Monday, March 31, 2014

Does Your Posture Affect Your Prayer?

Sitting in the choir section at Mass, I have an interesting perspective since we're in the front, right corner of the church. I'm sitting perpendicular to the pews, so I look out over the first third of the congregation if I look straight ahead. The altar is at 2:00 from where I sit; my family is usually in front of me at 12:00. When I'm tired of turning my head to look at the priest giving his homily, I look at the congregation.

What I see when I look out is a wide variety of postures and clothing. The ones that strike me the most are the people who are casually dressed, or dressed very inappropriately, and they are not necessarily one and the same. I'm also struck by the poor posture of some, especially my own teenager, who sit with elbows on knees, chin in hands, and eyes facing the floor. I do understand being physically exhausted or terribly sleepy on occasion, but every Sunday?

I've noted before that this posture is disrespectful, to say the least, but I've been looking for an opportunity to bring up the subject again, as I keep thinking that if we habitually practice such a poor posture, that it would begin to have an effect on what we think and believe. I also thought that I might be a little off-base there...until I read Fr. Barron's lenten reflection this morning. Do click over and read the whole thing if you haven't subscribed (it's short!), but here's a snippet:

It is not so much keen feelings of devotion that force us to our knees as kneeling that gives rise to keen feelings of devotion. If you're having difficulty in prayer today, try kneeling, or bowing, or making some sort of reverent gesture. The body often leads the mind into a deeper spiritual space.  

When I was not in the choir, and sitting with the rest of the family, I was always adamant about their postures. Kneeling with one's bottom against the pew is not acceptable in a normal, healthy individual who is not otherwise weakened by a stressful camping trip or recent illness! Proper kneeling and sitting or standing erect during the various parts of the Mass show respect for the people and the activity. I can't help but believe that it actually affects how much one actually respects and cares about the sacrifice of the Mass! I

In a similar vein, we're pretty adamant about a certain standard of dress for Mass on Sundays. No jeans, no shorts, no short skirts or otherwise inappropriate clothing. Though I will confess that skirts as long as I would like can be hard to find for my growing, lanky girl! We may be found in jeans at a weekday Mass, but they're on the nicer side; boys wear collared shirts, etc. We have our own standards, but we try not to judge others! I understand that sometimes people are legitimately late, or decided on the spur of the moment that Mass & receiving Jesus took priority over anything else that day! But, as a rule, shouldn't one's dress for Mass indicate that we're going to a banquet with the Creator of the Universe?

I've noticed the same thing in family prayer. Normally, we say a decade of the rosary, and most of the time, everyone can handle staying on their knees that long. But we don't pressure them to do so all the time. For Lent, we've been praying the whole rosary, and there's much more sitting. Even lying down and playing with the rosaries. And my youngest is 12, folks! There's no reason on God's green earth that she can't kneel for 16-17 minutes! I don't think we want to apply undo pressure so that family prayer becomes a huge burden and a battleground, but I think sitting respectfully and using the beads is a minimal requirement.

What I'm talking about here is our habitual posture and dress for Mass and prayer. Maybe you don't think it's a big deal today, but when it becomes a habit, are we revealing how we feel about the activity we're participating in? If you don't think so, do you think it might affect how one feels about it later, after years of slouching and assuming a bored posture? Like a teen...who acts bored every Sunday at Mass...even if he says he isn't...and then goes to college where he suddenly has the freedom to decide if he goes to Mass or not, and maybe he remembers that attitude because, now, he thinks he really was bored? Heaven forbid.

What do you think about this? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


  1. Posture isn't a huge measure of spirituality in my experience, mostly because I deal with enough "whitewashed tombs" in the parish who do everything to appear spiritual but are dead on the inside. I can't kneel for long periods of time due to the fibromyalgia and a lot of times, I don't stand if my back is spazzing. I think one does need to make an effort though.

    And lying down isn't acceptable at any age.

  2. I completely agree about posture, although I don't know that it's perfect kneeling or nothing. I think one can tell from the person and posture, however, the effort involved (usually, but not always). I not only have issues with my children kneeling and not leaning their bottoms on the pew (they all have healthy physical bodies) but their hands in prayer, and focused on the Mass. I have knee pain, leg pain, and back pain but even I can manage to kneel from beginning to end, and since my Mass usually begins kneeling with the rosary that can be a long time. If I hurt, I move positions or offer it up. At the Newman Center where I have been going for most Sunday Masses since January, there are no kneelers, so I sit forward on my seat and hunch over. I'd rather kneel. It makes, especially post-Communion prayer, a little harder to really focus and I notice a lot of students don't work too hard at it. But, at least they are there, God love 'em.

    I do have trouble observing others in Church with what I consider disrespectful posture, teens scotched down with their knees on the pew in front of them, and checking phones. I have observed young children playing electronic games during Mass and bringing just about an entire meal in. There are many things to be distracted by. I try to offer up a "Father forgive them, they know not what they do" and keep my eyes on the tabernacle.

    1. *scooched* down. Is that not a word? My own made up word? ;-)

    2. Scooched is definitely a word. :-)

  3. As my mom used to tell me, "If Donny Osmond was on the altar, you'd be wearing a dress." While not effective theses days and quite laughable, I got her point. I am more relaxed and require the guys to wear a collared shirt. As to posture, my guys seem to be guilty of elbows on knees and head down during a long homily-- but maybe that is to block out distractions and allow them to listen... My personal pet peeve is "butts on the pew" but I can only influence my own. As to the rest of them, to hell with Screwtape...I'm notgoing to notice. :-)

    1. It looks disrespectful, but you made me remember that there have been times when I was so tired that the energy required to hold my head up made me unable to listen. Leaning on my hands freed up energy for listening, as strange as it seems.

  4. You all do a great job of illustrating that there are a wide variety of acceptable practices. Those of us noticing others need to be careful not to judge because we can't know what's going on with someone else. I do think it's important to wear our Sunday Best (whatever that is) and try to behave in a manner that reflects how we feel about the service.

    I do think that *trying* a better posture affects our feelings about it, though, much the same way smiling when you don't feel like it improves your mood.

  5. In general, I try to conduct myself at Mass as I would at a job interview. Of course, judging by some of the candidates I've interviewed lately, that's probably not as effective a suggestion as it once was.

  6. You are so right about our posture and its relationship to our prayer attitude. Our conduct during Mass may even influence those around us...hopefully our posture inspires reverence for Our Blessed Lord.


Thanks for dropping by! I would love to hear from you. Have a beautiful day! :-)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...