Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ecclesiastical Etiquette

Eucharist and B16
Shared by Joy from one of my Catholic egroups. Most of you have probably read this post by Fr. Jim Tucker of Dappled Things previously, but since I started blogging in 2006, it is new to me. My comments have been added in red.
Note: Fr.'s blog link is being added to the sidebar. I have read his recent posts.
Ecclesiastical Etiquette -- When a person goes into a new environment (opera house, cinema, nice restaurant) it's not always immediately obvious how one should act and what one should do. Having a handy list of basic etiquette generally makes a person feel much more at ease. A reader recently asked whether I had any materials on church etiquette. As I didn't, I thought I'd jot down a few things that came to the top of my head. Have I left anything out?

Make sure to turn off your cell phone and set your pager to silent before you go into church.

Lower the kneeler on the pew carefully. It’s not meant to be a thunder simulator.

Scoot into the pew as far as you can. This makes it easier for others to take a seat as they arrive.

Church is certainly an appropriate place for children. If yours is prone to make lots of noise, sit toward the rear so that you can take him out if he begins to make a scene. Many churches provide a crying room where one can take crying children for brief periods.

Although there’s a long-standing custom of Catholics saying rosaries and reading prayerbooks during Mass, it has never been considered appropriate to read the bulletin or the New York Times during the sermon.
The Rosary prayer can be said prior to Mass, not during the Mass. Our full attention and participation should be given at the Holy Mass.
Plan to arrive at church at least five minutes before Mass begins, and don’t try to beat the priest out the front door at the end. Even better, stay until the closing hymn finishes and linger to offer some prayers of thanksgiving afterward. Besides, the parking lot is crazy right at the end of Mass.
I refer you to Fr. Daren's homily for this one. BTW, my family arrives one-half hour earlier because it gives us time to pray. See, when you arrive early, you have plenty of time to pray your Rosary...and Divine Mercy Chaplet, while you are at it. We learned this from my mom who gave us the same example that Fr. Daren gives about meeting the President.
If the parish offers a coffee social after Mass, you are most welcome to go, even if you are not a parishioner or not Catholic.

Even if you are not Catholic, you are most welcome to join in all the prayers, songs, and actions of the Mass. Holy Communion is the only part of the Mass reserved to Catholics who have spiritually prepared themselves for It.

At the Sign of Peace, it is customary to offer the peace of Christ to those around you (in this country, it is usually a handshake). Since it is a sign, you only need to offer it to those beside you (and perhaps to those in front and behind, if you wish). Even if you don’t reach someone, don’t worry: he or she still gets the peace of Christ.

There is no need to come to Mass in a tuxedo or formal gown. As a sign of respect to God and to those at Mass with you, though, it is customary to dress up a bit. As a general rule, one should not wear shorts or come with bare shoulders, low-cut tops, or skirts that are above the knees. Ladies are no longer required to cover their heads in this country, but gentlemen are expected to remove their hats at the door.

Since the church is a house of prayer, one should avoid lengthy or loud conversations. If you need to speak to someone, do so in a lowered voice, even if Mass is not going on. Most churches have a vestibule (sometimes called a “gathering space” or “narthex”) where one is able to converse.

In American churches, one does not typically bring animals in.

It is poor manners to chew gum in church. To go up to Communion with gum in one's mouth is mind-bogglingly poor manners (and arguably a violation of the Communion fast).

Coffee and sweetrolls are often served in parish halls after Masses, but it is inappropriate to eat them in the church itself. It's also inappropriate to bring other food or drinks into church, even if one expects the Mass to be rather long.


Mary B said...

Great article! In our church families have been asked to consider sitting up front so little ones can see and learn faster, on the right because it makes it easier for potty training toddlers, and near a column if they tend to escape.
Unfortunately our Narthyx is at the front but parking is in the rear. Only on the best of weather days does everyone actually move out for conversation.
We definitly need to work on that one.

Deanna said...

Our Sunday Visitor has a series of pamphlets about Etiquette in a Catholic Church. There is a general one, funeral,and wedding version.

gemoftheocean said...

The only one I might have a slight quibble with, is regards: "Scooting all the way in." My mother tended to be rather claustrophobic, and could not abide having people all around her. She got a "trapped" feeling. Her point was: "Why should I arrive to Mass in PLENTY of time, in order to get an aisle seat so I wouldn't feel claustrophobic, only to have some late comer, who doesn't bother to make the effort to come in plenty of time get the desired end spot?"

She didn't mind getting up for someone to move in...but she was stressed if forced to move in herself. I think she's right! Let the late comers come on time!

EC Gefroh said...

Mary B: That's nice. We don't have a specific area for moms with little kids)

Thank you Deanna. I will look for those.

Karen, my husband I agree with you!! We get to Church very early. My husband likes to sit next to the aisle. It doesn't seem very fair that the early birds have to uproot for latecomers, does it?