What Your Pew Choice Might be Telling You

Have you ever gone to Mass and wanted to be somewhere else? Have you ever gone and loved every second of it? I have. And on both occasions I sat in two entirely different locations.

When I was an undergraduate, I rarely attended Mass. I was spiritually adrift and couldn’t bear the thought of listening to some guy pontificate about a mustard seed for a half hour. On the rare occasion that I did go to church, I wound up sitting somewhere near the back.

But now that I attend Mass on a weekly basis, I make sure to find a spot on the left hand side about halfway up the nave. I like to sit directly in front of the celebrant when he is giving his homily from the pulpit and want to be close enough to the altar so that I am not easily distracted by the other churchgoers.

Yet whenever I attend Mass with a friend or a sibling who hasn’t been there in a while, we always end up sitting in the back. After this happened on several occasions, I wondered if my friends’ reluctance to sit in the front had anything to do with their relationship with God. In short, I think it does. Allow me to explain.

When I was in high school, I took the bus to school. Everyone who has ever taken the bus to school knows that the back of the bus is where the cool kids sit. The back is also where you have a better chance at getting away with something you probably shouldn’t be doing. Sitting in the front, on the other hand, means that you are much closer to the bus driver and that if you do something wrong there is a better chance that you are going to get caught.

I think this is similar to what my friends were going through. They thought that if they sat too close to the front they would feel awkward and uncomfortable, but if they sat in the back they could just blend in with the rest of the congregation. I can’t say that I blame them for feeling that way, a similar situation happened to me while in college and I did the exact same thing they did.

When I was a freshman, the last thing I wanted to do was to take a morning class. But for some reason I scheduled an 8 a.m. humanities course that met three days a week. I was never really interested in the Venus of Willendorf or the Mesolithic era, but the professor was on cloud nine. So when I strolled into class fashionably late with a coffee in hand, I did my best to find a seat in the back of the room. I figured I could blend in with the other students and if need be nod off for a quick nap undetected.

As destiny would have it, I am now a part-time professor. One of the things I have come to realize is that students really can’t hide from you, nor can they take a nap unnoticed. So when I engage my students in a discussion, I’ll call on those who sit in the back row first. If they don’t cooperate or are oblivious to what’s going on, I’ll let those students in the front row whose hands went up the very second I finished asking my question take over.

Given this anecdotal evidence, I began to wonder if there is any relationship between where people sat on the school bus as adolescents, where they sat in class during college as young adults, and where they sit at Mass as full-grown adults.

I think there is and I think it has to do with how we relate to authority.

I’ll let you decide if where we sit at Mass is a direct result of our relationship with God (the highest authority) but next time you attend, make an effort to think about where you are sitting and try to understand why you are sitting there. Is it out of habit? Is it because you like sitting under a certain stained-glass window? Is it because you have your baby with you or because you want to be next to a friend? Or is it because you haven’t been to Mass in over a month and feel bad for skipping out the past couple weeks? If you’re like most Catholics and sit in the back of church, scooch up a couple rows next time. Moving closer to God is always a good thing.

Stephen Kokx

By

Stephen Kokx is an adjunct professor of political science, a featured columnist at RenewAmerica.com, and a blogger for CatholicVote.org. Follow him on twitter @StephenKokx.

  • MM

    We always sit in the back due to the following reasons:
    1) little kids making too much noise and the need to duck out quick
    2) husband is an usher and needs to duck in and out
    3) there is more fresh air in the back and less women’s perfume (we have asthmatics)

    Where we sit has nothing to do with our attitude about God.

    • NCH

      I think the article is attempting to illustrate the greater picture.  The spiritual world and relationships we have within it have something to do with the spacial world we live in.  Reguarless of where we sit, we are worshiping in the presence of God, and that is what matters.  But sometimes too, reasons can act as excuses to help us believe that the little things in life have nothing to do with God.

      Your reasons are quite understandable and very reasonable, but the greater picture that the article attempts to illustrate  is the idea that reguardless of your practical reasons for choosing your seat- even if “where [you] sit has nothing to do with [your] attitude about God,”  your attitude about God can have something to do with where you sit. 

    • K M

      One thing my wife and I learned taking our grandkids to Mass with us: The closer they sat to the front, the more likely they were to behave well, because they could see what was going on in the sanctuary. The further back they were, the more likely they were to become distracted and restless.

