QUAERITUR: How to revive use of the altar rail

altar railFrom a reader:

Our parish has a beautiful altar rail with red velvet cushions. It is
used at the Latin Mass (celebrated once a month). Many have asked our
priest about the use of altar rail at all Masses. Pastor asked (2009)
for approval from Bishop. Bishop stated that he couldn’t allow one
parish to do this…have to be whole diocese. Does Bishop need to
approve this? Or just Pastor? How should we lovingly approach our
priest with this again?

I don’t think that asking permissions is the way to proceed.  It seems to me that were people simply to begin to use the altar rail, and were the priest simply to give people at the rail Holy Communion, that would be a perfectly acceptable approach.

Work it out with the priest, … unless the priest used the issue of asking permission as a way of dodging your request.   As I said, work it out with the priest between yourselves.  As a group, after Mass, invite Father out to breakfast and give him the pitch.

People have the right to kneel to receive.  Altar rails are convenient for that purpose. Just use it.

People who want to receive “conga line” style can still do so.  The priest will distribute Communion to them as well.  I suspect that after a while, things will sort themselves out irenically and with some patience.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. DPH says:

    At one of the parishes that we assist at Mass at, I’d say over 50% of communicants recieve kneeling.
    This is somewhat awkward here as they do not provide a prie dieu not to mention having no altar rail.
    Various parishinoers have asked the pastor to at least provide a kneeler for communion for those who recieve kneeling. Nothing has happened in years.
    I volunteeered to buy a prie-dieu for the Church and the pastor said they would eventually get one. [this was 2 years ago]
    Maeanwhile I have personally had to help several communicants up from a kneeling position on the floor.
    Any advice?

  2. MJ says:

    Amen, Fr Z – great advice. Agree on all points. There is an OF parish I have been to a couple times, and I noticed that most folks received at the rail (yup, kneeling and on the tongue!). There are a few who chose to stand and receive in the hand, and they just stood in front of the rail (where they would normally kneel) and the priest gave them the Eucharist …

    I so hope that someday all will receive Him kneeling and on the tongue!

  3. Centristian says:

    Fr.Z says, “I don’t think that asking permissions is the way to proceed.”

    We see a strange thing in the Church. Liturgical innovators, who are the ones who ought to be asking permission to do what they do, never do ask permission. They just do what they want, and seldom encounter any grief over it from anyone. Celebrants who desire to be faithful to Catholic liturgical traditions, on the other hand, seem to have to request permission to do even what the rubrics suppose (ad orientem posture at the altar, for example). Perhaps celebrants sympathetic to traditional liturgical practices ought to show the same boldness that liturgical innovators have always shown. [Similarly, bishops will often hammer more faithful, traditional priests into dust for doing things that are entirely proper because they know that the traditional priests will obey with very little fight. On the other hand, liberals will react violently to being reined in, and thereby discourage due corrections.]

    Perhaps an individual celebrant might suffer some personal repercussions for doing something so egregious as offering Communion at…gasp…the Communion rail, but what will the consequences be in the long term if the liturgical violators have all the daring and the liturgical traditionalists show none? Why must it always be the good priests who are expected to get permissions and to jump through hoops just to be good, while the less-than-stellar clergy could care less about permissions and feel free to do whatever they please? It’s very, very backwards.

    I’d love to have a conversation with a bishop who is leary of “allowing” Catholics to receive Holy Communion at a Communion rail, to find out just what on earth would worry him about it.

  4. “People have the right to kneel to receive.”

    Indeed. I have taken up the habit of kneeling even without the altar rail. It just seems right. Even though I’m usually the only one in the whole assembly who kneels, it has never caused any problem except dirty knees in winter time.

  5. Stephen D says:

    As I understood it, the use of the altar rail is the ‘default’ and anything else is merely permitted. I would be very disappointed to hear that my understanding is incorrect.

  6. Denise says:

    In 2003 Bishop Paul Loverde of the Diocese of Arlington forbid the practice of Communion at the altar rail at Christendom College. Individuals who which to kneel to receive Communion may still do so, but for the sake of uniformity of the Diocese, he stopped the practice of using the altar rail. At the same time he made this announcement, he also allowed pastors to allow the use of female altar servers. It was with the stipulation that if female altar servers ever outnumbered male altar servers the privilege of using female altar servers would be revoked. I see no evidence that is being tracked since every time I visit one of the parishes that does allow female altar servers there are more girls than boys. Perhaps the fear of the altar rail and caving to feminist shouts of “that’s not fair” are related.

