QUAERITUR: Is it right to genuflect in a Catholic church?

From a reader:

I have become confused by genuflexion and I am hopeful you may be able to clear up my problem. I am a convert from Anglicanism and in that tradition I had always genuflected when entering or leaving the pew, and when crossing the church in front of the tabernacle. So, if I walked through the church without sitting down I would still stop in the middle, turn towards the tabernacle, and genuflect.

What I am wondering is whether genuflecting at that time is actually
the right thing to do in a Catholic church? After coming over to Rome
I naturally continued to do this, whenever I thought I could, as by
then it was the natural thing for me, but recently I have begun to
feel like perhaps I shouldn’t. Nobody, including priests, genuflects when crossing a church and so I have begun to suspect this is not an orthodox or Catholic practice. [grrrrrr]

On a related note I am also confused about what constitutes “in front
of a tabernacle.” As an Anglican it was easy as the churches were
generally straightforward affairs with a single aisle down the middle.
I had no trouble knowing I was walking in front of the altar and
tabernacle as “in front” was a simple and observable condition.
However, all of our churches here are roundish buildings with numerous radiating aisles. If it is still proper to genuflect when “passing in front of a tabernacle” how can we know when exactly we are doing this? I suppose I am curious about when exactly it is proper for us to genuflect in a Church?

Yes, it is appropriate to genuflect in a Catholic Church when passing before the tabernacle or when entering and exiting a pew.

Your post underscores the confusion that has arisen because of architectural tinkering, rearrangement – derangement – of churches, etc.   Some designs and some changes to church have had a negative impact on our Catholic identity, because they leave us confused about what to do.  Sometimes it is hard to find the Blessed Sacrament!

But, yes, it is appropriate to genuflect when passing before the tabernacle.  When entering your pew and exiting, genuflect facing or angled toward the Blessed Sacrament.

Another point: if the Blessed Sacrament is not in the center of the church, it is not wrong to make a reverential gesture toward the altar.  Usually this is done with a bow.

Finally, shame on those priests if they are not showing reverence to the Blessed Sacrament, especially when lay people are present.  Shame on them.  Shame on them.  They have contributed to confusion and have weakened the Catholic identity of the faithful in one of the most important aspects of our faith.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. traditionalorganist says:

    Years ago, my Father asked our parish priest why he didn’t genuflect when processing in at Mass (or at any other time). The priest retorted with some story about bad knees or bad back. Even if true, neither was there a public explanation or encouragement to the parish to do the same. We need to be re-educated in our faith and in our liturgy.

  2. Kris says:

    There is one particular parish in town with the tabernacle in the main body of the church, but on the side (about a 90 degree turn from the altar itself). When I’ve gone there, I took to genuflecting toward the tabernacle instead of bowing to the altar, since the tabernacle was so visible. You’d think you were starting a fire in there with some of the looks.

  3. chatto says:

    Am I right in thinking that as a server, when passing a central Tabernacle during Mass (to take the Thurible to Father etc…), we shouldn’t genuflect? I’m sure I read somewhere that those who have a place on the sanctuary only genuflect at the start and at the end of Mass. On a more topic specific note, in our Cathedral the Tabernacle is in a beautiful chapel, to the south of the sanctuary. All my friends bow to the altar when passing it, and genuflect when passing that chapel.

  4. In my experience much of it is honest confusion, caused by good folks who are imitating what they see in the liturgy.

    In may parish, Mass is celebrated by the book and so the priest (during Mass) makes a profound bow to the Altar (and tabernacle behind it) everytime he crosses the sanctuary (going to proclaim the gospel, etc.). The servers do the same. As a result, I think many well intentioned people have begun imitating this gesture. So while many still genuflect before going into the pew or crossing the center of church, many others now make a profound bow. It seems to me in many cases to be an honest mistake although, perhaps in other parishes it’s just regarded as passé.

  5. Tina in Ashburn says:

    I chuckled reading this post. Such irony. Yea, even us Catholics are confused and can be made uncomfortable when trying quietly to do the right thing in our very own churches. God Bless the writer.

    There are parishes that are better at allowing or even encouraging reverence. They do exist.

    I am basically a sheep and dislike being made to look out of the ordinary when observing traditional practices. It feels odd to wear a veil [the rules NEVER changed about covering our heads and limbs], bowing during the consecration, and such things. I’ve spent all my life with this unsettled feeling – don’t like it, but you get used to it. Ever heard of the “Last of the Mohicans”? LOL.

