24 January 2010

Kneelers to Bow at MMoG

If you've attended Mass at Mary Mother of God Church in Hillsborough over the last several months you've heard Reverend Sean Broderick speak about the planned renovation and expansion of the church building. The $4.5 million project will bring many worthy enhancements to the parish, including a chapel between the rectory and church, more space for the choir, a new music room, a larger lobby/gathering space, a reconfigured front entrance way, and a bell tower.

There is, however, one enhancement that I am not particularly looking forward to. New pews in the slightly larger capacity church will include kneelers.

Mary Mother of God is one of the few Catholic churches without kneelers - and without any expectation to kneel during Mass. Since the Vatican II revisions to the Order of Mass in the late 60s - a project intended to encourage more active participation in the church service by dumping Latin in favor of local vernacular, among other changes - Sunday morning at most churches has become an exercise of stand, sit, stand, kneel, sit, stand, kneel, stand, sit, etc.

It's not that I am against change - or in this case a change back. Over the last thirty years there have been all manner of innovations to the Catholic Mass, from the "guitar mass" of the early 70s, to receiving Communion in the hand, to "face-to-face" confession - and I have adapted to all of it. And although I have had a bad back for over twenty years, my knees are still in pretty good shape. I don't see any problem with getting up and down.

The problem is relearning the whole social etiquette that comes with manipulating that folding appliance. The furtive look down the row. "Are we going down? Have you got it? Oops, we're not ready. Time to go up. No, not yet." All silent thoughts distracting from the business at hand. Not to mention the inevitable ankle bumps and trips over the down-position kneeler.

In any case, the real changes are coming within the year, now that the Catholic Church is moving forward with the Third Edition Roman Missal. I guess I'll be too busy stumbling over the new responses to know whether I'm standing, sitting, OR kneeling!

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