Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Non-Catholics Guide to Mass

Written by popular demand – ok one person asked for it but that’s better than nothing.

Ok here’s what you need to know to get through a Mass without standing-out like a vegetarian at a cannibal convention.

First a warning (not to beat a dead donk…but). If you enter the church and find out it’s the priest day off, go ahead and sit down but be prepared to bolt if need be. The Deacon will probably be doing the Baptism or Wedding or Communion Service (similar to a Mass – but very lame). If the Deacon is not there and you see a woman in the 60 year-old or better age-range, wearing a pants-suit or a semi-clergy looking! Don’t’ even hesitate and pretend like you are heading to the bathroom, just get up and run from the church, screaming is allowed. This person is either a radical ‘nun’ leftover from the 60’s and 70’s or a ‘priest wannabe’ lay person (regular person not clergy) or both. There are a whole gaggle of older women who hang around certain churches just waiting for the priest to ask them to help out or for the priest to go on vacation so they can get their hands on the keys to the church. For some reason they haven’t figured out that after 2000 years the Catholic Church is not going to change its mind and allow female clergy. Why these women don’t leave and join a church that does allow it is a great mystery to me.

Ok here’s how to get a handle on this Catholic Mass think. I know it can be confusing and us cradle-Catholics tend to forget that not everyone knows what to do at Mass.

Heck I don’t know when to sit, stand or kneel half the time. There is a Catholic parody of The Clash’s “Should I Stay of Should I go” called “Should I Stand of Should I Kneel”. It’s funny cause it hits the truth. When I accidently stand at the wrong time I just grab the seat of my pants and act like I’ve got a wedgie that needs fixing and then sit back down like nothing happened. This wouldn’t be so embarrassing if my Honey didn’t make us sit up front.

The best way to know what to do is to sit towards the back and follow the crowd like a lemming. Of course that means getting there early so you can get a seat in the back…the way Catholics avoid the front of the church, you would think all priests had B.O. or bad breath.

The kneeling parts of Mass are the most solemn and important parts. Some visitors aren’t comfortable with the kneeling. It’s ok to sit during these parts just try and be as quiet as possible. This would be the worst possible time to have to go to the potty or be sick…just ask my Robert aka ‘Puke in Church Boy’.

You can follow along with a lot of the Mass in a booklet called a Missal that should be in the pews. You aren’t excepted to do the parts that require the congregation to respond. But you can if you won’t.

The choir leader will announce the number to each hymn to be sung. Sing if you wish, you might be the only one.

The ‘sign of the peace’ is about the only time you might have to actively participate. The priest will say “let us offer each other a sign of peace”. People will turn to each other; shake hands and say something like “peace be with you” or “peace of Christ”. It’s some touchy-feely commie-pinko thing that was added to the Mass in the late 60’s/early 70’s. It’s annoying but pretty painless. Plus it makes Rachel happy since it’s the only time her 18-old will let her kiss him. If you want you can just fold your arms across your chest and scowl at people, it works for me. The worst is the priest who has to come of the altar and shake everyone’s hand within reach…you’d think they were running for public office.

Kids are welcome at Mass. If they get to loud just take them to the cry-room if there is one or to the back of the church. Some Masses will have a nursery or Sunday school if you want to use those.

If communion is offered just stay in your seat and let others pass by. Don’t get in line and go up. Some churches encourage people not receiving communion to come up anyway with their arms folded across their chests to receive a blessing. While this is fine for little kids, adults look like real dorks doing this. Especially when it’s a lay person not a priest giving out communion.

Don’t call the priest: Mr. or Reverend. If you aren’t comfortable calling him Father than just say hi.

Now if you happen to wander into a charismatic church and want to fit in, here is a primer on how to speak in tongues. Just repeat these two phrases over and over in a fast cadence: “Shot of vodka” and “She came in a Honda” while holding your arms up like you are signaling a touchdown.

Be careful when you leave the parking lot. It can be like a demolition derby out there. What with people rushing to get out as fast as they can to go watch football or go shopping or hit Mickey D’s for another nutritious breakfast.

What I can’t tell you about:

1) The secret handshake
2) The paddle-line initiation to join
3) What days we bring out the rattle-snakes
4) What our church colors are
5) The secret catacombs beneath each church
6) The magic underwear
7) How to get out of Purgatory (actually if you figure that one out let me know)

And if you try to find out any of these things I’ll rap your knuckles with a ruler.

Other than that y'all are welcome to come to Mass anytime you want.


wife said...

This wouldn’t be so embarrassing if my Honey didn’t make us sit up front.

hey-your the freak who leaves me at the door brushing my teeth if I am not in the car a half hour before mass, so you can get your front seat!!!

Rob said...

Yo Wife - The only reason i leave a half-hour early, is because the time we didn't some other family sat in OUR pew...and they weren't even wearing our church colors.

and so what if I leave you at the front door? leaving at 9:30 means leaving at 9:30! Plus we have 3 other cars...

Anonymous said...

If you don't leave home 1/2 hour early to be at our church, you can't find seats for 9 all in the same pew because all of the other people who got there before you are parked at the end of the pew just daring you to try and cross over them to sit in the vast emptiness between ends.

I thought for sure that you were going to list the secret tunnel between the rectory and the convent in the "What I Can't Tell You About." My sister was an adult before she realized that my dad was joking when he talked about it. Really.


Rob said...

sharon - i thought about putting the thing about the tunnels but was afraid someone might actually thing that was real.

and yeah what is it with people having to sit at the end of the pew?!

Roger said...

I can't believe you didn't share the secret handshake! I mean we're allowed to share ours on the first night... You don't get the colors until you become a full-fledged confirmed member of Mother Church though.

We're tough like that. :)

the Mom said...

Yes, share the handshake. The really secret part is how to use the toe of your shoe to raise and lower the kneelers without bending over or making a sound.

Rachel said...

You should come to Atlanta. There are tons of priests here...nary a Communion service. Have a great time with Josh, he is in our prayers!

Catherine said...

I wouldn't have believe I would write one day that a description of a Mass celebration is funny!
I haven't seen you last Sunday at our Church, though, it seems that we've attended the same Mass.
You 've just forgotten the woman in the 70 years old who teach Catechism, that every young kids try to avoid, before she runs to her/him to kiss him/her tousling her/his hair. Maybe you want to file her in the 'priest wanabee' woman category?
We will never, never again sit at the 2d row, since our priest once, asked my husband to offer communion. Since, we're always at the back or on the side.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. It will certainly help when I attend mass tomorrow with a friend.