QUAERITUR: Priest tells congregation to stand for consecration

UPDATE 23 March 20:19 GMT:

From the questioner:

Father, I just wanted to thank you for your response to my question. I wanted to follow-up with you about the funeral.

The vigil and the funeral went beautifully. The priest did not make the announcement to remain standing, per his usual protocol. I could tell he was miffed at the vigil and before the funeral, but he did not say a word to me directly, nor to my family. He spoke a little like he was canonizing my relative, but it was not as bad as some funerals that I’ve been to.


ORIGINAL 20 March 12:28

From a reader:

At planning a funeral Mass for a relative, knowing what a particular priest does usually during funeral Masses (which is to say he makes an announcement to remain standing during the Eucharistic Prayer), we asked that we kneel. He gave some excuse about kneeling being awkward because some (non-Catholics) will not kneel, so you have some kneeling and some sitting. Basically stating, “I’m still going to make the announcement.” Not wanting to cause a scene in front of the spouse of the deceased, we let it go. Later, a family member called the priest and left a message stating that we wish him *not* to make the announcement, as we will be kneeling. The funeral hasn’t happened yet, but we don’t have much hope that he will respect our wishes.

My question is, should we contact the bishop, and tell him how inappropriate the priest responded to our reasonable request, or not?
This has caused distress and added stress where there should not have been any during a time of grief. Any helpful advice would be great.

While funerals are also for the sake of the living, they are mainly for the purpose of praying for the deceased.  Catholic funeral Masses are not about accommodating non-Catholics who may come to the Catholic parish for the Catholic deceased.  Catholics have the right to pray like Catholics in their own church.  Protestants who come at those moments can pray with us or sit there and do nothing.   I would expect precisely the same treatment were I in some Protestant church.

The law of the Catholic Church is that people should kneel at a prescribed moment for the Eucharistic Prayer.  In the USA people are to kneel from the end of the Sanctus to the end of the great Amen.  Elsewhere, in Italy for example, people must kneel for the consecration.

Priests have an obligation to adhere to the liturgical law.  They are not to cause others to violate it.   Redemptionis Sacramentum states:

6. Complaints Regarding Abuses in Liturgical Matters

[183.] In an altogether particular manner, let everyone do all that is in their power to ensure that the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist will be protected from any and every irreverence or distortion and that all abuses be thoroughly corrected. This is a most serious duty incumbent upon each and every one, and all are bound to carry it out without any favouritism.

[184.] Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity.

I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask the local bishop why Father tells congregations to stand, in clear violation of the rubrics.

However, I suspect this is a no win situation for people.  The priest, being selfish, will do what he wants to do and by the end of this process, everyone will be angrier than they are now.   That doesn’t mean that people should do nothing in the face of liturgical abuse.  It means that when you act, you have to act with motives that you have carefully reviewed and purified.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Jenny bag of donuts says:

    If it can be done calmly, I would tell this priest straight out that he’s being selfish. Though I doubt that nothing short of a beating would persuade him to change his mind. Can another priest celebrate the funeral Mass?

  2. cpaulitz says:

    There’s no more glaring way to see the loss of faith since Vatican II than at the typical funeral Mass.

    My own families’ experiences led me to start the purgatorial society on Rotate Caeli. Feel free to enroll your loved ones.

  3. Fr Martin Fox says:

    I generally say–right after the Sanctus, “please kneel, or sit if you cannot kneel.” I don’t know if other priests have noticed this, but at weddings and funerals, even well populated with Mass-going Catholics, folks often seem not to know to do what they otherwise would do. Folks don’t stand, sit or kneel as they otherwise would do routinely.

    And when I make my announcement, almost everyone kneels as far as I can tell.

  4. dad29 says:

    Related, but not quite on-topic.

    The “Abuse-by-Liturgist” train is still rolling down the track in Milwaukee. Local parish music-for-Mass has taken the Soul Train route, today using a negro spiritual as a “gathering song” and then using the same melodic motif as the refrain for the “Kyrie” (!!!). (This in a parish which is 99.5% Anglo-Saxon.)

