etiquette


#1

Hello! I have become increasingly interested in the Catholic Church - I’ve been reading alot of Catholic material online, as well as Keating and Hahn’s books from my library. I decided to visit my local Catholic church yesterday (not during mass) just to check it out. No one was there and the church was BEAUTIFUL (stainglass, wooden pews, candles, etc.) but I felt a bit awkward.

I’m not sure if this is the right forum … but I have some etiquette questions.

  1. When do you cross yourself when you enter a church? Do you dip your fingers in the holy water on the way in, the way out, or both? May a not-yet-Catholic make use of the holy water?

  2. When, where, and how do you genuflect?

  3. From some guesswork, I assume that when the candle next to the tabernacle is lit, the host is present. How should I behave if I were to stand before the tabernacle? Cross myself? Genuflect? Kneel? Pray? Which prayer?

  4. Is it ok to just sit in a pew and pray? Is it ok to just come in and use the kneeling bench? What is the etiquette?

I haven’t gotten my courage up enough to talk with a priest yet, but it felt really nice to slip into the Church and just pray for a while. I realized that while I feel have a very deep familiarity with the teachings and doctrine of the Catholic Church, I don’t know ANYTHING about etiquette. I know what to believe, but not how to behave!

Many thanks to anyone who can help! I’m sure I’ll have more questions.


#2

Yes, sacramentals, such as holy water and blessed candles, can be used by anyone. You can dip both in your way in and on your way out.

You genuflect to the monstrance (if adoration of the Eucharist is going on) or to the tabernacle (where the Eucharist is kept). This is genuflecting to Jesus as your God as a form of worship.

Behave in a reverent manner (choice is up to you) recognizing that Jesus is present in the tabernacle.

Yes, if the church is unlocked and a service in not going on, just slip reverently in the pew. If a service is going on and there are pews in the rear or side not being used, you can use those; just avoid disturbing those praying in the service.

The key to remember is that you are in God’s place, to be reverent in all you do and courteous of others.

God bless you and aid you in your journey of Faith.


#3

[quote=lookingforlight]Hello! I have become increasingly interested in the Catholic Church - I’ve been reading alot of Catholic material online, as well as Keating and Hahn’s books from my library. I decided to visit my local Catholic church yesterday (not during mass) just to check it out. No one was there and the church was BEAUTIFUL (stainglass, wooden pews, candles, etc.) but I felt a bit awkward.

I’m not sure if this is the right forum … but I have some etiquette questions.

  1. When do you cross yourself when you enter a church? Do you dip your fingers in the holy water on the way in, the way out, or both? May a not-yet-Catholic make use of the holy water?

  2. When, where, and how do you genuflect?

  3. From some guesswork, I assume that when the candle next to the tabernacle is lit, the host is present. How should I behave if I were to stand before the tabernacle? Cross myself? Genuflect? Kneel? Pray? Which prayer?

  4. Is it ok to just sit in a pew and pray? Is it ok to just come in and use the kneeling bench? What is the etiquette?

I haven’t gotten my courage up enough to talk with a priest yet, but it felt really nice to slip into the Church and just pray for a while. I realized that while I feel have a very deep familiarity with the teachings and doctrine of the Catholic Church, I don’t know ANYTHING about etiquette. I know what to believe, but not how to behave!

Many thanks to anyone who can help! I’m sure I’ll have more questions.
[/quote]

[list=1]
*]I Cross myself both upon entering and exiting the Church, dipping my fingers in holy water each time.
*]You should genuflect on the right knee before entering a pew. Genuflect in the direction of the Tabernacle. Genuflect each time you cross in front of the Tabernacle. Genuflect when leaving the Church after Mass. It is tradition to genuflect on both knees if the Blessed Sacrament is exposed in a Monstrance or if the Tabernacle is open.
*]You are right! If the candle is lit, Jesus is present. I usually genuflect and kneel at the Altar Rail (we’re lucky enough to have one - most were torn out after Vatican II). You can pray any prayer before the Tabernacle - spontaneous, The Lords Prayer, Hail Mary, The Apostles Creed. I also genuflect before leaving and back up a few steps so as not to immediately turn my back on the Lord.
*]Yes - it’s okay to sit in prayer or to kneel. It’s also okay to stand with head bowed, as many people I see do when making the Stations of the Cross. If the Blessed Sacrament is exposed in a Monstrance or the Tabernacle is open, you should kneel if you’re able too.
[/list]


#4

All those beautiful traditions can be a little intimidating, no? I think if you called any local parish office and got in touch with someone in RCIA, they would be thrilled to give you a church tour, answer your questions (with demonstrations and feedback on your own efforts!), and even find someone who you could attend Mass with.


