New to RCIA, questions

I have just begun RCIA classes and I am wondering about what I should and should not do at Mass, etc and how to do it. I will not be able to participate in the Eucharist for awhile as I have a previous marriage issue to take care of first.

However, in the meanwhile, after attending Mass for the first time in a long while yesterday (I have not been since I went as a child with my sister who is Catholic), I find myself with a few questions.

I noticed first that people stopped at a fountain in the church and took some water on their fingers and touched it to their foreheads (I think). What is this and should I do this as well?

Also, I see people genuflect at the pew before entering. Is this done differently for men and women, or the same? If I am unable, for medical reasons, to drop to one knee or to kneel once inside the pew for prayer, is there an “abbreviated” version that would be acceptable?

I know this must sound very silly to ask but I am not sure how you perform the act of crossing yourself and when this is to be done?

Thanks for any help you can provide.

The only thing you can’t do at Mass is receive communion. That will have to wait. Beyond that you can participate in the prayers, singing, etc.

Hopefully your RCIA group will have a session that will explain what happens at Mass so you’ll understand it all.

To answer your specific questions…

When entering a church, people bless themselves with holy water. This is either in the baptismal font or in smaller fonts by the doors. They dip their fingers in the water then make the Sign of the Cross. This serves as a reminder of our baptism.

People either genuflect or bow before entering the pew. Genuflecting – going down on one knee – is appropriate if the tabernacle – the special cabinet that holds the Blessed Sacrament – is located behind the altar. If the tabernacle is located in a separate chapel, then we bow to the altar instead. If you can’t genuflect, then bow.

By the way, you may want to ask these same questions at your RCIA session. Other people are probably wondering the same things.

It is holy water that people are stopping at, and you make the sign of the cross with it. To cross yourself, using your right hand, you touch your forehead, then your chest, then your left shoulder and then your right. As you do this you say "In the name of the Father (forehead), and of the Son (chest) and of the Holy Spirit (chest). If you feel comfortable doing this, then do. If you are not yet comfortable doing this, wait.

You can cross yourself whenever you want. I cross myself before I take exams, before and after I pray, before I sleep, when I am trying to resist a temptation. Take a look at this if you want to know more about the sign of the cross: fisheaters.com/sign.html

Genuflecting is the same for women and men. I used to be unable to genuflect properly due to having a brace on my ankle for an injury and I was told to bend my knee as close to the floor as I was able to. If you are completely unable to bend your knee, I have heard of some people bowing instead.

God bless you and welcome to the Catholic church!

Holy Water! Put on when entering or leaving a church, as a reminder of our Baptism. (Also good for the remission of venial sins- “little” sins, if there are such things- if you’re truly repentant.) You can do it if you want to, to start the habit going. I was taught to dip my right index and middle fingers, then “pinch” with my thumb to make a triangle, symbolizing the Trinity. You can also leave your hand open to symbolize the five Wounds. Either way, once your fingers are wet, make the sign of the cross. Forehead, down to the middle of your chest, over to the left shoulder, back to the right shoulder.

I know this must sound very silly to ask but I am not sure how you perform the act of crossing yourself and when this is to be done?

As above. We also do a little version just before the Gospel is read. Right thumb, up-down-left-right, on your forehead, lips, and heart, to ask God to seal when you hear into your head, speech, and heart. When you do the regular sign of the cross…hard to say. At the start and end of Mass, at the start and end of private prayer, after receiving the Eucharist, when you notice other people doing it, when the missalette calls for it, when you pass a Catholic church, when you pass a graveyard, when someone says something awful, when you see something cool, or just when you feel like it. It’s a reflex. :smiley:

Also, I see people genuflect at the pew before entering. Is this done differently for men and women, or the same? If I am unable, for medical reasons, to drop to one knee or to kneel once inside the pew for prayer, is there an “abbreviated” version that would be acceptable?

Genuflect on your right knee towards the tabernacle, with the sign of the cross (forgot one!). If you can’t kneel, then bow. If you can’t find the tabernacle, then bow towards the altar. You can sit and pray in the pew, don’t feel bad. Genuflecting is the same for men and women, unless the lady is wearing a shorter skirt, then she might swivel in towards the pew wall for modesty and consider different attire for next week’s Mass. :wink: FYI- Though it isn’t for awhile yet, don’t genuflect at the Good Friday services. The tabernacle is empty and there’s nothing to reverence! :slight_smile:

Thanks so much, this was very helpful!

Where is your R.C.I.A. sponsor?
When I was in R.C.I.A., my sponsor was with me at every Sunday Mass explaining and helping.

I just started this past sunday–I don’t have one yet.

I notice your questioned have been fully answered but just wanted to add my voice in support and prayer for you!
:thumbsup:

Some RCIA programs use good textbooks. Others resemble a group hug with little content. If yours is the latter, try picking up “Catholicism for Dummies” (don’t be put off by the title). Very well done and free of incomprehensible insider lingo.

For rather more meat, consider the “Didache” series of textbooks by Midwest Theological Forum. Meaty, but still not unnecessarily wordy.

Oh, and WELCOME!

I’m in RCIA at my parish too… One thing I would add is that, when everyone goes up for the Eucharist, get in line with your arms crossed across your chest and, instead of the host, you will receive a blessing from the priest. It’s the best part of the Mass for me until I can receive Communion.

Also, ask these types of questions in your RCIA class… Someone said it before: If you’re wondering, someone else is too.

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