QUAERITUR: Everyone must stand until distribution of Communion is over

From a reader:

Our last pastor decided we should all stand up before the Great Amen (going so far as to pause the Mass until all were standing -and some peoples refusal to stand became a horrible distraction and battle of wills between us and him …so we all eventually stood). People remained standing until everyone had received Communion. When he retired the new pastor (thankfully) instructed everyone to remain kneeling until after the Great Amen. But has retained the practice of standing until everyone returns from Communion. Everyone sits down when he sits down, even though the Blessed Sacrament has not yet been returned to the tabernacle. What is the purpose of standing after Communion? If there is some wonderful significance to it, it is lost on the congregation

It seems to me that kneeling is appropriate, not only to receive Holy Communion, but also to pray after having returned to one’s place in the pews.

In any event, we can look to the GIRM for some instruction on this question:

43. The faithful should stand from the beginning of the Entrance chant, or while the priest approaches the altar, until the end of the Collect; for the Alleluia chant before the Gospel; while the Gospel itself is proclaimed; during the Profession of Faith and the Prayer of the Faithful; from the invitation, Orate, fratres (Pray, brethren), before the prayer over the offerings until the end of Mass, except at the places indicated below.

They should, however, sit while the readings before the Gospel and the responsorial Psalm are proclaimed and for the homily and while the Preparation of the Gifts at the Offertory is taking place; and, as circumstances allow, they may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed.

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.

Is it possible that, since the GIRM says “unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise”,  the local bishop has thought to interpret the time after the Agnus Dei to include the time after reception of Holy Communion and that therefore he is imposing his will on people to require them to stand through the completed distribution of Communion?

Nahhhh…. that can’t be right.  That would be just plain weird.

I cannot see the point in trying to force people to stand until every one has received Communion.   What’s that all about?  Can’t there be a little flexibility at this point… as there has always been?

Some people cannot receive and need to remain in place, perhaps to kneel and pray and make a spiritual communion, maybe or to reflect with sorrow on their black, soul-threatening unconfessed sins.

Perhaps you could drop a respectful note to the pastor and/or local bishop asking why people are being forced to stand until everyone has received Holy Communion.

ASK FATHER and the readers here would like to know what response you get.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ASK FATHER Question Box, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Andy Milam says:

    Fr. Z,

    You say, ” … I cannot see the point in trying to force people to stand until every one has received Communion. What’s that all about? … ”

    I think that the point is that His Excellency wants to create a sense of “We are Church; We are unified” blah, blah, blah…at least that is the reasoning I’ve been given before. So, I presume that if everyone stands, then everyone is equal. If everyone is equal then everyone shares in the priesthood. Yadda, yadda, yadda…

    To me (and who am I), I think that we should be kneeling so that we can worship in a way that is fitting and giving adoration to God. But I’m just a rigid Traddy and won’t ever get it…

  2. Margaret says:

    SOP here in the Diocese of San Jose, sadly… http://www.dsj.org/about-us/bishops/bishops-statements/norms-for-posture-and-the-communion-rite

    But since the CDW has previously stated (will have to dig up the reference) that it does not envision an enforced, unified posture following the reception of communion, I feel no qualms about kneeling down again after receiving. Many people do. It seems the bishop has overstepped his bounds on this point.

  3. FXR2 says:

    Just a guess, Diocese of Trenton?

  4. Geoffrey says:

    This was heavily promoted in my diocese by our previous bishop. I used to kneel for a few moments of prayer and then stood. Then I read something from the CDW that the faithful cannot be mandated to not kneel, so I began kneeling, ignoring the “announcement” that was made prior to Mass. I now attend a parish where everyone happens to kneel after receiving Communion (though they sit during distribution?!). Our new bishop personally told me that as far as he is concerned, anyone can kneel if they so choose, though some pastors still “mandate” the previous bishop’s instructions.

    There was one unfortunate incident where fellow pew-mates (liberals) fought with my sister over lifting up and putting down the kneeler. It was very sad.

