My First Mass

Hello everyone.

I am a Southern Baptist and I’m currently exploring Catholicism. I am planning on attending my first mass tommorow evening, and maybe RCIA in the future.

To sum this up, I’ve never been to mass before so I’m a little nervous as to how I should conduct myself. What should I do when I first enter the building? Should I sit in the back or not? Do I need to kneel if I pass by the altar? I don’t know anyone at the particular parish I am going to, so it’s just a little nervewracking, but they love Christ so it’s all good!

I hope you allow God to lead you to the right path. Seeing that you posted in the traditional forum, I am not sure if you know that we have two forms of the mass? Ordianry form = OF & Extra Ordinary form = EF

I am assuming you will just be attending an English ordianry form. If you are, all you have to do is go in with reverence and respect. Follow allong and usually there are missals privded if you wan’t to pray, sing, and read along. Abstain from receiving commuion as you are not Catholic, but hopefully you will be. Instead just remain kneeling or sitting and have what we call Spiritual communion. That’s pretty much it nothing really to it.

Thanks for the quick reply.

So what is an Extraordinary mass?

When you go in and you feel comfortable, you dip your fingers in the holy water and then make the sign of the cross over yourself, then find a spot that you are comfortable with–it really doesn’t matter where, no one will care and again, if you’re comfortable, genuflect before you enter the pew. Then kneel down for a few minutes and pray, collect your thoughts and offer the Mass you are about to participate in for whatever intentions you would like. This could be for friends, family or specific situations, like becoming a holy Catholic.

Sit in the pew and if they have a missalette, find the start of the Mass and try to follow along inside the missalette, or just observe/pray in your heart the first time. When communion time comes you can make what is called, a spiritual communion, if you feel you are ready for that. A spiritual communion is something like:

My Jesus,
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment
receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You.

The Extraordinary Form of Mass is the traditional Mass in Latin, the Mass in English, which is most likely what you’ll be attending is called, the Ordinary Form.

For more on the Latin Mass see here:

Overall, there is nothing to be nervous about. Catholics go to church to pray, it is not really a social experience like in a Protestant church. Just do your thing and try to lift your heart and mind to God through the Mass, even when you don’t understand what is going on. Jesus will be present physically, body, blood, soul and divinity, the Word Made Flesh, Emmanuel. That is what we believe and that is why the Mass is so powerful, so try to be in touch with that. That, in the end, is what is important.

+God’s blessings to you!

I hope you allow God to lead you to the right path. Seeing that you posted in the traditional forum, I am not sure if you know that we have two forms of the mass? Ordianry form = OF & Extra Ordinary form = EF

I am assuming you will just be attending an English ordianry form. If you are, all you have to do is go in with reverence and respect. Follow allong and usually there are missals privded if you wan’t to pray, sing, and read along. Abstain from receiving commuion as you are not Catholic, but hopefully you will be. Instead just remain kneeling or sitting and have what we call Spiritual communion. That’s pretty much it nothing really to it.

Sounds Beautiful, thanks for the reply HCC.

First of all, congratulations on trying out your first Mass!

As to what to do, there’s no need to be nervous. Plenty of people start going to Mass while they’re still trying to learn about the Church, and if by chance someone notices that you’re new and says, “Hi, are you new?”, they’ll be happy that you’ve come whatever you say. On the other hand, sometimes Protestants (depending on the kind of church they’ve come from) are surprised not to be noticed, that nobody particularly greets them or makes overtures about joining the Church, etc. One of the things we could probably get better at is that sort of welcoming, so don’t be too shocked if you go, people smile, but no one really grabs you and tries to bring you in.

