Benedict XVI on the benefits of kneeling before the Eucharist

My friend Fr. Ray Blake, the great parish priest of St. Mary Magdalen in Brighton, alerted me via his blog to something the Holy Father said during his trip this weekend to Ancona, Italy, for the Eucharistic Congress.  The full text is here.

My emphases and comments.

[…] The 2,000-year history of the Church is studded with men and women saints whose life is an eloquent sign of how in fact from communion with the Lord, from the Eucharist a new and intense assumption of responsibility is born at all levels of community life; born hence is a positive social development, which has the person at the center, especially the poor, the sick and the straitened. To be nourished by Christ is the way not to remain foreign and indifferent to the fortunes of our brothers, but to enter into the very logic of love and of gift of the sacrifice of the Cross; [Here is the big quote…] he who is able to kneel before the Eucharist, who receives the Lord’s body cannot fail to be attentive, in the ordinary course of the days, to situations unworthy of man, and is able to bend down personally to attend to need, is able to break his bread with the hungry, share water with the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned (cf. Matthew 25:34-36). He will be able to see in every person the Lord who did not hesitate to give the whole of himself for us and for our salvation. Hence, a Eucharistic spirituality is a real antidote to individualism and egoism that often characterize daily life, and leads to the rediscovery of gratuitousness, the centrality of relationships, beginning with the family, with a particular care for binding the wounds of the broken. A Eucharistic spirituality is the soul of an ecclesial community that overcomes divisions and oppositions and appreciates the diversity of charisms and ministries putting them at the service of the unity of the Church, of her vitality and of her mission. A Eucharistic spirituality is a way to restore dignity to man’s days and, hence, to his work, in the quest for reconciliation with the times of celebration and the family and in the commitment to surmount the uncertainty of precariousness and the problem of unemployment. A Eucharistic spirituality will also help us to approach the different forms of human fragility conscious that they do not obfuscate the value of the person, but require closeness, acceptance and help. Drawn from the Bread of life will be the vigor of a renewed educational capacity, attentive to witnessing the fundamental values of life, of learning, of the spiritual and cultural patrimony; its vitality will make us inhabit the city of men with the willingness to spend ourselves on the horizon of the common good for the building of a more equitable and fraternal society. […]

As I have said a zillion times, Pope Benedict, I believe, has a Marshall Plan to help rebuild our Catholic identity.  If we don’t know who we are and what we believe, we cannot offer what we have as Catholics to the world around us.  Thus, we fail in our mission in Matthew 28 and, weaken, we open ourselves to attacks.

The key to any plan is our liturgical worship.

Benedict seems to think that a Eucharistic spirituality, which must be liturgical at its core, is a key to living as a Catholic and applying correctives to many aspects of modern life.

Benedict seems to think that kneeling before the Eucharistic Lord is important for our Eucharistic identity.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    This “Marshall Plan”, as you call it Father. Is not much of a plan, unless things start getting implemented. To me it’s just the Pope doing it his way, and that’s all.

  2. MissOH says:

    One among many of the reasons I continually pray for the health of our Holy Father. Reversing years of ignorance and misinformation will take time.

  3. Midwest Girl says:

    Fr. Z,

    A few weeks ago, you said something that really caught my attention. You had said priests and pastors should teach as their flock can bear to hear the lesson.

    Recently, my husband and I have continued to reflect on the works of St. Faustina. She continues to talk about obedience, and God has really laid it on our hearts to be obedient to those He has placed in authority over us – including our pastor, and the binding statements of the USCCB.

    In the United States, the USCCB asks us for the norms to be to receive standing for the Eucharist. While we prefer to receive kneeling, we’ve decided that following what our pastor and what the USCCB asks of us is a sacrifice on our behalf. We believe that by being obedient to what the USCCB and our pastor requests, this can be just as pleasing to God as kneeling in his honor.

  4. St. Rafael says:

    I keep hearing about this Marashall Plan, yet Pope Benedict has been Pope for 6 years, and we still have altar girls. It’s been 6 years. We also still have Communion in the Hand along with many other issues. How is this Marshall Plan going to work if he can’t take care of the small stuff? [And what have you done lately to help?]

    Compared to bigger doctrinal and liturgical issues, altar girls and Communion in the hand is small stuff. These are indults that can be removed. In the liturgical reform, they are the small things that should have already been taken care of considering the bigger issues in the Mass and the new rite.

  5. Mike says:

    Midwest Girl,

    I admire your intentions very much. However, the USCCB doesn’t have a whole lot of authority in comparision to the Holy Father; indeed, according to Lumen Gentium, they only have authority in union with him. Thus, the higher authority, I believe, can be licitly, even meritoriously, obeyed with no disrespect to the lower, local authority whatsoever.

