ASK FATHER: Father took away our kneelers! What can we do?

From a reader:

Our very new parish pastor removed our Communion kneelers this past Sunday. They had been in standard use for at least the last 10 years if not longer.
Many parishioners are quite upset, but he certainly isn’t denying anyone Communion kneeling and on the tongue. He’s just making it hard or impossible for the aged and infirm (and the pregnant, like me). We all know GIRM 160, [See HERE] but do we have any recourse for getting our kneelers back? (It is well known that the Bishop will not be on our side on this).

First, I am sorry that you have a cruel priest.

Sad news. I don’t think you parishioners have much hope in this case.

If the kneelers were of significant artistic or historic value, there might be some possibility to argue for their preservation.  On the other hand, Father Cleverboots could then claim that he removed them to preserve them!

I suggest some direct dialogue with the priest, prompted by a large number of people.  Perhaps their pleas will soften his heart, along prayers to his Guardian Angel.  If, however, Father digs in his heels, there’s little earthly recourse, especially if the local bishop is unsympathetic and uncooperative.

Moreover, if you are physically able, you can kneel anyway, with or without the piece of furniture.  Redemptionis Sacramentum 91 remains in force.

Then there is The Nuclear Option.

I refer the honorable questioner to the Bux Protocol.

I once heard Msgr. Nicola Bux answer a questioner during a conference about an uncooperative bishop, thusly:

“St. Joseph is Patron of the Church.  You must pray a lot to St. Joseph in this situation, that he either open the bishop’s eyes or he close them for good.  [applause laughter]  This isn’t a joke, eh?  St. Joseph is truly very powerful.  You must pray a lot to St. Joseph.  Moreover St. Joseph was placed in the Roman Canon by Pope John.  You can also put him into all the other Eucharistic Prayers after the Blessed Virgin Mary saying ‘and St. Joseph her Spouse’.  I am convinced that St. Joseph will do a great deal.”

You might pray to St. Joseph – Terror of Demons, Patron of the Dying, Solace of the Afflicted, Protector of the Church – and ask him to help get the prie-dieu back.

He was a carpenter, right?

Go to Joseph.


Some participants in the combox – still open! – below suggest bringing your own kneeler!  There are “garden kneelers”.  Who knew?

Here is a handy link to one.  HERE  And it adjusts into a handy seat!

I am picturing the Communion line…. heh heh.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    As another alternative, you could bring your own kneeler. During our recent renovation, I made soft foam kneelers, covered with fabric, for the elderly, pregnant, aging athletes, and others who could benefit from a little cushion. Buy a cheap garden kneeler and carry it with you when you go to receive the Eucharist. Suggest to others that they do the same. Perhaps you can even find a priest who will bless your kneeler for you. They are small enough to fit in a diaper bag!

  2. Phil_NL says:

    Very tacky, I admit, but I have yet to see a rule that prevents the faithful to bring their own kneeler (preferably folding, or it would get really over the top) for the nonagenarian in the family. First grandson goes in, receives kneeling on the floor, sets up folding kneeler in one quick movement, grandma kneels on it to receive, second grandson receives kneeling like the first, and carries of the kneeler. Could be done without any delays if practiced a bit, giving father no opportunity to complain.

    You’d probably never get friendly with that priest again, but I reckon most would indeed have the kneelers back in a few weeks.

  3. majuscule says:

    Images of garden kneelers:

    A few communicants armed with these would certainly make a statement.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

    [Heh Heh! I posted a link, above.]

  4. Phil_NL says:

    Suzanne, majuscule,

    Great, never knew those existed. Makes it less of show on the individual level. But, indeed, should several families show up with them, the message would be quite clear.

  5. robtbrown says:

    St Thomas says that prayer is wonderful, but it should not be substituted for action when action is needed. Thus, in addition to prayers to St Joseph, get in touch with everyone who is disturbed over the pastor’s decision. Recommend that they cut their contributions to the parish in half. If you have enough people take part, the priest will notice. If he notices, he will ask what happened.

    Of course, the laity has an obligation to support the Church–the money can be put in a separate fund to be given to the parish if the priest has a change of heart. Another possibility is to give the money to some other worthy Catholic organization, e.g., Clear Creek Abbey, Little Sisters of the Poor, etc.

  6. anilwang says:

    I like the idea of bringing your own kneeler, but it might not be possible for some elderly who use a cane.

    Has anyone tried to talk to the priest about it, in a friendly manner (i.e. not accusing him of being a modernist)? Remember, priests have been poorly catechized and misinformed about the reasons things exist within Catholic Tradition. Try to find out why he removed it.

