QUAERITUR: Genuflecting before a tabernacle

From a reader:

Dear Fr. Z., I am aware that the GIRM for OF Masses requires all passing in front of a tabernacle to BOW instead of genuflect, and for everyone to comport to the action of the priest during procession and recession. However, the faithful are supposed to genuflect at all other times. I notice that out of any ten able-bodied parishioners, I see maybe two or three genuflexions to 7 or 8 bows, and only two or three of those are executed in what one might construe as a reverent sense.

How long until the USCCB authorizes them to wave or flash a gang sign?

Our pastor and priests set a good example (one bows, but bows very deeply), but the implications of lex orandi lex credendi here are disturbing — what can a layman do?

Set a good example.

Continue to genuflect.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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39 Responses to QUAERITUR: Genuflecting before a tabernacle

  1. ejcmartin says:

    We had a situation recently where a newly ordained priest was posted to a parish with a strong “Spirit of VII” liturgy committee. He actually dared to genuflect and even kneel before the Tabernacle prior to Mass. Sadly letters of complaint were sent to the bishop that he was trying to be “too holy”. Someone reportedly complained that he would prostrate himself in front of the Tabernacle (which he did not) prior to Mass and causing the Mass to go over time.

  2. Dax says:

    A Reader says:

    I see maybe two or three genuflexions to 7 or 8 bows, and only two or three of those are executed in what one might construe as a reverent sense.

    That would be a phenomenal ratio at the parish where I live. They have three priests and only one, the eldest, will bow whenever he crosses the tabernacle. The other priests will make a minor bow during and after consecration but never when they cross to give the homily. They will make a slight bow before the procession after Mass. None – I mean absolutely none – of the altar servers bow or genuflect at any time. None of the extra-super-duper-to-the-max-extreme-extraordinary-Eucharist-ministers genuflect when they put the Blessed Sacrament away but a few will bow when leaving the altar. They are the worst examples of all. Very seldom will you see someone of the assembly genuflect when entering or leaving the pew; I would say less than 5%. Maybe 1% genuflect when leaving church.

    This past Sunday, our neighbor who is a EM, sat right next to me after arriving late for Mass. He was unshaven (REALLY unshaven. Homeless looking unshaven), wearing blue jeans and an un-tucked flannel shirt and then left Mass early, right after communion. But there he was, with a big grin on his face on the altar, like it was all about him. All that was missing was the cardboard puppet people and the liturgical dancers.

    Another thing I noticed is that during the Liturgy of the Eucharist (Preparation of the Altar), the “choir” is always singing a hymn and it is very hard to participate with the response “Blessed be God Forever” because you can’t hear what the priest is saying. I am pretty sure there should be no singing during this part. Maybe someone can chime in so I can speak with the pastor, the who leads the in-church gabfest before and after Mass, like he is at a wedding reception.

    I would say you are in good hands and those of you who show our Lord the respect He deserves, will influence others.

  3. jbas says:

    During Mass, there is no bow to the tabernacle, but to the Altar. The point seems to be that the center of attention is the Altar of sacrifice, which seems reasonable enough during Mass. Even in the traditional form the attention is more on the Altar Cross than on the tabernacle, although there are still plenty of genuflections. At any rate, I don’t think there is any rubric anywhere saying the able-bodied should ever bow to the tabernacle.

  4. NoTambourines says:

    I’m in that round-layout church with the tabernacle behind artsy glass. I still feel the need to genuflect when I pass an aisle that’s in the line of the sight of the altar (and tabernacle… glass), if I’m not passing the center one.

    Dax: I’m a musician in my church choir, and I try to “be the change” I want to see. Even if there are others (including EMs) in tank tops and shorts, if I wouldn’t wear it to work, I won’t wear it to Mass. And at work, I dress to be taken seriously. At Mass, I dress to show I take it seriously.

