10 Things You Might Be Doing Wrong at Mass

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[Edit – July 27: Mea culpa!  Fr. Z. has rightly noted that I failed to declare that I was speaking only about the Ordinary Form of the Mass.  I imagine anyone familiar with the Extraordinary Form recognized my undeclared specificity rather quickly.  Regardless, no disrespect intended; many of us at EpicPew are fond of the EF.  Pax.] [Round 2 is up now.]

Maybe it’s because we’ve just adopted these habits, maybe we’re just lazy…let’s take a bit of a tongue-in-cheek look at some common practices that may need correction during the Holy Mass. Here are 10 things you might be doing wrong at mass.

 

1. Changing posture early

Seriously, what's the deal? Why can't we just wait 'til we actually finish the Sanctus before kneeling? Do you love kneeling that much? Do you think being the first person to sit will get you a prize? "Hey Bill, what's that medal for?" "Well, I sat the fastest after the collect at a mass back in '85" Yeah, not gonna happen. Let's make a point to do things together next time. Cool? Cool. [image from aboutcatholics.com]

Seriously, what’s the deal? Why can’t we just wait ’til we actually finish the Sanctus before kneeling? Do you love kneeling that much? Do you think being the first person to sit will get you a prize? “Hey Bill, what’s that medal for?”  “Well, I sat the fastest after the collect at a mass back in ’85”  Yeah, not gonna happen.  Let’s make a point to do things together next time. Cool? Cool.

 

2. Leaving before the Mass is over

AKA the "Judas Shuffle". I'm sorry, did you think Mass was over as soon as you received the Eucharist? It's as though some people think the proper response when receiving Holy Communion isn't "Amen", but "Goodbye". We should observe proper decorum for Mass: depart after the celebrant. [image from corbisimages.com]
AKA the “Judas Shuffle”.  I’m sorry, did you think Mass was over as soon as you received the Eucharist? It’s as though some people think the proper response when receiving Holy Communion isn’t “Amen”, but “Goodbye”. We should observe proper decorum for Mass: depart after the celebrant.

 

3. Genuflecting toward the altar

I see this constantly! Genuflecting is the most pronounced gesture we employ at Mass, so it is reserved for the highest good — the Eucharist Himself. Where's the Eucharist? In the Tabernacle. Some might be in this habit because the tabernacle is often directly behind the altar. Before getting in your pew, if and only IF the Tabernacle is visible, genuflect toward it. If it's not in view, bow toward the altar. Now you know. And this applies outside of Mass too. [image from ourladyoflourdesmagnautah.com]
I see this constantly! Genuflecting is the most pronounced gesture we employ at Mass, so it is reserved for the highest good — the Eucharist Himself. Where’s the Eucharist? In the Tabernacle. Some might be in this habit because the tabernacle is often directly behind the altar.  Before getting in your pew, if and only IF the Tabernacle is visible, genuflect toward it. If it’s not in view, bow toward the altar. Now you know. And this applies outside of Mass too.

 

Speaking of bowing…

4. Nodding your head instead of a proper bow

Wherever bowing is called for in the Mass (when the congregation is incensed by the thurifer, in the middle of the Creed, etc.) it is always a "profound bow", which just means that you bow from the waist. The only time that we are told to bow our head only is "when the three Divine Persons are named together, and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated". [image from frtim.wordpress.com]
Wherever bowing is called for in the Mass (when the congregation is incensed by the thurifer, in the middle of the Creed, etc.) it is always a “profound bow”, which just means that you bow from the waist. The only time that we are told to bow our head only is “when the three Divine Persons are named together, and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated”.

 

5. Standing in the Orans position during the Our Father

No. Just no. You'll see priests assume the Orans position (hands extended to the side) a few times; it is a posture that indicates that he is praying on our behalf, but not in the way that I pray for you. He's praying on our behalf in persona Christi capitas. This is why the rubrics don't allow for deacons to adopt the Orans posture, and it's the main reason we shouldn't either. [image from canonlaw.info]
No. Just no. You’ll see priests assume the Orans position (hands extended to the side) a few times; it is a posture that indicates that he is praying on our behalf, but not in the way that I pray for you. He’s praying on our behalf in persona Christi capitas. This is why the rubrics don’t allow for deacons to adopt the Orans posture, and it’s the main reason we shouldn’t either.