    Again, this is why I value Fr Z’s blog and others like it – There are a lot of us out here. COURAGE!

  6. Benjamin says:

    I was very surprised reading this. Here in Europe (& particulary in Eastern Europe) Catholic tradition is to genuflect when entering or leaving the pew, and when crossing the church in front of the tabernacle. It is not an obsolete tradition, we keep it strictly. I didn’t even heard anyone to proclaim genuflecting as “passé”. However there is some confusion in our midst about the use of the holy water: many well intentioned believers dip their fingers in the holy water & make the sign of the cross also when leaving the church, even though customarily upon leaving we make only the sign of the cross without dipping the fingers in the holy water.

  7. Re: in front of the tabernacle

    If the tabernacle is in some non-central place, it might be a good thing to genuflect toward it when you enter church, and then again when you approach within twenty or thirty feet (like in the aisle in front of it, or the pew in front of it). Genuflecting when you enter church is a perfectly respectable old custom, though various ethnic groups follow it more than others (probably due to church architecture back in the day).

    On the bright side, when the tabernacle isn’t in a central place, it may be more possible to visit it on your way to your seat, etc. This will give you more opportunity to kneel than you otherwise would. For example, our choir comes across into church by a door that’s very close to the tabernacle sitting on a side altar, so the bright side is that I can very easily turn aside to kneel as we go by.

    The dark side is that if you’re hauling equipment out of one of the church closets to the other side of church, you have to both carry your burden and kneel in front of the tabernacle and then bow in front of the altar as you cross; but that’s probably good for my soul as well as my muscles. :)

    (Btw, is there a word for the non-sacristy storage area that mirrors the sacristy on the other side? Pretty much every Catholic church I’ve ever been in has one, but it doesn’t seem to have a name other than “over there”. My old church used to use one as a server staging area and closet, but most seem to just use them as flower staging areas and locked storage cabinet space now.)

  8. When i pass the Tabernacle, I genuflect, no matter when it is. That whole bowing thing pretending that Jesus isn’t there for an hour just doesn’t make sense to me. I’ll genuflect until I can’t anymore. GIRM 274 needs to be revised or be re-written: “If the Tabernacle is at the center during the Holy Mass, bow to the altar, and then do the normal reverence to the Tabernacle” or something like that. (Which is how all of my priest friends that hate that rubric deal with it during Mass)

  9. I have a related question. I always cross myself when driving past a Catholic Church. But what about when I drive past an Eastern/Greek Orthodox Church? Do the Orthodox even reserve the Blessed Sacrament, like we do?

    Thanks in advance.

  10. Patikins says:

    At my mom’s parish (which I mentioned in another thread earlier today) the pastor does not genuflect — ever — not even when the rubrics call for it. I know that it is not due to knee or back problems. He is very physically active and skis whenever there is enough snow on the ground each winter. I know priests who cannot genuflect but they usually make a profound bow. This priest makes a barely noticeable head nod where the rubrics call for him to genuflect. It makes me so sad..and mad! No one in the parish genuflects either…no great surprise.

  11. Scitoviasdomini says:

    To chatto:
    Altar servers (by which I mean those who are not sacred ministers) are always to genuflect before the tabernacle (or bow to the altar when the tabernacle is empty) during Mass, with the following exceptions: the crucifer, when bearing the processional Cross, does not genuflect; servers with candles/torches do not genuflect ONLY when they are attending the crucifer with processional Cross — otherwise, they genuflect normally. The Sacred Ministers (celebrant, deacon, and sub-deacon, should there be one) have their own special rules; there are, indeed, times when one or more them will pass before the tabernacle without genuflecting, and these times are clearly spelled out in the rubrics.
    Another tricky area is genuflection when “Verbum caro factum est” is read as part of the normal Gospel (it should, of course, in the older rites, always be read at the end of Mass) — a situation that normally occurs only on Christmas Day — and servers and crucifer are attending the reading of the Gospel, they also do not genuflect (neither would any minister holding the book; though the minister reading/chanting the Gospel, as well as the MC, thurifer, and any other attendants, would genuflect). The reasoning put to me by the sacristan who trained me is that during the reading of the Gospel, the crucifer, servers, and minister holding the book are acting as “furniture” and therefore don’t move. This also applies during Holy Week when, in reading/chanting/singing the Passion, Jesus “emisit spiritum” and all kneel, except attendants to the Gospel party.

