Skip to comments.Controversy continues as more Belleville churchgoers are told to get on their knees
Posted on 12/22/2009 11:51:25 AM PST by markomalley
A controversy about whether to stand or kneel during the high point of the Catholic Mass has spread from one church in the Belleville Diocese to at least three others.
A three-page letter from Belleville Bishop Edward K. Braxton sent Dec. 11 to the Rev. Albert Kreher, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Trenton, orders him to tell his parishioners they must cease standing and instead, kneel during the reading of the Eucharistic Prayer, the point in a Catholic Mass where the bread and wine are believed to be transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The message is similar to a Dec. 7 letter, also labeled "high priority," urging the same thing that Braxton sent to Monsignor James Margason, pastor of Corpus Christi Church in Shiloh.
Braxton, who rarely comments to local reporters, could not be reached. Kreher could not be reached.
At St. Boniface Church in Germantown, the pastor, Monsignor James A. Buerster, said his 600 parishioners have stood for years during the reading of the prayer, despite a 1969 decision by what is now known as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that American Roman Catholics must kneel. Their decision was supported by the pope and is considered church law.
"Since the bishop is making an issue of this, we'll probably have to start kneeling here," Buerster said.
But Buerster said the rest of the Roman Catholic world stands during the ceremony, especially in Europe, in accordance with what has become known as "Eucharistic Prayer 2," believed to have been written about 300 A.D. The prayer to Christ, originally in Latin and usually spoken only by a priest, states, "We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you."
"We are not standing in secrecy," Buerster said, noting he hasn't received a letter from Braxton yet.
At first Buerster declined to be interviewed and then relented.
"When you have the kind of bishop we have, he makes issues out of things that in and of themselves are not that important," he said. But if Braxton orders that his diocese's parishioners must kneel, Buerster said, "then we'll be kneeling."
Theologians say that it is primarily in the United States where kneeling during the Liturgy of the Eucharist is practiced in Roman Catholic churches.
"This is liturgical nitpicking that winds up harming the solemnity of the liturgy," said Frank Flinn, an adjunct professor of religious studies at Washington University in St. Louis.
"If you go to European churches, you'll be expected to stand although it allows for people to kneel, but the general norm is people remain standing," said The Rev. Michael S. Driscoll, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame near South Bend, Ind.
The reason why the custom is different in the United States, said Driscoll, is that the bishops "opted to retain the norm of kneeling largely because of perception on their part there was a loss of Eucharistic belief (through standing). In order to strengthen that, they thought the posture of kneeling would be better suited."
Driscoll said that the controversy over standing versus kneeling has been common throughout parishes in the United States.
"I think Braxton is being almost a policeman to enforce what the American bishops voted on," he said.
At St. Joseph Church in Lebanon, where the membership is also under the pastorship of Margason, who heads the church in Shiloh, parishioner Jeff Greenstreet said churchgoers now kneel but some are not happy about be ordered to their knees.
"We live in one of the poorest diocese in the country with East St. Louis in our diocese, and he doesn't seem to be too much concerned with helping people they're in need and yet we worry about whether or not the parishes are standing or kneeling," said Greenstreet, a retired airline pilot.
"I don't think this is something that Christ would worry about, and I don't see we have any reason to need to worry about it ... but we have to comply, according to the bishop's mandate," he said. He added that after learning that Braxton wanted all to kneel, he knelt.
Flinn said the controversy is inflated in its importance.
Referring to Leonardo DaVinci's iconic painting "The Last Supper," Flinn said: "I think DaVinci got it right. We should all be sitting around a table sharing a meal."
43. The faithful should stand from the beginning of the Entrance chant, or while the priest approaches the altar, until the end of the collect; for the Alleluia chant before the Gospel; while the Gospel itself is proclaimed; during the Profession of Faith and the Prayer of the Faithful; from the invitation, Orate, fratres (Pray, brethren), before the prayer over the offerings until the end of Mass, except at the places indicated below.
