10 Things You Might Be Doing Wrong at Mass

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  • “To promote the proper identity (of various roles) in this area, those abuses which are contrary to the provisions of canon 907 are to be eradicated. In eucharistic celebrations deacons and non-ordained members of the faithful may not pronounce prayers — e.g. especially the eucharistic prayer, with its concluding doxology — or any other parts of the liturgy reserved to the celebrant priest. Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant.”

    • Regarding what is and is not permissible at Mass, the above is very telling, especially how the faithful may not use gestures or actions which are proper to the priest celebrant.

      Specific to the matter of the Orans posture and the its being exclusive to the priest, from a priest friend:

      You will only find it in commentaries and dubia to the CDWDS because that falls under liturgical law — liturgical by nature is *prescriptive* — which means everything is forbidden except what is not explicitly stated. Hence the rubrical phrase “do the red; say the black.”
      So in reference to the orans position and liturgical law, the correct question to ask is “Where does it say that a deacon can assume the orans position?” If it doesn’t mention it is not permitted.

      • ShanOD

        So tell me, why does the majority of a congregation make the Sign of the Cross on forehead, lips, and heart before the Gospel is proclaimed?

        • From the GIRM:

          134. At the ambo, the Priest opens the book and, with hands joined, says, The Lord be with you, to which the people reply, And with your spirit. Then he says, A reading from the holy Gospel, making the Sign of the Cross with his thumb on the book and on his forehead, mouth, and breast, which everyone else does as well….

          It should be done by all, not simply by the majority.

          • ShanOD

            It’s a copycat move, pure and simple.

          • It’s required by the GIRM, how is that a copycat move?

          • Kurt 20008

            It is an organic development. It was a priestly gesture that was copied by the lay faithful and now has been incorporated into the formal rubrics.

          • But in the rubrics it is specifically not a copycat gesture, it is different between the laity and the priest.

          • Kurt 20008

            As I said, the sign of the cross at the Gospel has its development in the laity copying the priest.

            Others are in different situations, but it is hard for me to see the orans as a strictly priestly gesture while at Mass as I am facing an image of the Blessed Mother in the orans position. Are you suggesting such an image of her should be removed?

        • Romulus

          It’s the outward expression of a prayer that the Gospel be in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.

  • Harriet Villalpando

    There two others for for this list. ..11.Do not race to see who can finish the responses first! Ok, you’ve been coming to church forever and know the prayers. We are to pray as one body and we should not draw attention to ourselves. 12. Do not say the priest’s part. We have our part and he has his!

    • Very true, Harriet. There are actually two more lists of ten completed that will be published in the coming weeks.

      • Harriet Villalpando

        Good. I prepare adults for the sacraments and these lists will be helpful. Thanks

  • Gman

    This is exactly why I prefer to go to the extraordinary form of the Mass (latin Mass), whenever possible.

  • A.J. Boyd

    Well intentioned, but unfortunately a few of these are wrong as well. And i can think of to be added.

    Re: 3 – During the liturgy, the focus is always on the altar, never on the tabernacle. If it is properly located in an adjacent chapel, this is less a problem. If it is placed behind the altar, you reverence both at the same time; not a problem. But the focus is the altar, the center of the Eucharist, while it is happened, regardless of if there is a tabernacle – after all, it should be empty before the liturgy begins anyway (ideally).

    Re: 5 – The only instruction for posture in the liturgical Our Father is standing. The orans is not forbidden, deal with it. It is, in fact, recommended, by liturgists as the most ancient form.

    Addendum – kneeling too much. Ancient canons forbid kneeling during Easter Season and on Sundays, in the liturgy. Even if the current GIRM allows it in certain locales, it should be remembered that there is nowhere in the universal (Latin) version that requires kneeling, and often the GIRM is adapted nationally to suggest much less kneeling than some Americans are used to. i.e., during the communion procession is not a time for kneeling. Kneeling is for penance, standing for prayer, sitting for teaching/listening.

    Do as the Romans do – in Rome. Elsewhere do as they do there. That is, learn the local liturgical law and custom and follow it, even if different than your home parish/diocese/national bishops conference.

    • Uncle Miltie

      Re: Re: 3 – Why should the tabernacle be empty before the start of Mass? If the tabernacle should be empty, why bother with the red sanctuary candle?
      Re: Re: 5 – The author covered this in the comment section above. Liturgical law is prescriptive – it tells us what to do. Do the red; say the black. Please name a liturgist that suggests this.
      Re: Addendum – If kneeling is for penance, why do we kneel in adoration?

      • A.J. Boyd

        Re: 3 – the Triduum is the model for every Sunday liturgy, yes? The tabernacle is always empty before Holy Thursday; it should be empty at least before the first Sunday Eucharist celebrated – so that you consecrate what you need for the entire assembly, and only enough extra for the sick and homebound. Practically, say with multiple parish masses on a weekend, it requires estimating, but the idea is that you should never be in the situation where you rely on the tabernacle to supply communion during a liturgy, except in extreme circumstances, nor should there be very much reserved. The lamp is there to indicate whether or not there is anything in the tabernacle – so you don’t walk in and geneuflect to an empty one, for example.

      • A.J. Boyd

        Re: 5 – The GIRM only commends standing during the Lord’s Prayer, as it does for the entire Eucharistic Prayer and Communion Rite (if not adapted locally). It says nothing about what to do with one’s hands. It prescribes nothing – not holding hands, not orans, not keeping them folded, not putting them in your pockets, simply nothing.
        Re: kneeling. Good question. I assume, like pews and pressing one’s palms together with fingers pointed upward as a sign of piety, it is an import from Protestantism. Though, penance and supplication are closely related, so it could be an abbreviated form of prostration, as well.

  • Tim Smith

    #5 makes me especially crazy! I swear, it looks like some in the congregation are doing a sort of weird semaphore during the mass. Or cheerleading, even.
    There’s the “hold your hands like the priest does” motion during the “Our Father”. (No.)
    Many have decided that the entire congregation should hold hands during the “Our Father”. (Again, no)
    And don’t forget to raise your hands higher when you say, “For the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory are Yours, now and forever” part! (Stop it.)
    And make sure that you move your hands forward in a pushing motion whenever you say, “And with your spirit”, because it looks like you’re pushing some peace back at the priest. Which is nice. (Stop this, too!)
    Soon enough they’ll be doing those awesome “YMCA” motions in the pew.
    Enough already, you cheerleaders. Just stop it with the hand motions and waving and hand holding. You’re not at mass to perform synchronized dance moves. Stop it.
    And if I may, besides the things that are mentioned in the article, I am pretty sure that you’re supposed to put your rosary away and concentrate on the mass once it starts. I see this offense A LOT.
    There, I feel better. So it’s agreed, then? No more arm waving, hand holding, and rosaries during mass? Thank you. See you on Sunday.

    • Alice Herrick-Davis

      LOL! How about the “Pius tilt of the head” that suddenly possesses them at any given time? Or the pitiful ever-so-gentle tap of the breast when it is supposed to be hard enough to make an audible sound? They copy the Priest’s “symbolic” strike because he is in the place of Christ, and Christ doesn’t need to be guilty or sorry… YOU do, make it so. Back in the day, when it was time for striking the breast, yeah.. they had a contest 🙂 the Monasteries trembled in thunder!

      • Now I learned something. I thought I was just doing that because I’m exceedingly afflicted with Catholic Guilt. I’m the ONLY one in my parish who does breast beating loud enough to be audible.

