All Knees Must Bend: The Message of Garabandal and Eucharistic Reverence

The adoration and veneration of The Most Blessed Sacrament is a most fundamental and necessary element of both the Garabandal message and of our lives in Christ.
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We have all seen the images... perhaps it is a photo of Conchita kneeling in a puddle behind her home receiving the Visible Host, maybe, it is a photo of an invisible Communion of Mari-Loli as she was kneeling between the onlookers. Whatever the photo, the image, there is one simple, reverent, yet very visible and constant element the kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, before the very Presence of Our Lord. In October 1968 Conchita stated that "devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and prayer for priests" was the main emphasis as given by Our Blessed Mother at Garabandal. We all understand and appreciate the importance of the Eucharist in our relationship with Christ, but are we aware of where the present, spreading attitude of many within the Church, especially the U.S. Bishops, may take us? As in many other areas, the past provides a depth, and the Garabandal message provides a framework, from which Our Lord may speak to us to provide the guidance we need.

The Present Situation

In the 2000 General instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), the U.S. Bishops determined that standing would be the customary posture for receiving Communion in the U.S., with a bow of the head as an added sign of reverence before receiving the consecrated host. This directive effectively made kneeling at Communion a non-licit posture for receiving Holy Communion in the dioceses of the United States. Anyone choosing to kneel despite this directive, therefore, would be one in direct conflict with the normative, encouraged, approved gesture and posture for receiving. Many faithful, ever trusting of the expertise and knowledge of their religious leaders in these matters, simply accepted the directive as the new way of doing things. After all, wasn't practically everyone standing at Communion anyway? To many, the directive would seem like a formalized prescription of the obvious and norm, almost unnecessary, but was this simply a case of just another "overkill" rule?

I remember as a teen watching the last church in my area where one could kneel at the altar rail and receive Communion in turn. I liked this procedure; it seemed very respectful, reserved and reverent. I can also remember watching a man kneeling for Communion at a central, urban church, where I like to go to Confession. The man was last in line, and when the priest saw him kneeling, he asked him to stand. The man refused, gesturing that he wanted to receive on his knees. The priest just ignored him, and walked back to the altar, leaving the man kneeling for a few minutes before the rejected parishioner just got up and went back to his seat, without the Bread of Life he had sought. I felt as if I was watching a bad dream, would Christ ever leave a man kneeling for Communion like that?

"If we believe, as we should, that upon consecration the host becomes Christ, then kneeling before the host is not kneeling before a host, but kneeling before God Himself, and therefore not idolatry."
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PHOTO: The Host, visible on Conchita's tongue.

The Arguments Presented Against Kneeling

A survey of the reasons given against kneeling for Communion reads like a list of very creative and "profound" litany. One argument is that standing better conveys the resurrection, which is the real message of Communion anyway. Under this claim, we are told that rising for Communion conveys rising from the dead and a belief in the resurrection, not just simple adoration as kneeling does. A second argument, somewhat based on the first, but perhaps more self-absorbed, tells us that the range of belief that we express at Communion is now wider, and that kneeling at a rail is insufficient to convey such a vast degree of belief which our development of knowledge has not allowed us to make. Under this view, we are much more complex and perceptive believers, able to see things which go beyond simple kneeling such that kneeling is almost an outdated, insufficient posture incapable of adequately reflecting and demonstrating our greatest spiritual depth.

A third spin on why standing is better tells us that, just as we stand to welcome a visitor, we stand to welcome the Risen Christ. Still another angle presented tells us that, since we stand for the Gospel, we should stand for Communion. Under this latter view, both the Gospel and Communion nourish us in different ways and therefore should be treated equally. One of my favorite arguments states that we are one in Christ, and therefore must show unity in the way we celebrate. Under this creative spin, it is improper for us to celebrate in different ways, as this would reflect disunity and difference instead of unity and consistency in our worship. I call this view the politically reflective approach, since we are told that it is wrong to receive in a way that not everyone can easily receive. Since the old and sick may not be able to kneel, then nobody should kneel because it would either make those who can't kneel feel bad or, even more creatively, some may not be able to kneel in a "dignified" manner. The more I read the "unity" argument, the more I cannot believe it!

According to this view, if many people choose to receive Communion in their bathing suits, then I should also because to refuse to do so would harm unity... is this for real? It is nice to see that we are now basing our adoration of Our Lord and Savior on what is convenient to people. The final and perhaps most unbelievable argument of all, however, is what I call the "keep moving rule". According to this view, allowing people to kneel endangers others because people may trip or bump into each other in the procession if some kneel, other don't, and nobody knows who will do what. I guess we would not want to cause a traffic jam on Communion line number 3!

