GIRM 311: The Places for the Faithful

Whats up in the nave? After multiple posts about altar,ambo, and chair, let’s find out. Participation, naturally, is the first consideration:

311. Places for the faithful should be arranged with appropriate care so that they are able to participate in the sacred celebrations, duly following them with their eyes and their attention. It is desirable that benches or seating usually should be provided for their use. However, the custom of reserving seats for private persons is to be reprobated.[Sacrosanctum Concilium 32] Moreover, benches or seating should be so arranged, especially in newly built churches, that the faithful can easily take up the bodily postures required for the different parts of the celebration and can have easy access for the reception of Holy Communion.

Care should be taken to ensure that the faithful be able not only to see the Priest, the Deacon, and the readers but also, with the aid of modern technical means, to hear them without difficulty.

I love when the reform2 crowd wrings its hands over participation, retranslating to fit the ideology when necessary. You don’t have to look very deep to get the notion of what the Church intends with the assembly’s participation at Mass. The senses help focus the attention, especially seeing and hearing. Bodily postures are important, as is the reception of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Otherwise, great freedom is allowed in how the assembly is hosted in the nave.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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5 Responses to GIRM 311: The Places for the Faithful

  1. John Drake says:

    So what is the point of your little dig at the “reform2 crowd”?. I’m not aware of any complaints from that “crowd” about being able to see what’s going on, or folks standing, sitting, kneeling together when appropriate. But the usual – and in my view, justified – concern is that “participation” is so often interpreted by the “Spirit of Vatican II crowd” to mean we all gotta be doing something kinda like the priest or the servers…carrying stuff, distributing Holy Communion, praying the Our Father in the orans posture, etc.

    And I note these instructions say we can use modern technology to better hear the priest. No mention of jumbotrons to scroll the song lyrics or get a close up shot of the elevated host.

    • Todd says:

      I criticize the reform2 movement for its dismissal of active participation, its focus on the peripherals of liturgy rather than the essential elements of evangelization, sanctification, and the connection to the spiritual life.

      That’s not to say that some people haven’t missed the boat on what participation really means. But I tire of the whining about the GIRM and the church documents being vague. They’re not vague. GIRM 311 spells out a portion of it pretty well here. And I think we should put to rest the notion that liturgy is better with a priest facing away from the people. Nearly always, it’s simply not.

  2. Liam says:

    So, this section endorses kneelers, too.

    • Todd says:


      I’d say for the exclusive singing of the propers, excluding the people entirely. What to sing is just a matter of good judgment. As long as it’s based on Scripture and the music is good, I care little for the particulars of repertoire. Avoid fads: this is good.

      I’d harp on the indulgence for facing liturgical east. The “professionalization” of musical liturgy. Stuff like Fr Z. Along those lines.

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