During Mass you can sit wherever you’d like, but if you sit nearer the back it would be easier to see what other people are doing and not to feel like everyone’s eyes are on you. When people stand, please stand, as it is a sign of respect for the Gospel and the liturgy. Kneeling is a sign of adoration and worship, so if you don’t yet know whether you’re comfortable with that you can remain sitting. (If there’s someone directly behind you, at least scoot forward though, since it is hard to kneel with your face in someone’s back.) If you want to, of course, you can by all means kneel, genuflect toward the tabernacle as you enter the pew, cross yourself with holy water from the font, and so on. As a non-Catholic, really the only two things you can’t do at Mass are receiving Communion in the Eucharist, and certain liturgical functions at Mass like proclaiming the readings (a couple of Protestants have posted here that they’ve attended Mass so often that people just assumed they were Catholic and asked them to do a reading!)

Since this will be a Wednesday night Mass, is it a school group or something? Generally turnout at your standard weekday Mass will be fairly low, and some of the elements of the ordinary Sunday Mass, like the Nicene Creed and the Sign of Peace, are omitted. If the Sign of Peace is done, people near you will generally turn toward you, extend their hand for a handshake, and say, “Peace be with you” as a sign of Christ’s peace (it’s Jesus’ greeting from Luke 24:36 and John 20:21). You don’t have to participate, but the ordinary thing would be to shake hands and return the same greeting.

By the way, don’t worry about making any of the responses to the things the priest says. If you want, you could find a missal (the texts of the Mass) online, and many churches will have them in the pews or at least some at the entrance for people who want them. But a missal can be tricky to use for people who have never tried before, and you might miss more by flipping around to find your place in the book than you would gain. Trust me, no one will notice that you aren’t making the responses (people often say they worry about this!) and no one will care. Here’s a basic example of the texts of the Mass, but this doesn’t include the readings, which change each day, a variety of other prayers in the Mass that also change each day, etc.

You might like to pray the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father) when it comes. Many Protestants do, since it is one of the great prayers that joins us all together. If you do, please note that we do not do the Doxology right after “but deliver us from evil”; the priest says a short prayer in between. Here is the text we use:

Priest: Let us pray with confidence to the Father in the words our Savior gave us.
or Jesus taught us to call God our Father, and so we have the courage to say:
or Let us ask our Father to forgive our sins and to bring us to forgive those who sin against us.
or Let us pray for the coming of the kingdom as Jesus taught us.

All: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Priest: Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
All: For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever.
That’s all I can think of to mention. God bless!

In answer to your query of wwhat the extraordinary form is:

The extraordinary form is the form of the mass that was in widespread use before the second vatican council. It is in latin (excepting the homily if its a low mass, or a missa cantanta). It is called the extraordinary form because it is not the ordinary usage of the roman rite, but is permitted should the congregation ask for it upon the approval of the local priest (since summorum pontificum a papal motu propriu)

In my opinion and probably the opinion of most people on this particular forum it is much more reverent and much more deep to use that word than the ordinary form, id strongly suggest that you try it out after you become used to the ordinary form and after much study and reflection. Considering your baptist background it would probably be a massive shock to suddenly enter a mass of the extraordinay form.

But should you continue on the path towards the Catholic Church and then after your acquainted with the ordinary form you should definitely attend the extraordinary form or at least try it out if possible. Likewise if you don’t like the ordinary form perhaps you should try the extraordinary form, it may be a shock but perhaps it will suit you and we don’t want you to drift away purely because you havent experienced reverent deep catholicism (i mean there is the chance you’ll attend a liturgically abusive parish).

Hope that answers your question:)

When some Catholics refer to Mass celebrated according to its “extraordinary form” (some here use the abbreviation “EF” as if the whole world knows what that means), they are generally referring to “the old Latin Mass”, that is to say the Roman rite of Mass using the Roman Missal published by Pope John XXIII in 1962. That is the latest edition of the Roman Missal prior to the liturgical reforms that followed the Church’s Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. Before 1970, Mass was always celebrated in Latin, and the celebrant almost never faced the congregation, but the altar.

At most older Catholic churches you visit, you will see physical evidence of this liturgical reform in the sanctuary (the furthest eastern extremity of the chancel). In the sanctuary you will most likely find two altars, instead of one. Usually it is a matter of encountering a free-standing “table” style altar erected in front of a usually larger and more elaborate altar, somewhat elevated. The two altars exist because Mass was celebrated one way (facing in the same direction as the congregation) before the liturgical reforms, and another way (facing the congregation) after them.

