So my stepcousin is now a priest and I was at his ordination mass.
Kneeling, Standing, etc; it looked to me like everyone stood and sat at the appropriate times, but kneeling was more or less optional if you were older or non-Catholic? Is this correct?
Attire: at the protestant church I attended I normally wear shorts and sandals and so do a lot of of other people. At mass I wore a dark T-shirt and black jeans and felt rather underdressed (but not to the point of being offensive). Was it because it was a special ordination mass at the cathedral, or is mass more conservative than protestant churches in general?
Communion: Is the expectation that you go up to receive a blessing rather than stay seated and get in the way of people stepping over you?
Assuming I wanted to see my stepcousin do the homily at a much smaller local church in the suburbs, how would a random protestant visitor be treated there?
The Knights of Columbus looked rather grouchy. Are the expected to put on a “game face” during mass?
All of this depends on the exact congregation and just what flavor of Catholic we’re talking about. I will assume we’re not talking something like Carpatho-Rusynn and more the usual Roman Catholic Church.
Kneeling has been sort of optional for some time. If you are able, you are supposed to kneel regardless of your beliefs or age. But I have yet to see a case where someone has been questioned for it.
Clothing - it was more because it was a special event/mass. I do know some congregations and some people who still go full formal suit and tie each and every Sunday. But I’ve seen a lot of shorts and plain t-shirts as well - even at masses conducted at a convent that I attend now and then.
Communion – this gets a little more complicated. As a known member of the ELCA at most of the RC churches I sometimes attend, I just stay seated. This keeps Father from getting confused and offering me participation that I shouldn’t be allowed under his rules. I would be fine with it but I don’t want to offend him. If its a church I am basically visiting and unknown, I will sometimes take communion and just be really vague about my home congregation; after all, we both have places named St Mark’s.
Treatment - one thing I will say for the Papists; they are a terrifically friendly and welcoming group in general. I will hit a RC Mass at least two or three times a year, usually in places I have not been before. And even when admitting up front that I’m just a Lutheran visiting and joining in worship for lack of a nearby church of my denomination, they are very nice and friendly. In over 30 years I can’t think of a time when anything was done to make me feel less than welcome. It’s a much better choice on the road than say Baptist. Some of them can get a bit picky now and then.
KofC – I’ve generally avoided them so I really have nothing to offer there.
Also in reading back over this ---- remember that its “Parish” and not “Congregation”. That is a dead give-away.
I was once trapped by a layover in an airport on Sunday morning. This was a big airport, and there was a chapel. I wanted to attend a service but the only one I’d be able to get to was an RC Mass. I was Lutheran at the time. There were maybe twenty-five or thirty people there, but I’d arrived early. The priest, seeing me as a fairly well dressed person, asked if I would be willing to read one of the Scripture lessons. I said sure! when it came to Communion it was kind of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and I communed.
As with any ceremony a lot depends on the local church, as folks have already said.
Technically, you shouldn’t take communion if you’re not Catholic. Full disclosure, I did at my brother’s wedding, even though I’m an atheist. But… I was raised Catholic and have been through the whole Confession/Communion?confirmation thing. I just thought it was better for all involved if the whole wedding party took communion rather than explain why one and only one member didin’t.
I am aware that non-Catholics aren’t allowed to take communion, which is why I’m asking about etiquette if you don’t. But out of curiosity is there something subtle that would allow a priest to pick out a heretic that was in line, either deliberately or not knowing any better? A different gesture? Guidance from the holy spirit? If so, what would happen since it’s not like they can ask for ID in line and there’s the possibility the priest could be mistaken.
If you proceed up the communion line, you can cross your arms in front of your chest (as in making an X–one hand to each shoulder–not like you’re angry or anything) and the priest (or whoever is giving communion) will pass you by. A priest will likely reach out to give you a blessing, an average minister will just gesture for you to follow the others off to the side. Not unusual, no harm, no foul.
My “Reformation Party” button is a dead give-away.
