Non-Catholics/Former NCs: What Did You Think the Mass was Like?

I still don’t know whether to post this here or on some other forum, but here goes.

There was this episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 where they riff a Mexican film with the English title Samson vs. the Vampire Women. There was this scene shows a ritual where vampires drain the blood out of a human victim into a cup. Guess what the quip was: “This is what Southern Baptists think Catholic Mass is like.” :stuck_out_tongue:

This kinda got me wondering as a cradle Catholic, really. For non-Catholics / former non-Catholics here: what did you think the Mass would be like (assuming that you now know what it is and what is done there)?

I had been to Episcopal church services with friends, so I assumed Mass would be a lot like that. My biggest surprise was how Communion was done, and how quickly it was done. At the Episcopal church a few of us went up at a time and knelt at the altar rail. The bread was brought around first, then the cup.

So, since our church is fairly large, I was expecting a long wait. I was amazed when everyone walked up front, row by row, and filed by the priest and EMs to receive. It was all over very quickly.

I was a Baptist at one time but never thought about Catholics drinking human blood during Mass. No Baptist that I know of would ever believe that there’d be anything in the cup other than wine.

Since I rarely heard anything bad about Catholics, I had the idea that the Mass would be like the movie wedding in “The Sound of Music.” Not even remotely! :rolleyes:

I always thought of the Mass as being incredibly ritualistic, with beautiful chanting and elaborate traditions.

My first Mass was a low Mass, as low as you could get.

I was thinking: “this was the kind of worship I was trying to get away from!”

One can only imagine what it would have been like for someone entering a coma in, say, the late 50’s, to wake up sometime in the 70’s or later.

I suppose was expecting a little more Latin and gregorian chant. Although the parish was on the whole very reverent. They did sing the ordinary in Latin and used a good deal of incense. On the whole it was not so much a shock as it could have been had I chosen to attend a different parish for the first time. I started attending a diocesan TLM at a different parish (where I did RCIA) shortly afterward.

For the Baptists I know, they do not believe literally that Catholics are performing human sacrifice, only that according to Catholic teaching Catholics believe they have to recrucify Christ every mass.

I wrote a thread back in the summer about my observations of my first mass experience.

It was my first regular Mass experience in the USA in several decades since I visited once in high school with a buddy of mine.

My observations are located in the following thread:

It’s all perspective.

My husband and I are from Evangelical Protestant backgrounds; he grew up in the Assemblies of God and I was Baptist.

The first Mass we attended was in a contemporary-looking clamshell nave (built in 1974), and was an OF Mass with a priest who routinely wore a Chicago Bears jersey under his vestments. The 4-hymn sandwich option was used, with 2 “traditional” hymns and 2 “contemporary.”

For my husband and me, this Mass was strange and ritualistic, and we felt that we had stepped back in time to the Medieval times. We knew the traditional hymns, but we had never heard the “contemporary” hymns (most of these contemporary hymns are considered “Catholic” by Evangelical Protestants and never used).

The only thing we were able to recite was the “Lord’s Prayer,” and we knew that Catholics didn’t say the last line of the prayer, so at least we didn’t make fools of ourselves. :o

We didn’t realize that there are still Latin Masses–if we had attended one of those for the first Mass, I truly believe we would have been out the door within ten minutes shaking the dust off our shoes!

Coming from church backgrounds where no liturgy is used, and a worship service is different every week (although when I was little, there was an “Order of Service” that was used each week), and not only guitars, but full-fledged rock bands or a rollicking gospel piano or piano/organ routinely provide the music–the OF Mass was incredibly ritualistic to us, and the songs were so ancient (even the so-called “contemporary hymns” felt like oldies before our time!).

Like I said, perspective! You have to remember that many Evangelical Protestants like us have little or NO accurate Church history and little or NO experience with any kind of chant other than in the movies (unless they were part of one of the “alternative worship services” that some Evangelical Protestant churches offer during which the “ancient practices” like lectio divina, candles, chant, and confession are utilized to make the “worship experience” more meaningful for the congregation. This is kind of dying out now–it’s yet another “bandwagon” that Evangelical Protestants jumped on, rode for awhile, and jumped off again).

You also have to realize that many Evangelical Protestants have been heavily influenced by teachers like J.I. Packer, who teach that ALL images (including pictures of Jesus) are forbidden in the Scriptures! Even though most Evangelical Protestants don’t go that far, many are extremely uncomfortable with “statues” of human beings except in the manger scene. Thankfully the parish we attended has the Holy Family as the patron saint, so the only “statues” look like a giant manger scene! Lucky us! :slight_smile:

And most Evangelical Protestants are wary of crucifixes, since Jesus rose from the dead!

And most Protestants are used to a sermon that is at least 30 minutes, although pastors who preach for such a short time are suspected of being “fallen away,” since a good sermon should last at least 45 minutes, and an hour is not unusual at all!

So it shouldn’t be surprising that the Mass was very, very unfamiliar and strange to us. :slight_smile:

We actually liked the “ritual” and the ancient feel of that first Mass, and we definitely loved the friendly pastor in the Bears jersey. Like I said, if we had gone to a more traditional OF Mass (chanted), or a Latin Mass, I think we would have been so uncomfortable and actually scared that we probably would not have come back, and we would have left believing that Catholics are practicing ritual instead of relationship with Jesus.

So God was good to us to lead us to an OF parish at the beginning of our journey to Catholicism!

