Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil 4:6-7

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Catholic Etiquette

The parish at which we became members about a year ago is a very reverent parish -- in terms of the clergy and congregation showing proper reverence during Mass and especially Adoration. It is probably the most reverent Catholic church I have ever attended. I believe the clergy, especially the pastor, shepherds his sheep in this way.

But, one thing that I have noticed, at almost every church I have attended, is the lack of reverence toward the Crucifix during the procession and recession. I was taught from a young age to cross myself when the Crucifix passes. This also applies to passing a Catholic Church, on foot on or in a car. I'm sure many elderly still practice this form of reverence when passing a church, but I have noticed that not even the elderly in church cross themselves as the Crucifer passes them at the beginning and end of Mass.

I recently began to question myself (isn't it sad how we do that) as I noticed no one else doing it. So, I did a little research and found I was correct. I always want to do the most I can to show reverence to God, and so I was very interested to learn a few new things when I did my research. I'm not afraid to learn that I've been doing things incorrectly. I think when we know better, we do better. That's the great thing about our faith -- there is so much to learn and we can always find something to do a little better.

I thought I'd post a few of my findings here, as our duty on earth is to help our fellow man to heaven. James 2:8 If then you fulfill the royal law, according to the scriptures, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; you do well. This is not to imply, at all, that you don't know these things, but, just in case.

Bow of the head

How: Simply lower your chin toward your throat and hold a moment
When you pass by a Church, bow your head and make the Sign of the Cross to honor the Real Presence of Christ in the tabernacle.
Any time you hear the Name "Jesus" (note that "Christ" is His title, meaning "Annointed One"; there is no need to bow the head at just the mention of the word "Christ"). Men should remove their hats and bow their heads when passing a church or when His Name is spoken; this practice is for both inside and outside of Mass. All Catholics bow their heads at these times (yes, if you're having a casual conversation with someone on the subway and you pass a church or mention His Name, you actually are supposed to bow your head, removing your hat if you are a man).
Cross yourself and bow the head when the priest and the Crucifer walk down the aisle before and after Mass. After Mass, as the priest leaves the Altar, it is also customary to pray for him. (Some make a profound bow instead at these times)
Not commonly known and practiced: any time you hear "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (or "Holy Spirit")" mentioned together; any time you hear the name of Mary; and, during Mass, when the name of the Saint in whose honor the Mass is being celebrated

Striking of the Breast
How: With either a fist or with the tips of the fingers, held close together, strike your chest over the heart to express regret and sorrow
at the Mass, formally: at each "mea culpa" during the Confiteor; at the Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus (priest); three times during the Agnus Dei; and three times during the Domine, Non Sum Dignus
informally: at the "forgive us our trespasses" ("dimitte nobis debita nostra") in the "Our Father"; any time to express penitence or remorse inside or outside of the Liturgy

Bow at the waist (or "profound bow")
How: Bow at the waist in the manner of the Japanese (about 30 degrees forward) When:
at the Aspérges at Mass when the priest sprinkles the congregation with holy water
when the Altar boy incenses the congregation during the Mass
Cross yourself and make a profound bow when the priest and Crucifer walk down the aisle before and after Mass. After Mass, as the priest leaves the Altar, it is also customary to pray for him. (Some simply bow the head instead of making a profound bow at these times)
when greeting a hierarch who doesn't have jurisdiction over you (e.g., the Bishop of a diocese other than one in which you live). As you bow, kiss the hierarch's ring. This bow and ring-kissing are only done if the Pope is not present.

Genuflection on Right Knee
How: Looking at what you are genuflecting toward, kneel on your right knee for a moment in the manner of a man proposing to a woman, bringing the right knee all the way to the floor, close to the heel of the left foot, keeping the back and neck erect. Hold for a moment, then stand.
Genuflect toward the Tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, and each time you pass in front of it (except when you're in procession, such as standing in line for Communion, or returning to your seat afterward). While this should, on one level, be a matter of habit, it shouldn't be done thoughtlessly. Remind yourself when genuflecting toward the Tabernacle that you are kneeling before God. Praying mentally, "My Lord and My God" is a good habit to get into while genuflecting on the right knee. If the Tabernacle is not on the Altar, genuflect toward the Altar and the Altar Crucifix.
Before a relic of the True Cross when it is exposed for public adoration.
On Good Friday to Holy Saturday, after the ceremony of the Adoration of the Cross, genuflect when passing in front of the exposed Crucifix on the Altar.

Kneeling (Double Genuflection)
How: Kneel on both knees
any time the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, to show adoration and humility
many times during the Mass: during the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, after the Sanctus, after the Agnus Dei, at the altar rail, and at the Last Blessing
during Confession, inside or, in emergencies, outside of the Confessional
when receiving a priestly blessing, inside or outside of the Liturgy. If you are unable for some reason to kneel, then bow your head.
during private prayer (see St. Dominic's "Fourth Way"" of prayer)

from fisheaters.com

This book and this book on the topic look interesting. I might check them out.



  1. Thanks for posting this! Having been Episcopalian for my whole life (up until we just became Catholic), it was normal for me to bow as the Crucifer passed during the process and recession. But, then I thought perhaps Catholics didn't do that, since it was never mentioned to us in RCIA and I didn't think I really saw anyone doing it during Mass. So, I stopped doing it, even though it seemed weird to not do it. So, now I'll go back to doing it just like I have always done. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Barbara. Being a convert of almost 10 years, I was never taught this. I did learn to bow my head at the name of Jesus, at the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and to cross ourselves whenever we pass a Catholic church. Now I'll teach my children to cross themselves when the Crucifier processes and recesses.

  3. I was going to say the same thing Angie did!

    (another former Episcopalian)


I appreciate your comments -- sometimes I feel like I'm talking to myself!