#5

May God reward you for your thoughtful questions! I deeply respect your willingness to ask about these things. It is a sign that God is prompting and you are responding. Look out!

Do you know how to make the sign of the cross? (Pardon if I’m being ridiculous.) It is always done with the right hand. There are various ways people hold their hand to do this. Some cluster the thumb and first two fingers withe the ring and pinky fingers bent into the palm to signify the Holy Trinity (3 fingers) and the two-fold nature of Christ (2 fingers). Some people do the opposite: hold the index & middle finger extended and with the thumb hold the ring & pinky fingers down (same symbolism). Others just use the whole hand.
I would be careful praying before the Blessed Sacrament. This can change your life in ways you cannot begin to imagine. You don’t know how many sinners have been converted into saints by doing stuff like that. He REALLY is present, you know! :yup:


#6

I am so glad you found a church near you that is open, and so beautiful a place to be. I think others have answered your questions. Please remember to keep as quiet as possible for the benefit of others who may be there to pray. If you should meet someone you with to converse with, it would be polite to take it outside. hope we see you soon in an inquirer’s class or RCIA


#7

Just a few words from me. I dip my fingers in the Holy Water and cross myself both ways, in and out. Only problem I have is, I always end up going down on my left knee instead of right. Don’t ask me why, but I can’t seem to make myself go down on my right.

I have seen that some people, who, for various reasons, can’t genuflect, bow instead. At least, most of the time. Especially our priest. I can see where he might have a problem. He’s only 6’8"!!! :eek:


#8

I

have seen that some people, who, for various reasons, can’t genuflect, bow instead. At least, most of the time. Especially our priest. I can see where he might have a problem. He’s only 6’8"!!!

Good point. Also, if for some reason that tabernacle is not in view (or is empty) when you enter the pew, the custom is to then bow to the altar.


#9

Welcome, WELCOME! A warm welcome to you! I am so glad that you came into a church. It is perfectly fine for you to do so! Christ is beckoning you and you are responding. I also recommend that you call the parish and ask for someone to give you a tour of the church. Prayerfully, they will be more than willing to do so.

Please, do not go onto the altar where the Tabernacle is usually placed. You may of course, seat yourself in a front pew to sit and visit with Our Lord at any time when a Mass is not going on. If you wish, you are also more than welcome to attend a Mass.

It was the Real Presence that drew me home to Rome…even though it took 33 years! God Bless


#10

[quote=Christy Beth] I always end up going down on my left knee instead of right. Don’t ask me why, but I can’t seem to make myself go down on my right.

I have seen that some people, who, for various reasons, can’t genuflect, bow instead. At least, most of the time. Especially our priest. I can see where he might have a problem. He’s only 6’8"!!! :eek:
[/quote]

Ah, yes. The profound bow. Excellent suggestion. Deeply from the waist. :bowdown2: Very Byzantine. Some Anglicans do it also. For those who are unable to genuflect, it is equivalent. Say, Christy Beth (nice name!), why not practice the right-knee thing? Trivia point: you genuflect on the LEFT knee when you kiss the bishop’s ring! The last time I tried that the bishop fell all over himself trying to get me NOT to do that! :o


#11

Hello,

[quote=lookingforlight]May a not-yet-Catholic make use of the holy water?

[/quote]

I’m not sure about people crossing themselves with holy water especially if they are not yet baptized. Crossing ourselves with holy water reminds us of our baptism and uses similar words to baptism.

Check with a trustworthy Church authority on that one.

Greg


#12

Wow! Thank you everyone for your very helpful replies! I’ve actually realized that a friend of mine is catholic, so I e-mailed him and he agreed to go to mass with me and show me the ropes.

Before then, I have three more questions.