        • Alice Herrick-Davis

          You did it for the right reason – but you just didn’t know that it is in the old Canon Law that it HAD to be audible “to combat false piety.” (para)
          Yet we see the Priest do it open handed and gentle, and we think “oh, so I do it that way” No. The PRIEST does it that way, because he is representing Christ. We are not. It would be nice to hear that thunder again 🙂

  • Aymee Peters

    Or find a Latin Mass nearby and start going there where none of these things ever happen and God is worshipped in the reverent manner He deserves.

    • Uniangulo

      Please remember that reverence is not the sole province of the Latin Mass. Also please note that the Latin Mass has known its share of distractions and aberrations over the years.

      • RPlavo .

        Maybe people go to the Latin Mass for a “show”!

    • Tim Grimes

      Sacrosanctum Concilium says that the liturgy is for the sanctification of the people and the worship of God. Those behind the reform of the celebration of the most sacred liturgy, wanted a liturgy that the people could be more sanctified by. The TLM or the Mass of Pius X, was a very beautiful mass and worshiped God very well, but the Council Fathers felt that it didn’t involve enough participation of the faithful, and it was just Father up there praying the Mass while others waited to go receive the Eucharist. I’m exaggerating a-little bit, but the Mass of John XXIII (which is poorly celebrated in most Churches) tries to focus on the full active conscious participation of the faithful. There are many things people do wrong in today’s liturgy that I don’t have to time to get into.

      • Romulus

        The Mass isn’t a talent show.

        The beginning of participation in the Mass is through being personally conformed to Christ, through baptism and being in the state of grace. Worthy reception of Holy Communion is the most profound and perfect aspect of participation. (Sacrament. Car. 52-53). Sacred silence must not be neglected, seeing that liturgical participation is not merely formal and external. According to Vatican II, engagement of heart and mind in the interior person is what makes liturgical participation authentic and protects us from being mere silent spectators (SC 48). Participation is increased through catechesis since one needs to first understand what is happening in order to pray the Mass (SC 21). As Blessed John Paul II said, “Active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it.” (ad limina address to the Bishops of the United States On Active Participation in the Liturgy, 1998)

        • Tim Grimes

          I don’t disagree I’m just saying that you can find plenty of reverence in the Catholic Mass of Paul VI. I fear to many Catholics instead of trying to demand good liturgy from priests they abandon their parish and go to a place across town that has the TLM. This is not what the Church envisions, part of being a Catholic is supporting the life of the parish you worship in. A parish is more than just a place to go to Mass.

          I’m not turning this into an argument.

          • Emily

            Yes! Thank you for this comment.

      • joshua

        The mass of John XXIII is the Extraordinary Form. The Ordinary Form mass was the work of Paul VI…

        And if your impression of the EF mass is really that low (and, i should mention, uninformed), maybe you should educate yourself.

        And, btw, it was the Extraordinary Form mass that was celebrated by the Vatican II council fathers…

        • Tim Grimes

          The EF mass is beautiful, I’ve been to a couple of them, they are very reverent, they have a deep sense of the sacred, etc. What I believe the council fathers wanted to change was the active conscious participation of the faithful. The Mass is not just a sacrifice of the priest for the people, it is also a sacrifice of the people with Chirst and the Priest. How do people enter into the sacrifice when the priest is saying everything silently?

          Look I don’t want to limit the practice of the EF at all, neither does the Vatican or the previous popes, but I realize that the Church has given us the Mass of Paul VI for a reason. Again not going to stop people from going to Mass in the EF, but I wish more people would spend more energy and effort to demand a beautiful OF liturgy. Its very possible, I have been to plenty myself. I sometimes think people assume older is beautiful, but I believe we can make the OF just as if not more beautiful than the EF, but unfortunately many Church’s Mass are not beautiful and are more “practical” and “inclusive”

          Note: Sacrosanctum Concilium didn’t initiate a new mass it gave guidelines on how to reform the celebration of the sacraments. It wasn’t till a few years later that Paul VI promulgated the new rites after Vatican II. The Council Fathers celebrated the Ordinary Form (now the Extraordinary form) because that is what was ordinary. Basically they celebrated the Mass of Pius V because that was the standard Mass celebrated in the Latin Rite. If they celebrated some other Mass, they would be doing something illicit.

          The liturgy of the Church to me is the most beautiful thing on earth, and I’m talking about the OF. It kills me when I see poorly done liturgy. But I don’t want to go back to the EF, I want our parishes celebrating beautiful liturgies of Paul VI, as the Church desires.

    • Emily

      Literally, for the love of God can we stop this division re the mass! I am always stunned by the comments people make regarding the OF vs the EF. We are all Catholics. If you prefer worshipping at a Latin mass- beautiful. Please worship without making ugly comments and assumptions about your fellow catholics who do not attend the Latin Mass.

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  • Lisa

    You forgot a really, really important one:
    #2: Feeding your kids during Mass.
    Hello? Has anyone ever heard of the 1 hour Eucharistic fast before receiving Communion? If you have a nursing infant, by all means, feed him. But once they’re old enough to learn to wait without crying, you should not be setting the wrong example by feeding them during Mass. Anyone old enough to understand the word “no” can wait one measly hour.

    Also, while I agree wholeheartedly with some of your pet peeves above, I’m sorry to have to tell you that some of them are based on a complete ignorance of how things were done for thousands of years before this Mass began being used.

    First and foremost: when the priest distributed communion, he wasn’t asking for your assent; he said “may the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting.” You were not to respond, only receive. So no, the response “Amen” was not always required.

    Second and only slightly less important: the congregation always knelt as soon as the Sanctus began.

    Lastly, in the older Mass, it was understood that the server was there to make the proper responses on your behalf, so that you could focus your attention on Christ’s true presence. When you fall in love with someone and you see them, do you always say the right things at the right time? Often, no.

    Point: If you are giving your full attention to the fact that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, and praying with all your heart to be worthy of receiving him, sometimes those responses fall by the wayside. THIS IS WHY THERE HAVE NEVER BEEN RUBRICS FOR THE CONGREGATION: ONLY SUGGESTIONS AND CUSTOMS. Seriously, if St. Teresa was in the middle of an ecstasy from the joy of receiving her Savior, would you get mad if she didn’t mouth every response too???

    All that being said, I must second some of the other responses here: anyone who agrees with a lot of your pet peeves above should really give the Latin Mass a shot. You might find what you’ve been missing for years.

    And if that idea sounds too scary, give this book Treasure and Tradition a try, it’s helped lots of people:

    • Lisa, you make a number of good points, and I appreciate them.

      The only thing that I want to address though is that the Church does not prescribe to the idea that we ought to do things precisely as they were done in the ancient past. So, if the Church instructs us to do something in the liturgy, even though it wasn’t done in the ancient liturgy, we are obliged to do it. We cannot follow ancient rubrics simply because they are ancient. We must do as the Church instructs today.

      • Lisa

        If you think the Church does not subscribe to the idea that we ought to do things at least somewhat precisely as they were done in the ancient past, then why are we still having Mass at all? And why would you be against the innovations of the layperson using the orans, and of wandering around during the sign of peace? Many of the practices we have in the Mass are even more ancient than Christ himself. And it could be reasonably said that a large focus of the Council of Trent, in order to combat the fact that Protestant belief was creeping into the Mass in places, was to very carefully study what was done in the “ancient past” and carefully reconstruct it.

        And while on the one hand, I agree with Donna’s “church police” comment, at the same time, we have collectively forgotten that Mass is NOT first and foremost about Community, or about group therapy, but about WORSHIP and SACRIFICE. If we’re not willing to leave our preconceived notions at the door and worship God in the way He asks us to worship him, then we’re neglecting the most important reason why we come in the first place. Neither should we be searching for the mote in another’s eye with the beam in our own, nor should we think that if we refuse to accept what the Church teaches, that we should be free to do as we please during Mass.