Once again, the reception and adoration of our Creator becomes less important than keeping things moving!

Disturbing Historical Basis Against Kneeling

Beyond the sheer superficiality and unfortunate nature of some of the arguments against kneeling, we have clearly disturbing historical antecedents for this view. In the 1500s, Protestant Revolutionaries such as Bishop John Hooper and John Knox argued that kneeling for Communion was a superstitious act and a form of idolatry.

In order to clearly understand the serious implications of this argument, we must define what "idolatry" means. Simply stated, idolatry means placing anything above God which is not God. We may argue that materialism is idolatry in that it places possessions and money above God, for example. However, when used to describe kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, idolatry implies that we are worshipping something which is just that, a thing, having nothing to do with God.

In other words, to call kneeling idolatry is to deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. If we believe, as we should, that upon consecration the host becomes Christ, then kneeling before the host is not kneeling before a host, but kneeling before God Himself, and therefore not idolatry. We should recall the Protestant argument against holy statues, namely, that praying to a statue is praying to an object over God and therefore idolatry.

It seems that the general modernist approach to worship seeks to strip piety from the Mass. The net result of such actions will be to strip piety from the minds of the faithful. I have seen this first-hand, comparing worship in the U.S. versus that in major European cathedrals. While shorts, tank-tops, and laughing discussions about sports and politics are not welcome in many Italian and Spanish churches, they are common fare here. To see a Communion procession in the U.S. is sometimes to see a social event, as people wave, talk, laugh, and goof around on their way to Communion! I believe that our attitude toward Communion, toward the Host and receiving it, toward the Mass, go hand in hand. It was Pope Pius XII who said that outward religious acts serve to foster piety, increase our faith, and deepen devotion.

The Defenders of True Adoration

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"... to call kneeling idolatry is to deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist."

The posture of the American Bishops runs counter to the Vatican's directive on these matters. In the Inaestimabile Donum of April 1980, the Pope declared that the faithful are free to receive Communion either kneeling or standing, and implied that kneeling was the highest form of adoration. On October 25, 2001, Cardinal Medina Estevez, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, warned the American Bishops to protect those who chose to kneel from being mistreated or refused Communion on that basis.

Both the Council of Trent and St: Augustine stated that we must first properly adore the Body of Christ before eating It and to adore is no sin, but to not adore or not adore appropriately is a sin. Cardinal Ratzinger has stated that kneeling implies a confession of faith in Christ like no other posture can. The 1980 Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship strongly recommended kneeling and not just a bow for Communion.

The Message of Garabandal Weighs in...

The Garabandal events are full of examples of how the girls paid reverence to the Blessed Sacrament, refusing, for example, to give their backs to the tabernacle.

There are many instances where the visionaries prayed before the Divine Presence, and all of their actions clearly demonstrated the highest reverence for the Most Blessed Sacrament. The Blessed Virgin would often lead the girls to the foot of the main altar of the church where the Blessed Sacrament is kept. Mari-Loli and Conchita both told a priest that they would prefer a Communion over a locution.

Finally, the Blessed Virgin told the girls that it was a greater grace to receive Jesus in Holy Communion than to see her. Nobody who has ever studied the Garabandal events and messages could come to any other conclusion than to declare that adoration and veneration of the Most Blessed Sacrament is a most fundamental and necessary element of both the Garabandal message and of our lives in Christ.

If standing for Communion were the most appropriate manner to receive Our Lord, then surely Our Blessed Mother would have told the girls to rise when receiving Communion. She never did.

Conclusion

We are witnessing an attack on the very Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist. This is clear from the actions of the American Bishops, from the "reasons" given by them and others for favoring standing over kneeling when receiving Communion, from the disturbing history of this belief favoring standing, from the modernist distaste for piety and symbolism, from the contrary declarations of the Vatican, Popes, Saints, and other religious leaders, and from the Garabandal Messages.

Our churches are the scenes of a growing disrespect for that Presence at all levels, and the ultimate victims of this trend will be the faithful and our children, who will never know true devotion and adoration amid the party atmosphere found in many churches or the cold, impersonal approach to worship being foisted on us by "enlightened clerics". Our God, through His Son and Savior and Our Holy Mother, has given us the true approach that we should have toward receiving Communion.

The Garabandal Message presents us with a proper framework from which we may be reminded that, at the Presence and Name of Jesus, "all knees must bend".


Reprinted with permission from Garabandal International July-September 2003, by Gabriel Garnica


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