Participating in the Mass

It really bothers me lately that many people do not sing, respond or show any expression of being thankful or even enjoying mass. I am lucky to be at a parish I love and is very sound and faithful. But even with 5 masses on sunday and full ones at that, I very often am surrounded by non participation. Isn’t this a requirement to go to communion? I know you can go if only veniel sin so I guess it wouldn’t count as mortal, but I just don’t get it.
I know when I was someone who didn’t attend often etc. I was more afraid of being embarrased in not knowing what to do or say. It seems like people are embarassed to participate and these are regulars, not visitors from what I can tell. If they are bored or ? participating will make it go by faster if that is what they want.
I often wish that before mass starts when they ask people to shut off or silence their cell phones they would at least once in awhile inform us of what participating in the mass is and how important it is to do so.
I have started asking The Holy Spirit to pour down on us before mass starts, but I think I’m going to try and pray for more to desire to participate and for all to experience feelings in their hearts when they do. I pray sometimes to be invisible just so I can really be present and not distracted or distracting. But I should not feel like a distraction just for being sincere and reverent.

I am blessed to be in a singing parish. As a matter of fact, visiting priests often comment about our singing - not because it’s great, but because most of us actually sing. We also have a wonderful tradition of singing an extra song after the Communion song. It’s called Thank You Lord, and it’s done without a cantor - the people just join in when the pianist plays. It’s a very simple song: the words are Thank you Lord. Thank you Lord, Thank you O Lord, I just want to thank you Lord.

So what can you do to have a more active, involved, on fire parish? Why not suggest (and volunteer to work on) a parish renewal project. We have one that includes a parish retreat held about once a quarter. We usually have 15-30 people attend. It’s held over three days (all half-days) and allows people to get to know each other better and grow in their relationship with God.

You can make a difference in your parish. Find a few like minded people and go to your pastor with some suggestions.

I do not sing but believe me I am very actively participating by joining my quiet, yet fervent prayers with the whole Catholic church. I believe God hears me just as loudly and passionately as he hears you. Please do not make judgements on the hearts of others. They certainly can and should recieve Communion when not in a state of mortal sin whether they sing or not. As far as enjoying (not sure that would be the word I would use) Mass, it is the highlight of my week. My heart almost bursts when I recieve the Eucharist and breaks when I am not able to do so yet I am quiet. My heart speaks to God in those moments. It is for Him that I am there not for the approval of my pewmates.

If you like to sing and feel it adds to YOUR experience at mass, then by all means sing. I don’t feel the same and would venture to guess that the people you are complaining about don’t feel the same either.

I very often am surrounded by non participation. Isn’t this a requirement to go to communion? I know you can go if only veniel sin so I guess it wouldn’t count as mortal, but I just don’t get it<<

Are you talking about confession or audible responses?

There is no actual law requiring the congregation to make audible responses, though Popes from at least St. Pius X onward have urged this to be done.

Remember that the most profound and meaningful participation is done when the congregation is silent. Listing to the readings, gospel and homily, and again during the Consecration, when we silently unite ourselves to the sacrifice being offered by the priest

Here is what Pope John Paul II had to say in an address to the US Bishops

Yet active participation does not preclude the active passivity of silence, stillness and listening: indeed, it demands it. Worshippers are not passive, for instance, when listening to the readings or the homily, or following the prayers of the celebrant, and the chants and music of the liturgy. These are experiences of silence and stillness, but they are in their own way profoundly active. In a culture which neither favors nor fosters meditative quiet, the art of interior listening is learned only with difficulty. Here we see how the liturgy, though it must always be properly inculturated, must also be counter-cultural.


