A protestant's observations of first Mass

Hi Everyone,
I’m an evangelical inquirer who attended his first Catholic Mass since I had the privilege of attending Midnight Mass in Rome in 1978 with some Catholic friends of mine while studying in Europe. Other than that, I was not aware of what to expect except for what I have gleaned on CAF from you kind folks.

Positive Observations:
– I definitely felt God’s presence. It was palpable, especially during the Eucharist just like folks on CAF had said it would be.

– The reverence of God was also shown by the faithful by bowing, kneeling to pray, and by keeping quiet when they arrived in the sanctuary. This contrasts with my current church environment at which people chat and laugh in the sanctuary before service like they are at Starbucks or something.

– The priest appeared to be genuine and at ease in his homily about the Holy Trinity and I could relate to what he was saying. I was expecting stiffness, pomp and circumstance but got a heart felt talk from what I perceive to be a genuine servant of God who also officiates the various other stuff during the Mass.

– While on my way to Mass (20 minute drive), I was concerned it might be an awkward experience and that I wouldn’t know anyone. However, I discovered that I actually knew the head usher who was also the greeter. I had worked with him at one point in my career and he had been my supervisor for a time. We always got along well. He was pleasantly surprised to see me, as I was to see him. Small world, huh?

– Another man that I knew from work saw me sitting alone on the back row and he and his wfe came and sat next to me.

– At one point, when they had the congregation lay hands on all the fathers in attendance on behalf of Father’s Day tomorrow, a lady saw me without anyone laying their hands on me and she came over to put her hand on my shoulder and pray for me which I thought was very thoughtful, especially since she had to maneuver her way around a bunch of people to get to me.

Negative Observations:

– At times I had trouble concentrating (and I think other parishoners did too) due to a couple of loud crying babies whose parents tried unsuccessfully for several minutes to keep them quiet before they finally took them out of the sanctuary. I wasn’t used to this because at my church it is mandatory for parents with babies to put them in the nursery or go to a “quiet room” with audio where they can hear the proceedings from the sanctuary. This was no biggie, just a little annoying.

– I actually saw a teenage girl dressed in gym shorts and sandals. I realize it is summer and Christ is more concerned with the heart than our dress, but that seemed a little disrespectful to me. But then again my sons sometimes tell me I’m an old fart who needs to loosen up more. :wink:

– During the Eucharist, I noticed a couple of altar boys were offered the cup but did not take it. Two of them did but two others didn’t. I wonder why?

– I noticed that there were a few different chalices from which all the faithful would drink. In between people, and there were lots of them, the servers would wipe off the chalice for the next person to drink.

What happens if someone is sick? Are they excused from the Eucharist or is some other provision made? Otherwise, it seems possible that colds, step throat, etc could get passed around easily from this method. I realize this is a pretty mundane question and concern, but it made me wonder a little bit. At my church, everyone gets an individual little throwaway plastic cup. Not as ceremonious, but more hygenic, I would think. Once again, no biggie – just curious.

Overall, my first Mass in a long time was a positive experience. I plan to go to Father’s Day with my two sons tomorrow at my regular AOG church, at which I am an usher.

Thanks, everyone, for your prayers. It was a lot less stressful than I had imagined. Plus, I was impressed by all the readings from Scripture. In a way, it was sort of like a protestant service with more bells and whistles (literally, more bells). :slight_smile: I remembered bells during the Eucharist.

I am so thankful you had a positive experience. Praise God!!

I understand the whole baby crying thing. Sometimes it can be annoying, but like our Priest says…“Just one more of God’s children saying Amen!!” I hardly notice them anymore.
(personally, I think cry rooms are over used, but that’s a whole can of worms by itselt :D)

For the laity, receiving the Precious Blood is optional, and is not always offered at every Mass, or every parish. When we receive the Eucharist (host), we receive Jesus’ full body, blood, soul and divinity.

If people are ill with something that may be communicable, common sense should prevail, and they should bypass the cup. Sometimes you will see people reverence the cup by bowing, or even kissing the cup, and then proceeding on their way. Of course, some people don’t think about it when they have the cold and sniffles, etc. and receive the cup anyway.

As a matter of simple hygiene, the cup is wiped, and should be turned at least a quarter turn in between communicants in order to help reduce the transmission of common germs.