 

6. Walking around at the Sign of Peace

What is this, social hour? Not only is this obnoxious (my opinion), but it's illicit. The rubrics tell us that it is "appropriate that each person offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner". We all love you, but stay where you are. [image from practicingcatholic.com]
What is this, social hour? Not only is this obnoxious (my opinion), but it’s illicit. The rubrics tell us that it is “appropriate that each person offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner”.  We all love you, but stay where you are.

 

7. Not saying “Amen” before receiving Communion

I can hardly believe this needs to be said, but it does. When the priest, deacon, or EMHC elevates the host or chalice and says, "The Body/Blood of Christ", you had better not be silent. It is imperative that those who receive can affirm belief in the Real Presence, so do what the Church asks. Say "Amen". Amen? Amen! [image from thecatholicthing.com]
I can hardly believe this needs to be said, but it does. When the priest, deacon, or EMHC elevates the host or chalice and says, “The Body/Blood of Christ”, you had better not be silent. It is imperative that those who receive can affirm belief in the Real Presence, so do what the Church asks. Say “Amen”. Amen? Amen!

 

8. Not singing

Admittedly, this might not be crucial, but neither the congregation nor the choir is singing for your amusement. Hymns, which are representative of the antiphons, are a response of the faithful as part of the Mass; making them a part of the prescribed "full, conscious, and active" participation in the Mass. Don't fall prey to individualistic tendencies. We worship together, and that means singing together. Sacrosanctum Concilium on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council says, "Religious singing by the people is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out..." (118) RING. OUT. Skill is not a prerequisite. Just, please, sing to the Lord.
Admittedly, this might not be crucial, but neither the congregation nor the choir is singing for your amusement. Hymns, which are representative of the antiphons, are a response of the faithful as part of the Mass; making them a part of the prescribed “full, conscious, and active” participation in the Mass. Don’t fall prey to individualistic tendencies. We worship together, and that means singing together. Sacrosanctum Concilium on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council says,

“Religious singing by the people is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out…” (118)

RING. OUT. Skill is not a prerequisite. Just, please, sing to the Lord.

 

9. Not saying the responses

Now, this one is more important than carrying a tune. How does somebody think that active participation in the liturgy is going to be accomplished without actively participating in the liturgy. Yes, it is primarily about interior disposition, but habitually refraining from the responses is a pretty solid sign of a poor disposition. Again, we worship together.
Now, this one is more important than carrying a tune. How does somebody think that active participation in the liturgy is going to be accomplished without actively participating in the liturgy. Yes, it is primarily about interior disposition, but habitually refraining from the responses is a pretty solid sign of a poor disposition. Again, we worship together.

 

10. Arriving late

I know what the problem is, somebody told you that if you arrived by X and left after X, then you "officially" went to Mass and fulfilled your obligation. Sed contra, my friend! There are no such limits. Our obligation is to attend a Sunday Mass, and that Mass begins and ends with the introductory rites and the concluding rites. If you happen to be late because of circumstances beyond your control, if you made an honest effort to be there on time, but you walked in at the Psalm, so be it; you're fine. But if you had to catch the last 7 minutes of a game, and that's why you're late, then stop reading this and re-prioritize. (Confession might even be required.)
I know what the problem is, somebody told you that if you arrived by X and left after X, then you “officially” went to Mass and fulfilled your obligation. Sed contra, my friend! There are no such limits. Our obligation is to attend a Sunday Mass, and that Mass begins and ends with the introductory rites and the concluding rites. If you happen to be late because of circumstances beyond your control, if you made an honest effort to be there on time, but you walked in at the Psalm, so be it; you’re fine. But if you had to catch the last 7 minutes of a game, and that’s why you’re late, then stop reading this and re-prioritize. (Confession might even be required.)

We’ll be looking at more of these liturgical no-no’s in future posts. Be sure to check out: 10 More Things You Might Be Doing Wrong at Mass. The rubrics for the mass can be found in the General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM).  Check it out.

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