They should, however, sit while the readings before the Gospel and the responsorial Psalm are proclaimed and for the homily and while the Preparation of the Gifts at the Offertory is taking place; and, as circumstances allow, they may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed.
In the dioceses of the United States of America, they should kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic Prayer, except when prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason. Those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the priest genuflects after the consecration. The faithful kneel after the Agnus Dei unless the diocesan Bishop determines otherwise.
With a view to a uniformity in gestures and postures during one and the same celebration, the faithful should follow the directions which the deacon, lay minister, or priest gives according to whatever is indicated in the Missal.
The Italian version of the GIRM states:
Kneel then at the consecration, except that prevent the state of health, the narrowness of the place, or the large number of these, or other reasonable reasons. Those who do not kneel at the consecration, make a profound bow while the priest genuflects after the consecration.
It is however up to the Conferences of Bishops to adapt the gestures and postures described in the Rite of the Mass, the culture and reasonable traditions of different peoples according to the rules of law . Nevertheless we allow that such adaptations correspond to the meaning and character of each part of the celebration. Where it is common that the people remain kneeling from the acclamation of the Saint until the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer and before Communion when the priest says, Behold the Lamb of God, this usage can be kept commendably.
Of course, none of the above matters a whit to the News-Democrat, nor to the dissidents.
We kneel here. The only parish where I have ever lived where we did NOT kneel is when we were involved in a church building program and we had no kneelers during construction.
As I remember from Vatican 2 — the new rule in the 1960s was that prayers were to be offered either kneeling OR standing. Just not sitting.
Wonderful undercutting of his superior there.
Both of the remaining Catholics in Europe stand, they must be right.
We kneel here also...
I see 90 year old women kneeling with no problems
Christ in the Bible does also talk about people in Matthew 23:27 where he says 'what sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs --beautiful on the outside but filled inside with dead peoples' bones and all sorts of impurity.'
We Baptists don’t need ‘kneelers’ to kneel.
But you need Catholics to buy the beer when you go fishing with them.
Jesus is present before us at Mass, under the appearance of bread and wine. He doesn't look like a physical human being. We accept His true presence as a part of our faith. Signalling that faith by kneeling in front of the worldy "absurdity" of Jesus' presence under the appearance of bread and wine is an excellent reminder, and can't possibly bewrong . Especially when it is the norm, and flouting the norm can indeed be a way of expressing rebellion of the heart, no? A "good hearted" person, physical impossibilties or frailties aside, should want to (at least) kneel before his God at the times He is both present and visible.
In the old days, many Eoropean churches were built without pews, and only the elderly and disabled would sit on chairs or benches along the walls. That was largely a practical matter. In those days of real, widespread faith, churches were packed to the point where the entire nave was SRO, and both sitting and kneeling were impossible, or at least awkward. This is hardly the case today in nearly every venue outside of a papal Mass or the concluding Mass to some major pilgrimage. The letter of the law might call for more restricted kneeling in favor of the existing architecture, but, in the places I've been in Italy anyway, people seem to have no big problem kneeling on the (uncrowded) floor if nothing else is available. Charis with kneelers folding down from the chair ahead seem to be pretty common.
It says a lot about this pastor and his congregation when they create such a stir by bucking the bishop's clear and rubrically correct directive. God, as you note, looks at the heart. What kind of heart is betokened by pastors and congregations who will not obey a clear and correct directive from their bishop, in matters where he has both competence and undisputed authority? What kind of beliefs do these people hold about the Eucharist?
In the end, they should kneel, not to impress their neighbors, or even themselves, but because it is a "right and fitting" posture, as the West understands these things, to kneel before God. They should have the humility to do so, and the wisdom to see that posture as an honor that none other among God's creatures has the station or sense to adopt.
By God, you're right! I'm going to stop singing hymns, saying prayers, and stop going to Church altogether, as God knows what's in my heart. Helllllloooo Sunday football!
You'll have to try harder than that with me.
