QUAERITUR: Is it an insult for deacons to kneel during the consecration? (I’m not making this up.)

From a deacon:

I was reprimanded today for kneeling at the altar during consecration and told there is an insult in the US church against this -I can find no documents that lead me to believe this is true. Any insight you can offer would be great!

Insult?  That’s one of the dumbest….  No, wait… perhaps you meant “indult”?  That is to say, in the USA there is a special rule that deacons don’t kneel during the consecration?

From the General Instruction of the Roman Missal with the USA adaptations:

179. During the Eucharistic Prayer, the deacon stands near the priest but slightly behind him, so that when needed he may assist the priest with the chalice or the Missal.

From the epiclesis until the priest shows the chalice, the deacon normally remains kneeling.

If several deacons are present, one of them may place incense in the thurible for the consecration and incense the host and the chalice as they are shown to the people.

Moreover, here is a view of the deacons for the Holy Father’s last public Mass for Ash Wednesday… during the consecration.

That takes care of that.


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  1. Central Valley says:

    ” From the epiclesis until the priest shows the chalice, the deacon normally remains kneeling.” In my diocese, Fresno Ca, I have rarely seen this done….so much for rules in the Am church.

  2. Well, I read and re-read the subject line on this post 3 or 4 times in disbelief. ‘Nuff said…eh-hem!

  3. CPT TOM says:

    I’ve never seen this in my current diocese…Is it possible for a bishop to LEGALLY abrogate this, in the same manner that in my diocese people do not kneel after the Agnus Dei? [I don’t believe so.]

  4. Dr. K says:

    It would be an insult not to! :-)

  5. CPT TOM says:

    Dr K. do you see Deacons see kneeling in your part of the Diocese? I don’t see it down in my neck of the woods.

  6. Dr. K says:

    I’ve seen it in a couple parishes but it’s a rare sight.

  7. Blaise says:

    The language “normally remains kneeling” does suggest that there are instances where he does not. Perhaps all the deacons not kneeling have replacement knees and cannot kneeel (they tend to be on the older side where I am)?
    I presume that kind of thing, or standing to turn a page for the priest in the missal or to elevate the chalice is the kind of abnormal non-kneeling envisaged. But then since every Mass I attend tends to have an extraordinary number of people requiring the use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, perhaps they are also abnormal in relation to kneeling deacons. What is the difference between “abnormal” and “extraordinary” anyway?

  8. Canicus says:

    In my diocese, the Bishop has issued instructions that Deacons are not to kneel – seems to me common sense should prevail, and if we are able, we should be honored to do so….

  9. Jeannie_C says:

    Well, up here, our Deacons kneel.. As far as CPT TOM’s comment goes, our bishop has ruled that after receiving the communicants return to their pews and stand, joining in the (usually awful, depending on the parish) Communion hymn singing. we choose not to, and prayerfully kneel, in adoration, awe and respect of the True Presence.
    Asked about it, we have quoted the Catechism on conscience, particularly, #1782 “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. “He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters” . That’s Christ present, right there, in front of you, how can one NOT kneel?
    One priest (no longer at our parish) took us to task over it – Asked him this – ” If there was a knock at your door, and it was Christ standing there would you not drop to your knees?”
    FYI Our bishop has also decreed that Confirmation will take place before First Reconciliation..

  10. Darren says:

    From the epiclesis until the priest shows the chalice, the deacon normally remains kneeling.

    This is precisely what has been taking place at my parish for the past 4 and a half years, when a very tradition-minded and more orthodox priest became our pastor. He left after 4 years but this practice remains. Also, before that pastor was with us, the deacons wore chasubles like the priests. He got them all dalmatics which they have been wearing since. (and, nicer chasubles for the priests)

  11. cathdeac says:

    I am an Italian deacon: we all do kneel during consecration.

