Direction for praying & postures


:latin_cross: PAX DOMINUS VOBISCUM :latin_cross:


I had a few questions w.r.t. the direction for praying and posture for praying…

Q.1. Just as in the Tridentine Mass, the priest and the congregation face the East during the Mass, is the same imperative in churches where the altar is placed to the west/north/south (in short, not towards the ‘Mystical East’…?

Q.2. Apart from Mass, is it necessary that when every faithful Catholic prays, he/she should face the East only…? (What about North-East or South-East, for that matter…?)

Q.3. Is kneeling a mandatory posture for faithful Catholics during all types of prayers - at home, at church or at chapels…?

Anticipating replies from a Traditionalist Catholic perspective…


  1. Not sure, but I suspect not. My inclination is the priest will face the altar from the front or back and not either side end. Facing the altar seems to me to take precedence over facing “mystical East”.

  2. Definitely not. Symbolism is good, but there is a point where it can become superstition. Catholics pray while walking, working, driving, etc. This would be impossible while facing East. On the other hand praying while watching the sun rise in the East can have a very strong symbolic meaning. One direction is not better than another other than symbolism. Better to pray from the heart with reverence and devotion while facing West, than face the East and pray with a lack of reverence and devotion. The use of symbolism should enhance your prayer life, not put restrictions on it or make it more difficult to pray.

  3. No. While certain postures are used during the Mass, the same postures are not required outside of Mass or if the person is unable to. However, in certain situations postures such as kneeling may be more appropriate, such as during Eucharistic adoration.

In private prayer outside of liturgical prayer, the posture that should be used is the one that best promotes devotion for the individual. If you are kneeling and the whole time during your prayers you are distracted by the pain in your knees or legs, that probably isn’t the best posture. If you are driving or walking somewhere and decide to pray, than kneeling at the time probably isn’t the best posture either. It never hurts to mix it up a little either as it is easy to get “stuck in a rut”. Try kneeling while praying one of the Psalms, and then sit down and pray a rosary or divine mercy chaplet. The next day reverse it. There is no wrong way to pray as long as it is from the heart with honesty.


I’m not a trad, but my parents were Catholics prior to Vatican II and were not into all the new modern changes.

Neither of them ever advocated any prayer direction or prayer posture, other than when you pass the Tabernacle you genuflect and if the Host is exposed then you do it on two knees.

They both prayed wherever they happened to be. Obviously in church or chapel they’d be sitting or kneeling, but around the house, in the car, in the hospital etc. they’d be standing, sitting, kneeling down (by the bed at night for instance) or lying down, whatever worked. The important thing was the prayer.

They would have associated “praying to the East” with something like Islam or just thought it was weird.


No. I believe that facing east together is a better symbol for what actually happens at the mass but it’s not mandatory.

No. You can face whatever direction you like.

No. It never was either.


The Liturgy of the Hours, which is liturgical prayer even when prayed privately, does not mandate any specific posture when it is prayed privately, which it often is aboard buses, airplanes, trains, hospital waiting rooms, you name it. Only when prayed in public are certain gestures mandated.


At the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Wash DC, the orientation of the church is North-South. The same is true at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame Univ in South Bend, IN.

I don’t think there is an addiction or compulsion etc. to face the East, as Jews often pray towards the site of the Temple in Jerusalem or the Muslims pray towards Mecca. In ‘traditional’ U.S. churches the tabernacle is in the central place of prominence and activities are oriented towards the Lord present in the Eucharist.

I’m in a minority of one probably about the most profound posture of prayer, which is face down on the floor. This posture is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments. I think – just me, now – I think that the word Selah in the Psalms is a direction to assume that position. If you scrutinize the Psalms where that word occurs. it occurs at a time when maybe one should pause and humbly bow down to God. But, even in my Jewish commentaries, there is no hint of what that word means. Maybe there’s some idea in the Talmud, but I wouldn’t know about that.


Yes, thanks for the clarification. I had in mind liturgical prayers like the Mass, Benediction, etc., which have their own norms.


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