by Charles McKelvy
When at Saint Dismas, do as the regulars do: kneel on the concrete floor.
That’s right—KNEEL ON THE CONCRETE FLOOR!!!!
As a first-time visitor to the parish church in the chapel of the Indiana State Prison at Michigan City named for the Good Thief, I was more than curious to see what posture the inmates and volunteer-visitors would assume for the Eucharistic Prayer. With no kneelers to serve them, I assumed they would remain standing.
As soon as the Holy, holy, holy was history, the congregation dropped to their knees on the cold, concrete floor. Well, our knees, I because I was worshipping side-by-side with an inmate friend who I knew to be 70-something-and-then-some.
My friend has a few years me on me, a mere 60-something-and-then-some, so he set quite the example of humble piety by hitting that unforgiving concrete floor without hesitation. Plus, he has basketball knees from his glory days in high school.
Having been a low-impact swimmer in high school, my knees are just fine—thank you very much—so I had no excuse whatsoever.
Well, I did have some reluctance and a few reservations. Just the thought of hitting that cold, concrete with my 60-something knees made me say ouch out loud.
But I had no real reason to remain standing when men with more years and fears than me hit the deck.
So I hit the deck.
And it wasn’t so bad.
Hard and cold, yes, but not so bad that it didn’t force me to focus my mind and body on the great mystery of transubstantiation unfolding before me.
So, yes, I hit the deck, and I am so glad I did, because kneeling on that cold, concrete floor next to a man with basketball knees enabled me to put a little personal sacrifice into the Eucharistic Prayer and to grow in love of the Lord and my brothers.
And when the Mass was ended and they applauded me for joining them that Sunday at Saint Dismas, I said that was all the encouragement I needed to return to the Church of the Good Thief and take another crack at their concrete kneelers.