  6. St. Rafael says:

    I’m a lay man, not a priest or bishop. The only thing I can do is pray, e-mail the Vatican, and lead by example at Mass. I have been taking Commmunion on the tongue exclusively for three years and have been trying to get as many people as possible to adopt traditional practices by speaking out on the net.

  7. Lily says:

    Father, what do you suppose can be said to a priest who says the Pope does whatever he wants and it doesn’t apply to the rest of the church?

  8. Lily: I suppose: “Shame on you, Father!”, can be said to him, among other things.

  9. Denise says:

    I had the privilege of attending an Anglican Use Mass this past Sunday in Northern Virginia. It was a sung Requiem Mass. All of the parishes in the diocese of Arlington offered a Requiem Mass on the 10th anniversary of September 11. Our 70’s vintage architecture does not have an altar rail. We had a group of 75 or so people. The front pews were on either side of the center aisle were kept empty and we filed in to the front pew and received the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling. It was such a joy to receive in such a reverent posture and not feel that it was an act of rebellion.

  10. benedetta says:

    With so many people re-considering their attitudes towards receiving the Eucharist, being moved to show reverence during Mass, I suppose the ball is now in the usccb court. Bishops of Canada and England have been doing some very responsible things towards supporting people in their Eucharistic journeys.

    If one’s pastor specifically asks someone not to kneel then that would seem to be a request that one would have to consider in terms of obedience and respect. When such things happen they can also emerge as a bit of a test and to serve as example and no one ought to get wrapped up in such drama. Better to receive standing and reflect on Pope Benedict’s entire homily.

    Of course we may always kneel in Adoration.

  11. Tradster says:

    Kneeling before the Holy Eucharist should be a given for all Catholics and, God willing, will be again soon. A good first step towards regaining that respect for God would be to get the (usually female) lay “ministers” to lose the head bob and butt push and actually start genuflecting again.

  12. avecrux says:

    Lay people can do a lot to help.
    1. We can read this blog, find out about other resources here and elsewhere, and become as educated and knowledgeable as possible.
    2. We can be a positive and friendly face within our own parish community – volunteer at the fish fry, staff a booth at the parish fair, go to meetings – let the Pastor know you are there for the parish.
    3. We can volunteer in critical places – are catechists needed in the faith formation program? What about parishioners to train altar boys? Youth group leaders? RCIA team members?
    4. Attend parish functions, meet people and talk to them about the Eucharist when the time is right.
    5. Try to give good example at Mass (daily if possible).
    6. Pray and pray and pray.
    7. If there is a parish trying to “do the right thing” – go and support them – even if it means traveling a little farther.
    8. Put your *sacrificial* money where your mouth is.
    9. Pray some more.
    10. Invite your Pastor for dinner and make a really nice meal. (If you are a single lady, better to invite a group.) Everything is easier when we all know each other.

  13. Lucas says:

    I agree with avecrux. Just because you are a lay person, doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. You want people to start kneeling, you start. Mingle with parishioners. Don’t force your beliefs right away, just work on them.

    At our church, one day my older son did not receive Communion because he had not been to confession before Mass. A family friend asked why he didn’t go up and my son told him “I needed to go to confession”. He then explained the importance of confession the next week he saw the friend at the church for confession. Not bad for a 14 year old.

    And remember, if you don’t talk with your priest, you may not know his innermost thoughts. He may put up with the guitars and 15 EMHC because he is new or worried that nobody would be on his side. After our new pastor found out there were many like-minded people in his church, he has started, albeit slowly, to make changes.

  14. avecrux says:

    That’s really good to hear, Lucas – both your son’s example, and your Pastor’s courage once he felt supported. :)

  15. kallman says:

    It is not that hard to do and becomes second nature to those previously unfamiliar with it in quite a short time such that people wonder why they were not doing it all along. The wierdest thing I have ever seen is choir boys kneeling at the altar rails of a large city cathedral in choir dress only to then receive communion in the hand! Now that is mixed up.

  16. Father Z: [And what have you done lately to help?]

    Most loyal and faithful Catholics I know are doing all they know to do in charity and by example on a daily basis, without resorting to complaint and confrontation that are not only usually counter-productive, but also are contrary to the nature of most serious and prayerful worshipers.

    Many have persevered in their loyalty and devotion for decades, especially in solid support of good liturgy and moral leadership wherever they could find it. But their quiet faith and example, in season and out, has mostly been of little avail in rectifying problems that they did not create, to which they have never contributed, and which they have never supported.

