(Closed) Etiquette questions from a Non-Catholic

posted 7 years ago in Catholic
Post # 3
Member
2161 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2011

I am not Catholic and just learning the ropes too.   I did google a bit before I went to Midnight Mass at Christmas.  The rule of thumb my FI’s Catholic family told me was to wait during communion.  It was really quick, and there were a lot of non-Catholics there, so it didn’t bother me at all.

From what I understand, you are not required to kneel, but I don’t think you would offend someone if you did.  You are not required to cross yourself.

From what I have learned, most Catholics are just happy you are in attendance, and they want you to feel comfortable.   If you feel funny about being the only person at your seat during communion, you can go up and allow the priest to give you a blessing.

Now, I could be totally wrong, but that is what I have figured out by now.   I, too, wish I was totally at ease with all of the rules.   I really feel awkward during mass, mainly because I don’t want to do something wrong.

Post # 4
Member
1025 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2010

@Lee_Ann: I’m so sorry you had to experience your first mass under such circumstances!

If there’s one thing I hear from people who aren’t Catholic and go to a Mass, it’s always that they are convinced that they stick out like a sore thumb and everyone knows they aren’t Catholic. You don’t! I promise you! *No one* cares if you stand up half a second later, or don’t know all the words, or seem a little lost. To be honest, a lot of Catholics get kind of lazy and don’t always say all the words, don’t sing, etc. so no one would even notice.

As far as etiquette goes, here’s some basics:

You don’t have to cross yourself if you don’t want to. It’s basically our equivalent of saying “In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen” like most other Christians do. It’s a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us. But if it’s not part of your prayer life, it’s not required and people won’t be offended if you don’t do it.

Sitting/standing – unless you have a physical problem, people probably would be offended if you remained sitting while everyone else stood. A general rule of thumb is that in mass, we stand when we pray. Also when we are listening to the Gospel. I think its just to make sure we haven’t fallen asleep, haha. 

Kneeling – we kneel when the body of Christ is present, because we believe that the communion bread is the real presence of Jesus. So we kneel out of respect. However, we also realize that not everyone believes that. Most of the time when I have gone to mass with Protestant friends, they don’t kneel because they feel uncomfortable kneeling in front of what they believe is just bread. So it’s up to you. If kneeling doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable, do it. If it does, just sit in the pew and bow your head. *some* people might be offended, but they shouldn’t be. My sister tore both her ACLs and couldn’t kneel for like a year, so she just sat in the pew. Lots of little old ladies don’t kneel either, so people won’t think its the weirdest thing they ever seen. (And really they should have their attention elsewhere!)

Communion – yeah, people who aren’t Catholic don’t receive communion. It’s not cause we think Catholics are more worthy, but because we believe it’s the body of Christ. So that’s why we ask people who believe its just bread/believe it just represents Christ not to take it. If you feel awkward sitting in a pew, you can still go up with everyone else. Just when you get to the priest/whoever is giving out communion, fold your arms across your chest and they will give you a quick blessing. (Not a “Lord, save this heathen” blessing, just a quick little “In the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Amen” blessing. But really, no one notices/cares if you stay in the pew. Even Catholics won’t always receive, because they need to go to confession or something first. Or like, ate breakfast right before (you are supposed to not eat an hour before mass). And people are all filing in and out of rows anyway, so no one is really looking at you. I promise.

To be honest, we kinda suck at making people feel welcome. The point of a Catholic Church Mass is worship/prayer/learning/communion, and not so much fellowship like it is in Protestant churches. So they tend to be quieter, more reflective before/after. I know that for a lot of people, they feel unwelcome because no one is greeting them, and just leaving them be. It’s kinda the unspoken rule in Catholic Mass – let people be. We don’t know if someone is a visitor from out of town, or never been to mass, or in a desperate spiritual state and just wants to be with God and be left alone. So we tend to err on leaving people alone, for better or for worse.

Next time you go, ask your Fiance or FFIL/FMIL to find your the misselette. It’s a little book that has all the words and directions in it, plus the readings. They are usually at the front of the Church. Most Catholics don’t use them, but it’s not at all unusual to see some reading out of it. I would if our church had more. But then you can have a heads up on the standing/kneeling, or what the prayers are, etc.

Unless you start yelling “Jesus hates you!” in the middle of Mass, you won’t screw up. We realize that our service is kind of complex, and so we don’t hold it against people. Truth be told, *no* Catholic could tell you when to stand/kneel/what to say off the top of our head. We just do it when everyone else does it too.

Post # 6
Member
2161 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2011

What a great reply!  That helped me too!  

Post # 7
Hostess
16215 posts
Honey Beekeeper

@jedeve: What an awesome, informative guide. I’ve been to Mass a few times for weddings and always feel so lost.

