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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 18 Jan 2002

Kneeling at the consecration QUESTION from Debbie Kelly February 11, 1999
I just read your answer concerning kneeling at the consecration dated 1/4/99. At my mother's church they stand during the entire Mass, except they sit during the homily. My husband & I went once to this (what we call) Baptist Roman Catholic Church, and we refuse to ever go again. We not only kneel during the consecration, we (not our church members) kneel when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist. I cried all the way through this mass, because I could feel how very lonely Jesus was feeling at this disrespect & non-reverence he was being shown. I've tried telling my mother that this is wrong, we are to kneel during the consecration. She says their priest has papers from the Bishop's conferences that state we are not to kneel. Could you please cite newer references than the 1969 National Conference of Catholic Bishops? Also, how do I get a copy of these documents? This priest, of my mother's parish, really has his parishioners buffaloed. My Mother used to be stone Catholic. Now she doesn't believe in purgatory, they have communal confession instead of individual confession, communion is a meal, not a sacrifice. God only knows what other fatal wrongs this priest is teaching. I know these things my mother has told me are true, because my sister goes to the same church, & she agrees with all these things. How can I get proof to show my family that they are going against the Church laws? ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on February 16, 1999
Dear Debbie, There is no document(s) from the U.S. Bishops' Conference authorizing such a practice. Every time I've asked a priest or liturgical committee to show me the document(s) authorizing a particular irregularity they have almost always insisted that such authorization exists but they have never been able to produce anything with authority. One priest did provide me with a copy of a magazine article written by a 25 year old lay-liturgist explaining his belief why a particular irregularity was orthodox. As far as what the Church still teaches, I might suggest that you give a new catechism to you parents and highlight all of the doctrines in question. Pope John Paul II says in the forward of the catechism; . . .I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith... As far as who is authorized to make changes to the Mass is concerned; Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority. [Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #22] The Sacred Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship, at the direction of the Holy Father has also issued the following instruction; When liturgical experimentation is seen to be necessary or useful, permission will be granted in writing by this Sacred Congregation alone, with clearly defined norms and under the responsibility of the competent local authority. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) is the document, with the force of law, which governs worship for the entire Church throughout the world. It is found at the beginning of every copy of the Sacramentary, also known as The Roman Missal. It's the book used by the priest at every Mass. Since it's issue in 1969 and through several editings to 1974, many questions for clarification were submitted to Rome. Responding to these questions for clarification, the Sacred Congregation for Sacraments and Divine Worship, through its official publication Notitiae, has issued a number of clarifications regarding the reformed rites of the Church and their celebration. The interpretations and explanations affect the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. These clarifications appeared in Notitiae between 1969 and 1981. Query 2: In liturgical assemblies there is a great variety of gestures and postures during the celebration. For example, should the people: a.stand during the prayer over the gifts; b.kneel after the Sanctus and during the entire eucharistic prayer; c.sit after communion? Reply: As usual the GIRM gives simple rules to solve these questions (GIRM no. 21): a.The people stand while the presidential prayers are being said, therefore, during the prayer over the gifts. b.They also stand throughout the eucharistic prayer, except the consecration. The practice is for the faithful to remain kneeling from the epiclesis before the consecration until the memorial acclamation after it. c.The people may sit during the silence after communion. The points determined are in no way to be considered trivial, since their purpose is to ensure uniformity in posture in the assembly celebrating the eucharist as a manifestation of the community's unity in faith and worship. The people often give the impression immediately after the Sanctus and even more often after the consecration by their diverse postures that they are unmindful of being participants in the Church's liturgy, which is the supreme action of a community and not a time for individuals to isolate themselves in acts of private devotion: Not 14 (1978) 300-301, no. 1. Query 3: In some places kneelers have been taken out of the churches. Thus, the people can only stand or sit and this detracts from the reverence and adoration due to the eucharist. Reply: The appointments of a place of worship have some relationship to the customs of the particular locale. For example, in the East there are carpets; in the Roman basilicas, only since modern times, there are usually chairs without kneelers, so as to accommodate large crowds. There is nothing to prevent the faithful from kneeling on the floor to show their adoration, no matter how uncomfortable this may be. In cases where kneeling is not possible (see GIRM no. 21), a deep now and a respectful bearing are signs of the reverence and adoration to be shown at the time of the consecration and communion: Not 14 (1978) 302-303, no. 4. Obedience to liturgical law is a very important topic for Pope John Paul II. Answering a question about the disregard for the law, he said; None of these things (liturgical innovations) can bring good results. The consequences are-and cannot fail to be-the impairing of the unity of faith and worship in the Church, doctrinal uncertainty, scandal, and bewilderment among the People of God, and the near inevitability of violent reactions. [Pope John Paul II, April 17, 1980] That's a pretty clear cut statement which should be understood by any reasonable person. If there is any doubt whatever, our great Pope went on to say; The faithful have a right to a true liturgy, which means the liturgy desired and laid down by the Church. Undue experimentation, changes and creativity bewilder the faithful. The Second Vatican Council's admonition in this regard must be remembered: 'No person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority'. [Pope John Paul II, April 17, 1980] The Holy Father has also noted: When the faithful communicate kneeling, no other sign of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament is required, since kneeling is itself a sign of adoration. When they receive Communion standing, it is strongly recommended that, coming up in procession, they should make a sign of reverence before receiving the Sacrament. This should be done at the right time and place, so that the order of people going to and from Communion is not disrupted. [Inaestimabile Donum. Approved and Confirmed by His Holiness Pope John Paul II April 17, 1980]
Just a few months ago the Holy Father told bishops from the American Northwest during their ad limina visit; ...[I]t is so important that the liturgical law be respected. The priest, who is the servant of the liturgy, not its inventor or producer, has a particular responsibility in this regard, lest he empty liturgy of its true meaning or obscure its sacred character. I apologize for the delay in answering your question, and for the length of my answer. I could actually add much more to my reply but I hope I adequately answered your question. In Christ, John Miskell Back to Index Page

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