  7. Father Z: “I don’t think that asking permissions is the way to proceed.”

    Wiser advice you have seldom given. Ask the bishop for an exception to diocesan policy only if you seek a “no” answer.

    And, certainly, seeking some kind of announcement or parish policy is not the way to go. A general policy is one thing. Individual privilege is another.

    In the case of an existing altar rail, if several individuals on their own initiative kneel at it to exercise their personal option for holy communion while kneeling, what kind of priest is going to turn his back and walk away? (Don’t anyone bother to answer this–I know what kind.)

  8. ecs says:

    This is nothing more than an issue of backbone. If your priest has a spine, then regardless of the Bishop, you can have ad orientem and communion at the rail during any and all ordinary form liturgies. My little parish is living proof of this. But the question is, does your priest have a spine? My priest, God Bless him, has a spine of steel. He has taken the arrows, but as a result we have had ad orientem worship and communion at the rail for years, even before it was fashionable. Not to mention a pride of place for the extaordinary form. What I have witnessed firsthand over the course of the last 7 years with respect to what one priest (and his loyal lay supporters) can do in a normative American diocese in a normative American diocesan parish makes me conclude that most everything we all confront with these issues is nothing more than a matter of people knowing their rights as Catholics and acting upon them and not being afraid to stand up for them.

    [The moral of the story is: Don’t ask for anything from the priest unless you are willing also to stand by him when the arrows start to fly.]

  9. Ralph says:


    At our early am NO Mass, the alter rail is used EF style – with folks aligned all the way down the rail. At our later NO Mass, the alter rail is used by those who choose to use it in the “conga line” style of reception.
    This has been our custom for sometime and honestly, I have never noticed a problem or a hitch. Folks seem to adapt easily to it.
    Also, I have noticed that people seem more comfortable kneeling with a rail. Some may find it intimidating to try and get up and down without the support a rail offers. At our masses, I see people of all ages and physical abilities using the rail.

  10. jdscotus says:

    Fr. Z.,

    Great advice indeed. But I have a concern about an OF Mass using an altar rail. Let’s say a pastor decides to use the altar rail for every Mass. I can just see the pantsuit brigade-types feeling (and acting) even more like ministers. I also fear that many of the faithful will subconsciously begin to view “Eucharistic ministers” as some sort of authentic minister rather than a layman or laywoman helping out in a pinch. The depth of ignorance and apathy make for quite volatile situations. [Solution: Don’t have EMHCs.]

  11. John Fannon says:


    Remember the old advice given in many bureaucracies:
    “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission”


  12. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I haven’t been Catholic for very long but I have attended Mass at 4 different parishes. The one I go to now serves Communion at the rail, kneeling (except those who can’t) and on the tongue (except those who don’t) and Communion goes much faster served by two priests followed by altar boys with patens than the Communions at other parishes where people line up and there are numerous lay people wielding ciboria and chalices galore. I would say it is about twice as fast serving under only one kind to people lined up at a rail.

    Also: about little old ladies in pantsuits. Pantsuits are practical and comfy. A pantsuit does not an unfaithful Catholic indicate. Most of our little old ladies wear pants and we have always had Communion kneeling at the rail at this parish. It is our tradition. We even reinstalled the altar rail gate last two years ago though there are no rubrics for its use in the NO Mass. And our pantsuit ladies love it. That is why they are there (in their tasteful, pastel pantsuits).

  13. ghp95134 says:

    DPH: I volunteeered to buy a prie-dieu for the Church and the pastor said they would eventually get one. [this was 2 years ago]

    Buy it and have it situated so that it is ready to go next week. See if having it readily available works. If not, at least you can deduct the cost for your income taxes.


  14. RichR says:

    I think jdscotus touched on one of the issues. If you start using the rail again, then EMHC’s start looking like they are stepping onto sacred ground when they come into the sanctuary (which they are, in fact doing). That makes the nice, fuzzy line between cleric and lay too distinct for some who have fought to advance lay involvement.

    I actually called into a local TV show when I was in dental school and asked the priest and his co-host, on the air, if he thought that the removal of the altar rails has contributed to a decreased reverence for the Real Presence and the sacredness of the Mass. The people hemmed and hawed and said, “Vatican II did away with the mentality that I’m not worthy, and altar rails are a visible reminder of that old idea.”
    It must be nice to “be worthy”.

