Regional Liturgical Differences in the American Church

I’ve noticed in traveling to different parts of the country there can be some significant differences in the way the Mass is celebrated. One thing I’ve noticed traveling in areas outside of the Mid-Atlantic states and the rest of the Northeast is how it seems the priest will ask for a those in the congregation that are visitors to raise their hands, or ask if it’s anyone’s birthday, etc.

I’d also say that outside of the Northeast that it’s much more common to see practices such as holding hands for the Our Father, Sunday Masses longer than 50 minutes, and particularly down South, to see people dressed much better for attending Mass.

What are your perceptions of regional differences in the American Church today?

Guess what?

There were regional differences among Latin Catholics in the USA even before V2.

Most of these were found in so-called ethnic parishes.

Many of the differences I have noticed are cultural or ethnic. Given that regional differences are often also ethnic differences, those ethnic differences could be regional as well. Massachusetts for instance is heavily Irish Catholic whereas California is more Hispanic.

I would also break the differences into categories. For instance, length of the masses or the dress might be more regional, even rural versus urban, whereas holding hands and music might be more ethnic.

A final complicating factor is that regional can also be a stand in for diocesan. Dioceses have different feels in part because of the different corporate cultures brought about by different bishops, seminaries and priests and dioceses are obviously geographic, nearly always.

As for regional differences, I do agree that California parishes feel more, well, Californian, whereas in Massachusetts you definitely know if you go into an Irish or an Italian parish.

I have only encountered the “meet and greet” before Mass twice. Once was at Mary, Queen of the Universe in Orlando, where everyone is a visitor. The other was at a parish in Bowling Green, KY. More than once my friend and I looked at each other during that Mass and wondered if we were in the right place - priest dressed only in alb and stole, Sister of St. Joseph giving the homily…

I have encountered differences within the 2 churches I have attended for daily Mass near my house this summer. My parish is mixed racially. Before Mass, it is so quiet you can hear a pin drop. Hands are generally not held during the Our Father. There is no singing during the week. Father disappears into the sacristy at the end of Mass and is never heard from again. The parish closest to my house is almost exclusively African-American. There is always something prior to Mass - the Rosary, DMC, consecration to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. It is prayerful, but it is busy. Many of the ladies wear hats or mantillas. There is singing during the week - and not just one token verse. A spontaneous “Amen” from the congregation during Mass is not unheard of. If you are within 3 pews, someone is grabbing your hand during the Our Father. And Father is outside after Mass to give everyone a hug. Maybe it’s cultural differences, maybe just the different feel of the parishes or the personality of the priests.

Different ends of the spectrum, but both beautiful, reverent Masses. I love them both!

The only liturgical difference I think I’ve seen revolves around what happens at communion time. In some places the line starts from the back of the church and works forward while in other places it starts from the front of the church and works back. In some places people kneel after communion while in others they stand until everyone has received. If you’re in the front pew you have to guess which way things will go. Otherwise the only differences I see are the same differences I see in my own parish depending on which priest is celebrating Mass: some are better homilists, some chant the various prayers while others recite them, etc.

One non-liturgical thing that stood out to me was that when I was in Atlanta and attended Mass at the cathedral there, people seemed better dressed than I remember seeing either in my own parish or in other places I’ve visited. Perhaps it’s a Southern thing.

I’ve seen the hand-holding thing in all parts of the US, so I think that depends mostly on the individual parish.

What I have noticed is that in the south, especially down in Florida, the masses in more parishes seem to be more “hoot-n-nanny”. I’m not just talking about music, but in all aspects of the liturgy. It can be a huge shock to someone from the Northeast. Definitely was for my in-laws, who have lived all around the country, although have spent a lot of time in the NE. It’s not that you don’t get that at some parishes in the NE, but, at least where I’m from, it’s less so.

I’ve only attended mass on the West Coast in Washington state and it seemed like a typical kind of mass where we went. When my in-laws lived in California, though, they said that the masses were as someone here mentioned - Californian - a bit more liberal.

In all though, I find more of a difference between masses in the metropolitan areas, the suburban areas and the rural areas - anywhere, rather than in actual regional areas.

