Crossing yourself during the elevation(s)


I can’t speak on the rules as I am very new to the faith, but I do know that quite a few people at my parish do this - mostly people over 55-60 it seems. I’m not sure why that’s the pattern, but that’s what I’ve observed. No one gives them the stink eye or anything. It’s just that some do it and some don’t.


Uniformity was desired by nuns running parochial school kids to Mass, because it made it obvious if Little Johnny was acting up.

But even the nuns in the old days did not fight pious gestures, although they liked them small and unnoticeable. They would have been horrified by the idea of stamping out voluntary devotion to the Mass.

Look, I am a systematic person. But even though I like doing the same thing the same way every Mass, and find it meditative, I know that the Church does not teach this. She teaches the opposite of uniformity, when it comes to lay piety. And that is also how it goes in the Eastern rites, and in the separated Orthodox churches, and in Judaism.

During the great ages of faith, if you turned away from watching the altar, you would have seen a pewless church where the men stood or sat or kneeled in one area, the women stood or sat or kneeled or nursed babies in another area, and there was no particular pressure to do anything precisely at a certain time, or all together. It was okay in most places to wander around your whole area, if you didn’t step on people. Assigned places only happened if you had, say, vowed virgins and widows up front, or royalty up front because their servants said so, and catechumens or penitents close to the door.

Occasionally St. Augustine or St. John Chrysostom had to ask their congregations to quiet down and listen up. That was about as far as it went.

If you are a priest or deacon on the altar, you are performing sacred actions, and saying sacred words; and therefore precision is rightly demanded by Church teaching.

If you are assisting as a member of the congregation, your sacred actions are “lift up your heart” and reception of Communion. Everything else is free participation. There is no demanded precision; there are no vestments. It is a different job; It is being part of Ekklesia, the qahal. We pursue our various lives together, and that includes individual Catholic pieties and spiritualities.

You are not the same member (that means body part) of Christ’s Body as I am. We are not all eyes, or all ears, or all hands. We are many different members. It is by being most ourselves in Christ that we act best as His Body.

Binding burdens onto laypeople, that the Church does not demand or ask or want, is a sort of power grab or presumption. It also causes the demander nothing but heartburn.


I forgot to say that, at one point during the Sixties and Seventies, there was an attempt by some of the more radical nuns and priests, to insist that laypeople should attend Mass as a collective (ie, a Soviet). Their idea was that every layperson should do the same things the same way at Mass, and pray and think all the same things at the same moments as well. It was like something from a Pink Floyd video.

The CDF was unhappy about this, and largely put a stop to it. They were of the opinion that Mass should not be an Orwellian nightmare. (Especially not with policing and choreographing thoughts!)

Obviously we can all agree that we do not want uniform lay participation of this kind.

Obviously too, all laypeople and all clergy have the right to try to persuade people to join up with their own interpretations of lay piety. You just cannot overstate it, and portray it as doctrine.


I kneel silently with my eyes closed during this part of the Mass and listen intently to the words being spoken and when the elevation occurs I bow my head.


There you go! Freedom of personal piety, united with the liturgical action. All good!

If people are interested in this subject, there are a ton of official documents on about it, even in English. The main search terms in English are “popular piety” and “popular devotion.” Spoiler: the popes like it. Everybody from Pope Francis to Pope John Paul II to Pope Paul VI has a good word for it.

What other documents seem to use as a guideline, even without mentioning it in footnotes, is Pope Pius XII’s “Mediator Dei” from back in 1947. While he said that laypeople should be encouraged to participate and focus on the Mass by the liturgical reforms that had already begun, and that laypeople should not to have personal devotions to the extent of running a lay parallel liturgy, he also said that laypeople also should not be discouraged from having personal devotions centered around the Mass.

There is a lot of talk in later documents about making sure that popular or personal devotions “harmonize” with Mass, and this seems to be the document that put such language into the official Magisterium.

“Mediator Dei” gets into this question at heading 23, where the pope starts to talk about the nature of worship being both exterior and interior, both communal and personal. At 28, he brings in the pernicious nature of thinking that “subjective” or personal piety is something to be despised. A little further on, he points out that “…if [the Sacraments] are to produce their proper effect [from receiving the graces they dispense], it is absolutely necessary that our hearts be properly disposed to receive them.”

"32. If the private and interior devotion of individuals were to neglect the august sacrifice of the altar and the sacraments, and to withdraw them from the stream of vital energy that flows from Head to members, it would indeed be sterile, and deserve to be condemned.

