Is it true? Ritual changes will include standing after Communion?
CLEVELAND — Raising their hands at the Lord’s Prayer. Losing the handshake and embracing the person in the next seat at the sign of peace. In an extra act of reverence, bowing before receiving the Communion host.
And undoing a lifetime of tradition by not kneeling in prayer after Communion. Instead, in a sign of the communal nature of the sacrament, worshippers will stand and sing until each person has received Communion.
American Catholics are about to experience major changes in the Communion rite as dioceses begin implementing the updated General Instruction of the Roman Missal.
Church officials here, like in the rest of the country, are gradually preparing their flocks for the change. Parishioners will begin hearing about the changes in their churches the last two weeks in September. They will receive instruction in sermons and bulletins through October and November.
Cleveland Bishop Anthony M. Pilla plans for the changes to be implemented in all of the diocese’s 234 parishes by Nov. 30, the first Sunday of Advent.
The Rev. J-Glenn Murray, director of the diocesan Office for Pastoral Liturgy, said the changes will unsettle many Catholics, but the diocese hopes the uniform guidelines will help people in the pews have a richer experience of the sacrament.
“I think the current rite stresses presence and holiness in a very powerful manner,” Murray said. “I think it’s a vast improvement.”
Diocesan bishops are now putting in place the changes approved by the Vatican and then by U.S. bishops with adaptations for American culture.
“We’re taking our time. We’re trying to do it well,” said the Rev. Michael G. Woost, who teaches liturgical and sacramental theology at St. Mary Seminary in Wickliffe.
Perhaps the biggest change “and probably the most problematic change,” Murray said, will be getting Catholics to break the habit of immediately returning to their pews to kneel in prayer after Communion. The diocese is encouraging people to return to their pews and continue to stand and sing until everyone has received Communion and the priest has sat down to pray. At that point, worshippers would kneel in private prayer.
The changes are designed to retain both the personal and social nature of the sacrament, Murray said.
“Communion is also about being in communion with the Body of Christ, the church,” Murray said. “If you receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ, you make a commitment to the body of Christ, the church.”
Some people may consider it an infringement on their private prayer, Woost said. But “we’re really not giving up anything. We’re getting so much more.”
Other changes include:
Asking worshipers to raise both hands upward at the “Our Father.” In some churches, people have a custom of holding hands during the prayer. The raised arms go back to the way Jesus and early church members prayed, diocesan liturgists said. They are a symbol of surrender to God and Christian belief in Jesus’ victory over death, Woost said.
At the sign of peace, there is a tendency now at churches to shake hands with several nearby people.
The new rite encourages people to embrace one or two people in a serious, sober gesture of reconciliation. “The meaning of the sign of peace is not hail fellow, well met,” Murray said. “It is a rite of reconciliation, of unions of minds and hearts.”
In a special sign of reverence, Catholics also will be asked to bow before receiving the host that they consider the body of Christ.
St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church in Mentor, a test parish for some of the changes, already has adopted the practices of bowing before the Eucharist and the raising of hands at the Our Father.
Joanne M. Tadych, liturgist at St. Bede, said the changes have had a profound effect on parishioners — in particular, bowing before receiving Communion.
“It has a very calming effect. It gives you just a moment of peace to think about what you’re really doing,” Tadych said. “You’re not just rushing through.”
Congregation members said after a recent morning Mass that they like the changes.
Michael Williams, 50, said raising his hands during the Our Father “is a great way to show reverence and respect for the Lord. It’s more of a sign of surrender to the Lord.”
Joan Kiesel, 76, said bowing before receiving Communion “is a wonderful mark of respect.”
But making these two changes has not been easy. Some parishioners prayed the Our Father with their arms at their sides or with a hybrid of clasped hands and raised arms.
Murray noted that while the new practices will be the norm in all parishes, they are being presented as invitations to individuals to show the unity of the church by all sharing the same practices.
He said no one will be forbidden from going back to the pew and immediately kneeling after receiving Communion. At St. Bede, people uncomfortable with raising their hands during The Lord’s Prayer can keep their hands folded in a gesture of respect.
Church officials and parishioners said they realize changing lifelong habits will be a challenge.
Kathleen Buse, 44, said she sometimes has to remember to bow at Communion (??) time during Mass at St. Bede. After more than 40 years of experiencing the Communion rite one way, she said, “It’s a big change.”