What are we waiting for?: kneeling after communion [edited]

Mass question! At our parish (where my wife and I are starting the RCIA process), the faithful normally remain standing until this last parishioner receives Holy Communion. Then we all kick out the kneelers and kneel for a few moments, before standing again. Are we kneeling because Father is placing the reserved Host in His Tabernacle? Or is it simply a short kneel out of respect for what has just occurred (the Communion)? Or is it out of respect for the priest?

So, why do we kneel for a few moments after Communion?


We Didn’t Do That At The Episcopal Church (a/k/a SonofMonica)

At our parish and in most churches I’ve been to, we kneel right after recieving Holy Communion to pray and reflect on what we just did - take the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ into our bodies in a beautiful union. It seems natural to kneel. I would not want to stand right after that - it would seem less reverent. At least that’s my experience.

God Bless you in your RCIA journey!:slight_smile:

Dear Son: (sorry, couldn’t resist)

First of all, blessings and congratulations for starting on your journey home.

Kneeling during the Mass is always out of respect for the Eucharistic presence of our Lord Jesus and the Eucharistic prayers following the “Sanctus” (Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, etc) Strictly speaking, according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the faithful should be kneeling after the “Agnus Dei” (Lamb of God) prayer, unless the Diocesan Bishop instructs otherwise, which may be the case where you are. Also according to the GIRM, the period after Communion is supposed to be one of “sacred silence”, during which the faithful are encouraged to offer silent prayers of thanksgiving for the gift of the Holy Eucharist, and whatever other gifts and blessings we may feel inspired to thank God for at that time. During that time the faithful may either sit or kneel.

There are exceptions to the kneeling rule–if there is not enough space, too many people, if individuals have physical impairments which make kneeling difficult or impossible, and other “good reason.” All of this is in Paragraph 43 of the GIRM.

Once again, congratulations on starting your RCIA journey! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did four years ago.

I’m afraid I’m not much help as to why it is done that way in your parish. The normal routine is for the communicants to go back to their seats and kneel until after the Eucharist is placed back in the tabernacle. The time should be spent in prayer and thanksgiving for the wonderful mystery. It seems to me that if everybody is standing until everyone has received and then kneels for a short time, then prayer time is very limited. Just my opinion.

Just to be clear about what is happening and when, when we return to our seats, the congregation mostly remains standing–just as they were when they were waiting to receive communion. Then as the priest and deacon are “cleaning up,” everyone kneels, but only until the reserved host goes into the tabernacle, then everyone stands again. The kneeling is probably 30 seconds or less. Not quite like the Good Friday prayers where you’re up/down, up/down, but still it seems to be a token kneel? Not sure.

It does seem like a “token kneel” from your description. And as I noted earlier, unless your Bishop has given an exception to the GIRM for your diocese, everyone should be kneeling from the Agnus Dei/Lamb of God prayer throughout Communion, (though obviously not when they are proceeding forward to receive and then returning to the pews) and either sittiing or kneeling (my preference) after Communion while the priest and deacon (if you have one for that Mass) purify the sacred vessels and place any remaining consecrated host into the tabernacle. Standing is reserved for group prayer by all present during the Mass–the Gloria, the Prayers of the Faithful, the Alleluia before the Gospel reading, the actual Gospel reading itself, the Our Father and Sign of Peace, the Sanctus and Agnus Dei, the pre-Communion prayer ("Lord, I am not worthy…), and the concluding prayer and dismissal.

You will have to ask your priest. Normally you are kneeling (humbling yourself) before the Lord except to approach, bow, receive, and return. You should also remain kneeling until the Lord is not present on the alter (the Eucharistic tools are cleaned)

Not according to the Church. Once we return from Communion we may stand, sit or kneel, as we wish. The GIRM actually says stand but Rome has confirmed that any of the three postures are OK.

*They should, however, sit while the readings before the Gospel and the responsorial Psalm are proclaimed and for the homily and while the Preparation of the Gifts at the Offertory is taking place; and, **as circumstances allow, they may sit or kneel **while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed.

