So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Monday, August 4, 2014

Kneeling—it's a Catholic 'thing'

Ongoing architectural anomalies in most parishes merit the inclusion of additional voices in the chorus affirming Catholic identity. So here, then, is an additional voice:
Kneeling is a Catholic thing! Kneeling is what Catholics do!
By affirming that kneeling is a Catholic 'thing', we mean that kneeling is to a pious Catholic as water is a life sustaining substance to any human being. Kneeling defines and refines us and, contrary to the liturgy committees of yesteryear that designed away pews and kneelers, kneeling restores in us the sense of our true dignity. That dignity, of course, is that we are created in the image and likeness of God, the operative word being 'created'. Though we are made friends of God in Christ by Christ, we are creatures. Baptized and redeemed creatures, yes, but creatures all the same. In order to rightly understand our relationship to Jesus Christ, the Lord, we must dispose our hearts and minds to the grace of God, humble ourselves in imitation of Jesus Who laid down His life for His friends and Who saves those Who keep His commandments.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."—St. Matthew 16:24
When we kneel we descend to the earth, from which we receive nourishment and the substance of our physical bodies, for we are formed from the earth, the soil.
Adam masc. proper name, Biblical name of the first man, progenitor of the human race, from Hebrew adam "man," literally "(the one formed from the) ground" (Hebrew adamah "ground"); compare Latin homo "man," humanus "human," humus "earth, ground, soil."

humble (adj.) mid-13c., from Old French humble, earlier humele, from Latin humilis "lowly, humble," literally "on the ground," from humus "earth."
By exercising humility we are being true to what we are insofar as our human bodies are concerned. Recall for a moment that familiar phrase from the Ash Wednesday Liturgy at the moment of the Imposition of the Ashes: Memento, homo quia pulvis (dust) es, et in pulverem reverteris. Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. When we approach God on our knees, the One from Whom we receive our very being, we approach Almighty God, the Lord of creation Who made the heavens and the earth. By exercising humility, we are being true to who we are as sons and daughters of God. By imitating our Lord and brother Who humbled Himself for our sake, even to the point of dying for us on a cross, we are more likely to recognize our Lord when he calls us home, and more likely to recognize Him when we encounter Him in the Holy Eucharist in His humble disguise if we, ourselves, are configured to humility. Humility is a mirror.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
—Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 5:5,8
We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become.—St. Clare of Assisi
Fire Place

A parish church without kneelers might be indicative of a community that lacks the humility to acknowledge the significance of the Presence of the Risen Lord. In that same parish, in all likelihood, the tabernacle is probably far off to one side or removed entirely to a "chapel" barely bigger than a cloakroom. The two omissions—a lack of kneelers and the displaced tabernacle—taken together tend to suggest a parish out of focus. There are a lot of parishes that are out of focus.
focus (n.) 1640s, from Latin focus "hearth, fireplace" (also, figuratively, "home, family"), of unknown origin, used in post-classical times for "fire" itself, taken by Kepler (1604) in a mathematical sense for "point of convergence," perhaps on analogy of the burning point of a lens.
If the parish home is out of focus, families will be out of focus. Parishes and families will grow cold for lack of a hearth, a fireplace, a place where the fire of the Faith burns brightly (without compromise) to illuminate minds and hearts with the saving Truth of the Holy Gospel. Souls, thus illuminated, illuminate the world.
Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.—St. Francis of Assisi

The nation doesn’t simply need what we have. It needs what we are.—St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)
Flectamus genua!

If there are no kneelers in a parish, we should not feel that we cannot or may not kneel. Sure, if you have bad knees or some other ailment that prevents you from kneeling, then you need not feel badly for having to sit during the Consecration. A profound bow, even if done seated, will be understood as a meaningful gesture of obeisance. God will look at your heart and see your intention. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (3rd Typical Edition) permits flexibility with the accompanying concern of unity of expression. The Ordinary (diocesan bishop) can set forth specifics which guide the faithful.
Gestures and Bodily Posture: section 43 p.21, GIRM 
In the dioceses of Canada, the faithful should kneel at the Consecration, except when prevented on occasion by ill health, or for reasons of lack of space, of the large number of people present, or for another reasonable cause. However, those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the Priest genuflects after the Consecration. Where it is the practice for the people to remain kneeling after the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) until the end of the Eucharistic Prayer and before Communion when the Priest says Ecce Agnus Dei (This is the Lamb of God), it is laudable for this practice to be retained.
The GIRM also contains the following directions (p.22):
For the sake of uniformity in gestures and bodily postures during one and the same celebration, the faithful should follow the instructions which the Deacon, a lay minister, or the Priest gives, according to what is laid down in the Missal.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist: section 160 p.44
In the Dioceses of Canada, Holy Communion is to be received standing, though individual members of the faithful may choose to receive Communion while kneeling.
One of the most beautiful, inspirational and truly humbling scenes I routinely witness is an elderly woman who, hobbling in and out of the church at a pace barely quicker than that of an earthworm, a woman who is as physically stiff as the proverbial board, manages to ease herself on to the kneeler and back up again. There is, too, the elderly Franciscan brother who, rain or shine, trudges from the friary to the parish—a distance of at least a kilometre—hunched over to the point his head is nearly level with the handles of his walker. He manages to drop to his knees in prayer before Mass and during the Consecration. Never groaning nor grimacing, he descends in humble adoration of the living God.

If there are no kneelers in your parish, kneel. Are you worried about ruining the knees of your pants or stockings on a tough surface? Bring a small pillow or foam square in one of those trendy hemp grocery bags. Or, get over your vanity or momentary inconvenience and just kneel on the cold, hard, unforgiving tiled floor and toughen up those knees. A moment's discomfort will likely help prepare you for an eternity of joy.
He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.—St. Matthew 12:11,12

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