  5. Rich says:

    The above question makes me wonder whether the same folks who may use the GIRM to justify standing after Communion would be just as interested in following other parts of the GIRM.

    In the Monterey diocese in some churches they have the cantor or somebody announce that it’s custom in the diocese that everyone remain standing until all have received Communion. This automatically makes people feel like fussy rebels if by some odd chance they are compelled to fall on their knees in thanksgiving and adoration upon having received into body and soul the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Almighty God made flesh. You could have the wackiest liturgical abuses taking place, but, by God, EVERYONE better be standing during Communion.

  6. FrCharles says:

    This was the demand where I studied for the priesthood.

  7. No such regulations that I know of here in Philadelphia…Being away from Liturgical Purgatory (aka Los Angeles Archdiocese) has its advantages. It wasn’t uniform in Los Angeles, some knelt others stood, others sat.

  8. Pavegs says:

    At my seminary we are required to remain standing until all have recieved. This has been the practice for a long time and is not in accord with the norms of the Archdiocese it is in. It is incredibly ackward for guests and in my opinion a rather pretentious practice as it sends the message that we know better than everyone else in the archdiocese. To make things worse every time there are a large number of guests we make an announcement about “our” practice. I think the reason for it is some arbitrary display of unity. We have tried to get the practice changed but to no avail.

  9. Standing through the Agnus, communion and until the priest sits is supposed to be the norm in the diocese of Gary, from what I’ve heard. (Our bishop has a degree in “liturgy.” sigh.) The idea is supposedly that some elderly people can’t kneel, so it’s unfair for ANYONE to kneel.

    However, most priests I’ve encountered seem to be of the ‘stand OR Kneel, but be prayerful’ school of thought.

    Personally, I prefer kneeling–for some reason I find it easier to focus on prayer when I’m on my knees. In fact, I wish it was acceptable to kneel throughout the OF!

  10. Bookish says:

    SOP in the Diocese of San Francisco, too, at least in my parish. I miss kneeling.

  11. JohnE says:

    I was visiting a parish where that was done also, with announcements being made before Mass and again before Communion that it was this parish’s tradition to remain standing until everyone had received. So it wasn’t even something that came from the bishop. I knelt in prayer for a few moments after I received (as did several others) and then stood until everyone had received.

    When a pastor establishes the precedent that he can do whatever he wants without regard to the bishop, he should not be dismayed when parishioners use similar reasoning to do whatever they want without regard to the pastor.

  12. momoften says:

    Thanks for the topic discussed Father. Unfortunately we stand in Gaylord, we started standing after the Agnes Dei until after the last to receive the Blessed Sacrament with our last Bishop…grrrr. Our new bishop hasn’t stopped, yet–though I believe it is a matter of time before it changes. I am now going to send a letter to him begging to change with your encouragement. I am a mother, trying to instill in my children that when Father says” This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins…..” we are on our knees as we do sincerely believe it is God. We also kneel after we receive as the posture does help pray better. I guess when we started doing this, my husband and I believed that it would be God we would be before someday and not the Bishop….AGAIN even through this little variation these bishops do seem to destroy not only the reverence of the moment but also takes away from one of the Marks of the Church to me. We really are not celebrating Mass in the same way. My father , 72 , horribly complains when he was young, no matter where he went(before the NO Mass) the Mass was the same reverent Mass he could count on, now—-it is in disarray. Thank God for the EF of the Mass…well, God Bless Pope Benedict for allowing wider use of Extraordinary Form.

  13. Peggy R says:

    Our parish has the school kids stand like this for weekday school masses. As I am not a student, I don’t conform. The Regnum Christi women stood for the duration of communion like this for masses at their Bethesda, MD, retreat house. I went to several 1/2 Saturday retreats there some years ago where I experienced this. And of course, all bets are off regarding LC and the lay movement these days!