        To circle back to my original point, though: I didn’t point out the differences between the Masses in order to say that ancient is better (and though these are ancient practices, remember that they were current until the early 1970’s!) but in order to say that you may be getting annoyed at someone who is accustomed to attending the Extraordinary Form and is therefore unsure how best to adapt to the Ordinary Form. Shall we criticize them for kneeling at the beginning of the Sanctus, as they are accustomed to doing? As though more kneeling could possibly be bad? Such accusations are not conducive to greater devotion. I would recommend thinking carefully about the next lists you have mentioned, and consider: will this criticism lead to greater devotion (or at least understanding of the reasons why we do what we do), or is it just picky details? Because if you are not leading us toward greater piety, then you really are just being the “church police.”

        And please remember, this is coming from someone who largely agrees with many of your comments…

    • From the Roman Missal:

      The act of Communion, therefore, is also an act of faith. For when the minister says, “The Body of Christ” or “The Blood of Christ,” the communicant’s “Amen” is a profession in the presence of the saving Christ, body and blood, soul and divinity, who now gives life to the believer.

      Not always required, but required today.

      • Adam Nichols

        Required in the Ordinary Form. Not required in the Extraordinary Form. Today.

        • Right, and I’ve tried to make clear the scope of this discussion.

    • PatriciaMaria O’Connor

      The Christian Church has only been around for 2000 years, so none of the things you mention were done for thousands of years before this Mass began to be used…

  • Johan Peter Oliveire

    A lot of these points could be understood in the context of the Extraordinary Form:
    —The Sanctus is sung during the Eucharistic Prayer, in the time up to the words of Institution, so people would kneel during the Sanctus.
    —The tabernacle is (generally) on the altar – I don’t mean the mensa – and it doesn’t help that the Priest’s constantly genuflecting to it.
    —What is in the Ordinary Form the Priest’s private prayer after “Ecce Agnus Dei” is a reduction of what was in the Extraordinary Form THE prayer for receiving Communion, which the Priest alone said – Amen and all.
    —If people are long accustomed not to singing the antiphons because of their language (which is fine if the Priest does his job and the people listen, but that’s another story), of course it’d take more than just changing the language to get people to sing.
    —See the job and listening thing for the responses; at least with the antiphons people had a choice not to sing, so even more than just changing the language is in order.

    Culture is a strange thing; we, more than anyone else, should know, because culture comes from cult. Change the way you pray and, yes, you’ll change everything else, but not in the way you want. That’s because the Lord of history is in charge, so telling Him “not my will, but Yours be done” is telling if we in fact do not DO His will. The Consilium should have known that.

  • Could this have been solved just as easily by telling people, “Your poor choreography at Mass shames your mother?”

  • MTM

    Correction on #4: “When receiving Holy Communion, the communicant bows his or her head before the Sacrament as a gesture of reverence and receives the Body of the Lord from the minister.” (GIRM 160)

    Therefore, there is more than one occasion for a non-profound bow. 🙂

    • I would argue that what is meant there is a profound bow. And my reason for thinking that is rather straight-forward. It is clear elsewhere in the GIRM that the only time a simple head nod is required is at the mention of the Trinity, Mary, etc. Everywhere else, even before being incensed, we are instructed to give a profound bow. Given these two kinds of bows, and given that virtually every bow is supposed to be from the waist, and given that it is acceptable even to genuflect before receiving (Rome has expressly forbade that instructions against this be given), how can we possibly think that the most minimal sign is acceptable?

      A head bow isn’t good enough during the Creed, but it’s good enough at Communion? I don’t think that was the intended message. But I admit that the words are as you have quoted. I could be wrong.

      • MTM

        I’m all for genuflecting before receiving. The text of the GIRM is rather clearly stated, however, even if the principle doesn’t make apparent sense. In any case, I’d advise against saying everyone ought to do a profound bow if not genuflecting or receiving kneeling. Unless the GIRM’s text gets changed, of course.

        On #8, I appreciate good congregational singing when the music selection is at least OK. However, I have difficulty “ringing out” when they’re doing Marty Haugen or David Haas songs. Their music is far too lousy to be considered “classic” and too old to be considered contemporary, and yet it’s played all the time at every parish in my area. Haas and Haugen aren’t even Catholic. Haas is Unitarian. That kind of 70s and 80s junk is a huge turnoff to millennials like me…it says, “look at me, I’m a parish that’s stuck in the 70s.”

        Besides, now that I look into it, those songs (e.g. during Communion time) is inappropriate according to the 2011 GIRM because it isn’t chant. “87. In the Dioceses of the United States of America, there are four options for singing at Communion: (1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another musical setting; (2) the antiphon with Psalm from the Graduale Simplex of the liturgical time; (3) a chant from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) some other suitable liturgical chant (cf. no. 86) approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.”

        So, as things stand, I might even argue that if I sang those songs, my active participation in the holy sacrifice of the Mass would decrease because the songs are hardly appropriate to begin with.

        • I admit I ought to have been more specific, but that does happen when seeking a balance between clarity and brevity. There is a substantive difference between not singing the Gloria or the Agnus Dei and not singing a hymn during the reception of Communion. I wish that were so obvious as not to need saying. Alas…

          • Adam Nichols

            You’re doing all you can with ambiguous rubrics. It makes no sense to give a nod of the head before the reception of Communion UNLESS you presume that Communion is received kneeling and on the tongue (which is the norm outside of the USA). If one is kneeling, the gesture of reverence immediately before becomes somewhat irrelevant.

      • Erin Roe

        A profound bow is a bow of the body, that is, a bow at the waist. Bowing of the head is different than a profound bow. I believe your section on bowing is inaccurate.

  • johnnysc

    I attend both forms (OF & EF) and you just don’t see numbers 2 & 10 happening at the EF. It is very noticeable at the OF. Especially the leaving early issue. I wonder if saying the Prayers after Low Mass would help that in the OF.

  • Juana Oner

    On the kneeling early at the Sanctus, I’m guilty of this! I don’t think it’s that we “love kneeling that much” but for me, since I attend the Extraordinary Form too and you kneel during the Sanctus in the EF, and also kneeling during the Sanctus is historically the custom with the standing being the newer thing as far as I know, I have an inner feeling that I should already be kneeling, so I guess I kind of compensate by kneeling before the end of the Sanctus! Other people (Polish parish) where I often go to the Ordinary Form kneel during the whole Sanctus. None of us are upset by any of this as far as I know.
    I would add to the list,
    Don’t say the priest’s parts, and especially not the consecration! A few people hear and there recite the consecration along with the priest, even though it’s low, I can hear it, this is a no-no. I think it’s from devotion that some people do this kind of under their breath, but only the priest is to speak those words!
    BE SILENT before and after Mass. No one can pray before or after Mass in most parishes because people talk. This is selfish and rude. Church is for prayer. If you have to talk, take it outside. (I’m not talking about correcting children in a whisper, which we all know is sometimes necessary.) This is actually a sin against charity, the way people destroy the silence in the church so no one can pray. Nor can you be praying, or thanking the Lord for your Communion as you should after Mass, when you are talking talking talking. This tortures people who actually want to commune with the Lord.