    The choir covering up “Blessed are You, Lord God…” used to bug the heck out of me. I would try to stop playing at the end of a verse before that point, but we’d get waved on for another verse. That is one thing that has gotten cleaned up for the most part in my parish since the new translation, and since we have new priests. I’m not sure which of those developments did the trick, but I’m happier. There is a “rhythm” to the order and text of the Mass, and I don’t like to see it upset by having the Mass bloated with things that aren’t the Mass.

  5. JenB says:

    Our tabernacle is off to the side where it is seldom passed. That being said, I see very few people who genuflect to either the tabernacle or the altar before, during, or after Mass. Several parishioners have commented however, on my 5 year old’s habit of running over to the tabernacle after Mass, genuflecting, and praying quietly before leaving each Sunday. No one has said anything about him trying to be “too holy”

  6. Paul says:

    Would someone help out an ignorant convert here, please? I’m very confused when to bow or genuflect. A few weeks ago, I was literally, physically, knocked over by the rush of people after Mass as I paused to genuflect while leaving the pew.

    Coming from an Anglican tradition, the tabernacle was pretty much always directly behind or on the altar and we bowed deeply when passing in front of it and genuflected on entering or leaving the pew. When the tabernacle was open, you knelt either in the pew or wherever you were in the church and did not stand/sit again until the it was closed. As the procession passed, you either genuflected or bowed at the moment the crucifix went by (which one depended on your physical condition and the amount of space available in the pews). Similarly, during the creed, everyone bowed or genuflected during the mention of the incarnation.

    I’ve asked many lay people and priests and have not received consistent answers. I know the information must be out there and would really appreciated a link to it, if possible.

  7. anilwang says:

    My own understanding is that the GIRM describes the minimum level of piety one must have, not the maximum which is left to personal piety. As such, as long as you’re not disruptive or you want to be pharisaic about it, if you want to genuflect or even do a full prostration in front of the tabernacle it is between you and God.

    Personally, I substitute a sign of the cross for bowing during the Divine Office. A bow is often cumbersome and just doesn’t feel right.

  8. Maxiemom says:

    My parish was merged with another in town. When the Lectors and EMHC’s first met together, I mentioned that I noticed that many from the other parish were not genuflecting (those that can) or bowing in front of the tabernacle. Our new pastor, who is one step from saying mass in Latin (faces the tabernacle for as much of mass as possible, uses many gestures from Latin Mass), doesn’t seem to care about this.

  9. Dax says:

    This is what I see the priests and servers do at the EF church where I attend so I am thinking it is correct. This assumes the altar lamp is lighted and when not, as on Good Friday when the altar is stripped, substitute a bow.

    Entering church
    Entering the pew (except when coming back up from communion)
    Exiting the pew ( except when going up for communion)
    Exiting the church
    Crossing the tabernacle

    Leaving the pew to fetch the bulletin or liturgy book? Genuflect.
    Returning after fetching said items? Genuflect.
    Crossing the tabernacle, even when in line for confession? Genuflect.
    Leaving through the side entrance? Genuflect.

    The only time I don’t genuflect is when I am momentarily rushed out of the pew by the folks who leave early when the first note of the closing hymn is struck.

    When in doubt, genuflect.

  10. samgr says:

    I’m with Paul and the Anglicans on behavio(u)r at Mass. I’ve found my training as a football lineman in high school to be useful when genuflecting after Mass; I’m big and still agile enough to keep the congregation from flattening my wife as she genuflects behind me.

  11. Blaise says:

    The way I read the GIRM (sorry, England and Wales version coming up) it does not say that all passing in front of the tabernacle bow instead of genuflecting. section 74 reads as follows:

    Genuflections and Bows
    274. A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, signifies
    adoration, and therefore it is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during the liturgical celebration on Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.
    During Mass, three genuflections are made by the priest celebrant: namely, after the showing of the host, after the showing of the chalice, and before Communion. Certain specific features to be observed in a concelebrated Mass are
    noted in their proper place (cf. nos. 210-251).
    If, however, the tabernacle with the Most Blessed Sacrament is present in the sanctuary, the priest, the deacon, and the other ministers genuflect when they approach the altar and when they depart from it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself.
    Otherwise all who pass before the Most Blessed Sacrament genuflect, unless they are moving in procession.