    And in the parish’s very own, very special way, the LiturgyWonks put a up a pastel purple cloth to obscure the reredos-wall crucifix and have made certain that there will be no OTHER crucifix visible on or near the altar. However, there is a prominent cross.

    Purgatory will be easier than this.

  5. Things such as this make me wish that if I ever could find a wife, I would have a nuptial Mass in the extraordinary form, even though I am not a rabid fan of it. One thing I do appreciate about the extraordinary form is that the odds of things being done properly are substantially higher than in any ordinary form nuptial or funeral Mass. As far as my funeral Mass, I hope to be preoccupied with weightier matters after my death than looking back on those I’ve left behind hoping that silly things won’t be done. I will probably not have much control over the funeral Masses of others around me, so I will have to chalk those up to penance.

    I suppose I could ask to be buried with a “Say the Black, Do the Red” mug on my chest, with the inscription facing the priest, which might annoy him so much that he would switch to ad orientem— maybe this isn’t such a bad idea…

  6. phillymike says:

    The priest is being more than simply selfish, he is also ignoring the canonical rights of the people. I would point out here two other sections from Redemtionis Sacramentum:

    “[11.] The Mystery of the Eucharist ‘is too great for anyone to permit himself to treat it according to his own whim, so that its sacredness and its universal ordering would be obscured.’ On the contrary, anyone who acts thus by giving free reign to his own inclinations, even if he is a Priest, injures the substantial unity of the Roman Rite, which ought to be vigorously preserved, and becomes responsible for actions that are in no way consistent with the hunger and thirst for the living God that is experienced by the people today. Nor do such actions serve authentic pastoral care or proper liturgical renewal; instead, they deprive Christ’s faithful of their patrimony and their heritage. For arbitrary actions are not conducive to true renewal, but are detrimental to the right of Christ’s faithful to a liturgical celebration that is an expression of the Church’s life in accordance with her tradition and discipline. …

    “[12.] On the contrary, it is the right of all of Christ’s faithful that the Liturgy, and in particular the celebration of Holy Mass, should truly be as the Church wishes, according to her stipulations as prescribed in the liturgical books and in the other laws and norms. Likewise, the Catholic people have the right that the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass should be celebrated for them in an integral manner, according to the entire doctrine of the Church’s Magisterium. Finally, it is the Catholic community’s right that the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist should be carried out for it in such a manner that it truly stands out as a sacrament of unity, to the exclusion of all blemishes and actions that might engender divisions and factions in the Church.”

    It is ever-important to remember that the Sacred Liturgies belong to no priest, that he may change, modify or otherwise play with as he sees fit, but rather to the Church, and every priest ought to ensure that he celebrates the Sacred Mysteries according to the prescribed rubrics and the mind of the Church.

  7. Fr. A.M. says:

    I remember many moons ago a rehearsal for a televised Mass, with the local bishop (I was an altar server). We practiced coming up for Holy Communion, and attempted to make a genuflection, as was our custom then. The bishop STOPPED us saying ‘don’t do that, you’ll offend people’. The bishop (who is no longer with us R.I.P.) was actually a prominent ecumenist. Though this has nothing to do with the rubrics as such, it does demonstrate how ecumenism has, in certain quarters, been de-railed and misapplied in a liturgical context. Adoremus in aeternum Sanctissimum Sacramentum.

  8. Philangelus says:

    I would suggest looking for another priest to say the funeral Mass. It’s just not worth the aggravation.

    I wish we’d actually changed parishes when something similar happened to us, except on a worse scale. (If other commenters don’t mind, I could use some prayers to help me forgive the priest who did that to us, as well as the diocesan official who then defended what our parish priest did.)