    (1) Does he think that anything that “reeks” of Tradition is evil and must be exorcised?
    (2) Does he think the kneelers are a pharisaic invention that must be banned so “people can be humble like the Pope”?
    (3) Does he think the kneelers shame people into kneeling when they want to stand, so throwing out the kneelers is more “equitable”?
    (4) Does he constantly trip over them and just think they’re a bother?
    (5) Does he just not see the point of them because people can still kneel if they want to?
    (6) Does he actually like the kneelers, but “the parish committee or a really annoying parishioner voted them out” and “who is he to interfere with ‘democracy’?”.

    Don’t assume you know why he did what he did? Don’t assume that all is lost. Depending on the reasons and depending on how you approach him, you might still be able to get the kneelers back….although you might have to raise money for the reinstallation.

  7. Lin says:

    Pray for cruel and/or misguided priests! Our pastor has anger issues and has even said that he is sorry he became a priest. How sad! We are sorry he became a priest, too. I pray he finds peace and that our next pastor is a holy man who loves his vocation. Much prayer and penance is needed.

  8. RJHighland says:

    Ah I believe this is the true Francis effect. A return to removing all that is traditional, empowered by the Pope’s actions against the Friars of the Immaculate. Sadly I believe you will see more priests feel impowered to move in the more moderist direction. My recommendation is keep kneeling and honor God not man’s innovations. I believe that action speaks louder than words. You will probably soon hear from the priest the importants of unity in worship and they will be indoctinating the young catecumins to stand and recieve the Lord in their hand as if it were a crown. Possibly enforcing standing after reception of our Lord until everyone has recieved. Been down that road, be prepared for percecution if you continue to kneel, people that are with the priest and his changes will confront you about thinking you are holier than thou and such. Get nervous if the priest starts talking about many paths to heaven, emphasizing God’s mercy and de-emphasizing sin, and has a bible study involving “Godspell” but that is the pattern that I experienced. Where does your bishop fall in the sepectum of faith? Good luck, God bless and my prayers are with you. There is a diffenence between Catholic/Universal everything goes and Catholic/Fullness in truth and teaching.

  9. Vox Laudis says:

    Phil_NL–great idea.

    majuscule, that google search brought up two I could see being really practical as a replacement for a cane or walker.
    This one looks like two canes attached by the kneeler part:
    and this one has wheels, like one of those walkers that has wheels on one half that lock if one bears down hard:

    Then I wonder if these come in the correct liturgical colors, since the ones pictured are a bit 70s psychodelic for my taste–and they are listed as the ‘budget’ version of kneelers:

    robtbrown–if anilwang’s level-headed and tactful solution doesn’t work, that is certainly bringing out the big guns of the mortal type, with St. Joseph as the big guns of the heavenly type.

  10. Cantor says:

    Have you personally approached your pastor and asked him why the kneelers were removed? Have you personally asked that they be reinstalled? Have you mentioned to him that in your case, and that of the elderly and infirm you mention, the kneelers are an essential part of your Communing? Have you offered that as a compromise you would like a few portable kneelers for Communion?

    Perhaps there were safety and/or maintenance issues. Perhaps other parishioners asked for their removal and he heard no opposing opinion. Perhaps the Parish Council was involved. But you won’t know that until you ask Father.

    It sounds as though you’ve written off talking with the man, just as you’ve written off your bishop.

  11. Wiktor says:

    I find it easier to take communion on the tongue while kneeling. Standing communion is rushed, I don’t have any time to prepare, to stabilise myself – especially if you are expected to say “amen” and open your mouth at the same time. I even suspect that these two changes (standing and “amen”) were deliberately introduced to make the ritual impractical, so that hand communion becomes a logical “solution”.

  12. Priam1184 says:

    At least they aren’t taking away the kneelers in the pews anymore, like they were back in the halcyon days of the ’80s and ’90s. Geesh those were dark days. Pray for your priest and bishop.

  13. jacobi says:

    This is appalling. However, many of the Faithfull have this problem. In my church the kneelers were moved back and are now the front row of the congregation seats.

    Sadly I have reached the stage where if I were to kneel down for Communion, which I certainly would do, I wouldn’t be able to get up again.

    I have copied the example of another parishioner, and that is to make a clear bow, not, I repeat, not, a brief nod, one pace back, and then to step forward and receive the Host by mouth.

    I like the “garden kneeler” idea. I have one exactly like that in the garden and will certainly use it – if my wife permits??

    ps, on the good side, although only a few bow, there has been a noticable increase in the number receiving by mouth!

  14. iPadre says:

    Imagine the scene if we traditionally minded demanded Communion, kneeling and on the tongue? These are the kind of things on rigid liberals do!