In the dioceses of the United States of America, they should kneel beginning after the singing or 21 recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason. Those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the priest genuflects after the consecration. The faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise.53* usccb.org/liturgy/current/GIRM.pdf roughly Page 20

It would seem the desired response is to kneel

That’s in the US. The default posture, without the US adaptation, is standing but they may sit or kneel. That was clarified by Rome back in 2003.

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

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.
Francis Cardinal Arinze

Just to follow-up on what Phemie posted, Francis Cardinal Arinze, the Prefect Emeritus for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, was asked this same question back in 2003 during a Q & A session. This is what he said:

Does everybody have to stand until the last person has received Holy Communion?

There is no rule from Rome that everybody must stand during Holy Communion. There is no such rule from Rome. So, after people have received Communion, they can stand, they can kneel, they can sit. But a bishop in his diocese or bishops in a country could say that they recommend standing or kneeling. They could. It is not a law from Rome. They could – but not impose it. Perhaps they could propose. But those who want to sit or kneel or stand should be left reasonable freedom.

It is consistent with what Phemie posted, especially since the response comes from the same cardinal who wrote the CDWDS statement.

Thus, the bottom line is that you are perfectly free to kneel if you so choose.

Correct. Thanks for responding so clearly and succinctly.

From the 2002 General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) approved for the USA, which can be accessed from romanrite.com/girm.html :
“42. … A common posture, to be observed by all participants, is a sign of the unity of the members of the Christian community gathered for the Sacred Liturgy: it both expresses and fosters the intention and spiritual attitude of the participants.”

But the “common posture” at the time of Communion has become particularly confused, particularly in the USA. Everyone standing would seem to make sense. But in practice this seems to have been resisted, with a sense of praying on one’s knees was an appropriate way of giving thanks after receiving Communion.

The 1975 GIRM had no mention of kneeling at this part of the Mass. Its only concession from standing was that people could sit “if this seems helpful, during the period of silence after communion.” (n. 21 of 1975 GIRM). [The 2002 GIRM has in n. 43: “and, as circumstances allow, they may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after
Communion is observed.”]

Despite this, Cardinal George put this question to Cardinal Arinze on May 26, 2003:

“In many places, the faithful are accustomed to kneeling or sitting in personal prayer upon returning to their places after having individually received Holy Communion during Mass. Is it the intention of the Missale Romanum, editio typical tertia, to forbid this practice?” (From adoremus.org/Kneeling-after-Communion.html ).

Instead of responding about the importance of Common Postures, of everyone standing to sing the Communion song, how could the faithful be accustomed to this, Cardinal Arinze replied about it “not to regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free.”

Some more background on this is at romanrite.com/j240802.html .

I am curious about the phrase “after Communion is observed.”

Is this to be understood as after an individual receives communion, or after the the last communicant receives communion? If the former, when do those who do not receive enter the sitting/kneeling phase described above?

I think there must be a good deal of variety in different diocese. In ours, the Bishop decided several years ago that all communicants would stand until the last person received and the Host was placed back in the Tabernacle. Personally, I prefer to kneel after receiving - it offers me an opportunity to share an intimate moment with my Lord. But that is not the norm for us under the current Bishop.

<Note - I confess that sometimes I kneel anyway. I think it’s important to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit as long as it isn’t interfering with others’ worship.>

However, as Cardinal Arinze noted:

But a bishop in his diocese or bishops in a country could say that they recommend standing or kneeling. They could. It is not a law from Rome. They could – but not impose it. Perhaps they could propose. But those who want to sit or kneel or stand should be left reasonable freedom.

Thus, you do have the freedom to kneel as you please. It is not a law from Rome, as the Prefect emeritus said. They could propose, but, not impose.

