rules for bowing differ between sacred ministers and inferior
ministers. Sacred ministers are
instructed not to bow while kneeling, whereas inferior
ministers are instructed to bow while kneeling (which is not
necessarily a position of deportment for them at all times). However,
when inferior ministers are next to a kneeling
sacred minister they do not bow
(following the rule of cum ratione accommodationis),
unless the sacred ministers are explicitly required to bow; these times
- During the Credo
at “Et homo factus est.”
Benediction, before standing to impose incense.
Benediction, before and after incensing the Blessed Sacrament.
Benediction, for the hymn, Tantum ergo, at the
words, “veneremur cernui”.
should not be made unless they are required by the rubrics.”
It follows then, that bows should not be made to
the tabernacle or altar
cross upon ascending to
or before descending from the predella
(e.g., when switching the missal, etc.).
straight ahead. The only time one turns while bowing when kneeling are
those who, by proximity, are next to or immediately behind the celebrant
at these times:
a Solemn High Mass: During the celebrant’s
Confiteor when he turns toward the deacon
and subdeacon and says, “et
vobis, fratres” and “et vos, fratres.”
- When the
sacred ministers and/or the servers
say the Misereatur.
- When the
servers say the Confiteor, at the words, “et
tibi, pater” and “et te, pater” (however, this is not done at the second
should pivot on his feet so as to face the tabernacle,
and then make the appropriate bow, and then pivot back to face the
former direction. This should be done smoothly and in unison with any
other ministers. In anticipation of making the bow, one should turn
towards the altar, at least a second
or two before the word or action arrives, so that the bow can be made
The Sung Gloria And Credo: Whom To Follow -- The Celebrant Or The Choir?
the sung Gloria and the sung Credo,
the servers follow the bows (and the genuflection) of the celebrant
as long as he is at the altar. Once he leaves the
altar to go to the sedilia,
they then act according to the words sung by the choir,
as does the celebrant himself.
There Are Three Types Of Bows:
With the head only.
With the head and shoulders at a sixty degree angle.
With the head and shoulders at an almost ninety degree angle.
Bows Are Made For Five
- Whenever something is said aloud
that requires a reverence.
kneeling, for a word or phrase said aloud that
requires a genuflection for those standing.
ministering (servicing) to a sacred minister.
an act of reverence is required towards a personage or object (side
altar, Good Friday, etc.).
- For an action of the
celebrant that requires an
objective reverence (e.g., for the genuflections of the Consecration,
and at C’s Communion of both Sacred Species).
Are Not Made:
The Simple Bow
- By an
inferior minister when he is kneeling next to a kneeling
sacred minister, not even for the Gloria
Patri or the Holy Name.
- By an inferior
minister towards anyone or anything before sitting down.
someone who is kneeling.
- From the
Veneration of the cross on Good
Friday until the Vigil Service on Holy Saturday, all bows to
persons are omitted.
all of the bows made during a ceremony are simple bows.
A Bow Is Required For These Words
Said Aloud By A Sacred Minister:
- At the Holy
Name of Jesus (but not when the title “Christ” is mentioned by itself).
the Gloria Patri (but not for the second part: sicut erat…).
the Gloria at these words: in excelsis Deo (just at Deo), adoramus te,
gratias agimus tibi, Jesu Christe, suscipe deprecationem nostram, Jesu
- At the name
of Mary, and the name(s) of the Saint(s) of the day. However, if the
name of another Mary occurs,
or another saint of the same name, do not bow for it. Do not bow for
the name of the Apostles on their feast day when the Gospel is
announced (e.g., “Sequentia Evangelii secundum ... “).
the Credo at these words: in unum Deum, Jesum Christum, (a moderate bow
is made for the genuflection at: Et incarnatus est), simul adoratur.
the Preface at: “…gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro.”
the entire recitation of the Agnus Dei.
- During the
Last Blessing at: “Benedicat vos omnipotens Deus . . .”
the name of the reigning Sovereign Pontiff and of the local Ordinary.
the season of Lent for the Oratio super populum: When the celebrant
says, “Oremus (make a simple bow): Humiliate capita vestra Deo (make
another simple bow until the prayer is concluded; do not make a bow for
“per Dominum Jesum Christum…” as your head is already lowered).
When Ministering To (servicing) A
bow always is the first thing and the last
thing done when ministering to a sacred minister.
One is considered to be servicing a sacred minister
at these times:
- When presenting either
the Epistolarium or the Evangeliarium.
presenting the cruets at the Offertory (either to
the celebrant or to the subdeacon).
any kind of Lavabo.
receiving the Pax (or in giving it to one in choir via
a pax brede).
servicing the celebrant or a sacred minister,
the bows are made directly in front of him, not
in plano before the servers ascend to the altar
to perform their duties.