    Archbishop Chaput once speaking at our Priests Day said the new conservative is liberal and the liberal is conservative. How true it is!

    [Conservative is the new liberal?]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  15. Fr AJ says:

    I don’t know if Pope Francis should be blamed for this as some are doing or that we should be too hard on the pastor of the parish in question. The reality is very few parishes provide kneelers for the reception of Holy Communion – I know of none in my Diocese for example – so the new pastor here may just think of this as very odd. Perhaps it would be best if a group of the faithful who want to receive this way would approach the pastor and let him know that they’d like to receive this way and why, he may not know the extent of the desire.

  16. LadyMarchmain says:

    Let’s have a kneel in!

    Maybe we can persuade Fr. Z to create our own versions emblazoned: “Self-Absorbed Kneeling Promethean Neo-Pelagian”!

  17. LadyMarchmain says:

    And Father, thank you for your response to this post and direction to St. Joseph.

  18. kimberley jean says:

    I would imagine that the elderly don’t use the kneelers anyway. If you have mobility problems it’s hard hauling yourself up from them. Everyone else could kneel on the floor.

  19. Nicholas Shaler says:

    I agree with Fr AJ.

    I have never been to a parish where a kneeler is used for Communion. At St Michael’s Abbey in California there is a pad to kneel on where the Communion Rail normally would be, and most places that have the Tridentine Mass will have a rail to use instead of a kneeler.

  20. Uxixu says:

    I would kneel anyway but I’m still relatively young. The marble altar rail at my parish with padded kneeler is so beautiful. I wish they would use it for Communion (to say nothing of putting the gates back on).

    That garden kneeler rocks, though!

  21. Uxixu says:

    Reminds me of the new parish they built next to my parents, though. Folding chairs and no kneelers at all. :(

  22. Tantum Ergo says:

    Good job, Fr. Z…
    This isn’t just something to laugh over, this is “power to the people,” but only if they follow through and organize.

  23. UncleBlobb says:

    I’m also going to pray that God can change my heart to be more united with Christ’s heart, because on my own I get so damn mad at priests (and bishops) like this one, and do not wish them well at all.

  24. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Kneeling in a dress while wearing heels and keeping one’s hands folded, with no kneeler, is something of a logistical conundrum. It can be done, and it can be done modestly; but it requires a great deal of coordination, forethought, and practice.

    Not having a kneeler in bad winter weather guarantees that your dress or trousers will meet with the ravages of dirt, salt, and even dirty slush.

    (And actually, even flats or men’s dress shoes can get a bit slippy when kneeling on the floor.)

  25. RJHighland says:

    I love the fact that the arch above the apse it reads “terribilis est locus iste hic domus dei est et porta coeli” (This place is terrifying it is the house of God and the gate to heaven) which is the constant reminder as to where I am and who I am honoring in the Holy Sacrafice of the Mass. I am blessed to worship at a chapel that has a high alter with the tabernacle at the center and kneeling rails that are used by all. What is incredible to me is to here how rare this is by a priest and others. As one that came to the Catholic Church from a protestant (Baptist) background it never ceases to amaze me how few Catholics realize how Protestant most of their Churchs have become in design and worship. It does not surprise me that after 50 yrs. of this that most Catholics do not understand what is actually taking place during the mass and see it as the most incredible miracle and mystery of all time. Thank you Father for your constant fight to bring the reality of the mass back to the faithful. Keep up the good fight. Obedience to bad bishops has lead us to this mess it will take defending good bishops and priests and lovingly confronting poor bishops and priests to get us out of it. Just being a good example in mass is the greatest evangilization. My family is where we are today because of one man kneeling to recieve communion right in front of my wife at an EWTN convension back in 2005 when no one else in our area and very few were at the convension. This was an answer to a prayer that my wife offered up just before going up to recieve, she asked God for a sign as to whether she should recieve Him kneeling. The great evil of modernism is entrenched in the Church from top to bottom and it needs to be exorcised and the windows closed back up to never let it back in. My previous comment on this topic is what happened when we started kneeling to recieve at our local parish.

  26. Supertradmum says:

    Since I had a knee operation in 2010, it is not merely the kneeling which is difficult, but the getting back up. And people do not notice to help. Therefore, for me, kneelers are an absolute necessity so that I have something to hang on to when getting back up.

    Priests who do not honor those who want to kneel, especially those who are older, are just plain mean. They are putting ideology before care. So much for those boring pastoral theology classes and papers they had to do in seminary, such as “How would you respond to an elderly person’s request for a kneeler?”