  15. jdscotus says:

    Banjo pickin girl,

    LOL! I was actually referring to women who are EMs, not the women who receive Communion. I also disagree that a person of the female sex can wear clothing designed for men and be a faithful Catholic. But that is a discussion for another day.

  16. smad0142 says:

    Last I checked most pantsuits worn by women, are actually made for women. Regardless of the history of pants and their formerly exclusive use by men, times have changed. To say a woman wearing pantsuits is not a faithful Catholic is quite honestly laughable.

  17. AnAmericanMother says:

    Banjo pickin girl,
    I absolutely agree. Communion in our old ECUSA parish went much faster – kneeling at the rail, two priests followed by deacons or lay servers (who took vows and wore vestments and were, mostly, male) w/ the chalices. In the hand, though, not on the tongue.
    The ushers (hubby was Head Usher at the 11:15 High Mass) would signal the first group to move to the raIl on each side from 2 lines in the center aisle. As they received, they would rise and leave by the side aisles, and as soon as 4-5 people had moved the ushers would send a new group in to take their place. By the time the priest returned to the outside end of the rail, a new group was ready to receive.
    This is much faster because the priest doesn’t have to wait for each individual to move away and the next one to step forward to his position. Everyone but the first communicant on each side of the rail has ample time to get ready to receive, and the priest can move quite rapidly down the line.
    If everyone is supposedly so paranoid about Mass not running over an hour, this would be a real timesaver.

  18. albinus1 says:

    I also fear that many of the faithful will subconsciously begin to view “Eucharistic ministers” as some sort of authentic minister rather than a layman or laywoman helping out in a pinch.

    Especially if they are also routinely pressed into service to distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday and even give the throat blessing on St. Blaise Day, which they evidently are in some places, according to another thread here a few days ago.

  19. David2 says:

    DPH, why don’t you point out the risk of litigation if someone falls after the Church fails to provide an adequate kneeling aide? It’s a public liability issue. Point out that a Church without an altar rail / prie dieu is like a Church with a rickety set of steps – an accident waiting to happen. Your insurer might even agree!

  20. AnAmericanMother says:

    You must not sew. A pantsuit is not a man’s suit. It’s cut differently, and if well done can look quite feminine. The pants should be cut with a flowing line so that it looks rather skirt-like.
    The style itself is not any more responsible for women who wear pantsuits too tight or poorly cut, than skirts are for women who wear them way too tight and way too short.

  21. AnAmericanMother says:

    Sorry, that should have been directed to jdscotus rather than you.

  22. AnAmericanMother says:

    I like the way you think! :-)

  23. Tim Ferguson says:

    What a beautiful picture of my parish church – St. Josaphat in Detroit – withour communion rail, still in regular use!

  24. Charivari Rob says:

    ghp95134 – “DPH: I volunteeered to buy a prie-dieu for the Church and the pastor said they would eventually get one. [this was 2 years ago]

    Buy it and have it situated so that it is ready to go next week. See if having it readily available works. If not, at least you can deduct the cost for your income taxes.”

    Going ahead with your money and your idea when it hasn’t been welcomed?

    Really, hugely bad idea.

    At best, discourteous to your pastor. At worst, you will get a demonstration of presbyteral spine.

    For that matter, you establish a bad precedent of “I can bring things in to arrange the parish church and the Mass the way I think they should be.” What happens if someone decides the parish “needs” their idea of banners, vestments, ideological leaflets on the table in the back, crystal chalices, music for weddings & funerals, etc…?

  25. frjim4321 says:

    I guess I am not getting this, why have an altar rail if nobody receives communion at the altar rail any more? Also, the communion rail really does not work very well for receiving under both species, which would tend to render it obsolete.

  26. JohnRoss says:

    The sad thing is that Anglicans and Lutherans never did away with the altar railing. I thought its absence was weird when I converted and I was lectured about standing.

    Why not communion under both species by intinction like is done in the Eastern Catholic Churches and in the Anglican Use?

