First Catholic mass: what to expect?


I am non-denominational, never been baptized, although I accepted Jesus as my lord and savior. I am interested in the Catholic faith and intend to go to mass tomorrow morning.

The title is misleading, as I attended a wedding ceremony at a Catholic church once, a long long time ago. Well, not exactly a mass.

What do I have to expect, how should I behave and how should I dress?

Should I tell one of the ushers right away that this is my first mass?

Thanks in advance!


Read Revelation 1-5 before you go :slight_smile:

People dress differently, some in jeans and some in dress clothes. I tend to dress up as a sign of respect for visiting God’s house.

Sit when people sit, stand when they stand. Don’t go up for communion, don’t worry, not everyone does.

There might be incense, they are a sign of prayer.
You might hear things repeated in groups of three; this affirms our belief in the Trinity.
You will see a crucifix, because as John stated " Now, Father, glorify me with that glory I had with you before ever the world existed." John 17:5 and “…the Lamb, which was slain from the beginning of the world.” Rev 13:8

Most of all, listen for what speaks to you. Happy Sunday :slight_smile:


I dress well for Mass. You’ll find the congregation standing, kneeling, and sitting at different times; for example we stand for the gospel and kneel for the consecration of the bread and wine since we believe Jesus to be present in both. Expect reverence and beauty. After your first Mass or two I would start to follow along with the missals generally provided in the pews to start to get an idea of what’s going on.


Welcome! I was a little nervous the first time I went alone. Just go! I recommend business casual. Sit closer to the back and just follow along with everyone else. :slight_smile: During communion, just let others out of your pew. Nobody will wonder why you aren’t receiving communion. God Bless.



When we think about meeting Jesus or receiving Holy Communion in a Catholic Church, we can mistakenly think that we are supposed to feel extremely spiritual/ overly excited.

No. Most of the time, when I go to Mass, it is very calm, very casual, and nothing too dramatic. It is not overwhelmingly emotional.

However, imagine that you were living 2,000 years ago in Palestine, and you saw Jesus Christ walking through the streets or doing everyday work as a carpenter. Would you be overwhelmed with incredible emotion? No. Jesus looked like any other guy when he was walking around town. This is why so many people could not believe Jesus when he said he was God - “isn’t this the son of Mary?”

This is how we can look at Holy Communion. Yes, the Eucharist is Jesus Christ, and the Mass is God’s greatest gift to the world. and Yes, during Mass, Heaven is kissing the face of the Earth. and Yes, the Mass is Heaven on Earth. However, it is OKAY if we don’t have dramatic feelings or feel overwhelming emotional during mass or during Holy Communion.

Love is NOT a feeling. Love is a decision to sacrifice.

When you go to Mass, most likely, you will not have any special emotions or feel overwhelmed. That is okay.

Remember that God speaks through a still small whisper.


Blend in ------ do what everyone else does ( stand, sit, kneel, etc).
Ask the usher/greeter for a missalette and have them turn it to the correct page for today’s readings.

Remain in your pew during communion and pray a prayer of thanksgiving and gratitude.

Keep going every Sunday, look in the church bulletin for information on RCIA classes (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) as going thru RCIA is how one “converts” and is officially brought into the Church.



Wonderful. Welcome, and welcome to CAF too.

What do I have to expect,

Something quite different from your previous experience.
The Mass is not about preaching. In fact you may find the sermon to be quite “UN-inspiring” compared to the “non-denominational” style.
The mass is about a real and substantial encounter with Jesus - in the flesh and blood.
Expect a service FULL of Scripture. Nearly the entire mass is straight from the Bible.
Expect to literally SEE your Lord and King, physically present on the altar. When the Priest says the words of institution (Jesus words from the last supper) and holds up the Host and the Chalice you are seeing Christ Himself…Not symbols - but the Real Presence.
Your brain might still “see” bread - - but know - this is Christ.

how should I behave

As others have suggested, sit near the back, and just sort of follow along. Let sort of “soak in”.

and how should I dress?

Personally, I like to dress in a way appropriate to visiting the throne room of my Lord and King.

Should I tell one of the ushers right away that this is my first mass?

This is a wonderful idea though depending on the parish the usher might be hard to pick out. Where I go to Church, they aren’t at every door…
But - if you see someone - a greeter or just someone who looks friendly - do go up and introduce yourself. T

Thanks in advance!

You are welcome.
Do stop back and share your impressions.



Just a small but important correction, as we don’t want to give the OP wrong information.

Perhaps it was a slip of the finger, but saying that there is a ‘physical’ presence is not church teaching. It is a sacramental presence, Real of course, but not physical. If you read church documents, you will see that nowhere is the presence described as physical. The church is careful to say that the presence is sacramental.

Physical things decay and are subject to time and volume constraints. They cannot be in all places at all times, and do not last for ever.



Thank you. I should have said “real”…as in really real.


I have attended mass now for three Sundays in a row. Don’t be surprised if you feel lost, disoriented, and a little overwhelmed the first Sunday - I certainly did. You really need to attend several times to get a good feel for the liturgy (which is very beautiful, by the way). At the church I’ve been attending, we are handed a missal upon entering the building. Then there is a beautiful fountain as you walk into the sanctuary. Every baptized person, even the small children, dips his right index finger into the water, touches it to his forehead, and makes the sign of the cross, remembering his baptism. I love that. Most people genuflect and make the sign of the cross toward the altar upon arriving at their pews in respect and honor of the Lord’s presence. Many people then kneel in prayer for a few minutes before the mass begins. At this point, before the mass begins, I study the missal to familiarize myself with that Sunday’s liturgy. The mass service consists of the Introductory Rites, Liturgy of the Word (Scripture readings and reciting of the Creed), Liturgy of the Eucharist, Communion Rite, and Concluding Rites. I have been staying through the entire mass to observe everything, although when you are in RCIA (I’m not there just yet) the candidates and catechumens leave right after the homily which is just before the Creed is recited. (As the priest told me, technically as non-Catholics we should be educated by the Church in all the elements of the Creed before we profess it with the rest of the Church.) If you meet one on one with the priest, he will give you a nice big stack of things to read. I received a very handy little book called “Catholic Prayers and Practices Including the Order of the Mass.” It’s been very helpful.

To those Catholics who posted that it might not be an emotional experience, let me tell you - the past two Sundays I have strongly felt the presence of Christ in the church. To me it feels like something akin to the sun being in the middle of the room, a warm glow I can bask in. Very beautiful and moving. :slight_smile:


It went well. And I left empowered and definitely with the feeling of a holy presence in me, which is still remaining with me hours later.

The Catholic mass is as I left it when I last attended: it was full of songs and praises. I was totally taken aback with the Peace Be With You. I can’t describe yet all that I felt.

I was also surprised to see that the RCIA candidates were excused at one point, but I found it beautiful that they were sitting at the heart of the congregation.

I went there by myself but I cannot say that I went there alone. I was compelled to go to mass since I decided to accept Jesus into my life and I received a sign which I will keep private that I was welcome and indeed invited to go.




Yes - I hadn’t thought of the RCIA Candidates. This is getting to be a very exciting time for them. They are nearing the end of their instruction - preparing to be received at Easter.



And He’s not hard of hearing either. :slight_smile:


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