  27. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Even in churches where communion rails are still preserved, and kneeling at them is (still) the norm, in many cases the carpeting and cushioned kneelers were removed years ago, and the hard marble underneath is very tough on the knees, for old and young alike.
    Many bring a kneeling facility to the altar rails – eg a winter scarf or a hat can be easily adapted for the purpose and discreetly carried in the left hand. I’ve never heard of any objection being made.
    Btw it always surprises me that some of the oldest communicants apparently need no such kneeler – I can only admire their spartan ascetism.
    Those who have serious difficulties in kneeling stand, and that too is never objected to. It is really a question of the devout intention.

  28. LadyMarchmain says:

    Kimberly, dear, ah to be as young as you must be! When a person is getting on in years, they can and still do things like kneeling to receive, but it’s just a bit harder for them to get up and down, and having something to help keep steady or protect the kneecaps is a blessing, if not always a necessity.

    Also, it’s not just the elderly; anyone can have a back or leg problem, and what about the moms with little ones?

    Nicholas Shaler, Unfortunately, there are many many parishes where the TLM is available but the altar rails are gone. In one such church, there are two residual altar rails, about 7 inches on each side, and that is where the faithful must kneel, leaving a long stretch of blank marble and extending the time required. This is in a church that has had the TLM nonstop since V II, and did have and use an exquisite marble altar rail from Italy, which was recently removed. In many parishes with TLMS, there simply are no altar rails at all, and the faithful must kneel “free form” (which sometimes risks the “free fall”).

    Fr. AJ, your explanation certainly makes sense. However, an altar rail is no impediment to standing to receive, so why should this pastor have removed it? Surely, even in his short time in the parish, he must have seen some people kneeling to receive (such as the OP and their family). Hopefully, their polite request will have the polite response of restoring the altar rails as you propose.

  29. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Fr. Z says, “I am picturing the Communion line…. heh heh.”

    I note deployment videos are available on YouTube (individual, and not under actual Communion line conditions).

    Reverent deployment practice looks advised.

    Now, if someone could design one more in the form of a shooting-stick (with a ferrule instead of a spike, or. better yet, a flexible ferrule-like spike-guard), for even greater ease of transport…

  30. AVL says:

    The issue at hand really has to do with those who truly need the extra support to get up and down. That most definitely includes pregnant women and parents carrying toddlers or babies. Parishioners were previously able to get that needed support from the kneelers, but without that to steady them they risk falling, and incurring injury to both body and dignity. The able bodied are of course not physically affected at all.

    Granted, it is quite demoralizing to find your kneelers gone on the first Sunday of the new pastor’s administration. Although he delivered the homily and introduced himself, no mention or announcement was made about the removal of the kneelers, or reasons given. The homily did include a pledge to support all existing group at the parish, as long as they were in line with “the norms of the USCCB”. I didn’t want to include these other details in my original question so as to avoid making it lengthy and risking the question being skipped over.

    There is a very supportive retired priest who says both the EF and NO Latin Masses in this case, so the pastor won’t be there to witness any workarounds (at least for the time being since he said he wants to learn Latin so he can eventually say the Masses himself). That seems very promising. The pastor must be given the benefit of the doubt, and be approached with kindness and Christian love. After all, I personally don’t know the full story yet. He is a kind and well-intentioned man from what I can see.

    The sad thing, however, is that this parish was the last true haven for traditional-minded Catholics. Many parishioners including my family are what I like to call “refugees” from liturgies that diminish the truth of the Real Presence (most with tabernacles that are off to the side, or in one instance, in a completely separate room). Our Bishop meets most of it with a profound and persistent silence, and while there is so much more I could say about his leadership, prudence dictates I leave it at that.

    Up until last Sunday this was the only church in the diocese where one could kneel on an actual kneeler and not feel like a crazy person for kneeling to receive the Lord. I’ve heard a lot about “unity in posture” being an accepted reason to stand for Communion, but at this parish, unity in posture was found in kneeling for Communion. Removing the kneelers introduced disunity to the congregation.

    I completely love the suggestion about going to St. Joseph. Prayer is the first place I will go to before approaching the pastor on anything. Thank you and God bless you, Fr. Z, for responding with the needed advice!!

  31. LadyMarchmain says:

    AVL, praying for you. You have all my sympathies and prayers. The same thing happened in my diocese and the neighboring dioceses. I was a refugee to first one, then another parish, as the wreckovaters made their way across the state. Duffy’s book, The Stripping of the Altars came to mind.

  32. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    AVL, if “he certainly isn’t denying anyone Communion kneeling” and “unity in posture was found in kneeling for Communion”, might it be possible for communicants to quietly agree to help each other to kneel and stand again? Not as a ‘gesture’ or anything, but just humbly and practically? (Or would that be impractical or, for example, problematical in terms of responsibility if anything went wrong?)

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