Sunday, August 26, 2012

Regarding questions on posture during Mass

Reading the newspaper can get my dander up:

With all due respect to Fr. Kenneth Doyle, I believe there is more to be said in response to the question about the posture of kneeling in “Rules for worship?”, Catholic Review, August 23, 2012, page A13 of the print edition (which is not on the Catholic Review website but the same column is posted here).  He quotes from that “we are not free to change these postures to suit our own individual piety, for the Church makes it clear that our unity of posture and gesture is an expression of our participation in the one Body formed by the baptized with Christ, our head.” 

If the USCCB is here trying to suppress relatively new gestures such as holding hands or using the priest’s orans position during the Lord’s Prayer, terrific.  But when this demand for uniformity would prevent kneeling during parts of the Mass where kneeling is traditional, it directly contradicts what Cardinal Francis Arinze had to say on the subject when he was the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (Prot. N. 855/03/L):  “The mens [reasoning] is that the prescription of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani, [General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM)] no. 43, is intended, on the one hand, to ensure within broad limits a certain uniformity of posture within the congregation for the various parts of the celebration of Holy Mass, and on the other, to not regulate posture rigidly in such a way that those who wish to kneel or sit [after communion] would no longer be free.”

Fr. Doyle and the USCCB (on the same webpage) should also update their statements of the norm for reception of Holy Communion in the U.S., in which they only mention standing and a bow of reverence.  The norm stated in the new translation of GIRM 160 for the U.S. “is that Holy Communion is to be received standing, unless an individual member of the faithful wishes to receive Communion while kneeling.”  It’s worth noting too that there is no longer any mention of addressing “pastorally” instances of kneeling or of providing “proper catechesis” regarding the norm of standing.

What the USCCB webpage does get right is that God created each of us as composite of body and soul, and this fusion forms the basis of our postures and gestures at Mass.  But while it's true that the significance and use of certain postures has changed organically and very slowly over the centuries, there is no accounting for the abrupt break in postures used in the Mass in the post-conciliar years.

Fr. Doyle closes in thanks that given that only 22 percent of American Catholics now attend Mass weekly, the worshipper with his own posture preferences is in church at all.  Better that we should follow the example set by Pope Benedict and receive Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling.  Then our bodies, duly postured for that solemn moment, would surely guide our embodied souls back to belief in, and profound reverence for the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, which in turn would draw many back to the pews.  And if even voluntary kneeling were accommodated, perhaps for starters by use of a prie dieux, there would not be the rare tripping hazard cited by Fr. Doyle.

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