What should a non believer do or not do at Mass?

How should he behave, what is the proper behaviour, what may he do differently from a catholic?


So I was wondering about the coming Christmas Mass my agnostic friend will attend with me.

What advices could I provide? Do not take the Eucharist ist clear, but there are other things i am unsure about:

Should he sign (cross) himself with holy water?
Should he sign himself during the introductionary rite?
Should he genuflect during consacration?

Maybe other things come to your minds?

Thank you

Well, I am a just new Catholic, but I think that if you have explained why we use Holy Water and why we genuflect, your guest can choose to do or not to do these things. I would advise them not to do anything unless it has meaning for them. Going through the motions just to fit in is not necessary.

It may be easier on your guest if you sit at the outside end of one of the aisles, so they can get up and step to one side when people return from the Eucharist.

Please take the time to explain why we kneel and stand at different times so he knows what to expect.

Since your guest is Agnostic, he believes in God even if he’s still discerning religion. If your guest is Christian, and he is moved by the service, you can provide him with the prayer for Spiritual Communion that he can use during the Eucharist. Even if he can’t receive, he can still participate.

If your parish is like mine, seeing someone who is a little awkward will bring out the friendliest members to make your guest feel more welcome. :slight_smile:

I agree with some of what the above poster said: basically, don’t have him or her do anything if he or she doesn’t want to just yet (you don’t want to scare her away) or if they would just be going through the motions. However, in terms of kneeling at the consecration of the Holy Eucharist into Jesus Himself, I woukd have him or her knwwl, due to the fact that even if he or she doesn’t fully believe yet in thw Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, it is the Truth, and therefore she should still kneel down before Jesus, God the Son, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity Who is the One and only God.

May God bless you and your friend! :slight_smile:

A non-believer is invited to participate in any of the worship he feel comfortable with. These actions are meant to draw us closer to God, and this is the Church’s hope when a non-believer participates.

The only thing a non-believer may not do is receive Communion. This is for his protection, not a punishment, “for anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment* on himself.” (1 Corinthians 29)

My non-believing husband has attended Mass with me ever since we’ve been married. He simply tries to blend in. While he doesn’t cross himself or genuflect, he stands when the congregations stands, sits when they sit, and kneels when they kneel. As someone else mentioned, he usually sits on the side aisle so no one has to crawl past him when they get up for communion, and he steps out into the aisle to let them back in when they return. Unless he really acts up, I doubt if anyone will even notice your friend.

Actually, an agnostic is someone who has taken no position on whether or not a god or gods exist. Consequently, it would be inaccurate to say that an agnostic “believes in God.”

This is what my husband does. But he doesn’t kneel during the Consecration. He simply sits. Same for any time we kneel.

He doesn’t bless himself. (Remember, he doesn’t believe, so why would he?)

Explain the meaning of the various actions we Catholics do (I routinely show up early, and so I explain the Mass before it begins, after we’ve arrived, but before we go inside), and invite your guest to do whatever he or she is comfortable doing. (Except receive communion)

I take friends to Mass all the time, and most of them love to hear the scriptural readings and the homily, and try to follow along in the Missal. They’re all better singers than I am! Most of them don’t cross themselves (not even Christians from other faiths), genuflect (though some make a bow before entering a pew), or make the sign of three crosses at the Gospel. Most of them kneel when we kneel, stand when we stand, and sit when we sit.

They’re always glad to be introduced to the priest after the Mass is ended.

Try to make your guests feel un-pressured, comfortable and welcome, and they’ll probably want to return.


A non-believer should participate in Mass or Divine Liturgy as much as he or she desires.

Obviously, the non-believer cannot partake in Communion, but many priests give those abstaining from Communion a blessing if they come up to them in line.

Any negative looks or complaints are purely a reflection of those sending them. People should not be nitpicking others anywhere, let alone at church. The service is a time to pray as one.

I never give a missal to my friends. I’ve always thought it was better to observe instead of having your head buried in a book. Of course that’s just my personal opinion. :slight_smile:

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