If you install it, they will kneel.

Is kneeling the new standing?

From a deacon:

We just finished a refurbishing of the inside of our church shortly
before Christmas which included bringing out of the basement the old
altar rail and re-installing it
. For midnite mass our pastor
announced before mass that “the norm in our diocese for reception of
communion is a solemn bow just before recieving standing either on the
tongue or in the hand . In order to accomodate those who wish to
recieve our Lord while kneeling we will from now on recieve communion
at the rail . You can either stand or kneel and recieve either on the
tongue or in the hand but all will be done at the rail “. Happy to say
that over 75% OF THE CONGREGATION KNELT ! Of those who knelt to
recieve the majority were on the tongue . Several had tears in their
eyes as they recieved our Lord.What a great start .

Will old traditions be forgot?

In with the old and out with the new?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Brick by Brick, Just Too Cool, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, The future and our choices and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. JoyfulMom7 says:

    God bless that pastor!

  2. kolbe1019 says:


    Yes, God will bless him.

  3. albizzi says:

    One may wonder: Wasn’t the implementation of giving the communion while standing and in the hand as the standard a kind of abuse of power?

  4. Supertradmum says:

    Makes the lines go faster as well, contrary to popular opinion, and no EMHCs. God bless him. I find it so odd in churches which still have rails that the people must stand anyway as the priest comes out in front of the rails. I have seen this done is several places. I, for one, cannot kneel on a carpeted, stone or marble floor and get up without help. I have even requested a prie- dieu before Mass in the past in one place, and surprised when one was brought out. One should always ask.

  5. skull kid says:

    The modern world (and modern Churchmen) are obsessed with equality and diversity. Well, we should use that to our advantage. I say that those who WANT to kneel now are being actively discriminated against. We have to kneel on hard marble and we (especially the older folk or the infirm) have no support to lean on to help them kneel and get up again. Let’s push this as an equality/diversity/disability issue, and let’s play their own game to get what we want. Whaddya say?

  6. contrarian says:

    This is such a great story.
    And Supertradmum, you are exactly right. Communion rails makes the distribution much more efficient. If a presiding priest were not interested in good form or liturgy or orthodoxy, but merely efficiency and expediency, he would be wise to install communion rails and use EMHC’s sparingly to none at all.

  7. APX says:

    @skull kid

    This isn’t an “equality” issue, but an equity issue. As it stands right now, we are being treated equally. This is an equity issue, as giving us something to kneel on would be accommodating our special need. This is an ideology feminists don’t get.

    Anyhoo, I’m amazed someone kept the old altar rail.

    I read in some Church document (I don’t remember which one) that a kneeling aid isn’t supposed to be provided for those who prefer to kneel, as to not make it appear that one posture isn’t preferred over the other. I wouldn’t mind having something to kneel on aside from the floor (especially when the building is under construction), and I always have a slight fear in the back of my head that I’ll have an ungraceful return to my feet, but so far there haven’t been any issues.

  8. NoTambourines says:

    That makes me wonder if any of the now-popular round-layout churches have been retrofitted with a communion rail.

    My current parish’s church building is a giant semicircle in layout. That would be a whole lotta communion rail, and was probably never even dreamed of by the designers.

  9. wmeyer says:

    Oh, how I wish a rail would be installed at my parish! I’d love to see how many would then kneel.

    However, I am sure that the army of EMHCs would protest before the fact, that their “right” to their ministry, couched, no doubt, as a matter also of “full participation”, was being denied.

  10. Supertradmum says:

    I have seen documentation from two dioceses which bluntly state that standing is the norm for public prayer and for receiving Communion in those dioceses. And that kneeling is the norm for private prayer. I notice these sorts of printed statements, and if any of you young ones see such, write to your chancery. Within the past few years, a man I know in my one of my old parishes, a Cathedral, was refused Communion for kneeling, the priest actually withholding it until he stood up. It was at a Sunday, High Mass attended by at least 400 people. The man took the issue to the Bishop and then, because he had to do so, to Rome. One would hope and pray this sort of thing would fade away.