  1. When you make the sign of the cross, especially after dipping in holy water, do you actually touch your forehead, etc., or do your fingers just sort of pass over your body? I won’t use the holy water until I’ve been given the all clear by someone, though I have had a valid baptism in a protestant church.

  2. I noticed at the back of the church there were these - hard to describe - kneeling bench/chair things. They were obviously places to kneel and they had a surface to rest your arms on. What are these? When would someone use them?

  3. In the church, there is a little nich with candles and a statue of the church’s patron saint as well as another niche with the Virgin, Christ, and Joseph. Should one do anything special when passing by these or standing before them? When/why would you light a candle?

Thanks so much!


#13

[quote=lookingforlight]Wow! Thank you everyone for your very helpful replies! I’ve actually realized that a friend of mine is catholic, so I e-mailed him and he agreed to go to mass with me and show me the ropes.

Before then, I have three more questions.

  1. When you make the sign of the cross, especially after dipping in holy water, do you actually touch your forehead, etc., or do your fingers just sort of pass over your body? I won’t use the holy water until I’ve been given the all clear by someone, though I have had a valid baptism in a protestant church.
    [/quote]

You do touch your head, chest, and each shoulder (Eastern Rite does it right to left, Roman Rite does it left to right). By the way, this gesture is a prayer unto itself because you are invoking the name of God. Usually we say (or think) “In the name of the Father (head), the Son (chest) and the Holy (one shoulder) Spirit (other shoulder), Amen.” Someone once told me that God the Father can rule our mind, God the son rules our hearts and the Holy Spirit guides our actions. Just another way of looking at it…

  1. I noticed at the back of the church there were these - hard to describe - kneeling bench/chair things. They were obviously places to kneel and they had a surface to rest your arms on. What are these? When would someone use them?

Ah…stand alone kneelers. They’re used for kneeling and praying when one does not intend to sit. My guess is if they’re at the back of the church they’re there for people to pray after confession, or so people who must stand during mass ( if it’s too crowded) can kneel during the consecration of the Eucharist. These are also used in chapels or places where one might want to kneel and pray with a given saint.

  1. In the church, there is a little nich with candles and a statue of the church’s patron saint as well as another niche with the Virgin, Christ, and Joseph. Should one do anything special when passing by these or standing before them? When/why would you light a candle?

Thanks so much!

People light candles so that their prayer will last as long as the candle is lit. For instance, if you ask St. Joseph to pray for your family (common, he is the patron of families and fathers) you may light a candle so the prayer may continue as long as the candle is lit. There is nothing required as you pass these niches, necessarily, but it is a place to pray with our saintly brothers and sisters in Christ.
–Ann


#14

Touch.

These are portable kneelers, they are used during some masses, such as marriages, where kneelers are needed on or near the altar as well as other places where a portable kneeler is needed.

These are votive candles. When praying to the saint represented in the alcove, some will light one of the candles (and usually make a donation for the candle’s cost) as part of their prayer. They are left burning until they go out on their own.


#15

[quote=T.A.Stobie, SFO]These are portable kneelers, they are used during some masses, such as marriages, where kneelers are needed on or near the altar as well as other places where a portable kneeler is needed.
[/quote]

Bit of trivia for you: the “portable kneelers” are called prie-dieux (singular, prie-dieu), from the French words for “pray” and “God.”


#16

[quote=lookingforlight]3) In the church, there is a little nich with candles and a statue of the church’s patron saint as well as another niche with the Virgin, Christ, and Joseph. Should one do anything special when passing by these or standing before them? When/why would you light a candle?

Thanks so much!
[/quote]

And you can light a candle for any kind of prayer – petitionary, thanksgiving, remembrance. Whenever I am travelling my mother always bids me to light a candle for her or for my departed grandmother in the Churches that I visit. So whenever I do I think of her and say a brief prayer.

Regarding the statues, in Los Angeles many Catholics of Latin background will briefly visit with their favorites before or after Mass and often they will kiss their fingers and lay their hand on the feet or the heart of the statue. I think it is a lovely practice, sort of like a greeting or a goodbye, so I’ve started doing it myself whenever I pass a statue of the Blessed Virgin. But you certainly don’t have to do anything.


#17

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