Bow of the head when names are mentioned

[quote=“General Instructions on the Roman Missal”]275. A bow signifies reverence and honor shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them. There are two kinds of bows: a bow of the head and a bow of the body.

  1. A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated.

Does anyone in your parish do this? I have never seen anyone do this anywhere, not a priest or a bishop or deacon, nor anyone in my parish. I was never catechized to do this. I don’t know how long it’s been in the GIRM. But I plan to practice it now, especially since I am an altar server (and choir member on Sundays) and I should be extra liturgically-correct.

I would recommend doing this if you can. I try and do it with the changing prayers, but you really have to focus to do it. I always bow at the two places in the gloria, and the one spot in the creed. Those are easy, because you always “see it coming” so to speak. :slight_smile:

That’s my experience.

I’ve seen it done, usually by older members of the congregation, but by no means all of them or all the time.

It seems to be an instruction that’s got a bit lost over time.

I must admit that I’d not heard of the bow in relation to the Virgin Mary or the Saint of the day.

I also have to say that even my parish priest, who’s a real stickler for correctness doesn’t observe this rubric all the time.

The trouble is, do you bow at the name of Jesus at each repetition during, say, the Gospel? Particularly if you don’t have the text in front of you, you’re likely to only actually bow after the Priest or Deacon has passed on to the next words/sentences.

Certainly in the Sunday Missal we use in the UK, the only instruction to bow is during the Creed at “incarnatus est…” / “became incarnate of…” (plus kneeling at Christmas, of course) and the solemn blessings used on special occasions at the end of Mass.

I don’t know about all the other times but it is actually part of the rubrics to bow during the creed as well but I don’t see many people, priests included doing that either. The older practice was to actually genuflect during the creed so even just bowing was a reduction.

Its definitely a good practice though and I encourage you to take it up.

Yes, I have seen it and do it at the Extraordinary Form parish I attend, e.g., when mass starts with a procession of the altar servers and priest down the aisle, and if the leading altar server carries a crucifix, everyone bows to the crucifix as it passes them. The rule I know is generally this: full body bow for passing a crucifix, a genuflection for passing the consecrated Sacrament (either exposed or veiled in a tabernacle), and a bow of the head when passing images of Mother Mary. The priest does everything according to the GIRM especially when saying the Gloria, Credo, mentioning the name Jesus in the Gospel, etc. It is a practice I would definitely recommend more to do; it will increase your faith.

We were taught this and I still do it. I haven’t looked around but I imagine I’m not alone in doing this.

I’ve seen this happen, but inconsistently. Our priest generally is good about doing it but most other priests around (even very reverent ones) generally don’t do it. I make it a point to bow my head and shoulders at “Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin” in the Confiteor, and and the name of Jesus in the Gloria (twice) and Creed (once); I also try to do it other times if I catch it (but not usually within a reading and not in the homily). Sometimes I see several people around me doing it… sometimes no one else, and there doesn’t seem to be any consistency as to where I am when they do or don’t. For myself, I figure I should make a point to bow if I am saying the words, and it’s nice if I do it if the priest is saying the words. I do also make it a point to bow for the first half of the Gloria Patri/Glory Be (but of course that’s not found in the Ordinary Form of the Mass). I find that lots of people in my parish do consistently bow for that if for nothing else (other than Communion and the profound bow in the Creed).

When I was a kid and went to mass, we did this also.
I thought this was done as a matter of course?

wow. yeah, I need to stop by and see a mass just to see how much has changed…

One of the priests at a parish I sometimes attend did it. He was a stickler for rubrics - He was Father Do the Red and Say the Black. The first time I noticed him doing this, I came home and looked it up, and there it was! Sadly, he’s not there any more. He was the world’s best Master of Ceremonies.


I’m currently writing a book on the rubrics of the Ordinary Form, and since reading this GIRM passage, I do it every liturgy.

I was never catechized to do so, but I have always done it. Father does it too. I also beat my breast at the recitation of ‘through my fault’ in the Confiteor (Father does too), but I can’t find any mention of this practice in the current GIRM. Does anyone know if that is just a pious carry-over from the TLM, or if it is actually an instructed rubric? What about making the Sign of the Cross at the 'May Almighty God…"?

It’s not needed as an extra instruction in the GIRM because it’s in the actual text of the Mass itself (2002):

P: My brothers and sisters, to prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries, let us call to mind our sins.

R: I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; (All strike their breasts) and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God
P: May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.

Everyone in the congregation is required to strike his breast during the Confiteor of the current Ordinary Form of the Mass.

I am not sure if it is to be done during the Readings or during the homily. However with this in mind I have never been instructed to do it but I have noticed myself that I often do it witout even thinking about it. I do it during the opening prayer (if the His name is used) during the confiteor, the creed and closing prayer. I have never felt it was proper to do it during the reading or homily.

I wasn’t taught to do this when I was going thru RCIA 6 years ago, and our pastor at the time didn’t do it himself, possible because he had bad feet and knees and he didn’t want to possibly put himself into a situation where he might fall. I did notice some individuals doing it, but I wasn’t sure exactly when or why it was being done. The retired army colonel who took his place last year is much more a stickler for the rubrics; he is careful to give the right example, and more of us in the pews are following that example. As far as bowing at the Name of Jesus, my head is usually already bowed during the Mass prayers.

Geremia, thanks for posting the “whens.”


Most people in my parish bow their heads twice during the Gloria and once during the Creed and that is because our pastor sets such a good example. :slight_smile:

It could of course be that people are confused since sometimes you’re told NOT to copy the priest’s gestures or movements since those are not for the congregation, just the priest. It’s likely therefore that some people don’t bow their heads at the name of Jesus even though the priest does it and end up only doing what is explicitly written down in front of their eyes in the missals (although I grant you that half of them don’t do that either).

Our deacon is very good about it, and has even mentioned it in a homily at least once. Many in the congregation follow suit; many do not. I find it useful personally in my focus to try really hard to “catch” them all.

Yes, you should absolutely do this. I do this at my chapel and notice some others do it as well. I know that the priest always does :slight_smile:

It is a shame that few people are catechized to do this. For that reason, I made sure to teach this in my online catechism programs :slight_smile:

General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM 2003):

  1. A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, signifies adoration, and therefore it is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during the liturgical celebration on Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.
  1. A bow signifies reverence and honor shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them. There are two kinds of bows: a bow of the head and a bow of the body.

A) A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated.
B) A bow of the body, that is to say a profound bow, is made to the altar; during the prayers Munda cor meum (Almighty God, cleanse my heart) and In spiritu humilitatis (Lord God, we ask you to receive); in the Creed at the words Et incarnatus est (by the power of the Holy Spirit . . . made man); in the Roman Canon at the words Supplices te rogamus (Almighty God, we pray that your angel). The same kind of bow is made by the deacon when he asks for a blessing before the proclamation of the Gospel. In addition, the priest bows slightly as he speaks the words of the Lord at the consecration.

Also note, the Latin prayer of the Gloria or the Nicene Creed have more head bows as well.

Interesting, I love learning this stuff! :slight_smile:

But my head is bowed pretty much all the time. Really, except during the homily and actually receiving the Eucharist, I have my head down and/or my eyes closed the whole time.


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