We were in the living room, kneeling, praying the Rosary. Our family did this every night, seven nights a week, right after supper. You might say it was our way of engaging in peaceful protest. But the youngest among us was given a “bye”. My sister – not much more than a toddler as I recall, was permitted to play quietly outside for the ten minutes or so it took us to say the Rosary.
Suddenly, we heard what sounded like a baby crying – but in a strange way. The cry would get louder, then softer, then louder. My father put the praying on “Pause” and looked out the bay window from whence the crying was coming. Thinking my little sister had hurt herself, he was surprised to see that she had a stray cat by the tail and was swinging it around – thus the gradation in volume to our ears. I do believe that was the night it was determined Mary needed to be inside – if not kneeling and praying (confessing?), then sitting quietly in full view of Mom and Dad. (Disclaimer: This is my recollection. I have not verified it with my older sister. Mary would have no remembrance of this as she would have been too young – so don’t believe her if she tries to refute my eye-witness account.)
Lots of things bring us to our knees – of course, there’s the Lord. But also Layla, physical pain, emotional angst, awe, and proposals meant to be forever engaging. Even shooting a gun is often done down there. (For instructions how to kneel and shoot, see this “From sitting to kneeling to shoot” by Kyle Defoor.) And if you have trouble transitioning from sitting to kneeling and back again, there are special kneeling benches you can purchase – or make one for yourself.
I wonder if perhaps we could order some of those benches for folks at the White House. Kneeling in protest has long been an activity humans have participated in. It takes one out of a position of arrogance and puts one in a position of submission. Unless one is holding a gun, it renders one powerless in relation to those standing around. It suggests humility rather than pride, and of the two, we all know which precedes a fall.
Less a sign of disrespect, kneeling suggests reflection. It is a posture well suited for pondering Mystery. It enables one to see life from the perspective of the downtrodden. It also puts in stark relief the difference between yielding and tackling, between a willingness to get into the trenches with folks over against the determination to put them there.
Threats of lynching those who kneel today are as old as two thousand years. For some reason, those in power have always been most threatened by those on their knees. And just thinking on that has got me determined to spend more time down there.