    In my own decades of personal prayer and worry about the Church’s difficulties, I have never managed to see how they can be addressed effectively by other than those responsible for them—the popes, bishops, and priests who have inflicted them on their long-suffering flocks. After all, ours is a hierarchical Church.

    Nor can I see how those who created these problems can begin to rectify them, other than by admitting past errors forthrightly. After all, how can promise of restitution be taken seriously or be effective without confession of guilt? Public confession in the case of public guilt.

  17. wolfeken says:

    Let me associate myself with those above who note it’s not much of a “Marshall Plan” to be personally in favor of kneeling for communion while holding un-used authority to mandate such posture throughout the universal Church.

    I also think that praising these extremely small gestures without contstantly emphasizing the big picture (i.e. this must be the law of the entire Church, not ten people who are fortunate enough to receive Communion from Benedict XVI) is not a wise move. Rather, we should be praising these little ideas and writings while saying, saying, and saying again that everyone in the Catholic Church should be kneeling for communion, to use this example, by force of law.

    If someone disagrees with me, then turn on EWTN to see a center-right novus ordo remnant, followed by walking into the first Catholic parish you pass by in your travels to see the reality the other 99.9% of Catholics experience.

    The only way change happens is if ideas and writings are mandated. Meatless Fridays in England, for instance, should be one’s inspiration for how to accomplish something involving more than a handful of conservative Catholics.

  18. acroat says:

    We still have alter rails & all knell to receive at our parish. We all suspect that our pastor suffers as the bishop sees it as defiance of the USCCB. I suspect that our pastor is behind this act. Oh, that he had that power! Fr frequently encourages everyone to dress in a fine manner ( ladies in dresses & men in slacks and nice shirts) but most ignore his attempt to influence us.

  19. danphunter1 says:

    “[And what have you done lately to help?]”

    I personally have never, in 37 years of recieving the Blessed Sacrament, have never recieved in the hand.
    I also almost have always receive kneeling, whether there is a rail or not.
    I and my family pray daily for the Holy Father to overturn the abysmal practice of receiving in the hand.

    But I am a simple layman with no authority.
    The Holy Father has the authority to overturn this indult.

    I sincerely believe that until the HF mandates that all Catholics who are not clergy must receive on the tongue and kneeling, that nothing major will change.
    Example, as we see, only takes you so far.

  20. Re: “head bob and butt push”, ie, bowing before the altar

    If the tabernacle isn’t up behind the altar and there’s no Real Presence up there, it’s wrong to genuflect to the altar and looks idolatrous, or so we’ve been told in my parish. So you bow. If you’re not actually walking in front of the tabernacle and it’s not your first time into the pew or your last time out, you’re generally forbidden by Father and the lay minister training to genuflect getting in and out of the pew, both for speed and lest you be thought to be kneeling at the altar or at Father. (A real possibility, given the direction of Father’s seat and the direction of the tabernacle, in our parish.)

    The “butt push” is caused by trying to bow profoundly without falling or hurting one’s back, especially when you find out all of a sudden that your feet aren’t solidly positioned for stop-and-bow. You’re just lucky you haven’t seen anybody fall on their face or get stuck that way, because I guarantee it does happen, both with men and women. I’ve seen full headers in my time, and that’s not pleasant with steps in front of the poor victim’s noggin. You’d think carpet would help give traction and padding, but it doesn’t seem to.The real scandal is how many people don’t kneel before the tabernacle, and don’t bow before the altar, or only bow on one side of the altar while traveling across the holy area from one side of church to the other.

  21. spesalvi23 says:

    I do think some rationality and patience is called for.

    As the Holy Father has said many times: sudden, drastic changes won’t change things for the better.
    In case of implementation of rules with an iron fist, you may have people obeying and performing physical acts of piety, but you won’t have their hearts.
    It will take time, and it will take endurance, love, prudence and intelligence.

    The holy Father has experienced dictatorship hands on – I don’t think he’s a big fan of it.
    He’s being extremely collegial and he’s trying to reach people’s hearts and minds.
    That’s the only way for a real change. A change with substance and sustainability.

    It will take a while. Most likely the fruits of his labour will not be harvested during his pontificate; but – being the good German – he’d rather do a solid, quality job, instead of going for the quick, but unsound change.

  22. vivaldi says:

    Much to my disgust I was not allowed to kneel at the Novus Ordo Seminary. Also yhe rector said that of the Seminarians did not agree to revieve communion on the hand that they would not be made Lectors or Acolytes- this caused much pain for all. Reason 98866 I joined the SSPX!

  23. vivaldi says:

    Sorry bumpy train plus iphone equals a few typos

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