One question about communion. I totally understand that non-Catholics shouldn’t participate in Catholic communion, but I’m a little fuzzy on the reasoning. I’m a Protestant, and I believe that the bread represents the body of Christ. I’m not trying to be argumentative at all, just trying to understand more fully. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks again!

Post # 8
Member
5148 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: June 2011

I am not Catholic but went to Catholic high school, which including going to Mass every week.

I stood when everyone stood. I remained seated when everyone kneeled. I did not do the cross while praying. No participating in communion, only Catholics can take part in Catholic communion.

Post # 9
Member
77 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: May 2011

I personally would kneel if you are with that small of a group to be respectful to the elderly people who have grown up Catholic who believe that during mass that they are in the presence of Jesus which is true for Catholics. I grew up Catholic but my mom is Southern Baptist. When she came to mass with us she would sometimes sit, sometimes kneel but this was in a bigger group of people. During communion, she would just sit and wait. Another option for this is to go up to the priest like everyone else but cross your arms over your chest and the priest will bless you and you can go back to your seat. This is what was said above.

If you really want to learn about the mass in a basic way, I would suggest getting one of the young adult Catholic books. Sometimes they have pictures too so you know which part they are talking about. haha And I’m sure there are adult books for non-catholics to learn about mass.

If you are thinking about becoming a Catholic again or even just learning more about the faith, you should check out your local church’s RCIA, Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, program. This is for non-Catholics but also Catholics who have fallen away from the faith. You will learn more about the faith and can be baptized or confirmed into the faith at the end of the program if you choose to.  

Post # 10
Member
3176 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: May 2011

The first time I took my Baptist FH to Catholic mass with me he felt so uncomfortable. That church had a child’s follow along that he actually used. I chose not to take communion (as I hadn’t been to confession) and I pointed out that there were others that didnt go up to. I’ve found that the more he’s gone the more comfortable he is, we also will sit in the back so he doesn’t feel like people are watching him.

@Gemstone: Catholics believe Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, it is not a symbol. Through the priest, consercration during mass, and then transubstantiation the bread and wine actually become the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. In this its different than a representation, its actually Jesus being present during Mass thats why Catholics kneel. They are kneeling in the presence of Christ, not a symbol of him.

Here is a better description of it all…http://whollycatholic.blogspot.com/2008/07/on-eucharist-why-cant-protestants.html

Post # 12
Member
175 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: August 2011

@Lee_Ann: You’ve gotten some great responses from prev. posters, so I don’t have much to add.  Regarding the “thumb thing” though:

Basically, we’re just marking the sign of the cross on our forehead, lips, and chest. Doing so indicates our desire for Christ always to be on our mind, on our lips, and in our heart.  It is performed right before the reading of the Gospel.

I can definitely understand how seeing that for the first time would be confusing! You’re welcome to do the same gesture and you wouldn’t offend anyone.

Hope this helps! ๐Ÿ™‚

Post # 13
Member
3182 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: May 2012

I went to Catholic school but no longer consider myself Catholic, so I don’t take communion.  I always find it awkward to get up out of the aisle to let other people out to take communion.  Especially at weddings if there are only a couple of other people in your row and you don’t know if they are getting up or not. So I have nothing helpful to say, but . . . I understand the awkwardness. 

Post # 14
Member
1231 posts
Bumble bee

I don’t think anyone will notice, unless you scream in the middle of the mass that you aren’t catholic. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Do what you feel is comfortable for you. Sitting is acceptable, bowing your head and saying a prayer of your own while everyone else says a prayer or signs the cross. I’m Catholic but my mom isn’t so when she would take me to church, I would go up and she would stay in the pew and say her own prayer. No need to worry, everyone will be upset and thinking about FI’s grandfather to notice what you are doing (or not doing!). Sorry for your loss.

Post # 15
Member
133 posts
Blushing bee

“I totally understand that non-Catholics shouldn’t participate in Catholic communion, but I’m a little fuzzy on the reasoning.”

Catholics believe that the act of receiving Communion is an act that symbolizes a full belief in the practices and teachings of the church in which the Communion is taking placing.  In other words, receiving Communion in the Catholic Church means that you are at one with the entire Catholic Church. 

For this reason, Catholics do not take Communion in non-Catholic churches, non-Catholics are asked to not take Communion in a Catholic church, and Catholics who are currently at odds with Catholic teaching do not take Communion in a Catholic church (for example, a Catholic who disagrees with the Church’s position on abortion).

Post # 16
Hostess
16215 posts
Honey Beekeeper

@CatholicBee: What interesting insight. Thank you!

I’m going to be a bridemaid in a Catholic wedding this summer—though I’m not Catholic—so all of this information is really helpful to me too, in addition to the OP. ๐Ÿ™‚

The topic ‘Etiquette questions from a Non-Catholic’ is closed to new replies.

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