Non catholic just learning



I’m a non catholic considering conversion. I’m planning to attend Mass. What are the rituals upon entering the church? I don’t want to appear as out of my element as I may feel.


Remember, they keep ushers at the door to enforce all of our rules and to check your Catholic card.

All kidding aside, it would take a few masses before you understand what needs to be done.

If you are baptised in the Trinity, then you may genuflect when you walk in.

But don’t worry, no one will pounce on you if you mess something up because you don’t know any better! :stuck_out_tongue:



I think you will probably feel a little uncomfortable at first, but please don’t let that bother you or stop you from coming back. Don’t worry so much about doing the “right” things and just try to experience what you can. It’s definitely a learning process. I think it’s probably better just to go and not be concerned with having all the right gestures but to actually experience the Mass. You will learn the why and how in due time. You may even want to visit several Catholic churches because the Mass, while following the same general instructions, can be different from place to place.

I hope you enjoy your first Mass.


Speaking from experience, it is a bit overwhelming going to mass the first few times. The order of the mass is different than pretty much any other church. What I found particularly frustrating were the responses – that’s where the priest says one thing, and the congregation automatically responds. It left me saying, “what the heck is going on??!”

Fortunately, the mass is easy to follow if you know where to look. I wish somebody would have shared this information with me when I first started, but if you look at the beginning of the hymnal, there is usually an order of the mass (i.e. a “script”) that lists the prayers, responses, etc. Nobody is going to “look down” on you for following along using the hymnal, so don’t worry about that. Especially at first, it is more important to understand what is going on than anything.

Alternately, you can go to any Catholic gift shop and get what is called a missal. They cost less than $5, and I consider it a great investment. Like the hymnal, it contains the order of mass (usually in more detail), as well as the Bible readings for each day. The added bonus is that you can read it at home so that you know what to expect before going to mass. What I did with mine is to use those sticky bookmarks to mark the various responses, prayers, etc that I had trouble with – I found that this was an excellent way to have quick access to some of the parts I had trouble with.

Again, I want to stress that the first few times will be weird for you, especially if you’ve never been to a Catholic church before. However, if you stick with it, you’ll find that the rewards are well worth any confusion you might have at first.

One other thing I want to mention: if you do decide that the Catholic Church is right for you, ask somebody there about RCIA. It is essentially the “training camp” for new Catholics, and you’ll learn a lot about the faith. Also, it gives you an opportunity to gain knowledge of Catholicism without having to make a commitment (you will be asked to make a commitment after a few months if you stick with it, but not during the initial potion).

I hope this information helps. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask! :thumbsup:

God bless,


You are welcome to come to any mass. The mass is for everyone, not just Catholics.

I would guess that 50% of the people in any given mass only go to mass casually. They don’t know when to stand, when to kneel, what the proper responses are, etc. They just follow along with everyone else and mumble the words they don’t know.

It does not matter that you don’t know what to do or say. You can just sit quietly and observe what is going on. There are books in every pew that have the order of the Mass, which show what the Priest says and what the responses are supposed to be, when to stand, when to kneel, when to sit, etc.

There are plenty of resources on the internet which tell you what is going on during the mass

Do not worry about what anyone may think. Most likely no one will even notice you. Occasionally you run into self appointed police officers who feel it is their job to correct the slightest infractions. Don’t worry about them. First they are rare, secondly they have no actual standing.

There is one thing you should not do and that is to get on line for communion. Catholics believe that the bread and wine actually become the body of Christ. To receive the body of Christ (in general) you need to be a Catholic in good standing, you have to actually believe it is the body of Christ and you must be in communion with the Catholic Church, thus the common name communion. It should be obvious that if you are not Catholic or you don’t agree with the Catholic Church on doctrinal issues, to accept communion is a lie.

If you do become a Catholic after one year you will know more about the Mass than many life long Catholics. Do not be surprised by this.


**Hi gin gin,

You will do fine. I would suggest going maybe half an hour early the first time, just to check things out.

You will walk in, and you will find a little font with Holy Water some place near where you entered. You dip a finger into the Holy Water, and make the Sign of the Cross. You would then proceed to a pew. Before you get into your pew, you kneel on your right knee and make the Sign of the Cross, then move into the pew where you want to sit. If you do go a little early the first time, before you get into your pew, you may want to walk around the church before Mass, to just look at things.

Just remember that anytime you cross the giant crucifix up at the altar, you face the cross, and kneel or bow and make the Sign of the Cross, then proceed to the other side.

Just follow along and do what the others are doing if you are comfortable, or you can just sit and take it all in. If you are sitting when others are kneeling though, it would be polite to just inch up a tad so the person behind you isn’t breathing down your neck. :smiley:

There will be a part of the Mass where we offer those around us the "sign of peace’. You would then shake hands and smile to those around you to show them you mean them peace, not ill will. As you shake their hand, you can just smile, or say, " The Peace of God Be with You ".

