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John Pezzella wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Is there a defined posture for altar boys when receiving Holy Communion?
  • Specifically, are they allowed to receive Holy Communion kneeling?

I realize that the norm for the USA is standing, but that the laity may receive kneeling.
I'm familiar with GIRM 160 and the ruling from the Vatican on this issue.

My sons have been told that when serving Mass they cannot receive kneeling.

Thank you!


  { Can my sons, who are altar boys, kneel to receiving the Eucharist when serving at Mass? }

Mike replied:

Dear John,

To my knowledge there is no defined posture for altar boys.

Who ever told them that they could not kneel was incorrect. If it was a priest, I would share with him the documentation that states every Catholic has the right to receive Holy Communion at Mass kneeling if they wish; your boys are no different. Here's the documentation I have:

Inaestimabile Donum Instruction Concerning Worship Of The Eucharistic Mystery
April 17, 1980 — by Blessed John Paul II

11. The Church has always required from the faithful respect and reverence for the Eucharist at the moment of receiving it.

With regard to the manner of going to Communion, the faithful can receive it either kneeling or standing, in accordance with the norms laid down by the episcopal conference: "When the faithful communicate kneeling, no other sign of reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament is required, since kneeling is itself a sign of adoration. When they receive Communion standing, it is strongly recommended that, coming up in procession, they should make a sign of reverence before receiving the Sacrament. This should be done at the right time and place, so that the order of people going to and from Communion is not disrupted."

The Amen said by the faithful when receiving Communion is an act of personal faith in the presence of Christ.

From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, July 2002

The Congregation in fact is concerned at the number of similar complaints that it has received in recent months from various places, and considers any refusal of Holy Communion to a member of the faithful on the basis of his or her kneeling posture to be a grave violation of one of the most basic rights of the Christian faithful, namely that of being assisted by their Pastors by means of the Sacraments (Codex Iuris Canonici, canon 213).

Instruction — Redemptionis Sacramentum, March 25, 2004
On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist from the
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

[90.] "The faithful should receive Communion kneeling or standing, as the Conference of Bishops will have determined", with its acts having received the recognitio of the Apostolic See. "However, if they receive Communion standing, it is recommended that they give due reverence before the reception of the Sacrament, as set forth in the same norms".

[91.] In distributing Holy Communion it is to be remembered that "sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who seek them in a reasonable manner, are rightly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them". Hence any baptized Catholic who is not prevented by law must be admitted to Holy Communion. Therefore, it is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ's faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing.

If he still says, they can't, I would bring the issue to the bishop's attention via a written letter.

It's important to mention that your boy's outward behavior and actions are a manifestation of what they believe inside. You should also mention to the bishop that you hope their ability to receive kneeling during Mass will not jeopardize that ability to also serve at the Mass.

Though I was never an altar boy, a similar thing happened to me, when a celebrant denied giving me the Eucharist because I was kneeling. I wrote to my local bishop, and a month or so latter,
I received a letter saying the issued had been rectified, and that, if I wished, I would be able to receive the Blessed Sacrament kneeling at that parish from now on.


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