Now Where Will I Sit?

The front seats in Catholic churches are often left unoccupied for Mass. If the participants are the priestly people whose responsibility is to offer themselves in sacrifice together with the sacramental self-offering of Christ on the altar, their proximity to the altar is essential. Those who sit far away when seats are available in the front simply do not participate as fully as they could. The whole assembly of the people looks disinterested in offering themselves in sacrifice when the seats closest to the altar go bare. The ministers in the sanctuary are not the only ones who pray at the altar. Everyone does.

At daily Mass participants commonly scatter to different pews and positions. The sign of peace may be exchanged according to local custom, but at some Masses the people sit so far away from each other that the only way they can exchange peace is to wave at those who are too far to reach. For a church that values the body in posture and gesture, the sign of peace becomes impoverished in these circumstances. It is reduced to a friendly wave instead of a deeper sharing of friendship and peace. The priestly people would give a far greater expression of their common purpose if they sat together in the front no matter the size of the church and the number of those in attendance.

Paul Turner, Whose Mass Is It? Why People Care So Much about the Catholic Liturgy (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2015), p. 111. Emphasis added. ISBN: 978-0-8146-4867-4.

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Article by Andrew Doohan

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