I thought with both Ant and Bernie at University, the interrogations would get easier. But no: Charlie and Dominique simply expand to fill the space available!

So on Sunday morning, we were reading and discussing a chapter of Sheed’s Theology for Beginners (as part of Dominique’s preparation for Confirmation later this autumn). It was on the Mass and the Eucharist.

And Charlie launched in: Why do you kneel for communion and we don’t?

Dominique was quick in with reinforcements: Yes, and Mum doesn’t either.

Me: Well, I kneel because I think it the most reverent way to receive Our Lord: a sign of adoration and belief in the Real Presence (which we’d just been reading about).

Charlie: So why does nobody else?

Me: Some other people do… But it was one of the things that has been changed in the last few years: we were given permission to stand or to kneel, but then with queuing to receive, standing was the most practical way, so that’s what everyone does. But the Holy Father only gives Holy Communion to people kneeling, and I think that tells us something.

Dominique: But if it’s better, why doesn’t Mum do it?

Charlie: And why don’t we?

Me: Your mum always genuflects before receiving – as you do – which is another way of adoring and being reverent. I think she doesn’t want to make a fuss – but perhaps you should ask her.

Charlie: So why don’t we kneel to receive?

Me: I’m not stopping you. But I’m not making you, either. The Church gives you the freedom to choose, and all I will insist on is that you make an appropriate sign of reverence. Genuflecting before receiving is fine.

Dominique: But most people don’t: they just queue up and receive.

Me: And I’m not their father. But if you remember, they were reminded in the sermon today that they should at least bow their heads before receiving. The fact that they don’t is hard for the priest to address, beyond reminding them. And that’s part of the reason why I choose to kneel, because I think once we lose the old traditions, we end up replacing them with nothing. And that’s why, I think, the Holy Father has reintroduced kneeling to receive at his Masses, and why the bishops have reintroduced abstaining from meat on Friday. You may think I’m old-fashioned, but I think I’m ahead of the new trend!

Charlie: So why don’t you make us kneel?

Me: As I said, the Church gives you a choice and an instruction. The instruction is to make a sign of reverence, the choice is whether to stand or kneel. I insist on the instruction, and leave you to make your own choice. And part of it is when you were little, I didn’t want to make it too hard for you.

Dominique: So should we kneel now?

(Notice how they team up and make a pincer movement whenever they think I’m evading the question they really want me to answer!…)

Me: That’s up to you. I notice you do when we go to the Latin Mass.

Charlie: Yes, but everyone does there…

Me: Yes, that’s true. Well as far as I’m concerned you can make your own choice. You know what I choose to do, and you know what your mother chooses to do.

Charlie: Well, I’ll have to think about that.

Me: Yes, that’s a very good idea!

It is often difficult to draw the line: when do we instruct our children and when do we allow them to make their own, autonomous, decisions? On the one had, we want them to do the right thing, or the best thing. On the other hand, we want them to take responsibility for thinking things through and making decisions.

So there’s the challenge for this week: reflect on how you decide when to teach your kids directly by instruction, and when to teach them in a more subtle fashion, by encouraging them to think things through and make their own decisions.

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