Going Viral: The controversy of standing for communion

By Samantha Apanasewicz
Pop Trends Columnist

In the March/April 2023 edition of the local magazine Northeast Ohio Catholic, an article written by Father Gerald Bednar, who is a retired Ph.D and my home parish priest, was published. The article, entitled “Why should we stand to receive Communion?” asserts that receiving Communion standing is the norm and should be the practice of all Catholics.

As a cradle Catholic, I grew up receiving communion while standing. I had never even heard of receiving while kneeling until I came to Franciscan three years ago.

Since then, I have engaged in various debates about this topic, as Franciscan is a melting pot of Catholic opinion. When young religious people from everywhere come together, there is bound to be some differences in worship practices.

The question I have struggled to answer over the past three years has been, “Whose way of worship is correct if some practices seem to contradict each other?”

I mainly felt confused by Fr. Bednar’s arguments regarding why kneeling to receive should not be encouraged in the Mass. His logic was sound enough, but I believe that the concept of his article may imply some bias. It almost seems as if Bednar is attempting to provide an excuse for believers NOT to kneel when receiving, purely based on a nuanced technicality.

Bednar writes, “As more people express private adoration when receiving through kneeling, the community’s expression of their commitment to the paschal mystery that is expressed through standing becomes compromised. The encouragement of kneeling can also introduce a division between those who kneel and appear more devout than those who stand.”

I understood this to mean that one should not kneel to receive Communion because it is not the social norm and choosing to kneel when receiving communion may somehow negatively affect other members of the congregation.

To me, Bednar’s article seems to be suggesting that his audience, after reading his work, should change their habits during Mass and stop kneeling to receive communion. In my mind, that in and of itself, “introduces a division” in the Church, to quote Bednar’s earlier words.

My time at Franciscan these three years has taught me that there is no clear-cut right way to worship, let alone receive Communion. Here at Franciscan, Jesus is received by many people every day, with different people choosing to kneel or to stand while receiving. Never have these differences disrupted the way I “participate in the Paschal Mystery,” as Bednar suggests.

Bednar also argues that standing during Communion is an appropriate way for the congregation to participate in the Paschal Mystery based on the idea that Jesus was in a standing position during the crucifixion and Resurrection. However, the Paschal Mystery also includes Jesus’ beatings and his three falls, during which he was bowed to the ground. By this logic, kneeling should be held in the same regard as standing since both are positions Jesus assumed during his Passion.

I am no Ph.D. in theology, nor have I taught seminarians as Fr. Bednar has. Perhaps there is a facet of his argument I am overlooking, but being at Franciscan has conditioned me to see the good in all types of Catholic practices and I am immediately wary of any opinion that exclusively restricts one kind of worship in the Mass.

Maybe someone could consult another renowned Church scholar and have me change my mind, but until then, I remain unconvinced by Fr. Bednar’s arguments.

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