Catholic calisthenics: Sit, stand, kneel, sit, stand, kneel…

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The Roman Catholic mass is a mystery to most evangelicals. If an evangelical attends a Catholic church for a wedding or a funeral and a mass is performed they’ll witness many things they’re not used to.

During the mass, the Catholic priest goes through an elaborate liturgical ritual in which he prays specific prayers in a specific order and the attending Catholics respond in rote exactly as they’ve been directed. You can visit Catholics churches in twenty different countries and the ritual is exactly the same. The ultimate focus of the mass is when the priest allegedly changes bread wafers and wine into the literal body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. The priest then offers up the immolated Jesus host to God the Father as a sacrifice for the sins of the congregation and anyone else who is named. The attendees then line up to receive the Jesus wafer from the priest and consume it, believing as they’ve been taught that the Jesus wafer will impart graces enabling them to avoid sin so they can merit Heaven. If the priest did not follow the prescribed liturgical formula exactly, the mass could be completely invalid.

One thing that often makes a big impression on evangelical visitors to a Catholic mass is how often the attendees are required to change their posture; from sitting to standing, to kneeling, etc. It’s all part of the elaborate ritual and is not to be deviated from. During the course of the mass the Catholic is required to assume the following postures in this order:

  • Stand
  • Sit
  • Stand
  • Sit
  • Stand
  • Sit
  • Stand
  • Kneel
  • Stand
  • Kneel or Stand
  • Stand
  • Sit or Kneel
  • Stand*

Up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down. The slavish ritualism is striking to behold.

I was an altar boy from 5th grade through 8th grade. After having to memorize all the spoken responses in Latin, the church changed the rote prayers of the mass to English. Argh! Once I became comfortable with the routine again, one of my favorite things to do as an altar boy was to observe the mass attendees. A large percentage looked like mass was the last place they wanted to be. Catholics are told by their church that if they miss weekly mass on Sunday it’s a “mortal” sin and they’re going to hell and many of those who still bother to attend mass (only 22% of American Catholics attended obligatory weekly mass in 2016) are there strictly because of this threat.

But there were some people at mass who were very enthusiastic about the ritual and those tended to be older women. They were the first to stand, the first to kneel, and the first to sit down. They were also the first and the loudest in saying the responses. Their demeanor seemed to express to the rest of the congregation, “You poor, unpious saps need to refer to the missalette, but look at me! I’m such an outstanding religious person that I’ve got this whole thing down pat and I know it even better than father (the priest).” If a priest deviates from the ritual by even one iota, one of these self-appointed holier-than-thous will be on the phone to the bishop’s office the following day. Yes, God said even the things we do that we think are good deeds are like filthy rags in his sight.

God’s Word says there’s no need for priests and sacrifices any longer. Jesus did away with the Old Testament sacrificial system and precluded the ersatz Catholic sacrifice of the mass when He cried, “It is finished” on the cross. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and High Priest. He is the only Mediator between God and men. Accept Christ and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that teaches God’s Word without compromise.

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” – Hebrews 10:11-14

*Postures and Gestures at Mass

14 thoughts on “Catholic calisthenics: Sit, stand, kneel, sit, stand, kneel…

  1. What a contrast between man’s rituals and God’s truth! As I’m reading through, the first part, I’m wondering, “This is so complicated! And what if it’s not done exactly right?!?” And then in reading I get to the last part and Word of God makes it so simple so real, so perfectly clear!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, the Catholic sacramental system is clergy-driven and complicated, making the laypeople entirely dependent. That’s not an accident. True, the Gospel in contrast is so simple a child can understand it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do like the kneeling part though as opposed to sitting and having it passed down the pews the way it is most often done in the Baptist churches that I grew up in, but I don’t think that the kneeling part is just exclusive to the Catholic way of receiving communion.

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      2. I agree that there’s nothing wrong with kneeling while partaking in the Lord’s Supper. It’s definitely a humble moment to contemplate Jesus paying the penalty for my sins on the cross. Unfortunately, the RCC takes the Lord’s Supper to a dimension He never intended.

