From a reader:
I have become confused by genuflexion and I am hopeful you may be able to clear up my problem. I am a convert from Anglicanism and in that tradition I had always genuflected when entering or leaving the pew, and when crossing the church in front of the tabernacle. So, if I walked through the church without sitting down I would still stop in the middle, turn towards the tabernacle, and genuflect.
What I am wondering is whether genuflecting at that time is actually
the right thing to do in a Catholic church? After coming over to Rome
I naturally continued to do this, whenever I thought I could, as by
then it was the natural thing for me, but recently I have begun to
feel like perhaps I shouldn’t. Nobody, including priests, genuflects when crossing a church and so I have begun to suspect this is not an orthodox or Catholic practice. [grrrrrr]
On a related note I am also confused about what constitutes “in front
of a tabernacle.” As an Anglican it was easy as the churches were
generally straightforward affairs with a single aisle down the middle.
I had no trouble knowing I was walking in front of the altar and
tabernacle as “in front” was a simple and observable condition.
However, all of our churches here are roundish buildings with numerous radiating aisles. If it is still proper to genuflect when “passing in front of a tabernacle” how can we know when exactly we are doing this? I suppose I am curious about when exactly it is proper for us to genuflect in a Church?
Yes, it is appropriate to genuflect in a Catholic Church when passing before the tabernacle or when entering and exiting a pew.
Your post underscores the confusion that has arisen because of architectural tinkering, rearrangement – derangement – of churches, etc. Some designs and some changes to church have had a negative impact on our Catholic identity, because they leave us confused about what to do. Sometimes it is hard to find the Blessed Sacrament!
But, yes, it is appropriate to genuflect when passing before the tabernacle. When entering your pew and exiting, genuflect facing or angled toward the Blessed Sacrament.
Another point: if the Blessed Sacrament is not in the center of the church, it is not wrong to make a reverential gesture toward the altar. Usually this is done with a bow.
Finally, shame on those priests if they are not showing reverence to the Blessed Sacrament, especially when lay people are present. Shame on them. Shame on them. They have contributed to confusion and have weakened the Catholic identity of the faithful in one of the most important aspects of our faith.