  9. I would be willing to bet that this has absolutely nothing to do with making non-Catholics uncomfortable and everything to do with advancing ‘We are resurrection people!” anti-kneeling non-sense.
    Here in Utah just about every funeral I do has a large non-Catholic contingent. Before the opening prayer, I say, “We extend a special word of welcome to our non-Catholic friends. If you have not been to a Catholic funeral before, you may not know that there are times when we stand, sit, and kneel. Please stand when we stand and sit when we sit. But, feel free to either sit or kneel as you feel comfortable.” The response to this has been exclusively positive, usually being that it made the non-Catholics feel welcome and at ease. Most of the time, it isn’t that people rejects standing/kneeling/sitting, it’s just that they don’t know whether or not they should.

  10. friarpark says:

    “Purgatory will be easier than this.”

    I am right with you on this. I am in the same diocese and my parish has suffered through so much for the past 40-something years. When I try to tell people what is supposed to be done I am told “it’s the priest’s decision” or something similar on whether to do specific things in the liturgy the right way or not. It has not just been one priest, it has been almost all of them that has come through our doors. I have only come across 2 priests in the whole diocese that will do what is right.

  11. Central Valley says:

    The priest is making his own rules as many do. Here in the diocese of Fresno, CA there is at least one monsignor who invites all present at funeral masses to give their hitler salute so they can extend the final blessing on the deceased along with the priest. The last bishop of Fresno refused to address this abuse. His legacy continues. I will pray for the writer, the deceased and yes especially the erent priest

  12. JARay says:

    I have never ever heard of anyone standing for the Consecration! And, I have been to Mass in quite a few different countries. My experience of funeral Masses is that the priest invites all to kneel at the Sanctus and most do, with the priest inviting all to stand at the great Amen.

  13. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Good one, dad29 “Purgatory will be easier than this.”

    Speaking of rotten treatment at funerals, last month a friend of mine endured a rough funeral for her mother up in Long Island, from an order priest.

    Knowing the parish, and what to expect, she spoke at length with the priest several times, expressing her choices of music [she is a church musician in our Diocese] and begging the priest not to ‘canonize’ her mother during the sermon. Rather, my friend wanted encouragement for prayers for her mother. On top of that, she feared that the non-practicing attendees such as family members would approach the Sacraments, and begged him not to invite everyone to Communion.

    Here in the Arlington Diocese, some parishes offer an approved list of music from which grieving family members can choose. At the Long Island parish, yea, they had a list alright, but it was Eagle’s Wings and show tunes, from which my friend could not deviate. So forget In Paradisum! Also, here in programs for Weddings and Funerals, it is common practice to print the rules for worthily receiving Communion. And the priest may make an additional announcement.

    This priest rolled his eyes “oh, you are from the Arlington Diocese”. He made it clear that he was going to invite everyone to Communion, because “God is a forgiving God, loving and merciful, you shouldn’t judge people, blah blah”. My friend reminded him that receiving unworthily can send one to hell.

    Well, the funeral went like clockwork. The priest never mentioned purgatory or mercifully praying for the dead, but rather encouraged rejoicing because her mother was in heaven and happy. And bluntly invited everyone to Communion. The crowd included non-believers and non-Catholics, fallen-away Catholics, Catholics who were away from the Sacraments. They all got up and received – even those who knew better and had been reminded by my friend that they shouldn’t go.

    On top of deep grief over the death of her mother, my friend also endured all of this. Oh yea, and the bad music too.

    Grieving, my friend’s mindset is not prepared to write some detailed complaint to the Bishop right now – so it will likely all slide into the past. Also, because this is an order priest, she figures it is fruitless anyway, since he isn’t *really* under the Bishop.

  14. anilwang says:

    Definitely complain to the Bishop.

    But for the purpose of the funeral, I think Father Zuhlsdorf’s response is the best one.

    Talk the priest and tell him that at a Hindu funeral, no-one would be offended at a Hindu funeral rite. They might actually be offended if the Hindu family watered down the funeral right because the family thought you could handle it. If you go to a Chinese village, you should not be shocked to see that no-one knows English.