As far as inappropriate dress, I completely agree with you. Unfortunately, I think the concept of “Sunday Best” clothing is a thing of the past. :frowning: I do remember the looks I got when I was in a full leg cast, and on crutches. I had to cut one leg off in order to get my jeans on, and you would have thought the world was coming to an end. Everyone was used to seeing me in dress slacks, shirt, and usually a tie. :smiley:

I am glad you had more of a positive experience than a negative one. One is not required to take the wine for participate in communion. So observing that the altar boys decided not to take part in that is up to them. Catholic Churches do not use the little plastic cups that you mentioned that are used in a number of Protestant churches. There are many reasons for this. The wine is consecrated up at the altar which is then distributed to the other cups for communion. What you describe in protestant churches is a tray of plastic cups which is passed along for those to take. (that is what happen in the Methodist Church I grew up in). One priest in my children’s communion prep class stated that Catholics are suppose to receive communion not take because it symbolizes that this is a free gift that we receive, similar to receiving salvation and grace. We don’t go up or sit back and “take”. Now maybe the thought of a common cup for wine is a little scary considering illness etc but partaking in that common cup is not required and if uncomfortable, one doesn’t have to partake. Many do not. But I think there have been studies done about getting illnesses from this and they have found that it is very rare if next to none. Keep this in mind, Catholics go up to receive communion, it is a gift, we don’t take communion.

Remember, what is in the chalice is not grape juice, but the blood of Jesus under the appearance of wine. I have never feared infection from the Holy Eucharist.

Before I converted I was an Episcopalian and they always drink from the chalice and have for hundreds of years. No one ever got sick or died from the chalice. Not once.

The same goes for Lutherans.

yes, I agree with you, I have never feared illnesses from the cup. Op background is AoG which would not have a liturgical service and hense forth a common communion cupbut what he described, a tray of mini plastic cups that everyone took from.

I heard a priest on Catholic radio mention this. When someone asked about it, he said, basically, ‘well…if you’re sick, you probably shouldn’t drink from the cup. Although it is the real presence of Christ, it won’t magically keep people from getting sick.’

Very interesting to read your experience and observations, Tommy. Filled me with peace as well as familiarity with some issues you had with noise or the cup…we had the flu here a few years back and our bishop told us we were to receive only the consecrated host.

When you receive the consecrated host, theologically speaking, you are also likewise receiving His Blood.

I brought my kids in when they were young and a few times, they were making some little noises which I could ignore and hear everything…but they had to cool it because others couldn’t ignore. One was ‘tap dancing like Shirley Temple’ according to the pastor when we were finally allowed to resume Sunday Mass in the renovated church, and realized it was my son, ‘the little guy’. I seldom used the cry room and tried to be considerate…just those times too focused on the Mass…

I also was impressed with the spiritual sensitivity of some of the parishioners in how they went over to you. That doesn’t happen in my neck of the woods, people more private at Mass.

I was going to go to the Vigil Mass tonight but couldn’t make it but look forward very much to Sunday Mass…as I usually work on Sunday am’s taking a gentleman to a Lutheran service.

I am glad you had a good experience. I just thought I would address some of your concerns/questions. It should be noted that Catholics are not obligated at any particular Sunday to partake in the Eucharist. If they are in mortal sin, if they are not properly disposed, etc, then they are to refrain from the Eucharist, though Mass is still obligated. (If someone is very sick and cannot get to mass, or could but would be worried about spread a disease, they do not have an obligation to fulfill, the Church does not ask the impossible of us).

As other posters noted, partaking in the Chalice is also not mandatory for the laity. Christ is fully present (Body, Blood, soul, and divinity) when receiving the host as when receiving the from Chalice. The sign is fuller, but you don’t receive more Jesus, be receiving both.

Diseases can be spread through the chalice. I believe there was a Hep A “scare” at a parish in NY a few years ago. If one is sick, the polite thing to do would be to bypass the chalice if it is offered. Is it common, probably not. I know some places restricted the use of the wine during the swine flu scare a few years ago, and at least one priest reported that he was much healthier that year, just in general. (Priests or someone have to consume the excess).

There is a practical reason why Catholics don’t use little plastic cups for the Precious Blood. It has to do with our belief that, once consecrated, it IS the blood of Christ in its entirety, down to the last visible drop. Any un-consumed remnant of the Precious Blood can not be tossed into a trash can, nor can it be poured down the sink into the sewer.

If Catholics were to receive the Precious Blood in little plastic cups, every single one of those cups would have to be reverently retrieved from wherever they were left in the pews and accounted for. Then they would need to be carefully washed with the wash-water being poured onto the ground before the cups themselves could be discarded. It would be a logistical nightmare.

Just to add/clarify. Most churches actually have an extra sink that is not connected to the sewer system. There is just a pipe that goes directly into the ground. My current church was formerly a non-denom. so not designed in that way. In this case the water that is used to clean the chalice is poured in the garden.

So a question my friend. If you had a set of scales and placed all the plus on one side and all the minus on the other side, what would it look like for you personally? I mean specifically would the positive influence your understanding or perception of the negative, or would the negative influence your understanding or perception of the positive?