    • St Donatus

      The last one about being Silence before and after Mass, REALLY gets under my skin. You might call it righteous indignation, but I am totally unable to connect with God when others are talking. All I hear is ‘…my gall bladder…is dating so and so…broke her hip…. It is my responsibility to praise God and these folks are stopping me from doing my duty. I am sorry but I take this VERY seriously. As others have said, this is one of the reasons I go to the EF Mass, at least I can do what I went to Mass to do, and that is connect with God. After Mass I make it a point to visit with folks I haven’t seen at Mass before, but if not, I try to focus on those who are alone, then my dear friends in the parish, but AFTER Mass.

  • echarles1

    I don’t think you should get too worked up about the orans posture. First, it is a respectful posture for prayer. Second, if you read the history of its use just in the last 60 years and if you read the writings of the US Bishops on it you will see that it is not at all clear where the bishops want to go with it. Finally, if the only direction in the GIRM is to stand during the Our Father then a non-disruptive orans would seem to be acceptable.

  • DebraBrunsberg

    I guess I have not noticed who does what when I am at Mass. I am in the front pew and as always while in prayer, my eyes are closed and my head is down. I look at the priest during the homily and when the Eucharist is held up. I will give a person or two the peace and then I am back to facing the altar. I am not there to police the rest of the congregation. I know the Mass and I know I am in the presence of The Lord so my every thought is of Him. So, if anyone spends more time observing their neighbors than they do praying, they might want to think about that. That goes for whichever type of Mass you attend. Don’t hold yourself up as something special and holy because you are at a Latin Mass. It is still all about Jesus, not us.

    • All true, Debra.

      However, I wouldn’t assume those praising the Latin Mass are meaning to exalt themselves. They all seem to be saying that abuses are less common at the EF Masses, and that may be true.

    • iamlucky13

      That’s good, but if nobody looks up from time to time and gives a bit of advice to their fellow Catholics on how to best reflect the intended meaning of the liturgy, the others miss out. Also, I try very hard to do what you do and not pay attention to those around me, but some of it is not only contrary to the rubrics, but extremely distracting. Coming to Mass late is an obvious distraction. More obviously, at one parish I sometimes attend, they don’t merely walk around during the sign of peace, socialize, and distract from Who is on the altar and Who’s sign of peace we should be contemplatively passing along to each other, but they continue to do so after the sign of peace, and throughout the Agnus Dei.

      Also, I’ve got to add, another big distraction for me is kneeler slamming – as the Consecration closes and the priest elevates our Lord and chants the doxology praising God for His scarcely believable presence, we all echo with our “amen,” and then mark the profundity of what just happened by standing up and slamming the kneeler up against the pew with a cacophony of bangs that echo up and down the nave.

      Unsurprisingly, the General Instruction for the Roman Missal says nothing about the appropriate volume for raising your kneeler, but I’m sure I would not be the only one greatly helped by everyone taking a little care to raise the kneeler softly. Try as a I might, it always breaks my concentration.

      • lucky, I think you may have actually gotten the point of the post! Thank God that some people did.

    • MDB

      Of course not everyone can sit in the front pew. And when the person next to you grabs your hand during the Our Father it is pretty hard not to notice. And when your children ask you why some people pray with their arms raised, hold hands during the Our Father, walk around during the sigh of peace, stand during the Consecration and after Communion, etc. etc. a meaningful discussion about what is proper is required. Finally, don’t assume that people who attend Latin Mass think that they are something special and holy. Maybe they go to Latin Mass because they know that they aren’t. I’m sure that people that sit in the front pew don’t hold themselves up as something special and holy just because they took the best seat in the house….

  • charlesrwilliams

    Orans is the traditional posture for private prayer. In the mass the priest leads the community in public prayer. Orans is out of place except for the priest. If the deacon should not do it, and he shouldn’t, the people should certainly not. The traditional posture of prayer is to stand before an icon or a crucifix, facing east with the hands raised in the orans position. Kneeling or prostration expresses penitence. In western Christianity kneeling also expresses adoration and so has a place in the mass and in eucharistic adoration. The handholding orans with the elevation is particularly offensive because 1) people feel pressured to join in and 2) it conflicts with the meaning of the sign of peace. Yes, people should be encouraged to pray in the traditional way – in their private prayers.

  • Donna

    This is “church police” stuff. It’s unwelcoming and judgmental; and a reason many Catholics have left the church. I was late a few weeks ago because a lost dog was in my driveway and I brought it home. I didn’t think twice about skipping Mass, because my parish is welcoming and no one is policing, but instead ushering people in no matter when they arrive. How do we know that perhaps the person who doesn’t bow in the proper direction is in chronic pain and can only manage what he/she is able to manage? Or how do we know that the person who is “not singing” may be depressed and it took great personal strength to even come to church? And maybe, just maybe, that person who walked around and gave the sign of peace touched the hand of a lonely person who hasn’t been touched since last week when that kind person walked around? I have known people who decided to come to church who were really struggling with depression only to be met by the “church police” in their parish, and they never came back to any Catholic Church again. Please remember: All Are Welcome.

    • John Flaherty

      For all that I understand the points you raise, Donna, I cannot agree with your conclusions. We have rubrics for a reason, to help us come closer to Christ. That “All Are Welcome” business has been the battle cry used to summarily dismiss most need people might have to address the problems that inevitably arise in life.
      If you think this unwelcoming and judgemental, I find your expectations condescending. Many people likely HAVE been pushed away by difficult rules. It happened in Christ’s day too. On the other hand, nobody wants a Church where nothing really matters. I think just as many people have walked away from the Church because they felt we didn’t care about anything.

      • Donna

        With all respect, I will agree to disagree with you.

    • iamlucky13

      ” I was late a few weeks ago because a lost dog was in my driveway and I brought it home. I didn’t think twice about skipping Mass, because my parish is welcoming and no one is policing, but instead ushering people in no matter when they arrive.”

      I’ve never been to a parish that is any different. The closest thing I’ve seen to a “church police” is an occasional usher who quietly, without drawing unnecessary attention to the individual, asks somebody to turn off their cell phone. I’ve never seen anyone do anything other than politely usher in a latecomer.

      Of those latecomers, those who had a good reason to be late know who they are and why they were late. Those who didn’t also know who they are and why they are late. Those who are late every single Mass and/or leave early, also know who they are, and really are the folks who most need to think about why they are going to Mass and how they can actually make it worth their time, instead of something they’re ready to race away from at the earliest moment they think won’t be conspicuous.

  • Duane Blake

    This sickens me. Everything that you are saying is 100% accurate according the the GIRM. However, I believe there was once an individual, and still is here today, that placed certain individuals who kept challenging him with the law and how things are supposed to be done. A priest once said at a retreat, “don’t throw wood on someone else’s fire” You do not know what someone is going through that day. You have no clue. Maybe the single mom who struggled to bring their 4 kids to mass had one kids’ have a diaper that was leaking everywhere while another spilled the juice cup out inside of the car before entering mass. Maybe the persons that didn’t say Amen before receiving Communion, was think about their grandfather that had just past away the day before. But, because of a human emotion, they are told they are disrespectful.
    And not fully bowing at the waist or genuflecting towards the altar, “oh no” If your bow is more “profound” than mine, you’ll have a better throne when we get to Heaven.
    I remember Jesus knocking away the woman at the well, or the blind man that he cured with clay, or the man to his right on the cross for not giving him a “profound bow”
    Those people and several others like him gave it their best. They gave it their all! But, instead of seeing the good that people are trying to do through their human frailties. We call them lazy. We tell them “I know what the problem is” and judge them because they don’t participate in mass like you.
    There has been too many people who have felt unwelcome in the Catholic Church because of the contents of articles like this.
    If you are so distracted by all of these things happening during mass, maybe take the time to pray for these people in what ever it is that they are struggling, instead of making a list for your blog. Or perhaps focus on the reason why you are there. The Eucharist.
    The perfect mass…. is one where our Savior comes to us body, blood, soul and divinity. Because, he, along with our Blessed Mother, is the only one amongst us who is perfect.