  14. tioedong says:

    I kneel after communion, and then sit. Kneeling, I can pray quietly to God, looking straight at the cross or covering my eyes. Sitting, ditto. Standing? Too busy trying not to faint. We don’t “talk” to each other standing, so who decided this is how we “talk” to God?

    Whoever decided that we need to “pray” standing needs to be cursed with arthritis or a bad back or postural hypotension.

  15. PomeroyonthePalouse says:

    Here in Spokane, our former bishop (oh he of happy memory!) (or is it “happy are we that he’s a memory”?) mandated standing after the Agnus Dei. And we did all the way down here on the Palouse. But whenever we went to Mass in Spokane (even at the Cathedral) it seemed like people were kneeling. I followed the practice because…. well, just because I guess. Since we now have Bishop Cupich and I have no idea what he prefers, I’m kneeling.

    I dislike all these “do what local practice” calls for allowances in the GIRM. The world or national Roman practice may be to kneel, except in Spokane. Likewise, the priest is supposed to clean the sacred vessels after communion. Except in our parish where the the extraordinary “ministers” do it. If the bishop or parish priest can do it how he likes — whatever the GIRM calls for — why can’t I? I thought we were one, holy, catholic apostolic church. Universal. Not just pick and choose what our little backwater parish wants to do.


  16. Ceile De says:

    Hey Joe – at least Los Angeles is no longer Liturgical Hell, just Liturgical Purgatory – with less than a year to go!!
    I made my first Holy Communion in the early 1970’s – we were taught to kneel, receive on the tongue, go back to our pew, and kneel.
    I know I was away for a while but what the hell, er, purgatory, happened in the meantime?
    Deo Gratias pro Summorum Pontificum.

  17. Mike says:

    This is done in some Byzantine Churches during the Easter Season because of a canon from an early Council (Nicea I?) that kneeling should not occur on the day of the Resurrection. On the first Sunday when kneeling is again permitted, the evening of Pentecost, there is a service called “Kneeling Vespers” where a number of prayers are specific to the congregation’s posture of kneeling are said.

    It is also done in the local Latin Church because it “makes the assembly more unified as community.”

  18. I prefer to stand after receiving, though I almost always kneel or sit according the local practice. I can’t say that I particularly understand kneeling in general (I do in the head, but not in heart, so to speak) and find it easier to pray standing. Simeon Stylites was able to pray standing.

    I recall the G.I.R.M saying that one can choose to kneel, sit or stand, but either that was in an old version or I invented that memory.

  19. Marcin says:

    So the priest doesn’t like the minutia of what you do at Mass?

    Just turn him back toward the Lord. Make him conversus ad Dominum.
    At last, and once and for all.

  20. UncleBlobb says:

    I know that remaining standing until EVERYONE has received Holy Communion is the official writ in my home diocese. Whenever I visit there now I see people standing until either the tabernacle is closed on rare occasions, and on the majority of occasions people merely stand until everyone has received and then sit down as though nothing special happened. I have personally struggled with remaining standing out of a desire to be obedient in spite of my own inclinations, and am sincerely grateful to God that he has removed me to a far-away-diocese where kneeling from after the Agnus Dei and beyond is still the norm in OF masses, and even EF masses are regularly accessible here! As for my former diocese, I be prayers of my fellow WDTPRS-ers if I may? Its identity will have to remain “ineffable”.

  21. mwa says:

    Didn’t this start in ’97 with Mahony’s “Gather Faithfully Together”?

  22. Tom Ryan says:

    “…until All have received Communion.” This is a curious phrase that is repeated. Are these liturgical tinkerers capable of imagining a situation where Communion wouldn’t be received by All?

    Like cattle, they are herded out of their pews by ushers in what is usually the most orderly part of an OF Mass. Pew by pew; no body cut in line…. Two rows please.

    The pew dividers are gone and staying behind against the flow is often physically the most awkward thing to do. As a rule, I won’t receive if there are EMHCs present and I’m frequently alone. Then some well intentioned soul will come back and say, “Sir, would you like to have Communion with us?” No thank you.