Negative Observations:

– At times I had trouble concentrating (and I think other parishoners did too) due to a couple of loud crying babies whose parents tried unsuccessfully for several minutes to keep them quiet before they finally took them out of the sanctuary. I wasn’t used to this because at my church it is mandatory for parents with babies to put them in the nursery or go to a “quiet room” with audio where they can hear the proceedings from the sanctuary. This was no biggie, just a little annoying.(Quote)

I sorry you felt annoyed at listening to babies in church you need to remember that a church is a house of God and everyone is welcome, i dont see why children and babies should be made to leave, and put in another room, Im sure God doesnt mind the voices of babies and children in his home. Also most people find things distracting, Mine is adults answering their phones and leaving a distracting, probably due to disbelief that for one hour they cant be bothered to turn the things off, or they find a need to rush off

Doctors on call?

I’m glad these kind things happened to you, I can’t say for certain they would always happen at my parish. If they didn’t it would be more along the lines of everyone just thinking they hadn’t seen you at Mass before or maybe you usually attended a different time.

Again I’m glad someone welcomed you this way, I know I would not have done what that woman did, I would have held back not knowing you and if you were a father or not, and not sure if I should presume you wanted the attention. I am also thankful in that your story will hopefully make me more aware of those around me at Mass. Thanks:)

I really have an objection to those who find babies at Mass a distraction, one of the best things about the Church in my mind is that all are welcome to come to together in worship, no matter the handicap we bring to inconvenience fellow worshippers. I can not articulate how steadying, how reassuring, how calming Mass is, I do not remember a time where God, worship, and family were separate things. It troubles me this idea that children are only suited to adult company when they’ve learned how to behave, how are they going to learn to behave it they are always put in “childish” situations? Church to me is the one of the best places to help work children into understanding. If they can’t be welcomed and helped there…?

I’m always happy to see a teenager in church no matter how they are dressed. I’ve seen them dressed in a manner that leaves me taken aback on more than one occasion, and I’ve also seen some of those same inappropriately dressed teenagers behave in a reverent manner and sing out the responses in a beautiful voice, willing and active participants of worship. I’ve also seen the impatient “eye rolling” ones, but I still hope. Dress also goes for the many, many, in the pew who are there in their obvious work clothes. My kids go to Mass in gym shoes, jeans and a shirt, because that’s what they wear, to school, at home what ever. I don’t really focus on clothes and thankfully neither do my kids. They are dressed modestly, in clean clothes, and are respectful, and reverent (at least they appear reverent, since we can’t be in their heads). I used to spend a lot of time thinking about clothing and spent a lot of money on presenting an image, I no longer find it fulling and I find now I appreciate the people around me more. Clothing is a non-started for me these days.

As others have pointed out taking the wine is the choice of the communicant, with the alter boys it may just be that they don’t like the wine in the cup, I still make a squinchy face any time I taste wine, so I don’t take the cup, it seems to me to be irreverent to shudder when I partake. And like you mentioned I am pretty squeamish about the spreading of germs.


Thanks for the replies, everyone. To Darryl B, the positives very much outweighed the negatives. The negatives were minor annoyances for the most part. For example, the presence of Christ at the Mass was of top importance. I can tell He was there.

In short, I am happy in my current denomination for the most part. However, I related quite well to the sense of reverence I felt at the Catholic Church. Although I can’t partake in the sacraments of the Catholic church, I find them attractive, especially Confession, which doesn’t really exist at my church in any formal way. The believer is just supposed to handle that on their own between themselves and God, I guess.

I will continue to attend my regular church but have gained even more respect for the CC and would like to attend Mass again in the near future.

When our priest is on-call for the local hospital (which happens quite frequently, as there are eight Catholic churches in our busy town and most of them have only one priest), he places his pager at the foot of the altar during Mass, so we can see it. And he tells us all that he is on-call at the start of the Mass. It’s done very reverently, so that we are reminded that his obligations to those who are suddenly seriously ill are very important.

Hi zaffiroborant,
Just to clarify a point. The priest had all non-fathers stand up and requested that all fathers remain seated, which is what I did. That is why she knew I was a father. As to why she came over, I assume she looked around and saw that I was the only father who didn’t have anyone specifically praying for me in that section. I was touched that she cared enough to look around and see a need and then attend to it. She didn’t have to do that, but I appreciated it. If she hadn’t done that, I still would’ve enjoyed the Mass. I enjoyed it even more because she did what she did. It made me perceive the congregation as one who cares even about visitors and not just those who they know.

As to the babies crying, that is just something I would have to get used to if I decided to attend that church permanently. Not all people can filter that kind of noise out as well as others, I’m afraid. I would have to work on that.

Sounds like a considerate and thoughtful thing to do, as well as practical. :slight_smile:

I wasn’t aware of that, Nan. That makes sense the way you explained it.

Welcome. Thank you very much for your kind observations. I have a very hard time with babies crying or music anywhere due to a medical condition I have. I know in my heart they have a right to be there so I try to deal with it. I avoid family Masses and Masses with music. All I am saying is that I understand.

Anyway, I am very glad you had a positive experience. and I hope you get the opportunity to worship with us again. God bless you.

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