    As I read this, only the priest celebrant and ministers are not to genuflect except at the beginning and end. Reconciling that with the final sentence is problematic. Is a reader (if not a lector ) or a server (if not an acolyte) covered by “ministers” or not? Other people are supposed to genuflect unless “moving in procession” but the priest and ministers genuflect on entering the sanctuary – is that not in procession?

    If a priest celebrant goes to the tabernacle to remove the Blessed Sacrament (e.g. due to the number of communicants) and that tabernacle is not directly behind the altar, I would have expected him to genuflect; I don’t think the GIRM in saying “three genuflections are made by the priest” is saying in that instance he should not make another genuflection, just that he must (infirmity aside) make those three genuflections. He is not just passing in front of it, he is approaching and removing the Blessed Sacrament.

    If in doubt genuflect would be my approach.

    And to Paul I would say, genuflect. Continued genuflection may prove an example. People may notice more if they fall over you.

  12. MyBrokenFiat says:

    @ NoTambourines: “… at work, I dress to be taken seriously. At Mass, I dress to show I take it seriously.”

    I am both in love with your handle and your sentiments here. I think that is exactly correct.

    As for the genuflection, I just had this same gripe.

    Also, for our Christmas Pageant, my class was told my one of the sisters organizing it that they could NOT genuflect before the tabernacle. I was incredulous and horrified. I later requested that the ciboria simply be removed from the tabernacle (as all the happenings within the sanctuary were scandalous, truth be told) until the pageant was over, but it fell on deaf ears because I’m apparently way too sensitive – too stuffy – too traditional.

    Ugh. My heart breaks at how little we pay any reverence to God. :(

    @Dax – “When in doubt, genuflect.”

    That’s my motto, too. Amen, dear. Amen.

  13. worm says:

    Paul, I am unaware of any official document regarding this. I can tell you what I was taught and what I’ve seen pretty consistently at orthodox (although not even necessarily “traditional/conservative”) parishes:

    0. No reverence is done to tabernacle or altar when entering or leaving the pew to go up for Communion. Otherwise:
    1. Genuflect when passing in front of the tabernacle. This would include getting int and out of the pew if the tabernacle is “front and center”
    2. Bow when passing in front of the altar, unless the tabernacle is also in front of you, in which case you genuflect. This would include when entering or leaving your pew.
    3. I have never personally seen people genuflect when the processional cross passes during the opening or closing procession, although I have heard of this before. I HAVE seen this done for a Eucharistic procession, for example on the feast of Corpus Christi, when the Blessed Sacrament passes.
    4. During the creed, we genuflect at the mention of the incarnation on the feasts of Christmas and of the Annunciation. We bow on all other days.

    As for ministers due during Mass, I believe that would be covered by the GIRM. Unfortunately, the new one on USCCBs sight is not the easiest thing to search through. The one on EWTNs site is much easier to search through, but I find inconsistancies between it and what is found on USCCB. The EWTN one looks familiar, so I’m guessing it was an older version?

  14. Joe in Canada says:

    I believe jbas is correct. The rubrics for the OF state that if the Tabernacle is in the Sanctuary, the Altar party genuflects on entering and leaving the Sanctuary, but once in the Sanctuary veneration is to the Altar. Fr Z has addressed this before.
    In the diocese I visited last week the Bishop has mandated not only standing during Communion, but until the Tabernacle has been closed, or, as the priest in the parish I was visiting, “until the stuff (sic) has been put away.” Pray for Canada!

  15. Elizabeth D says:

    I attended at my parish a training for lectors and EMHCs, in which the pastor clearly explained when one correctly genuflects (outside of Mass when entering or exiting the church or passing in front of the tabernacle) or bows (during Mass). I was grateful for that and hoped it would clear it up for many people. Nope! There was an increase in bowing toward the tabernacle even outside of Mass. Well at least they do something rather than nothing.

