Scoot Over

I can truthfully say that my wife has been a spectacularly good influence on me. Over the course of our twenty-year marriage, my darling better half taught me how to dress in civilian clothes, how to write thank you notes, and that the perfect household tool is an awl.

But one of the most important things she has taught me over the years is to Scoot Over. Let me explain.

I used to have my Seat. It was the Seat I sat in at Mass each Sunday…that space in the pew was mine, carefully chosen to give me quick access to the aisle so I could escape at the appropriate time and only had to hold hands with one other person. My Seat was at the end of the pew, you see, and there was nothing that would make me Scoot Over. Not single mothers with small children, not old people with walkers, not large middle-aged men who couldn't fit into the pew even if I wasn't there.

Then I learned to Scoot Over.

It wasn't that I was purposely unkind, it's that I was carelessly so. Frankly, it just never occurred to me to Scoot Over rather than making someone step over me when they appeared at my pew. Once my wife pointed out that I was seriously lacking in the Christian virtue of charity, I was a little embarrassed. After all, what sort of man makes a woman and her three small children climb over him to get into the pew? Certainly not a man who practices charity.

Charity is one of the four Christian Virtues, a fancy way of saying love. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines "charity" as "the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God" (#1822). Like any habit, charity is a muscle that needs to be exercised to be strong.

 Go ahead…this Sunday you have a chance to practice this virtue. It's not hard, and you might even enjoy the smile on someone's face when they realize they don't have to climb over you to get to the center of the pew. The middle of the pew is not that bad, you know, you won't have anyone climbing over you to get there. The faithful gathered around the Lord's Table at Holy Mass are truly one family; we are adopted sons and daughters of God. Family makes room for each other at the table…we should do the same.

After I learned to practice the virtue of charity by Scooting Over, an interesting thing happened…I began to be kind in other situations. I found myself Holding Open the Door, Smiling at Strangers, and Letting Others Go First. Curious how, as I exercised my charity muscle, I grew more accustomed to using it.

And it all started with learning to Scoot Over.

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  • Guest

    Didn't Judas sit on the end at the first Mass? Laughing

  • Guest

    Ah…the "side-sitters" as I call them.

    Reason number 573 why not to get to Mass "just in time."

    Happened again to me this Sunday.

    You look up and down the entire church and you see:

    x x            xx

    xxx             x

    x           x x x

    xx              x

    x                x

    all the way down.  No one in the middle.  At all.  So my clan (of 5) literally cannot find a spot to sneak into.  But what shocked me was that as we were walking by slowly to see where we could eek in, the people on the end would just look at me.  And they'd actually watch as we went past them, clearly looking for a place to sit.  Heck, by this point, we don't mind climbing over people to get into the middle.  But it was as if we were expected to just keep looking, lady.  Hubby finally got frustrated and pushed through one side-sitter, and we were in our final resting place before the priest was up to the altar.  It's baffling.


    This is certainly one of those things that rubs non-Catholics when they see it.  There's little community.  Sure, they might come down for some free coffee and doughnuts.  The parish began a Stewardship Program, trying to encourage people to embrace the parish as more than just a building – but as part of their home away from home.  It think it only helped those that were already of that mindset to deepen it (so it had value), but the rest seem unphazed. 

    What is it?  How do you counter it?

  • Guest

    in a former parish, a new pastor began asking people as they stood for the opening prayer to please move toward the center and leave room for others to enter by the side aisles. you would have thought he was promoting heresy or letting off a loaded shotgun in church to hear the protests. people actually left the parish because of his "insensitivity"

  • Guest

    I am an endsitter. It has nothing to do with escaping, holding hands (I don't do that anyway), or lack of charity. The simple fact is that I do not like stradling two kneelers, especially in a skirt, so I usually arrive early. I will move over if the need presents itself, but more often I get up and allow others to get in comfortably. Other peope who sit on the end may have other issues, medical issues that require trips to the bathroom or small children who need diaper changes, etc. Fellow endsitters, please get up and let people in. Last week I arrrived to Mass by the skin of my teeth, had to crawl over a gentleman to get to the middle, and in the process hit the lady in front of me in the head with my coat. Not a great way to start Mass on several fronts.

  • Guest

    May I go over the edge radical here??? Sit down and relax while I propose something unheard of. All calm??? Ready??? OK – Here goes. If you are blessed to get to Mass before the church is filling up (imagine that – actually having some prayer time to prepare for Mass!), enter an empty pew and MOVE TO THE MIDDLE! This is allowed in Canon Law and many of the saints were middle benchers, I am told. You will never be disturbed in prayer again by people crawling over you. In Mass you will be amid the people of God and not on the edge – all the better to Praise Him and Give Him Glory.



  • Guest

    Has it ever occurred to anyone that for some people it just might make it easier to stay focused? My main focus when I go to mass is always on the altar. Just some of the reasons I prefer the end are:

    1. Not having to try and see over or between heads.

    2. Your less likely to have a conversation going on around you.

    3. The air is better, (no perfumes/colognes or body odor, less likely to sit

        between sick people.

    4. On my way to communion you have to step across the people who are

        not going to communion so its going to happen anyway, at least at

        the church I attend it happens this way. It's going to happen

        no matter when someone gets theres  at most of the churches

        I have been to.