    No-one attending a Catholic Funeral will be shocked at finding Catholics at the funeral. No-one attending a Catholic funeral will be offended at Catholic rites….it might be their first and only exposure to the Catholic faith. If they knew that you chose not to let the grieving family be Catholic at a Catholic funeral because you thought they couldn’t handle it, they would be very offended and angry at you.

  15. NonSumDignus says:

    I would just kneel anyway. If I would be question about I would simply respond that it is what the rubrics say and that I believe the Lord deserves more honor then simply standing.

  16. albinus1 says:

    Also, because this is an order priest, she figures it is fruitless anyway, since he isn’t *really* under the Bishop.

    But surely the parish at which the funeral Mass was celebrated is under the jurisdiction of the local bishop. Doesn’t a bishop get some say in whether a particular priest may or may not celebrate Mass in his diocese and at a diocesan parish, even if that priest isn’t technically under the bishop’s jurisdiction?

  17. Tina in Ashburn says:

    yes, you are correct. Orders serve at the pleasure of the local Bishop, so yes, the Bishop really does have a say in what occurs in his diocese.
    I think my friend feels very defeated as she tried so hard to work with the priest. My advice was to contact the Bishop and see what happens. The second step might be to contact the head of the order.
    Strictly speaking however, an order priest answers to his Vicar General. In some cases, where the local bishop’s direction is ignored, one goes to the order’s head honcho.

    This kind of situation goes both ways too. In some cases of very liberal dioceses, more conservative orders fly under the radar and give relief to the laity with more faithful practices when the laity has no other refuge – because strictly speaking, orders are under another authority.

  18. benedetta says:

    Just ‘luv’ the whole spirit of V2 thing going on. You can just picture it. Priest tells congregation, ‘you must stand, darn it, and you are going to get with it, because I said so (you ignorant laity, you)!’ And heaven help anyone who wonders, inquires or otherwise second-guesses that pronouncement from on high. So sensitive, so pastoral!

  19. elaurier says:

    When we came back to the faith, the first Mass we went to after almost 30 yrs was at a ‘Catholic Community in the Spirit of Vatican II”. We didn’t know any better. So we go in, and it’s a gorgeous church. I can’t find any Missalette or written instruction. There’s a projector and the song words are on a screen and everyone is singing one of the songs we used to sing at “_____ Ave Christian Church”, which is great, except we were supposed to be in a Catholic Church, not a non-denominational church. And there were no kneelers. Everyone was either sitting or standing. No pews, just chairs that interlocked. I kept checking the address on the bulletin because we just didn’t know what kind of church we were in. What denomination it was. I finally thought it was Episcopalians who liked John XXIII. But it was Catholic. No one knelt for anything. When we left that Mass we almost didn’t go back to any other Catholic church because we figured they were all like that one and we just didn’t know what had happened to the church since we’d left in the 70’s. Now of course we know better.

  20. Grabski says:

    My evangelical cousin attended my Dad’s funeral. He prayed his bible the entire time.

    He may have thought our Catholic services were some sort of voodoo; I don’t know I didn’t ask him.

    But he was there, he respected the Mass and he was true to his tradition.

  21. Ben Yanke says:

    If you ask me, ecumenism, as most people think of it (compromise), has no place in the liturgy. If you want to have an ecumental prayer service, have it, but don’t turn the Mass into one.

  22. frjim4321 says:

    I find the Deiss principle works well: “Never a paragraph when a sentence will do, never a sentence when a word will do, never a word when a gesture will do.” A simple palms down geture works very well, the Catholic will knee and the others will sit. Excessive and needless directions/instructions break the organic flow of the litrugy.
    Remember celebrating a home mass after the death of a family member. The Catholics received communion and the Lutherans did not. It was not a big deal – nobody was offended. Before mass I simply asked how many were receiving communion so I could prepare the paten. No problem.
    I think it was silly for the priest to announce that people should remain standing. With regard to invited everyone to participate in the communion procession, that is crazy. We bend over backwards doing prebaptismal catchesis and then say anyone can process? That’s just nuts.

