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Kneeling

Last Friday I went to Stations of the Cross in search of something. A darkened sanctuary. A quiet room. A sense of the season. I needed to be still. I needed to stand and kneel, to hear and say, that which is impossible to say alone, "We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You; Because by your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world."

But when I arrived at church Friday evening, I was told by my priest that the congregation was to remain seated. We were trying something "new." The Stations were to appear on a video screen at the front of the sanctuary. There would be no standing, no walking, no kneeling, no incense. Elderly people and nuns shifted nervously in their seats; Catholics unmoored. How could they sit as the story of Jesus' torture and execution was told? The posture was all wrong. Some covered their faces, others looked around in dismay. We needed the ritual. We needed to kneel. We didn't want to be spared the indecency, it was part of why we'd come.

There's a photo in my parent's kitchen of my siblings and I on our knees in footed pajamas around an Advent wreath. Small children, we couldn't have known what the season was all about, but even then it was beautiful and terrifying. We got to stay up late and watch candles illuminate the darkness. There was reading and a little singing, and sometimes, when we were still small, there was kneeling; that uncomfortable position, reserved for sadness and awe.

I know it's easy to complain about the liturgy, but I think, especially in Lent, that we need to be allowed to kneel.

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But when I arrived at church Friday evening, I was told by my priest that the congregation was to remain seated. We were trying something "new."These words need to be struck from Catholic priestly vocabulary.

What is to become of kneeling, reminds me: What ever happened to silence? Walking into a Catholic Church use to provide a few moments of quiet and calm, a time for reflection and prayer. Nowadays before Mass, there is bustle, bustle, bustle--and it's not just the ushers and altar persons, and it's now just chatty liberals either!One of the few silent places left in our culture is the Quiet car on Northeast corrider Amtrak trains: no cell phones, no loud talking, no meeting and greeting, no clicking of computer keys--a place for prayer and meditation.

Anna, I agree with you that a video of the Stations-of-the-Cross is an abomination of the liturgical intent of this spiritual practice. The next time it happens I would suggest that you respectfully get up and start saying/leading the way of the cross yourself. As you know one can do it alone, however, I suspect you will quicly be joined by your fellow parishioners. Of course it will take courage, but go back and read Luke Timothy Johnson's "Trust the Laity" for inspiration. I suspect there-in will lie one of the future challenges for young Commonweal Catholics.

I agree with Peggy about the silence but I think it is easily rectified. The sociologists all tell us that people want a strong welcome too--so the noise at the beginning of mass is something good in a way.But that doesn't mean that we don't "call ourselves into sacred space." Even secular meetings are "called to order" if you will.In my parish they do an introit chant which is very beautiful--however, nobody hears it because everyone is talking and nobody has called us to enter into that quiet contemplative space. Perhaps that call is what is most missing in our churches.In our world of noise, silence is most craved for by many--especially the young.

Thinking about the Stations of the Cross: When I was a boy, my family used to say the Stations of the Cross at home during Lent. My parents would get those little booklets with the Alphonsus Liguori version, and we'd go through them all kneeling and standing in our living room. One of the parish priests said we wouldn't get the indulgence unless we said them in church, but that didn't seem to matter. I have never found any other family that did this.Any other family Lenten practices worth mentioning?Joe Komonchak

My parish is one principally without local membership. Some of us drive 50 miles each way to attend the Sunday liturgy! We greet each other and chat quite a bit as we assemble.When it is time to start, announcements are made and the place is quieted down. Then the Mass starts and everyone is respectfully quiet and very attentive. Our opening hymn is usually rousing and our parish sings out with gusto and joy. We get off to a good start.If you want pre-Mass meditation, you can get it elsewhere. "My Jesus and Me" can be an attitude the rest of the week. But come 10 AM on Sunday, we are joyful and indeed make a joyful noise unto the Lord!After Mass almost everyone goes to the basement for about 45 minutes of chat and chew. There is no parking lot (urban parish, you know) so there is no excuse to rush out to the car. Once you have found a place to park in our part of San Francisco, you treasure it for as long as you can hold it.I wouldn't have it any other way.

And candles. When I finally got to Rome - in the Jubilee year - not a candle to be found in a church. And I like lighted candles on Christmas trees too.