  • John Flaherty

    Two points:
    1. Saying “Amen” when receiving communion: In the Extraordinary Form, the priest provides both his and your statements in Latin. One need merely receive communion..and not contradict him!
    2. “RING. OUT. Skill is not a prerequisite. Just, please, sing to the Lord.”
    I will not tolerate anyone bullying me into singing near rubbish with the rest of the community. If I’m going to sing to the Lord, my fellow congregants need to have at least minimal training to make it sound like a community that cares about Christ, not merely a ragtag bunch gathered ’round a campfire. I’m not there to make a (not so) joyful noise; I’m there to genuinely sing to the glory of His name. If the music selected doesn’t reflect that idea, I’ll simply stand quietly.

    • grateful1

      I so agree with you about having to sing “near rubbish.” The poor quality of so much of Catholic “music” since the 70s is a travesty. (And in my experience it’s the first thing Protestants point out about our liturgy. Sad to say, but they’re often more knowledgeable about our rich hymn tradition than we are.)

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  • So many people have missed the point of this article. “Church policing”? No. Judging others? No!

    One of the reasons I wrote this was due to my own error. I attended my first EF Mass some months back, and I said, “Amen”, immediately before receiving Communion. It was an error, as some commentors have pointed out. But I didn’t know any better going in there. I had only received instruction concerning OF Masses — something true for almost everyone who entered the Church in the past half century. I wish that I had read an article like this beforehand, because I wouldn’t have been completely unfamiliar, and it would have made for a more fruitful experience for me.

    These are guidelines; some serious, some not so much. This is intended to be catechetical and comical, and it’s unfortunate that many people have missed that.

    Thankfully, a great many more people have enjoyed the article and were happy to receive instruction. Some were pleased to be confirmed in their practices, and others were pleased to learn something new.

    I have not received or encountered a single negative statement from a deacon or priest (even though probability says there are some). And the issue of the Orans position, the one that is actually the most serious, is the one issue that priests and deacons have been quickest to point out as correct. It is the matter that parishioners are asking their priests about, and the priests are confirming that this is what the Church says.

    I hope nobody who reads the article shows up at Mass ready to cast judgement on those who mistakenly employ the wrong gesture. I err too. Some people attending Ordinary Form Masses make mistakes because they are accustomed to attending EF Masses. Other people received poor catechesis, and they can hardly be blamed for doing as previously instructed.

    Without gainsaying any of that, errors are errors. It’s not on me or you to judge or presume that someone is culpable or disrespectful, but we can objectively identify errors.

    • Constance

      I was particularly glad that you explained the error of using the Orans position because I think that many people just don’t know not to use it.

      • PatriciaMaria O’Connor

        Our Priest used to encourage us to use it

    • If your intent was to educate, then you might want to reconsider your delivery. No doubt that has contributed to people taking your post in a critical, judgmental way.

      In any case, stuff like this is always a two-edged sword because it is very easy to fall into spiritual pride. If we let these kinds of things get under our skin, we definitely have a problem, probably more so than the people executing bad form at mass.

      • “If your intent was to educate, then you might want to reconsider your delivery. No doubt that has contributed to people taking your post in a critical, judgmental way.” Seconded.
        Plus, there are folks in the pews (at least at Christmas and Easter) who don’t understand the Eucharist; think adultery, abortion, and marriage are debatable topics; are unaware of the existence of the Catechism (let alone the GIRM)… and you’re nit-picking the Orans and misdirected genuflection? I mean, yeah, let’s fix it all but, I don’t know, a little sense of priority maybe?

        • Hospitaler

          Soooooo, aim for the lowest common denominator. Gee…I don’t know. Maybe if the CEA’s came to a few other Masses there might be an enlightenment.

          Look at this as a teachable moment.Like Jesus did when teaching the Bread of Life discourse. When they all left but the Twelve because ‘the teaching was hard’ did Jesus say, ‘Hey, come back. Let me make it easier for you.” ??


          • I’m sorry, did you just draw an analogy between the postures and gestures of the laity with the Eucharist? Seems a bit of stretch to me.
            And I don’t think prioritizing moral principles and Catechesis over liturgical gestures is to “aim for the lowest common denominator;” I think it’s seeking after lost sheep. But that’s me.
            Misericordia tibi et pax et caritas Dei.

          • Hospitaler

            Not hardly.

            Even ‘lost sheep’ have to yearn for home once in a while.

      • Yeah but in one sense we all need spiritual pride. How will the authenticity of the Holy Mass be preserved if we dont say “Hey! YOU cant do that! That is wrong!” It is already obvious Protestantism has influenced the neo-Novus Ordo anyways, so why not make corrections? I do not want people scandalized or hurt though, dont get me wrong.

    • SueBob

      Your 10 reasons should be printed on flyers and stuffed into every Sunday bulletin in this country. Spare me the Orans, spare me the hand holding stretching down the pews. I’m sure people think I’m an oddball because I stand with my hands folded in prayer and my head down & eyes closed while they’re all orans-ing around me. I keep my hands folded at the passing of the peace and nod & smile at those around me as I say “Peace be with you”, but many times I am forced to shake hands, as it seems rude not to when one’s hand is offered to me.
      About the Judas shuffle: I will stop leaving before the priest when — and only when –our guitar choir stops singing happy-crappy songs that sound like B’way tunes after communion. On the odd Sunday when our traditional a capella choir — which is glorious –is in attendance, I always stay til after Father has exited. Otherwise, I make a bolt for the door, and say my quiet post-communion prayers in the corner of the vestibule where a statue of St. Pio calms me. Not changing this.

      • Emily

        I’d challenge you that your leaving is just as disrespectful as any inappropriate music. The church doesn’t make these guidelines/rules contingent on how we feel about the music.

        • SueBob

          Yes, Emily, it is disrespectful for me to leave before Mass is over, but it seems to me there’s a lot of disrespect going on in this scene –I think terrible music that makes it impossible to pray after communion is disrespectful to the Eucharist. I choose not to participate in what I consider such disrespect. Also, we’re supposed to have a period of silence after communion, as Benedict wrote about so well. The guidelines say we can have appropriate music during this time, if so desired, and the key word here I think is appropriate. And yes, I can decide, because I know what good liturgical music is, (we have it about once a month) and it isn’t a song that sounds like a B’way show tune and completely distracts me from the great gift I have just received. As for the commonly used analogy, yes, it would be very rude to leave my own birthday party before it was “over”, but if they were singing rap, I wouldn’t let the door hit me on my way out. Believe me, I’m not happy leaving when I do, but I’d rather disrespect the musicians than my Lord.

          • Andrew J. Wolf

            As a church organist, I can say I always play music that is conducive to meditation upon receiving the eucharist

          • Teresa Rudolph

            I also hate some of the songs that they play at the end of Mass where I go to church too. I don’t leave at that point because the rest of my family doesn’t leave then and I can’t leave them behind, but there have been many times when I would have liked to. They don’t play songs that sound like Broadway tunes there, but they do often play songs that would be more appropriate to a political rally than they are to a Mass. Some of the songs almost seem to be meant to be sung while swaying from side to side, clapping one’s hands (not that anyone does that). Though I have seen one of the choir soloists sway dramatically back and forth, with one foot about two feet in front of the other, while singing, which is very distracting and inappropriate. I try not to look at him while he’s singing because it really bothers me.