    To Suburbanbanshee:
    I was told (for what it’s worth) that when you are so burdened by furniture, boxes full of 8-day candles, etc., when you pass before the tabernacle, a pause with a bow of the head is sufficient reverence. Likewise, if you have bad knees or a bad back, such that you might not be able to get back up should you genuflect, a reverential bow is sufficient. What’s important is the reverence; its form may be tempered by exigencies.

  12. Former Altar Boy says:

    Our pastor (FSSP – how lucky are we?) told us this story from Padre Pio. The future saint went into the chapel to pray in the middle of the night and found an elderly monk tending the altar. Padre Pio did not recognize him and asked him why he was up so late arranging the altar. The old monk told Padre Pio that he was in Purgatory and this was his penance for passing in front of the tabernacle during his time on earth and NOT genuflecting to the Blessed Sacrament.

    Take a hint, gang. Even if your pastor isn’t providing a good example, genuflect to Our Lord. Would you show respect by rising if the President walked in the room? What deference will you show to the King of Kings?

  13. Will D. says:

    The normal practice at my parish is that people genuflect when getting into and out of their pews. Most genuflect (or at least, bow) when passing the foremost pews into the area surrounding the sanctuary. Very few genuflect when crossing the center aisle.

    Father has made great strides in ensuring that the altar servers, lectors, and EMHCs bow before entering the sanctuary. He always bows when crossing the sanctuary and genuflects when entering and leaving it, and when opening and closing the tabernacle.

  14. poohbear says:

    This may be a very simplistic reply, but all I could think of when reading the title Is it right to genuflect in a Catholic church? was : “It is right to give Him thanks and praise!”

    On another note, one of the fondest memories I have of my mother is her teaching me to genuflect upon entering church.

  15. Gail F says:

    About half the people in my parish genuflect when they enter or leave a pew, but almost no one bows or genuflects when crossing the church. I was taught to genuflect to the altar (not the tabernacle — the pews always face the altar but not always the tabernacle) when entering or exiting a pew but to make a profound bow when crossing the church only if the tabernacle is there. If it’s at some other place, then you bow when/if you pass it. Is that wrong?

    Here is a question for you: Everyone at a very devout church I sometimes attends bows or genuflects when they come into the building from the vestibule — there is a hallway in front of the chapel, but the door to the chapel is always open so you can always see the tabernacle. But at another building I go to frequently, where there is also a hall in front of the chapel, the doors to the chapel are typically closed. I generally pause and bow when I pass the doors, because I am in the habit from the other building, but I would like to know if that is overpious and “showy.”

  16. TMA says:

    Poohbear, I also have fond memories of my mother teaching us to genuflect. She used to tell us that anyone who refused to genuflect was in league with the one who said, “I will not serve.”

    In our FSSP parish, we genuflect every time we cross in front of the tabernacle. The only exception is on Good Friday when the Blessed Sacrament has been removed from the church, and all images of Our Lord and all other sacred images are covered. But by Holy Saturday morning, a crucifix appears on the main altar, and we have been instructed to genuflect whenever we pass by. For this reason, when we visit a parish where the Blessed Sacrament is kept in a reservation chapel, we still genuflect if there is a crucifix on or above the altar.

  17. Papabile says:

    Even in the new rite, the GIRM makes the point that one is to genuflect to the crucifix exposed from Holy Thursday through Holy Saturday — when the Blessed Sacrament is not even present.

    I maintain the older custom of genuflecting to the altar cross should a tabernacle be absent. Of course that custom is relevant again since Summorum Pontificum.

  18. Sandy says:

    It is so painful to see the practice of genuflecting eroding more and more. Our tabernacle is in a “chapel” off to the side of the main altar, so when I enter my pew I make it a point to turn a bit and genuflect towards the tabernacle. I intend to focus on my Lord’s presence, even if I have to, as you say Father, angle myself to face the tabernacle.

  19. MrD says:

    I have always genuflected when crossing the tabernacle or entering/existing the pew. I was taught to bow when passing the altar.