  • Pingback: What Your Pew Choice Might be Telling You | Catholic Canada()

  • Hs

    I always sat in back in school, in buses, to get away with stuff and nod off. In mass I try to sit fairly up front, just not at the very front as that would reek of trying to be noticed.
    I do find Mass important, but school boring, and bus fair play for mischief 🙂

  • Maria

    I sit in the forward left at my parish, where a reverent priest properly celebrates Mass and distributes Holy Communion himself, and the organ and cantor are in the back choir loft. I sit in the back when I need to attend Mass at the various churches which have people milling around the altar, the ” music ministers” chatting and practicing before, and gesticulating and prodding during, and the piano player banging away in the sanctuary throughout.

  • Gigi S

    Always in front, from 1-4th row, right in front of the ambo, where I can more easily focus on the Liturgy of the Eucharist and look at the priest directly during his homily and also, because I do not wish to be distracted by other people.  I can focus on why I am there, to worship the Lord.  But, yes, I also sat in the back when I was not in communion with the Church (remarriage, no annulment).  In school, when I was a gunner, always front row; when not caring about the class, always in back.  You’re right – definite correlation.

  • irishsmile

    My husband and I tend to sit in the back of the church at mass.  As the mother of a priest, interestingly enough, it has never once entered my mind to evaluate the spiritual position of those at Mass with their physical place in a pew.  Mass  should be more important than fretting about where one’s neighbor sits.

  • Jeff Culbreath

    At 6’3″ tall, I have developed a lifelong habit of sitting in the back no matter where I am so as not to block the views of others. It carries over in church. Combined with having very small children and needing to make a quick exit now and then, sitting in the back makes sense. However, I notice other devout families with the same “issues” who sit in the closest pew they can find and it works for them. I wouldn’t over-analyze pew choices.  

  • I grew up sitting in my mom’s spot – halfway between the front and back of the church,  always on the left and never close to the middle aisle – and I usually was at the end of the pew.
    Never saw anything, as, like my mother and my 3 sisters we were short.
    When I moved out on my own – sat in the same spot until I really embraced the faith and wanted to be right there in the empty pew in the front! No one to distract me.

    When I dated my husband I made him sit closer and closer to the front until at long last he started naturally going for the front seats.
    After marrying and when we had our first child my first choice was to sit in the back but someone told me that if I couldn’t see in the back – what do you think your kids see from the back? So we took them to the front from day one and even with my son who has ADHD – he was taught how to behave in church and actually became known for actually singing and saying the responses – not just mumbling them. Both he and his sister would “do the mass” at home. They knew everything the priest did and were even able to provide toddler/primary school level homilies.

    We still sit in the front when we can. We sing in the choir, at the front 🙁  and see what is going on during mass as the distractions are so blantant.
    Every other week, when we don’t sing we sit in the front pew though without my son as he serves.
    Since not that many people venture to the first few rows unless you get there late or you are ushered up to the front – we are almost certain to get the first pew.

    I can focus on the mass and not get distracted by the kids eating cheerios, non-toddlers drinking anything from water, pop or a Timmies, kids colouring and adults who are texting and people using their phones secretly. (which isn’t much of a secret)
    (you see alot when you sing in a choir at the front)

    I have also had more opportunities when the kids were younger to point out (quietly) things that were going on and … to have them realize that Father can see and hear everything they are doing and saying – so they stick to their best behaviour for both Father and especially for God. 

    I have taught my children right from the beginning that to sit in the front so close to the Blessed Sacrament and to be that close to the priest especially during the Consecration – we are getting a closer glimpse of heaven.

    Though praising God can come from anywhere in the church – I have found that the closer I am to the front – the more focused I and my family are to the reason we are in the church in the first place.
     

  • ECD

    I think the author’s observations are interesting, but I also don’t think that he carried a tone of a moral imperative to sit closer to the front. I understood him as simply asking us to examine the reasons for our choices. As for kids, I have three boys, five and under. We sit with two other families (each with three kids, five and under, and one family is months away from baby four) in the north transept of the church. It’s a little out of the way, being off to the side, the exit closest to the bathroom is right behind us, and, perhaps best, it is close enough for the children to see what is going on. I do NOT blame parents of little ones who prefer sitting in the back (been there…and made the walk from the front, too…sometimes chasing the kid…ha!), but a monsignor here once asked parents to go to the back of the church and sit on the floor behind a pew to see, more or less, what their kids see from the back. They don’t see much. So they get bored. So, I invite my fellow toddler parents to try moving up now and again…and I urge all those who don’t have little kids to give us a smile or an understanding nod. They may be loud now and again, but they are also the future of our Church! Cheers all…

  • Pingback: FRIDAY AFTERNOON EDITION | Big Pulpit()

  • Dave Davisson’s Son Dave

    Before I read this… I leaned all the way back in my chair.  But I didn’t really get it… until I leaned forward again.  Weird.