Please I’m not judging just confused. I sing what and how I can…which trust me isn’t good, I pray for the ability but it hasn’t happened. What I was trying to convey is what is participating? Is it required that you respond…? Like when a baby is baptized, and the congretation is to renew their baptizim and like when the priest says…“Do you renounce Satan?”…response…I DO…that is what I’m getting at, singing is just a little thing, and l am certain, someone like you would respond I DO…right? We have great choirs several different ones, and very very helpful. I am so greatful, as it can make it EASIER to sing…like at my parish is TX we were without choir and pretty sad sounding etc. It does take the “burden” off if you have a good choir sound system. Please I am not judging…the responses it serious isn’t it? I really am not here bashing…just asking about our responsiblities to participate in the mass.

Thank you!

I never said that God did not hear anyones prayers, or that I was better than anyone, I asked what the meaning of participation was and what the requirements were. I am not a "holy roller’ as in loud obvious and over the top. I just feel bad and thought maybe it was something to be encouraged to do, say Amen, Thanks be to God, And Also with you. The Creed. It’s none of my business to be concerned about others knowledge of the mass, won’t worry about anyone else, just me, if that is what I am supposed to do…Thanks and God bless

I actually understand where you’re coming from. I agree with you in the fact that I think people should participate more.

But people are different. Like Monica37 said, some people don’t appreciate singing but can be just as reverent. I’m sure the people around me wish I wouldn’t sing. :slight_smile:

I think the best thing you could do is lead by example. Don’t be overbearing, but be active with your participation and maybe the people around you will follow. For example, I went to a different parish this evening. I was very nervous, and I know that I’m not the best singer, so I chose to sit in the back where I would be away from most people. The parish filled up, however, so my plan went out the window. But the woman next to me, and the gentleman in front of me sang loudly and beautifully. I soon found myself wanting to sing and participate along with them as best I could.

So maybe you can do that? Be the lead and maybe you’ll help out a nervous person too.

The problem with “active participation” is that we seem to think that we have to do everything and say everything. An integral component of active pariticipation is interior participation. Yes, we need to join in on saying the prayers. Yes, the warm body in the pews also needs to focus and not be a pew potato. However, we also need to understand and respect our pewmates for where they might be spiritually at the given moment. When my mother died some 15 years ago, I pretty much shut down for a good while. I never stopped going to Mass, but, I had lost a lot of steam. I fulfilled my duties as a reader, but, it took a long while to get me going again. I was praying interiorly, but, it was a struggle to get myself together.

Archbishop Malcolm Ranjinth delivered a very powerful address at the Gateway Liturgical Conference in St. Louis last November. He’s been the Secretary to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Here is what he said about active participation:

The Holy Father thus seemed, in the first instance, to indicate the need to adopt an ars celebrandi in order to celebrate well the liturgy, while at the same time insisting on the fact that “full, active and fruitful participation of all the faithful” cannot be realized without that. In other words he seemed to indicate that actuosa participatio [actual participation in the liturgy] could not really happen unless the harmonious, beautiful and orderly celebration of the liturgy was insured. Without a properly understood and effected ars celebrandi, liturgy would probably end up being merely a series of meaningless, chaotic and insipid actions. He affirms this emphatically, when he states that “the primary way to foster the participation of the people of God in the sacred rite is the proper celebration of the rite itself. The ars celebrandi is the best way to ensure their actuosa participatio” (ibid).

Actuosa Participatio
The pope, in his book The Spirit of the Liturgy, defines actuosa participatio as a call to a total assimilation in the very action of Christ the High Priest. It is in no way a call to activism, a misunderstanding that spread widely in the aftermath of Sacrosanctum Concilium. Stated Cardinal Ratzinger: “what does it [active participation] mean…? Unfortunately the word was very quickly misunderstood to mean something external, entailing a need for general activity, as if as many people as possible, as often as possible, should be visibly engaged in action” (The Spirit of the Liturgy, 2000, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, p. 171).

We know that in many places this led to the amalgamation of the sanctuary with the assembly, the clericalization of the laity and the filling up of the sanctuary with the noisy and distracting presence of a large number of people. One could say that virtually Wall Street moved into the sanctuary. But was that really what the Council Fathers advocated? Cardinal Ratzinger does not think so. For him, “the real ‘action’ in the liturgy in which we are all supposed to participate is the action of God Himself. This is what is new and distinctive about Christian liturgy: God Himself acts and does what is essential” (ibid, p. 173).