  12. APX says:

    Up here in Canada, in two dioceses and three cities, the only time I’ve seen deacons kneeling are under the following circumstances:

    a) They’re transitional deacons
    b) The transitional deacon(s) is/are kneeling, so the permanent deacon kneels
    c) The bishop is present

    It really grinds my gears when deacons remain standing when they should be kneeling, and are doing the orans position during the Our Father with the priest.

  13. APX says:

    BTW: Up here in Canada, since we do as little kneeling as possible (from the epiclesis to the Great Amen, and that’s it. No kneeling after communion reception, we remain standing “as a sign of unity” *eye roll*), I didn’t think “insult” was a typo. That seems to be on par with some of the whacky explanations I’ve heard/read from Canadian bishops for why we don’t kneel.

  14. TopSully says:

    Deacons kneeling? It would be nice if we had a Deacon. I’d trade one Deacon for the 15, yes, 15 extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion we have at each mass. Yes, 15.

  15. Ben Yanke says:

    I suspect that the “normally” refers to cases when he would rise to remove the pall or turn the missal page for the priest (after which, he would return to kneeling, of course).

  16. Fr AJ says:

    The deacons all kneel in our diocese and have for several years. I recall there being confusion because the old GIRM didn’t mention it but when the new Ceremonial of Bishops came out at some point several years ago it had the rubric about deacons kneeling.

  17. Jeannie_C says:

    APX.. as an FYI, we too, are in the Great White North. As for standing after reception? Well, not we.. What also amazes us is how few folks bow to the Book of the Gospel when it is presented to the people before the Gospel is read.. Call us old-fashioned, then.. we bow..

  18. Jeannie_C says:

    Addendum- And not to beat the dead horse, but we sure have lost a lot of the sense of sacredness and mystery in the liturgy….

  19. Random Friar says:

    I’ve known many a deacon, and most do, although some of the more elderly ones have a difficult time remaining kneeling from their position behind the altar with the priest. The are kneeling on a floor with no support or cushion. It’s a little easier to get up if one is kneeling on a step, especially if it is cushioned.

  20. jbpolhamus says:

    This too shall pass, as Bishop Vann has demonstrated in the Diocese of Orange. Tabernacles are now allowed to be seen in the proximity of the altar, and knees have become more flexible at communion. Deo gratias for the passing of the episcopal Generation of Pride.

  21. Sure if the deacon is behind the altar with the priest, he will not be seen by the congragation if he kneels? Well, his nose won’t be seen unless he’s tall – the rest of him will, at least when the cloth on the altar, if present, is only hanging down the sides, and not back and front as well.

    Fr Z – when will your electric altar rails (reported over at the Eye of the Tiber) be available in your online store?

  22. e.e. says:

    TopSully, I’m with you. Our geographical parish has at least 9 EMHC’s at each Mass (and it’s not a big parish). The whole flock of EMHCs stands in the sanctuary behind the altar from the Agnus Dei onward. Sigh.

  23. ejcmartin says:

    Our one deacon in an archdiocese of 100,000 thankfully kneels. Based upon my experience and apparently that of APX and Jeannie_C, it would appear that standing after communion as a sign of “unity” is as Canadian as “eh”.

  24. fvhale says:

    GIRM 1975, n. 134-135.
    “During the eucharistic prayer, the deacon stands near but slightly behind the priest, so that when necessary he may assist the priest with the chalice or the missal.
    At the final doxology of the eucharistic prayer, the deacon stands next to the priest, holding up the chalice as the priest raises the paten with the eucharistic bread, until the people have said the acclamation: ‘Amen.'”

    GIRM 2010, nn 179-189. [changes in bold by me.]
    “During the Eucharistic Prayer, the Deacon stands near the Priest, but slightly behind him, so that when necessary he may assist the Priest with the chalice or the Missal.
    From the epiclesis until the Priest shows the chalice, the Deacon usually remains kneeling. If several Deacons are present, one of them may place incense in the thurible for the Consecration and incense the host and the chalice ast the elevation.
    At the concluding doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer, the Deacon stands next to the Priest, and holds the chalice elevated while the Priest elevates the paten with the host, until the people have acclaimed: ‘Amen.'”