As a cradle Lutheran, I was not surprised by my first attendance of a Catholic Mass. I was not significantly different from our own, which stands to reason, since ours comes from the Catholic mass.
Of course, our music is vastly superior, but that’s not the point. :smiley:


Your in the right place; NCR is pretty much the religion discussion ground.

Growing up Lutheran, I wasn’t too surprised by mass. The ceremony was very familiar to what I remember from when I was younger.

I expected a lot more beauty, mystery, pomp–and Latin. I had heard of Vatican II, but mostly as a sneaky thing those Romanists did to try to convince us they had changed when really they still wanted to kill us all. . . .

My first Mass, by the way, was in the Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca, and much to my disappointment was in Hungarian, not Latin (or Romanian–but knowing that most Catholics in the area were Hungarian I wasn’t expecting Romanian).

My ideas about the Mass derived mostly from

  1. Protestant polemic which portrayed it as something extremely exotic and seductive, and
  2. listening to choral music programs on the radio, which had made me fall in love with the musical settings of the Mass


I was sad that so few people actually sang - but perhaps it’s just that one particular parish. The Lutheran church I grew up in had kneelers but my current one does not (probably removed in a fit of pietism) so I felt a bit awkward using them. The ringing of the bells just before the consecration was different from my experience with the Lutheran Divine Service, but I think it is good to re-focus people’s attention by engaging hearing as well as seeing.

As Jon pointed out, the Mass itself was familiar enough that I had no trouble following it and saying the proper responses, prayers and creeds.

I came from a completely secular upbringing, with my only exposure to church having been a handful of attendances at the local Baptist church (because that’s what you did when you were a kid in my town - join 4-H and the Baptist youth group). I expected Mass to be like those services - you went in, sat quietly, listened for a couple of hours, sang some songs, and left. I was completely lost the whole time I was there. It was a huge relief when they started saying the Lord’s Prayer, because at least those were words I knew.

I had also heard that the music was terrible, so I was prepared for that (and I’m a musician, so bad music bothers me). That turned out to be a myth, because I adore the music in most Masses. Baptist churches were always more like performances, while in the Mass, it was so geared towards inclusion. The hymnals all included music, so even if you can read at a basic level, you don’t need to just know the song; the arrangements are easy to pick up and harmonize if you can’t sing in that key (I’m an alto, it’s a recurring issue); and then even if you are really lost, the cantors will generally introduce most of the responses, which is like learning a new piece in a really big choir.

I learned about Mass from Catholics, mostly on internet forums and websites. I learned of the beauty, the intimacy, being able to physically have Jesus present and not just Spiritually. To truly know Christ in a physical way by having him physically a part of you by truly eating His flesh and drinking His blood. I expected it to be a truly humbling experience by very devout Christians, considering the implications of what was happening.

When I arrived it made me sad and confused that the Catholics there seemed unchanged or uncaring about taking the Eucharist. Some people were quiet and prayed after and appeared contemplating; while most seemed to eat it like it wasn’t a big deal.

The way I’ve always explained it is most of the teenagers, kids and even the parents took it, chewed it as if it was just bubblegum, and continued on their way. I really was expecting more from people who were truly, physically interacting with the very real blood and flesh of God.

Holding hands at the Our Father! Ugh! :stuck_out_tongue:

My first Mass was in western France - complete with pain bénit (blessed bread.) It was very liturgical and the priest was very kind to me after service.

When I was Baptist, I often heard how we should emulate the reverence shown by the Catholics. At my Baptist church, no one came in late, no one left early, all the men were in coats and ties, all the women were in dresses, and pretty much everyone sang. I wondered how anyone could be more reverent, but I sure wanted to see it.

When I went to my first Mass, I was the only one there with a coat and tie. OK, that made me the odd duck. It was in a small farming community, so cowboy boots and jeans were the norm. The rest was total confusion as I tried to figure out what was happening. It wasn’t quite the picture I had drawn.

I soon went to a cathedral in the next town. The reverence was precisely what I expected. Oh, I didn’t care for the hand holding and I still don’t, but I crossed the Tiber in that cathedral a few years later.

My ideas of it were mostly formed by historical accounts, although I was a little disturbed upon first attending one and being politely informed that I was not to participate in the Eucharist.

No one has to hold hands during the Our Father. That’s a leftover. I have never held hands during the Lord’s Prayer and no one has ever tried to force me to do so.

I mean this without malice, but if I may be honest, I’m not impressed with the Latin Rite Catholic mass. My three best friends are Catholic, sometimes they’ll ask to go to church with me if we’re abroad and they don’t want to split up. I went with my friend to Philadelphia’s Albanian Orthodox parish (great parish, great people)*, and at breakfast after church, he said “wow, seeing the Mass [sic] in purely English for the first time makes it almost identical to our Mass.” I really, really, really respectfully disagreed with him, and the argument went back-and-forth for several minutes. I just don’t see any resemblances other than superficial ones.

Disclaimer: He just escorted me there since I’m only a visitor. He attended Mass at his own school later that evening and didn’t miss his “weekly obligation.”

I didn’t expect anything as far as style was concerned. I knew it wouldn’t be like what I was used to (pentecostal services) but no idea what that actually meant.

My biggest impression from the mass was how Christ centric it was. There was absolutely no Mary worshipping happening. :smiley: I knew by that point that the Church was Christian but I guess I was still influenced by the claims I’d been raised on.

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