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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 30 Jul 2001

Genuflection/sign of cross QUESTION from jen m. May 17, 2000 I am new to Catholicism, but want to know the proper way to act during Mass so as to model this for future children. My questions are as follows:
Q1: I know to genuflect before entering the pew, and on the way up to communion, but what do I do DIRECTLY after? I see some people move to the side a bit and cross themselves (and say Amen) in the direction of the tabernacle, but should one genuflect again? Q2: After entering the pew and kneeling, should one make the sign of the cross and then after a time of meditation (I am speaking of both before the actual Mass begins and after returning from communion) make the sign of the cross again (like opening and closing a prayer)?
Q3: Is there a specific posture during prayers at Mass, like should one put hands together (as a child does at bedtime) when saying the Our Father, etc.? I observe most people clasping their hands, or resting their hands on the top of the pew in front of them--is there a right posture?
Thank you and God bless.
ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on May 19, 2000 Thank you for your interesting questions and for your desire to be an example for others. May your light shine brightly.
I've answered your questions Q1, Q2, and Q3 as A1, A2, and A3.
A1: While the documents do not address what we do after we receive Communion, they do tell us what we should be doing before we receive. Unfortunately it appears that very few people are aware of it. 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. Pope John Paul, 1980] In the Western Church the traditional sign of reverence towards the Eucharist is a genuflection.
The local bishop has the authority to mandate a specific sign of reverence to be shown before receiving. The bishop of Altoona, Pennsylvania recently mandated that the faithful make the sign of the Cross on themselves as they approach the Eucharist.
I normally genuflect unless the aisle is too crowded which might cause someone to trip over my foot (I've seen it happen). When the aisle is too crowded, I make the sign of the Cross on myself and make a reverent bow before receiving. After I receive I simply walk back to my seat. I don't genuflect again going back into the pew.
A2: We are taught from a young age to make the sign of the Cross upon ourselves when we begin and end our prayers. There is no specific mandate for the situations that you mention.
A3: The general posture at Mass is one of reverence and attentiveness. The only specific postures mandated are standing, sitting, and kneeling at the appropriate times
. I hope this helps. Yours in Christ,
John Miskell
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