A bow is not
prescribed in any of the books for the ministers (i.e., the
MC and thurifer) before they ascend
to the predella for the imposition
of incense and should therefore be omitted.
When An Act Of Reverence Is
Required Towards Other Personages
- Bows are
returned if the personage bowing is of equal or higher rank.
the thurifer incenses someone
(or a group) the first thing and last thing that he does is bow toward
The Moderate Bow
moderate bow is used only:
- During the Misereatur's and Confiteor's said by
- When kneeling,
for words said aloud by the celebrant
that require a genuflection for those standing (e.g., during the Credo
at Et incarnatus est,
for Flectamus genua on some Ember days).
the four genuflections of the Consecration action.
kneeling under the conditions of in coram Sanctissimo:
rising to impose incense into the thurible.
and after incensing the Blessed Sacrament.
Tantum ergo at the words veneremur
The Profound Bow
is used before and after incensing the celebrant and when incensing the
book of the Gospels. Otherwise, it is hardly used by inferior
ministers, except in regards to prelates during pontifical
- Make a
profound bow while kneeling. The moderate bow takes its place and “is
equivalent to a profound … bow while standing.”
with bowing, for the inferior ministers the rules for genuflecting
differ somewhat from those of the sacred ministers
Likewise, a genuflection should not be made unless it is prescribed.
the sacred ministers have the privilege
of genuflecting on the altar steps, inferior ministers do not
have the privilege of genuflecting on the predella
within or outside of the ceremonies, except in cases of the principle cum
ratione accommodationis. When this occurs, one may
not rest his hands on the altar, as only the
celebrant has this privilege.
There Are Two Types Of
Genuflections Are Made For Seven
- The Single knee
- The Double knee genuflection.
- When entering or leaving the
crossing the center of the altar.
coming to or leaving from the center of the altar.
going to an outside point (leaving the view) of the altar.
standing, for a word or phrase said aloud
that requires a genuflection (during the Last Gospel at
Et homo factus est, during some Graduals
or Alleluias, for “Flectamus genua,”
- When the
special rules for in coram Sanctissimum apply.
Good Friday from the Veneration of the cross
to the Vigil of Holy Saturday inclusive (this entire period of time is
treated as in actu functionis).
bowing, a genuflection should not be made unless the principles or a
specific rubric calls for it. Therefore the principle that “whenever
one server has to genuflect, the other server should genuflect with him
in the center”
is incorrect. This is not only wasted motion, but this “rule of thumb”
does not even make sense and certainly does not comply with the Roman
character of the ceremonies; an action should not be made unless there
is a need or reason for it.
Direction Of Genuflecting
genuflecting, normally one genuflects directly ahead; however, on
occasion, it may be necessary for one to turn and face an object (be it
the Blessed Sacrament, the altar, the
book of Gospels, etc.)
and then make the genuflection.
The Single Knee Genuflection
majority of genuflections made are single knee. A single knee
genuflection is made by bending the right knee, so that it touches the
floor near one’s left foot.
A Single Knee Genuflection Is Made, Do Not:
- Bow your head.
- Make the sign of
the cross (each action means
- Touch your knees with your
folded hands (or put your hands on your knees).
- Genuflect at an angle towards the object
you are genuflecting to, especially when crossing the center of the foot
(e.g., the altar).
Special Rules of
In Coram Sanctissimum
those conditions in which the Blessed Sacrament is considered exposed,
a single knee genuflection is made by an inferior minister in
plano before ascending to the predella,
and in plano after descending from the predella
(without turning one’s back). This is done also outside of a service
when lighting and extinguishing candles, or performing sacristy
work on the altar where in
coram Sanctissimum conditions exist.
The Double Knee Genuflection
double knee genuflection is made by going to your left knee, then to
your right, making a moderate bow, then standing again (you must stand
before you kneel again, unless the place where
you are genuflecting is the same place where you
are going to kneel).
double knee genuflection is used only during times of in
coram Sanctissimum. When they are used differs depending on
When this condition exists, a double
knee genuflection is only made for these two reasons:
entering or leaving the sanctuary.
going to an outside point (leaving the view of the altar).
All other genuflections (e.g., like crossing the center of the
altar, ascending to and
descending from the predella) are single knee
genuflections as usual.
Of A Service
- For those reasons listed for in
- Every time one crosses
the center of the altar.
Consideration On Genuflecting
If where one would
genuflect is the same place where one would kneel (e.g., both times in
plano), then one is not required to genuflect and then
kneel, but one simply remains kneeling after performing the moderate
oscula are given to the celebrant
only (i.e., during a Solemn High Mass, not to a
deacon or subdeacon
who may be a priest).
