Things Catholics do


Hello everyone,

I’m not sure if this post should go here, or under another board, but this seemed like a good place to ask.

I’ve been in RCIA since it began in August. I’m new to going to Church in general, though. I’ve never been baptized… so all of this is really new to me. I have some questions about what I see people do during Mass, though. There is a part where people make the sign of the Cross on their foreheads? Why do they do that? What does it mean? I don’t do it, because I don’t know why they’re doing it and I don’t want to mimic without knowing or I’ll just look like a monkey :stuck_out_tongue:

And there is a part in the Mass where it goes like this:

Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.

The part where the Priest says it, he lifts up his hands. I understand that. The part where the people respond, about half of my congregation lift up their hands at their response. As a matter of fact, about half or so lift their hands up at every response they do that the Priest does it. Why? Am I doing it wrong by not lifting up my hands. I don’t feel comfortable mimicing our Priest or the congregation, but it seems like they are doing it as well? Someone please inform me!

Thank you in advance! I’m sure I’m leaving some things out, but these are the two main things I’m stuck on. If you want to add anything else into your response, maybe things other new Catholics get confused about, go right ahead! :slight_smile:


Before the Gospel is read, we (usually silently) pray “Lord, let your word be on my mind, in my heart, and on my lips” or some variation thereof. You make a small cross on your forehead, heart, and mouth with your thumb. If there is an exact wording, I’d love to know it too! LOL

We are not supposed to mimic the priest- but yes, at most churches I’ve visited (we travel), 30-60% of the congregation will do this :stuck_out_tongue:


The Sign of the Cross is made with the right thumb on the forehead, mouth and heart as a symbol that the Gospel, which is about to be read at this point, might be in the mind, on the lips and in the hear.

The “stuff” that is done at Mass, as in the actions, is governed by rules in the Missal (book used to celebrate Mass) call rubrics, written in red, and the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. People lifting up their hands at the responses is not in the rubrics. It is not explicitly forbidden, but it is also not in the rubrics and so is not an action you should be expected to do. You do not have to do it. What the priest himself is actually doing when he lifts up his hands is holding them in what is called the “orans” position, which is a very ancient prayer posture. He does this when he prays something at Mass and briefly when he says, “The Lord be with you.”

You might also want to know why Catholics genuflect (usually) before entering their pews. This is to show respect to the Eucharist which is reserved in the tabernacle, which is often located straight ahead in the middle of the sanctuary, else it is off to the side somewhere.


Great responses. To add to the comment on genuflecting, during the traditional, Latin Mass we genuflect during the creed and I was told it symbolizes Christ coming down to earth in the Immaculate Conception.


It isn’t only new Catholics. A lot of us old Catholics are confused about things as well.


A lot of people at my parish mimic the Priest as far as the hand positions too. At the end of the Our Father it looks like they are signaling “Touchdown!”

This week I noticed someone reciting the Eucharistic prayer-including the consecration-along with the Priest! Could that have been a other Priest in civilian clothes?


This kinda thing bothers me. I can’t stand when the congregation uses the hand gestures of the priest, and when they oddly hold hands and lift them up during the Our Father, it feels VERY protestant-esque.


The previous responses are all great, Sebrina. I’m sure you’ll get a lot of answers here :slight_smile:

Only one thing bothers me (as an RCIA facilitator)
Why hasn’t any of these questions been addressed in your class? Especially since you’ve been going since August? You should be free to ask any questions, especially if it is within the context of the “teaching”. Our group covered the Liturgy (the Mass) over two weeks, and those things were covered.

Other resources: The Catholic Mass Revealed is a great video that shows all the various parts of the Mass in great detail. I show it in my class. It’s been a big hit :slight_smile:

There’s also a great audio by Fr. Larry Richards (The Mass Explained). You can actually hear all of that in four parts in Youtube. (No video, just audio). Father Larry Richards is very listenable, full of zeal and joy.

God bless you on your journey! May our Lord reveal Himself to you, especially in the beautiful Sacrament of the Eucharist. May your baptism, confirmation and first Holy Communion be the beginning of an amazing journey.


The raising of the hand from the priest when he recites his prayer comes from

17:9 And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to-morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.

17:11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed


You were right until the Immaculate Conception. :slight_smile:

We are supposed to genuflect during the creed to honor Christ coming down to earth in the Incarnation. The Immaculate Conception was Mary’s miraculous conception/birth - when she was born without original sin. Everyone gets them confused. :o


[quote="Sebrina, post:1, topic:304960"]
There is a part where people make the sign of the Cross on their foreheads? Why do they do that? What does it mean? I don't do it, because I don't know why they're doing it and I don't want to mimic without knowing or I'll just look like a monkey


That is a very commendable sentiment: you don't want to make some gesture without knowing WHY you're making it.

