From a reader:
I am a daily reader of your blog and have learned a number of things over the last few months. So, thank you. However, I have a question…
I am planning on attending the installation of Msgr. Barry Knestout as Bishop in the Archdiocese of Washington DC on Monday, Dec. 29th. When I was a young boy, it was common practice to kneel and kiss the ring of a a Cardinal, Archbishop or Bishop. However, I have only seen one person in the last 20 or 25 years do this (my mother-in-law last year).
Is this still an acceptable practice? Does anyone follow it anymore? It is one of those traditions that have gone by the wayside?
Yes, this is still a legitimate custom. I recommend it.
However, be sure to genuflect with the left knee rather than the right, which differentiates your gesture of respect from that which you give God alone, for example in the Blessed Sacrament or the mention of the Holy Name at certain times, and other occasions.
Some bishops get all flustered by this practice. They either are, from true humility, not comfortable with the counter-cultural sign of respect, or in a kind of false humility are latching on to a egalitarian view of their office.
Genuflecting and kissing the ring of the bishop, especially the local ordinary bishop and every cardinal is a very good custom.
If kneeling is physically not possible, a bow to kiss the ring is acceptable.
Remember that the gesture is symbolic. You don’t have to really lay one on the ring, okay? Even if you just come very near, you’ve done your part.
Also, keep in mind that it is a good custom to ask bishops and priests for their blessing. You can say, "Father (Your Excellency/Your Eminence), may I ask your blessing?". If you can kneel on both knees to receive it that is best. Kiss the bishop’s ring after the blessing and before rising. You may also kiss the hand of the priest, which is a fine custom now nearly vanished.