Okay. I've changed my mind. It's time to bring back the altar rail.Read the whole thing here--do, really, because it's terrific.
Hey, I'm as surprised as anyone else that I feel this way.
Two years ago, I rhapsodized on the Feast of Corpus Christi on the theology behind standing to receive communion, and defended it. And why not? I've received that way for most of my adult life; I even remember the Latin church's experiment with intinction back in the '70s. Standing and in-the-hand always seemed to me sensible, practical and—with proper catechesis—appropriate.
But now, after several years of standing on the other side of the ciborium—first as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, now as a deacon—and watching what goes on, I've had about enough.
I've watched a mother receive communion, her toddler in tow, then take it back to the pew and share it with him like a cookie.
At least four or five times a year, I have to stop someone who just takes the host and wanders away with it and ask them to consume it on the spot. [...]
After experiencing this too often, in too many places, under a variety of circumstances, I've decided: it's got to stop. Catechesis is fruitless. We've tried. You can show people how it's done; you can instruct them; you can post reminders in the bulletin and give talks from the pulpit. It does no good. Again and again, there is a sizable minority of the faithful who are just clueless—or, worse, indifferent.
The fact is, we fumbling humans need external reminders—whether smells and bells, or postures and gestures—to reinforce what we are doing, direct our attention, and make us get over ourselves. Receiving communion is about something above us, and beyond us. It should transcend what we normally do. But what does it say about the state of our worship and our reception of the Eucharist that it has begun to resemble a trip to the DMV?
Our modern liturgy has become too depleted of reverence and awe, of wonder and mystery. The signs and symbols that underscored the mystery—the windows of stained glass, the chants of Latin, the swirls of incense at the altar—vanished and were replaced by . . . what? Fifty shades of beige? Increasingly churches now resemble warehouses, and the Body of Christ is just one more commodity we stockpile and give out.
I agree with Deacon Kandra, wholeheartedly, 100%. I think he's on to something important here, and I encourage those priests with the ability to change things in their parishes to do so--and that goes double for bishops.
I would just say that in those newer churches where rails weren't built and aren't really possible, we should keep up with the instruction and catechesis, and look into the purchasing of prie-dieux for use at Mass (preceded by instruction, of course). And there should be clear guidelines for the reception of Holy Communion for those not physically able to kneel, such as the elderly or handicapped. (I wonder--how was this handled in the preconciliar age? Does anybody know?)
But kneeling to receive Holy Communion would, indeed, be a start in the right direction toward recapturing that sense of reverence at Mass, provided it is done properly (I've never been a huge fan of the "lone kneeler," for instance, not because I don't sympathize, but because I've seen it done in such a way that endangers the surprised person in the Communion line right behind the "lone kneeler" who suddenly has to dodge to avoid being tripped.)
What do you think? Should we return to kneeling (especially with Communion rails)? Why or why not?