  11. Mitchell NY says:

    This is great. I wonder how many Altar Rail pieces and units are laying disassembled all over the place and are in need of being reassembled in their place. The Altar Rails not only serve function for kneeling, but add beautiful symbolism to the area known as the Sanctuary. To me, as a child I always imagined that just on the other side of the rail were Angels, floating around and in the center, on the Altar, Christ during Consecration. It was a wholely Heavenly area, here on earth, bound by the Altar Rails. As if the Rails kept it all safe within the enclosure for all to see or imagine.

  12. RichR says:

    Best post among many greats this year. If people are that moved to return to kneeling at the rail, there is a real longing for altar rails. Young people crave it, old people miss it. To heck with our “dignity as children of God”, we clearly see the dignity of God. Let our solemn reception of Him reflect it.

    As an aside, altar rails will mean no EMHCs or (likely) no Communion under Both Species. Imagine not having to recruit, train, schedule, and sign-in EMHCs. Imagine not having all the chalices on the altar. Imagine no delays at the beginning of the Communion Rite while getting each of the dozen EMHCs their vessels. Imagine smooth traffic at the rail. Imagine no purification of all the chalices. Imagine not having to keep up with as much linen cleaning because there are fewer purificators.

    Wouldn’t it be so much simpler, Father priests?

  13. Philangelus says:

    The first time I received kneeling it was just so awesome. I loved it so much. (I was visiting someone, and I’ve never seen kneeling for Communion at a parish anywhere near me.)

  14. Blaise says:

    I have heard it said by a priest who ought to know given his job, that it is not generally allowed to reintroduce altar rails into Churches where they have been removed. He may have been referring only to his diocese but I do wonder.
    There are plenty of churches that have altar rails still in situ but do not use them alas.

  15. wmeyer says:

    RichR — my imagination has been filled with such images for months. ;)

    A few weeks after my baptism and confirmation last summer, I was asked by a member of the RCIA staff whether I had considered becoming an EMHC. Without the slightest hesitation, and indeed, I am afraid, with less thought than I should have given, I replied “Not in this life!” It was not my intention to be uncharitable, but my response was visceral.

  16. Sixupman says:

    At a Jesuit church in Lancashire, all used the ‘rail’. Come a new parish priest and the congregation were banned and ordered to queue!

  17. CBM says:

    This blurb is for the January 15 bulletin but I began the practice three years ago and many many people do kneel. I will remind them again on the Epiphany. At the Masses for the school during the week ALL kneel to receive and First Communion is ONLY on the tongue and kneeling.
    St. Michael the Archangel, Miami, FL :

    Kneeling to Receive Communion
    Last Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Epiphany. On that day we remember the Wise Men who in following a star found the One Who made the stars: Jesus Christ the Lord. The Gospel on that Day (Luke, 2: 1-12) goes on to tell us, “…on entering the house they saw the Child with Mary His Mother. They prostrated themselves and worshipped Him.”. The Wise Men got down on their knees and they adored Him.
    Throughout the Sacred Scriptures and especially in the Book of Revelation we learn that the “posture” of the Angels before the Altar in Heaven, God’s Presence, is “kneeling”. On their Angelic Knees the Heavenly Hosts adore Him.
    There are many other references to kneeling before the Majesty of God found in the Bible as well. You can do a “google search” and find them.
    Based on these biblical references, basic common sense and human respect, The Church calls the faithful to kneel at certain times during the Holy Mass: during the Eucharistic Prayer from the end of the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts) through UNTIL the Great Amen. Only the deacon is to stand at the Memorial Acclamation, all others are to remain kneeling. Watch the Knights of the Altar if you aren’t sure; follow their example.
    Of course, those who CANNOT kneel, MUST not kneel but those who CAN kneel, SHOUL kneel.
    Another time that the faithful may kneel is to receive Holy Communion. In the Masses celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI it is now the norm that all who approach the Holy Father to receive the Eucharist do so on their knees and on the tongue. It is not because of the Pope but because of the Lord! What the Pope does in Rome is intended to be a model for what we do throughout the Catholic World.
    Here at St. Michael the Archangel we are privileged to have not only an altar rail but beautiful substantial kneelers. The Altar Rail is not strong enough to receive the strain of thousands of knees each Sunday but the kneelers certainly are. Therefore, as we enter into this New Year, in the House where we too meet the Child and His Mother, let us approach Him with the same wisdom of the Magi and honor of the Angels and kneel down in humble adoration to receive Him.

