From a reader:
First, thank you for your internet ministry and your tireless promotion of the liturgical use of Latin.
My parish is being renovated and Mass is temporarily being celebrated in a nearby university chapel. Since the chapel is non-denominational, it lacks kneelers. While my parish typically kneels during the consecration, the congregation has taken to sitting after the Sanctus while in the university chapel.
I recall hearing that the only licit postures for the congregation during the Eucharistic prayer are standing or, where permitted, kneeling. However, I also recall reading that the GIRM stresses the importance of uniformity of posture during the Mass. In light of these two considerations, what should one do when an entire congregation assumes an incorrect posture during the Mass?
Let’s be clear. Kneeling for the consecration is not permitted.
It is required.
It is the universal law in the Latin Church that the faithful kneel for the consecration. GIRM 43 says that we kneel the epiclesis to the “Mysterium Fidei“.
However, there is particular law in the USA. The practice in the USA is to kneel from after the Sanctus until the end of the Doxology, that is, during the entire Eucharistic Prayer:
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. (GIRM 43.3)
Any local variation, such as standing or sitting for the consecration, would require permission from Rome granted in a document.
However, a person can excuse herself from kneeling if, for reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason, she cannot kneel. Common sense applies.
About the no kneelers issue. I recall the story of an American Cardinal Archbishop visiting the seminary within his territory. In the “renovation” of the chapel the kneelers had been removed. When the Cardinal expressed his desire that the seminarians kneel, the rector pointed to the fact that there were no kneelers and there was no longer any money to put them in. The Cardinal responded: “Who said anything about using kneelers?”
Again, if it is physically too hard to kneel, people are excused. Most people can kneel on the floor for a while.