Although the reformed Mass is today the normative way of celbrating Mass throughout the world, there are some Catholics who do not like the reforms. At all. We call such Catholics “traditionalists”. They are to our Church what the Episcopalians would call “High Church”.

Because there exist enough traditionalists who find themselves attached to the pre-Vatican II ordinary rite of Mass, the Holy See allowed bishops to provide the old Latin Mass in their dioceses, if they so chose, and now the Vatican has gone one step further, permitting any Catholic priest to use the 1962 Missal at his own discretion.

Despite being a significant number, Catholics attached to this older form of Mass represent but a small percentage of the Catholic population worldwide, and so you actually have to seek out the old Latin Mass if you want to experience one. They aren’t everywhere. Oftentimes, Catholics who attend the old Latin Mass drive considerable distances from their homes in order to do so. This illustrates how few and far between they are.

The vast majority of Catholics attend the standard, post-Vatican II Mass in the vernacular, although our reformed Mass can, and often is, celebrated in Latin. Papal liturgies use this reformed rite, but they are often in Latin, celebrated with as much solemnity as was seen in the old rite. A number of Catholics, today, appeal for a greater level of beauty and solemnity in the celebration of Mass according to the reformed Missal. They do not require that the old Missal be used, but they would like to see the solemnity and reverence usually seen in the “olden days” restored.

On the opposite end of the liturgical spectrum, some Masses are celebrated very casually, using guitars, folk music, “Cumbaya” and all the rest…which drives the traditionalists to madness and others just to wonder why the strange attachment to 1970s pop culture. You’ll typically encounter this sort of Mass on college campuses, at Newman Centers, and the like. But they are becoming almost as rare as Latin Masses. I think the 1970s may, at last, be drawing to a close over on the left wing of the Church. Maybe.

But don’t worry about all that just as you’re coming into the church. You’ll sort it all out (if you even feel the need to bother sorting it out) as time goes by.


Welcome back, FanofU2.

As others have said, my advice is to sit in the back and follow along with what everyone else is doing. You could also try Youtube or watch EWTN to get a sense of what goes on at Mass.

Be aware that although the Mass is supposed to be standard and universal, some priests and parishes take liberties and customize the Mass to their own liking. If you can find a proper Mass on video then you can use it as a benchmark for the local church you’ll attend.

The Extraordinary Form is also known as the Traditional Latin Mass, or Usus Antiquior, and was the standard liturgy for approximately 1,500 years. After the Second Vatican Council held during the early 1960s a movement started to modernize the Church and the liturgy and that produced what’s now called the Ordinary Form also known as the Novus Ordo. The Novus Ordo was imposed on all parishes as the new liturgy in 1969 and as such most priests today don’t know how to say the TLM.

In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI removed the chains that the modernist movement put on the TLM and it is quickly gaining in popularity and priests able to say the ancient rite of the Church. It is more distinctively Catholic than most Protestant services although a High Anglican service bears a close resemblance. My advice is to start with a properly said Novus Ordo and then experience a TLM when you’re comforable with Catholicism in general.

Here are some links on the TLM you may find helpful:

Don’t worry if the Latin Mass seems too complex right now. I’m a cradle Catholic and it took me some time and study to understand and appreciate the Mass.

There are many wonderful resources for converts on this website. Many of the best Catholics I know are converts and go on to teach those born into the Church. Here are a few more websites, hosted by converts like yourself:

My first mass was wonderful.:thumbsup:

All the people were very nice to me. The priest was very warm and welcoming. Mass itself was beautiful. I wasn’t able to take communion, so I was blessed by the priest instead. and I left feeling like I was closer to Christ. Nothing I experienced went along with what I have always been taught about the RCC, and I would recommend any curious protestants like myslef, to attend mass and see for themselves what it is like!

Great news and thanks for the update. Imagine how much closer to Christ you’ll feel when you receive Him in Holy Communion.

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