Monday, November 24, 2014

Mass Manners

On Saturday, I returned home from a two week business trip in Asia. I spent time in Shanghai, Nanjing, and Singapore.

Whilst in Shanghai, I attended Mass at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. It was in English and the crowd was a mix of Chinese, Westerners, Filipinos, Indians, etc. There’s something quite comforting about being able to attend Mass at a Catholic church almost anywhere in the world and finding most parts of it to be very similar.

There are of course always some differences. It seems like more and more Catholic churches are going with what I would call “glory and praise” music with guitars and touchy feely hymns. Sacred Heart in Shanghai was no exception to this trend. There’s nothing wrong with such music in small doses, but I’m more a traditionalist when it comes to hymns and prefer the tried and true standards.

Another difference from my home church (which I have also noticed elsewhere) was that people stood after the Memorial Acclamation instead of waiting for the Great Amen to get off their knees. Further research has revealed that this practice is actually fairly common outside of the United States:

Eucharistic Prayer I, II, III, IV

Preface: Comment: The congregation kneels (In many places throughout the Catholic world, the congregation kneels only at the time of the Consecration and remains standing for the rest of the Eucharistic Prayer.) The long-standing custom in the United States and in other places is for the congregation to remain kneeling throughout the whole of the Eucharistic Prayer below. What is the meaning of this posture during the Eucharistic prayer? Sometimes, in liturgical practice, kneeling signifies sorrow for sin, as when one kneels to confess one's sins in the Sacrament of Penance. At other times it signifies adoration, as one kneels in front of the tabernacle. The kneeling that takes place during the Eucharistic Prayer is primarily a posture of profound self-offering in which the congregation unites itself to the Sacrifice of Christ enacted on the altar.

One thing that was definitely unique about my experience at Sacred Heart were the “Mass Etiquette” rules that were on the back page of the bulletin.

Fast Before Mass

No drink or food for an hour before Communion. No problem.

No Food or Drink in Church

It did note exceptions for drink for small children and those who are ill. No coffee ever people.

Men Take Your Hats Off

Should never be a problem.

Don’t Chew Gum in Church

I can’t believe an adult would ever do this. A few weeks ago, one of our urchins slipped gum into church and we made sure he was aware that was never to happen again.

Cross Yourself With Holy Water on Entering and Leaving the Church


Dress Modestly and Appropriately

This is the one where there is plenty of room for improvement in most parishes.

Show Up At Least A Few Minutes Early

We’ve been guilty of violating this one, but have been getting better of late.

Cell Phones Should Never Be Used in Mass

This shouldn’t need to be said, but I’ve seen people violate it on more than one occasion.

When We Enter and Leave Church, Genuflect Toward the Tabernacle

An easy habit to follow.

Please Be Quiet


Take Loud Children to the Back

Or the cry room or anywhere where their noise doesn’t disturb others. It seems like common sense, but it needs to be said.

Prepare Your Offering Before Mass

Discretion is always in order.

No Bulletin Reading During Mass

D’oh! This is one that I frequently violate, but only at appropriate times.

Do Not Leave Early

You’re giving God an hour a week and you can’t stick around for the recessional song? Really?

Leave Quietly

Save the chit chat for when you’re out of the main sanctuary of the church.

Good rules to follow wherever in the world you’re attending Mass.