  23. Fr. Basil says:

    \\The law of the Catholic Church is that people should kneel at a prescribed moment for the Eucharistic Prayer. In the USA people are to kneel from the end of the Sanctus to the end of the great Amen. \\

    That’s the law of the LATIN Church.

    Byzantine Catholics and some others stand on Sunday for the Anaphora, but kneeling is done on weekdays outside of Paschaltide.

  24. Jenny bag of donuts says:

    Hi frjim! Good last point.

    Glad to see that some unkind remarks of commentors didn’t drive you away!

  25. frjim4321 says:

    ‘cuz I know if they met me they’d have to like me . . .

  26. Jenny bag of donuts says:

    tee hee

  27. Will D. says:

    Once again, I realize just how fortunate I am to have my parish priest. The planning for my late father’s funeral this January could not have been easier. Father and the music director met with my mother and I and were amenable to our wishes, even for Latin versions of the mass parts that aren’t generally used in the parish outside of lent. Father’s instructions during the Mass for kneeling/standing/etc., were not a burden for our non-Catholic friends and family. At Communion, Father invited “Catholics who are practicing their faith” to receive, which again, did not offend the others.
    I hope the original reader will take note of this and firmly, but politely, reiterate this request to the priest. The bishop should be informed as well. And, of course, there is nothing to stop people from kneeling when appropriate. The non-Catholics in attendance will usually follow the example of the others.

  28. amenamen says:

    Perhaps a few discrete reminders of the liturgical postures would help:

    Please be seated
    (Sit down, John) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nyk9ip_NmyQ

    Please stand for the Gospel
    (Stand up, stand up for Jesus) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOe_rJa1Pks

    Please kneel
    (On bended knee) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osbd2_wFFQs
    (Down on my knees) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZOJsIlAgpE&feature=related
    (Grovel, grovel) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpJvUrSd_2k
    (Come let us worship and fall down) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6wnNxUGUlU

  29. amenamen says:

    How can I ask for proper observance of the rubrics?
    The group “Boyz II Men” seem to have the right way to ask the right question:

    “Can somebody tell me how to get things back
    They way they use to be
    Oh God give me a reason
    I’m down on bended knee”

  30. Maria says:

    To kneel before The Lord at Consecration is to me one of the most beautiful parts of The Mass and I would not stop doing it for all the world.

    His Majesty is worthy of all honour and praise and after The Sacrifice He made for us all, this is the least we can do to honour Him and show others how important it is to pay homage and respect towards The God of the universe, of all that is seen and unseen, The Holy Trinity in all His fullness.

    As we are taught – “O Sacrament most Holy, O Sacrament Divine; all Praise and all Thanksgiving, be every moment Thine”

    Thank you Father Z for your trustworthy (as always) and clear instructions.

    God Bless you.


  31. Glen M says:

    The simplist solution to liturgical abuse is to stop attending that Mass and find one in the Extraordinary Form. Vote with your feet/wallet.

  32. dcs says:

    @Fr. Reichstag,

    I agree with you. I have never known a Protestant to be offended by kneeling at the Mass, much less a Requiem Mass.

  33. benedetta says:

    I would think that Protestants would expect Catholics to kneel before what Catholics believe is the True Presence. There is also that hit pop song that one can hear at a lot of teen/youth gatherings, “We fall down…”

    Agree with Jenny donut that frjim4321 shouldn’t be driven away by people simply voicing their opinions here. I didn’t catch the ‘unkindness’ towards him that she alludes to. But be that as it may, there are instances in this country where people have been ‘encouraged’ to just go away, by those with power, for decades now, just for say, agreeing with even the non-controversial teachings of JPII. Whereas here in a comment box people have an equal right to voice their opinions. I don’t agree that if you disagree you should be branded as unkind or uncharitable. A lot of people have tried out the liberal way, have adopted it wholeheartedly, to discover that it is incoherent, and it is about brute power and fiefdom. Whereas if you stick with the magisterium, albeit in a Church comprised of humans who can and do sin, there is an accountability that one can verify. The liberalism which has been imposed on many for so long is really about people with power dictating their arbitrary whims and favorites on others without giving others a voice in the matter. Fr. Z said it right, it is “selfish” to make up your own magisterium as you go along and demand that the laity conform to it because you have convinced yourself that you have found your private utopia.

