[A] thing which Catholics do not realize about converts is the tremendous, agonizing embarrassment and self-consciousness which they feel about praying publicly in a Catholic Church. The effort is takes to overcome all the strange imaginary fears that everyone is looking at you, and that they all think you are crazy or ridiculous, is something that costs a tremendous effort. ~ Thomas Merton, The Seven Story Mountain
Perhaps it is my Baptist upbringing, and a West coast kind of sensibility as well, but kneeling to pray, even in a Church, even in a living room, can be difficult. Worried one’s family would stumble upon you praying the rosary can also be an embarrassment one wants to avoid. It’s strange, really. Why worry? I know I have felt that embarrassment, that sense of worry, being self-conscious about it.
It is agonizing, on various levels too. For to kneel and pray in a Catholic Church, before the Blessed Sacrament is one of the deep longings that many converts feel. To leave the world of the evangelical Protestant aesthetic and enter into a truly sacred place, perhaps lit by candles, perhaps filled with icons and statuary, and then to kneel before the Real Presence and pray without embarrassment or worry of self-consciousness, is one of the common reasons many converts are drawn to the Church. And one can agonize right at that crux of self-consciousness and desire.
I suppose many cradle Catholics merely wonder why this is an issue (if they are even aware). Why a tremendous effort? Why an effort at all?