Proper Catholic behavior

Okay I like to consider myself a Catholic leaning towards the traditional side, so I’m trying to improve on the etiquette. A few questions I have:

Should I genuflect before I sit down at the beginning of Mass and when I leave? If so where should it be towards? I see many do it towards the alter, so I’ve assumed this is correct way for many years. Does it matter which knee touches the ground?

When making the sign of the cross I’ve seen people go up, down, left, right and up, down, right, left. Is there a correct way?

Thanks. :slight_smile:

I believe that the norm is to genuflect towards the tabernacle. Many times, the tabernacle is lined up directly behind the altar, so there would be no difference, but if the tabernacle is off to the side, you would genuflect at that angle. I believe.

Hi. I love ducks myself.

You genuflect when you get to the bench. Face the altar and bend your right knee to touch the floor (or as close as you can get to the floor). You can do it again when you leave, but try not to impede traffic too much. Wait for a brief opening if possible. You may get run down if you take too long. Don’t genuflect when you return from Communion.

The correct way to make the Sign of the Cross is to use your right hand, touching your forehead, your chest, your left shoulder and then your right shoulder. A nun in grade school told me that your saying you’ll carry Jesus’ cross in your mind, in your heart and on your shoulders.

If the tabernacle is in the sanctuary area, then that is what you should genuflect towards - genuflection is an act of adoration & you are acknowledging the true presence of Christ. Sometimes, especially in cathedrals (where the tabernacle has often been moved in supposed Vatican II directives to make way for the cathedra), it seems, the tabernacle may not be in the sanctuary at all. In such cases one should make a reverential bow towards the altar. If this is the case, one should still genuflect if one passes by the tabernacle before going into the pew. The altar is indeed worthy of reverence, it is very symbolic, and during the Mass it is Calvary - the spot where we witness the re-presentation of Christ’s inestimable sacrifice. However, I think it is important that, if the tabernacle is not present in the sanctuary, one does not give the same act of reverence to the altar as they ought to be giving to the eucharistic Lord.

You genuflect to the tabernacle as you enter and exit church. Your right knee touches the ground. You make the sign of the cross with your right hand to the forehead, then chest, then left shoulder, then right shoulder in the roman rite.

Don’t worry about the stampede to get out, take the time to genuflect properly. :thumbsup:

Actually, you genuflect towards the tabernacle if it is present. If it is not present, you bow to the altar. The only reason you would genuflect towards the altar is if the tabernacle is behind it, but then you would be genuflecting towards the tabernacle and bypassing the altar.

The correct way to make the Sign of the Cross is to use your right hand, touching your forehead, your chest, your left shoulder and then your right shoulder. A nun in grade school told me that your saying you’ll carry Jesus’ cross in your mind, in your heart and on your shoulders.

When you make the Sign of the Cross, you should be praying “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Actually, you genuflect if the tabernacle is present AND the consecrated species is present. If the tabernacle is empty, you don’t genuflect.We don’t venerate the tabernacle itself, but what may be in it.

If there is no tabernacle, or if the tabernacle is empty, you should bow to the altar.

You genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament; do not genuflect to an empty tabernacle. If the tabernacle is empty (or you can’t locate it), and the Blessed Sacrament is not present on the altar, it is proper to make a deep bow (a bow at the waist) to the altar.

A genuflection is the lowering of the right need to the floor while keep your back straight. Making the Sign of the Cross is not part of a genuflection, although you may certainly make the Sign of the Cross as you genuflect.

Thank you for cleaning up behind me. I forgot the scenarios where the Eucharist may not be in the tabernacle.


Please forgive my ignorance, but what it the ‘tabernacle’ everyone here in this thread is referring to?

Thanks for the replies everyone. This helps me out a lot. Now in my church, the tabernacle is located off to the side and not behind or even near the alter. Thus I must genuflect when walk in before I get to the pew. Should still genuflect again when I get to the pew even though the Blessed Sacrament is not located at or near the alter?

The tabernacle is the dwelling place for the Eucharist. To put it simple it’s a beautifully decorated box like structure in which the Eucharist is placed in.

How does one determine if the Blessed Sacrament is in the tabernacle or not? I’m not totally dense–I can tell when the lighted monstrance is in front of the tabernacle, the Blessed Sacrament is there. :o But when the monstrance isn’t there? Or isn’t illuminated?

We have perpetual adoration (well, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays). They will often move the monstrance to a smaller chapel before a funeral mass or other event in the main worship space (to continue adoration in the chapel). I’m pretty sure that when they do this, consecrated host remains in the tabernacle. And when we enter for Sunday mass, there is no monstrance and the tabernacle isn’t lit.

It’s easy for weekday mass! The monstrance is illuminated, and covered just before mass, and uncovered just after mass concludes.

Forgive my ignorance, you might be able to tell that I’m just an RCIA newbie.


If the Blessed Sacrament is in the Tabernacle, there should be a candle (lit) nearby to indicate that.

The monstrance is used only for Exposition/Adoration, and has nothing to do with whether or not the Sacrament is present in the tabernacle.

Hope this helps.

The candle is often red, if that helps. Also, the tabernacle should usually have the Blessed Sacrament in it, except during the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday) and possibly during the Communion Rite during each Mass (when Communion is being served).

If you have genuflected to the Blessed Sacrament as you pass by the tabernacle on your way to your pew, I don’t think it’s necessary to genuflect once more before sitting.

It’s also customary to genuflect as you are leaving the church.

Thanks! Great answers.


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