    In my parish, and older, more liberal priest remarked to me that kneeling and bowing were vestiges of old Roman court customs and are not necessarily required or special to the Church.

  20. MrD says:

    Also… all of my daughters (ages 5 -1 1/2) genuflect as their mommy and daddy do…

    Many adults do not and spend most of their time before mass yapping and walking around (wearing shorts, t-shirts and chewing gum)

  21. Servant of the Liturgy says:

    I’ve been hammering at this for years.

    We lead by example!!

    Start making some sort of reverence. Genuflect, bow, heck lay prostrate for five minutes: people WILL notice, quite possibly ask, and sooner or later, follow suit.

  22. ghp95134 says:

    I attend Our Lady of Peace Church and Shrine (Santa Clara, CA), an IVE-administered parish whose congregants are more conservative than many NO parishes.

    A convert, I was taught by my sponsor to ALWAYS kneel on both knees when entering/departing the church when the Blessed Sacrament is displayed (24/7 Eucharistic Adoration here). When the Monstrance curtain is closed, then “merely” genuflect. Most congregants genuflect when entering/exiting the pews, and seeing a chapel veil is not uncommon here. The only thing that would make me happier would be if the EF could be prayed here.

    Servant of the Liturgy says: …heck lay prostrate for five minutes… A few of the older Filipinos here will, after entering the church, procede up the aisle on their knees before entering a pew.


  23. wmeyer says:

    And when the tabernacle is in a different room? What then? At my parish (despite the fundamental norms of the diocese requiring it to be behind the altar), the tabernacle is in the chapel which adjoins the church proper.

  24. polycarped says:

    When I genuflect I make a point of doing so VERY slowly to make it as visible as possible to the majority who just don’t bother – leading by example is definitely the way ahead in my view. Quite often I’ll do it even more slowly at the end of Mass as it gets right in the way of the multitude who are hurrying down the aisle to leave the church! On a related point: at my sister’s church – there are no kneelers. Say no more! The looks of ‘Does he think he’s some kind of saint?’ during the Eucharistic prayer are fantastic. But what a sad state of affairs… Ona positive note (slightly off topic – but just to demonstrate there is light!) I attended THE only Catholic Church in Tajikistan last week. Amazing. It was hard to find, the congregation is tiny but what a gem. I couldn’t keep my attention away from two young brothers (one about 10, the other about 6) who were there – by themselves – deeply involved in the Mass from beginning to end with the older one showing the younger how to follow the well-worn Missal he was holding . They didn’t hesistate to kneel on bare wooden and quite painful pews for the duration and sang their hearts out. I was almost reduced to tears. We have become so blazee!!! See..? It’s not only Fr Z who rants ;)

  25. B.Questa says:

    What I wonder is – Are you still required to genuflect if you are outside of the chapel but only separated by glass doors? In other words, you can see the tabernacle but you are not in the chapel. I’ve seen this at a seminary where there are a few offices outside of the chapel and depending on what one was doing, one could be crossing the chapel constantly.

  26. Jayna says:

    “Sometimes it is hard to find the Blessed Sacrament!”

    If there’s even a tabernacle there at all. My previous parish only has one in the chapel, which is in the back corner of the church building (it’s a separate room with windows) and has reversible pews so that the backs are switched around and people sit with their back facing the tabernacle on Sundays. Did I mention that this is my previous parish?

    At my current parish, all priests genuflect when passing or approaching the tabernacle. Except during Mass, when the ridiculous rules about bowing toward the altar come up. Something that I think confuses the altar servers, because some of them bow and some of the genuflect when moving to and fro before Mass.

  27. Sliwka says:

    I am reminded of someone (an atheist, or Protestant, or someone like that) quipped that if he believed as we do that he would crawl on his hands and knees to receive the Lord.

  28. pH says:

    My Dad wore a surgical steel brace on one leg from the knee to a built up shoe. His other leg was muscle damaged from the hip to the knee. All from polio in 1911, when he was about a year old. He always genuflected (at adoration on 2 knees) and knelt. An elderly woman in our parish who had suffered two strokes always genuflected. With difficulty! I noticed today that the college chapel has chairs with no kneelers (a pretty easy buy, nowadays.) It wouldn’t hutt the students young faith or their young knees to kneel. Thank God for the example of my Dad and that elderly woman.