But seriously there really isn’t. And some priests, even when they know you are of another denomination, don’t really care; they leave it up to you and whatever direction God puts in your heart. The assumption is that if you do something wrong in the eyes of God, God will eventually have the final word.
Now some of the more orthodox branches of catholicism are a little different; communion can be complicated enough that someone not raised in the tradition sticks out like a sore thumb. Most of my family are Original Ritualist (Russian overly Orthodox) - try it there and Father will just sort of stare you down until you move on. Even my wife, raise RC, couldn’t pass muster there.
When I interpreted at an Episcopal Church, I was told to do that if I ever wanted to join the congregation during communion and receive a blessing-- otherwise, I just sat until it was time to interpret the hymn. The priest was behind a rail, and it was awkward to get me back there to interpret when the Deaf people in the congregation received communion, so the priest learned how to sign whatever brief thing he said to them “The body of Christ; the bread of heaven,” or something.
Ideally yes, in practice no (or, it depends on the parish). Unless it’s a special occasion like an ordination, wedding, funeral, confirmation, etc., a lot of folks wear modest regular clothes (business casual) or even more casual.
For Communion, feel free to stay in your seat or go up for a blessing; if you aren’t seated right up front it will be helpful to see how the Communion line flows and if you would need to get up and get out of the pew to let folks through, and then retake your seat.
I could see the KofC being stolid – ushers can also look pretty solemn. But they should be friendly if you need any help.
It is not, by any means, an official Church practice and it is not practiced in all parishes. It became sort of a “touchy-feely” thing that some pastors introduced in their own parishes on their own initiative and that lingered on after the pastors left. People whose parishes practice this assume that this is a universal custom, which it is not.
In fact, the super-conservative highly-legalistic Catholics get very upset by this practice. You can follow the debate here. (“EMHC” means Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. This means a non-priest who distributes holy communion. There is nothing really “extraordinary” about them, this is a very routine practice.)
I would advise a non-Catholic to just remain in the pew when communion is distributed (of course, get up and step to the aisle to let the other people get through and then sit down again). If someone announces from the alter that you can come get a blessing and you want one, then feel free to follow their instructions.
Yes, feel free to sit instead of kneel. But out of consideration for the person behind you, scoot forward in your seat so that you are sort of sitting on the edge of the seat. If you are sitting with your back against the back of the seat, the person kneeling behind you will have their face up against the back of your head.
My dad was a life-long member of the Knights of Columbus, holding both council and state positions over the years. He had a K of C honor guard at his funeral. In my years of experience attending many K of C functions, I assure you, the group is not grouchy. They definitely like to have a good time. But at formal occasions, they assume the solemn dignity they feel is appropriate.
Then afterwards, they’ll put away the regalia and have a beer or three.
Your idea of “dressing for the occasion” is certainly a lot more… conservative than I’m comfortable with. Then again, I live in a country where many churches have signs indicating in graphic language that your ass and shoulders must be covered (the problem isn’t so much spaguetti straps as bikinis or no top).
Some orders, and therefore some churches, are more conservative than others; for example and these are generalizations, the Jesuits don’t give a shit what you wear so long as it’s not distracting, the Franciscan Orders are likely to have raiments in all kinds of unofficial colors and their parishioners to sport tee-shirts from the local Humane Society, the Augustines frown upon any kind of medal or other religious ornament and Opus Dei wouldn’t mind making all women dress like nuns trying to pass for civilians.
There’s a RRC right near my house. Pretty upscale parish. Moms and dads dress pretty nicely for Sunday mass, but lots of teenagers in shorts and sandals. It’s a real mixed bag. But then, it’s California…
I just went to a funeral in a Catholic church a couple weeks ago. I just sat when people went for communion. At no time did anyone kneel, although we did a lot of standing. I stood, but I would not have kneeled. I don’t know why, but something about kneeling repels me. Nearly everyone there was dressed in their ordinary street clothes, as I was.