  23. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    Would this be a parish in Amherst Ohio? The Diocese of Cleveland?

    Sounds like the parish that my sister and her family USED TO attend. After a youth Mass during a preparation period for my eldest niece’s Confirmation, where the pastor did that very thing and in fact stopped communion to publicly humiliate my niece for KNEELING AFTER RECEIVING the Most Holy and Blessed Sacrament.

    Well, my sister and her family just stopped going to Sunday Mass, and will go with other family members (like our mom, or my brother in law’s mother) .

    Such actions are how many people LEAVE the CHURCH.

  24. mrsmontoya says:

    “Is it possible that, since the GIRM says “unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise”, the local bishop has thought to interpret the time after the Agnus Dei to include the time after reception of Holy Communion and that therefore he is imposing his will on people to require them to stand through the completed distribution of Communion?”

    In the Diocese of San Jose, California, we have been asked to stand through the complete distribution of Communion, ‘to show unity in posture as a Diocese.’ The Cathedral does not have kneelers, and my parish was told we were therefore asked to remain standing in our churches, because those attending Mass at the Cathedral could not kneel. Before you condemn our Bishop, however, I will add that the instructions came second- or third-hand, from a former pastor who did not have a strong interest in clearly defining potentially divisive instructions. I did ask the Bishop in person if I could kneel, and he did say “yes, absolutely,” but added that those at the Cathedral did not and he encouraged everyone to show ‘unity in posture.’

    Please take any heat you feel after reading this and convert it back into energy, then use that energy to power prayer for us. I think an Our Father in Latin would do the trick. . . Thank you.

  25. vernonq says:

    I cannot possibly see how those attending Mass at the Cathedral cannot kneel (unless infirm or elderly). You do not need kneelers of hassocks in order to kneel. If there’s space to stand between the rows of chairs than there is room to kneel.

    It is most disrespectful to the Blessed Sacrament not to kneel – but then much Post-concilliar thinking and actions are also disrespectful.

    Even with creaking knees as I get older I always kneel for the “Ecce Agnus Dei” (or English equivalent) through until the Tabernacle is closed after Communion – except of course whilst waiting in the queue to receive Communion – on the tongue of course!

  26. thebigweave says:

    And this is why I LOVE my parish in the Spokane diocese! Our former parochial vicar said in one of our classes, “If you are going to kneel until the Blessed Sacrament is in the Tabernacle, then you might as well kneel till the ‘Let us Pray'” in the OF….so we did! What a wonderful time to thank our Blessed Lord for the gift of the Eucharist. God Bless these young, holy priests. To be even luckier still, when we lost this priest to his own parish, our new pastor has brought us the EF as well as the OF. Both are always reverent. This past Sunday we had a Solemn High Mass with habited sisters singing Gregorian Chant, and many of our diocesan seminarians as servers. Would that every Mass strike the heart of EVERY Catholic with the yearning for the salvation of souls. Amen!

  27. Kaneohe says:


    This document explains why we stand during Holy Communion. I am shocked that so few people know of it – as it might make good fodder for the fire pile….
    (Standing for and during Holy Communion drives me absolutely crazy as it does many other people in our diocese, but the rules are the rules and we do as bishop orders us. But with that said, this document, among a few others, was and is used to justify why we stand in our diocese.)

  28. Anonymous Seminarian says:

    The CDW has, in fact, explicitly addressed this exact issue in Notitiae, found here http://www.adoremus.org/Notitiae-kneeling.html

  29. kradcliffe says:

    I didn’t know that we were allowed to sit after communion. I thought we were supposed to kneel until the Sacrament was put into the tabernacle and the priest sat down, himself.

    This comes as a relief to me, as I tend to kneel for a moment of prayer, and then sit. Now, I don’t have to feel guilty about it!

  30. Kaneohe says:

    Anonymous Seminarian : you have the wrong topic – it’s not kneeling FOR communion rather it is the community as a whole standing at their pews/chairs during the distribution of communion to the entire community.