  29. JPG says:

    I consider myself fortunate in CT. Our NO parish has the tabernacle where it should be contrary to local current custom in other Parishes. I have raised my daughters to genuflect when passing the tabernacle and to remain kneeling until the tabernacle is closed at and after communion. I was also raised to genuflect with both knees if the Blessed Sacrament is exposed . I to this day have issues not dropping to my knees when an extraordinary minister is visiting the sick bearing the Blessed Sacrament in the hospital. I mentally make a reverence. This issue needs to be retaught.

  30. The Cobbler says:

    “(Btw, is there a word for the non-sacristy storage area that mirrors the sacristy on the other side? Pretty much every Catholic church I’ve ever been in has one, but it doesn’t seem to have a name other than “over there”. My old church used to use one as a server staging area and closet, but most seem to just use them as flower staging areas and locked storage cabinet space now.)”
    That old church wouldn’t by any chance be the Old St. Mary’s in downtown Cincinnati, would it? I forget if we called that spot “the servers’ room” or if there was some other name for it. I have the uncanny feeling I did use to know its name…

  31. Tradster says:

    Genuflecting is quite common in my area by nearly everyone except the head bob by most women (religious and lay) over 40. Whenever someone genuflects, including me, it is automatically accompanied by the sign of the cross. Since making the sign is not mentioned in any of the above replies, I am curious if it is simply assumed or if some do not include the sign of the cross when genuflecting.

  32. kelleyb says:

    The Blessed Sacrament is kept in a separate chapel. So I bow to the Altar when entering or leaving the pew or when passing in front of the Altar.
    Unfortunately, our Church is a half step removed from a gymnasium. Until recently, we didn’t have kneelers in the Church. Our new Pastor corrected that after his arrival. Thank you, Lord for sending us your Holy priest.

  33. Gail F says:

    Maybe I got that backwards about genuflecting to the altar and bowing to the tabernacle – is it the other way around? When they are both in front of you it’s hard remember.

  34. JPG says:

    Gail F’
    An interested layman’s faulty memory and poor explanation; The tabernacle houses the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Dear Lord , Jesus Christ, thus one is genuflecting to one’s Creator , Redeemer, Saviour,Just and Final Judge yet one’s only true Friend and one sure Hope. The altar represents Christ, the tabernacle contains Christ. He whom the universe cannot contain deigns, no rather commands that He be present in a substantial way so that we may be nourished by reception of this True Substance , cheered by his reserved Sacramental Presence and ever reminded that all our hope lies with Him and Him alone. He is and remains our only hope and consolation. I have never understood how people spurn this gift and hanker after pilgrimage or some other experience when ignoring the Sacrifice and His True Presence in the Blessed Sacrament every Sunday. Thus one genuflects to the tabernacle because of Who is there. It is greater than the Holy of Holies ever was in Jerusalem and we ,like free wifi, have unlimited access ,unlike the Old Covenant where only the High Priest dare approach. All of this demonstrates the unbounded and unfathomable love that the Blessed Trinity has for fallen humanity. By the Will of the Father and the Work of the Spirit ,He through whom and for whom all things are dwells onder the appearence of Bread so that we may be close to Him and understand how we live in His presence and depend on Him for all things. It also shows us His love and affection for us.

  35. Tim H. says:

    What do you all think when the tabernacle is behind the congregation when seated in the pews?

    I attend noon mass on occasion at a very ugly church from the early 70’s, the kind with the crucifix way off to the side. There is a glass walled chapel (with an ugly frosted glass tabernacle) behind the pews and to the side of the narthex. The architecture, especially the priest’s seat (sedillia?) and altar make me think that Captian Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura are going to beam down any minute.

    Since the tabernacle is behind the pews, I have to approach the pew, turn around 180 degrees, genuflect, turn 180 degrees back the other way toward the altar and then enter the pew. Regulars don’t even genuflect when entering the pews. It is nice to see a few very young men who genuflect when passing the chapel however.

    Should I even bother to genuflect when entering the pew? Should I bow to the alter instead of genuflecting when entering and leaving the pew?

  36. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    “The priest retorted with some story about bad knees or bad back. Even if true, neither was there a public explanation or encouragement to the parish to do the same. We need to be re-educated in our faith and in our liturgy.”