  16. biberin says:

    Would someone please clarify for me what comporting to the action of the priest means? I generally bow my head during the processional, but just stay put and standing (ie not putting my jacket on, grabbing my stuff to leave) until the priest has passed my pew during the recessional. Thanks!

  17. asperges says:

    Worm appears to have it in a nutshell. The GIRM instructions are for those on the sanctuary – sorry, “Worship Space.” There has never been any change for the laity that I am aware of: Genuflect if the Blessed Sacrament is present (right knee) accessing or leaving pews (but, agreed, not for Communion) or when crossing in front of the tabernacle; double genuflection (both knees) if the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.

    These things were so drilled into us by the nuns, it is inconceivable we should forget. I was horrified particularly in Quebec some years ago, to see practically no-one ever genuflected. Fortunately in the UK, there doesn’t seem to be the same problem. At funerals in protestant churches indeed, I have even seen Catholic mourners genuflect there (heaven help us!), so it is a habit hard to break.

    The practice of keeping the Blessed Sacrament away from the main altar is largely responsible for the present mess. Another reform gone wrong: no doubt good intentions, but sad consequences. Although no-0ne genuflects to a processional Cross, in France and elsewhere, traditionally they either bow or make the sign of the Cross as it passes. Such habits are good manners in which the Roman rite has always lead the way (court etiquette and sanctuary etiquette are very similar). Despite the vandals, some customs still survive.

  18. Christine111 says:

    It’s right to wait until after the priest leaves before leaving one’s pew. Too many people make a mad dash to get out of their pews as soon as they can after Mass (in the Novus Ordo, not the Vetus Ordo–in the latter, most people kneel and pray silently after Mass).

    As to genuflections, it’s quite simple: genuflect each time you leave or return to your pew.

    Genuflect before the tabernacle (unless you’ve just received Holy Communion).

    Bow when passing the Altar.

  19. Pedro says:

    From GIRM (third edition of the Roman Missal):

    Genuflections and Bows
    274. A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, signifies adoration, and therefore it is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during the liturgical celebration on Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.

    During Mass, three genuflections are made by the Priest Celebrant: namely, after the elevation of the host, after the elevation of the chalice, and before Communion. Certain specific features to be observed in a concelebrated Mass are noted in their proper place (cf. nos. 210-251).

    If, however, the tabernacle with the Most Blessed Sacrament is situated in the sanctuary, the Priest, the Deacon, and the other ministers genuflect when they approach the altar and when they depart from it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself.

    Otherwise, all who pass before the Most Blessed Sacrament genuflect, unless they are moving in procession.

    Ministers carrying the processional cross or candles bow their heads instead of genuflecting.

    This is consistent with previous instructions. The Ceremonial of Bishops (1984), however, omits the exception from the rule of genuflecting when passing before the Blessed Sacrament for “the Priest, the Deacon, and the other ministers… during the Mass itself.” In CB only those walking in procession do not genuflect when passing before the tabernacle:

    71. No one who enters a Church should fail to adore the Blessed Sacrament either by visiting the Blessed Sacrament chapel or at least by Genuflecting. Similarly those who pass before the Blessed sacrament genuflect, except when they are walking in procession.

    Since the prescriptions of the Ceremonial were supposed to supercede the GIRM at that time (when they were more explicit or in conflict with previous instructions) it is curious that the former exception was repeated in the new GIRM.

    Another curiosity is the instruction on the reverence to the Blessed Sacrament before receiving Holy Communion. GIRM recognizes kneeling and standing as appropriate postures but leaves it to the episcopal conferences to determine the norms in their respective territories. The US text of GIRM states:

    160. The Priest then takes the paten or ciborium and approaches the communicants, who usually come up in procession.

    It is not permitted for the faithful to take the consecrated Bread or the sacred chalice by themselves and, still less, to hand them on from one to another among themselves. The norm established for the Dioceses of the United States of America is that Holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, March 25, 2004, no. 91).

    When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant. When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood.

