Striking of the breast (Confiteor), bowing during the Creed


Hi all.

I’m just curious if anyone has any insight as to why these gestures aren’t catching on at some parishes. Perhaps there’s a confusion over how to perform them?


In my honest opinion, I think there are 3 reasons why people are not doing these and other gestures that should be enforced throughout the Mass:

1.) They simply do not know about the gestures or when they are to take place.

2.) They are simply lazy or just going through the motions and not thinking about the gestures at all.

3.) They know when to do the gesture, but are either nervous about being “religious”, nervous about what others around them will think, or nervous that those who are “religious” will judge them because the are starting to act “religious” (basically the same as what others will think.)

I personally do all gestures that I am aware of during a Novus Ordo Mass, which have increased my devotion and awareness of what is going on in Mass. I think it is important that we as Catholics stick to the gestures for deeper devotions just like the in the Latin Mass. The Latin Mass would not be the same kind of devotion without the gestures that go along with it.




I have often wondered the same thing. Why is it that most people don’t bow during the Creed or strike their breasts at the Confiteor, which are called for in the rubrics, but eagerly hold hands at the Our Father and spread their arms like a game show host whenever they say “and with your spirit,” though those gestures are NOT called for.


Are you guys seeing it too? And do you guys think they will catch on eventually?


Only if priests talk to their parishioners about it. I think that’s the easiest place to start. We can also show people what to do by being a witness; by doing the proper called for gestures, more and more people will catch on thinking that this is what they are supposed to be doing.


You’re also supposed to bow at the name of the Trinity, Jesus, Mary, and the saint for whom the Mass is offered. And you’re supposed to genuflect during the creed on Christmas and the Annunciation. And if you can’t kneel, the proper posture is to stand during the consecration and bow as the priest genuflects. So why is these rarely seen?

  1. People don’t know about it.

  2. The same reason people don’t say the responses during Mass. People are self-conscious.

But this a problem you can solve! Know the proper postures and do them. It’ll make others aware and less self-conscious. Even better, sit up front so everyone can see you. But don’t do it to boast. Do it because you have or want the proper disposition. I.e., penitence (the breast strike) or reverence (bowing).




Big Sigh. Agree.


Thank you - everything you say makes sense and I’m inclined to agree, but Cavaille-Coll’s comment about other gestures raises an interesting question. If prescribed gestures aren’t done because people are self-conscious, how did several non-prescribed gestures ever catch on?


I don’t know what you are all talking about - not catching on, lazy, nervous, don’t know about it. Everyone at my parish does them.

The card in the back of the pew says, “Here strike your breast three times” and so everyone does it. The card says, “Here bow in reverence to the incarnation” and so everyone just does it. The card says, “Here hold hands while praying the Our Father” and so everyone does it.

Just kidding about that last one.

Nobody makes a big deal about it. It’s all very natural. Same deal everywhere I go, mostly. Maybe it is a southern thing or maybe all the good priests moved down south like all the other good Catholics who left the frozen north. :shrug:

Seriously, everyone at my parish does it and most of the nearby parishes that I go to.



A lot of these non-prescribed gestures were formed out of a Charismatic movement after Vatican II. These postures like holding hands during the Our Father or raising hands during the Our Father or “and with your spirit” make the Mass seem more “interactive” and “fun”. To me, it makes the Mass seem more “Protestanty”. Do what is necessary during the Mass and the Mass will be “fun” or the kind of fun that I see it as :smiley:


Must be a southern thing or the area you live in ;). My parents, my brothers, and I and a few other families and older people do the proper actions, but everyone else has no idea what is going or they just completely ignore it because it’s “too religious”




Really, most people simply go along with the crowd. If no one else in your parish does it and Father has never mentioned it (or maybe your mind had wandered to dinner plans the one time he brought it up during a homily), then how would you ever even know about it?

I agree the self-consciousness plays in, too. Even if we see other people doing it, if everyone is not doing it, we might write it off as something those “really religious” Catholics do – like sing at Mass.

I always sit up front, so I honestly have no idea how many people in my parish do or do not do these actions. :shrug: I always do (at least to the best of my ability depending on how I’m holding my son).


Because the priest does them. Most Catholics don’t read the rubrics. They learn by imitation. Add the popularity of the charismatic movement which legitimately uses the oranes position in prayer outside of Mass.

Bows aren’t very noticeable and if you notice it you aren’t bowing since your head is still up. And being self-conscious nobody wants to be the only one bowing.

In my experience, in non-English speaking countries, everyone strikes their breast during the confiteor. In the US, the triple “mea culpa” was omitted in the previous translation so even priests weren’t sure if they were supposed to strike their breasts. With the return of the triple mea culpa, I’m seeing a lot more people strike their breast. It’ll take time since they’re so used to not doing it but it’s coming along.


This brings up another question re the Confiteor. A parish I sometimes attend for Sat. Eve,Mass routinely recites the Confiteor,throughout the year.My home parish,however rarely does and usually is only during Advent and or Lent.


Not sure why some do not perform the gestures. Frankly, I hadn’t noticed one way or the other as gestures (or lack thereof) of others is not what I’m interested in when at Mass.

Nor have I noticed “eager” hand holding or “game show” like arm spreading. I do know that when we characterize such things with disdain and cynicism, we are not winning the hearts and minds of those who hold different personal preferences. I don’t think the rubrics indicate that those two things aren’t allowed, but I could be wrong.


That’s wonderful! In parishes both California and in the Northeast, I’ve felt like the only one doing them. There have been times where I’ve wondered if I missed a memo that they were taken out or something. :blush:


Not totally relevant, but in Orthodoxy gestures are often omitted because of unfamiliarity. For example, on liturgies performed during the week there are certain places where the faithful are supposed to do full prostrations. But because most only attend on Sundays when no kneeling or prostrations are allowed, they don’t know when or how to do them. I don’t even know the exact times, I just know that there are times when it is supposed to happen. But there’s no way I’m going to be the only guy with his forehead on the floor. It would just appear too showy; too much of a pious display.

All of that to say that I can understand if people don’t want to stand out, being the only person in the church beating their chest. But you could also never get me to hold hands with someone else during a liturgy, even if everyone else was doing it. I would refuse the person next to me if they tried to grab my hand. Is that really common?

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