    Fr. Marino

  18. APX says:


    This young one can thankfully state that no such silliness has appeared in my permanent diocese. Furthermore, my bishop has always happily given me communion whilst kneeling.

    I still don’t understand why exactly they removed the rails in the first place.

  19. NoTambourines says:

    APX– to hear the rhetoric from some people, you’d think the rail was a miniature of the Berlin Wall. I grew up hearing in school that it was a mark of separation in a negative sense. Not something demarcating and protecting a sacred space, but more like the fence in the Five Man Electrical Band’s song “Signs.”

  20. APX says:


    I’ve only seen one altar rail once in real life before: while attending a Nuptial Mass at a little hand-built stone church at the settlement my ancestors settled at. It’s a national historic site, so it’s hands-off to Vatican II demolishers (aside from the installation of an altar for versus populum Mass celebrations). Everything was left in place (including the outhouse, which is still the only functional washroom at the entire site).

  21. JaneC says:

    I wish they would install an altar rail at my current parish. We had one at our previous parish, and it was well-used. An EMHC came and stood in front of the gate at the more crowded Masses and distributed to people who didn’t want to use the rail, and the priest distributed at the rail.

  22. Joseph-Mary says:

    We have most of the altar rail in our 100 year old church which was remodeled in 1960 and so it was not ripped out. But we do not use. I so much enjoy the few opportunites I have to kneel for Holy Communion.

  23. Paul says:

    Kneeling to receive is one of a handful of things I miss, having swum the Tiber from a high church Anglican congregation. To this day, it grates on my soul to stand before the King of Kings, but in obedience to my pastor and bishop, I do. Even receiving on the tongue is barely allowed and I was almost prevented from making my first communion when I was received into the Church, over that matter.

    God bless this brave priest for returning the rails!

  24. leonugent2005 says:

    That was truly brilliant. It would probably surprise the few people who read my comments to know that I would like to go back to kneeling at the communion rail. If the church ever decides to go that way, this priests method would be a go way to get it started!

  25. Luvadoxi says:

    Lutherans receive kneeling at the rail, and in both kinds, too. I don’t see why Catholics don’t.

  26. APX says:


    You’re allowed to kneel to receive Communion. All that silly pastoral stuff about counseling why standing is the norm is gone from the GIRM. Any priest or bishop who acts or states otherwise are the ones being disobedient.

  27. Geoffrey says:

    What a wonderful way to let those who wish to kneel do so, and at the same time encourage the practice of kneeling without forcing anyone. If only all churches with altar rails would do this!

  28. jhayes says:

    CBM said ” In the Masses celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI it is now the norm that all who approach the Holy Father to receive the Eucharist do so on their knees and on the tongue. It is not because of the Pope but because of the Lord! What the Pope does in Rome is intended to be a model for what we do throughout the Catholic World.”

    But if you watch videos of the Pope’s Christmas Mass, you’ll see priests distributing communion in the hand to people standing. it appears that the requirement to kneel and receive on the tongue applies only to people who receive Communion from the Pope.

    In the parish I attend, two prie-dieu appeared about six weeks ago without any explanation. Since then, I have seen only one person use them to receive Communion. At the Christmas Mass, they had disappeared, also without any explanation.

  29. daveams says:

    Our parish has both the OF and EF, and for years the communion rail was only used in the EF Masses. About 4 years ago, the Pastor decided to use the rail at OF Masses also. We had the same experience: most people knelt.

    Thanks be to God for these Pastors!

  30. Trad Tom says:

    A beautiful report! What I would give to have a communion rail, to kneel, and to receive on the tongue! At my (nearly) “in-the-round,” fairly lberal, active-participation parish, I’m afraid it’s just a dream.

Comments are closed.