    My situation was that I had multiple knee surgeries, and I was for a time, able to walk with a cane, but NOT bend the knee. I asked my padre (Roman Catholic Chaplain) what to do. He taught me the Profound Liturgical Bow, that was “correct” to use when you cannot “bend the knee.” To this day, I either genuflect or those days my knees do not cooperate, the Profound Liturgical Bow. For Mass, I usually stayed to one of the few pews at the Chapel without a kneeler, and would stand while everyone else knelt.

  37. Tim H. says:

    @ JPG, I just read your response. Perfect! I have the urge to kneel when I hear bells as the ice cream truck passes my house.

    Wondering… I thought that one was to remain kneeling after communion until the tabernacle was closed -and- the priest was seated?


  38. Here is a quote from a Zenit daily news dispatch written by a Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University, that I think would help to clarify things for everyone in the thread:

    “St. Ambrose of Milan says ‘For what is the altar of Christ if not the image of the Body of Christ’ and elsewhere ‘the Altar represents the Body (of Christ) and the Body of Christ is on the altar’ (see Catechism, No. 1383).

    Some Fathers even hazard to say that the altar “is” Christ, a statement which is true in a sense but which today needs to be nuanced so as to avoid causing an erroneous parallel between the symbolic presence in the altar and the substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

    This is why the gesture of respect for the altar differs from that of the tabernacle, for as indicated by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, No. 274-275, ‘A genuflection indicates adoration … while a bow signifies reverence and honor shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them.'” http://www.ewtn.com/library/liturgy/zlitur35.htm

  39. kiwitrad says:

    Our Bishop held a series of meetings called “The Mass in Slow Motion” where he instructed that when we enter the Cathedral we must NOT genuflect towards the tabernacle (which has been shoved to one side where it is only partly visible) but must BOW to the altar. Then we must turn to the person next to us and greet ‘the Christ in them’.
    He also took the kneelers out of the Cathedral and when some people STILL knelt he had the pews moved closer together so that it is very difficult and quite painful to get into the kneeling position. After 4 years enduring this I have finally moved to another church which will allow me to kneel (though not many people do.)

  40. JPG says:

    Not to be snarky , but I would ask of you How many new vocations in your diocese?
    Here in the Bridgeport Diocese (CT, USA) our Bishop , William Lori, has as part of our Seminarians formation, Eucharistic adoration lo and behold I know one young man (son of friends of ours) who is in the Seminary and another who though still quite young is considering the priesthood or Medicine. I would guess that vocations in your diocese have evaporated. Not to stir the pot, but I would love for your ordinary to explain his reasoning to B XVI or the CDF. Implicit in his statements is a denial of the Real Presence and a theology closer to the 39 articles and not the Council of Trent.

  41. o.h. says:

    A film professor claimed that, in Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” Jimmy Stewart’s descent into obsession (which ends in his chasing Kim Novak’s character to her unintended death at the end) is foreshadowed by a scene in which he follows her through a Catholic church and very visibly fails to pause or genuflect before the altar. The prof felt that, for an observant Catholic like Hitchcock, this was a clue to how a man could be overwhelmed by his fears, begin to credit the idea of reincarnation, and eventually harry a woman he loves to her death.

    Surely there is a lesson here.

  42. catoholic says:

    Now I’m worried! Knowledgeable commenters, please advise this poor convert.

    I genuflect on entering the church, leaving my pew, and leaving the church — as most people at my parish do. I thought I was genuflecting to the altar or the “crucifix” on the wall behind it (actually a statue of the Risen Lord with a cross faintly outlined behind him) since there is no crucifix on the altar). Should I actually be genuflecting to the Tabernacle, which is off to one side?

    And what about genuflecting after receiving the Eucharist*? I usually go down on one knee to the “crucifix” (statue of the Risen Lord) and make the sign of the cross. I want to make some sign of reverence instead of just shambling back to my pew. Is this actually wrong? Should I be facing the Tabernacle instead? Or not genuflecting at all?

    Thank you for any advice!

    *In the hand. I was advised by a priest against kneeling to receive.

  43. Agnes of Prague says:

    Benjamin, about using holy water when leaving the church: No one has taught me, but what I figure is that holy water is a sacramental and protects against demons, and that it’s kind of like vitamins: you can’t get too much! (You can get too much vitamins, actually, but you see what I mean). So actually, even if I pass the holy water font more than twice in a certain chapel, I may take holy water again. (The same font… not EVERY font!) I’m not superstitious about it, I think, but I figure that it all helps.

