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Q. A presenter at a parish religious education session said she was very upset about Mass, because everybody is supposed to do the same thing when they go up for the Eucharist. She said we’re all supposed to bow, not genuflect, not kneel. She stressed several times over that we’re “a community,” and we’re all supposed to be the same. She wanted to emphasize how offended she was by this kneeling and genuflecting.
This was directed at me personally, because I do genuflect. In order not to hold up the line, I do it before the person in front of me is finished. I may be the only one there who does so. (I’m not sure, because I don't go to Mass to look around and check on others.)
My understanding is that this is an acceptable posture for Eucharist, and I’ve seen others doing it in other parishes. I would like to get a citation from a document that clears this matter up, so that I can send it to the person who made that statement. I feel certain that her statement is not accurate.
Of course, if she’s correct, then I obviously want to be doing it according to the true teaching of the Magisterium.
N.N, via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:
The bishops of the United States have indicated that we are to stand when receiving Holy Communion and should make a slight bow of the head as a sign of reverence for this most precious gift before we receive. At the same time, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has made it clear that no one is to be denied the Holy Eucharist because they choose to kneel or genuflect before receiving Holy Communion.
GIRM no. 42 states: “A common posture, to be observed by all participants, is a sign of the unity of the members of the Christian community gathered for the Sacred Liturgy: it both expresses and fosters the intention and spiritual attitude of the participants.”
GIRM 160 states: “The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm. When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence . . .”
In my opinion, the presenter at your parish religious education class is wasting her energy by getting upset about this. Unfortunately, many people think that “unity as a community” means uniformity in all of our actions, as if we were all members of the local community marching band. You mention that your presenter “wanted to emphasize how offended she was by this kneeling and genuflecting.” She has no personal reason to be offended; she must have had a bad day.
Nevertheless, as I have written in other places, I think you should be a good sport and follow the indications: Make your sign of reverence for Holy Communion by bowing your head — not genuflecting — and receive standing up. Later, you can go and kneel in adoration before the Most Blessed Sacrament, and our Lord will be greatly consoled by your love and affection. But keep the peace in your parish.
One additional note: Catholics who receive Holy Communion at Masses using the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (also called “the Traditional Latin Mass”) follow the age-old custom of kneeling to receive.
Different Franciscan Orders?
Q. Can you explain how and why there are so many different Franciscan orders? Is this a result of disagreements about how these orders are to conduct themselves, or is it simply holy men establishing different orders for different purposes to better serve the Lord?
N.N., via email
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D.:
As in the other religious orders, there have been disagreements about how a given order’s apostolate is best to be exercised. Some of the Franciscan orders are reform movements. Some of them arose because the Holy Spirit directed them into new areas of service. You suggest two different explanations for the wide variety of Franciscan orders. In a sense, both explanations are correct: the first for some branches of the Franciscan order, the second for other branches.
Can We Hear a Dying Confession?
Q. A friend of mine said that, in case of emergency (with death imminent), we can listen to someone's confession and forgive his or her sins. (Let's assume that all characters in this scenario are Catholic.)
I said that we can pray with and for the person, asking God for His mercy. If we have holy water, we can recite the Creed and help the person renew his or her baptismal promises and ask God for forgiveness. But we cannot forgive the person's sins. That can only be done by a priest.
Who is correct? In the event the dying person wants to "confess" his or her sins to someone, are we obliged to listen to the "confession"? What would we do after that?
C. Torres, via e-mail
You are correct. Only a priest has the power to forgive sins through the Sacrament of Penance. If a person in danger of death wants his sins forgiven and no priest is available, it is sufficient for that person to make a perfect Act of Contrition. In that case, the Lord will not deny His mercy, grace or forgiveness to the person.
If the person insists on confessing his sins to you, politely dissuade him and encourage him to tell them directly to God and have confidence in His mercy. You can help the person by reciting an Act of Contrition together. If the dying person reveals his sins to you, you have the moral obligation to keep them secret.
When Godparents Leave the Church
Q. The godparents of my children have left the Catholic Church. My children are still little, but what do I tell them as they get older and ask about their godparents? Can they obtain new godparents?
Name withheld, via e-mail
No, they cannot obtain new godparents, but they could choose other sponsors when they get confirmed. When your children ask about their godparents, simply tell them the truth: "They have left the Catholic Church; we should pray for them to return."
If you think that you were imprudent in your selection of godparents, you might also tell your children what you have learned from the experience.
Why Not Twelve Apostles Still?
Q. It is my understanding that after Judas Iscariot committed suicide, the 11 remaining apostles met and voted by casting lots to replace him to continue to have 12 apostles. When did this practice end?
Why do we no longer have a "top 12" who continue the role of the original apostles? The pope fills the role of Peter as the Vicar of Christ, so why not the other 11 as well?
Bill Rodgers, Holland, Pa.
In Acts 1:15-26 we read sacred Scripture's account of the filling of the apostolic vacancy. Note how the selection was made. Not even St. Peter, as Vicar of Christ, had authority to appoint an apostle. Nor did the apostles as a whole have that power. The apostles were Christ's own successors; none but He could appoint Judas' successor.
There were two candidates who had been closely associated with the apostles during Jesus' earthly ministry. By prayer and the casting of lots the apostles left the selection to Our Lord. He led them to add Matthias to the company of his successors.
The apostles themselves were empowered to appoint their successors, who are the bishops of the Church. The bishops as a whole, the "episcopate," fill the role of the apostles down through the ages to the end of time.
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