and am happy with the changes Bishop Hebda is making. Bishop Cooney had everyone keep standing after the Lamb of God through communion until the last person received. Bishop Hebda is having us kneel after the Lamb of God (like we used to) and then kneel after receiving communion (which many at my parish are doing already). Basically what Simon Ho said above is true, Bishop Hebda is bring us more uniform with other dioceses in the U.S. I’ve heard our diocese was one of only a few left that stand after the Lamb of God.

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