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CNP Feedback - Standing after Communion

The "Feedback Box" on the CanticaNOVA Publications website has proven quite effective in promoting communications on a variety of subjects, and expressing concerns of liturgists and musicians. From time to time, we'll compile a few of these questions or comments and put them in public view, with the hope that others with similar concerns may benefit from their content.

Q. Dear CNP:

I recently attended Mass where the parishoners were asked to stand at their seats (they have pews) until the last person in the church receives Communion. I thought the GIRM changed and said all should kneel. I have spent countless hours trying to get an exact answer but only get more confused. What is the procedure for today's Mass and could you please tell me where to find it in the GIRM? Are all parishes in all dioceses to follow the same rules?

Standing in the Need of Prayer

A. Dear Standing:

Here's what the new GIRM says:

43. The faithful should stand from the beginning of the Entrance chant, or while the priest approaches the altar, until the end of the Collect; for the Alleluia chant before the Gospel; while the Gospel itself is proclaimed; during the Profession of Faith and the Prayer of the Faithful; from the invitation, Orate, fratres (Pray, brethren), before the prayer over the offerings until the end of Mass, except at the places indicated below.

They should, however, sit while the readings before the Gospel and the responsorial Psalm are proclaimed and for the homily and while the Preparation of the Gifts at the Offertory is taking place; and, as circumstances allow, they may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed.

In the dioceses 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.
Broken down a little more graphically:
  • Entrance Chant:  Stand ... until ...
  • First Reading:  Sit ... until ...
  • Gospel Acclamation:  Stand ... until ...
  • Homily:  Sit ... until ...
  • Profession of Faith:  Stand ... until ...
  • Preparation of the Gifts (Offertory):  Sit ... until ...
  • Prayer ("Pray, brethren..") before Preface:  Stand ... until ...
  • after Sanctus:  Kneel ... until ...
  • after Great Amen:  Stand ... until ...
  • after Agnus Dei:  Kneel ... until ...
  • Communion:  Walk ... until ...
  • return to seat:  Kneel or Sit ... until ...
  • Prayer after Communion:  Stand ... until Mass is over
There are two phrases in the GIRM that allow deviation from the chart above: "as circumstances allow" and "unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise." The first refers to the period after Communion; the second refers to the time after the Agnus Dei. You can see that these two times overlap: the "time after the Agnus Dei" includes the "time after Communion." Individual bishops are given the authority (for what reason, I don't know — maybe the USCCB couldn't agree?) to determine the posture after the Agnus Dei and many have extrapolated that to include the posture after Communion, which is not an illogical conclusion.

I don't know where you live, but your diocesan bishop may have established rubrics for the posture at these times that would apply to each parish in your diocese. Personally, I think it makes absolutely no sense to ask everyone, first, to stand after the Agnus Dei, and then, to remain standing until the entire church has received Communion. What are they doing at this time? Quite literally, they're simply "standing around" waiting until everyone's been "served." Other options, like kneeling or sitting, could promote adoration, meditation, thanksgiving, prayer, reflection. Standing just doesn't seem to promote anything except "waiting to get on with it!" But .... that's only my opinion.

I would suggest that you find out from your Diocesan Office of Worship/Liturgy (in writing, if possible) exactly what (if anything) the bishop has mandated. If he's been silent on the issue, then your obligation (and the rest of the congregation's) is exactly as outlined above. If he has spoken, then you (and the rest of the congregation) should follow his directions. If he has determined that the congregation should stand from after the Great Amen through the end of Mass, and you disagree, I would draft a polite, but well-considered, letter to your bishop, with copies to:
  • the head of your Diocesan Liturgy Committee/Office
  • Msgr. Moroney 1 (Executive Director of the Secretariat for Liturgy)
  • Bishop Trautman 2 (Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy)
  • Bishop Skylstad 3 (President of the USCCB)
State the reasons why you're not happy with the decision and why it is a grave hindrance to your faith-life as expressed in the corporate worship in your parish. Enough people objecting to these seemingly arbitrary, confusing and factious individual rulings may have an influence, particularly on the USCCB to establish uniformity throughout the country. Addresses are listed below.

For an in-depth statement on this same issue, see Letter to the Archbishop of Seattle

I hope I've answered your question, and that eventually the U.S. bishops take a corporate, unified stand on this issue!

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications

National addresses:
  1. The Rev. Msgr. James P. Moroney
    Executive Director, Secretariat for the Liturgy
    3211 Fourth Street NE
    Washington DC 20017-1194
  2. The Most Rev. Donald W. Trautman
    Chairman, Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy
    Bishop of Erie
    PO Box 10397
    Erie PA 16514-0397
  3. The Most Rev. William S. Skylstad
    President, USCCB
    Bishop of Spokane
    PO Box 1453
    Spokane WA 99210

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