  27. humblesem says:

    I attended a Novus Ordo Mass at St. Peter’s in Omaha, Nebraska this past Sunday. Everyone received the Eucharist by kneeling at the communion rail. It was the first time I had knelt at the communion rail since 1973. Kneeling there waiting to receive our Blessed Lord in the Sacrament of the Eucharist I felt like a child waiting for my Father to come to me, which in a real sense I was. I was flooded with many wonderful childhood memories of receiving in this way. I pray that God willing when I am ordained and if blessed with a parish as pastor I would like to offer this gift to the faithful, because I believe it is wonderful gift to receive our Blessed Lord so reverently, kneeling at the foot of His sanctuary, waiting patiently for him in prayer and thanksksgiving .

  28. edm says:

    Actually an altar rail works very well for communion under both kinds. As explained before, in my (Anglocatholic) parish the priest, preceeded by a server with the communion paten, moves rather quickly beginning at the epistle side of the rail and working his way toward the gospel side. He is followed by the deacon of the Mass, or another priest in cassock, surplice and stole or a lay chalice bearer vested in cassock and surplice, with the chalice and purificator. Several hundred persons can receive rather quickly. Our custom is for a communicant not to arise from the rail until the person to one’s left has finished receiving the chalice. That way we avoid any accidents with the Precious Blood that could occur with movement of the faithful.

  29. AnAmericanMother says:

    The rail works fine for both species, was done in ECUSA for the 40-odd (and some of them very odd) years I was over there.

  30. The Cobbler says:

    “I guess I am not getting this, why have an altar rail if nobody receives communion at the altar rail any more?” ~Fr. Jim

    “If.” ~the Spartans

    “Our parish has a beautiful altar rail with red velvet cushions. It is
    used at the Latin Mass (celebrated once a month). Many have asked our
    priest about the use of altar rail at all Masses.” ~Original questioner (my emphasis)

    Also, “If you build it, they will come.” ~Field of Dreams, as popularly misquoted

  31. mother undercover says:

    Why receive under both species? Don’t you believe Jesus is fully present in both?

  32. frjim4321 says:

    MU, at the Last Supper, why did the disciples receive under both species?

  33. James Joseph says:

    Tread carefully good my good padre. You almost stepped on a landmine (Historicism heresy).

    I suppose none of y’all have ever seen reception of the Most Blessed Sacrament via tincure at an altar rail.

  34. Jason says:

    There is no way, ever, that I will receive Him unless I am on my knees and my mind and heart are filled with the Domine non sum dignus.

    All of the silly indults only result in confusion, and worse.

    As my elderly father says, “the Church makes the rules.” Indeed. Bind and loose.

    Simply end all the ridiculous novelties and let’s move forward as faithful members of the Church militant. Enough already with the wishy washy.

  35. jesusthroughmary says:

    Frjim4321 –

    That is quite an Orwellian question.

  36. When I go to a parish, and I see Communion rails, I go to them and use them. Why let beauty collect dust

  37. Sixupman says:

    For a great number of years [perhaps forever] communicants at the Jesuit Church in Preston [UK] used the altar rail. Two or three years ago, come a new parish priest, the use of the ‘rail’ was stopped dead. He also stopped the monthly Sunday TLM. Thankfully, he could not supress certain of the clergy hearing Confessions daily.

  38. You guys crack me up. How would using the communion rails would make extraordinary ministers of holy communion more “minister like”? We get it – you don’t approve of extraordinary ministers, you don’t have to invent more reasons to disapprove.

    As for the comments on the way women dress, really, get back into your cave.

  39. stpetric says:

    I much prefer to receive kneeling. But to proceed with restoring use of the rail after explicitly being denied permission would seem arrogant and disobedient.

    Which confirms the wisdom of my graduate school dean, who reminded us that it’s often easier to get forgiveness than permission!

  40. It was foolish to ask permission for something for which permission isn’t required. It would be different if there were no rails and he was buying new ones and there may a diocesan building committee or something but there is not and has never been a ban on using communion rails for communion. I remember a priest telling me he wanted to ask the bishop about restoring use of the different coloured chalice veils. I told him to wise up and start using them if he wanted. As one other reader pointed out, the problem with conservatives is they are overly respectful.

  41. Bob says:

    It is sometimes better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission. Similarly, it would be difficult for the Bishop to prohibit the use of the Altar Rail once the practice was established.

  42. nfp4life says:

    Yes! I think intinction would be a great idea. But the weird thing at the Maronite Church is, they have intinction , but no kneeling ever during mass- many of the Maronite Churches have no kneelers. It is their tradition, to await the second coming standing in anticipation.

