Thursday, May 08, 2008


There is an article in the May issue of New Oxford Review titled "Beware the Sajdah." It was written by Shannon M. Jones, Chief Executive Officer of www.CatechismClass.com, which provides Catholic educational content for the 4Marks Daily Catechism Program.

In the article she describes a recent trip to church for Eucharistic adoration:

On the way into the church with four small children in tow, I passed a college professor friend who was leaving the church in a huff. He was furious that there were "kids laying all over the floor carrying on with their butts up in the air, with the parents apparently encouraging and approving of this cutesy but grossly inappropriate behavior." Continuing with his invective, he pronounced this children's Holy Hour as a "Muslim copycat fest." He wanted me not to take my children inside. Convincing myself that it simply could not be as bad as he suggested, I entered the church. As it turns out, it really was that bad. I was dumbfounded by row upon row of children's derrieres staring me in the face.

The children were instructed to crouch, bend over, raise their buttocks in the air, rest their foreheads on the floor, and repeat. Dozens of children were flopping up and down in this strange fashion in a pattern emblematic of the worship style practiced by Muslims. Little girls were making desperate attempts at modesty, pulling down their shirts or skirts and smoothing them over their derrieres to prevent unwanted attention. Some of the little boys took advantage of this opportunity to express themselves by vocalizing gross bodily sounds, invoking laughter and carrying on in the group, all in the sanctuary of the church and during the public eucharistic adoration session.

None of the adults who were apparently in charge of this affair seemed to comprehend the significance of this perversion of Catholic etiquette.

She describes the scene as "the worship style practiced by Muslims" then goes on to describe legitimate Catholic prostration:

Legitimate prostration in the Catholic tradition, in which the practitioner lies prone at full length with his forehead resting on his hands, is peculiar to the ordained priesthood and is used at ordinations and on Good Friday, as well as in some religious communities. As a practice of personal piety, the laity may use the posture of prostration as an expression of humility in private.

Prostration, according to the Catholic sense of the word, has absolutely nothing to do with what was going on at the children's Holy Hour. The posture that the children were made to adopt en masse is called sajdah. It is the Muslim prayer practice of kneeling, slouching to the floor, and placing one's forehead on the ground. The Muslim sajdah and the Catholic prostration are two very different concepts. They should not--and cannot--be used interchangeably.
(emphasis in oridinal)

I went surfing to see if I could find this practice on the web. Yes, it's there.

Saint Peter Catholic Church, in the webpage devoted to "Children's Eucharistic Adoration at St. Peter Catholic Church," describes it:

We will have a few seconds throughout the half hour for prostrations (where the children are invited to kneel, then bow their foreheads down to the floor, making themselves small before Jesus).

A link on that webpage goes to the source: the Apostolate of Fr. Antoine Thomas, and his "Children of Hope" webpage where the children are shown kneeling in supplication. The website takes a potential leader of these devotions through the steps including:

First act of bowing for all – may last just a short time...

Second act of bowing before God – silence for a bit while they remain bowed down. Now is a good time to introduce them to interior prayer. Give them silence mixed with a few words from Scripture, and some thoughts to help them listen to Jesus talking to them in the silence of their hearts. Invite them to close their eyes to remain more attentive to Jesus’ presence. You may ask them to tell Jesus
quietly in their hearts what they would like to share with Him.

Third act of bowing before God – this time you may invite them to take a longer time of silence (4–5 minutes), and to close their eyes to receive Jesus’ loving gaze upon them.

Jones comments on her view of this activity:

The players in this liturgical innovation, oddly enough, are not the usual "progressive Catholics" from whom we would expect nonsensical liturgical novelties. If my experience is any indication, this sajdah position is being pushed by a new brand of otherwise conservatice Catholics, including some homeschoolers, who may not even be aware of how incongruent this behavior is when juxtaposed to their usual conservative attitudes with most things Church.

She did, however, discover that the group had one thing in common--a unanimous dislike of the Tridentine Mass.

She goes on to cite Fr. Thomas' admission in his TV ads that "the intention of performing these 'prostrations' is to emulate Muslims." Once again I presume that we have ecumenism for this novelty. It conveys the wrong message according to Jones:

What Fr. Antoine fails to recognize is that the God Muslims worship ("Allah") is neither triune nor hypostatically united in the person of Jesus Christ, and Catholics certainly do not view themselves as nothing, "like a grain of sand." Catholics see themselves as fashioned in the image and likeness of God...

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