The Christmas season has begun! I pray that everyone is home, surrounded by family and friends as we celebrate the birth of Christ. Christmas is one of my favorite seasons of the whole year. It’s a season of love and giving and tradition. During the darkest part of the year, it’s a time of light and music and good cheer. May your Christmas be joyous and blessed!
Mass Etiquette: Your Best Suit
You wouldn’t wear basketball shorts and a t-shirt to meet the king of England would you? Why then is it acceptable to wear such things to mass?
When you go to mass or Eucharistic adoration you are in the presence of our king, our lord and savior, Jesus Christ. The sanctuary is His throne room. It is a great honor to witness and reverence our God and ought to be treated as such. If more people grasped the true weight of the mass, a reenactment of Christ dying on the cross for our sins, I think we’d see more suits in the pews on Sunday. This isn’t your mother’s living room, but the house of God.
In the hustle and bustle of 2022 it’s easy to forget to put our best foot forward when we go to worship. Sometimes it can feel like we’re just checking a box before hurrying off to the next Sunday errand or activity. Imagine how God might speak to you if you slowed down, took the time to make yourself presentable, and actually immersed yourself in worship. We are called to turn to God in all things including how we present ourselves to the world.
Can Non-Catholics Go to Mass?
Of course! Everyone is welcome to attend Catholic mass. The word ‘Catholic’ quite literally means all embracing used to describe the universal church. Here all are able to witness the mass with the only caveat that you refrain from receiving the Eucharist until being fully initiated into the church through Baptism and First Communion. Attending a service for a faith to which you don’t belong can feel very daunting and awkward but, in this church, all people belong.
Growing up, I always allowed myself to be dragged to church on the holidays to make my parents happy but never gave much thought to the meaning behind it. Even after moving away from my family I started attending church on Sunday for investigative reasons rather than moral ones. I knew that there had to be some higher power at work in the world and thought that the Catholic church was a fine place to begin my search for answers. I had no intention of converting to the faith at the time. In part, I simply wanted to be able to have an educated conversation with my parents about why I opted to not be Catholic.
My first few weeks at mass were hardly comfortable. Without my parents beside me to lead me along in the various readings and prayers I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I struggled to navigate the hymnals and worship aids. I never knew when to stand or sit or kneel and was constantly watching out of the corner of my eye to see what my fellow church goers did. I made sure to always find a seat toward the back of the massive sanctuary so as not to be noticed too much if I made a mistake.
Of course, the people around me were nothing but welcoming. More than once, the parishioner next to me sensed my nervous, new-comer ways as I frantically flipped through the missal in search of the day’s Gospel reading. They would smile warmly and lean in to kindly direct me to the correct page.
My nerves would always peak as everyone stood and filed up to the altar to receive communion toward the end of every mass. This was one activity in which I could not participate as I had not yet received my sacraments of initiation. I watched, self consciously, feeling as if all eyes were on me as I waited for people to return to the pews.
However, I soon realized that no one was looking at me as I quietly witnessed the mass every Sunday. There were no disapproving stares turned my way and no furtive whispers as I came and went from mass every week. Although people were happy to help when discovering an uneducated, baby Catholic in the making, the truth was that people were generally not paying attention to me at all. They were not there to judge or gossip. They had come to church to reverence Christ and participate in the sacrament of holy Eucharist.
Despite my lack of knowledge of the logistics of the mass I never felt unwanted and there has never been a time since then that I considered not attending Sunday mass. I quickly grew comfortable with going to church and even began to look forward to it. I always loved being read to since before I myself could read. The Lord of the Rings was a particular favorite bedtime story that my dad read to my sister and I when we were little. Even though I’m still learning my Bible, mass occasionally recalled some of those childhood moments curled up next to my dad with the huge fantasy novel open in his lap.
I enjoyed learning the historical context behind the readings each week in the homily and was soothed by the voices of canters leading the assembly in musical prayer. It would be many months before I openly admitted my desire to be fully received into the Catholic church but even in those first weeks at mass, God was calling me home.