Our Physical Actions and the GIRM

Around the Communion hymn sometime about two years ago, I noticed a change in the parish: we had a lot of new faces.

Looking back, this change made sense. After being separated from their families in 2020, I personally know of many seniors that ended up moving back to wherever they were from. Fr. Bob had insisted that Church law be followed and not restrict the faithful from receiving on the tongue, which attracted many that weren’t able to receive in their home parish. And the neighborhood had changed. We had many new faces, which shouldn’t have been a surprise. Entire neighborhoods and communities have popped up in our parish’s boundaries since the current building opened in 2016.

In the music department, we would joke that you could tell all the new people to the parish by who remained seated right after the collection when the priest says, “Pray my brothers and sisters….” Newcomers to the parish would [correctly] stand. Established members remained seated. So what exactly is the Catholic in the pew to do? That answer is simple: Do what the Church instructs. Of course, that answer isn’t helpful if you don’t know where to look – or – the priest and liturgy staff at the parish don’t help.

The answer to this question can be found in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM). The GIRM can be read online for free by simply Googling “GIRM USCCB.” It can also be found inside of the Roman Missal that the priest uses on the altar. The GIRM provides the instructions and rubrics for how Mass is to be said, what music is being sung, how the church is to be decorated, whether the faithful can present the bread and wine during the offertory, and even when to stand.

While I have included the full text below, Fr. Cam has asked me to highlight the answer: We are to stand when the priest says, “Pray, my brothers or sisters (brethren).” Somewhere along the line, when all of the parish Masses were held at Centennial High School, a delay was added that meant the faithful weren’t standing until after the invitation. From a practical standpoint, we stand when the priest invites us to pray to show our conviction in what he is saying. How many stand when their team just scored a touchdown? Or, how many stand after an amazing performance of music? It’s essentially a standing ovation that we’re offering our Lord.

So now that we know what we’re supposed to do and why, it’s time for the natural question: Why does it matter?

That answer is actually a lot more complex. Recently, Pope Francis issued a motu proprio touching on a more faithful adherence to the liturgical documents promulgated by the 2nd Vatican Council. The GIRM falls into this category. As faithful Catholics, the Holy Father’s simple request should be enough for us to be obedient, but it’s not always that easy. His request, and the rubrics outlined in the GIRM, come from a place of inclusion. While not all are invited to participate in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, all are invited and encouraged to be a part of the Mass and enter the church building itself. The word Catholic quite literally means “universal.”

Theoretically, Mass at St. Anthony of Padua should be identical to Mass at Guardian Angel Cathedral here in Las Vegas or St. Peter’s Basilica or some Catholic church quite literally in the middle of nowhere. Yes, there will be language differences and variations in the priest’s homily; however, the readings (including the Psalm), the cues to stand/kneel/sit, and the prayers that the priest says are to be identical no matter where you are. That is one of the most important practical distinctions between Catholics and Protestants. Not all mainline Protestant churches follow an identical template everywhere in the world. Not all mainline Protestant churches follow the lectionary throughout the world. For sure, some do, but not all. As a rule, Catholics are called to follow these things.

This clarification on when to stand comes from a place of obedience and universality with over 1.3 billion (yes, with a “B”) of our brothers and sisters worldwide.