No, it would not be analogous to putting a stop to the singing of hymns, or saying prayers, or going to Church.
It would be akin to stipulating that when singing to God one should sing the hymn in a sombre falsetto, when saying a prayer you should say it with a sad face, and when going to church on Sunday you should wear thread-bare clothes and clasp your hands together. Those are things that do not matter since you can sing Gregorian chants, say your prayers in Aramaic with the saddest of expressions, and go to church while kneeling and scraping your knees and wearing sack cloth ...but if your heart is not in the right place it is for naught.
Anyways, some more words from Christ Himself ...a passage from Luke 11 known as the 'six woes:
'Luke 11: 37 - 53 When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. 38But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised.
39Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41But give what is inside the dish [j] to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
42"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
43"Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.
44"Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it."
45One of the experts in the law answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also."
46Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
47"Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. 48So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49Because of this, God in his wisdom said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.' 50Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.
52"Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering."
53When Jesus left there, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, 54waiting to catch him in something he might say.
Matthew 23: 1 - 37 also has the same words as above ...just in much harsher tones (e.g. 25"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. 33"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? ).
Or from another example from Christ, the parable of the tax collector (who prayed from his heart, saying he was not worthy) vs the Pharisee (who had a nice elaborate prayer) ...and Christ said 14"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.".
It all boils down to where your heart stands with God.
No problem with that.
While Jesus had plenty to criticize in mindless adherence to meaningless rules, He never urged Jews to abandon religious tradition. What was on the menu for The Last Supper?
Traditions are important, whether its kneeling to show reverence to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, reaffirmation of beliefs through recitation of the Nicene Creed, or a myriad of other traditions within the Church He started. Traditionalists are not rotten on the inside just because they are traditionalists. Catholics are not Pharisees. Understand?
I was always taught to kneel. Glad to see everyone finally catching up.
Still have to get used to taking it on the tongue though.
If we look at history, we can see that the Greeks and Romans rejected kneeling. In view of the squabbling, partisan deities described in mythology, this attitude was thoroughly justified. It was only too obvious that these gods were not God, even if you were dependent on their capricious power and had to make sure that, whenever possible, you enjoyed their favor. And so they said that kneeling was unworthy of a free man, unsuitable for the culture of Greece, something the barbarians went in for. Plutarch and Theophrastus regarded kneeling as an expression of superstition.
Aristotle called it a barbaric form of behavior (cf. Rhetoric 1361 a36). Saint Augustine agreed with him in a certain respect: the false gods were only the masks of demons, who subjected men to the worship of money and to self-seeking, thus making them “servile” and superstitious. He said that the humility of Christ and His love, which went as far as the Cross, have freed us from these powers. We now kneel before that humility. The kneeling of Christians is not a form of inculturation into existing customs. It is quite the opposite, an expression of Christian culture, which transforms the existing culture through a new and deeper knowledge and experience of God.
Kneeling does not come from any culture it comes from the Bible and its knowledge of God. The central importance of kneeling in the Bible can be seen in a very concrete way. The word proskynein alone occurs fifty-nine times in the New Testament, twenty-four of which are in the Apocalypse, the book of the heavenly Liturgy, which is presented to the Church as the standard for her own Liturgy.
- Pope Benedict (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) “The Spirit of the Liturgy”
Everyone kneels in the Philippines.
When our church was being rebuilt in the US and we attended mass in the firehall, we were told we could stand, but we knelt.
When I was in a PC church in Minnesota and the priest had taken out the kneelers, everyone stood, but we knelt.
I get dizzy in the heat, so I sit through most of the Mass, but I do kneel.
I figure the good Lord died on the cross for me and mine so when the Good Lord is present in the form of consecration kneeling is the way to go. It demonstrates an awe for just what the Good Lord went through for folks like me and mine.
Of course, I doubt if any of these "rebelling priests" would mind if women were started to be ordained, or that they would come out in favor of abortion...
I would kick some of the rebels out of the priesthood...