Sunday, December 29, 2013

No Kneeling for Communion

I had to have a conversation today that I have been praying I wouldn't have to have since I started kneeling, around the first part of May. For those you that read this and knew of my struggle with whether or not to begin kneeling, I finally started. Every time I walked up for communion I would feel the urgency in my heart to drop to my knees and receive Christ in the most reverent manner I could fathom. Every single time I went forward I would hear the voice in the back of my mind yelling at me "You hit both knees in adoration, yet you only bow before receiving Christ?" Every time I would return to my seat and apologize to Him for being such a coward, for not being able to show Him the respect and humility He deserves. I was certain there would come a day when a heavenly crow bar would hit me behind the knees and I would finally kneel to receive Christ.

The urge to do so was intensifying each week, until, finally one Saturday it was so strong that I didn't think I could fight it any longer, but somehow I did, and afterward I felt worse than I ever had before. Just going to Latin Mass wouldn't suffice any longer, I needed to receive reverently no matter what form I was attending. After Mass that day I marched into the sacristy, where both Fr. D, and Msgr. were and announced to the room "I have a question" which is totally unsurprising, if you know me. Both men looked over at me expectantly and I blurted out; "I need to kneel, can I kneel?" Both of them chuckled a bit, and Fr. D told me that of course I could, there was nothing saying I couldn't, he had people that knelt, and it was totally fine. As he always does, he simply told me to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I was still a little nervous and uncertain, so the next day at my home parish, I stayed standing, and felt awful. I was able to go to Mass that following Tuesday, and decided on my way up that I would remain standing. I knew Fr. D was fine with it, but I had no clue how Fr. P (the priest at my home parish) would react. However, when it was my turn to receive, without even thinking about it, I hit my knees, and that was that. I discussed it with Fr. P later and he told me it was completely fine, and not to worry about it. All that worry for nothing!

I continued kneeling from that day forward, only standing to receive when I happened to be holding a baby on my hip. None of the priests I encountered said a word, and I finally felt at peace with myself, knowing I was doing my best to receive reverently. Until today, that is.  Tom and I have been attending a different church recently, one that he prefers, and as he has yet to convert, as long as he's worshiping by my side I'll attend whichever Catholic church he wants. I've enjoyed this church as well, every time we've attended though, I've had a baby on my hip, so I stood and received on the tongue. Today, however, I was baby free for the first time. As I always do, I hit my knees and looked up, and instantly I knew something was very wrong, the priest looked rattled and not at all happy. He almost missed my mouth! And then, he said "you need to stand next time."

I felt hot tears running down my cheeks as I neared my seat, all kinds of emotions flooding through me. As I knelt to pray, I asked God to lead me and guide me, to direct my words in the conversation I knew I needed to have. "Lord, let them be your words, not mine. Help me, Lord to keep my calm. All I want to do is serve You. Help me to honor and uplift You as best I can." As the Mass concluded, and I continued in prayer I was able to gain my composure, and get my emotions in check. The fiery, rebellious part of me wanted to march on over to Fr. N and demand he tell me who on earth he thinks he is, reprimanding me, while  holding the body of Christ, and whip out my phone, and pull up the Vatican website, and draw his attention to chapter 2, numbers 90 and 91, and then yell at him about his lack of respect. I was less upset by the reprimand, and more upset about where he chose to deliver it. The communion line is not the time nor the place. Find me after. But, the rational side of me, and the side that, thankfully won out, knew that that was certainly not the way to handle it. I needed to handle it with grace, love, compassion, and the Holy Spirit guiding my words.

I walked into the fourier,  explained to my husband that I needed to speak to Father for a moment, and then went to where he was greeting people, he looked as if he would run to safety before I could reach him, so I just silently prayed, and was reminded that this man was the pastor, and as such deserved my respect. I can, and will respect his wishes, but I can not make such a sacrifice without understanding why I need to. Because, I know that I'm not doing anything wrong, I was well within my rights. Finally, it was my turn to greet him, I smiled as pleasantly as I could muster, though my insides were Jello, and my knees were sure to buckle at any moment. I shook his hand and as calmly as I could, I asked if I might have a word with him. A flash of recognition told me he knew exactly what we were to discuss. He agreed, and after greeting a few more parishioners made his way back over to speak with me.