  31. Joe in Canada says:

    from the CDW: In the implementation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, therefore, posture should not be regulated so rigidly as to forbid individual communicants from kneeling or sitting when returning from having received Holy Communion.

  32. Bryan Boyle says:

    The more the liturgical mechanics tinker with the machine, the more they force parts to fit “just because this looks good”, the more they invariably badger people with innovations because they can (so they think), the less relevant they become, and the more souls they put in danger.

    Why do I say danger? Assisting at Mass should be an uplifting encounter with God and the unmerited gift of His Son’s real and substantial presence to us fallen men. It should not be an occasion of the sin of anger or disgust. Don’t these self-appointed ‘moderators’ of taste have anything better to do? I guess we should be thankful they’re not in a position of actual power over life and death, huh?

    It should also NOT be a futile exercise in trying to figure out what has changed (or been omitted), what loopy interpretation of an option has been implemented, or an occasion for having to go to the dentist the next day because you ground your porcelain overlays off your front teeth from gritting them so hard (or ducking the priest’s left hook because you didn’t glad hand everyone around you at the Pax.)

    Vote with your feet, friends, if you are in a position to do so. There are pockets of good, solemn, and faithful Masses. Maybe I’m lucky…my ‘territorial parish’ in the Philly Archdiocese was so strange in its interpretation of the rubrics that I travel 2 dioceses away (skipping over Trenton…but that may be changing after the current bishop retires next year, and I know of an EXCELLENT parish in Yardville whose pastor has been ASKING me to join…) to one which, while not perfect (there are ‘strangenesses’, like omitting the Creed on Sunday when the good Father’s homily goes on for more than 15 minutes… and the legions of blue-haired EMHCs that assault the altar to ‘assist’, and the incessant clapping after the procession…), has saved me some dental bills.

    Above all…offer up the suffering through this for the release of a soul in Purgatory. I’m sure the legions of Saints are gritting their teeth too…and much of this foolishness is a real cause of Our Lady’s tears of sadness.

  33. ddobbs says:

    I have noticed that we Catholics are habitual creatures and often do things or say things (even praying) without thinking of what we are saying or doing. Every Good Friday there are invariably a large number of people who genuflect to an empty tabernacle (I’ve even seen someone genuflect in a movie theater). Take the confiteor for instance do I follow through on the request that everyone else in the church is making to me: “pray for me to the Lord our God”?

    During the communion rite the action is primarily corporate and not primarily personal. The church asks the congregation to sing until everyone has finished receiving Communion. I am a music director so I do not get the luxury of “reflecting” immediately after I receive Communion because I am leading the congregation in singing, but I am consciously praying for every person going to communion that they would make a good and holy communion and be even a little bit more receptive to what the Lord is doing and wants to do in their hearts. I picked up this practice in the seminary. The director of formation instructed us to stand until all of us had finished receiving communion and to pray for each brother as they were going up, and then to take time for personal prayer and reflection.

    I personally have no preference as to the stance of the congregation during communion but I tend to prefer uniformity at mass because we are praying as a body. I cannot go to mass as an individual first but firstly as a member of the mystical body of Christ, neither can I pray “My Father” during the Lord’s prayer. When I respond “Amen” to “The Body of Christ” I am acknowledging that I am receiving the Lord Sacramentally, that I am saying Amen to all that the Church holds and teaches, and I am saying Amen to the fact that Communion unites me in a mystical way in Christ to the parishioners around me.

    I think that we can pray for each other whether kneeling, sitting, or standing. As far as postures go, I personally see kneeling as a more inward and self-reflective posture, sitting is usually instructive or discursive and when standing I am usually focused outward. In that light I see no problem with having the congregation stand until everyone has received Communion. Be that as it may, I would rather see better catechesis on what is actually happening during Communion; forcing everyone to stand or kneel does not necessarily imply that the congregation will understand why they are doing just that.

