How to Behave at a Catholic Mass
A Restored Stained Glass Window
I have been behaving or told to behave at church as long as I can remember. I am a cradle Catholic or someone who was raised in the Catholic faith since birth. I grew up going to Catholic mass every Sunday at 8 am. We were perfectly behaved. I estimate a few reasons for this.
1. It was 8 am mass. We might not have even been awake.
2. We went to mass weekly as a family.
3. We went to Catholic Schools and knew what was expected of us.
4. We respected our parents.
How Do You Behave At A Catholic Mass?
But the question presents itself, how should you behave at a Catholic Mass?
In general, it is important to understand that cell phones are turned off, adults do not eat or drink, there is minimal socializing prior to mass and the overall atmosphere is quiet and solemn.
How Should Babies Behave At A Catholic Mass?
Babies should be kept quiet at a Catholic mass. Bring bottles. Bring pacifiers. It is cute when they fuss some, but not when they cry. If your baby cries during mass, you are expected to leave mass, at least temporarily.
Crying rooms are in most churches. In my parish growing up, some families with small children sat in the cry rooms. Cry rooms are designed with soundproof glass. You can observe mass, but none of the noise created in the room can be heard by the congregation. In the parishes I have belonged to as an adult, you are encouraged to go to the cry room, settle your child, and then return to the congregation.
Babies are welcomed and encouraged during mass, but crying should be kept to a minimum. This can be a challenge!
A Catholic Mass
How Should Toddlers Behave At A Catholic Mass?
Some churches have nurseries for young children. Our parish allows children to attend the nursery starting at six months. The toddler age can be a challenge at church. Our first 4 children went to the nursery from about twelve months to three years. Our youngest has always attended mass.
I have seen varying philosophies on snacks and drinks for toddlers. There is no official standing on either item. However, it is recommended to clean up any mess or dropped snacks that may result. As parents, we let our young toddler bring a water cup, but we do not permit snacks at mass.
Toddlers are welcomed and encouraged, but talking and movement should be kept to a minimum. I find this the most challenging age at church!
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How Should Children Ages Four Through Eight Behave At A Catholic Mass?
Some Catholic churches have Sunday school for children in the preschool and lower grade school ages. For tuition, children can attend a class the length of the mass. This eliminates the need for bringing young children to mass and also allows for further education.
Our parishes have Word of God instead. The children attend mass with their families. Prior to the readings, about ten minutes into mass, the children are dismissed as a group for Word of God. At this time, they learn more about the readings, but in terms easier for the children to understand. The children return to mass after the homily, about thirty minutes into mass. They attend the remainder of the mass with their families.
Our children have never attended Sunday school or Word of God. They have preferred to sit with the family the entire mass.
Children ages four through eight are encouraged to attend mass, but programs are available as alternatives to encourage understanding of our faith.
How Should Children Ages Eight and Older Behave At A Catholic Mass?
During Second grade, age eight for most children, Catholic children receive the sacrament of First Holy Communion. For this reason, children age eight and older should be attending mass. They are old enough to read and therefore often follow the readings and songs in the missalette.
Children ages eight and older are expected to be active participants in mass. Active participation includes genuflecting, reciting prayers, singing songs, taking communion, standing, sitting, and kneeling during the elevation or the blessing of the bread and wine.
Catholic Prayer Books
How Should Catholic Adults Behave At A Catholic Mass?
Catholic adults growing up in the faith should understand how to behave at church. If they have chosen to attend mass, they understand the importance of being active participants. In addition to the active participation listed for children ages eight and older, adults are also expected to participate in offertory by providing a monetary donation.
If You Are A Non Catholic Or Have Not Received Your First Holy Communion
How Should A Non Catholic Adult Behave At A Catholic Mass?
Non-Catholics are welcome to attend Catholic mass at any time. Non-Catholics most often attend mass during sacraments such as Baptism, First Holy Communion and Matrimony. Perhaps you will need to attend a Catholic funeral. Non-Catholic Adults are also expected to be active participants, including singing songs, reciting prayers they are familiar with, standing and sitting.
Non-Catholics are asked not to receive communion in our faith, even if they have received communion in their own. Catholic.com explains that the reason, ”non-Catholics may not ordinarily receive Communion is for their own protection, since many reject the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.” Catholics believe the consecration (blessings of the bread and wine) results in the actual Body and Blood of Christ. Some Christian faiths believe the Body and Blood of Christ are symbols of God's presence. Because our views of Real Presence versus symbolism, the Church ask non-Catholics, out of respect, to refrain from the Blessed Sacrament of Communion.
Non-Catholics, as well as children who have not received their First Holy Communion, can either stay in the pew or are welcome to attend the communion line, cross their arms over their shoulders and bow their heads. The communion distributor or priest will then invoke a prayer instead of distributing communion.
A Solemn, Quiet, Prayerful Atmosphere
Many churches are built with gathering spaces when you enter the church. This allows for socializing before and after church. However, when one enters the Vestibule or main body of the church, reverence should be practiced. While quieter conversation is permitted, it should not affect others ability to pray.
As a cradle Catholic, I appreciate the solemn, quiet and prayerful atmosphere of the Catholic mass. I am proud of how my children behave at mass. I estimate a few reasons for this.
1. We go to morning mass. They might not even be awake yet.
2. We go to mass weekly as a family.
3. They go to Catholic Schools and know what is expected of them.
4. They respect their parents.
© 2012 Karen Lackey