Gestures During Communion

Dear Grace,
Why do some people genuflect in front of the Eucharistic Minister before receiving Communion?

You understand of course that they are not genuflecting to the Eucharistic minister, but to Christ truly present in the Sacred Host. The Church has always required that the faithful show respect and reverence for the Eucharist at the moment of receiving it. When you see people genuflecting before receiving Communion, it is because they are trying to show the reverence that is required. Let us look, then, at what the Church teaches are the ways that we should show this reverence.

The latest adaptations to the 2000 edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal for the dioceses of the United States — which were approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on April 17, 2002 and are now in force — state the following: “The norm for reception of Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States is standing. Communicants [however] should not be denied Holy Communion because they kneel. Rather, such instances should be addressed pastorally, by providing the faithful with proper catechesis on the reasons for this norm. When receiving Holy Communion in the hand, the communicant bows his or her head before the sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister. The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand at the discretion of each communicant. When Holy Communion is received under both kinds, the sign of reverence is also made before receiving the Precious Blood” (GIRM, no. 160).

In other words, if a person is going to receive Communion standing — as is now the norm — but he or she wishes to genuflect, then perhaps they should make this sign of reverence when they are one or two persons back in the line before reaching the Eucharistic minister. If one chooses to receive kneeling, then no other sign of reverence is necessary since the kneeling itself is the sign of supreme adoration. But remember that, even when we receive Communion standing, we should always make a bow of the head in front of the Sacred Host before receiving. It is Jesus, and so we bow.

It is wonderful that we have so many coming up to receive Our Lord. Because we have so many, however, we need to be mindful of how to do things, so that the beautiful flow in our liturgy is maintained, while at the same time showing God the reverence that we so desire to give.

Grace MacKinnon is a syndicated columnist and public speaker on Catholic doctrine and teaches in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Her new book Dear Grace: Answers to Questions About the Faith is available in our online store. If you enjoy reading Grace’s column, you will certainly want to have this book, which is a collection of the first two years of “Dear Grace.” Faith questions may be sent to Grace via e-mail at: You may also visit her online at

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