Expert Answer Forum

Kneeling or unity QUESTION from Liz Swift May 8, 1999
At our parish the congregation kneels at the consecration until the mystery of faith then they stand. For some time I have been kneeling through the Great Amen since I understood this was the norm in the U.S. My son was told in RCIA by the Vicar General of our diocese that the posture was up to the priest and that everyone should do as the priest instructs. This has been a source of difference between us. Today I read the GIRM and realized that another section emphasises the need for unity of posture. It seems as though there is a conflict here, either I vote for unity and stand at the mystery or I vote to be submissive to the directive of the NCB and kneel through the Great Amen. What would your recommendation be in this matter? ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on May 12, 1999
Dear Liz, Thank you for your question. My heart goes out to you. I know that all you wish to do is to do what is right and at the moment it seems as though you're caught between a rock and a hard place. According to the law of the Church IN THE UNITED STATES the proper posture is kneeling from the Holy, holy, holy. . . all the way through to the Great Amen. I'm not sure what the norm is in Canada. The posture can and does change from country to country. Perhaps a Canadian reader can help us out here. The rest of my answer pertains to those in the U.S. I've found myself in this situation while visiting relatives in Indiana last year. My family and I remained kneeling while everyone else stood. Needless to say I could feel the eyes boring into the backs of our heads. 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] Since liturgical celebrations are not private acts but celebrations of the Church, the 'sacrament of unity,' their regulation is dependent solely upon the hierarchical authority of the Church. The liturgy belongs to the whole body of the Church. It is for this reason that it is not permitted to anyone, even a priest, or any group to add, subtract or change anything whatsoever on their own initiative. Fidelity to the rites and to the authentic texts of the liturgy is a requirement of the lex orandi (law of praying), which must always be in conformity with the lex credendi (law of believing). A lack of fidelity on this point may even affect the very validity of the sacraments. [Pope John Paul II on the 25th Anniversary of the Liturgical Constitution, December 4, 1988] 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 Vicar General and local Bishop do not have the authority to change the norm for their own diocese. In fact it was the U.S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops who petitioned the Vatican for permission to make kneeling the normative posture throughout the entire Eucharistic Prayer in the first place. They could not legally implement the change until they received approval from the Vatican. Keep kneeling. This way you are showing unity with the rest of the Church. Offer it up as a witness for obedience to Christ and His Church. Also you might want to make a few copies of the particular GIRM directive to give to those who might question your actions. Who knows, perhaps little by little you'll have others joining you? If you can't copy the GIRM and you still need something to hand the inquisitive to read, send me your snail-mail address and I'll send you a little tract that I sometimes use. God bless you and yours. In Christ, John Miskell Back to Index Page

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