            Oh, and sometimes the parishioners applaud after the choir finishes singing at the end of Mass, which I also believe is very inappropriate. The choir is there to give glory to God, not to themselves.

          • Dr. Joseph X

            de gustibus non disputandum est…

  • Donna

    Since many have missed the point or humor of your blog, perhaps it is reasonable to review your presentation? Many of your wordings triggered reason to miss the point, such as “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.” No one has spent more than a very few seconds with a sign of peace, even if walking around. I’ve never experienced a “social hour”. Or standing in Orans position “No. Just No.” There are points in your blog that trigger memories of being hit or admonished by nuns – not happy memories; though you are young enough to perhaps missed out on that experience. I thank God we have a more loving and welcoming Church; and that I managed to stick it out to see it. I found your blog pretty depressing, and not humorous at all.

    • Donna, I’m sorry that you read my words as though they were barked at you, and you specifically. I don’t think I need to tell you that I didn’t have you in mind when I wrote them. (I didn’t have any particular person or persons in mind.)

  • Michael Brooks

    There are parts of the Mass, the Ordinary Form, that indicates the Priest is presumed to be facing Ad Orientem, not Versum Populum….what gives? Vatican II says nothing about Versum Populum.

    • Michael Brooks

      BTW, I am looking in my Ordinary Form (Novus Ordo) hand Missal from time to time and have marked the parts for future references to the fact.

    • Kurt 20008

      VCII says nothing because the former Mass did not prohibit free standing altars nor required the priest to face the aspe. A priest is free to offer the EF facing the people. It was not unknown prior to the Council is what at the time were called “advanced” parishes.

  • WayfarinStranger

    #4 – not quite right.
    Each communicant bows his head before receiving,so therefore twice if the Bod and Blood of Christ is overed under both species.
    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  • I believe the proper way ofr receivng Holy Commuion is to kneel and to stick out your tongue so that the PRIEST may pace the Host upon it easily.

    • In one sense that is proper, and it may be more dignified. Still, the Magisterium has made allowance for reception in the hand, and the Magisterium has the right to make that allowance.

  • bdlaacmm

    How insensitive is this article towards the elderly (like myself) and anyone not possessing the body of an Olympic athlete! I kneel only with the greatest physical pain, and bowing from the waist is simply impossible for me (and has been for perhaps 20 years or more). So yes, I nod my head. Singing as well is a tremendous strain on my respiratory system. I’m happy to just mouth the words to the hymns (which I know by heart).

    How about a little more charity, and a lot less snarkiness towards your fellow Catholics?

    • TanichcaF

      Speaking as someone who, though young, has a disease that’s given me full-body osteoarthritis… chill. This isn’t for us. Our pain when standing is the sacrifice that others must make by bowing. We’re totally covered.

    • As Tatiana said, this is in no way directed at those who have physical limitations that prevent them from performing certain actions. Even the GIRM does not make mention of the fact that those who are unable to perform certain actions are not expected to perform them. I was expressing the norms, and I trust you are charitable enough to see that now.

    • Therese

      This 63 yr old did not see snarkiness or take any offense at the points given in this article. THey all needed to be made – now, these points, by this person. And we should all listen rather than taking offense. Perhaps he is talking too one of us?!?!?!

  • Uniangulo

    If #3 is correct, why do the celebrant and assisting ministers in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms reverence and kiss the altar and not the tabernacle?

    • There are reasons for that. But the fact is, we aren’t really reverencing the tabernacle, and I thought that was evident. So, I’m sorry I failed to see the need to say it.

      Jesus, the Messiah, Savior, Incarnate Second Person of the Holy Trinity, is literally present in every sense of the word inside that tabernacle (when the host is there reserved). The God-Man trumps the altar.

      • Uniangulo

        I know and firmly believe all of that, but you didn’t answer my question: Why do the celebrant and assisting ministers in both the OF and EF reverence and kiss the altar and not reverence and kiss the tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved?

  • Adam Nichols

    One note regarding genuflecting toward the altar. This is largely unnecessary in older churches, where the architecture more closely followed the intended function of the building, i.e. “vertical” worship of God. In a cruciform church, the Tabernacle was most commonly in front of or on top of the altar. In modern churches (In the USA, my frame of reference), finding the Tabernacle is a game of hide-and-seek. People naturally expect (still!) that the Tabernacle is where it usually was. Catechesis may be lacking, but it doesn’t feel right merely to bow at the altar where the Sacrifice of Calvary is re-presented.

    • Very true. In my own parish, the tabernacle is not even in the sanctuary, and it is only visible from the front-most pew.

  • barbieahayes

    LOL! I loved your presentation and totally got your intent. Those who have commented negatively must have forgotten (or never read) the part of the CCC which says that we are to impute the most positive motive to our neighbor’s thoughts, words and deeds whenever possible. I especially take to the list format that you used. It appeals to my scientific mind (right or left brain I forget, lol). Thanks for your spiritual work of mercy. Our Lord never said we couldn’t add a little tongue-in-cheek humor to an instruction, lol.

    • Thank you. Alas, I can only upvote your comment once.

      (You actually read the intro paragraph. I think that puts you into an elite club.) 🙂

      • Emily

        Is it bad that I’m sitting here reading to comments wishing I had popcorn? I am so sorry the lynch mob was out. I have a degree in liturgical music so I get that talking liturgy is tricky! All I can think of is that hell hath no fury like a combox discussion of liturgy

  • Tim Grimes

    Just one note: #3 talks about genuflecting before the altar, yes that is wrong with one exception. I refer you to the GIRM.
    # 274. During Mass, three genuflections are made by the Priest Celebrant: namely, after the elevation of the host, after the elevation of the chalice, and before Communion. Certain specific features to be observed in a concelebrated Mass are noted in their proper place (cf. nos. 210–251).
    If, however, the tabernacle with the Most Blessed Sacrament is situated in the sanctuary, the Priest, the Deacon, and the other ministers genuflect when they approach the altar and when they depart from it, but not during the celebration of Mass itself.
    Otherwise, all who pass before the Most Blessed Sacrament genuflect, unless they are moving in procession.
    Ministers carrying the processional cross or candles bow their heads instead of genuflecting.

    If the tabernacle is not in the sanctuary (unless a part of diocesan policy.) You don’t genuflect to the tabernacle than bow to the altar. I fear your post will make some people think are doing it wrong when they process in and don’t genfulect to the altar. According to the Missal they arne’t required to if the tabernacle isn’t in the sacntuary.

    Note: Everyone should Genefulect before the Tabernacle at all times, except those serving mass during mass.

    • I thought I was fairly clear, but I’ll look again. I think it might be helpful to just state plainly that genuflecting is something we do before the Eucharist, whether in the tabernacle or on the altar. This is why we don’t genuflect toward the tabernacle when the host is not there reserved. We lay people reverence the altar when Christ is not present. When he is, we kneel before him. The rest of the instructions limit this based on logistics.

      • Tim Grimes

        Thanks, I was just bringing up a minor point it’s no big deal.

  • grateful1

    Some (but by no means all) of the errors you note, David, indicate a lack of reverence. I can’t help but remember how conducive to reverence communion rails were, and that their removal coincided with a weakening of our understanding and worship of the Eucharist as the Real Presence.

    • Kurt 20008

      I remember the priest skipping along the communion rail and repeating “Corpus Christi” without any correlation to a person receiving. I think the idea of the Eucharistic elements being stationary and we the faithful move to approach is more reverent.