But when devotional exercises, and pious practices in general, not strictly connected with the sacred liturgy, confine themselves to merely human acts, with the express purpose of directing these latter to the Father in heaven, of rousing people to repentance and holy fear of God, of weaning them from the seductions of the world and its vice, and leading them back to the difficult path of perfection, then certainly such practices are not only highly praiseworthy but absolutely indispensable: because they expose the dangers threatening the spiritual life; because they promote the acquisition of virtue; and because they increase the fervor and generosity with which we are bound to dedicate all that we are and all that we have to the service of Jesus Christ."

Then he lays down principles that assert that one good Catholic thing, like the Mass, cannot possibly be in real conflict with another good Catholic thing, like popular devotions. Things that are truly “Theocentric” are in harmony with each other.


Pius returns to this statement much later on in “Mediator Dei,” in the practical guidelines at heading 173.

“When dealing with genuine and solid piety We stated that there could be no real opposition between the sacred liturgy and other religious practices, provided they be kept within legitimate bounds and performed for a legitimate purpose. In fact, there are certain exercises of piety which the Church recommends very much to clergy and religious.”

But wait, there’s more!

"181. Any inspiration to follow and practice extraordinary exercises of piety must most certainly come from the Father of Lights, from whom every good and perfect gift descends;[166] and, of course, the criterion of this will be the effectiveness of these exercises in making the divine cult loved and spread daily ever more widely, and in making the faithful approach the sacraments with more longing desire, and in obtaining for all things holy due respect and honor. If on the contrary, they are an obstacle to principles and norms of divine worship, or if they oppose or hinder them, one must surely conclude that they are not in keeping with prudence and enlightened zeal.

  1. There are, besides, other exercises of piety which, although not strictly belonging to the sacred liturgy, are, nevertheless, of special import and dignity, and may be considered in a certain way to be an addition to the liturgical cult; they have been approved and praised over and over again by the Apostolic See and by the bishops. Among these are the prayers usually said during the month of May in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, or during the month of June to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus: also novenas and triduums, Stations of the Cross, and other similar practices.

  2. These devotions make us partakers in a salutary manner of the liturgical cult, because they urge the faithful to go frequently to the sacrament of penance, to attend Mass and receive communion with devotion, and, as well, encourage them to meditate on the mysteries of our redemption and imitate the example of the saints.

  3. Hence, he would do something very wrong and dangerous who would dare to take on himself to reform all these exercises of piety and reduce them completely to the methods and norms of liturgical rites. However, it is necessary that the spirit of the sacred liturgy and its directives should exercise such a salutary influence on them that nothing improper be introduced nor anything unworthy of the dignity of the house of God or detrimental to the sacred functions or opposed to solid piety.

  4. Take care then, Venerable Brethren, that this true and solid piety increases daily and more under your guidance and bears more abundant fruit."


So this is an issue that has been dealt with before, in many places, by the authority of many popes as well as by the CDF. Laypeople have a lot of rights, and very often the faithful are the movers and shakers behind teaching the love of Christ. Popular devotions are usually good stuff. Bishops and priests should guard the faithful, but not mess around and discourage them.

It is not wrong to put individual love into your singing voice when you sing communal hymns to God; it is the purpose of having hymns. As St. Augustine said, “Singing is for those who love.”

Similarly, those who love have love in their eyes’ gaze and in their eyes’ closing, in the way they walk, the way they talk, and the gestures they make.

You can tell from a distance that a mother loves her child, even though every mother shows it differently. Some have very quiet and reserved body language, some are showy. But they act in a way that shows their heart, and their individual habits of love help them love their individual children… even when their emotions or energy levels may vary.


Wow! Number 32 is an awesome statement on this especially the words “stream of vital energy that flows from Head to members”… Thanks for sharing this and your following quotes.


Mintaka post 46, above.

They are in favour of popular piety. They are opposed to mixing popular piety and the Mass.

Take the rosary as an example. The popes encourage it. But they discourage saying it in Mass. Paul VI has “However, it is a mistake to recite the Rosary during the celebration of the liturgy, though unfortunately this practice still persists here and there.” (1974 Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus, n. 48 (last sentence), at ).

