QUAERITUR: Geneflecting for Communion in 3rd trimester

From a reader:

I attend a NO parish where the priest is working diligently to restore dignity and beauty to the Mass. We are blessed to have him. He encouraged the use of the veil when I (and another woman) [hurray!] approached him and he has approved reception of the Body while kneeling. [You don’t need his approval, but it is sure nice to have it.] I am currently in my last trimester (pregnant) and always wear long skirts to Mass. There is no rail or kneeler and my balance is not great right nor am I quick to get up from the floor. Is it permissible for me to receive knelt on one knee instead of both or should I continue to receive standing until after the baby is born? Thank you for your time.

WHAT?!?  I can’t BELIEVE you are asking this question!

No.  The only acceptable way to receive is FULL PROSTRATION!

And don’t hold up the line!

Seriously, ma’am, in your happy condition you should receive in whichever way you are able.  Stand, if that is best.

When you are physically challenged, as surely women who are doing their mini-van imitation are, or perhaps infirm because of age, or injured in some way… we can cut ourselves a lot of slack.  Furthermore, some days are better than others.  There are days when one of my knees is not happy at all to perform all those genuflections in the older form of Mass, and I have to cheat.  We can be human about these things.


I once did some chaplain work at a major trauma hospital.  There were days I saw some … difficult things.  On those days, I would also stop at the maternity area and, with great amusement, chat with women who were long overdue as they were caused by the nurses – I am not making this up – to push furniture around, go up and down the stairs in the stairwell, and even get down and scrub floors.  Anything to get something going naturally.

So, if you get to the point at which you are long overdue, then perhaps the RX would be multiple genuflections are several Masses a day, each followed by Stations of the Cross and walking in and out of the chapel where Exposition is going on.

Best wishes and prayers!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Being the proud father of 8, this piece made me chuckle!

    I do appreciate, however, your comment about physical limitations. There is a (very) large elderly constituency at my parish, and this is a point the priest has made on a number of occasions. We would much rather see people in church — even if they cannot kneel or stand for long periods of time, than not see them in church.

  2. Concerning the veil…GREAT! Concerning your priest….AWESOME! May God bless you both abundantly.

  3. Mike says:

    I’m a pretty healthy guy, by the grace of God, but my equilibrium is juuuust tiddly enough that if I were to try to kneel to receive the Host when I get to the front of the parade, there’s a real chance that I’d lose my balance and cannon into Father. To be reverent, at NO Masses I genuflect at just enough distance to mitigate the chance of such a chain reaction, then step up (carefully!) to receive.

    At EF Masses, obviously, I don’t have this issue. Or a lot of other issues, like what to do during the ‘Sign of Peace’, what Lion King-style hymn will be wailed at Holy Communion, etc.

    My prayerful best wishes go out to your correspondent and her incipient addition.

  4. mamajen says:

    …doing their mini-van imitation…


    Once I reached the later part of pregnancy, I basically went to mass and just sat there. I also got to the point where I had to bow instead of genuflecting. You do what you have to do to keep yourself, and the baby, safe and healthy. Don’t worry about what other people in similar conditions are capable of doing, either–everyone is different. I looked pretty fit for a pregnant woman, but people couldn’t see that I was dealing with arthritis and other painful stuff. Once you do have the baby, continue to be careful–I found it was a little tricky getting up from kneeling with an infant in arms, even with the aid of an altar rail.

  5. david s says:

    Kneeling on one knee is my usual way of receiving at Novus Ordo daily Mass. Some of the younger folks kneel on both knees, but I don’t feel agile enough to do that quickly without something to hold on to. Two years ago, I broke a foot bone and had one of those clunky plastic boots, so I received standing. The pastor commented that it must feel strange to me not to kneel, so we came up with idea of waiting till the end of line and just kneeling–mirabile dictu–at the rail!

    By the way, for Sunday Masses, the ordinary ministers of Holy Communion (the parish isn’t using extraordinary ministers) now stand behind the rail, which allows communicants to kneel or stand as they prefer. Since this practice was introduced, I’d guess about a third of the communicants now receive kneeling on Sundays.

  6. DisturbedMary says:

    Though not in my third trimester, I am in the fourth down of life. We have a standing Communion line at my Church. In order to genuflect, I sometimes wear soccer knee pads (Amazon.com) which really make that reverence possible. Also during Lent when we do the Stations of the Cross through the Church, I can actually kneel directly on the marble floor. Maybe I should market them as Holy Kneepads….

  7. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Would the question of whether or not to kneel be mitigated somewhat by the placement of an altar rail and by the reminder that one can’t be obligated to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion every Sunday?