  • MairinT

    Do you actually support the ‘ Ring ‘o Rosie ‘hand shaking just before the congregation files up to take His Body in their, by now, cross contaminated hands? If I am at the mod Mass I do the Hindu thing …joined hands… And nod Peace of Christ.

    • If we follow the rubrics, then nobody would be touching very many other hands, but I get your point. A handshake is customary in American culture, but there’s nothing wrong or illicit with some other hand gestures or nods.

  • redmom

    How about, paying attention to mass and not to what everyone else is doing?
    I agree with most of what you are saying. God clearly sees into our hearts.
    If we truly believe we would never want to do anything BUT all these things in the presence of God. Right?

  • Erin Roe

    The GIRM clearly states that there are 2 kinds of bows and describes the difference:

    “275. A bow signifies reverence and honor shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them. There are two kinds of bows: a bow of the head and a bow of the body.

    A bow of the head is made 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.

    A bow of the body, that is to say a profound bow, is made to the altar; during the prayersMunda cor meum (Almighty God, cleanse my heart) and In spiritu humilitatis (Lord God, we ask you to receive); in the Creed at the words Et incarnatus est (by the power of the Holy Spirit . . . and became man); in the Roman Canon at the words Supplices te rogamus (Almighty God, we pray that your angel). The same kind of bow is made by the deacon when he asks for a blessing before the proclamation of the Gospel. In addition, the priest bows slightly as he speaks the words of the Lord at the consecration.”

    The GIRM states that the communicant bows his head, and does not mention his body. Therefore, it would be hard to argue that one must make a profound bow (bow of the body) before receiving Holy Communion.

  • smartypants

    Enjoyed this article and the tone.There are many areas of Catholic life where I see the influence of nuns is sorely missed. This is one of them. In my Catholic school, before the nuns went insane, they would march us into church when it was not in use and we would have a lesson on proper behavior during mass, the proper way to receive communion, and the proper way to behave before and after mass. I often think the pastor should give a homily on this subject once or twice a year.

  • Maggie McT

    In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, we are required to use the Orans position during the Our Father. Cardinal Mahony requested it in 1997 in his “Gather Faithfully Together” letter on liturgy. I don’t like it either, but our current Archbishop has not altered the instruction, and I am obedient to my cardinal archbishop/ current archbishop, even if they are wrong.

    • In my reading, it is not absolutely required by the letter. But I respect your loyalty.

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  • Mr. Rummelhoff, of course you are not “church policing.” Reminding us of the rules is not “judging,” any more than expressing disapproval of murder is tantamount to sending someone to the gas chamber. Judgment, as should be self-evident, is an act done to one person for a particular deed or practice; and it is because (in part) God alone can know all that needs to be known in order to judge aright in such cases that we are forbidden to judge. I found these rules very informative and (for myself) needful. Thank you, and blog on, sir!

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  • Pedro J Ramon

    Well made observations/points… I’m amazed you did not say anything about holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer.

  • RossaRemy

    I have a serious question about number 5, I hold my hands out palms up as a sign of humility during the Lord’s Prayer. Also because we no longer hold hands while reciting it during Mass. Then I elevate them while saying “for the Kingdom,..” before putting them down. Are you telling me this is wrong?

    • What you are describing is the Orans posture, and yes, it is inappropriate for the laity to adopt that posture, atleast during Mass, for the reasons stated above and elaborated on in the comments. Now, that’s not a condemnation of you. You can’t very well be blamed for poor catechesis or for thinking that it was appropriate when many others do it. Objectively speaking, it’s a posture reserved for priests inside the Mass.

      • RossaRemy

        Well ive been to several churches that pray the Lord’s Prayer like that during Mass. Even when i attended seminary lay people prayed like that and i never saw anyone corrected. Actually when the English translation changed several years ago our pastor encouraged us to pray like this instead of holding hands. Maybe its a regional/cultural/traditional thing. The Mass calls for active participation of the congregation.

        • Kurt 20008

          We picture our Blessed Mother praying that way. You never go wrong following her.

          • Emily

            I’m not debating your point, but can you see what you said: basically, because we picture her doing this, art has depicted this. Then we see the said art and imitate her because “you never go wrong following her.” Are we following her or the art made by a human?

  • Tonestaple

    Praise God for my RCIA program as, by this guide, I had an excellent “upbringing.” I have also figured out who to watch for guidance, and I am slowly but surely forming good “etiquette.” I can still recall how terribly confusing my first mass was and how lovely was the person who helped me through it. It becomes a little more of an entrenched custom every time I make it to mass.
    Which reminds me: how late is too late to enter the church when you’re late? I want to go to daily mass but traffic is a bear and it seems like cheating to go in much past when the readings have started.

    • If you make an honest effort to be at Mass on time — not almost on time, but actually on time — then you needn’t worry about when you walk in. There is no “too late to enter”, or “too late to enter for it to count”, there is only “too uncaring about actually being on time”.

      I have kids. Sometimes something happens in the process of getting out the door that delays us. Oh well. Sometimes traffic is crazy bad because of an event we knew nothing about. Oh well.

      Of course, I do care; I’d certainly prefer not to miss any of Mass. But where somebody is late through no fault of his own; then he doesn’t need to worry. If, though, you know traffic will be bad, you should be trying to compensate. If you try and still walk in late, no worries.

      • Tonestaple

        I’m going to talk to my boss about changing my hours by another 30 minutes and then all should be well, barring hell or high water or high wind or, oddly enough, rain.

        I have found this column and the comments extremely valuable and not in a policing way at all. I had previously asked in RCIA about people imitating the gestures of the priest and I was told that there was nothing saying I was supposed to do that so I have never taken up the habit. And people don’t get insistent either about hand-holding (ick) or hand-shaking at the peace, which is good because I always get teary-eyed at the “Lamb of God” and I NEVER remember a hanky, so handshaking would also have an ick factor. I love my parish.

  • CR89

    Sorry, but I will NEVER sing “Here I Am” or any of the other horrid, Sesame Street-like “hymns” we are usually subjected to at the average Mass. It’s bad enough to have to listen to that dreck and it almost always ruins my interior disposition so if there’s room for a number 11 on your list of things being done wrong at Mass, it might be called, “Most of the music”.

  • pburg

    CLARIFICATION It is my understanding that during the Mass, the alter takes precedence over the tabernacle, so once the Mass is underway, we are to genuflect toward the alter. From fr.z’s blog: “The General Instruction/Institution of the Roman Missal directs that once Mass begins, people passing across the sanctuary bow to the altar rather than genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament.”

  • MDB

    Some good ones here but I’m sorry, if you have moral objections to the song then
    I think your well formed conscience trumps the obligation to sing….

  • Kurt 20008

    Helpful and #3 is a personal annoyance. Some advice for priests — 1. Please don’t (ever again) preach a sermon about leaving in the middle of the recessional hymn because the hymn is a prayer, and then at the end of Mass announce we are singing the first and third verses. And please don’t judge me when I leave early because you’ve extended Mass by 20 minutes to show a tape recorded message from the bishop on some political matter and I have a commitment to meet Mrs. Rosenbaum for brunch at Applebees or need to get my bus which comes once every 45 minutes on Sundays.
    2. Just as I should try to be present for the whole Mass and not skip out on parts of it, so should you Father, even if you are not the principal celebrant.
    3. Yes, please encourage everyone to sing and say the responses. Maybe even note that yes, my grandparents were not crazy liberals destroying tradition because they favored the Dialogue Mass.
    4. No moving around for the sign of peace? Please, pews are a Protestant invention.
    5. No laity in the orans? Take down the image of the Blessed Mother in orans. Or maybe accept that just like the sign of cross at the Gospel which developed from the laity imitating the priest, this could be an organic development.

