Help with a few Mass questions

I am not Catholic, but look forward to that day. A little background about me… I have had years of being “lost” when it came to what should I believe. After trying a few different ones (mainly different Babtists) I gave up and prayed alone. I recently have been struggling with everything you could imagine in life and lately have found peace when reading about Catholic beliefs. All I personally thought and believed for years I had finally found. After reading numerous books, the Bible again and studying the religion, I scheduled a meeting with the Priest at the local parish. He was amazing and made me feel welcomed. I informed him around 6 years ago I was Babtised and he said that was a great start.

Now the questions I have…
Being non Catholic I am fully aware of what not to do at Mass. The few I am not sure of are if I stop by one day to go in and pray, how should I go about it? Just walk in and sit quietly or should I kneel and make a sign of The Holy Trinity. Also am I allowed to do confessionals now or thats when I become fully Catholic? Sorry for rambling but just wanted guidance and opinions. Any other suggestions are welcomed.


Hey, Chad, I’ve been there! I’m an adult convert and during my journey, I felt a strong pull to visit many, many Catholic churches in the San Francisco Bay Area and when traveling on business and vacations.

There are no “rules” per se, but I felt most comfortable and least like a sore thumb to enter the church or chapel, genuflect to the tabernacle or monstrance and enter the pew or seating area. Then I did a sign of the cross and knelt if there was a kneeler. When my knees gave out (oh, how I envy the knees of cradle Catholics), I simply slid back to my seat. Upon leaving, I would genuflect as a good-bye and leave.

But no Church “police” are going to come and arrest you if you just walk in and sit down. Honest. Folks do it all the time. But the ritual of genuflecting, sign of the cross and kneeling, and then slowly recollecting your thoughts and making that interior turning away from the world’s worries and turning towards God’s presence is comforting. And after a while, it helps to draw you into prayer more quickly.

If there are candles, you can go and get a candle. There is usually a donation box with a donation amount set. You drop the money in, light the candle, kneel and pray for your intention.

If you have any questions and see a “regular” around – someone who seems to belong, or perhaps a priest or brother moving about, feel free to ask quietly. You will be surprised to find how gracious and welcoming they can be.

Keep up the practice of visiting and spending time in front of the tabernacle or monstance in different churches. It is a wonderful experience - a sort of conversion pilgrimage of sorts. After you do it a bit, it will feel very comfortable. Like coming home. A sense of peace and belonging will settle on you.

Forgot to address confession. If there is a confession going on and you want to join in, you may. You will NOT be absolved. But you can confess to a priest and receive a blessing.

Simply enter the confessional or room if the church has face-to-face confessions. Address the priest as Father. Say, “Father, I am not a Catholic but I am in RCIA (or on the journey, or considering, or seeking) and I feel I need to confess something to God. Would that be OK?”

He will explain about the not being able to absolve thing and then offer to listen and give give you a blessing. He may offer a bit of advice, or he may not - there are not hard and fast rules here.

If there is a long line waiting, it is not wise to tie up the poor Father with a long list of theological questions. Go in, tell your sins you feel sorry about, and go out. Let the priest guide the event - he has probably had a lot of experience in this.

I will pray for your journey into the Church. It’s good that you’ve spoken with a priest. I’m sure he’s told you about RCIA and full initiation into the Church. Of not, there are many people here who would be more than happy to tell you what their parish does.

As for what to do if you stop by to pray, let your heart guide you. Many Catholics don’t bother to genuflect or make the sign of the cross before they enter the pew. Here’s a short article that explains when to genuflect and when to bow. Whether to sit or kneel while praying outside the Mass is a personal preference. Some days, my back won’t allow me to kneel on the pew kneeler (but I’m fine if I kneel outside of the pew). Some days, I won’t be stopped from kneeling no matter how bad the pain is.

Confessing could be tricky, especially if it’s busy. Those going through RCIA at our parish usually make their first confession a few weeks before Easter. If you want to speak to a priest before that time, you can, and you can request the protection of the seal of the confessional, but you won’t receive absolution. Whatever you do, make sure the priest knows your situation - that you are not Catholic. If you later go through RCIA, you will be instructed to inform the priest when you are making your first sacramental confession.

You go ointo the Catholic CHurch and you will see a water font; you dip your finger into the water font and you make the sign of the cross with your right hand saying, in the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit. you are actually naniong the Trinity–this will have to be explained by a priest.Wheen you go in church, you can bow or genuflect and tell God whatever is o your mind. It is veery peacefful.

God bless you

I have not used the holy water yet but I think I might start. I’ve just gotten started with the sign of the cross. I don’t think you have to do it (well maybe at least in your mind and heart would be nice) but doing it just feels good.
I haven’t knelt and signed before entering the “pew” yet but I’d like to as a sign of respect to my Lord.

I think others have covered prayer in good detail, so I will just address confession.

As a general rule a priest cannot absolve a non-Catholic unless that person belongs to a Church with valid confession (e.g. Orthodox) or if the person is in danger of death. That being said all baptized candidates that are entering the Church will go to confession before being received. Generally this is done shortly before their are received into full communion (generally at Easter), but it is not absolutely required that a candidate wait that long. If a person is baptized and in the process of joining the Church, they may approach the priest for the sacrament provided they have a firm understanding of what the sacrament is.

If you feel a burning call to avail yourself of the sacrament of penance I would set up a time to talk to the priest and explain that you are in the process, explain your understanding of the sacrament, and ask if you may make your confession. When I was in RCIA I made my first confession in December even though we weren’t “scheduled” for another 3 - 4 months. It kinda irked the RCIA Director, but Father agreed that when we are called to repentance that a date on the calendar should not be a barrier.

All that being said it would be up to the priest if he feels that he can validly absolve you based on where you are in your conversion. Personally I find it is better to ask and be told “No” then assume “No” when the answer might have been “Yes”.

Thanks everyone who answered. It does help with a lot of my nervousness. One thing that will be hard is the RCIA which will start again in September, because of my job. Also when it comes to attending Mass. I work pretty much 6 or 7 days a week with no set schedule, and never know when I’m going to be in town because I work for a railroad as a locomotive engineer. I did tell the Priest when I met him and he said “they” would work with me. I don’t want them to think I’m not fully into it because of my lack of attending things. That’s why I was asking in my initial post about going throughout the week cause that’s probably when I would be able to go the most. Somehow I will just do the best I can and see what happens.

Thanks again to all of you.

Now here is a bit of advice: As soon as you get up in the morning, make a nice big Sign of the Cross over yourself. Put yourself under the Cross of Christ every single day this way. Good way to start the day. Then get in the habit of crossing yourself throughout the day. You will soon find that this comes naturally and you will always be reminded of Jesus. It is one way to “pray constantly”.:slight_smile:

As our priest says, “Life happens.” Some of us don’t have jobs that fit into the M-F, 9-5 mold. Trust what your priest has told you.

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