Mary, Queen of Peace Postures and Procedures of Unity During the Mass
There have been requests for clarifications of postures and procedures of the People of God during the Mass. The following, in consultation with guidelines provided by the Vatican, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and our own Bishop, have been compiled by your Liturgy Committee.
N.B. Any person with a physical handicap or other limitations is, of course, allowed to alter these positions as needed.
Our quiet reverence should begin before the Mass, with no unnecessary conversation anywhere within the church. (Quietly and briefly greeting others is permitted.) We ought to be preparing our hearts and minds for the Lord.
After our pre-Mass prayers, we put the kneeler up; it should remain up until needed later in the Mass. (This is a basic courtesy to others.)
We stand for the entrance procession. During the Penitential Rite, or Kyrie, it is appropriate to strike our breast at “I have sinned through my own fault . . .” or “Lord, have mercy” and “Christ have mercy.” We may also strike our breast at “Have mercy on us” in the Gloria. We sit after the opening prayer.
We stand when the Alleluia begins but not until the priest rises. We sit after the reading of the Gospel, but not until the Book of Gospels has been kissed. Usually the Book is kissed by the priest or deacon doing the reading; but if the deacon is assisting the Bishop in the Mass, the Book is usually carried to the Bishop for the kiss. In that case we remain standing until the Bishop has kissed it. The kiss is always our cue to sit.
We stand for the Credo (Profession of Faith), bowing throughout the sentence: “By the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.” This bow should be profound when possible, a head bow when space is limited.
After the Prayer of the Faithful we sit. During the offertory singing is preferred or we may reflect in silence.
We stand again as soon as the priest has finished the lavabo (washing and drying his hands). We kneel immediately after the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy). We gaze in adoration at the Host and at the cup at the elevation. We bow our heads as the priest genuflects. After the “Amen” of the Doxology (Through Him, with Him . . .”), WE STAND.
For the Pater noster (Our Father) the preferred position is with palms held together or hands folded. Hands should not be extended outwardly or upwardly; this position is reserved for clergy. It is not forbidden to join hands with our neighbor if the neighbor is willing and if we can do so without leaving our places and without twisting or reaching awkwardly to persons in other pews. “Chains” of hand-holders ought not extend across aisles. If we do hold hands and raise them near the end of the prayer at the Quia tuum est regnum (For the kingdom . . .) we ought to raise them only slightly, as a greater lifting may be uncomfortable or even painful for some people.
When we offer the Pax (Sign of Peace), we do so only to those nearest us. We do not leave our pews. The proper greeting is “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” The second person responds, “Amen,” and may add, “And also with you,” to which the first person then replies, “Amen.”
Once the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) begins, there are to be no more gestures of peace. During this prayer we strike our breast at “Have mercy on us” and “Grant us peace.” We kneel immediately after the last word of the Agnus Dei.
When the priest says, “This is the Lamb of God,” we look at the Host. When we respond, “Lord, I am not worthy. . .” we look at the Host or bow our heads. We remain kneeling while the priest consumes the Body and Blood and while he serves the Deacon, Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist, acolytes, and others within the Sanctuary.
When the Communion procession begins, we have a choice: stand, sit, or kneel. We choose the one which we consider to be the most reverent. (Most of us want to feel unified in community by assuming a common position. But if each of us will assume our most reverent position, we will be unified by our reverence to the Lord. If you choose to stand, do not do so until the first person in the Communion line receives. (This “first person” is not the priest or any other person who receives at the altar.) If you choose to sing (which is an excellent sign of unified community), you should stand. No person is required to stand until it is his turn to join the Communion line. When you rise, put the kneeler up.
In the Communion line we do not greet others in any way. Just before reaching the front of the line, we make a sign of reverence. The minimal sign is a head bow. We may choose a profound bow or a genuflection. We choose the one we consider the most reverent. For the sake of safety we leave plenty of space in front of us so that we do not bump into or trip over the person ahead when they make their sign of reverence. To receive Jesus, we may remain standing or we may kneel. (When kneeling one always receives the Body of Christ upon the tongue.) As we approach the Blood of Christ, we make another sign of reverence.
When we return to our place, we again choose our position. If we choose to stand, we should sit or kneel as soon as the last person in the Communion line has received Jesus. We should never be standing during the purification of the vessels.
When the priest returns to his chair and sits, we also sit. We stand when he invites us to pray.