THE PRACTICE of kneeling to receive Holy Communion is making a comeback.
The Record recently observed the practices of weekday Mass-goers at St Mary’s Cathedral over several months and discovered that up to 13 per cent of the congregation receive Communion kneeling.
Meanwhile, at the only other church in the Perth CBD that offers daily Mass, All Saints’ Chapel, more than 80 per cent of the congregation receive Communion kneeling and on the tongue.
This is due largely to the presence of two wooden kneelers that were first introduced by Fr Jim Shelton almost 10 years ago and have been in use ever since.
Prior to the 1960s, kneeling was the only way Catholics received the Eucharist.
Chaplain of All Saints’ Chapel Fr Tiziano Bogoni told The Record between 80 and 90 per cent of the congregation kneel to receive Holy Communion at weekday Mass.
“I think it’s a wonderful outward way to express someone’s inner faith that can’t be seen, to kneel down and receive Our Lord,” he said.
“But the most important thing is that inner disposition. If you’re not disposed properly inside, it doesn’t matter how you act.”
Having the kneelers in place does not mean that all communicants are required to kneel to receive the Eucharist, Fr Bogoni said, but simply facilitates the option.
“The Church teaches it very clearly – standing or kneeling, on the tongue or on the hand – it’s the people’s decision how they want to receive Our Lord,” he said.
“[The kneeler] just gives them that option, and makes it quicker and easier to kneel. If it’s not there it makes it more difficult, as the people don’t have anything to kneel on or to apply pressure on to stand up again, so it’s very practical.”
Fr Bogoni’s set-up includes two kneelers placed in front of him diagonally as he distributes Communion, and he encouraged other parishes to consider such an arrangement.
“It’s something that’s very simple, and it just gives [the people] the option,” he said.
“Even if they were not to take that option of kneeling, there’s no impediment between me and the person that gets in the way. I think it can be very easily implemented [in other parishes].”
Jochen Diedler, a parishioner of St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth for almost three decades, said he had noticed more people kneeling to receive Holy Communion in the last few years.
Mr Diedler receives Communion kneeling, and admitted it was difficult initially to receive Communion in such a manner.
“It was an effort, when you’re the only one. But my wife supported me, and my wife does it and my children do it, and now it’s just automatic,” he explained.
When asked why he receives the Eucharist kneeling, Mr Diedler said it was a question of reverence.
“At high Masses, the altar servers wear a particular shawl with which they hold the crozier and with which they hold the mitre,” he said.
“Out of reverence they would not touch the insignia of the Archbishop. Surely we should show even more reverence when receiving Our Lord.”
The increase in people kneeling for Communion may be due to a number of factors, but seems to have started several years ago.
In 2008, on the feast of Corpus Christi, Pope Benedict XVI stated that during his public Masses the faithful should receive Communion from him kneeling and on the tongue.
The current prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera, further encouraged the faithful in an interview with Catholic News Agency in 2011.
He recommended that Catholics “receive Communion on the tongue and while kneeling”, stating that such a posture is “the sign of adoration that needs to be recovered. I think the entire Church needs to receive Communion while kneeling”.
In the Archdiocese of Colombo in Sri Lanka, kneeling to receive Holy Communion on the tongue has been mandatory since 2012, even during large outdoor Masses.
Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith also requested that altar rails be re-installed in the Archdiocese’s churches.
“This is the most appropriate way of expressing our profoundest belief in the continuous and personal presence of the Lord in the most Sacred Host,” Cardinal Ranjith said at the time.
“In all our churches, as an expression of that faith our people should be called upon to receive the Holy Communion, kneeling.”