    It is possible that the parties involved have not studied the new GIRM.

  25. Building on what Fr. AJ said above, did there used to be an indult or widespread confusion over this? Growing up, the deacons at my parish and neighboring parishes never knelt (although I know the deacon I saw most often did have knee problems). It seems to me that sometime while I was in college – 2002-2005, this changed, and the deacons at every parish I attended (same archdiocese as my home parish), were always kneeling. The reason I remember this is specifically because of how much it caught me off-guard when I started seeing kneeling deacons. To this day, I still find the sight of deacons kneeling to be odd (even though it is clearly the correct position).

  26. tealady24 says:

    I know I’ve seen this somewhere, yet, I cannot recall it recently. And why have some churches abolished their kneelers for parishioners???? I find it of the highest sacrilege to stand during the consecration prayers.
    If anyone knows of a good TLM church in NJ, please let know. We will be moving there (or should I say, back) by late spring.

  27. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    This is a Rosanna Rosannadanna moment. Like the time I was asked to explain what the “wedding vowels” meant.

  28. fvhale says:

    And then there was the time I was half-listening to a Marian Litany on the radio while doing dishes, and at the words “Lady in Violet” I thought of my dear departed Grandmother.

  29. majuscule says:

    Our deacon had hip replacement last year. He is not a young man. But almost as soon as he was back assisting at Mass, he was kneeling again.

  30. Darren says:

    tealady24 asked “If anyone knows of a good TLM church in NJ, please let know. We will be moving there (or should I say, back) by late spring.”

    What part of New Jersey? There is Mater Ecclesiae in the Diocese of Camden. This is a diocesan parish established for the celebration of the TLM only. In the Diocese of Paterson there is the Chapel of Our Lady of Fatima in Pequannock which has the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest has St. Anthony’s Oratory in West Orange (Archdiocese of Newark). These three are TLM only. There are numerous other parishes around the state that have a TLM on Sundays – and maybe a few with one or more during the week.

    You can check here: http://www.ecclesiadei.org/masses.cfm
    However, it is not 100% up to date. I know that Holy Rosary in Jersey City moved theirs from 10 AM on Sunday to 9:45 AM (a little more time for the High Mass they celebrate). Please verify any others.

    And, welcome back to the Garden State :)

  31. Fr AJ says:

    youngcatholicstl, there was no indult for the US concerning this. The GIRM from 1975 does not require Deacons to kneel. That changed with the Ceremonial of Bishops that came out around 1990 I believe and the rubrics in the new missal as quoted above.

  32. Jeannie_C says:

    to ejcmartin – well, I’d say, eh? It looks as if our Canadian bishops have decided “unity” trumps any sign of respect for the sacred.. We’ll continue to kneel.
    One would hope that if a new “Rocket from Rome” is due out this summer on the form of the Mass, that there will be some teeth in it, to help get rid of some of the “protestant liberalisms” that have crept in..

  33. The Egyptian says:

    Deacon, Kneel, really?? our “new” old one, ordained 25 years ago, just hired, is too busy holding hands with the servers and forcing them to raise then straight up for prayers, how can he kneel when he is doing such important work, PRAISE THE LORD, sheesh

  34. Dave N. says:

    I’m sad to say that Dr. Peters is probably correct. If we are going to have permanent deacons, how about the Church shell out the funds to provide them with a decent theological education? The vast majority deacons don’t even have minimal M.Div. degrees. Of course a degree is no guarantee of orthodoxy, but at least we should be willing provide them with the basic the tools to do their job. And if the church isn’t willing to provide an appropriate education for permanent deacons, then we just shouldn’t have them.

  35. fvhale says:

    Dear Dave N.,

    According to global church statistics published October 2012, there are now just under 40,000 deacons in the Church. We have them. They are not going away.

    The total number of priests in the world is about 10 times that, roughly 410,000. The only continent with a decrease in the number of priests was Europe.

    And there are about 5,100 bishops, and about 1.2 billion Catholics.

    So, on the average, we have for each bishop: 8 deacons, 80 priests, and 235,000 faithful.

    Thus it would seem that the deacons and their education might not be such a high priority.

    Except that the permanent deacons in the world are distributed in a very strange way, with, for example, more that 1% of the total number of deacons in the world in each of the archdioceses of Los Angeles and Galveston-Houston. The US has over 17,000 deacons, or more than 40% of the global total. Most dioceses require them to have 20 hours of “continuing formation” and a retreat each year.
    70% of the deacons in the US are over age 60. It is not very likely that they will be pursuing rigorous academic programs similar to those in a seminary.

    Source for stats:

  36. catholicmidwest says:

    Deacons standing can give the impression they are concelebrating. Deacons cannot concelebrate with a priest. They are ordained but not as priests. They never have faculties for saying mass; they assist only, and yes, they should kneel. There is no reason whatsoever for them to stand at the transubstantiation.

  37. Will Elliott says:

    I’ve encountered lots of non-kneeling deacons in my current and former dioceses. I’ve never checked to be sure, but I wonder if they’ve been instructed/encouraged to not kneel for the consecration as a sign of unity with their brother deacons who have difficulty kneeling.

    This isn’t an issue at my current parish, where the deacons kneel for the consecration, and the deacon not assisting with the purification of the vessels after communion kneels along with the altar servers until the altar is cleared. Of course, this being an Anglican Use parish, we in the congregation kneel for much (maybe most?) of the Mass.

  38. Volanges says:

    Jeannie_C, you’re in Canada and you have a Book of Gospels? Since the CCCB has not yet published a Book of Gospels, are you using an American or a British version? Does that mean that the Gospel that is read at Mass is not the same translation as the one that’s in the ‘Living with Christ’?

  39. Jeannie_C says:

    Volanges.. Sorry, the improper usage slipped in. I tend to refer the to lectionary as the Book of Gospels at times, when the brain is not fully engaged..Still the lack of respect shown when it is presented troubles us. Its the same readings as everyone else in Canada gets…

  40. Dcn Scott says:

    As a deacon, it is my great privilege to be near the altar and to kneel before our Lord present in the Eucharist. How can such reverence before our Lord ever been seen as an insult? Really we should all prostrate, get down on our faces.

    However, where I serve (a Cathedral church), at the request of our bishop, deacons don’t kneel because we have several deacons assigned, a few of whom are quite elderly and unable to kneel. So not kneeling is simply for consistency of practice.

    Nonetheless, there are occasions when I kneel, even during Mass in the Cathedra. I certainly do when I assist elsewhere.

  41. muledog says:

    I think this mindset regarding the proper posture for deacons during the Consecration costems in part from an FDLC Position Paper from several years ago.

    In it, the FDLC basically states that, since many deacons are black, and many more priests are white, forcing the deacon to kneel would conjure up images of a subservient slave.
    I believe the Position Paper is available on the FDLC website.

  42. APX says:

    Jeannie C

    I have never bowed to the Lectionary, nor have I ever heard of such being done.

    That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Granted, aren’t we all technically “slaves” to Christ? There should really be a lot more kneeling going on.

    As for Canada, I think Rome needs to do an intervention on our minimalist way of being Catholic. Minimal kneeling, only two Holy Days of Obligation, no meatless Fridays during Lent, we’re pathetic here.

  43. catholicmidwest says:

    Dcn Scott, you said, “Really we should all prostrate, get down on our faces.”

    I’m a convert, and this is the first response of many converts when they find out what the Catholic Church really has. The second response is amazement at the complacency of many other Catholics, that some of them don’t even want to kneel. :/

  44. Gail F says:

    In my Archdiocese, we now have about the same number of permanent deacons as we do priests. They have to finish a 3-year postgraduate degree before they can begin their 3-year diaconate preparation program. Sometimes I am amazed that we have any at all, because that’s a long time to go to school — especially considering that most of them are not young men to start with. The degree has become much more rigorous in recent years as well. They seem very well prepared to me, especially considering what little (if any) prep Protestants have for their “deacons” and “elders” etc. (In general, that is — I’m sure some denominations have training of some sort.)

