Monday, June 1, 2009

Hazards of Catholic Worship

Back last fall, during the Great Midwestern Blogger Get-Together, Molly and I went to Sunday Mass with Therese and RS. As it turned out, the church we went to was being remodeled, so Mass was held in the church basement, instead. While we sat quietly, waiting for Mass to begin, we noticed that several people had brought foam seat-pads with them - the kind that folks will take to football games, so they get a little more padding than just sitting on bare bleachers. I thought that was passing curious, and wondered what was going on.

Until it came to that portion of the Mass where the congregation kneels. It being the church basement, we had only the hard cement floor, covered with a thin layer of floor tiles, upon which to kneel. And this was a Latin High Mass (a very cool experience in and of itself), so the 'kneeling parts' were a fair bit longer than what I'm used to in my home parish, besides the fact that we were kneeling on concrete. So, when it was time to kneel, the 'locals' tossed their foam pads onto the floor, as a sort-of 'roll-your-own' kneeler, and saved themselves a half-hour's wear-and-tear on their kneecaps. For my part, when Mass was over, I hobbled down the aisle, and up the stairs, like a man much older than I already am.

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The Catholic Mass, along with the Orthodox Liturgy, and a few other 'high church' liturgies, contains a series of shifting body positions, in the course of a normal worship service. Some clever types have referred to this as 'Catholic Calisthenics' - stand, kneel, sit, repeat as necessary. It can be a little bewildering the first time a visitor attends a Mass. My family is not Catholic (I converted when I was in college), and I once caused a minor scene at a cousin's Catholic wedding, by whispering 'Catholic Calisthenics' to my sister, during one of the stand-kneel-sit cycles, which caused her to burst out laughing. And generally speaking, there are no good times to burst out laughing during Mass. In case anyone was wondering.

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So, last week, 6F graduated from 8th grade at Tiny Catholic School, and, as Catholics are wont to do, they celebrated the auspicious occasion with a Mass. The liturgy moved into the Eucharistic Prayers, which is where most of the kneeling happens.

Now, in 35 years of being Catholic, I've become fairly adept at flipping the kneeler down into position with my toe. Molly used to admonish me that that's a minor breach of Catholic etiquette, that the proper form is to sit, and put the kneeler down with one's hand, but I can always plead my convert status, that I was never properly taught the subtle fine points of Mass etiquette. So, I'm a shameless toe-flipper of the kneelers. And she has mostly given up on the admonishments.

I don't know what-all, exactly, I had distracting me during 6F's graduation Mass, but, having flipped the kneeler up during one of the 'standing parts', I forgot to flip it back down when the next 'kneeling part' came around. So that, when I went to kneel, expecting the kneeler to be in place, I continued downward with some degree of force, catching myself on the pew in front of me, with the bottom of my rib cage. Which hurt like hell crazy, and I ended up with some bruised ribs for my trouble. And the next day, when I got out of bed, I discovered that I'd pulled a muscle in my side, to boot. Which doesn't really affect much, other than getting out of bed, or rolling over. It's also allergy season for me, which means I sneeze a lot more often than I do other times of the year. Which, if you've ever had bruised ribs, becomes a much, um, 'ouchier' proposition than if you don't.


Not that any of this is really so terribly debilitating, or anything. But I do get a certain wry amusement from the fact that, twice in the past seven months, I've managed to mildly injure myself just from going to Mass. As Carla from Cheers once said (in one of the great bits of dialogue ever in a TV show), "Catholicism is not a religion for wusses."

9 comments:

lime said...

i am stuck on the laughing in church thing. i have done more than my fair share of this. i continue to do so to the extent that my daughters have told my best friend and i that they'd have to sit between us to make sure we behave.

yeah, i'm gonna go with the late in life conversion excuse too. thanks. ;) and do they have an adaptive mass for those injured in service? i'm thinking hydraulic lifts like on city buses to get you up and down off yoru knees

for a different kind of girl said...

Unless God heals my right knee, which has been precariously not right since I tumbled down the stairs last fall, I could never, ever, ever be a Catholic. There are moments just walking through m house that I require stopping and offering up a prayer lest my knee gives out on me!

Sailor said...

Yeah, I hear you on the kneeling- Episcopalians do this too, and I used to get "the look" when I'd whisper: "Up, down, up, down- can't we go home and do some In, out, in, out?"

Wonder why I would get "the look"?

The Silent Male said...

I think bruises are just part of life regardless of religion. I know I have my fair share, and I am a protestant who doesn't go through the Catholic Calisthenics.

Cocotte said...

Ouch! The bruising of the ribs sounds painful. For the past two weeks, I have been sitting during the standing portion of worship at church because of my ankle. I don't think God cares!

Xavier said...

..... put your right foot in, take your right foot out .....

Sorry, that happens every time ....

Guess I'll always be an out-lander

Desmond Jones said...

Lime - I don't know if you remember my friends H and F, but Molly and F won't let H and me sit by each other in church, either.

And the hydraulic lifts. . . uh. . . (*snicker*). . . (*chortle*). . .

faDKoG - Ugh! Sore knees are the pits! (That's 'PITS', with a 'p').

But hey, no problem - just bring a note from your doctor, and they'll let you sit thru the 'kneeling parts'. . . ;)

Sailor - So, I guess you and I can't sit together in church, either. . .

SM - Sure, but how many bruises have you gotten while you were in church?

Cocotte - Yeah, God is nice that way. . .

Xavier - No, you're thinking of the wedding reception. . .

FTN said...

Whenever we hold one of our small-ish worship services, we try to make them much more interactive, so people have to get up and walk to different places and actually *do* things. Different places in the building to pray, paint, sing, or whatever.

Strangely enough, we get a lot less old-ladies-in-wheelchairs at those things than we did at the first few.

Desmond Jones said...

FTN - So. . . you're likening me to an old lady in a wheelchair?

And, uh. . . praying and singing I get but. . . 'paint'??