“We will return to the practice of kneeling after the Agnus Dei”

Archbishop of Portland announces new Eucharistic rules in reverence of the Eucharist, distribution of Holy Communion on weekdays in a parish church during a “Communion service” no longer permitted

Installation Mass of Archbishop Alexander Sample on April 2, 2013, in Portland, Oregon. (image from Society of Saint Gregory the Great)

Our liturgical and sacramental practices far too often do not reflect the profound understanding and faith in the Real Presence. The story is told of a Protestant minister who was invited to attend Mass. Afterward he was questioned on what he thought. He replied that he did not think that the congregation really believed in the Real Presence. When asked why he thought this, he said that he personally did not believe in the Eucharist as Catholics do, but if he did, he would approach our Lord for Communion walking on his knees. He found the casual and irreverent attitude at the time of Communion in that particular church very unconvincing.

As part of a new Liturgical Handbook for the Archdiocese of Portland to be released on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi (June 3), and after consultation, there are two changes in practice I am implementing with regard to our understanding and reverence for the Holy Eucharist. My intent is to foster greater devotion to our Lord in the Blessed Eucharist and in the Holy Mass.

Showing reverence

We will return to the practice of kneeling after the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). The current practice is to remain standing, which has been an exception to the universal norm of kneeling that has been perfectly legitimate and permitted by the liturgical norms. Nevertheless, returning to the practice of kneeling at this moment in the Mass will foster a greater reverence for our Lord.

The priest at that moment is about to hold up before the congregation our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist and proclaim, “Behold the Lamb of God.” It seems most fitting that we be on our knees before the Lord for such a proclamation of faith. In the Book of Revelation, when the Lamb of God (Christ) is presented before the throng of heaven, all fall down in worship before him. The Mass is a participation in this heavenly liturgy.

On Communion and Holy Sacrifice of Mass

The second change coming is that, in the absence of a priest to offer Mass, the distribution of Holy Communion on weekdays in the parish church during a “Communion service” will no longer be permitted. This does not affect such Communion services in nursing homes, prisons, etc., where the people do not have the opportunity to attend Mass on Sunday in the parish.

There is an intimate and intrinsic link between three realities that is essential in this context. They are the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the priest who ministers in the person of Christ, and the distribution of Holy Communion. These are not to be separated except for serious reasons and pastoral need. As long as the faithful have the opportunity to participate in Mass and receive Holy Communion on Sunday, there is no such pastoral need to receive Holy Communion outside of Mass.

When we go to Mass, we are there to do much more than just receive Holy Communion. We participate actively and consciously in the offering of Christ, the Paschal Victim, through the hands of the priest, who ministers in the very person of Christ at the altar. From this sacramental offering, we receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, thus culminating our participation in the paschal mystery being celebrated. This is the way the Church has always viewed this. The Church never envisioned breaking them apart by distributing Communion outside of Mass. This is only done for the sick and those otherwise unable to participate in the Sunday Eucharist. To do otherwise is very poor sacramental and Eucharistic theology.

Full story at Catholic Sentinel.


  1. Clinton R. says:

    May the Mass in Latin as it was before the Second Vatican Council, be restored as the ordinary rite of the Mass. I think history has shown the Novus Ordo is the work of those opposed to the centuries old tradition of the Church.

  2. Does this mean each Bishop can decide what to include/exclude as long as supported by some past practice? I wonder if some liturgical historian could enlighten us as to when kneelers were introduced. What was the practice before that?

    • Steve Seitz says:

      mike m,
      The rubrics in the United States slightly changed shortly after the turn of the century. One of the changes is that it gave each bishop the option to have his diocese either kneel or stand at this part of the Liturgy. Archbishop Sample is simple exercising his option within the rubrics.

      • Linda Maria says:

        Steve Seitz– You mean– before the turn of the 21st century, right? Very recent, in our long history! But you are correct, in terms of the rubrics. I am so used to thinking of the “turn of the century,” only in terms of the turn of the 20th century!! Recent, post-Vatican II events, are a “blip” in history, soon-to-be-forgotten! I think all Catholics must kneel at Mass, after the Agnus Dei, to adore Our Lord! In cases like the liberal Archdiocese of Portland case– I, myself, have been sadly surprised, in the past, to find this BLASPHEMY!!– and have ignored their wishes, and have endured temporary persecution, keeling regardless, after the Agus Dei!! And didn’t care— (but never returned, either!)

    • The practice before kneelers was kneeling on the floor or on the ground, which is not unusual today in Catholic churches throughout the world, where faithful understand that “every knee should bend at the name of Jesus”
      Why is this so hard to understand here in America?

