BY FATHER KENNETH DOYLE
Q. After a series of work-related moves, I find myself on my fourth Catholic parish in the last 10 years. At the first one, after receiving Communion, people returned to their pews and knelt until the Communion vessels were cleaned and the priest and deacon had returned to their chairs. Then there followed a few moments of quiet reflection.
At the second church, everyone remained standing until the priest returned to his seat. At the third one, the celebrant told everyone to "please be seated after the last person is served Communion. There's nothing to be gained either by kneeling or standing." My most recent parish is a mix of all of the above; the priest gives no signal at all as to the preferred posture after receiving. Could you comment? (southern Indiana)
A. The common practice in the United States is that the faithful remain standing during the distribution and reception of Holy Communion. What happens next is that people have options. Typical is the guideline provided on its website by the Diocese of Cleveland:
"The period of sacred silence should begin as soon as the distribution of Holy Communion has been completed. At this point the faithful may sit or kneel. The faithful should not be required to stand during the purification of the vessels, or until the reposition of the Blessed Sacrament."
I believe that parishes should, within reasonable limits, allow for individual choice. In 2003, in response to a query from the U.S. bishops' conference regarding the posture of the congregation following Communion, the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments said that it was not its intention to "regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit would no longer be free."
Perhaps the wisest approach, then, is simply to let congregants choose their posture while they make their individual thanksgiving for the gift of the Eucharist.
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Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.