    I sit all over the place, but, strangely, like you, I sit in the middle, to the left – in front of the lectern when I am feeling most…. er… “holy?”.  I am just more interested, then.   And it is a good place to pay close attention from.

    Sometimes I sit in the front.  But when I feel very …um… good (I just cannot call myself holy more than one time.  Gives me the willies…) those times I cannot sit in the front because it feels pretentious.  What if someone looks and me and notices that I am being pious – united with God?!  I don’t want them to think I am putting on a show!  The back  – just can’t do it because of the Attention Deficit Disorder.  There’s just too much to see – esp people. 

    I have three toddlers (one infant).  They sit with me in the middle.   If they act up, they get a reprimand.  It works fine.

  • Dave Davisson’s Son Dave

    Whoa, just now read that response, below, from Teresa about her son with ADHD…. Shock to think that someone with ADD would not be expected to sing?!  I sing. Singing right now in fact. I always behaved in Church when I was a kid (ADD my whole life), but it is hard.  I really want to just look at everyone, everything, and think about…various OTHER things.  My brain never stops.  Ever.  It’s always on hyperdrive.  (Comes in handy in some occupations – for instance as a soldier in combat and as a CEO).

    At least I have finally learned enough about my faith, and been blessed enough by God to have a new appreciation for Him and for the Mass.  So now, my mind tends to wander all about “God  stuff” 🙂  It’s WONDERFUL!  He’s infinite afterall, and once one realizes the fathomless depth of beautiful of his Glory and nature, one can spend a lifetime pondering an infinitesimally small piece of it and still only have thought about as close to nothing as possible.   (Go ahead.  Read it twice 🙂

    Always know that ADD is a GIFT FROM GOD!  A WONDERFUL gift!  It comes with plenty of very serious and painful suffering – for sure.  But that’s a gift too, of course!  Then, too,  ADD gives one such a different way of seeing the world and experiencing it.   Wonderful!  God bless!

    • Efsscime

      Isn’t there a story in the Bible about judging people by their physical closeness to the front of the Temple? Luke 18: 10-14.

  • William

    These days, in the back so I can scoot out quietly when all the goofy stuff happens (and believe me, happen it does).  Just call me scooter, scooter of the morning….

  • Matthew Roth

    One seminarian I met will ask the dads sitting in the front row with their (usually young and large) families and ask what seminary the dad went to. Usually, the response is along the lines of, ‘How did you know I spent time in the seminary?’ 

  • Paula

    My husband and I (60 yrs. old) sit on the front row, on the left, so we can hear well! Also so there are no distractions. And I like to be “close to the action” :). Yes, I worry a little that people will think I’m being pretentious. But it really is for practical reasons. And I enjoy it so much more.

    • LizEst

      Sitting closer to the front helps me see and hear better…just like it helped Zacchaeus so many years ago. 

  • clingermanocds

    I have observed it a number of ways – some souls in the back with fussy kids, some dressed in soccer attire because kick-off is in a half hour, some can’t stand the stupid jingles that pass as ‘sacred song’ – so they flee at the closing ditty, some because they are troubled in their relationship with God or others.  Many churches are a disaster.  One would like to continue ones’ thanksgiving, or pray to St. Michael, or recite the Salve Regina – and everyone is roaring in the nave of the church as if one’s head were stuck in the enging of an Airbus A380.  I end up running, too.  Mr. Kokx makes excellent points, and we would do well to reflect on them.

    • hombre111

      Any priest can tell you that the fervor of the people changes the further toward the back of the church you go. They are the ones who leave early, as well.  Mr. Clingerman could just go inside of himself and find a quiet place without demanding that 500 people accomodate his wishes by being silent. That is what I do.

  • Scott Quinn

    Interesting observation, but I am reluctant to equate pew position with one’s near or far connection with God.  There are a lot of reasons why people sit where they do.  In fact, pews are artificial Protestant creations which hinder our ability to move about the Lord’s House.  And even if you believe that your position relative to the tabernacle is indicative of your love of God, how could you ever prove it?  I’m reminded of Christ’s parable of the Pharisee who moved himself close to thank God he was not like the sinners.  Yet it was the one who stood afar who earned God’s praise.