Here's my answer from a similar question back in August:
Tracing the Sign of the Cross
As we say [Glory to you, O Lord], we trace three small crosses on our bodies: one on our forehead, one on our lips, and one over our heart. Associated with this gesture is a silent prayer which, although not written in the Missal, has been handed on for centuries:
[INDENT]May the word of the Lord
be in my mind, . . (Phil. 4:7; Heb. 10:16)
on my lips, . .. . (Deut. 30:14; Rom. 10:8-10)
and in my heart. . (Ps. 119:11; Ezek. 3:10; Luke 2:19)One variant of that silent prayer is: “May the Gospel guard my mind, bless my lips, and stay in my heart.” The idea is the same. The Douay Catechism explains the significance of this gesture this way: They sign themselves on their foreheads, to signify they are not, nor will be ashamed to profess Christ crucified: on their mouths to signify they will be ready with their mouths, to confess unto salvation: and on their breast to signify that with their hearts they believe unto justice. (p. 128)
This prayer reminds us of how attentive we must be to the Gospel.

Mind. We cannot let it go in one ear and out the other, it must remain in our minds. We cannot simply know of the Gospel, we must know the Gospel. It is not enough to know about Jesus Christ, we must know Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer of all men. If God’s Word is in our minds, it will direct our actions and give us true peace of mind. Remember that Christ tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God with, among other things, all our mind. (cf. Luke 10:27)

Lips. In the letter of St. James, we are told about how the tongue is a truly vicious organ: The tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell. … With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. (Jas. 3:6-10)
We must guard our language carefully so as never to speak contrary to the Gospel. This means more than just avoiding blasphemy or denying Christ, this means making sure we are not false witnesses to Christ by the words we use. St. Paul exhorts the Ephesians, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.” (Eph. 4:29) And to the Colossians he wrote that they should put away “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk” from their mouths. (Col. 3:8) Jesus Christ, in His Sermon on the Mount, preached that “whoever insults his brother shall be liable” to judgment. (Matt. 5:22)

** Heart.** A well-known psalm pleads with us not to harden our hearts when we hear the voice of the Lord. (cf. Ps. 95:8) Jesus, in His parable of the sower and the seed, refers to the seed (“the word of the kingdom”) as being sown in the hearts of those who hear it. (cf. Matt. 13:19) He warns us that it is not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out of his heart. (cf. Mark 7:18-22) We also read that the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the midst of all the commotion surrounding the birth of Jesus, “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) The words for “kept” and “pondering” could also be translated as “treasured” and “encountered,” and this is what we are to do with the word of God: treasure it in our hearts, not to think of it fondly every now and then, but to truly encounter it.

[RIGHT]From Praying the Mass: The Prayers of the People, pp. 64-65


Wow! Such a great response! I think God has a special place reserved for you in Hevean!!:slight_smile:


The mind–lips–heart symbology is correct. I can tell you what I was taught to say forty-some-odd years ago (mostly likely by the nuns in first grade) and what I still say to this day after the priest announces the Gospel. With my right thumb I make the sign of the cross on my forehead saying “Glory…”, on the lips saying “…to You…”, over my heart saying “…O Lord.” This was also mentioned in japhy’s response. :slight_smile:

There is controversy over hand positions of the faithful in the pews. I personally do not mirror the priest’s hand positions during the Mass or hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer. From Article 6 of INSTRUCTION ON CERTAIN QUESTIONS REGARDING THE COLLABORATION OF THE NON-ORDAINED FAITHFUL IN THE SACRED MINISTRY OF PRIEST:

In eucharistic celebrations deacons and non-ordained members of the faithful may not pronounce prayers — e.g. especially the eucharistic prayer, with its concluding doxology — or any other parts of the liturgy reserved to the celebrant priest. Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant.


Unless the tabernacle is not located in the main sanctuary but rather in a reserve chapel. Look for the sanctuary light (usually a red candle) that indicates the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. If you don’t see the sanctuary light, you can always genuflect before entering the pew, but bowing toward the altar (reverencing the altar) is appropriate.

Some RCIA classes focus on more “theological” topics (Tradition, history of the Church, the Trinity, etc.) during the Inquiry Phase and don’t cover “what to do, and when to do it” until after the Rite of Acceptance, which in our parish was this past weekend.


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