3 (slightly ranty) suggestions for when you are ordered to stand until everyone has received Holy Communion

Santiago de Cuba - Garde au Mausolée José Marti
A common bodily posture (Cuba)

In North America, it seems that there is a fashion (for that is the kind of thing that it is) for Bishops and priests to order the holy people of God, once they have returned to their place after Holy Communion, to remain standing until the last person has received Holy Communion. As a priest I find it baffling that some of my brethren feel the need to regiment the faithful in this way. I understand the concept of a “common bodily posture” being a sign of unity, though I think its value is exaggerated. Allowing people to kneel, sit or stand as they prefer, during a time of silent prayer after Holy Communion is not likely to cause any great spiritual disunity, whereas telling people to stand, contrary to a centuries old tradition of kneeling after Holy Communion, will cause disunity, anger and frustration.

Just to give a reference point: in the traditional Roman liturgy, on the sanctuary, the clergy in choir would kneel until the celebrant had consumed the second ablution, that is, until the Blessed Sacrament was no longer present on the altar. Knowledgeable lay people would follow this custom, but some might sit down sooner, either because of infirmity or lack of knowledge. Nobody would normally interfere.

So what freedom is allowed to a good and devout lay person who has always knelt down to pray after receiving Holy Communion and is now confronted by the spectacle of the parish priest asking the diocesan liturgy official to read a prepared statement before Mass from the office of the Archbishop telling everybody to stand up until the last person has received Holy Communion? (I am not making this up. In a time of unresolved sexual and financial scandal, there are bishops who devote time to such utterly pointless interference with the devotion of their people.)

Must a lay person obey such an instruction? No. the Bishop or parish priest does not have the authority to forbid people from kneeling or sitting after Holy Communion since the Holy See has specifically responded to a Dubium on the question, stating that this is not the intention of n.43 of  the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. (For the text of the Dubium and response, see: https://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDWCLAR.HTM)

In the older form of the Roman rite, there was so much less inclination to boss the people about, that it was not thought necessary to include any instructions in the Ritus Servandus as to their bodily posture.

So what is a poor layperson to do in the face of this imperiousness? Naturally I would suggest going to the Traditional Latin Mass if it is available within a reasonable distance but sadly this is not the case in many places. So here are three suggestions which I have managed to express without employing any rude words:

1. Stay standing and recite the Rosary, the prayer to St Michael, the prayers from the Roman Missal in thanksgiving for Holy Communion, or whatever prayers you choose, offering up the annoyance of it all in reparation for the scandal caused by the immorality of some of the clergy.

2. Start coughing and spluttering loudly and make your way in an embarrassed fashion to the car park where you can miraculously recover and recite the Rosary (etc. as above) until the majority of the congregation have left, then return, kneel down, and make your thanksgiving in the Church.

3. Take a leaf out of the book of an old priest and teacher I knew, who made this response to a superior in a different context. When challenged, take the priest or other liturgical enforcer by the arm gently and politely, and go to a window or door. Gesture out over your city and say to him,

“I AM NOT your problem.
THAT IS your problem.”

This post was updated in response to a reader supplying information about the Dubium submitted to the CDW and their response. For more information, see the post: A document I missed, a twofold annoyance, and a retraction.

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