      • Steve Seitz says:

        I think the answer is that the Church has liturgists that have too much pride and not enough to do.

  3. Linda Maria says:

    Wonderful that Abp. Sample made this important change, returning to kneeling after the Agnus Dei, after all those years! I also feel the same way, regarding Communion services. And for myself– I have always loved the great reverence, awe, dignity– and lots of kneeling before God, found in the Church’s great treasure– the old Latin Mass! Plus, the privilege to kneel prayerfully at the altar rail, and receive Our Lord reverently on the tongue! A Mass so holy, so close to God– truly reflecting the reality of Transubstantiation, in which Christ comes down from Heaven to earth for us, in the Holy Eucharist! Beautiful! Both forms of the Mass, the old Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo Mass– are equally valid!

  4. I occasionally kneel during the Agnus Dei but feel that I am drawing attention to myself by doing so. I will start doing so all the time now, as I am acknowledging the Real Presence of our Lord and will not concern myself with what others may think.
    Hopefully, Archbishop Sample will motivate other bishops to follow his lead.

    • Peggy,
      I think you were right to begin with. I stand if the congregation stands simply to avoid distracting others from prayer. After receiving communion, though, I always kneel because there’s less distraction at this point.

      My problem with standing is that I can’t focus and pray nearly well as when kneeling. Also, there are parishes in Los Angeles that “backload” (i.e. those in the rear pews receive communion first and those in the front receive last). The effect is that I now must repeatedly turn my head to figure out when to leave the pew.

      The main effect of standing and backloading is that it kills reflection, focus, and prayer — not something that a successful church would foster.

      • Linda Maria says:

        To me, it is the exact opposite— those standing when they should be quietly, reverently kneeling to adore Our Lord, in cases such as after the Agnus Dei— these folks are in the wrong, and are a HUGE, blasphemous distraction!! —- and are also not prayerful!! To kneel will also invite others to do what is right– it sets a good example!! And it helps to prepare for reception of Holy Communion, to kneel while saying “Lord, I am not worthy…” and adoring Our Lord!! Yes– kneeling devoutly and reverently, helps to focus on prayer and adoration of Our Lord! The Catholic Church badly needs a return to Christ and His Truth!!!

        • Linda Maria,
          We both agree that we should be kneeling, but standing in a diocese that legally requires standing is not distracting since everyone is standing in a uniform way. The Mass should not be politicized, and kneeling when everyone else is required to stand will cause many to think that the person kneeling is proud, ignorant, and/or politicizing the Mass. It will also distract people from a prayerful disposition.

          Instead, I recommend practicing humility. This may cause some discomfort, but you could offer it up for the souls in the congregation and of the diocese.

  5. Faithful and True says:

    Slowly turning the ship back to Truth! The erosion of faith has been planned up to now by those in the Church who purposefully wanted to undermine Her basic Doctrines. It takes an heroic type of Archbishop to speak about, act in and enforce the authentic Catholic Faith in charity. This is the model we now have in the Archdiocese of Portland. God bless Archbishop Sample.

  6. Pope Benedict XVI promulgated Summorum Pontificum to permit the Extraordinary Form (EF) of the Mass. He took great pains to note that the EF is not the preferred or only licit form of the Mass; instead he permitted the use of the EF for those who prefer it in an attempt to promote healing in the Church.

  7. I guess it depends on where one lives. In the Southeast where I lived for 30 years, kneeling was always the practice. Now I live in the Northwest and everyone remains standing from the Our Father until Holy Communion. I kneel anyway, because it is my habit. In preparing to receive Jesus, I want to be on my knees with eyes closed in reverent prayer. It is about pleasing God, and God only. On bended knees – the penitent stance, adoring Jesus! Glad the Diocese of Portland will be back on bended knees!

  8. Chardin says:

    Perhaps Communion under both Species will be next to go. Talk about promoting a lack of profound understanding. Perhaps also we’ll either change the designation of “extraordinary minister of Holy Communion” to “customary” or end that all together as well. Communion rails would be nice too….

  9. Wish he would do something about the terrible music published by Oregon Catholic Press. He’s the chairman of the board.

  10. Roberta Siena says:

    Does this mean ladies in jeans and sweatshirts are no longer permitted to distribute the Body of Christ in Seaside? Alleluia!! I witnessed this revulsion there years ago, refused to go up for communion.

    • Linda Maria says:

      Roberta— Isn’t that horrible?? No respect! Our Church — and all society, too!— badly needs a dress code!

  11. “Nervous Order Masses are like fingerprints… no two are alike.”

  12. Ventura observer says:

    Cracks showing in the Norvus Ordo . . .

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