Dear Friends in Christ,

This Pastoral Letter on The Eucharistic Procession and the Reception of Holy Communion has come together at the direction of Bishop Garcia. With the encouragement of the Presbyteral (Priest) Council the writing of the Pastoral was begun in 2017. 

At its core this Pastoral Letter reminds us that the Ordinary Form (Post Vatican II Mass of Pope Paul VI) has its own beauty. In a different manner, so does the Extraordinary Form (from Pre-Vatican II 1962 Missal). Each of these two forms of worship are provided by our church as options for the people of our diocese in which they can elect to partake. Yet we should not attempt to confuse aspects of the two different forms of worship by adapting or promoting practices from one to the other.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Peter A. Crivello, V.G.

Diocese of Monterey

Themes summarized:

1. The Eucharist is a call to unity and is communal in nature. Pope Francis has recently emphasized that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council are irreversible which calls us to amply understand their underlying principles.

2. Unity of posture is an important expression of the communal nature of the Eucharist. This certainly applies to the Communion Procession as well as to the other parts of the Mass.

3. The norm for receiving communion is to do so standing not kneeling.

4. The faithful may choose to receive the consecrated host either on the tongue or in the hand.

5. After the Communion Procession concludes, time for silence and kneeling is appropriate.

The following is an excerpt from Bishop Garcia’s Pastoral Letter: 

With this Pastoral Letter, I would like to draw our attention to and articulate the teaching of our Church regarding the beauty of the Communion Procession and the reception of Holy Communion. I address you, my brother priests, deacons, religious men and women and all the faithful of our local Church in the Diocese of Monterey. Please take these reminders to heart, implementing and practicing them in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Symbols and postures during the Eucharist help us to express the reality of our faith and our lives. Bread and wine made from many grains of wheat and many grapes, crushed and broken, become for us one bread, one cup, and in turn, Christ’s body and blood.

In the United States the adapted norm is for all to kneel during the Eucharistic Prayer. This adapted norm is common, widely used and has been customary for generations in our diocese and throughout the United States. While we kneel in adoration, our participation is essential, uniting our minds and hearts to the Eucharistic Prayer offered by the presiding bishop or priest while at the altar. However, the norm used by the Universal Church is for all to stand during the Eucharistic Prayer.

Standing is a posture which symbolizes that we are witnesses of the Crucified and Risen Lord present to us in the midst of our Eucharistic Celebration. With special permission from the Bishop, some parishes have chosen the posture of standing during the Eucharistic Prayer. When this is the case, proper catechesis should accompany this practice for the understanding of this posture, not as one less reverent, but rather one rooted in the ancient practice and spirituality of our Church’s legacy of the Christian faithful gathering to participate in the Pascal Feast of the Lamb.

A reminder to my brother priests that this moment of the Eucharist is not the appropriate time to instruct the faithful on their worthiness to receive the Eucharist. There are many other opportunities for instruction on the spiritual benefits of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. During the Mass itself we employ the Penitential Rite and at this point of the Sacred Liturgy we all acknowledge our unworthiness. Indeed, it is by the grace of God that we are all “healed” and made worthy to partake of the Sacred Banquet of the Eucharist. We must trust that the faithful will have already examined their own conscience as to their disposition to partake in Holy Communion.

Receiving the Eucharist is to be approached with awe and reverence. Yet it is not “a personal moment” of prayer or adoration. We must not lose sight that when we come forward for the Communion Procession we do this together united to our brothers and sisters in faith, who are a gift from God. With this as our basis of faith and worship we are not to make this time when our personal prayer or personal preference of posture take precedence over what is the Sacred Action of the Assembly, God’s gathered people. Yet exceptions for the elderly, infirm or disabled can be made when necessary. For this reason, the General instruction of the Roman Missal teaches us that together we come forward to receive Holy Communion and do so standing, as specified by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops.

While those who choose to receive Holy Communion kneeling should not be denied, I urge pastors, as does the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, to provide proper catechesis for the faithful to address the reasons that standing is the norm to receive Holy Communion.

As each communicant approaches the priest, deacon or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, he or she is encouraged to bow his or her head as a gesture of reverence for the Sacrament before receiving the Body of the Lord, and again when receiving the Precious Blood. When receiving the Eucharist, the faithful have the option to do so either in the hand or on the tongue, at the discretion of each communicant. One way is not considered better or more holy or preferred by the Church, as long as either is done with reverence. The Precious Blood should be offered as often as possible. Pastors should strive for ongoing liturgical formation so that extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are available in order to distribute the Precious Blood at various communion stations. This should be the norm as often as possible.

As is the teaching of the Church and has been taught in our diocese for many years, everyone is to remain standing while singing with grateful hearts until all have received Holy Communion. Again, this is another sign of the unity we share in Christ. In some parishes, it may be customary to wait until the Blessed Sacrament has been returned to the tabernacle for the faithful to be seated. This is not necessary or obligatory. Rather, after all have received, the faithful should be encouraged to offer a prayer of thanksgiving. At this point a time of Sacred Silence should be allowed for and encouraged. At this moment in the Liturgy of the Eucharist either kneeling or sitting is most appropriate.

+ Most Reverend Bishop Richard J. Garcia, Diocese of Monterey

Full story at Diocese of Monterey website.