I shook his hand again, and said; "I will happily respect your wishes to stand for communion, but in order to make that sacrifice I would like to understand why." Surprise crossed his face for a moment, and I was certain he thought I was going to come out with guns a blazing and challenge him. He crossed his arms over his chest, and took up a defensive pose, and then informed me that the liturgy of the mass says to stand, so we stand, and he respects that, and then asked me where I ever got such an idea. I tried to ignore that question, as I would probably lose my cool when trying to form an answer. I have a quick temper, and I'm still shocked that it didn't bubble over. I told him that I had discussed it with a priest, and he was fine with it, and Father P was fine with it. He wanted to know where this priest was from and his name, so I told him about Fr. D and his diocese, and about Fr. P, and he knows him. He seemed to get even more defensive at that, and started telling me how it looked to others, and disrupted others, and came off putting myself above them, giving the idea of "hey look at me, look at me."

That is the furthest thing from my mind. It's about my personal relationship with God, not about all the other people around me, Mass isn't about the rest of the congregation, it's about God alone. The priest isn't putting on a show for the people, and the people aren't putting on a show for others. There could be five, or five hundred other people in the room, I likely won't notice, my focus is elsewhere. On God. I don't go to Mass to impress those around me, my attendance has nothing to do with them.

I just kept my lips pressed together, silently praying and then assured him that it was not at all my intention. I was fighting with every fiber of my being to keep the stinging tears in my eyes, and not allow them  to stream down my face like they wanted to. I hate that I cry when I'm upset. He asked about the other people, and how it made them feel and before I could answer he said; "Do you even care?" and then repeated the question multiple times. I know when I'm being goaded, and I refused to take the bait. I told him I didn't intend it as a point of argument, that I simply wanted to understand. I assured him that I would respect his wishes, and that I understand them....I don't agree with them, but I understand them. And, I will respect them.

The tension started to flow away after that, and before I realized it we were laughing and discussing my conversion. He enjoyed my story and wants me to share it sometime. He said that I was the first person to ever kneel for him, so I knew that I had taken him quite by surprise, and that wasn't at all his fault. I can imagine the shock of doing something one way for over thirty five years, and then all of a sudden this crazy lady pops up in front of you, and completely throws you off. In every other way he's a wonderful priest. This is the only issue I've ever had with him. He is very pleasant, and easy to talk to. I think I just threw him for a loop. As we said our goodbyes I started thinking about whether or not I would ever return to that church, I promised to respect him, and I will. But, I still didn't know if I could. I got in the car, and went over the whole ordeal again, and started praying for guidance.

I realized that I can and will return to that parish. I will stand, but I will still receive on the tongue, if he asks me to change that too, then I will leave. I will be able to do it reverently, and  without guilt. I will know that my standing isn't out of cowardice, but out of courage. Courage to show respect to the priest, courage to show him that I'm not just some "rad trad" Catholic that thinks I'm better than everyone else. I'm not. Trust me, I know my faults. I'm also not going to kneel in defiance, just because I know I can, and he can't deny me. That would be unhelpful, and take the focus off of the reason I did it in the first place. I won't kneel for any other reason to serve Christ. If it becomes a point of arrogance or defiance, then I'll stop.

So, when I attend Mass with Fr. N, I will stand. I will offer it up, and I will stand. But, to answer his question, no, I don't care what everyone thinks. It's not for them. It's for God, and His is the only opinion that matters to me.


Shortly after I posted this, Father N emailed me and told me I could receive communion however I like, and that my belief in the Eucharist means more than his words. That humbled me greatly. He just needed time, and he was able to see the other side. That doesn't mean he agrees or is going to start encouraging it, it means that just as I will respect his opinion, he will respect mine. And that, my friends, takes one heck of a person to do. I am leaving this post up though, because I think this negative reaction, and misunderstanding is all too common, but the outcome is not. So, for encouragement, it stays. And I'm really grateful to Fr. N, and that I took the time to talk to him, and didn't just run off in anger and think malicious thoughts.

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