Solita Oscula Are Given In This Order:
giving: Object first, then the celebrant’s
- When receiving:
Celebrant’s hand first, then the object.
There Are Two Exceptions To The
Receiving Rule Regarding Sacramentals:
Candle: Candle first, then the celebrant’s
- Blessed Palm: Palm
first, then the celebrant’s hand.
The reason for this
is that these sacramentals take precedence over the celebrant.
The Items That
Receive Solita Oscula Are:
- Biretta: On
one of the sides.
- Cruets: On the side of the cruet
(not the lip or handle).
On the end of the handle.
- Incense spoon: On the end
of the handle.
- Thurible: On the disk (where the
chains are attached).
Solita Oscula Are
- For ceremonies in coram
- From Good Friday to the
pre-Mass ceremonies of Easter Vigil inclusive.
 At these times kneeling is a position of reverence and not of deportment for them.
 SRC rescript 29156 prescribes this for Christmas and the Feast of the Annunication, and by application this should be done by the sacred ministers if they kneel at the foot while the choir sings these words (after having said it themselves at the altar).
 L. O’Connell, pg. 43.
 This is neither prescribed nor mentioned in the rubrics for inferior ministers, even by those who are quite specific; i.e.,
J.B. O’Connell and L. O’Connell. There was one exception, which has
fallen out of use anyhow because the action is no longer performed: The acolyte used to process into the sanctuary and recess out carrying the missal. After the Leonine Prayers, he would pick up the missal and bow to the tabernacle in unison with the celebrant (who was about to descend with the chalice), thereby following the principle of cum ratione accommodationis. It should be mentioned also that those bows that the sacred ministers customarily perform towards the tabernacle are hotly debated by rubricists, of whom most state that these are not required and therefore should not be performed.
 Cf. The Acolyte, Issue 3, pg. 16; the Guild’s Handbook,
pg. 9; L. O’Connell, pg. 35, f. 14; J. B. O’Connell, pg. 264 f (in the
three volume set); and J. B. O’Connell, pg. 200 (in the 1962 edition)
for clarifications on how many types of bows exist.
 Cf. above, VARIOUS CONDITIONS THAT AFFECT REVERENCES, section E for further clarification.
 With exception to those times that sacred ministers are required to, as mentioned above in the section BOWS.
 L. O’Connell, pg. 43, Fortescue, p. 26.
 L. O’Connell, pg. 43.
 E.g., during Gospel for the Votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the name of Mary of Cleophas is mentioned, but just mater for the Blessed Virgin Mary.
 SRC 376725; cf. L. O’Connell, pg. 35, ff. 15.
 E.g., during Benediction if Tu es Petrus is sung, a bow is made for the name of the Pope, but only when the celebrant is standing for the Oratio Pro Papam.
 Usually, an extra Missale Romanum is used for both of these books, due their rarity.
 This is actually a reverence made out of courtesy or respect, rather than that of performing a duty towards the person.
 This includes both parts of the Ablutions: When Ac1 is alone on the predella, he performs the necessary bows by himself, and when the celebrant goes to the acolytes, they again make both bows before and after.
 This may be done from a distance; however, unlike the bows made when servicing the celebrant.
 Sacred ministers are required also to bow for this phrase if they are kneeling during the Credo, after reciting it at the altar. SRC 2915, 6.
 This is the rule given by the Guild’s Handbook, by L. O’Connell, pg. 160-161 and in a slightly different version by J. B. O’Connell, pg. 359-360.
 As mentioned previously, these bows also apply to the sacred ministers. These occasions occur during Benediction, the Forty Hours Exposition, on Holy Thursday during the Translation of the Blessed Sacrament, and during any Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, namely on the feasts of Corpus Christi and Christ the King.
 SRC 4179, 1 and L. O’Connell, pg. 37. Whenever profound bows are prescribed for sacred ministers, it is when they are standing.
 The first and last genuflection, though, is always performed in plano by the sacred ministers.
Technically, this rule should even include major clerics outside of a
ceremony, since they are no longer fulfilling the function of a sacred minister in actu functionis and consequently no longer have the privilege.
 L. O’Connell, pg. 43, Callewaert, pg. 26.
 Cf. above VARIOUS CONDITIONS THAT AFFECT REVERENCES, section F.
 L. O’Connell, pg. 39 and SRC 30495.
 A server always genuflects in plano. So if the server were kneeling in plano, instead of kneeling on an altar step, etc., he would simply kneel, perform a moderate bow, and then remain where he was already kneeling.
 L. O’Connell, pg. 40. This principle is more often performed by sacred ministers than by inferior ministers.
 This is done at the Offertory only when presenting them to the celebrant. This is also a particular custom in the United States that ought to be observed in this country.
2007. Louis J. Tofari. All rights reserved.