Friday, March 7, 2014

Attending a Catholic Church as a non-Catholic

Hello, Again!

I get this question from time to time from my non-Catholic friends so I figured I would address it here.

Non-Catholics are very much welcome at a Catholic Mass! In fact, I encourage everyone whether or not you are interested in becoming Catholic to go to a mass and see what it is like.

What happens there?

Well, depends on the day but you may show up before mass and be greeted by a greeter at the door. Once inside the sanctuary they may be praying the rosary or people may simply be sitting or kneeling in prayer.

When mass begins a layperson will announce it and then the priest enters the sanctuary in a procession with the alter boys/girls in toe with the Bible in hands. The priest and the alter servers will bow to the tabernacle/alter. From there the priest will start with the opening prayers which beginning the mass.

If you are Christian from another faith you will notice that in most Catholic churches we kneel a lot during mass. You will also notice that the mass is the same in structure every time and there are prayers recited during every mass. You will notice that the Mass is much more regimented that some other churches may be in their services. The amount and way music is played varies a lot, some churches have a full quire or band and others may have neither but music is generally played for the hymns in most churches. Some parishes are much more the singing types than others are. However, do not expect there to be a concert going on during mass.

I think that anyone who attends a Catholic mass with an open mind will see the inherent beauty there is in it and it will help people understand why we do what we do. For instance, many people don't think that Catholics regard the bible all that highly and don't really read it. However, if you go to mass you will see that a large portion of it (3 readings from the bible) is reading the bible and the homily (similar to a sermon) is generally based on the readings. In fact if you went to mass everyday for a year you'd have heard the entire bible read to you.

I know you are wondering, "so what do I do while there?".

Simply follow along the best you can and attempt to do what the others do. It may also help to study the Order of a Mass a bit and even bring a copy with you to mass. This will make you more comfortable because you have a better idea of what is going on and what to say and when. However, there is nothing wrong with not being able to recite anything, so don't worry if you can't keep up. You'd be surprised (should you choose to comeback again) at how fast you can pick up the mass.

If you feel inclined you may want to practice the sign of the cross by saying "In the name of the father" while touching your forehead with fingers of your right hand, then saying "Son" while moving fingers your chest, then "Holy" while touching your left should and crossing over the right shoulder while saying "spirit". You will likely be doing the sign of the cross a few times during your visit if you choose to participate. Also, most Churches will have a bowl or fountain with holy water in it near the entrance of the sanctuary and it is tradition to dip a finger in it and do the sign of the cross.

The only part of the mass that could be tricky and potentially cause an issue if you are not Catholic is the Eucharist. Because Catholics believe that the bread and wine become the true body and blood of Christ during the mass, it is asked that if you are not a confirmed Catholic that you do not participate in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the pinnacle of the mass and of paramount importance to Catholics and it would be offensive if a non-Catholic took part in the Eucharist. This is not meant to be non-inclusive just that we want to be sure that those who take part in the most holy experience in the Mass believe what we believe and understands the importance of it.

Instead, your very welcome to go up and be blessed and that is done by crossing your arms across your chest. This identifies to the priest or Eucharistisc minister that you are only seeking a blessing.

Also, if at all possible ask to go with a Catholic friend if you have any as they can help walk you through the mass and help you feel more comfortable.


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