    My new parish, St. Mary’s in Norwalk, CT has an altar rail in both church and chapel. For daily NO mass, people choose “conga style” or simply go to the kneelers or wait “can-can style.” to receive at the rail. :) I don’t believe Fr. Markey ever asked permission. He’s one of the priests that has been, not hammered, but not supported in doing away with EM and altar girls. We did have to go through a waiting period before the EF could be celebrated in the church proper- a whole year!

    God bless our kingly priests!

  43. albinus1 says:

    At the parish to which my grandparents and their families belonged when they were growing up, most of the altar rail was ripped out during a “wreckovation” some years ago. Broken parts of the marble altar rail were sitting in the parking lot for awhile, waiting to be carted away. When my grandfather’s brother saw that, he cried; he remembered that, when he was a young student in the parish elementary school, at the time the church was being built, the schoolchildren were encouraged to contribute their pennies toward the cost of the altar rail.

    This is what really cheeses me off about the people behind these “renovations”: I feel like I want to grab them by the lapels and shout, “This does not belong to you! You did not build this! This is not yours to do with as you please!”


    The parish I attend now has an altar rail that is used when we have the TLM (unfortunately only on rare occasion now, but with hopes that that will change). During the NO Masses, not only is the altar rail not used, but servers holding patens are not used, either. My wife and I prefer to receive on the tongue, but we always feel a bit nervous receiving on the tongue (esp. from a priest, or, if necessary, an EM, who is not accustomed to giving Communion on the tongue and seems uncomfortable doing so) when there is no server there holding a paten in case of unfortunate accidents. It feels a bit like working without a net, so to speak.

    Is anyone else bothered by the lack of altar servers holding patens during the distribution of Holy Communion? Has anyone witnessed any accidents occur that could have been prevented by a server holding a paten?

  44. Centristian says:

    Fr. Z said:

    “[Similarly, bishops will often hammer more faithful, traditional priests into dust for doing things that are entirely proper because they know that the traditional priests will obey with very little fight. On the other hand, liberals will react violently to being reined in, and thereby discourage due corrections.]”

    Honestly, Father, I do not envy conscientious celebrants who want to do the right thing in today’s environment: priests who have to worry about repercussions every time they desire to do something right. It’s a twisted situation.

  45. frjim: “MU, at the Last Supper, why did the disciples receive under both species?

    I assume from this question that you think the disciples doubted that He was Really Present, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in either single species alone.

    But an informed Catholic today has no reason for any such doubt. That being the case, I wonder what was the underlying intent of your question. Perhaps you can tell us more.

  46. Jerry says:

    @FrZ – “Work it out with the priest”

    Is there anything to work out at this point? I agree it would have been better to take Adm. Grace Hopper’s approach from the start; however, I don’t think it’s advisable to do so now that the permission has been requested and denied: the bishop may well be more upset about the insubordination than use of the altar rail.

    We might take a lesson from St. Faustina in this regard:

    Jesus also revealed to St. Faustina that He wanted her to found a “Congregration which will proclaim the Mercy of God to the world, and, by its prayers, obtain it for the world.” Again, St. Faustina’s superiors would not give her the permission necessary to leave the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy to found the congregation which Jesus was requesting, since she had already made her final vows binding her for life to the order she had originally entered. The poor nun asked God how she could possibly do what He asked of her, since she had to obey her superiors. Jesus reassured her, saying that His Will would always be done, and telling her not to fear. Every time she tried to leave the convent, either her health failed or her mind became so darkened that she didn’t know what to do, and her spiritual directors always put things off until her situation improved. This conflict between what Jesus was telling her to do, and what her superiors, who were the voice of God’s will for her, told her to do, was one of St. Faustina’s greatest crosses. In fact, she died without ever leaving the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy.

    St. Faustina’s obedience was put to the test many times. Her superiors did not always agree with what Jesus asked her to do; once, when Faustina went to Mother Jane to ask for permission to make a certain sacrifice which Jesus had requested, the Mother scolded her and told her she was not allowed to make the sacrifice. As St. Faustina turned away, she saw Jesus standing in the doorway. He told her that He was been present during the interview, and that simple obedience was much more pleasing to Him than all the sacrifices and prayers possible. Throughout her life, her Divine Spouse always encouraged her to obey completely.