It would be nice if a common posture was enforced for all dioceses. What would, IMHO, be even nicer, is that all the congregation abided by this common posture. After all, the Mass is our public form of worship and we ought to be united as one. Not a dozen people standing here and there, with as many sitting and the rest standing! Several months ago, our pastor informed us that in the near future, the norm for this diocese would be to stand from after the great Amen until Communion was over and he had seated himself in his chair. Then we could sit or kneel as we wished. ( He does sit for quite a long time, by the way). He wanted us to start implementing that posture the next Sunday. Now, it has always been the custom for us to kneel again after the Agnus Dei until the priest sits after Communion so it was a big change for most of us.
At first everyone, with the exception of perhaps half a dozen people followed his directions. Things were going along swimmingly until after Christmas. The pastor had a month’s holiday ( his first break in five years) and we had visiting priests come to say Mass. Immediately many people went back to the old posture. The following week, about half stood while the rest kneeled. The week before our pastor returned, every one, but two people were kneeling! On Father’s first Mass back, pretty well everyone stood again as he had asked us to. Great for the next few weeks. Then, Father had to leave us again. He is from India and belongs to a religious order who’s motherhouse is in India. All the priests from that order had to go to India for a council of some sort and the election of a new superior. This time he was gone for three weeks and only returned for Palm Sunday. Of course, once he was gone, the congregation went back to most kneeling, some standing, I thought it was kind of funny; It reminded me of the saying, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play”.
The pastor must have spoken with the priests who had filled in for him, and they obviously told him about the mishmash of postures they saw from the altar. Actually, one of the visiting priests mentioned it to me one day after Mass. He said that it was an odd sight to look down from the altar and see people either standing or kneeling instead of everyone doing the same thing. He also said that if our parish, which is apparently known to be rather compliant with diocesan directives, was proving to be so resistant to change, it would not be easy when the bishop mandates the change for the whole diocese. Anyways, last Sunday when everyone was doing their own thing once more, at the end of Mass Father announced that he wasn’t going to fight about it and request that we stand anymore. We can now kneel if we wish. It will be interesting to see what happens this Sunday. Personally, I would rather kneel, mainly because that’s what I have done all my life. What I really want though, is for everyone to be on the same page.

Nice to know. I really feel like standing and singing a hymn after receiving takes away from the intimate moment of communing with Jesus after communion.


You said: “It would be nice if a common posture was enforced for all dioceses. What would, IMHO, be even nicer, is that all the congregation abided by this common posture.”

Realistically, that’s never going to happen. The old lady with the bad knees is not going to do the same thing as the guy in the wheelchair, the ablebodied person, or the person who rolls in every week on a glorified motorized stretcher.

Also, the Church has always encouraged legitimate variances in local custom, just as it has never stamped out the various Rites in favor of just Latin Rite Catholicism. What has been judged as holy and fitting continues to be holy and fitting. Being too rigid on these points risks offending the Holy Spirit, who promulgated these various expressions of the one Mass.

I went to an Orthodox Jewish shul (synagogue) once. They had a very nice concern for their liturgical postures, yes. But they also had a congregation full of people whose families had come from all different places originally, and many of these places had had little idiosyncrasies in prayer postures and such. Since many of these towns were emptied of Jews by the Holocaust, most shuls apparently permit Jews to pray however they were taught, lest any of these legitimate customs die out and the Nazis win. So people got up and sat down, or bent and rocked, or did other things at what seemed random intervals to me; but it was clear that each of them was doing that thing at an exact time in an exact way for an exact reason. If you’d asked me beforehand, I would have thought it would have been disruptive. As it happened, it didn’t bother me at all. Everybody was working hard at worshipping God and being obedient; the exact way of doing it wasn’t as important as I might have thought.

And that’s how I feel about people coming back from Communion. I don’t care if they stand or kneel, as long as I can kneel (or stand) as I was taught. (And frankly, standing up for ten minutes in your pew is too much of a workout for me. I’m glad my bishop doesn’t go with that!)

Of course, my mother would poke me if I paid any attention whatsoever to what was going on after Communion, so usually I still keep my eyes shut just to be safe. :slight_smile:

They do Kneel right after it at the church ive been going to

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