Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The 1960s generation: Getting Knickers in a Knot over Devotion.

At times I get the opportunity to leave my office for a break, which is located about three blocks from the St. John’s Cathedral in Boise, and either go to Holy Mass or take some time in prayer in the downstairs Chapel. I visited there today—not long after the Mass had been completed.

As I entered, it was quiet and the lights were dim and I knew it was a good time for silent prayer. After kneeling, it was apparent the sacristy door was wedged open slightly and a conversation could be heard.

The uneasy conversation occurred while others were praying in the Chapel including myself. While I could not attend Mass earlier, I was in the Chapel not long thereafter. From the wedged door, the people in the Chapel could hear the celebrant engaged in a lively discussion with a young woman.

From what could be discerned, she had knelt to receive Communion during Mass. The celebrant obviously objected to her posture. Having caught the end of a degrading dialog, I heard the young woman cite a recent statement by the Vatican encouraging receipt of Communion while kneeling. She also noted the fact she had received Communion while kneeling at another church without objection.

The celebrant voiced his objection again and—posing a question laced with cynicism—asked whether the “other” church celebrated the Latin Mass or had a communion rail. The young woman responded “no.” The woman recalled that the Mass celebrated at the “other” church was the ordinary form of the Holy Mass. After her response, the celebrant again objected to her kneeling and cited that she presented herself for communion “carrying Rosaries and a picture of Jesus.”

The celebrant asked the young woman to leave. As I had already finished my brief prayer and as I parted, the young woman appeared outside the Chapel in tears. From what I could discern during the last part of the dialog mentioned above, the woman’s motive was her object of devotion: Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.

The celebrant is an elderly priest. His communication seemed intolerant of certain outward expressions of devotion as unsuitable in the modern Church. Yet, his generation and the 1960s mode of thinking are passing.

While I continue to pray for and am thankful for these elderly priests who celebrate Holy Mass and who sacrifice for others every day; why is it they get their knickers in a knot when it comes to the Faithful’s public expression of devotion to a Good God? Especially, when there is no harm done? If anything, public devotion is a good model for others to follow particularly children. Also, it appears that the celebrant’s objection to kneeling for Communion has more to do with form than substance.


  1. This is something I just don't get. I kneel for communion every Sunday in a church without altar rails or the Latin Mass. I've knelt before liberal, progressive priests who celebrate the Mass in a scandalous fashion. But I have NEVER had any of them confront me about my form in receiving communion, and I have never been denied communion. I wonder if this same priest in your account ever called a gum-chewer in for a dressing down--is he just a bit of a controlling personality, for instance--or could he really be so deficient in charity toward others?

  2. Don't know the cause here other than illberality; but reason governs your situation. Thank God. Not here; at least on that day.

  3. My thoughts: the elderly priest doesn't like getting his fingers wet. Let me tell you what's going on in my parish church. My pastor has asked that we all receive in the hand because in his entire 30 years as a priest, only three people have approached him correctly, to receive on the tongue. He doesn't like getting his fingers slobbered over--unintentionally, but that's the result. In his defense, not everyone has gotten the message and he doesn't make a big deal of it. He gives communion on the tongue to those who come up. He has never put out his message in the bulletin, or web site. It's just his preference.
    I bet your dying to know why. When everyone received on the tongue, we were kneeling at the communion rail. Father was standing. We had to tip our heads back, and stick out our tongues. But the pastor is 5'5" at the most. How does a 5'5" priest give out communion to someone over 6'. Kneeling to receive is impractical--too many people would fall over you. I've almost fallen over someone pausing just to bow before receiving. But that's not an issue; a few do kneel and receive on the tongue and no one begrudges them that option.
    But I found it interesting--the short priest angle.