Friday, September 7, 2007

Kneeling for Holy Communion: Part 1 - GIRM 160

A recent discussion with a friend on kneeling during reception of Holy Comunion prompts me to hunt down some references I had studied about two years ago.

Suppose you are in a more traditional parish where communicants have a preference for using the Communion rail, which managed to survive the jack-hammering in the wake of Vatican 2 (and NO - Vatican 2 did not authorize removal of the rails, but many were taken out in the name of that council. Hence, it is not the fault of Vatican 2, but the errant and misguided application of it).

Imagine, that in such a parish, the priests are willing to charitably honor the desire of communicants to use that rail. A visiting teen experiencing it for the first time, who never seen a Communion rail, much less ever used one, said to me following Mass, "That felt so right....receiving Jesus on my tongue while kneeling". Out of the mouths of babes....

Moving right along.

What happens when people from such a parish travel and kneel for Communion, not to make some sort of statement, but out of pure adoration for Our Eucharistic Lord? Sometimes, they can be met with rather harsh treatment by priests, Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist (EMHC's), or by ushers. It is becoming more rare now, but a few years ago, people were actually denied Communion by some priests if they kneeled to receive. Denial on the grounds of posture is a violation of Canon Law. But, the uncharitable manner in which "catechesis on the norm" is sometimes handled can be shocking to a soul who intended nothing other than to receive Jesus in a manner they personally deem proper.

I want to give you a closer look at the norms and related documents, and finally to provide some things to consider when traveling.

This topic has an interesting history and I am choosing to break it up into multiple posts. When they are all done, I'll pull the links together into one single post. In part 2, I will get into the clarifications provided by the Holy See which came out following some controversial and errant applications of what is below.

(based on 3rd edition, 2002)

The Holy See puts out a universal set of norms in the GIRM and bishop's conferences of the various countries can make adaptations for their respective dioceses, such as the Diocese of the United States. These adaptations must be submitted to the Holy See for approval. Hence, there is never a case where a bishops conference can trump the Holy See. Rather, it is the other way around. This process is far from blanket approval and from the examples I've seen in my internet travels, modifications by, and conditions set forth, by the Holy See come into play.

GIRM 160

The universal norm reads as follows. Emphases are mine :

160 The priest then takes the paten or ciborium and goes to the communicants, who, as a rule, approach in a procession.

The faithful are not permitted to take up the consecrated bread or the sacred chalice themselves, and still less hand them on to one another. The faithful may communicate either standing or kneeling, as established by the Conference of Bishops. However, when they communicate standing, it is recommended that they make an appropriate gesture of reverence, to be laid down in the same norms, before receiving the Sacrament.

In the Diocese of the United States, the following adaption was approved. Emphases are mine:

160. The priest then takes the paten or ciborium and goes to the communicants, who, as a rule, approach in a procession.

The faithful are not permitted to take the consecrated bread or the sacred chalice by themselves and, still less, to hand them from one to another. The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm.

When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood.

Before we can get into a discussion about the italicized text with regards to catechesis on the norm for standing in the US, we need to take a closer look at some notifications issued by the Holy See which dig deeper into the part I have in bold and underlined right above. I will do this in my next post on this subject.

Reference: Roman Missal Index (USCCB)

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