From the 2001 Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (at ):

“74. Careful attention to these principles should lead to a real effort to harmonize, in so far as possible, pious exercises with the rhythm and demands of the Liturgy, thereby avoiding any “mixture or admixture of these two forms of piety”(91). This in turn ensures that no hybrid, or confused forms emerge from mixing Liturgy and pious exercises, not that the latter, contrary to the mind of the Church, are eliminated, often leaving an unfilled void to the great detriment of the faithful(92).””

The footnotes:

(91) THE ITALIAN EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE, EPISCOPAL COMMISSION FOR THE LITURGY, pastoral note Il rinnovamento liturgico in Italia (23.9.1983) 18, in Enchiridion CEI, 3, Edizioni Dehoniane, Bologna 1986, p. 886.

(92) Cf. Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus , 31; III CONFERENCIA GENERAL DEL EPISCOPADO LATINO-AMERICANO, Documento de Puebla, 915.


I attend only the Tridentine Mass and it’s quite common to see the faithfull praying and holding their rosaries during Mass.
Since you only quoted Paul VI am I right to assume that this direction was only given after Vatican II?


And that is one of the reasons that VII called for changes to the Mass. We should be participating in the rite, even if just through our attentiveness. We should not be participating in a private devotion


If I’m not wrong I once read that you could pray the rosary only if you can pay attention to both things at the same time, Mass and the rosary.
But let’s not derail this thread into a Vat II brawl, my question was only if this came up after the Council.


Yes, because people were not paying attention to what was really going on. They were there physically, but not participating in the prayers and rituals of the Mass, which was in another language and silent for the most part.


From what you said I think I can understand what are your views on the Tridentine Mass and all the Roman ritual that was performed before Vatican II.
And as I asked you before, let’s not derail this thread into a heated discussion about Vatican II.


I do the fist on my heart with a bow too.

And I also say to myself “My Lord and my God” for the Body.

And I say to myself “May this Blood cleanse me of my sins” when I’m at the OF. But when I’m at an EF mass, I say what’s in the red missal – something like “Be mindful O LORD of Thy creature, whom Thou hast redeemed by Thy most Precious Blood.”

The only reason I don’t say that at the OF is because I can never remember it, but I do remember the one about being cleansed.

God bless.


It’s a question of common sense and obedience. Even if your intentions are good, dis-obedience is bad - the original sin was one of disobedience. There’s an old saying that “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” So good intentions which are disobedient are bad. Our feelings do not outweigh Church authority.

I want to re-emphasize that I’m speaking of “during Mass” here, not private devotions.

I"m not actually concerned about making the sign of the cross so much as I am that there are so many other “private pious activities” happening as well.

I was attending a daily English Mass once (in a heavily Hispanic parish) in which during the middle of the Mass, a young (20’s) gentleman with a guitar strode up to the altar area and sang an ode to the Blessed Virgin Mary in Spanish, oblivious to the actual Mass that was underway. This was his own private pious activity that I would have no problems with outside of Mass. But during Mass- yes I have a problem with that. This was not related to the Mass at all. No doubt he had good intentions, but this activity was grossly inconsiderate. I admit that this is the most extreme example of inappropriate but pious activities that I’ve encountered. Although it’s not unusual during our English masses for Spanish hymns to spontaneously start up at almost any time…


I would respectfully disagree with you here. I don’t think this is the same this as “adding something to the mass.”

It’s a personal devotion that used to be spelled out in the hand missals and has been around for centuries.

Actually, the red hand missals for the Extraordinary Form (printed today) actual direct the people to say these prayers it to themselves.

The only issue that some people have with “adding things to the mass” is the Orans position during the Our Father. The reason most don’t like it is because of the symbolism and because it is mimicking the priest.

During the Our Father, the priest is collecting our prayers and funeling them up to God - that’s the symbolism of that position during the Our Father. That’s why he’s called to do that, but the Deacon is not.

Saying a small prayer during the consecration is not mimicking the priest, and again, it is something that has been done for centuries (not a few decades).

Personally, I don’t really care if people do the Orans position during the Our Father. I just don’t like it when some feel pressured into doing it (or holding hands). I also find it curious that many of the strongest proponents of it only do it during Mass, but don’t do it during the Rosary or Liturgy of the Hours.

God bless


I do this. I tap three times for each and pray to myself (the words are in a previous post)

Around me, most Churches ring the bells unless they don’t have a single altar server.


Well this is very interesting. I’ve never heard of anyone officially discouraging the Sign of the Cross.


Even with several altar servers present the bells remained hidden and silent here.

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