Ethnic and cultural parishes will make things different, too, which needs to be taken into account.

I also think it has to do with each diocese.

I’ve found that in FL Masses are more dramatic/charismatic. I’m not sure what the deal is, but I’ve seen very theatrical consecrations–all the right words but with very dramatic delivery. Also I have never seen ‘uniformed’ ushers in a Catholic church except in FL.

In the mid-west (Kansas and MO), the Masses have been more casual. Again, all the right words and actions, but delivered in a folksy, almost casual style. People’s dress is pretty casual also.

I am in the Arlington diocese, so used to a very reverant, very correct Mass.

Good Post. I wouldn’t mind hearing the perceptions of regional differences in the Canadian Church today ? I can foresee this Post developing into a hot topic given all the liturgical abuses breeding in Canadian Archdioceses. My apologies for the negativity. I’ll try to make some positive statements.

Having attended some Masses at the various Shrines in Quebec such as St. Anne de Beaupre, I was really surprised that people still received communion at the rail. It was kind of surprising. Is this common in Churches outside of the shrines?

No, not common at all. I’ve been to Mass at churches all over Canada and have not knelt at the rail for Communion since I was a child many moons ago.

I don’t know about regional differences, although I’ve noted that those who visit Toronto regularly tend to use gestures when they come back that we don’t use in Eastern Canada (the “back atcha” gesture that accompanies “And also with you” is a bit odd.)

I’ve yet to attend a Mass where we hold hands at the Lord’s Prayer although it seems to be common in the US.

I lived in Ville de Quebec many years and Ste Foy near Place Laurier and Université Laval and a five minute walk to the renowned Hospital Laval.
Often I took the opportunity to drive thirty miles and visit St. Anne de Beaupre.
It’s still a gorgeous Shrine with many miraculous cures to maladies. Few places in Quebec Catholic Churches still celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and Holy Communion at the Alter Rail. I remember as a kid in the Traditional Latin Mass receiving the Eucharist at the Alter Rail. Beautifully symbolic.

Altar Rail

The railing which guards the sanctuary and separates the latter from the body of the church. It is also called the communion-rail as the faithful kneel at it when receiving Holy Communion.

It is made of carved wood, metal, marble, or other precious material; it should be about two feet six inches high, and on the upper part from six to nine inches wide. The “Rituale Romanum” (tit. iv, cap. ii, n. I) prescribes that a clean white cloth be extended before those who receive Holy Communion. This cloth is to be of fine linen, as it is solely intended as a sort of corporal to receive the particles which may by chance fall from the hands of the priest. It is usually fastened on the sanctuary side and when in use is drawn over the top of the rail. It should extend the full length of the rail, and be about two feet wide, so that the communicant, taking it in both hands, may hold it under his chin. Its very purpose suggests that it is not to be made of lace or netting, although there is nothing to forbid its having a border of fine lace or embroidery. Instead of this cloth a gilt paten, larger than the paten used at the altar, to which a handle may be attached, or a small gilt or silver salver, or a pall, larger than the chalice pall, may be used. These latter are usually passed from one communicant to the other, and when the last at the end of the rail at theGospel side has received Holy Communion the altar boy carries the paten to the first communicants at the Epistle side. A consecrated paten may never be placed for this purpose in the hands of lay persons.

that takes me back to childhood, our local Shrine of the Little Flower was notable for the red jackets of the ushers, who took their duties very seriously. That church, built in 1928 in suburban Detroit, is in fact built in the round, actually an octagon, predating similar designs by decades. I believe they kept their communion rail, but the gates that punctuated each segment of the octagon are gone

I cherish the memory of one tiny Irish priest in that town, who did indeed have a dramatic consecration, not in his words or delivery which were standard, but that he exhibited what can be described as ecstasy at that moment. Not in any flamboyant way, other than he would move up and down on his toes (I am not describing it well) but that he became simply diffused with joy. In fact it is from him that my lifelong conviction, never shaken no matter what other doubts I have had, comes from in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

ushers in my neighboring parish today wear blue “bibs” donated by Walmart (prominently printed on the back)

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