  47. semper fi says:

    If the bishop refuses permission for use of the altar rail you should sue sue the bishop in federal court. The lawsuit would be based on the fact that you are owner of the church and you have the absolute right to receive communion kneeling. Your lawsuit would allege a violation of the American Disability Act and request reasonable accommodation of an altar rail to assist in your ability to receive communion.

  48. MargaretC says:

    The Catholic allergy to altar rails still bemuses me. Like AnAmericanMother, I was an Episcopalian for many years. Everybody received communion in both kinds while kneeling at the altar rail. The clergy were neat and efficient, and all things were done “decently and in order,” without the need for a flying squad of EMHCs to help. And needlepoint cushions have always been a favorite project for Episcopal churchwomen of the higher sort.

  49. Centristian says:

    Christopher McCamley said:

    “I remember a priest telling me he wanted to ask the bishop about restoring use of the different coloured chalice veils.”


  50. “I remember a priest telling me he wanted to ask the bishop about restoring use of the different coloured chalice veils.”

    What puzzles me is …. What on earth was he going to ask about restoring their use? What is there to know? There are any number of pictures in books (e.g., old hand missals) that show how to drape them over the chalice. I assume he already knew that the color of the chapel veil each day is supposed to match that of the tabernacle veil and priest’s vestments for the day.

  51. Banjo pickin girl says:

    MargaretC, you would love our needlepoint cushions, each one the length of one side of the rail, purple and decorated at each kneeling place with a different symbol, the 4 Gospel writers, an upside down cross with crossed keys, a coat surrounded by stones, etc. It is fun to figure out what all the symbols are.

  52. MichaelJ says:

    I do not think that the re-introduction of Altar rails and the Traditional way of receiving would make extraordinary ministers of holy communion more “minister like”.

    I do, however, think that it would highlight rather pointedly just how unnecessary they truly are. I am not saying anything negative about EMHC’s themselves, only pointing out that the need for them was an artificially engineered necessity

  53. My parents have the Church’s Alter Rail in their attic safe and sound. They will remain there until we have a good traditional priest come along then we will offer them to him and offer to pay for the reinstallation. I always receive kneeling when possible. Since I broke my foot boy would having alter rails at the NO mass help me. I also like another tradition, wearing a mantilla in the presence of the Lord. Here’s a real kicker. I used to be a female alter server in my youth. I was practicably the ONLY alter server in my church. As we mature in our faith I find that following what the Church really teaches begins to make more since vs what the USCCB and often our own often “progressive” spineless bishops want us to believe. I now realize that what I am told Vatican II said, actually said nothing of the sort. Lately I attend an Anglican Use parish were I feel most at home. O by the way, I’m 27. Who says the youth of the parishes want progression. New is not always better. There is often a reason for tradition and that is why I am Catholic. We have 2000 plus years of teaching, discernment and tradition behind us. Why would we want to be more like the Protestants who make things up as they go and splinter off when they don’t agree? If we would just follow the magisterium (really follow him) I think the Catholic church would be better off. If we are really Catholic (Universal) we should start acting like it.

  54. capchoirgirl says:

    Banjo: I think we may go to the same parish? :)
    I love my altar rail! It makes communion so much more devout. Sure, it takes a bit of getting used to if you’re new, but it does move more smoothly and it’s a lot more reverent.

  55. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Capchoirgirl, yes we do. I have enjoyed your blogs. I am sure you have seen me, I am “always there,” as one little old lady put it. Look for a St. Benedict medal on a black string…

  56. Joanne says:

    “To say a woman wearing pantsuits is not a faithful Catholic is quite honestly laughable.”

    Seriously. Is there anything in the Catechism that forbids Catholic women from wearing pants? I usually wear skirts to Mass, and always wear some kind of headcovering, but the idea that women who wear pants can’t be faithful Catholics seems like total hogwash to me. This type of thinking is also what makes me avoid the Sunday EF at my parish (although I often do assist in the daily EF, where the crowd is much smaller).

    My parish is EF/OF (both are offered daily), there are no Eucharistic Ministers, and we use the altar rail @ *every* Mass. Yes, it’s wonderful. The pastor, who offers the vast majority of Masses there, omits the sign of peace and the presentation of the gifts during the OF. I realize how truly blessed I am to be able to avail myself of a parish where the Mass in offered in such a reverent, beautiful, and sound way.