    5. Less uncomfortable feelings from not holding other people's hands.


    6. Some people similar to me are just not comfortable sitting shoulder to

        shoulder with anyone either because they just need a certain amount

        of personal space (How often do you interact with people at that

        close of a range anyway.) It's just the way you are born or

        accustomed to. Some people are introverts, some are extroverts.

        Some grow up in crowded homes, some do not.

    7. Bottom line is we all have different reasons for sitting where we do

        and should all come down to what helps you focus in more on

        what is happening on the altar.  If you want a particular seat, then

        show up early enough to get it.  If we were going in with the proper

        disposition, we would all be there about ten minutes early, 5 at a

        minimum and all  settled in before the priest walks down the aisle.

        Running late, no problem, just go the next mass. I have yet to attend

        a church in my diocese where there are not at least 3 a day on

        Sunday. If this is too hard then you are not really aware of what it is

        you are doing. It says a lot about a person when they arrange their

        lives in such a way to give proper spiritual reflection in preparation

        for mass. BTW – how about also sticking around an extra 10 minutes

        to give thanks. There are 168 hours in week and as for myself I

        choose to extend that time in the Divine Presence of our Lord. The

        same preparation should also apply to daily mass if a person can

        possibly attend.



    God bless,



  • Guest

    It seems some readers have read my entreaty to Scoot Over a bit too rigorously…when I wrote this article, I wasn't referring to the people who have to sit on the end of the pew for good reason (frequent trips to the bathroom, difficulty walking/rising, small children, whatever). I was talking to healthy people who seem to be bolted to the pew so firmly that the very idea of Scooting Over seems foreign.

    I have personally witnessed arguments at Daily Mass because someone sat in someone else's "usual seat".  I've also personally witnessed families try to jam four or five people (with children on laps) into a space adequate for half that number because someone else couldn't be bothered to move over (or give up their seat so that a woman or child could sit down – gads!).  We're often more courteous on a subway car!

    It's really not about where we sit…it's about charity and dying to self.  I personally prefer the aisle myself, but if I have to sit behind someone in the middle of the pew rather than in my favorite spot, I consider it an opportunity to flex my "charity muscle" a little…plus, and not put to fine a point on it, I'm just grateful to be in the Lord's presence as an unworthy and faithless sinner.  Where I sit is of no consequence to me.

    By all rights, I shouldn't be there at all.

    Attendance at Holy Mass is not a "right", it's a privilege, and not a privilege that's earned…just like the Centurion, we are not worthy to receive the Lord under our own roofs, let alone join Him under His.  By the abundance of His love for us, we are rescued from sin and invited to His House to worship.  We should be so grateful for that invitation that any seat would be welcome.

    If we were invited to the White House or the Vatican, or some other prestigious venue, would we really and fuss about where we sit?  No, we wouldn't, we'd be happy to be in the room…and we shouldn't worry about it at Holy Mass either.

    I'm not a paying customer who bought a seat, after all, Christ Jesus paid dearly for my "ticket" to Mass (and Heaven!)…my opinion is that it would be well for me to remember that. 

  • Guest

    As the mom of four (+one gestating), I am grateful to all those (and I have encountered many) who will 'scoot over' and are even willing to crowd themselves together to make room for us on occasion.


    I've been particularly grateful to those who've stood up to so that I could sit down with a tot, during certain masses which were 'standing room only' by the time we arrived. 


  • Guest

    Some more "good" reasons not to scoot over:

    – If someone yells FIRE! I'll be one of the first ones outta there.

    – Easier for me to step out and answer my cell phone. Don't worry it's  on vibrate.

    – I'll have a better chance of being asked to bring up the gifts. I always refuse but I like to be asked.

    What do you mean – I didn't buy the seat? What about that dollar that I drop into the basket?!

    Besides my aisle seat will be available right after Communion.

  • Guest

    Didn't Jesus tell us to take the last place at the table??? 

    Because you never know when someone more important will show up.


  • Guest


     It think it only helped those that were already of that mindset to deepen it (so it had value), but the rest seem unphazed. 

    Many are called, few will answer…

    In Christ,

    There, now you have a couple of little Abe Lincolns from me…

    Remember, the Sun is always shining!

  • Guest

    I am one of those who, unfortunately, fight the tardy gene. Yes, I know I should get there on time – hey, maybe even early, but I just can't seem to be very consistent about timeliness. There are only 3 of us, so usually we can find a seat, but I must admit, when someone 'scoots over' it sure makes my day! I try not to get too bothered by those who don't, because after all, I'm the one who's late. When I do make it on time, I definitely make it a point to slide ALL the way down and leave plenty of room for any other clock-challenged people like me.

    Keep flexing those virtuous muscles!

  • Guest

    Great article, Colonel!

    We have eight children, a pregnant wife (with number nine), we always sit as far up front as we can, on the Blessed Mother side (of course) if possible, and we take up two pews.

    Sorry. We are the ones who have the small children, whispered conversations, frequent trips to the latrine, rosary beads thrown in the collection basket, body odor, straddle two kneelers, shoes falling off, pacifier tossed out in the aisle, the tone deaf kid singing louder than everyone else, and so forth.

    But we're working on it.

    Scoot over, here we come!