Posture at Mass

19 05 2008

A recent post I wrote entitled Bowing Instead of Genuflecting… received an interesting comment that I though might as well be answered as a new post. 

I’ve been to Masses in Japanese here in the US. I notice that on entering the Church Japanese Catholics do not genuflect but bow. I am sure this must have been contrived by some liturgist in the 1960’s.
Barring a problem with the knees, there’s no excuse for Japanese Catholics not to genuflect. First, bending the knee is an authentic part of their tradition. Anyone who has seen a samurai movie can attest to that. [Just try bowing and then standing in the presence of the daimyo!]

Ive read articles online with comments by the late Cardinal Hamao for one who said things along the lines that Japanese should worship in their own distinct Eastern way etc.  This article gives outrageous quotes by him so I’m wondering if even the Japanese bishops and cardinals had a hand in this?    Good point about posture before the daimyo and other cases in the past.  Of course posture before the daimyo was a matter of keeping your own head or not but still I agree the bow they do at mass is not extraordinary.

This brings me into my main point and why I started a new post for this.  Even at St Peter`s basilica the posture of Catholics is not uniform.  At the very heart of Catholicism it is striking how much disunity there is in our postures at mass.  I attended a weekday evening mass at the altar of the chair I think it`s called.  This chapel has the famous holy spirit window and the chair of St Peter, and here at consecration our posture was not one as most knelt and some stood.  During the agnus dei some knelt again while most stood, and during the Our Father some held their hands up in the orans position while many others didn’t.  Yes I was paying attention to the priest but while looking at him it is very easy to see everyone is not doing the same thing.  I know a lot of parishes have been rocked by seemingly constant changes in the last fourty, even the last ten years, and I think it leads to a lot of confusion!  I will give my parents home parish as an example because almost every time I visit they are doing something new.  Thinking back they have gone through praying with hands in orans, holding hands during the Our Father, a lot of crap from life teen (which is out of there now thankfully) and a bunch of changes as when to sit stand and kneel during the liturgy of the Eucharist.  I am all for any pope approved changes but some of the ones that have come through probably aren’t (life teen) and it can be very confusing for both Catholics and non Catholics who might be looking in. 





3 responses

31 03 2009


I have a question. I was in Japan last week where I attended Japanese language Masses for the first time there. At both a Church in Tokyo and Kamakura, the people didn’t kneel during the consecration even though they had kneelers. It also didn’t seem that they kneeled and gave thanksgiving after communion.

Also, at the Church in Tokyo, an announcement was made in Japanese (my Japanese wife clued me in) that one could ONLY receive communion in the hand. I wasn’t too pleased to hear that.

Is this your experience with with Japanese language Masses? Any insight? I can be reached off-line at:

catechismoncall at


1 04 2009
jasmine tea

That’s really unfortunate, conway23.

I say, unless they come and force you off your knees or make some kind of obnoxious announcement about it, you can (and should) kneel for the Consecration. Also, I think it might be in canon law that they can’t refuse to give you Communion on the tongue, since it is equally valid with receiving on the hands (and, I think, far more reverent).

I agree with v8 about the bowing at Mass. If you’re old or your knees are just bad, that’s one thing, but….. (><)

3 04 2009

Wow I havent heard the Communion only in the hand announcement, thats pretty bad and I think they cant do that. I mean they cant force you to take it in the hand and they are not allowed to refuse it to you on the tongue. This is my understanding after looking this kind of thing up online in such documents as the GIRM or General Instruction of the Roman Missile. If it is possible for you to attend the same church again you might consider recording it, then look into lines of complaint such as first contacting the priest at the church, and if that doesnt change things then writing to the bishop and even the Vatican.

As for posture at the consecration I recall reading that there is some leeway in that which is decided on by the local bishop or conference of bishops. Even so it is pretty uncoordinated here like what you experienced. There is an explanation of the standing posture on the past page of the pdf Sunday bulletin here

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