Standing and bowing


Yesterday after Mass, I asked our priest if things had changed since I was little (about 50 years ago). When I was brought up in the Catholic Church, we were taught to stand whenever the priest stands, and to bow when the priest passes you when he enters the Church before Mass and when he leaves the Church after Mass.

The priest looked at me funny, like he never heard such a thing. He asked me to give an example. I said, well, for instance, when you stand to say the final prayer, no one stands when you stand, not even the altar servers…we only stand when you say “let us pray”.

The priest said that sometimes he stands for other reasons, so it may not be correct to stand whenever he stands.

I thought that he missed the point, but I wasn’t going to argue with him.

Does anyone else remember being taught to stand whenever a priest stands, and bowing for the procession in and the procession leaving?


Here’s the thing, (as Monk would say.)

Many people were taught many different things.

Some Catholics were taught to cross themselves whenever they passed a Catholic Church.

Some were taught not to chew the Host.

Some were taught to pray a Hail Mary when they heard an ambulance.

And you were taught to stand whenever the priest stands.

All of them may have been good ideas at the time. But if you were never taught the “why” behind the idea, then they end up meaningless. At least to me they would.

Standing when the priest stands was probably due to respect. The problem is, your priest is right. There are times during Mass that he stands and you don’t. Sometimes you are kneeling, sometimes you are sitting.

And no, I was never taught to stand whenever the priest stands. Or to bow when he passes by.

I was “little” about 40 years ago.


I was taught most all of these things accept bowing to a priest. I was also taught to strike my breast at the elevations to fold my hands going to communion.


Interesting topic. These, of course, are customs and, as such, will vary from place to place. Unfortunately, most people at Mass eschew the “old” traditions that you mention, but embrace “new” traditions (holding hands during the Pater, greeting everyone with chit-chat during the sign of peace, CITH, etc) The question ought to be which customs help us enter into the reality of the Mass, the essence of the Mass, and which distract from that essence. Of course there will be disagreement on that score, but that is the question.


Me too.

Not the one about not chewing the Host. But most of the others.

I also wasn’t taught to stand when the priest stands. I *was * taught which position to have during Mass. But it had to do with what was going on in the Mass, not based on the priest’s position.

But I grew up overseas, in the Military Diocese. So, that might explain some of the different customs.


I’ll raise you one:

People were also taught not to sit until the priest sits. (like after the Blessed Sacrament is reposed in the tabernacle). I told the school children that after the host is reposed, they were free to sit down so long as their conversation and prayers with Jesus were completed. A mother called me AT HOME to tell me I didn’t know anything about the faith and she didn’t appreciate me leading her child astray.


I agree, some things are good and pious and remind us of the wondrous event we are partaking in. Others are just silly (like running across the church during the Pater :rolleyes:

The whole “do everything the priest does” causes a lot of confusion in these parts.


As I said, it goes back to being taught to do something but not being taught why.

And of course, not being taught that many things we think are required are simply customs.

I was taught to kneel until the priest either sits or says, “let us pray.” That we should be praying during that time. But I have friends that were taught that after the final blessing and recessional, they should kneel for a prayer. I was never taught that. :shrug: But I have people here, on CAF, question, “Why wouldn’t you want to spend a couple of minutes thanking God?” I wonder what they think I was just doing.


If we were to have stood whenever the priest stood, that would have meant standing throughout most of the old Tridentine Mass. Was that really ever taught? What I remember is kneeling on the kneelers that were a fixture of every Catholic church that I experienced in the 1950’s. Standing during the Canon would have been unheard of and regarded as extreme disrespect.


Legally, there’s no rubric to do as the priest does and never was. Quite the opposite actually. You’re explicitly permitted to sit while the priest is standing during the homily, the preparation of gifts, and Communion.

After I receive Communion, I kneel until the tabernacle is closed. I explain to students what I do and why. I do not insist they do the same because I’m not the pope.

There used to be a rule by custom that altar servers do as the priest does. It fell out of use along with the EF. It’s still a good rule to follow though.


