Posture at communion

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: Greetings from Germany.

I have just discovered your excellent blog and appreciate your very good answers to questions.

I would like to ask you what the proper way is for a deacon to receive Communion. I have been accustomed to receiving Communion on the tongue kneeling, as many lay-people here also do; a priest recently told me though that this is not proper and is a “degradation” of the office of the deacon. Of course that is the last thing I want to do – degrade the diaconate – so I would be grateful if you could tell me how I can receive Communion in a way most in accord with the thinking of the Church.

Sincere regards,


A: Thanks for your kind comments about my blog.

The rules for posture at communion change from one conference of bishops to another. I see a German translation of the third edition of the IGMR here: At #160, which gives the instructions for posture at communion, it says that the faithful receive communion either kneeling or standing as the conference of bishops has established. 

You may be in a better position to know if your conference has decreed something further on posture. Here in the US, the proper posture is standing, but individuals may kneel. (I’m well aware that there are congregations where priests encourage all the faithful kneel, a practice I find hard to reconcile with GIRM 160 in the US.)

If your conference of bishops permits kneeling, I can’t see how this of itself could be a degradation of the office of a deacon. However, your priest friend may have a point that kneeling “is not proper” to the deacon receiving communion. (I don’t think the same is true of a deacon receiving communion in the hand.) If the deacon were supposed to kneel to receive communion, the rubrics would clearly indicate that. They do not. So I think it is fair to say that the rubrics envision that the deacon receives communion standing.

#161 gives instructions regarding the methods of receiving: in the mouth, or where it is permitted, in the hand. The choice belongs to the communicant.

In my diocese, I encourage deacons and communion ministers to observe the preferred posture of the USCCB: stand to receive communion. Although the legislation permits individuals to kneel, when a vested deacon or deputed minister kneels, their leadership role may make it appear that this is the preferred posture, while, at least in the US, it is not.

Because the communicant in the US determines whether to receive communion in the mouth or in the hand, I see no problem with deacons making that choice as well. However, some Catholics find it confusing when ministers receive communion in the mouth but then touch the hosts with their hands in order to give communion to others.

The decisions we ministers make should be in keeping with the good of the community. This sometimes means adopting practices that stretch us beyond our own preferences to something that bears fruit for the church.