    • Cord_Hamrick

       Scott:

      Respectfully, do you really wish to stress pews being a “Protestant creation?”

      God led the Israelites out of Egypt with a cloud and a fire: Just as ancient warleaders led large armies with a column of smoke by day and a blazing firepot by night to keep the whole company together. God had them build an Ark: Much like those they were already familiar with in Egypt. God knew what kinds of things had been before the Israelites’ eyes for four hundred years in Egypt, and He wisely used the existing vocabulary of their imaginative experience to reveal Himself to them.

      Likewise, baptisms and other ritual washings, sacrificial meals, anointing oil, persons set aside to be clergy, the use of a holy text, all predate both Christianity and Judaism: They are, like circumcision in Judaism, borrowed elements.

      But they are also baptized: God found the things which spoke effectively to the human heart (in fact he providentially caused them to emerge in human history through his design of humanity) and then used them for His purposes. He imbues and infuses them with His power to make them effective in precisely the way that the human heart always longed for them to be effective long before He had given them as sacraments.

      And the fact of something’s Protestant use predating its Catholic use is no necessary disqualifier: “Nor should we forget that anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in
      the hearts of our separated brethren can be a help to our own edification.
      Whatever is truly Christian is never contrary to what genuinely belongs to the
      faith; indeed, it can always bring a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ
      and the Church.” (Unitatis Redintegratio)

      And of course there is the simpler form: “All truth is God’s truth.” God’s grace abounds even to those outside the visible confines of ecclesial union or even of Christianity, and if Hindus in India should happen by the grace of God to hit upon a numbering system superior to the Romans’, and should that system be transmitted to Europe by the action of Arab Muslims, still, better is better, and we adopt the use of place values and zeros because it’s a gift from God.

      Returning to pews specifically: They could have started among Protestants, have been found to be good and helpful, and have been adopted to the benefit of all. They could have been started among Protestants, been found to be a hindrance, and be in need of exclusion. They could have been started among Protestants, have been found to be neither here nor there, and ended as one of those nonessentials in which diversity is permitted. But as “Protestant” is the common term in all three formulations, it is a term which cancels out, leaving only the discussion of the usefulness of the thing relevant.

      I’m sure you know all that. I just wanted to call attention to the good and bad parts of the relevant sentence. Good parts: “…hinder our ability to move around the Lord’s house.” Now that’s an actual argument which can be debated; it has a place. But “…artificial Protestant creations” really doesn’t.

      Or so it seems to me. But please regard this reply not as a retort but only as a respectful note of caution over a particular phrase.

  • Guest

    When you have 9 children under 8 as we do, the last possible pew is the most charitable and sanity promoting for us anyway.    You can suggest we are far from God if you like,  but the truth is the ones at the front might just be there for show.   Maybe we’re in the back just for show too.  God bless you.  

  • I just finished reading all of the comments from parents who sit in the back.   I found that my six children behaved MUCH better when we sat in the first pew on the far right or left side of the church.   I could still remove a fussy child, but all of the children could actually see and thus participate in the mass.   Putting children behind a bunch of adults only encourages boredom , frustration and the accompanying distracting behaviors.
    I use the same seating arrangement with my grandchildren – and I have much better success with their church behavior than their own parents do, who sit towards the back.   My husband and I sit close because it’s easier to stay focused on Jesus when we’re not distracted by a lot of people in front of us.

    • Michelle

       I agree!  I have four young ones and I would encourage those with toddlers and babies to sit in the front.  My children misbehave MUCH less in the front row and are very engaged to what is happening.  Don’t be embarrassed if you have to leave with a baby/toddler.  It feels like everyone is staring at you, but they’re not, it’s not that big of a deal.  It takes twenty seconds to bring the child to the back, etc. and then it’s over.  I personally feel like it’s a good example to the rest of the parish.  If all the parents with young children sit in back it perpetuates the idea that the mass isn’t for kids and that the noise of children does not belong there.  I’ve learned to nurse very discreetly (I use nursing camisoles and layers and then cover with a blanket, and then I do my best to rid myself of any vanity and distracting thoughts, ie: what will people think of me, I don’t want to be a distraction to others, etc. 

      If we miss out on our spot near the front, the kids always whine now…”In the BACK!?  I don’t wanna sit in the back, mom!”