  8. Peggy R says:

    Good for her! I had been genuflecting fully, until I started having back problems. I do the profound bow as it is seems more reverent than a half-effort genuflection. Gee whiz, it’s tough enough to get NO priests to place the Lord on one’s tongue…the EMCHs are even worse and to be avoided if at all possible.

  9. excalibur says:

    “…….. to push furniture around, go up and down the stairs in the stairwell, and even get down and scrub floors. Anything to get something going naturally.”

    This must have been quite a few years ago. They’d call the authorities and send in a S.W.A.T. unit these days to stop such ‘abuse’.

  10. chantgirl says:

    Years ago, when I was pregnant with my JP , my sister called me the popemobile.

    This problem could be solved very easily if a portable kneeler was placed next to the priest so that anyone who wanted to kneel for Communion wouldn’t have to try and get down and up off of the floor. Even pregnant, I kneel, even if there is no altar rail or kneeler, but I have noticed that sometimes if the priest is standing on a step above the floor, he has to reach pretty far down to place the host on my tongue. Why not just make it easier for people who want to receive kneeling?

  11. ChesterFrank says:

    For me its the profound bow. The Priest has the option of that bow or a genuflect during consecration, and I had always thought that by imitating that particular bow I would at least offer the same reverence as at an altar rail. It is a conscious effort to duplicate the reverence that was part of receiving the Eucharist prior to Vatican 2, though I do not know if it is liturgically correct.

  12. TradRN says:

    Inspired by all here… Before our little family happily grew to 5 little ones we drove 30 minutes to the beautiful EF Mass at a Cathedral Basilica. I have longed for those beautiful, reverent liturgies since we left to join our 5 minute down the road parish. The OF Masses are what you would expect… Marty Haugen cacophony, no pauses for sacred silence, altar girls, a congregation of blue jeans and football jerseys- yeesh. Thank God our priest at least says the black and does the red! I could go on sorry… Anyway, I have long wanted to at least receive Our Blessed Lord kneeling but I have held off- not wanting to attract attention to myself. Heck, I don’t think I’m even worthy to receive Him fully prostrated- but how good and merciful is Our Jesus- and he deserves our best… Our humble reverence…. These genuflections are signs of our love… The pregnant mother of this initial post will be in my family’s prayers…

  13. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I am reminded of Avvakum Petrovitch (1620-82) who after evening prayers with the family would pray on with his wife, reciting 600 prayers to Our Lord and 100 to the Mother of God, accompanied by 300 full prostrations, though his wife, when with child, would only recite 400 prayers with 200 prostrations (presumably not all the way through the third trimester?).

  14. Netmilsmom says:

    Being from a parish where kneeling for communion in the NO is the norm, I give a hearty “Here, here” to a kneeler by the Priest. I’m also in the 4th trimester of life and it has saved my hot knee more than once.

  15. VLL says:

    I am glad to see this. When I attend the TLM at the iconic and hallowed St. John Cantius in Chicago at their beautiful Norvus Ordo I feel like a sinful traitor to God’s Glory when I must stand at the communion rail. My devout Catholic doctor tells me I must not kneel under any circumstances, due to a separated patella. He states that it is a miracle I can walk and don’t need knee replacement. Further, that it would reak havoc with potential circulation issues due to this and my RH. Scrupulosity suggests if I don’t kneel I’ve lost faith in God’s goodness in the miracle.

    But I look younger than my age, and generally healthy. I interpret looks as being censoring. I can say, however, that none of these have come from the priests or altar servers. I crouch in the pews when everyone else kneels– even elderly parishioners– and I feel ashamed. I would love to find other ways to indicate to God my desire to submit to his Reign. Any ideas?

  16. Mr. Green says:

    VLL: Scrupulosity suggests if I don’t kneel I’ve lost faith in God’s goodness in the miracle.

    I certainly agree this could be scrupulosity. After all, nobody says, “I’m not going to feed myself because it would mean I’ve lost faith in God’s gift of life.” I think what we primarily owe God for the miracles He gives us is gratitude, and the best way to be grateful for our bodies is to look after them. In your case, this apparently means keeping all stress off your knee, so that’s what you should do!

    As for other ways to indicate your submission, since not kneeling disturbs you (and reasonably so, I would say), perhaps offer up that discomfort itself instead.

  17. AnAmericanMother says:

    Just a thought — how about carrying a cane? A nice gold-headed one if you are fashion-conscious, something more utilitarian if you want to strongly suggest a medical connection. Anyone with a brain will then understand that you have problems kneeling. Those without a brain, don’t waste your time worrying about.
    And if you are not already, you could also veil as a sign of submission to God’s Reign.

  18. brastaseptim says:

    Full prostration only, eh? Got a little bit of Byzantine spirit in you, Father? Hmm, and it’s not even Great Lent yet!

  19. Uxixu says:

    I can’t help but laugh out loud every time I read “And don’t hold up the line!”

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