In many parishes, a once-standard sanctuary staple is making a comeback: the altar rail.
“Having an altar rail has really brought back a sense of reverence,” said Laurie Biszko, a parishioner at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Tiverton, Rhode Island.
Receiving Communion this way, she said, “You have a chance to focus, make an act of contrition, make an offering, and think about what’s going on. It contributes to making this a much more holy occasion.”
At Immaculate Conception Church in Westerly, Rhode Island, where altar rails were installed this spring, Paul E. Servideo has found receiving Communion kneeling makes him “recognize the level of importance that we should be placing on this particular sacrament.”
“Just by having to kneel — your posture, your body manner — it’s impossible to deny the importance of the sacrament and the truth to be found in the sacrament when you’re receiving the Eucharist,” he said.
For parishioner Barb Kohout at St. Mary Church in Fennimore, Wisconsin, this practice “brings so much reverence back into our church. People realize we’re before God, before Our Lord, because we’re on our knees receiving him.”
This trio are among a growing number of parishioners who understand how the return of altar, or Communion, rails restores reverence for the Blessed Sacrament.
Appearing with Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa on EWTN Live during Advent 2008, Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan, spoke about receiving the Holy Eucharist at Mass.
In part, he said, “Kneel down. Adore your Lord. It is logical. [T]he angels in heaven … prostrate in front of the Lamb. But we have the Lamb of God in the Host. They prostrate themselves. We’re not. Why not?”
During this year’s chrism Mass in the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, Bishop Robert Morlino spoke to his priests about the crisis of faith and prayer. He mentioned his concern regarding liturgies that are less than reverent, especially in the reception of Communion: “It’s hard to believe that some people actually believe that that’s the Body of Christ the way they handle it. You’d think it was an M&M.”
To turn the tide of the crisis and move towards greater reverence when receiving Holy Communion, he asked that “people be encouraged to receive Communion on the tongue and kneeling.”