How should we genuflect when the Tabernacle is behind the pews?

I occasionally go to Mass in a church where the pews are in a sort of semi-circle and the Tabernacle is behind the pews facing the altar.

It seems to me that we should therefore genuflect backwards, then turn and bow to the altar. This seems odd–I imagine that normally we do not bow to the altar because we genuflect to the Tabernacle near the altar?

Thanks for any info on handling this :slight_smile:

Genuflect toward the tabernacle.

It’s a great shame that many churches place the tabernacle in a hiding place.

Agree. :thumbsup:

While there may be sound reasoning behind such church design, it just seems to me to be (as in this case) confusing to many people.

Personally I think of the Church as Jesus’ “throne room” and He, as Lord and King should be front and center.
but I guess that is just me.


Thanks :slight_smile: I felt awkward about genuflecting backwards like that without knowing for sure.

Besides the advice on genuflecting, you might also write a positive, tactful letter to the pastor. Point out that you go to Mass there, and especially if you happen to like some specific about it, such as the music, etc. You appreciate that the Mass is at a time convenient for you, and you feel welcome. Then mention the awkwardness you feel due to the placement of the Blessed Sacrament. Don’t bring up Canon Law, liturgical norms, or Vatican directives - he would already know those - just how it affects you. Don’t threaten to contact the bishop.

Perhaps the church was originally designed in this awkward way, or perhaps the church was designed properly then redesigned. If the current pastor did not determine the present design of the church, he might be open to putting, or restoring, the Blessed Sacrament to a position more conducive to proper worship and emphasis. Perhaps he feels a little uncertain himself, or has already received a few mentions similar to yours, and yours might help towards a change.

Be sure to sign your letter. You apparently are not a parishioner, but he will consider your input. My experience is that a generation ago people pushed through bad redesigns, or bad new builds, out of a determined ideology to make religion more “horizontal”. Even though most of those people are no longer in power, the mistakes they made linger on because no one now asks for a change.

This is a very inappropriate placement of the Tabernacle. I just can’t believe that it is allowed at all. In any event, genuflect facing the Tabernacle, not with your back to it.

I have been to Mass twice, in which the Tabernacle was in one case outside of the Church proper, and secondly where it was so hidden I had to search for it for nearly 5 minutes before someone realized what I was looking for. Wow, how awful it was too me. I cried both times, and I could not help it. It was if the Lord Himself opened up a floodgate in my soul. I could not stop crying for the entire Mass, in both cases.

my sister’s parish in her diocese is like this - tabernacle is in a separate “chapel” in back of church…so when I go to mass there (very rarely - last time was for my nephew’s 1st communion last year, this year will be for oldest niece’s confirmation) I genuflect towards the chapel which is very awkward. I wish they had the ability to place the tabernacle on the altar.

We are used to genuflecting as we enter the pews.

In church buildings where the tabernacle is not in the front of the church you probably need to take a different approach. It often makes more sense to genuflect as you pass the tabernacle (assuming you do so). So if it’s in the back of the Church and you enter from the back, you genuflect as you are passing it.

If the tabernacle is in a separate chapel that is not prominently visible in the nave then you would not genuflect at all. But it would be wonderful if you made a point of visiting the chapel on you way in or out of the church.

If the tabernacle is in a separate chapel that is prominently visible to those in the nave of the church and you can genuflect without completely turning backwards then you can genuflect pretty much as usual.

Our parish is set up that the Tabernacle is to one side of the main Altar.
If you genuflect before entering the pew, you are covered.
God knows you are in His house, and that you are acknowledging His true presence.
Take your cue form the celebrant at Mass. They enter, and bow at the Altar…and proceed. In this instance they are certainly NOT ignoring the Body of Christ in the Tabernacle.
Enter the church, genuflect in a pious manner, take your place in the pew you have selected, and be at peace.
God bless you,

In our church the pews aren’t facing the front, they are in rows on the left and right side, facing each other, i.e, the pews on the left side face the right, and vice versa… So should I be genuflecting when I enter the pew? I’m not sure where the Tabernacle is. I’ll try to watch what other people are doing next Sunday… :confused:

Wouldn’t the Bishop already know? In fact, wouldn’t he or one of his predecessors been required to approve of the Parish’s layout?

It could be that it was adapted after the designs were approved. It could also be that they are not aware that any Catholics are concerned about it. The diocese didn’t seem too concerned about it when I expressed my dismay about it, among many other things, at a particular parish.

Hmmmm, the name of the parish wouldn’t have the initials GS and be some ways south of you, would it?

Thanks everyone for the gokd advice, esp about a good way to approach the priest!

Ah a “Mary Magdalene Church”. Well what I do when visiting our cathedral basilica is bow to the alter and when I pass the Blessed Sacrament Chapel is genuflect.

But yeah I would just bow to the altar and when passing or visiting/ going passed the tabernacle genuflect.

According to the rubrics, the tabernacle may be placed anywhere visible. Unfortunately, in practice that often means we have to play Where’s Waldo when we enter a church we haven’t been to before.

The genuflection when entering and exiting the pew is a somewhat odd tradition to me. Why not do it after you enter the pew and before you exit? If I’m entering the church through a side entrance that passes by the tabernacle on the way to the pew, shouldn’t I genuflect before even getting to the pew? The rubrics say to genuflect when you pass by the tabernacle, not when entering and exiting the pew. In addition to the rubrics, it’s a laudable tradition to greet Christ when you’re coming and going but when exactly is up to you.

I believe this tradition came about when the Tabernacle, at least in most parish Churches, was on the main Altar. Made things simple and convenient.


Properly, if the tabernacle is in another room, you would not genuflect to the tabernacle; you would bow to the altar.

It is the same as if you were passing the front of the church; you would not genuflect as you went by.

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