This kind of participation in the very action of Christ, the High Priest, requires from us nothing less than an attitude of being totally absorbed in Him. Says the cardinal “the point is that, ultimately, the difference between the actio Christi and our own action is done away with. There is only one action, which is at the same time His and ours — ours because we have become ‘one body and one spirit ‘with Him” (ibid p. 174).

Active participation, thus, is not a giving way to any activism but an integral and total assimilation into the person of Christ who is truly the High Priest of that eternal and uninterrupted celebration of the heavenly liturgy.

One more observation. I do not sing the songs during Mass if I find them objectionable and not suitable at all for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. My parish has bought into OCP lock, stock and two smoking barrels. My pastor insists that we need to sing. However, if the songs do not jibe with the Mass, if they are more about the “we” and less about the “He”, if there is a strong disconnect between what is going on in the Holy Sacrifice and the music, then I am not obligated to sing. That does not mean that I cannot pray while there is singing. I am merely praying in a different manner. Just because OCP suggests these songs, that does not necessarily legitimize them.

Thanks! This is what I have done, just do what I do and actually I have never been good at the “social” part of church, I’ve had to move alot so maybe that is part of it. I just got home from mass and I just love this holy priest, you just know he loves the Lord and is so reverant, and he sings so powerfully, the choir and music is so good, it’s more guitar and piano and a bass 3women sing together, but it was really good.
I had to pinch myself as the Deacon at the beginning, said they were going to be a little teaching before mass started now. Rather timely huh? Anyways, it was and is all good.

It is right to sing and give thanks to the Lord! We do well always and everywhere to give Him thanks.

Sorry if I came across as snooty. It really wasn’t my intention. I just get irritated when people define active participation as an outward show. I am a very private person and while I participate in acting out my faith by praying at abortion clinics, Eucharistic Adoration and speaking openly about my faith and defending my faith (all of which has been a determined effort because I am a private person), I do not respond out loud at Mass. I am a teacher, wife and mother to a teenager and a 4 year old. My whole week is active and loud (which I love by the way). At Sunday Mass (I attend an EF), I finally get a chance to have quiet, peaceful moments with Christ. After Mass, I talk to my pewmates. All I was trying to convey, is that those who are quiet are participating * fully*. They probably feel no need to “follow your lead”. Please don’t think you have to change how they attend Mass or how they have to participate. Just allow them to have possibly the only quiet time they may have with the Lord.

no it is not a requirement to receive communion at every Mass. The law is that a Catholic confess grave sins at least once a year and receive communion during the Easter season.

the observation begs the question, why are you concerned with the actions or disposition of others at Mass with you, when your entire focus should be on the mystery of the altar and opening your own heart, mind and will to Christ?

The questions also betrays a lack of understanding, common to many, on what constitutes “full, active participation in Mass.” That may but does not always mean, or only mean, singing, making responses, receiving communion and so forth. No one can judge the internal disposition of any other person, so none of us is in the position to make any comment at all upon the apparent participation, or not, of any other person in the congregation.

The little old lady in the babushka fingering her rosary may be deep in contemplation of the Paschal mystery, and the most intense participant in the entire church. The young mother busy with a squirmy toddler may receive singular grace from Holy Spirit even when she is distracted from the action on the altar.

The person of undemonstrative, unemotional aspect may be internally highly moved and motivated by the sacrifice, but betray nothing of the intensity of their feeling on the outside. The person with her eyes closed who appears to be asleep may be of a deeply contemplative disposition and more completely unified with Christ on the altar than most people ever dream of being. The newcomer who is unfamiliar with the responses and gestures may be so impressed and awakened by what is happening that the Holy Spirit is moving them at that moment to conversion, even though outwardly they appear awkward and uninvolved.