  • Deblette

    I always sit in the first pew. It is kind of a joke with my friends because they will leave notes or cards or gifts addressed to me in the front row, knowing the Mass I usually attend and where I will be.  I love sitting there. I am as close to the altar as I can be and I can totally immerse myself into the Mass.  I am also the first to receive the Eucharist so I have all that time for prayer.

  • Bernie

     If we are new to the church -traveling or such- we tend to sit nearer the front. In our own parish we sit a little closer than the middle. If I don’t much care for the priest I sit farther than the middle and to the side.

  • Boggs Nick

    My wife and I sit in the front left pew, closest to the isle.  We have a 1 yr old who can be a handful but the people around us don’t mind a bit if my wife and I have to get up and carry him to the back, they actually love to smile and wave at throughout Mass and so does the priest. I think a young couple with kids sitting up front sends a good message to the rest of the parish and I think the older parishioners appreciate it as well.  They love seeing children at Mass.  I personally like to sit up front because if I don’t (like when we visit another parish), I’m often distracted by the people sitting in front of me and around me, especially if they’re dressed inappropriately.

  • Snerticus

    I go to two different parishes.  This is due to the fact the parish I belong to (and the one I really like) is farther away than the other parish.  I’m on a tight budget and can’t get extra gas most weeks.  So when I have limited gas I go to the closer parish.  This particular parish has loud and (IMHO) inappropriate music at Mass.  I don’t like being there at all.  As you might guess, I try to sit in the very last row if I possibly can.  I usually cry a lot at this Parish because I feel they are disrespectful to the Lord.  So I guess the fact I don’t want to advertise my crying is another factor I sit at the back.

    When I go to my own parish, I usually sit anywhere from the third pew from the front to almost half way back.  I prefer sitting on the left side, and I prefer the middle of the pew.  I like my pastor’s homilies and I feel I am part of a community that loves God at my parish.  At the other parish I feel they celebrate the Mass to please themselves (ie. they go to listen to the awesome contemporary Christian music that blares from the amplifiers).

    So I suppose yes, where you sit in the pews does indicate the type of relationship with God, but I don’t think it’s always for the reasons you suggest.

  • Matt Landry

    I’ve always been tall. As a grown man of 6’3″, it’s barely noteworthy, but as a 6-foot-even 12 year-old, it was positively freakish. I acquired the habit of choosing, whenever possible, to sit in the back around the time I was 8 years old, when I first became way taller than anyone else my age, and didn’t lose it until I was in my late 20s and noticed that it wasn’t quite so true anymore. I’ve never thought I could be inconspicuous, no matter where I sat…I just didn’t want to block everyone else’s ability to see.

    I’m actually pretty sure that this is entirely unrelated to my return to the Church. But since I have, in fact, come back, I usually sit as near the front as possible.

  • Strange, I’ve always thought about this in terms of how different my attitude was in attending rock concerts – going early to get a front row position.  I think there are good reasons, as stated, for sitting in the back especially for a large family attending a parish church constructed in the round – the back rows are larger.  As for “slipping out”, many of the churches I’ve attended it would be more convenient if one were sitting in the middle as opposed to the back of the church.

  • CMM

    I don’t feel this was a condemnation of anyone who sits in the back of church.  If sitting next to a favored stained glass window at the back of church brings you closer to God during Mass, that’s a good thing. Sitting in the back because you have small children seems completely reasonable.  I think Mr. Kokx was just encouraging people, because of his own personal experience, to at least think about it.

    • Amen, CMM. That was exactly what I was hoping to get across!

  • Guest

    First – I am amazed at how quickly and how many comments this article generated.  Second – very thought provoking although I would be interested in a statistical survey prior to deducing any correlation between location of seating and spiritual relationship.  That being said, I do not want to take anything away from the author’s observations for they are real-world observations that still merit discussion.

  • Barbara C.

    We always try to sit as close to the front as we can with our larger-sized family.  I think it helps the kids behave better and I can educate them about the Mass better if they can see what is going on.  And if I have to duck out to make the “walk of shame” with a toddler than so be it.

    Interestingly, I used to boggle one of my professors because I would sit in the back but still constantly raise my hand and contribute to discussions.  He’d always tease me about it.

  • Vsaele

    What is particularly unique to Catholics, just about everywhere in the U.S. is that most covet sitting at the end of the pew, no matter how close or far from the inner santuary of the church. One wonders if it is to position themselves for a quick exit before the final blessing, as more and more are doing these days.

    • Marion (Mael Muire)

      I usually attend Holy Mass alone, and in a church where there are always plenty of empty seats. Nevertheless, I always grab an aisle seat, if I can. For me, it is a question of personal space; I don’t mind sitting cheek-by-jowl
      with complete strangers if there is a buffer of 24 – 30″ or so between
      us, but plenty of folks coming into church would, it seems, just as soon plop
      right down practically onto your lap, as choose a less occupied pew or keep to a space well away.  I
      think men get more personal zone space respect; women get little to
      none. (One of the few things I don’t like about being a woman.)

      Grabbing an aisle seat means that if I am forced to sit at uncomfortably close quarters with a total stranger who is doing the up-close-and-personal thing on the one side, then at least on the other side, I have some breathing room.

      It goes without saying that it is rude as can be to force new arrivals to clamber over one’s knees and ankles while retaining one’s aisle seat; when new arrivals signal that they wish to enter my pew I always rise to my feet, step out into the aisle, and allow them to pass unimpeded into the middle of the pew.

      It also goes without saying, I think, that if you have your heart set on taking an aisle seat, you should arrive to the church 5 or 10 minutes early to secure one, rather than resenting the fact that earlier arrivals decline to give their aisle seats up for you when you arrive.

  • Sanctus3x

    I sit in the back, because I use the bathroom a lot. Not that, that is any of your business. I stopped reading when you wanted to expound on your judgment and puff up yourself. I do not follow an unjustified lead from comparative Catholicism Types. And, as Jesus likes to say about such fools: the man in the back of church who could only say: ‘Oh God have pity on me a sinner’ came from church justified. Not the one who came to church to judge everyone else but himself. He told God how great he was to pray three times a day, pay regular tithes on mint and fast a lot. Jesus wasn’t impressed with that Pharisee and neither am I. I think your full of the devil to be doing such pharisetical articles such as this. Shame on you.

    • Tout

      I am old, prefer the Tridentine(Latin)Mass. I try to sit in the front halve.One may sit wherever on prefers for some reason. Each one of us is supposed to give good example to those around us. In this Catholic church, I may be the only one who receives H.Host on tongue, I never received in hand, even when 2 priests tried to open my hands. God wants to come in us, not in our hand. Wherever you sit, be a good example (not a ‘show-off’) to others. The H.Mass is between you and God. I feel sorry for the way some ‘pass the time’ in church. Remember, God sees you.

  • Forum

    Blessed John Paul once said he always started at a distant in the back of the church because of the passage in Luke 18. Since hearing this, I have always placed my self at a distance (the back of the church). Your theory doesn’t apply to all, including me and John Paul.
    LUKE 18 – The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector –
    9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

    13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

    14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

  • SEM

    I sit in the front row.  I’m easily distracted and find that I get so much more out of Mass by seeing what it going on.  I don’t see people coming in late, etc and I can hear the priest/deacon/lector. 

  • John

    I don’t think the author is making an absolute  judgment about the coloration of where we sit in Church and our relationship with God. He’s merely asking us to think. Certainly, there are legitimate reasons for sitting in the back or front, but it would be interesting to examine our motives, no?

    • John

      * correlation, not coloration 

  • Caligal

    I began sitting in the front few pews of the church when my 3 kids were very little. Were they perfect angels? No. But I realized that perhaps they were misbehaving because they couldn’t SEE anything. How would you like to stare at people’s behinds for an hour?
    They have a front row seat to the miracle that occurs at every Mass, and I can use the “don’t let Father see you misbehave” line with them, too. Lol!
    My kids are older now, and we still sit in the front. Are they perfect, no. Do they embarrass me with their behavior from time to time, yes. But sitting in front has provided them with a wonderful perspective. I encourage ALL parents with children to give it a try. And not just once. Perseverance is learned with patience.
    Occasionally, we do have to sit in the back when we serve as greeters. My kids agree that they prefer the front. The back has far too many distractions, and it just plain makes me crazy to see people texting, talking, and otherwise not participating in the Mass. Sitting in front greatly intensifies my prayer and makes me blissfully ignorant of the mayhem and disrespect that is occurring behind me. And I am perfectly fine with that!

  • Dobrodoc1

    Some of us love Jesus the Church and the Mass but suffer from a touch of agoraphobia. Sitting up front or in the middle can create anxiety and distract one from worship. The fact that people are reading this article indicates they are the ones who indeed are involved in their faith. Where they sit in Mass says little about their relationship with God. I often see people near me in the back who don’t go up to receive our Lord. I often think, they may truly be the ones closest to God’s heart. Week after week they come to mass faithfully, but are serious enough about their faith to not go up to receive, knowing they have some immovable impediment to receiving the Eucharist worthily. They remind me of the poor sinner who crys out to God , Lord I am not worthy.

  • Noah

    Speaking of “how we relate to authority” I would ask how you feel about the teachings from the second Vatican Council? Do you accept them as inspired by the Holy Spirit or problematic and flawed. Your answer will speak volumes regarding how one views authority much more than one’s geographical positioning during the Divine Liturgy.

  • jacobum

    SK  must be having a bad hair day or brain lock.  Can’t believe that (so far) 42 people have read the whole article…..and commented on it. This is a hoot!.

  • Kathleen

    I heard that those who have a ‘full life’ and can’t take on more commitments, sit in the back.  The overinvolved in the parish sit near the front.  Those who are balanced usually sit in the fourth pew from the back…or folks somewhere in the middle…

  • any pew will do

    When I first came back to Church after being away for 25 years, I sat in the back because I wasn’t familiar with the Mass any longer and because I felt unworthy.  As time went on and I felt more comfortable, I gradually moved up.  Now I assist at daily Mass as a server/lector/EMC  and sit in the back on Sundays when I serve as an usher.  People have different reasons for sitting where they sit. Wherever I am sitting, I am just glad to be in His presence.

  • Connie

    We sat in the front row when our boys were all young.  They behaved very well because they were expected to (and yes others told us they were well behaved.)  I hate the front row because when I was a kid, people said that those in the front row were showing off how spiritual they were or how nicely they were dressed.  So now that it is just  my husband, my elderly (89 years old) mother and me we sit near the front but not in it. (Mom is a convert of 31 years. ) There are two reasons:  my husband likes to be near the front so he is not distracted and I prefer it because I am short and most  people are taller than I am and I want to see – it helps me pay attention better.

  • DRR

    Some of us are claustrophobic and like to sit in the back because being near the doors lets us relax and enjoy Mass.

  • Richardmdykstra

    I sit in the middle, but I am very disappointed in the new Liturgy!  I no longer enjoy going to Mass.
    For me, it has become oversimplified, stripped of it’s Catholicity and become Protestant.  It has become very casual and folksy-especially the songs!  Vatican 2 betrayed us older Catholics!

    • Tout

      I too hope for the Tridentne(Latin)Mass. Drove 40 km every Sunday to such Mass, but am too old, have no car no more. I give only 25 cents on Sunday if there is no use of a communion-rail. I always receive H.Host on tongue, never in hand. That hand-shaking is ridiculous. Please, receive on tongue, even if you are the only one in your church. God wants to come in you, not in your hand.

  • Catholic4life

    There are truly multiple reasons for pew choice and I don’t think Stephen is judging anyones heart. Some are in the back because they got there late and no pews are available up front. Iusually make it there with my family a little early-but like everyone else-sometimes we just don’t get our act together and so we have to sit in the back-which is a sacrifice for me as I love being closer to the front- so I can “see” and participate more fully-the Concecration especially. I have seen (sadly) some who chose the back over and over again so they can leave right after communion-hopfully unnoticed. I do not judge-I pray for them. I know some people who simply have a “spot” they like and it becomes a familiar place to call their own.  Our church has several rooms for families with children when they need it-so I don’t see all the big families in the back only-they are spread
    through out-which I love. I welcome the crying babies and so do our priests. Stephens point I think is well stated though. There are still many-who probably do stay back-maybe for fear or feeling unworthy. Maybe some don’t really want to be there. That can only be – because they don’t know why they were invited.  Let us pray for them-that they are inspired to move forward sometimes-to get a little closer to the Tabernacle and see that God is inviting  
    them in particular-to embrace Him there-because He loves them so much-and it is that Love that makes them worthy.
     
    Also-I wonder if more Catholics truly understood the Miracle taking place on ther Alter every Sunday-(every day in fact) would not more of them be trying for a seat up front?   Statistics show that way too many Catholics do not believe in the True Presence.  Not everyone can be up front every time – I know-but the desire is enough for Our Lords Heart.

    It is good food for thought Stephen, and an opportunity for all of us to consider why and how we approach many aspects of our faith. Perhaps it is a call to reach out to those who need encouragement along the road we travel together.

