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How to Behave at a Catholic Mass

Updated on June 18, 2012

A Restored Stained Glass Window

A restored stained glass window for a Catholic Convent in Dayton, OH.
A restored stained glass window for a Catholic Convent in Dayton, OH. | Source

Cradle Catholic

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

A Catholic Mass
A Catholic Mass | Source

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!

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.

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

If you are a non Catholic or have not received your First Holy Communion, fold your arms and receive a blessing instead of Communion
If you are a non Catholic or have not received your First Holy Communion, fold your arms and receive a blessing instead of Communion | Source

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.

Cradle Catholics

Cradle Catholics
Cradle Catholics | Source

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

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    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 4 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Isa28. I enjoy taking our children to mass with us each week. My oldest 2 just received their 1st Communion so this was a special milestone for them in the church. Thanks again!

    • Isa28 profile image

      Isa28 4 years ago

      I'm a non-catholic and have never attended a Mass, so your information was interesting to me. In my church the children only attended on special occasions like Easter, Christmas and when there were baptisms.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 4 years ago from Ohio

      Good point on the Orthodox and Polish National Churches being able to take communion. Because our Communion is a sacrament, it is good to know which faiths are permitted to partake and which should abstain. Thanks for reading, ElleBee!

    • profile image

      ElleBee 4 years ago

      This is a great hub and so informative! I love that you made the distinction of children First Communion age and older being expected to be active participants in the Mass - far too often I have seen children who are definitely past age 8 not paying attention in Church and reading or playing with toys. In my opinion if you don't think you child is ready to be attentive in Mass then they're not ready to be receiving Communion either! Also one note I have to make on communion, according to the note in the front of the Missal -- members of the Orthodox Church and the Polish National Catholic Church are encouraged to respect the disciplines of their own churches but are allowed to receive the Eucharist in a Catholic church. (CCC 1339)

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, sofs. My mother would attend daily mass as well. She found this the most peaceful and important way to be begin her day. Thanks for commenting, sofs!

    • sofs profile image

      sofs 5 years ago

      Informative hub. Being born and brought up as a catholic, I also love the atmosphere of the church. I love to attend everyday mass... which is unique to the catholic church. I also like to spend some time in the quiet and rather awe-inspiring atmosphere of the church when there is no service. Most churches are open during the day and you could enter them anytime to pray. Thanks for sharing this hub. Voting up and useful.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for reading AliciaC. Hopefully you can use some of the information if you ever find yourself at a Catholic mass!

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, Brainy! We have had our moments, but I think the kids are getting to better ages for church! Thank goodness!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for the interesting information about appropriate behavior at a Catholic mass, twinstimes2. I enjoyed reading your hub. I've never attended a Catholic mass, so most of the information was new to me.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 5 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Great hub, Twins! It's nice to see that the Catholic church has incorporated infrastructure to make it easier for families to attend services. I'm very impressed that all your kids sit with you and are well-behaved every week; wish I could say the same!

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks Laura! I appreciate the comments, too!

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image

      LauraGSpeaks 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Nice hub twintimes. Nice beginning and closing reasons of why you behaved at mass and why your children do now. Kids that attend mass weekly are far better behaved than those that only go occasionally. You are correct--the toddler stage is the hardest to keep them from talking! Voted up.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      My little red head talks the most. :)Check out my hub on Favoritism in Kids to see what I think of each of them. They are all very different. He is my only red head though so that makes him special!

    • bearnmom profile image

      Laura L Scotty 5 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      I'm looking at your photos. The little red head has got to be your most trying. lol I have one of those too.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Maybe they are just making new churches with crying rooms! :) I do make a LONG attempt to settle by little one before we head out. I leave when I feel like we are bothering others. If we are just making noise, we try to hang in there. I have always found toddlers the most difficult age for church. I also get very little out of mass personally during this time because I am so aware of my children's noises. i am enjoying the post toddler mass age much better! I am sure you can relate!

    • profile image

      Claudia M 5 years ago

      I'm sorry, but sometimes children fuss and there is no crying room at church to run to! Here in Chicago, being a cradle catholic myself, I have only been to one church that had a "crying room." Instead of trying to unsuccessfully pacify a squirmy toddler or crying infant, and finally just having to step out of the church... The implied rules should be to bear with it! I'm not saying just sit there while your child throws a full blown tantrum in front of the altar, but a little fussing or quiet chatting amongst toddlers is okay. Jesus said, "let the little children come to me." Crying and squirming comes with the package.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for the comments, Dave! Perhaps silence in the vestibule is too strong of a word. I will relook at that. Thanks. I have never experienced a church only serving the bread and not the wine. Ours have always followed the more traditional body AND blood.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks, bearnmom. The toddler age is definitely a challenge at church! Thanks for the comments, too!

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 5 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      twins: This is a well written explanation. Thank you.

      I am a 64 year associate of Roman Catholicism so I am aware of the do's and don'ts but many are not aware. As a matter of fact, Mass in my earlier years was celebrated in Latin only, and the priest never faced the congregation except during the Homily.

      The one thing I disagree with though is when one enters the vestibule or main body, that one must be silent.

      First and foremost, the building one enters, is not the "Church" the church is the people, not some building.

      Second, prior to the commencement of Mass ordinary conversation inside though possibly intrucive to someone in prayer is permitted.

      One last point, that you do not discuss is the fact that in most Catholic churches during Communion, we are not served the body and the blood of Christ, for that would have to include serving wine too, instead we are only permitted the bread or the flesh of Christ. This is a direct disobedience to Jesus Command.

    • bearnmom profile image

      Laura L Scotty 5 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      This is a good instruction piece for visitors to a Catholic Mass. I too am a cradle Catholic and I am so pleased to see so many families in attendance at Mass. I also try to have patience with youngsters who display hyperactivity during the service. Thank you for your well written article.

    • twinstimes2 profile image
      Author

      Karen Lackey 5 years ago from Ohio

      Sorry will need to attend a funeral, Ralph! I am pleased that you found my information useful! Thanks for taking time to read and comment.

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 5 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Well done. I'm a non-Catholic going to a Catholic funeral mass next week and will put your hub to good use.