    A bow of the head “before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence” seemed to me to be inconsistent with what GIRM and CB had already said about genuflection signifying adoration, so I checked this against the Latin editio typica terta and found no reference to bowing the head, only this:

    160. … Fideles communicant genuflexi vel stantes, prout Conferentia Episcoporum statuerit. Cum autem stantes communicant, commendatur ut debitam reverentiam, ab iisdem normis statuendam, ante susceptionem Sacramenti faciant. [The faithful should receive Communion kneeling or standing, as the Conference of Bishops will have determined. However, if they receive Communion standing, it is recommended that they give due reverence before the reception of the Sacrament, as set forth in the same norms.”

    The debita reverentia [due reverence] refers to GIRM 274, quoted above. Where then did the adapters of GIRM for the US get the idea that a bow of the head is the proper gesture for communicants who approach the minister of the Eucharist to receive standing?

    Finally, one may note with gratitute the solicitude of the USCCB bishops in quoting Redemptionis Sacramentum in a positive way, allowing for individual communicants to receive Communion while kneeling. This is encouraging, and communicants should take advantage of this provision in accordance with their devotion. Here’s the relevant quote from Redemptionis Sacramentum:

    91. In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that “sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them”.[Code of Canon Law, can. 843 § 1; cf. can. 915.] Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.

  20. Dax says:

    The conclusion of the recessional hymn marks the end of Mass, not the priest passing your pew.

  21. jbas says:

    Dax,
    Your point is well taken, but the “recessional hymn” is not part of the Mass. It is, rather, a devotional exercise following the Mass.

  22. Andy Milam says:

    I forwarded this to the group I moderate on facebook. Here is what I wrote to lead into this blog post, over there….Please stop bowing, if you are. Unless you have no knees, genuflection is the proper action of adoration. Take note of this example: a man, age 40 has had two surgeries on his left knee, has had 5 surgeries on his back, still makes the effort to genuflect, even though the “comfort factor” is at about a 3 on a 10 point scale. It is vitally important that we properly adore Christ properly….btw….that man age 40…that’s me. Get on your knees, it’s not too hard. EVER! If you believe that God is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, this is the least you can do.

  23. Pedro says:

    Another quote on kneeling as adoration (in the context of the singing of the Credo, from an unusual source, Martin Luther. Forget the source; the story is worthwhile:

    Sermons on the Gospel of St. John, (LW 22:105): “The following tale is
    told about a coarse and brutal lout. While the words ‘And was made man’ were being sung in church, he remained standing, neither genuflecting nor removing his hat. He showed no reverence, but just stood there like a clod. All the others dropped to their knees when the Nicene Creed was prayed and chanted devoutly. Then the devil stepped up to him and hit him so hard it made his head spin. He cursed him gruesomely and said: ‘May hell consume you, you boorish ass! If God had become an angel like me and the congregation sang: “God was made an angel,” I would bend not only my knees but my whole body to the ground! Yes, I would crawl ten ells down into the ground. And you vile human creature, you stand there like a stick or a stone. You hear that God did not become an angel but a man like you, and you just stand there like a stick of wood!’ Whether this story is true or not, it is nevertheless in accordance with the faith (Rom 12:6). With this illustrative story the holy fathers wished to admonish youth to revere the indescribably great miracle of the Incarnation. They wanted us to open our eyes wide and ponder these words well.”

  24. Joanne says:

    “I was literally, physically, knocked over by the rush of people after Mass as I paused to genuflect while leaving the pew.”

    The imagery is funny; the phenomenon isn’t! I’ve had this experience too.

    At my EF/OF parish, the tabernacle is of course at the center of the high altar, so we genuflect every time we pass in front of it. At my OF parish, the tabernacle is off to the side. I’ve seen people bow to the altar when it’s empty. That seems strange to me and I don’t do it.

  25. Supplex says:

    One of the most awkward church moments for me is not knowing whether to bow or genuflect in a new church, because I can’t see from afar whether the tabernacle is on the altar or not. So I usually end up doing a combination of a genuflect and a bow – a benuflect if you will, which I suspect to onlookers looks like twitching.