When it’s time for Communion, each church kind of does what works best for them. You may have the people go up row by row, or they may all go up haphazardly at once, and wait for an open spot to receive Communion. Until you have officially become a Catholic, as others have said, you would remain in your pew for Communion. All you would do is to push the kneeler up when others are getting out, then bring the kneeler back down again. If people are trying to get back into the pew, you would then be polite and raise it back up for them so they aren’t trying to walk into the pew with the kneeler in the way.

You may see people after they come back from Communion cover their faces, or put their hands across their eyes. They aren’t about to pass out or anything,:smiley: , they are just spending a little private time with Jesus before they swallow Him and they become a part of each other.

When the Mass is over, you would then do again what you did as you entered.

Another option is to call the church and just ask what hours the church is open, and to check everything out when no one else is there. I think if you get a
" feel" for the church before your first Mass, things won’t be so scary.

Relax, you will do fine ! :thumbsup: **


Hi gin gin,

I’m a convert, and the first time I went to Mass I was very self-conscious. Just remember, Jesus Christ is there on the altar, He loves you, and no, people aren’t staring at you to see if you miss a genuflection or don’t make the sign of the cross at the appropriate time. :thumbsup:


My non-Catholic husband attends mass with me every Sunday. Although he doesn’t genuflect or cross himself, he sits, stands, and kneels when everyone else does. He just tries to blend in. I suggest the same for any non-Catholic attending mass.

A very funny thing happened to my husband just a few weeks ago. Some of the students at the school associated with our parish were celebrating their first communion, so the church was packed with visitors. My husband found himself sitting right on the center aisle. (He usually tries to sit toward the outside so that if someone has to get past him on their way to/from communion the maneuver isn’t on display right in the middle of the church.) Anyway, as people were rising to get into line for communion my husband got up, stepped into the aisle, and allowed the others in our pew to pass. There was one elderly gentleman, however, who would have none of it. He wanted my husband to proceed him down the aisle. Now my husband, as an olympic style weightlifter, is a big, physically imposing man. Getting him to move somewhere that he doesn’t want to go would be darn near impossible for anyone. This frail, elderly gentleman, however, absolutely insisted that my husband go ahead. So…rather than cause a scene, down the aisle he went. This was all going on behind me, so I had no idea that my non-Catholic (non-believing, actually) husband was in the communion line!! I had just received the Precious Blood when I saw him out of the corner of my eye stepping up to the priest. This particular priest knows my husband very well. They play tennis every week. He knows my husband isn’t Catholic. When confronted by his presence in the communion line, the priest just stood there with his mouth open. I, too, was frozen in place with shock. Then my husband, in his best stage whisper said, “Don’t worry Father. I’m just passing through.” He then returned to his seat as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I, on the other hand, was suffering from heart palpitations for the rest of the mass. And the poor priest…he never did recover his composure. He was still trying to keep from laughing during the final blessing.

Life with my DH is truly an adventure.


Hey Dean, I hope you didn’t shout this out loud! lol:D


My first Mass was a great experience. Catholics take their worship very seriously!

I suggest picking up the book “A Biblical Walk Through The Mass” by Dr. Edward Sri. It goes through the whole Mass and explains the Biblical and traditional roots behind the words and gestures used.

The more you know, the more that it will mean to you. And when you really begin to understand everything that’s going on, it’s trully awesome!

Go! And enjoy!


what is genuflect?


Thank you everyone. You’ve been extremely helpful. I’m going to share all your posts with my husband.

Gary, my husband, has been in the hospital several times over the last year. I met a Priest in the cafeteria who came to minister to Gary. His kindness and compassion and true interest in us as human beings stunned us. We haven’t experienced such compassion in the Christian forum for a very long time.

I worked in a nursing home several years ago and took my residents to Mass once a month. I also learned the Rosary and led a prayer group every Saturday with my residents. It was always a time of peace and sometimes a time of saturated presence of God.

I think I know why we’re being drawn to a Catholic church. It’s just a scary thing. It’s a big leap for us, right now.

Thank you for suggesting that we visit the church when there’s nobody there. It’s a great idea which, I think, will help us feel more comfortable.

God Bless you all. You’ve helped immensly.

Ginger (Gin Gin)


To kneel on one knee only.

In most situations it is done on the right knee. There are, however, some situations in which it is traditional to genuflect on the left knee.

The most common time for lay people to genuflect is when going to or departing from a pew in a Catholic church, although there are a few exceptions here.

EDIT: To be technical, there is such a thing as a double-knee genuflection–which is only different from outright kneeling in that it only lasts for a second–but no need for technicalities here. =]


To genuflect is to briefly lower yourself down to your right knee out of respect and in adoration of the Real Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. You genuflect while facing the Tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament (consecrated hosts) is kept.


Thank you. I think once I visit the church then I'll learn where things like the Tabernacle are. All the info I can get beforehand is extremely helpful. Thank you.


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