02 April 2011


Yesterday, I volunteered to cantor for Stations of the Cross. We usually have an opening and a closing hymn, for which the cantor sings into the microphone, and then, not using the microphone, the cantor gets everyone started for each verse of the "Stabat Mater" so we're all singing in the same key. It's all a cappella, and no big deal, musically. It was also my first experience of official, parish Stations of the Cross in several years.

I had forgotten about the Stations of the Cross calisthenics. Genuflect, stand, kneel, stand, repeat fourteen times. Not such a big deal if you're in a pew with a kneeler, but it is if you're the priest who's kneeling on bare marble (and Monsignor is not young), or a cantor kneeling on the hard, industrial carpet in the sanctuary. My legs were already sore from sitting in a weird position earlier in the day, and by the end I was actually in a great deal of pain. I thought about how much pain Monsignor might be in, and wondered if he'd ever considered dragging a pillow along to kneel on. I thought, maybe he prefers to perform the mortification of kneeling on the floor, and offer up the pain. I thought, I'd prefer not to perform that particular mortification--but is it really a mortification if you don't have a choice of whether to use a kneeler or kneel directly on the floor?

Upon reflection, I realized that hardly ever in my life have I been given that option. Most Roman Catholics, I think, don't give a second thought to dropping the kneeler in their pew and putting their knees on it. But I am a choir loft rat. My parish church as a kid did not have kneelers in the choir section. My school, where I attended daily Mass for years, rented its property from a Baptist church and used their chapel, which had no kneelers. The cantor standing at the front of the church, a position I have often assumed, doesn't usually have a kneeler. The choir at my college chapel where the Schola sang had no kneelers. The lofts at St. Paul's, St. Victor's, St. Catherine's, and my current parish have no kneelers.

So basically, the only time I've used a kneeler is when I was a kid too young to sing in the choir, or on vacation, or sometimes at daily Masses in a normal parish at which I am not singing. This is a comparatively small percentage of the Masses I have attended in my life.

Our parish is in the process of raising funds for a new building. We have the money to build the structure, and are now raising money for the interior furnishings. I think I will ask whether the new choir section can pretty please have those chairs with kneelers attached to the back, and enough space between the chairs to actually let them down. I doubt that my years as an Irish dancer have done my knees any favors, and although at 26 years old I am still fairly young, I still feel like I'm getting a bit old for kneeling on the bare ground, just as my relatives kindly informed me a couple of years ago that I was too old to be expected to give up my bed and sleep on the floor for the sake of holiday guests.

I might still kneel on the floor occasionally as a penance, but I'm awfully tired of not having the option of padded kneeler.

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