  34. loyalpapist says:

    Our Bishop (now former) introduced this practice in our diocese about five yrs ago. We were instructed to stand for the communion procession, and to remain standing until all had received Our Lord. After the Blessed Sacrament was reposed to the Tabernacle, we could then sit or kneel. The Bishop’s reasoning was that we are a pilgrim church and we are on this journey together. The problems we encountered were the fault of the individual priests. They did a very poor job of explaining why the Bishop wanted the change (poor catechizing), if they did it at all. I know that at my local parish, we had a mess, some knelt as soon as they returned to their pews, others quit kneeling altogether. It was very confusing, and it caused division. I vented my frustration to a friend of mine who is a priest, and he very easily explained to me why the Bishop had made this change and what the Bishop was trying to accomplish. I understood the teaching of our Bishop and no longer rebelled, I even passed along my newfound understanding of this teaching to my fellow parishioners. The Bishop is responsible for teaching the Faith, but he needs our cooperation. If I hadn’t have been lucky enough to have a friend (priest) who understood the Bishop’s teaching, and cared enough about me to enlighten me, I would still have been protesting at every Holy Mass. Our duty is First Obedience in Charity.
    God Bless
    PS. My friend is the Rector of the Cathedral and when you attend Mass there, the WHOLE congregation Kneels after Our Lord Jesus is reposed to the Tabernacle. :)

  35. John 6:54 says:

    I’ve always got more out of kneeling at & during & after communion and when I’ve traveled I found that the places that stand are less reverent as a whole not just because they are standing during communion. I’ve never had an issue kneeling when everyone else is standing and when I’m in that situation it seems to cause others to think about what’s really going on and I’ve even seen other people decide they were going to kneel too. After all it’s the King of kings who is present. My Lord & Savior!

  36. Several people have mentioned obedience, as in, needing to be obedient to the directive to kneel until everybody has received Communion. My question is: is this really a situation where obedience is owed?

  37. loyalpapist says:


    I think that if your Bishop has asked for something explicitly, then yes, this is really something we need to be obedient to.

    God Bless

  38. Well, surely there are limits to the bishop’s ability to command my obedience. Surely there is a sphere of activity that is left to my sound discretion as a layman, even in matters of worship. If Rome has left it to my discretion whether to kneel after Communion, how can the bishop order me to stand?

  39. loyalpapist says:

    It is, of course, your decision to make and you are free to make it how ever you see fit although I highly doubt that any Bishop would *order* you to kneel or stand. What I am suggesting is that we have a duty to be obedient to our Lord. Our understanding is partial and our vision is clouded so we might not be seeing the issue as we should or could. Give the Bishop the obedience that is due to him, step back from the issue and see if we are seeing it clearly, and Pray for Prudence.
    God Bless

  40. Papabile says:

    I had no idea this existed until yesterday.

    Multis in locibus christifideles solent in privata oratione genibus flexis sistere vel sedere postquam repetunt suas sedes, cum singuli recepissent sacram Eucharistiam in Missa. Utrum statuta editionis typicae tertiae Missalis Romani prohibeant hunc usum?

    ?. Negative et ad mentem.

    Mens est ut per praescripta Institutionis Generalis Missalis Romani, n. 43, intenditur ex una parte praestare latis terminis aliquam uniformitatem habitus corporis in congregatione pro variis partibus celebrationis sanctae Missae, simulque ex alia parte non moderari habitum corporis ita rigide, ut qui velint genibus flexis sistere vel sedere non amplius ad id liberi sint.

    Notitiae 39 (2003), 533.

  41. Jayna says:

    In my up-til-recently parish, everyone stands as soon as Communion begins (the cantor says, and I quote, “let us stand as we approach the table of the Lord”) and then they remain standing until Communion is over. No one says specifically that you are to stand after receiving, so I always knelt when I returned to my pew. This isn’t an Archdiocesan thing, this occurs in just this parish (and I know it wasn’t an “innovation” from the current pastor, they were doing it long before he arrived).

    I’m sure I need not explain why this is no longer my parish.

Comments are closed.