Monday, July 4, 2011


My child is still asleep, which is scary because it's nearly 9 am and he never ever sleeps this long. Maybe with last night's storm, he didn't sleep well.

While working at another church, I went to visit a Roman Catholic Church once just outside city limits. The church was lovely and I enjoyed looking at the priest's new robes. I remarked to the Sister that I noticed that there were no kneelers attached to the pews. She explained that because the congregation is older, the church opted not to have them installed. "Well, what do you instead of kneeling?" I asked. She told me that they use the profound bow. Bowing is used an extraordinary substitute for genuflecting and for kneeling.

I've learned much in the last few years, and since this debate about kneeling while taking communion, I decided to visit the topic. In churches where the Tabernacle is displayed in the sanctuary, you are supposed to genuflect if you are physically able. Physically able means that there are no health problems, crowding, etc. You can bow, for example, if you are attending a very crowded Christmas Mass and there is no room to genuflect. If it is displayed in another part of the church say a small side-chapel, it's perfectly fine to make a profound bow (meaning bow at the waist). This is to show reverence for the space and the altar. My church has the Tabernacle in a side-chapel so I bow.

You can also bow at the waist during the consecration if you are unable to kneel. If a church does not have an available kneeler (we have benches in the back), I often stand during the consecration and bow at the waist when the priest genuflects. I've done this because of crowding, and I've also done this during pregnancy since it's not very easy for me to get up and get down without help especially if I have a toddler in my arms. Most people don't realize that they have this as an option and usually sit, which is not appropriate. If you can kneel, you are also supposed to knod your head (or bow with your head) when the priest genuflects. I notice people do not usually do this anymore. But this is the liturgical appropriate reverent way.

While receiving, most people use the extraordinary form (meaning it's appropriate when kneeling to receive is out of the question). You do not have bend at the waist in this instance because it might knock into the EM or the person behind you. You instead bow your head. I do this most of the time because carrying a toddler makes it difficult to get up and down which holds up the line (not that it should matter, but enough grumbling over long lines tells me that it still does to people).

Now these, of course, are the ordinary ways to show reverence. I've seen many other displays, which are perfectly fine in conjunction with kneeling and bowing. For example, I've seen people place their hand over their heart. This, however, should not be a substitute for the ordinary form of reverence, just an addition.

I try to use myself as an example of proper reverence in hopes that people will ask, but nobody ever has. I hope that more churches will be able to put inserts in their bulletins explaining both the ordinary way and extraordinary way of reverence. I'd enjoy seeing a few more pregnant women in the pews standing and bowing.

Source: Zenit- Bowing While Kneeling


  1. I would love to see more congregations encouraged to have a more traditional ("ordinary?") reception of the Eucharist, including kneeling. It adds so much to the sense of reverence.

  2. Ordinary just means that the ordinary way of doing things. Extraordinary just means that in extraordinary circumstances (for example being unable to kneel without difficulty) this is an option. Since Vatican II people have been incorporating the extraordinary way (or exception if you'd prefer but that's not the technical term), but that's not following Canon Law very closely. This is why there's been an ongoing debate about kneeling while receiving especially since priest's are informing the laity that this is incorrect. Neither way is incorrect, but should be used according to the circumstances.

    I suppose that this is my long way of saying that kneeling isn't really traditional (meaning something you used to do but still can). It's supposed to be what you do at every Mass (again if you're able). Things like wearing a mantilla is traditional since there isn't a law or Bishop instruction that says you have to, but there isn't one that says you can't either. Does that make sense?

    I think I'll write up another post about prostrating and reverence during Adoration. I thought prostrating was something only priest's did during their taking of Holy Orders, but after seeing someone prostrate themselves I found out that that's also something laity should be doing more of.

    Fun Fact: In the middle ages during the consecration people used to prostrate instead of kneel. We've come a long way from how the Church used to show reverence if we're just sitting in the pew confused.


I love to read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!