  26. biberin says:

    Dax, we have no recessional hymn on weekdays.

  27. jesusthroughmary says:

    @Dax – It actually is legitimate for the choir to sing an offertory chant, motet, hymn, etc. during the offertory prayers. Whether what your choir is singing qualifies as one of those is another issue, but there is no inherent problem with the celebrant praying the offertory prayers quietly while the choir sings.

  28. Andy Milam says:

    At Supplex…

    When you find no tabernacle….you bow. You bow with deference toward the altar of sacrifice. If you happen upon the Mass whilst it is proceeding, you then genuflect toward the altar of sacrifice and the Sacred Species upon it it.

    Just a protocol moment….

  29. Sixupman says:

    That this subject is even discussed demonstrates just how far we have fallen from appreciation of that which resides in the tabernacles. Protestantism has insinuated itself into Mother Church.

    That said, I was in St. Mary Redcliffe [Bristol, UK] a CofE [pre-reformation] church. Behind the high altar is a Lady Altar with tabernacle. A sacristan passing-by made an impressive genuflection which would put most Catholics to shame.

  30. leonugent2005 says:

    I like Father Z’s answer… set a good example, continue to genuflect. Now to the point…. if the USCCB authorizes a wave or a flashing of a gang symbol and someone does that, then they have done nothing other than obey their bishop’s conference. I may not like it but you really really don’t want to hear the list of stuff I don’t like.

  31. Joy says:

    Maybe someone can help me here: In our church, the Tabernacle (contained within a small Eucharstic chapel) is located at the entrance just as you walk into the church from the vestibule. It is almost impossible to enter without walking in front of the Eucharistic chapel. It is normal practice for people to stand outside the door of the Eucharistic chapel and hold long/loud conversations before and after Mass – almost no one even acknowledges the Tabernacle just mere feet away. Perhaps a handful of people genuflect or bow. My question is: does it matter if the door to the Eucharistic chapel is closed or open? Should we genuflect at all times, even if the door is closed? And should we close the door to the Eucharistic chapel as a general practice, or should it remain open? I have been bothered and perplexed by this for some time now, and hope someone can shed some light on what is proper here. Thank you.

  32. Simon_GNR says:

    Reading some of the above posts confirms that I’ve got it right about genuflecting and bowing. The correct form of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament in a tabernacle is to genuflect on one knee; for the exposed Blessed Sacrament a double genuflection (i.e. both knees) is required. The correct form of reverence for an altar is to bow, something I learned as a child when I was an Anglican.

    The reason one so often appears to genuflect to an altar is that one is genuflecting to the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle which in very many churches is either in the middle of the altar or on a separate pedestal directly behind the altar: one is not actually genuflecting to the altar, but to the Blessed Sacrament on or behind it. The Blessed Sacrament “trumps” the altar in terms of the appropriate sign of reverence.

    It pains me a little to see so many people wrongly genuflecting (rather than bowing) to an altar where there is no Blessed Sacrament, such as at my local Cathedral, where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a separate chapel next to the chancel, or at my local church at the Good Friday Liturgy when the Blessed Sacrament is not near the altar or even in the sanctuary, but is kept separately at an altar of repose.

    It seems that many people brought up as Catholics were given inadequate instruction when young about the appropriate form of reverence for an altar, and have grown up thinking that one genuflects to an altar, when in fact one genuflects to the Blessed Sacrament, which (to be fair) before Vatican II, I believe was always reserved in a tabernacle in the middle of the main altar of a church. It seems to me that inadequate catechesis about signs of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and altars may have been given when many churches were reordered in the wake of Vatican II such that the Blessed Sacrament was no longer reserved in a tabernacle on the main altar.

  33. Well, if you were going to church and the tabernacle was somewhere in the apse without any doors, and you were standing out in the vestibule, you wouldn’t usually genuflect in the vestibule. Not even if the doors into church were open. So if the Blessed Sacrament is in a chapel, you don’t have to genuflect unless you pass the threshold.