I was taught that during both the processional and recessional we should turn towards the priest and others, or partially turn and watch, but no bowing. I was also taught never to exit the church until the recessional ends. I remember some thinking that once the priest passes them, they can leave. That would have some of those in the front pews making a bee-line for the side doors after the priest passed by.


There is a custom in the Anglican church of bowing to the processional cross as it passes in procession, and I have seen this done by some Catholics. They are not bowing to the priest, however.


when i see the cross process in past me i bow my head and ask Jesus to help me recieve all the blessings of the Mass. at the end of Mass i bow my head and thank Him and ask Him to remain with me throughout the day.


That’s really nice that you do that, grammysue. That’s a nice way of adding to your prayers. :slight_smile:




If the OP was taught these things 50 years ago, then they probably applied to the Tridentine Mass. Maybe you should post this to a different forum, or just make it clear that this would be what we now call EF? Because there are an awful lot of things that are different in the liturgy in the OF and EF.
Maybe ask in the forum called “Traditional Catholicism”, see if they know more.


Bishop Peter Elliott teaches to stand when the priest stands for the Prayer After Communion.

“The celebrant either stands at the chair or he returns to the center of the altar. The people should stand when he stands because “Let us pray” is not an invitation to stand.” (Ceremonies of the Roman Rite, published by Ignatius Press, 1995, page 129).

In #9 above, johnmann wrote: “Legally, there’s no rubric to do as the priest does and never was.” But it does have in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), n. 42: “A common bodily posture, to be observed by all those taking part, is a sign of unity of the members of the Christian community gathered together for the Sacred Liturgy, for it expresses the intentions and spiritual attitude of the participants and also fosters them.” Obviously there are exceptions to this, for example, for the first reading and homily. For the homily the priest is instructed to stand in n. 136. The people are instructed to sit for it in n. 43.

So it seems to me that the rubric is to have the same bodily posture as the priest, unless there is a specific instruction otherwise.


I would imagine the various customs and forms of etiquette differ from culture to culture and region to region. For example, I’m half Native Hawaiian and know many Filipinos. Both of our communities have had close ties historically. It’s very common for Filipinos to take the hand of the priest when greeting him and touch it with their forehead. This stems from the Filipino custom known as “Mano po” which is how one shows respect to the elders. I do this as well when I great Filipino elders.

Another common custom in the Hispanic community, is to kiss their thumb after making the Sign of the Cross. They also use the Triple Sign of the Cross quite often in conjunction with the SOTC. Normally when I’m entering the sanctuary, I bless myself with holy water by first making the triple sign of the cross than making the SOTC twice followed by kissing my thumb in the shape of a cross. Just something I’ve picked up attending Mass in my old parish which had a prominent Hispanic community.

As far as standing whenever the Priest stands, I’ve never heard of that. During the Mass we have the appropriate times for when we should Stand, Sit, or Kneel. During the Consecration we all kneel while the priest is standing at the altar. I’ve never been to a Mass where everyone stands during the Consecration, but maybe they’re at there.


After Father has been SITTING, we all stand when he stands.
Not during long periods of him standing, like the homily or Consecration.
Our parish does stand all through everyone’s communion though. I don’t. I kneel. But generally it’s only me and a couple of others.
I notice that the congregation puts out their hands during “and with your Spirit” as well. Doing as he does…etc etc…
But our parish is different than many even in our Diocese. We walk up to give our offertory contribution at the foot of the altar steps. No passing a basket.
Apparently we’re just “out there”. :blush:


Generally, assuming the posture of the priest (standing or sitting) is a good example to follow, but there are some cases, like the Eucharistic Prayer/Canon, in which this is not correct.

But for a good 2/3 of the Mass, doing what the priest does is a good idea.

But the better idea, imho, is to do what everybody else is doing.


Many things have changed since the EF. I’m thinking bowing to the priest during the processional was one of them. At my EF parish, we make a profound bow to the priest during the processional. Some people kneel when the crucifix passes them.

I have never seen either gesture at an OF Mass.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit