Rail by rail!

One for the Brick by Brick file.

I had a note from a friend in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, where the great Bishop Robert Finn presides.

At St. Andrew the Apostle on the north side of KC, Fr. Vince Rogers has installed a new brand new Communion rail!

My friend wrote:

He has installed altar rails in most of not all of the parishes in which he has served over the past 15-20 years.

He noted in his homily this morning, “So, why do I do this everywhere I go? It started when I was a seminarian at the NAC. Mother Teresa came to visit and when time came for communion, she went first and knelt on the marble floor and received. We all looked at each other and went up and knelt to receive our blessed Lord. From that moment forward……”

“The largest denomination in the US is fallen away Catholics. Why? Because we have forgotten what the Eucharist really is. If it’s only bread we are like pigs at a trough. If it is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, then let’s act accordingly.

Prior to the rail, he had a double prie-dieu in front of the altar. Maybe 30-40% received kneeling. This morning, the first Sunday Mass with the rail, all but a dozen or so at the 8 a.m. Mass received kneeling. Several still received in the hand but many more received kneeling, reverently and on the tongue – likely for the first time. What happened to their heart, only time will tell.

Fr. Z kudos to Fr. Rogers.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Priam1184 says:

    Very nice Father. I started receiving on the tongue about 3 months ago (and this seemingly small thing has made a huge difference in my life) but I still receive standing. Stories like this give us all hope. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Theology Nerd says:

    Father Vince Rogers for Bishop!! AND…he should start out in my diocese! ;)

  3. jbas says:

    Wonderful news! I wish we knew Pope Francis’ views on the matter. I was promoting kneeling for Communion in my parish until the election, but I’m holding off now until we get some movement from him.

  4. maryh says:

    @jbas Please reconsider. You could at least have a double prie-dieu. You may be surprised how many people don’t receive on the tongue due to practical reasons and / or embarrassment.

    It’s much easier to receive on the tongue kneeling than standing. No worries about balance or height differences.

    You don’t have to worry about how to get yourself up again without holding up the line (I haven’t been a teenager for awhile …)

    The presence of the prie-dieu in the first place gives you “permission” to receive on the tongue (I know, it’s for kneeling, but permission for the one seems tied to permission for the other). No, I know you don’t need permission, but people don’t want to step outside of the social norms – especially in Church – and especially the sort of people who would be drawn to doing this in the first place.

    I’d say not to wait for prie-dieu. I’ll bet you have a lot of people who would be very grateful. But then, only you know your parish and the best timing and approach.

  5. nykash says:

    Outstanding! Kneeling is the logical conclusion to realizing that the Eucharist is, indeed, our Lord.

    From my own experience, our own catechesis can get in the way. I remember learning as a kid that you can receive in either the hand or on the tongue. The tongue seemed ‘weird,’ and there was no explanation as to why this is the preferred means of receiving communion. As my wife and I were learning what it is to be Catholic (the 70’s and 80’s were a rough time to grow up – in terms of understanding the faith), she was the first to receive on the tongue. I soon followed, although it was extremely nerve-wracking the first time. Several years later, I receive on the tongue, kneeling (even if a perfectly good altar rail isn’t used – which is another story). The only time I don’t do this is when I’m visiting family and I don’t want to cause problems for some relatives. Not holding hands during prayer is enough.

  6. av8er says:

    I started receiving kneeling at my church at a double prie-dieu, about a year later we moved to a new town. This parish did not have altar rails nor a double prie-dieu and I could not receive any other way, so I don’t. I am lucky though to have a pastor who doesn’t look down on me (or my girls) kneeling to receive God. In fact, several months after our family entering the parish the pastor gave a talk during the announcements about the three approved forms of receiving the Eucharist. Not sure if it was coincidental since I did not notice anyone kneeling to receive at that parish. We have been there now four years and as far as I know my family is still the only one who receives kneeling on the floor. I do keep my eyes closed in prayer after receiving partly to concentrate in prayer and also to avoid the temptation of pride by looking to see who else is kneeling to receive. I am pretty that a double prie-dieu would wonders at our parish. I would personally prefer a communion rail but we celebrate mass at a community center due to this parish is new. The rectory is under construction then followed by the church.
    Bottom line is that posture means something. Kneeling to receive on the tongue has strengthened my faith in ways I would have never have imagined. It can and will do the same for others.

  7. tcreek says:

    Fr Jeff Leger has installed a communion rail at Guardian Angels Parish in Louisville Ky and most people now receive kneeling and on the tongue. Father also celebrates the Extraordinary Form Mass at 8:00 AM on Sunday.

    Here is a video of Pope Francis distributing communion on the tongue. At 10 seconds into the video, notice the priest who is assisting.

  8. jbas says:

    Mary H,
    I do have two five-person kneelers with attached communion-cloths. These kneelers are moveable, but serve as altar rails for the EF Mass. These are always available at the OF Mass, but I am not verbally promoting kneeling at this time. It’s easier to promote something like this when I can say that the pope is in favor of it. About ten percent of my OF communicants still kneel to receive anyway.

  9. BLB Oregon says:

    It would be nice to combine this with reserving the front row of the pews for those who cannot kneel or who only kneel and rise with difficulty and to have spaces set aside or well-known accommodations made for people in wheelchairs, too. That way, anyone with too much difficulty in using the front kneelers will know they are not expected to do what is too much for them. It would be just as well, because those who have trouble so much trouble kneeling, even when there is something sturdy to use to steady themselves with their hands, often have some difficulty walking, too.

  10. FatherHoisington says:

    During Lent at weekday Mass at our parish I gave Holy Communion at our altar rail (the church was dedicated in 1903, and the rail has always been there). One difficulty was the awkwardness between those leaving the rail after receiving, and those trying to move forward to their places in order to receive. There were a lot of people stepping on each others’ feet. If anyone has advice on making that movement work more smoothly, I’d greatly appreciate it…

  11. cdet1997 says:

    A few years ago, I attended Mass at a church in Silicon Valley that had a communion rail. I was pleasantly surprised to find how much more efficient the distribution of communion is with a rail than without! With a rail, the priest simply moves back and forth along the rail, placing the Eucharist on each tongue in a quick fashion. As each communicant receives the Host, he/she clears out and the next person in line takes his place. A much, much faster process than a queue. It figures that Silicon Valley would optimize communion!

  12. Father Hoisington,

    In many years of attendance at traditional Latin Masses, I have never observed any such problem. While the people at the communion rail on one side are waiting to and receiving communion, their “replacements” line up behind them, each person waiting in front of the first pew and behind the person he will replace. Only when these communicants have left the communion rail, do the next ones move forward and kneel in their places. I can imagine that when a communion rail is first used in a parish, it might take a week or two for this orderly process to develop, but human beings are pretty adaptable, but after this brief period the process will surely be orderly, and indeed much more efficient than the usual standing process.

  13. Charles E Flynn says:

    In addition to facilitating the reverent reception of Holy Communion, communion rails, especially those with gates in their centers, discourage children from using the sanctuary as a playground after mass, while the priest is outside greeting his parishioners.

  14. Springkeeper says:

    I was an Episcopalian for the first twenty years of my life and we ONLY received communion kneeling at the alter rail (anf they still do up there). Can you imagine how stunned I was when I converted to Catholicism twenty something years later and found that Catholics, who actually have the Real Presence, were sauntering up and popping the Host in their mouth like a potato chip? What a horrendous disappointment!

  15. FatherHoisington says:

    Thank you, Henry. Patience is definitely a virtue, and you’re undoubtedly correct. Please pray for the members of my parish and their pastor…

  16. JonPatrick says:

    Springkeeper, that was my experience also when I swam the Tiber 14 years ago. I went from kneeling reverently to receive ordinary bread and wine to standing in the “checkout line” to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Thank God I found the EF Mass!

    PS in the Episcopal Church, only priests were allowed to give out the host, the EMHC equivalents could only give the chalice, and had to be licensed by the Bishop.

  17. Mary Jane says:

    This is awesome! Great job, Fr Rogers!!

  18. SophieMiriam says:

    I wish there was more understanding among the liturgically conservative crowd for those with disabilities. Kneeling is extremely painful and difficult for some people, and the undercurrent that runs through a lot of these threads is that those who receive standing must be either improperly educated or not love Jesus enough. It is *not* a requirement of the Church that you receive kneeling, and some of us are already in such pain from kneeling through the parts where we *are* required to kneel.

    I say this as someone who is only 21 and has relatively minor problems. I can only imagine how bad things must be for those worse off than I.

    [Where there are Communion rails no one is forced to kneel if she either can’t or if kneeling causes great discomfort. Let’s be clear about that.]

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