  • Pretty good, but here’s some valid reasons I *occasionally* do some of these:
    #1 and #4 are related. A person suffering from sciatica may be forced by his illness to kneel early, and may be unable to bow properly. There are Sundays when this applies to me.

    Likewise #3 applies- there are days when if I genuflected, I would be there until somebody helped me up. I think God understands illness.

    Here’s the worst one I do, #2. HOWEVER, I only do the Judas shuffle in extremely specific instances- when I am part of an event happening directly after Mass, in the Parish Hall, that I must minimally prepare for- and I do it specifically because I know some others will be doing the Judas Shuffle and I want to serve them anyway. I’m also sitting in the front row, so this gives me 10-15 minutes head start on the rush. I usually make up for it by going to Mass twice in a given weekend. I try to do so as unobtrusively as possible, sneaking out a side door or walking all the way around the outside of the church to get where I am going. I NEVER just get in the car and leave. Ever.

    • Yes, none of the norms are meant to be burdensome. I didn’t feel the need to give every possible caveat or disclaimer. And I’m glad you mention these things, because it is one example of the possible thousands of legit reasons why someone might be doing something otherwise improper. Hence, we ought not presume to know that people are being disrespectful.

  • Rae Marie

    But there are some hymns that are so awful, I don’t want to sing them. I just…can’t…

    • That’s reasonable, but we have the Gloria, the Agnus Dei, the Psalm, etc. Those we mustn’t take issue with. Those are what I had in mind.

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  • Margo Osti

    I found your list very interesting and a good reminder of liturgical guidelines. It also saddened me that the most important “Thing You Might Be doing” was completely missing from your list; namely, how many of us receive the Eucharist without properly preparing to receive the Blessed Sacrament? How many of us receive without reconciliation? How many of us receive without being in a state of grace? How many of us receive without fasting one hour? Deacon, perhaps it’s time to address an article on this subject.

  • sullivjo

    My priest chastised me yesterday for bowing to the alter coming back from serving communion, while I was holding the remaining Eucharist. The alter has a tabernacle on it, and he said you don’t bow to an empty tabernacle. When I looked it up, the standard IS to bow to the alter, but not while holding something. So I guess he was right, but he gave me the wrong reason. I’m still really annoyed by it, because he was very condescending. Sorry he provided inadequate training for extraordinary ministers. In my parish growing up we also always held hands during the Our Father, not sure if that’s the same as the “Orens posture” (which I’ve never heard of, by the way). But I’m sure this is where it comes from, it is also something Protestants do. I think walking around during the sign of peace also comes from what people see at Protestant churches. Also, this was encouraged at youth masses growing up, and I went to an African American Roman Catholic church and this was expected. So, sorry, not sorry, but I think there are too many rules, and there are communities with slightly different cultures, like a youth mass or African American mass, etc. You’re being too uptight, and I can be a pretty anal person, so that’s saying a lot. And what the heck is EF and OF? It is rude to use abbreviations without first explaining them in parentheses.

    • Your priest was right in his instruction. Whether one bows toward the altar or reverences the tabernacle varies a bit. But he is absolutely right about not reverencing an empty tabernacle, since the reason for genuflecting in the direction of the tabernacle is that Jesus is there. We genuflect to Jesus.

  • Bob Wilkens

    You have done nothing wrong in pointing out things which have crept into the Masses congregation by congregation in the US since Vatican II, where everybody assumed all rules went out the window and anyone could do as they pleased.

    There still are many with that arrogant “nobody can tell ME what to do!” attitude when we are called to accept Holy Mother Church teachings with docility and humility, emulating out Savior who gave us his Church to nurture and teach us as mother.

    We are NOT protestants who can take upon our own selves to modify worship at will to point we fission infinitely as all protestants….we are Universals…..Catholics….one mind one voice in eternal praise to our Creator to where you can walk in a Korean or Japanese or Haitian Mass and fully participate…

    It is about being one of many, not many of one….so dissenters really need to stop behaving as unruly children stamping feet at momma and saying NO! AND YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!!!!!….

    Momma knows best, children…

  • The Undemocratic Party

    Somebody needs to share some of this with some Bishops and priests…especially concerning the Orans position. Some parishes I’ve been to since I have lived here actually chide you if you do not adopt the Orans position…yes, I’ve had a few priests mention it.

    Around 2003, living in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, PA, we were commanded as a congregation to do so as well, although less obviously than the priest.

  • james

    Two things drive me crazy. People changing position eg standing to sitting in the middle of a hymn. And kneeler nazis who insist on folding up the kneeler every time they stand. I’ll kneel on the floor after the Agnus Dei if I have to but I’d rather use the kneeler.

  • ToS999

    9. “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.”

    You cannot make such determinations regarding dispositions and participation. Not everyone is the same. The Church encourages singing and responses, but not everyone participates in the same manner. Both interior and exterior participation are active participation, but since individuals have different dispositions and characteristics what’s best for them isn’t good for another person.

    To put it another way: Yes, I believe singing and responses should be encouraged in both forms of the Roman rite. However, some of us participate BETTER when we are not doing these things.

    And this includes myself. When I try to sing or respond (I’ve been doing it since elementary school up until recently) it distracts me. I cannot focus on prayer, my participation is harmed. This may sound strange, but its true. I actively participate better when I say and sing nothing. “Active” has never meant exterior participation alone, it means the whole person. But people respond differently.

    In other words, you certainly cannot make the observation that if someone is not responding that they have “poor dispositions.” You simply cannot determine anyone’s interior dispositions all the time, especially on this subject.

  • Before writing articles like this, one should at least know that the Eucharist is the liturgy, and its indeed focused on the altar, and not the elements used therein, and reserved in the tabernacle.

  • Jay Gagliano

    Lame article! You had such an opportunity and podium to talk about what truly is important in Church and you chose to scold us….. I’m just wondering if this is a joke?

  • Tobias Keith

    Who died and made you the church lady? Work on yourself.

  • prizz

    You can all say what you want but it shouldn’t bother anyone. What one persons relationship and understanding with God is, is no concern of anyone elses. Seems like you’re all trying for a gold star to get into heaven by pointing out what your neighbor is doing wrong. Mind your own business. Now go say 2 Hail Mary’s and 1 Our Father.

  • Dr. Joseph X

    One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do riot mean the Church as we see her spread but through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes I our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate. When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather in oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands, and one shabby little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print. When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like “the body of Christ” and the actual faces in the next pew. It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains. You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy’s side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father below, is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous. At his present stage, you see, he has an idea of “Christians” in his mind which he supposes to be spiritual but which, in fact, is largely pictorial. His mind is full of togas and sandals and armour and bare legs and the mere fact that the other people in church wear modern clothes is a real – though of course an unconscious – difficulty to him. Never let it come to the surface; never let him ask what he expected them to look like. Keep everything hazy in his mind now, and you will have all eternity wherein to amuse yourself by producing in him the peculiar kind of clarity which Hell affords. -The Screwtape Letters, Letter #2. CS Lewis

  • kena liebe contreras

    Other things we might be doing wrong:
    1. Pulling out the tongue way too much when receiving Communion.
    2. To attend Mass instead of participating in it.
    3. To believe that Mass is the action of the priest.
    4. To separate the Eucharist from social issues.
    5. To believe that Mass belongs to private piety.
    6. To believe that in Mass “we eat Jesus”.
    And a very long etcetera…

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