Q. How best can I explain to my children why we genuflect when in the church and before we enter a pew?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
The General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) states, “A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, signifies adoration, and therefore it is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during the liturgical celebration on Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil.… All who pass before the Most Blessed Sacrament genuflect, unless they are moving in procession” (No. 274).
This explains the “what” and “how” of genuflecting. To understand the “why” we need look no further than the courtesy we offer guests — or consider the respect we show individuals when we are introduced to them. In each case we make some sign to acknowledge and honor the individual. It may be nothing more than standing and extending our hand when a person comes into the room, or nodding when another extends a hand to us; the point is, we recognize the person and make a gesture that sets the individual apart, if only momentarily.
When we enter a church, we enter God’s house. Genuflecting before the tabernacle acknowledges God as our host and expresses thanks for the invitation that draws us into communion with His Son.