Adoremus, Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy
Online Edition - Vol. VII, No. 3: May 2001
To kneel or not to kneel
Should there be "An uprising in the pews"? This was the title of a front page story in USA Today on Easter Monday. The story, by Rick Hampson, briefly surveys the kneeling question.
Catholics, he notes, are divided on the matter: "Some decide to stand up for what they believe", Hampson puns. "Others conclude that kneeling expresses a humble piety". He observes that even as some Catholics have given up kneeling, and some Catholic churches have "gotten rid" of kneelers, some Protestant groups, mostly evangelicals, have taken up the practice.
The story quotes a Catholic woman from West Chester, Ohio, president of her parish council, who says she "never liked" kneeling and is "more comfortable" standing. There have been no kneelers in her parish church since the 1980s, and parishioners stand during the Eucharistic Prayer. "In our country you stand for the national anthem, for important things", she said.
Is kneeling supposed to be comfortable? Is respect for the flag that symbolizes our government equal to the reverence we give to God Himself truly (not symbolically) present in the Blessed Sacrament in every Catholic church and at every Catholic Mass? (Years ago, a liturgist seriously proposed that the Catholic liturgy should be like a presidential inauguration a really relevant ritual!)
USA Today quotes Gordon Lathrop, a Lutheran, who quipped, "they're still on their knees in Lake Wobegone". Lathrop, who teaches at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, is an editorial consultant for and frequent contributor to Worship, the Catholic liturgical journal published at Saint John's in Collegeville, Minnesota.
USA Today's history of kneeling consists of several prevalent myths: 1) "early Christians" did not kneel; 2) kneeling for worship originated in the Middle Ages; 3) kneeling signifies only penitence, "unworthiness, sinfulness"; 4) Catholics in Europe do not kneel because they follow the rules of the universal church, and most European churches "have nothing to kneel on but a hard floor". (We'll save de-mythologizing these chestnuts for another time. )
Mr. Hampson is correct when he says that kneeling "has been a badge of identity" for Roman Catholics. This is precisely because it expresses what Catholics believe about the Eucharist.
It is perplexing to people outside the Church that any Catholic would willingly abandon either the expression or the belief.
Credit Card Donations
To donate by credit card:
1. Call our office to donate directly: (314) 863-8385, have your name, address and credit card number ready. If you would like automatic donations to Adoremus let us know what date(s) you would like to be billed on.
2. You may also donate by using Network for Good: http://www.networkforgood.org (follow instructions on site)
3. You may donate using PayPal below
US Membership Donation
Foreign Membership Donation
**Adoremus operates solely on your generous donations.**
Adoremus is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations are tax deductible.
Site Copyright © 1999 - Present by Adoremus
All rights reserved.
All material on this web site is copyrighted and may not be copied or reproduced without prior written permission from Adoremus, except as specified below:
Permission is granted to download and/or print out articles for personal use only.
Brief quotations (ca 500 words) may be made from the material on this site, in accordance with the “fair use” provisions of copyright law without prior permission. For these quotations proper attribution must be made of author and Adoremus + URL (i.e., Adoremus or Adoremus Bulletin www.adoremus.org.)
Generally, all signed articles or graphics must also have the permission of the author. If a text does not have an author byline, Adoremus should be listed as the author. For example: Adoremus (St Louis: Adoremus, 2005 + URL)
Link to Adoremus web site.
Other web sites are welcome to establish links to www.adoremus.org or to individual pages within our site.
Home | Join/Donate | Adoremus Bulletin | Archive | Index | Church Documents | Architecture | Posture | Music | Translation | What's NEW? | FAQ | Search Site | Site Map