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  2. Few times I had to be at a Catholic church I had the surprise of exactly what you described of the various motions involved not to mention how the Word was mentioned by not seriously preached.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lol. This is hilarious . . . in a sad kind of way. Thanks for a great blog, Tom!!! And the verse you quoted from Hebrews 10 is perfect.

    I was raised Roman Catholic by a 2nd-generation Italian – quite devout! But I gave up on Catholicism at age 20; was saved by faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ at age 22. I’m so thankful to have been set free from religion and to know now the truth: Jesus is the truth!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for the encouragement in the Lord! Praise God that you were set free from Catholic chains and trusted in Christ by faith alone!
      Yes there are many such rituals in Catholicism that the members perform without giving them a second thought because “that’s just the way it is.” I try to shine the light of the Gospel on as many of these rituals as I can. If you pursue them far enough, they usually turn into rabbit holes that defy not only Scripture but good sense.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I believe I copied this design from Pinterest and it appears that it originally was produced by an entity called “Frog Geeks,” which doesn’t seem to be a going concern from what I could find.

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      2. You’re welcome! Sorry it took so long to respond but your comment went into my spam folder for some reason.

        Like

  4. Hey Tom, I am a young Catholic doing a presentation on the Catholic mass and how to get more out of it, and I came across this feed. I am just here to say that I hope you know the Catholic Church does not believe that we are “re-sacrificing” Jesus Christ on the altar every Sunday. It is a complex belief, but the true belief is that the mass is a re-representation of Christ’s one and only sacrifice 2000+ years ago at Calgary. For us to be able to share in the gift of His body and blood. John 6:53-56 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” Jesus loses many followers after this discord…and in my personal belief…I find it hard to believe that Jesus would have lost disciples over a mere misunderstanding. Only one sacrifice has been made, as that is the only sacrifice required.

    Lastly, I know the ritual of the mass seems redundant, dull, and robotic to evangelicals and truly to many Catholics…even myself in my younger years was one to be counting ceiling tiles, but I have truly found the beauty in the mass for the very reasons you dislike it. I think the fact that you can go to any mass on any given day and be part of the same church, belief, and celebration all over the world…we truly are one church, as Christ calls us to be. The calisthenics you refer to are not only there to enhance our worship, but to allow full participation. I do not know about you, but when I don’t get dressed in the morning on the weekend…I am not a very functional person. Our physical action and deminer affects our mental, emotional and spiritual self.

    I am not here to rain on your parade. Truly. I was just reading and I had to say something. You see, I at one point thought about leaving the church, like many of my friends at the time. The Catholic Church is not connecting with the youth in their churches what so ever. I had always been part of evangelical youth groups and young adult groups. I was really considering leaving. I decided before I did…to give the church one more chance, but that meant a lot of work for me…I did all the reading I could to figure out why. Why do we do all that we do as Catholics? To my amazement, I found purpose…for all these things that I had been doing all my life. All these things that I was going through the motions to. I truly found the beauty in the church. I guess this article just reminds me of how many people we are losing. I am not here to change your mind, but maybe, just maybe…change your perspective of the church. Even if that is but an inkling.

    God bless you and thank you for bringing people closer to Christ.

    Your brother in Christ,

    Brad

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Brad. Thanks for your comments. Roman Catholicism differs from evangelical Biblical Christianity in many regards, but the most important is the difference over justification. Catholicism teaches that its members are justified by sacramental grace and merit. Evangelical Christians believe as the Bible states that we are justified only by Jesus Christ’s imputed perfect righteousness, and that salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE. The two views are irreconcilable. One is right and one is wrong. Even though the RCC teaches its members can become intrinsically righteous through its sacraments, it also teaches people of other religions and even atheists can also merit Heaven if they “follow the light they are given” and are “good.” That is a Christ-less (c)hristianity. If you are serious about investigating the differences between Roman Catholicism and Biblical Christianity, I recommend “The Gospel According to Rome by James McCarthy.
      https://www.amazon.com/Gospel-According-Rome-Comparing-Tradition/dp/1565071077/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1549626385&sr=1-1&keywords=the+gospel+according+to+rome+by+james+mccarthy

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