  45. Dcn Scott says:

    As a deacon, I bow to the Gospel both before and after incensing it. When the Bishop is not presiding in the Cathedral, I also kiss the Book of the Gospels after proclaiming it. When he is present, I hold it while he reverences it.

    catholicmidwest: I am also a convert, albeit of some 23 years now. It is through His presence in the Eucharist that Christ drew me to Himself while I was in college.

  46. Fr AJ says:

    Gail, most deacons and elders in the Protestant communities I know of are elected positions and serve on a board governing that local community, it’s not liturgical. The closest thing we have to that is our Parish Council members.

  47. Volanges says:

    Jeannie_C, we’re not supposed to make a fuss over the Lectionary, it’s not even supposed to be used in the Entrance Procession and I’m not sure what you mean by ‘it’s presented’. The GIRM doesn’t envision that anything special be done with the Lectionary.

  48. Jeannie_C says:

    Volanges – Before the Gospel is read, our Deacon or Priest holds the book aloft, and presents it to the people. We were taught by our Carmelite pastors to bow. As well, when the book is carried up the aisle, held aloft, we were taught to bow as it passes.. After all, it is the Word of God, and as such is due respect when proclaimed… We also bowat Christs name, and the “Blessed is He who comes”
    Doesn’t everyone?

  49. Darren says:

    At my parish, the Deacon picks up the book from the altar, holds it up and processes around in front of the altar to the podium where he reads it. Two altar servers escort him with candles and hold the candles on either side as he reads. We don’t bow or do anything like that and it is not processed up the aisle, but is on the altar before the start of mass.

    However, we are supposed to bow our heads at the name of Jesus (not Christ, just Jesus). Less know are the practices of bowing at the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, any time the all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity are stated together (like the sign of the cross; and the end of the Gloria counts I believe), and when the name of the saint whose feast it is is stated (doesn’t count on Sundays).

    End of the Gloria:
    For you alone are the Holy One,
    you alone are the Lord,
    you alone are the Most High,

    — bow —
    Jesus Christ,
    with the Holy Spirit,
    in the glory of God the Father.

    — un-bow –

  50. Volanges says:

    No, I would say that not everyone bows — I’ve never seen anyone bow at that point and I’ve never heard of bowing to the Lectionary.

    The GIRM says that only the Book of Gospels is to be carried in procession, not the Lectionary, but I know that most Canadian parishes ignore that because we don’t have an official Book of Gospels. In fact, as a reader in my parish, I’m often the one carrying it. But it’s not accorded anything like the reverence that the Book of Gospels would be: certainly no procession before the Gospel or anything like that.

  51. Jeannie_C says:

    Now you have totally confused me, as to what book is being processed and left on the altar. It’s only used for the Gospel reading (which is why we thought it was solely a Gospel book).. The lectionary for the 1st and second readings gets put away after they are done, and the processed book is presented, read from, and then left on the ambo (I hope that is the correct term) facing the people.. Confused in Cowtown? that’d be us.. I guess the old saw about assuming is still true..
    and Darren, yes, that’s what we do, and meant..

  52. Volanges says:

    Jeannie_C, if your parish is using two books, and the one taken up in procession and laid on the altar looks richer and more precious than the first, then you do have a Book of Gospels. Since you say that the Gospel readings match what’s in your Living with Christ or Sunday Missal, and since Canada doesn’t yet have a Book of Gospels as part of its ritual books (we’re also waiting on two new weekday lectionaries and one for Marriages, Funerals, et al ) then I imagine that if you looked in the book, you’d find a photocopy of the Gospel reading from the Lectionary.

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