Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Praying With Our Bodies

Catholics have always prayed with their bodies; more so in the past than we do in the present. Catholics kneel, genuflect, prostrate, bow , make the sign of the cross, stand , sit, strike our breasts, extend our arms, sing, walk and even scourge ourselves. Talking to God with body, mind and heart: all part of prayer.

Other religions also use the body for prayer; sadly many Catholics see this as alien to the Catholic way. Even Yoga was to help in meditation and not primarily for health reasons.

St. Dominic had nine ways in which he prayed with the body: click here. There are many ways to pray and since God knows what we want to say before we say it: prayer is our way of being open to what God wants to say to us. Using the body we open ourselves to God in more ways than just the heart and mind.

How to pray with the body is one of the items that a religious order has made part of their retreat schedule.

In the quiet of our rooms or in Church, outside of the liturgy, it would be good to see more ways of lifting up our hearts to God. Singing is a way of praying with the body that we know has great value. They who sing pray twice we hear often; the singing adds a great deal to participation in the liturgy.

Koreans love to sing and when it comes to the liturgy even in the smallest mission stations, where we have few at the morning Mass, we have song. It would be strange for a Korean to meet for a party of any kind and not sing. We have "singing rooms" that people pay to spend some time together singing. The liturgy in Korea because of Koreans love for song makes the liturgy a "public celebration" in the true sense of the world.

In years past the Catholic Koreans would take off their shoes before entering the Church. There were no benches and the women would sit on one side and the men on the other. Most of the parishioners would hold their hands clasped together in the front of their chests and hold this position for most of the Mass. This made for a devout atmosphere for the celebration of the Mass.

The position and movements of our bodies do influence thoughts and feelings not only of the individuals but also of the congregation and the celebrant. When our bodies are involved in prayer this will help melt our rigidness, show our dependence on God, and open us in a humbler way to God's holiness.