  34. Ben Yanke says:


    And if they are, that’s kinda their own problem. What else should they expect when they walk into a catholic church?

  35. Ben Yanke says:

    btw, has this priest ever considered how many practicing catholics he will offend by this (like all of us)? I’m offended one of two things:
    a) This priest’s excessive pride, thinking he knows better than the church.
    b) The bishop who ordained him without making sure he could read, red words in particular. :)

  36. disco says:

    I’ll never understand the idea that our form of worship should or could offend someone else. Those individuals are free to not attend the mass if it would bother them. Imagine the gall of the folks at the anti defamation league for criticizing the Good Friday prayer. What a firestorm there would be if the Pope criticized something done at a synogogue.

  37. Jenny bag of donuts says:

    Amenamen (I say to you), very cute allusion using an unexpected source!

    Benedetta I feel for you. I do take for granted the awesome parish and diocese my family lives in. But I used to live in the Philly archdiocese so I know the kinds of abuses that can occur litugically (and wow that diocese is considered conservative). I was simply disappointed for two reasons at a few personal insulting comments that were aimed at frjim. 1)He’s a priest. There’s a difference between pointing out the wrong things an anonymous (like in this entry for instance) priest does and then making a personal attack on a priest directly. 2)No one is going to be won to a person’s argument if he or she are attacked. It’s not the right way of going about a discussion. I think it makes the best sense to stick with the topic at hand and not resort to personal insults. I understand how difficult that can be and I have fallen many times that way, that’s why I try even harder now not to do it. I’m sure you can agree that fun, heated debate doesn’t have to involve personal insult. Anyway, I wasn’t thinking of you, and as I don’t like to name names I avoided that. I think it’s great that we can vent here on Father’s blog. Well, to the degree that he allows anyhow tee hee. Happy Lent!

  38. tmitchell says:

    Would a possible solution be to simply not give the priest a stipend (or reduce the usual amount)? I don’t know if this is ever permissible, but it seems that if the priest blatantly ignored both your requests and the laws of Holy Mother Church that it would become a possible course of action.

    I was too young at the time to remember the specific abuses, but at my father’s funeral, I know that the priest was simply terrible. Irreverent during Mass and downright rude to my mother. After the Mass, my grandmother, who I have seen angry twice in my life, gave him the worst tongue-lashing I have ever heard. Perhaps Christ has in store for these priests some choice words that would make my grandmother’s comments seem like a pat on the back.

  39. AvantiBev says:

    I am tired of priests blaming the horrid liturgies of the past 40 years on a supposed desire to make Protestant visitors comfortable. My dear late maternal Grandpa was a Lutheran as were a couple of my uncles. They were all at my 1963 First Communion, a Latin Tridentine High Mass as well as numerous other Catholic Masses and celebrations. Funny how they all managed to make it through First Communions, weddings and funerals pre-Vatican II “sensitivity training” with none of us breaking into riots, food fights or fisticuffs. GET OFF IT! This priest is like far, far too many others I encountered in my 20 years wandering a litugical desert; he wants to invent his own rubrics and rules in the name of renewal or keeping it real. PUHLEEZ. Thank God for St. John Cantius in Chicago where for over 22 years they say the Black and do the red at both the EF and Novus Ordo.

  40. Fr. Z: My advice to the family is to ‘lead by example’. I always ask people to kneel until at least the end of the consecration as that’s the policy in our diocese. However, if the family who wrote the question were to ‘en mass’ kneel, with the pall bearers doing the same, they would start a tidal wave of kneeling from the front to the back of the Church!

    Silly priest these folks are having to put up with though, eh? Guy’s like him are often doing more harm than good. Sad.

    Fr. Tim

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