Awesome post!:thumbsup:

God Bless

Exactly what I was trying to say too. Next time I have a comment, I’ll run it past you to put into words for me as you seem to write my thoughts much better than I can:shrug:

i got interrupted before completing my post, but just wanted to observe that the person, perhaps someone like OP, who is not sure whether or not they are “participating” fully, because of that very fact, may in fact be more attentive, more aware, more involved simply because they do care and do want to respond fully to Christ’s extraordinary grace at Mass. They may fumble with the book and always seem to be a page behind, try to drone along to an unfamliar hymn, kneel 30 seconds after everyone else or wonder why some people seem prone to random gestures, handwaving, bows etc… Yet because they are not on auto-pilot, they are fully participating. Remember, the Holy Spirit makes up whatever is lacking in our prayer, at Mass as in all prayer.

I wanted to know if people know what it means to particpate in the mass, if people understand what the mass is and how participation is communal prayer.

That I “think” I have to “change how they attend Mass” I believe you have misconstrued my post, someone said first that perhaps they would follow my lead, I am not trying to lead the congregation, if you knew me that is not how anyone would describe me. Sometimes the faults we see in others we see in ourselves, so perhaps I have the problem indeed.
I try to be present at mass (I did not just now say, “they” are not present) and do what I have known to be the deffinition of participation, following the missle if you have one, it says…R for Respond…, Peace be with you, R-and also with you, Body of Christ-Amen

Lord Have Mercy on me and God Bless you…
I am very appreciative of people being quiet and reverant once inside the church. I love the children being present at mass and have no problem with the little ones.

Many People may and are in fact attentive…those who are aware and in any manner of behavior are not my concern. I agree with overt gestures also it can go either way. There are attentive and non attentive, both and all types in every church and life situation.
No matter how hard I try to explain what I was dissapointed with or saddened by for others, you both seem to want to be rather coarse with me like I came out very harsh and crude with my post, all I can see is that I said, Lately I’ve been bothered by …etc. I am not here to fight, I have only been in a prayer group online since 2009 and never been in anything like this and I hope you have a good pat on your back at my expense, because you deffinately deserve it.
I would like to say that I think it is sad, if people don’t believe in the real presence of Christ and that we are at calvary during every mass, that the church is full of angels and saints and Our Lady is present and it is an awsome opportunity, gift and grace to be there. If you do great…if someone doesn’t then perhaps this post, even thou somehow it has come across as I am holier than though will move them to seek out more understanding of where they are and what is happening. But I’m just a stuck up and don’t like anyone and think I’m better than everyone and have no business expressing my experience as of late. Lord have mercy on me and bless you. over and over and over

Beg your pardon I don’t recall ever saying everyone had to go to communion, or that there was anything wrong with praying the rosary…(oh ya that’s what I do…whoops, only before and after, ) Did I say say that all people are not internally motivated or highly motivate or having the invisible stigmata, what was I thinking. I forgot…that I said everyone is supposed to have their eyes open thru the mass…I forgot that I said I could tell when people were in communion and in one spirit, and that we are to jump up and down and sing as loud as we can…I can’t believe I forgot I said all this…man…how could I not have realized that what I was writing to the choir and what I was trying to say.was malicious…gzzz I completely forgot what it was like to be new at church, to have issues and to be paralized with the fear of God,r to have a bunch of kids…oh lets see with his mine those old ones or those friends of his…lets see…him 14 or oh gosh I can’t believe I was so rude and boysterous gzz…I am so sorry that I presumed to be welcome to ask questions and or share feelings… I had no idea you all would read my mind and find out my devious plans to come and attack catholics…I must have a chip on my shoulder.
Thank you my sweet Lord for the persecution even admits my brothers and sister of your most Holy and Pure Church, forgive me Lord for all I have done, I am do thank you for this lesson in humility and humiliation, and for the ability to see once again, I can do nothing without you. Come Holy Spirit, Come as You wish, Jesus, Mary and Joseph I love you save souls. St Michael the Archangle protect us in battle. Amen

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit