A drive-by Catholic

Is kneeling now optional? Since when?

By Cristina DC Pastor

After a long long while, I reconnected with my Catholic faith. I went to Sunday mass.

We recently moved house where the church is just around the corner from my street. It’s a nice walk in a quaint, quiet neighborhood. I decided to pay a visit.

Nothing much has changed. The tepid singing, the songs I couldn’t locate in the mass book, the priest and his droning homily. As it was my first time after many years, I made the effort to be attentive. The priest actually told a funny story about a kid who was bouncing around with other children in a party and then approached him and lay his head on his lap – not because the boy was seeking spiritual guidance or protection or wisdom. He was looking for a place to wipe his nose. Mild laughter awoke the nodding-off parishioners. The anecdote would lead to the priest’s assertion on how families should serve as foundation for Christian guidance and renewal and not just to fix your plumbing.

The prayers were the same. The Lord be with you… The response as they were before. But through the renewed familiarity, there’s one word I just met: consubstantial. Instead of “one in Being with the Father” the new phrase is now “in consubstantial with the Father.” On arriving home, I looked up the word which means the Holy Trinity – God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit — having the same “substance, nature or essence” although they are three different divine persons. At Fordham University recently, Stephen Colbert had joked how the word sounded like something out of “SAT prep.”

The rituals were much unchanged and I was just starting to get reacquainted when I noticed not a lot of people were kneeling. Is kneeling now optional? In the Catholic school I went to, we had to kneel as required and the nuns would use that to check on the hem of our uniforms. If it touched the floor you’re OK; if not, you got a stern look that suggested ‘alteration.’

Peace be with you was the usual nod, a light handshake, or a wave from a parishioner across the aisle. But when did they start passing the collection basket three times? Did I miss something? I didn’t hear the priest explain where the money was going. Again, in the old days, the priest would explain where the first collection (for much-needed church repairs) and the second collection (for the devastated brethren in typhoon-ravaged provinces) would go to. There would be an appeal from the priest for generosity as elderly men wearing grey suits and pink ties went around with their baskets. I decided to be ‘generous’ to make up for my long absence. Not much but definitely more than the standard buck. I felt good, but later irked that I couldn’t give to the second and third collections.

While awaiting my turn at communion, the piano played a familiar hymn, and a man with a choir-sounding voice began to sing. Here I am Lord. Is it I Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. The very beautiful song touched me deeply and put my state of being that day in perspective. Was it telling me why I was in church that morning? Why we had to move house? Why the personal issues in my family surfaced and piled up one on top of the other. They made a little bit of sense coming together as a succession of life’s hurdles. My eyes welled. I closed them to hold the tears in and prevent them from streaking my face. With a faint ache in my head, I joined singing the rest of the song, asking the churchgoer beside me what page it was in the missalette.

My church is not perfect, and I’m not a perfect Catholic, but at that moment it felt good to come home to a little whop in the head and a welcoming embrace. I think I love my church too, Stephen.


  1. M. Matthews wrote:

    Ms. Pastor, I did enjoy reading about your moving to house near a church and, your own renewal with your Catholic faith.

  2. Ariel wrote:

    Hi Cristina,

    Welcome HOME! Vey happy for you !!!! I, too, was mildly disoriented when I attended a Catholic mass in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. (I had become Protestant 27 years ago or so, after “shopping for a religion” for 2-3 yrs). Yes, I remember Catholic masses – the bad accoustics (seriously, hasnt anyone thought of improving the accoustics in Catholic churches in the past 2,000 years?), the half-hearted singing, etc. Like you, I was surprised they now passed the collection bag 3 tiimes. And here I thought it was jjust the govt increasing taxes!!!! Just kidding. I LOVE Catholics!!! 🙂 They dont try to behead people (or kill ambassadors) if they dont like your cartoons, or B-grade movies.

    However, unlike your church, the one I attended just off the Vegas strip – unfortunately for me – STILL did the customary kneeling. I saw people much older (and heavier) than myself NOT having problems with it. I felt guilty wanting to cheat and park my butt on the bench to relieve the pressure and pain. I am still not sure why my knees cannot take the kneeling anymore. Is it because of years jumping out of helicopters with 80 lbs of combat gear, or from years of not attending Catholic masses?? God, and my physio-therapist, only know.

    I digress. Just wanted to welcome you back to visiting God. He is everywhere but I am sure he appreciated you taking the extra effort ‘visiting’ his place of worship – whether it be a Catholic church, a Buddhist monastery,an islamic mosque, etc… Me, I found a new church where I just recently moved to. Not as big, or as nice as our awesome church in Las Vegas, and the people have less silicone 😉 – (actually, NONE at all here)…but they have a few bbig plusses – GREAT ACCOUSTICS, hymns that could have been written and performed by The Police, ONE pass of the tithe bag, and…..TADAH!!!!!- NO KNEELING!!!!! my ‘hamburger for knees’ were very grateful!!!

    – Doc A.
    (“hi. I’m ariel. I’m a recovering Catholic”)

  3. […] My church is not perfect, and I’m not a perfect Catholic, but at that moment it felt good to come home to a little whop in the head and a welcoming embrace. I think I love my church too, Stephen. – The FilAm […]

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