QUAERITUR: Is a Communion rail obligatory for TLMs?

From a reader:

I am interested in seeing the EF come to my local parish. The main
church is a monstrosity, but there is a separate chapel that might do
nicely.

Unfortunately, there is no altar rail in the chapel. Is the rail
indispensable? I have seen some churches line up a few prie-dieux
where there is no rail. Is that ok?

While we’re at is, how about steps in front of the altar? Are they
necessary? I know this discussion isn’t ideal, but it seems important to know when a paucity of bricks warrants throwing in the towel.

Throw in the towel?  Tut! Tut!  By Grabthar’s Hammer!  A strong confirmed Catholic like you with this sort of talk?  Never give up!  Never surrender!

That said, an altar rail is not a requirement.  I refer you to Mass on the hoods of Jeeps near battlefields.

Think of how much more beautiful your ugly church will seem once there is liturgical worship worthy of the name therein?

Lining up kneelers can work.  I have seen that done far and wide.   It is a good idea to provide something.  It is of particular help to communicants carrying the burden of a certain number of years.

Go for it!  Overcome those obstacles!  Line up those kneelers and have at!

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16 Responses to QUAERITUR: Is a Communion rail obligatory for TLMs?

  1. Legisperitus says:

    We don’t have a rail, but we leave the front row of pews empty for this purpose.

  2. kab63 says:

    I see what you did there, Dr. Lazarus. :D

  3. Joseph-Mary says:

    When we had the privilege of an FSSP priest coming to town monthly, a small Hispanic parish gave permission for us to have the TLM there and we used the front pews. No problem.

    We have since lost the privilege :(.

  4. yatzer says:

    “It is of particular help to communicants carrying the burden of a certain number of years.”
    Thank you for thinking of us, Father. While not at all disabled, joints get stiffer every year, and a little something to hold onto makes a bit difference. I suppose one could stand if necessary, but I think most going to the EF would prefer to kneel to receive our Lord.

  5. mike cliffson says:

    Is the main church REALLY* such a monstrosity ? Pounce Fr if I’m wrong : but I suspect the Lord rewards those who think big (¿child-like confidence in Dad?); mutatis mutandis , humanly speaking you take the chapel, you’re saying this is for the few – maybe the select few, which might be sinful, or the timourous downtrodden remains of the many, it boots not, small says few.
    * God forgive me, Ive myself “frequented ” modern architect-designed church buildings whose expanses of WWII-bunker raw concrete had me sinfully dwelling on the virtues of dynamite instead of hearing mass – but Ive known PPs (pastors) inherit such and Catholic up the whole altar area with a few hundred square feet of wood surface covered itself in massive ikons, rich cloths, a tabernacle that shouts here I am, even the most in themselves ghastly kitch goldcoloured 10ft fibreglass angels at the edges work…)

  6. Henry Edwards says:

    We don’t have a rail, but we leave the front row of pews empty for this purpose.

    This is the most common solution I’ve seen in churches without communion rails. In every Catholic church I’ve seen, there is something like a wall or rail that people in the front pew rest their arms on when the kneel (during the canon, for instance), and this works for Holy Communion just as well as an actual communion rail.

  7. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Father,

    I’ll see if I can get some pictures of a Requiem held at a less-than-ideal parish. Only when we see the wide angle can you tell that the parish wasn’t designed to accommodate the EF.

    On another point, did you just advocate the liturgical use of a jeep?

    God bless,

    Chris Garton-Zavesky

  8. Will D. says:

    A prie-dieu at the head of the aisle works just fine. That’s what’s been done at most of the EF Masses I’ve been to.

  9. davidjhickey says:

    If one has knees, the lack of an altar rail should not prevent one from kneeling.

  10. Centristian says:

    If the lack of an altar rail means a cold marble floor in January, then older knees might well find it a challenge.

    Two pre-dieux, side by side, at the top of the aisle should suffice. Furthermore, rejoice that you have a parish church in which to worship. There are “traditionalists” (Catholics who believe that they cannot, in conscience, worship at a Mass other than one celebrated according to a pre-Conciliar missal) who worship in garages and hotel rooms and living rooms (I’ve even seen a community of “traditionalists” celebrate Mass in a bedroom!). These are the most scrupulous sorts you’ll ever meet, and even they don’t wring their hands over the lack of an altar rail.

    I should say that I do not, in any way, advocate bunker-mentality Catholicism such as that I have just used as an example. I only mean to say that if they can do it without a rail…

  11. MargaretC says:

    “If one has knees, the lack of an altar rail should not prevent one from kneeling.”

    But it might prevent one from getting up again…I tried kneeling without any support at a rural retreat I attended once. My fellow retreatants — including an elderly sister — had to help me up again. Watching me fall flat on my situpon would not be an edifying spectacle, so I have not tried it since.

  12. asperges says:

    Improvisation is the key-word for many celebrations of the Old Rite in churches either not built for it or spoilt by the 1970 changes. I have come across churches with no sacring bell; altars teetering on the edge of a steep step to make Mass ad orientem positively dangerous; no Communion plate (!), no rails of course, no copes or aspersory. The list goes on and on.

    Anyone organising old rite Masses needs to be resourceful. Most problems can be overcome. Altars as described above can be adapted with a dais or built up step; equipment can usually be borrowed from other churches and furniture (front row pew) substituted for altar rails. It’s as much to do with attitude and not giving up as anything else. Deus providebit – and does, often!

  13. boko fittleworth says:

    It seems important to know when a paucity of bricks warrants throwing in the TROWEL.

    Thank you. I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your waitress.

  14. mjd07 says:

    I have seen pictures of the ICRSS having two altar servers hold a folded altar cloth at the height of an altar rail while another holds the paten. This allows the priest to stay in the sanctuary, but if you have enough prie-dieux, go for it.

  15. mjd07 says:

    I have seen pictures of the ICRSS having two altar servers hold a folded altar cloth at the height of an altar rail while another holds the paten. This allows the priest to stay in the sanctuary, but if you have enough prie-dieux, go for it.

  16. marthawrites says:

    In the main church where we have a pre-dawn EF Mass six days a week, the altar–a large, wooden square table on a platform–is fortunately three steps up from the floor back far enough to have an ad orientem Mass. There is no stone, so the priest places a cloth with relics sewn into it underneath the altar cloth. Because there is no tabernacle, the priest does not genuflect, but the altar boys do. Our altar rail consists of the front row of chairs with kneelers (in contrast to the pews behind them) set aside by being draped with a white sheet which covers the seats and the backs. No one kneels there during the Mass until it’s time to receive Communion. Deficiences fade into the background once one becomes absorbed with reciting the responses.