  57. tioedong says:

    Since my husband has trouble walking and getting up and down, I appreciate we don’t use an altar rail…the Eucharistic ministers in our church (rural Philippines) there are at least six, four giving out the sacrament in front and two giving it out near the back where we sit, so we and other old folks sitting near the parking lot door can receive it without a long walk…this is also convenient for those who are standing in the back (because they came late, or more often because they have kids…no nursery here) .

    In the USA, we sat on the side near the handicapped entrance, and Father came over and gave it to us… in either in the aisle next to our seats, or to the blind or those in wheelchairs etc. in their seats. So there is an alternative in smaller churches.

    And no, no Latin mass here yet…

  58. AnAmericanMother says:

    That’s the beauty of having a rail. It lets you use whatever option you need. Even though the ‘default’ at the rail is kneeling, people who can’t get up and down easily can simply stand at the rail and receive. And of course the priest can still go to those who aren’t able to leave their seats. The first row of pews in our parish is reserved for folks with mobility problems.
    Our church was built in the mid-90s so has no rail. But the rector instructed the architect to design a traditional space, and it would be very easy to install one. For that matter, it would also be quite feasible to return the altar to the east wall, and only a little more difficult to have chancel stalls. But that’s my inner Anglican still murmuring a bit. . .

  59. My point about the priest asking about chalice veils wasn’t that he didn’t know how to use them or the colour but the inbuilt fear of doing something without permission, even when permission clearly isn’t required. And no priest needs to ask a bishop’s permission to use altar rails in a church – it’s like asking permission to turn on a light or open a window.

    Michael, how would altar rails highlight how unnecessary extraordinary ministers are; there’d still be the same number receiving communion. My parish when I was a boy had six priests, with four giving out communion at Sunday Masses, now it has one and a half – that’s why we have extraordinary ministers.

  60. AnAmericanMother says:


    Let’s noodle this one out. What’s the size of the church building, and how many individuals at a typical Mass?

    Our parish is the largest within the city limits, after Cathedral parish (some of the suburban parishes are still larger). We have almost 2,000 families, the church has a nominal capacity of 808, and is usually nearly full at the choral Mass which we attend (and sing in the choir). It takes two short motets (around 2 minutes) plus a little noodling on the organ, or one long one (4-6 minutes) for the congregation to receive. The Byrd “Bell Anthem” is too long at 8 and a half minutes, I would guess that our organist by severe cuts in the interludes gets it down to 5 or so.

    Our former Episcopal parish was also quite large – the largest in North Georgia after Cathedral parish. Before all the nonsense caused so many people to leave, it had about 2,500 members and two main services in a church that held about 650-700 (it’s one of those round churches so it’s hard for me to pin down an exact number.)
    It never took a long motet to get through communion. The congregation was through, the altar was all tidied up, and the priest was waiting to give the final blessing, and we were still singing.

    I’m not good at math, but it seems to me that communion at the rail went MUCH faster than the standing in line method, and it took only four people to do the job — not the 8-10 EMHCs that seem to be required for the standing in line (and multiple lines, at that).

  61. I don’t disagree – rails make for faster communion usually and I’ve no desire for 8-10 extraordinary ministers but you can’t leave an 80 year old priest to give out communion by himself on Sundays. My church usually has 2-3 extraordinary ministers – that’s about right.

  62. MichaelJ says:


    Re-introducing the Altar Rail would, I would think, naturally encourage the faithful to line up along the rail instead of forming a single file line. Once that happens, it should become rather obvious, to me at least, just how inefficient the current practice is.

  63. AnAmericanMother says:

    I would think it would be less strenuous for your priest to move back and forth along a rail, assisted by an altar server with a paten and followed by a cupbearer (be that the deacon or a lay server), than to have to stand without moving for a longer period of time. Or split your rail into two parts and have the deacon do the other, which would cut the priest’s time on his feet in half. That would mean 2 EMHCs, but their position would be more obviously in a supporting role rather than as the apparent primary minister of the communion.
    An extremely ‘out there’ kinda rainbow parish here uses two cupbearers, one on each side, but the priest administers the Host always. I wish the EMHCs would vest in cassock and surplice like the ECUSA lay servers did, though – they always look so strange milling around the sanctuary in street clothes, sometimes not very appropriate street clothes at that.

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