Monday, July 25, 2011

No Kneelers?

Kneeling during our Nuptial Mass
Being in a new city (and state and region of the country), my husband and I simply attended Mass at the church closest to our new apartment yesterday.  I had looked it up online and was very excited to see on its website that it had a large number of family and community ministries.  When we arrived and walked through the door however, I was disappointed.  Immediately, I noticed the lack of kneelers.  On rare occasions, I've been to Mass in churches without kneelers and I knew well enough that this meant the congregation would be standing instead of kneeling during the consecration.  This is something that does not sit well with me, because kneeling before the Lord present in the Eucharist gives Him the adoration which He is due and reminds us of our humility before Him.  Sure enough, there was no kneeling during Mass, which brought me to look up the Church's formal stance on kneeling.  This is what I found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops website:

...In the Diocese of the United States of America, they should kneel beginning after the singing or 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. (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, number 43)
If Catholics are supposed to kneel during Mass, why are churches built without kneelers?  It seems that most churches without kneelers (at least the ones I've been to) have been built in the past ten years or so.  Is this an outright act of defiance against the Church?  It seems like it can't be a simple oversight.  I remember a church near my old home in Colorado had constantly been warned by the Archbishop to install kneelers, and it repeatedly stalled (I do not know if it ever did comply).  Of course, kneelers are not necessary for people to kneel during Mass, but I've never been to a Church without them where people do kneel. 

In reality, I know that this is a small matter.  The congregation was overall very respectful and reverent during Mass.  However, if individual parishes are able to defy some of the Church's commands and teachings, who is to say where this disobedience will end? 

As for me and my husband, we will try a different church next week.  I dislike "shopping for a church" since the Catholic Church is (or should be) One in all things, but our desire to kneel before the Lord requires us to go elsewhere. 

Where do you weigh in on this topic?  Do you believe that kneeling during Mass is important to our Catholic identity?  Can we show proper reverence for the Eucharist without kneeling during consecration? 


  1. I have to say, it drives me crazy when there aren't kneelers or people don't kneel during the Eucharistic prayers at a church (the exception is of course as you mentioned, health reasons or something that prevents a person from kneeling). I struggle with the sin of pride very often in my it is critical to me that I kneel to show the Eucharist respect and to humble myself in front of Him.

    I agree that kneeling is important to our Catholic identity. As much as I'm aware of, protestant churches do not do this, which seems to support a direct link between kneeling and being in the presence of the actual Body and Blood of Jesus. To preserve our identity, as well as to clearly show that we believe we take the real flesh and blood of Our Lord at Mass, kneeling must be preserved.

  2. That is a tough one. I think that kneeling is great, but it isn't essential and the bishops can change their preferences any time they like. In fact, is it not the case that the ecclesial movement move relied upon by the Pope has permission to *not* kneel wherever they are in the world?

    So for me the need for docility to my local church would outweigh my preference for kneeling... except that if the not-kneeling went along with certain other things the way that it often does then my husband might not be able to stand it, so we would then take advantage of the fact that American Catholics are no longer required to be a part of the parish that is geographically closest to them.

    I pray that God gives you wisdom in discerning what is right for you now!

  3. It bothers me when kneelers are not provided too. I feel like all too often, American Catholic parishes (especially new parishes) take a policy that is intended for extreme situations (packed crowds, illness) and "create" the extreme situation (no kneelers, so now people with knee problems will have a hard time kneeling, so gosh we should all just stand). The "problem" is often blamed on funds... "Oh this is a new parish, and we just built the skeleton for now. We'll add more when we get the funding." And the kneelers never come, etc. Meanwhile, a fancy multi-purpose hall is built... you get the drift. Another example: a few local parishes would replace Confession times with "general group confessions"... the kind you're supposed to use only when folks are say, going off to war and literally have no time for a private confession. Huh? :) I am not saying everyone who stands has bad intentions but coming from a Diocese that pulled tricks like this all the time (and yes, in some instances, disobedience was clearly the issue), I definitely have a hard time when I encounter these situations. I hope you find a parish you feel comfortable with!

  4. Our new church here has kneelers... but very few of us kneel. Our church in Chicago was like that and we asked the Pastor why. Turns out that if not everyone is able to kneel (so in Chicago, the balcony had no kneelers) then the congregation should stand (and make the reverent bow, etc.) during the consecration. But I can tell you, we never bowed. Here, I kneel and some of the abuelitas kneel, but that's about it. In fact, from what I can tell, the congregation does not bow during the Nicene Creed either. But on the flip side, we have acolytes at every Mass and the servers all wear albs. So it's kind of a cross between traditional and modern, I guess. But we like it.

  5. You brought up an interesting point. Sometimes I wonder if "modern" churches are not installing kneelers because they want to be "more like the protestant churches" I really don't know the reasoning. When I was in college one of the chapels didn't have kneelers but it was just chairs and for some reason they were ALWAYS rearranging the chapel. However almost EVERYONE knelt after communion.

  6. Episcopalians/Anglicans and Lutherans kneel.  Various other denominations also kneel as decided by each individual church.


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