For how long should I kneel?

By Shaun Johnson | The Compass | November 4, 2020

“I grew up being taught that we should not be seated until the celebrant sits after communion. Many people sit after the hosts are returned to the tabernacle. What is correct?” — New Holstein

This is something many of us are confused by and it does seem that each individual parish has a different practice. In some parishes, I have witnessed — especially at daily Mass — the congregation kneeling after having received holy Communion all the way up to the “Prayer after Communion.” At others, folks kneel until the Blessed Sacrament is placed in the tabernacle.

Although I may not be able to answer how long one should kneel after receiving holy Communion, we can explore what the “General Instruction of the Roman Missal” (GIRM) states about the question.

In regard to liturgical matters, the GIRM is often the definitive guide for the clergy and the faithful.

In paragraph 43, the GIRM states: “In the dioceses of the United States of America, they should kneel, beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by ill health, or for reasons of lack of space, of the large number of people present, or for another reasonable cause. The faithful (again should) kneel after the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) unless the diocesan bishop determines otherwise.”

So, although this question is not addressed in the GIRM, there are a few things that can be gleaned in regard to it:

  • First, if the diocesan bishop can determine the practice in his diocese, it is a local discipline that may be determined rather than a “universal rule;”
  • Second, kneeling is the prescribed action of the faithful during this specific time of the Mass if possible. In our diocese, there has not been a specific directive given, so we would automatically default to the norm for all dioceses of the United States, which says that the faithful should kneel. However, there is no prescribed amount of time or direction as to when the faithful would cease kneeling after the Agnus Dei.

All these words and, yet, no actual answer. Well, although when one should cease kneeling after the reception of holy Communion is not explicitly addressed with the GIRM, it is addressed implicitly when one reads further in paragraph 43: “For the sake of uniformity in gestures and bodily postures during one and the same celebration, the faithful should follow the instructions which the deacon, a lay minister or the priest gives, according to what is laid down in the missal.”

In other words, in order to maintain the unity with which the sacrifice is offered, one should follow the practice and direction of the congregation as they are instructed either by word and gesture or by example.

So, if one’s parish has a practice to cease kneeling after the Blessed Sacrament is reposed in the tabernacle, then one should do the same. Likewise, if the practice of the parish is to stop kneeling after the priest and deacon are seated, then that would be appropriate as well.

Johnson is divine worship director for the Diocese of Green Bay.

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