  • Ramanie

    Hi I sit in the front pew. I want to be close to the Tabernacle. Sitting in front helps me not to get distracted therefore I am able to concentrate better.

    • Tout

      to RAMANIA And if you concentrate better, you give a good example to others.

  • MomofLittles

    Two words : small children. Back row? Yes please?

    • Tout

      to MOMOFLITTLES Only if they are still real young.

  • The more kids I have, the more I think the ancient Jewish tradition of having the women in the outer temple may have been more of a courtesy to the women than sexism! My most peaceful masses that I get the most out of are the ones I spend outside of the sanctuary in a little room with couches and speakers so I can hear the Mass but know my son’s inability to sit still quietly for an hour isn’t distracting anyone! When we are in the sanctuary, I spend the whole time focusing on his behavior, and it is NOT a peaceful worshipful state of mind!

  • thanks for the article. i find by sitting toward the front i get self concious. with more than half sitting in the back i have humbly determined thats where all the good catholics sit. either that, or i have horrible BO and people avoid me. being a not so good catholic myself, if i sat in back i would surely lose any ability to concentrate.

  • KyPerson

    This is very interesting and I never really thought about it but I always sit in the same spot.  It’s on the left side close to the front so I can hear and see.  It’s also next to a pillar so I don’t have to hold hands with anyone.  

  • Maryjeanspinelli

    I love sitting in the back of our chapel . Sitting in the back has nothing to do with my relationship with God. I always sit in the back and last seat. God’s presence is strong coming from the Blessed Sacrament. Space between doesn’t separate the Love for God and His Love for me. It is a comfort issues not how close you are in your relationship with God. When I go to other affairs I always do the same. I take the last place in the back. This is when their is a crowd. When the chapel is not as crowded I would move more up front. I feel to crowded in being in the middle or up front. I feel more privacy at the back. If you need to leave during Mass it doesn’t distract anyone. I wouldn’t put to much thought into this. Some of the people sitting in the back are very into their prayers just as the people up front. To me their is no connect. It is just a preference of comfort. AMEN !!! MJS

  • I’ve noticed that the infrequent churchgoers or new Catholics prefer to sit at the back in order to follow the motions (standing, kneeling, etc.) of the more experienced believers. That’s what I was doing at that phase of my religious development and still do when present at an unfamiliar church due to the lack of liturgical uniformity (thank you, the spirit of Vatican II!) While at my Novus Ordo parish church, I sit close to the front and in the middle row because this position gives me the time to make sure that I will receive the Holy Eucharist from the hands of the priest even if it occasionally involves the switching of a lineup (thanks again, the spirit of Vatican II). However, when I attend a traditional Latin Mass, all the worries disappear and I can concentrate on the beauty of the ritual…

    • Tout

      How I wished to have a Tridentine(Latin)Mass close by. For a while I had the chance, with a few other men, to act as servers for such a Mass, dressed as Mass-servers.

  • Tout

    Being old, I leave room close to an outlet to people with small children. They may have need to be close to the washrooms. So give them a chance. Close to where the sermon is said, makes it possible to hear better. Of course, close to the front, it is easier to follow the action.

  • RG

    I SIT IN THE LEFT FRONT PEW, DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE PULPIT,  NOT BECAUSE OF THE CELEBRANT BUT, BECAUSE IN ONCE HEARD A NON-CATHOLIC CHRISTIAN SAY, “IF I BELIEVED AS CATHOLIC SAY THEY DO, THAT JESUS IS TRULY PRESENT IN THE BREAD AND WINE, THEN I WOULD  ATTEND MASS ON A DAILY BASIS AND GET UP AS CLOSE TO THE ALTAR AS I POSSIBLE, SO I COULD BE THAT CLOSE TO OUR LORD JESUS. IF HE TRULY PRESENT IN BREAD.” SINCE THEN, I SIT RIGHT UP CLOSE.

    • Tout

      to RG Let him try it for a week.

  • Frances_730

    What a silly premise! Think about it: pews are in the front, the middle and at the back. How would an architect design a space(say an auditorium)without seats from the back all the way up to the front ?
    Total nonsense.

  • Backseat

    You are why I don’t go to church. I don’t want someone telling me where to sit. I like the back. I love our Lord. Maybe it’s social anxiety. I am not trying to get away with something. P,ease, I’m 50 years old. Let me sit where I am comfortable without judging me.

MENU