    Also, a Poor Clare postulant told me that you can make the intention that if a few drops of holy water fall to the ground when you are getting your holy water, you offer them for the Poor Souls. Which I think is neat. I am sure they appreciate it.

  44. dtrumbull says:

    I, too, am a convert from Anglicanism and was taught to genuflect when entering or leaving the pew or any time I passed before the altar or tabernacle if what we erroneously believed to be the Blessed Sacrament was present; and if not present we were taught to bow deeply to reverence the altar. Now I’m a Catholic and the Blessed Sacrament is truly present but I’m the only one observing this devotion.

    Relatedly, as an Anglican I was accustomed to cross myself several times during the Mass and to bow every time the name Jesus is said and at a few other places in the Mass and to strike my breast at the confession. My body is so trained to respond to certain words in the Mass that I often continue these Episcopalian practices without even conscienciously intending to. The funny thing is that worshippers around me — persons who have been Catholic since their infant baptism — sometimes copy me because it looks like I know what I’m doing!

    My fellow worshippers must also think me unfriendly as I refrain from profane conversation in church, even to the point of avoiding “hello how are you?” It was so drummed into me that “The LORD is in his holy temple, keep silence before him!” I converted four years ago and it still shocks me when the priest, from the altar or pulpet, greets the congregation with “good morning” rather than “the Lord be with you.”

  45. irishgirl says:

    Very interesting comments from everyone.
    I genuflect whenever I enter or leave the pew, as I’ve always done from childhood-though it gets hard on the knees the older I get!
    I’ve been in churches where the Blessed Sacrament has been shoved over onto a side altar. I turn my head in the direction of the Tabernacle when that happens.
    When I’m driving about and pass by a Catholic church, I’ve been making the habit of doing a quick nod of the head as I go by.
    I see that several of the commentors have FSSP priests in their parishes-oh, how fortunate they are!

  46. cl00bie says:

    I came to reversion after our church had been “wrektovated”. They moved the Blessed Sacrament to a side room they called a Eucharistic chapel (the most isolated, darkest niche in the church). When I learned that you are supposed to genuflec to the Blessed Sacrament in thetabernacle, I would walk down the aisle, and half way down, turn 90 degrees to the right and genuflect to the tabernacle in the side room.

    People would sometimes ask why I did it, and it would be an opportunity for a “teaching moment”.

    When our pastor retired, the new pastor (Dio gratias) moved the tabernacle behind the altar which allowed us to genuflect to the front when we came in.

    Also, at a confirmation I was attending, I watched the priest walk between the altar and the tabernacle and bow to the altar showing his butt to the tabernacle. :(

  47. QMJ says:

    The reader’s comment about roundish style churches reminded me of the church I was at this past Sunday for a baptism. This church was recently built, and it was consecrated only two week ago. The floor plan is horrible. There is no clear sanctuary. The altar is on a round centrally placed platform raised one step above the main floor. The ambo is raised about three feet above the main floor and is placed well behind the altar to the right. The presider’s chair is at the same level as the ambo well behind the altar to the left. The tabernacle is centrally placed well behind the altar and not very prominent (I hope that will change when they get a permanent tabernacle). The point of this description: it did not give any real sense of a sacred space. Consequently, even though I am usually quite conscious about genuflecting I nearly forgot to do so as I was leaving. It is also awkard to genuflect on a slope. If the space itself does not say “sacred” then the people will not act with reverence.

  48. Konichiwa says:

    I notice in many Vietnamese churches, people don’t genuflect or even bow. It’s as though people are going to a live theatre waiting for the emcee to come out and give a show.

  49. kiwitrad says:

    JPG I believe we have 8 seminarians from the WHOLE of NZ. None from our Diocese as you surmised.

  50. homeschoolofthree says:

    In my area of Indiana, most, not all people genuflect, though sadly,when I sometimes am at Mass with a “Catholic” school, teachers send the students in and out of the pews without genuflecting which drives me crazy! Another thing that I was always taught and have taught my children is that when the Blessed Sacrament is being exposed, you don’t genuflect, you actually go down on both knees when entering and exiting the pew, bowing your head to the floor if possible! I want to cry when I am at Adoration and I see people casually going about the Church with no respect at all for our King!

Comments are closed.