    That said, it’s a bit rude to gab outside like that. Obviously the architect meant them to do so, and obviously the pastor doesn’t do anything to change it, but it’s rude.

  34. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Joy wrote, “Maybe someone can help me here: In our church, the Tabernacle (contained within a small Eucharstic chapel) is located at the entrance just as you walk into the church from the vestibule. It is almost impossible to enter without walking in front of the Eucharistic chapel. . . ”

    To stop in to the Chapel where Our sweetest Lord waits for us, to approach the altar of the tabernacle with an expression of reverence, of love, of gratitude. . . Love and devotion know how to express themselves, even for those like yours truly with bum knees and trick backs. It may be necessary to steady oneself at the end of a pew, to lean for balance a little, but Jesus will notice the bowed head, the grave face, the composed and attentive posture. And love will speak to Love. He will know what you mean to say to Him.

    And so will everyone else who sees the two of you together.

  35. biberin says:

    There is a man in my parish who, when passing behind the altar, will (out of habit, I assume) genuflect very revently to the blank wall at the head of the sanctuary. Our tabernacle is at a very prominent side altar, not stashed away anywhere. So he doesn’t “hit” the altar or the tabernacle, but it’s a beautiful genuflection!

  36. Dawn R lapka says:

    I am a convert. I used to genuflect, a lot, even before I received communion, just as I saw my Catholic Grandparents do before Vatican II. I am also seeking a Vocation to the religious life, and it is a second Vocation. I have grown children. Because of these things I have felt that it is incredibly important to set a good example by way of following the GIRM. I have since had knee surgery, and it is sometimes impossible to genuflect, and when I can’t I feel incredibly guilty. Sometimes it is even difficult to remain on my knees during the consecration of Jesus.

    My parish priest and my spiritual director have helped me a lot in this regard. While it is very important to follow the rubrics, especially for those who are looked at as leaders, it is also important to mind your health. Reverence, in any form is accepted. It is just the same for the priest elevating the Host — an act of Reverence to the Lord at all times throughout the mass doing your best to follow the rubrics of the Church is what is recommended by the Magisterium.

    Also, I am a cantor and I am heavily involved in our music ministry team. I have come to find that it is up to the celebrant when it comes to music during the blessed be God response. As a general rule, I meet the celebrant before the mass occurs and I ask him what he wants, because he is in charge, and he says what goes. I have also found that there appears to be no real uniformity here. I believe what Steve Angrisano, the Catholic Musician and well respected Music Liturgist told us in a workshop he gave to us at our church. Being a good cantor or music minister requires us to “pass the baton” with reverence, back and forth between cantor and celebrant, always involving the congregation in the action of the prayer of the mass. Hope this helps.

  37. Centristian says:

    I must live on a different planet. On this planet the clergy and inferior ministers genuflect upon arriving in the sanctuary at the beginning of Mass and genuflect before leaving. I never see a bow instead of a genuflection. Never. Not even at the cathedral of this planet where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a side chapel. The celebrant and ministers first genuflect in the direction of the Blessed Sacrament and then bow in the direction of the altar. What aggravates me at my own parish (and at a number of others) is that even crucifers and acolytes genuflect, which they shouldn’t…but they do. Grrrrrr. Drives me nuts.

    Beyond that, almost everyone I see entering or exiting a pew genuflects. I almost never see worshippers bow, except sometimes the elderly or the physically challenged. Even most of the latter make some sort of half or mini-genuflection, as opposed to a bow.

    Bowing, I will say, is the norm at weddings. Why that is so, I have no idea. Apart from weddings, though, no. I just never see it.

  38. leonugent2005 says:

    biberin you are a true catholic and have come up with the charitable reason why he is doing this. I have been edified!

  39. when in doubt, genuflect…works every time. Centristian, it’s edifying when the thurifers genuflect. I don’t like seeing the candle bearers and cross bearer genuflect though.