5 Tips for Evangelicals Attending Mass for the First Time

When I slipped into Holy Spirit Parish in late February it was the second Sunday Mass I had ever attended, and the first one in which I was very observant. Here’s what I learned.

1) Expect to be confused. The “Our Sunday Visitor” cards are located somewhere in the pew and will help you respond for some of the liturgy. But there are many responses not included in the cards. I couldn’t believe all these crazy people had memorized so many short statements! Take it all in! Listen closely to the meaningful words and the scriptural references.

2) Enjoy Christ on the cross. As an evangelical I would say silly things about Catholics not understanding Jesus was no longer on the cross, as if they hadn’t heard of the resurrection (I wish someone would have asked me who came up with the Easter calendar). Yet my favorite hymns like the Old Rugged Cross and contemporary songs like How Deep the Father’s Love For Us are all about Christ on the cross. Here was a visual representation of the lyrics I had grown to love.

3) The hymn numbers are probably listed in block numbers up front.When I first saw them I thought they were leftover numbers from some Catholic bingo game (seriously!).

4) You can go up for communion.  Don’t TAKE communion, but if you’re feeling adventurous you can cross your arms over your chest and the priest will give you a blessing. Make sure you go up on the side of the priest. Otherwise, just wait in the pew (that’s what I did).

5) When the priest says, “Go forth, the mass has ended,” he doesn’t mean “You’re dismissed.” He means “The mass is ended, now let’s sing one more song.” At Holy Spirit I picked up my stuff, look around confusedly, then set it back down and waited 🙂

(Photo Source) 


17 thoughts on “5 Tips for Evangelicals Attending Mass for the First Time

  1. Good idea. I would also add, though one will be confused and feel awkward, they needn’t feel like an unwelcome outsider. It was so easy for the feel that way at first, to feel like the Catholics knew I didn’t belong there and that I was intruding and that they were looking at me because I didn’t genuflect and didn’t know when to stand and when to kneel — but they’re not. Everyone is welcome. The pews are filled with old Catholics, new Catholics, non-Catholics, and Catholics who have been out of Mass so long that they don’t know what to do, either.

      • Yes! I noticed the other day, via the tweet feed on your Tumblr. (And I changed the link to your blog on my blog over to WordPress last night.) (And, btw, thanks so much for linking to mine!)

        Speaking of my blog, when you get a sec, check out today’s post. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

  2. What role does community play on the local level? I am wanting to learn more about the Catholic faith, have been attending mass, starting RCIA soon, yet I am still craving the many opportunities for community that I have found in Evangelical churches (small groups, Bible studies, mission trips, etc.). Apart from the Knights of Columbus and the rosary prayer groups, where do you find other Catholics your age to build an authentic community with? Is there a Catholic equivalent to small groups?

    • Fantastic question! (I’ve typed and retyped my answer here a few times trying to come up with the best response). That was a bit jarring for me at first, though I had been warned. I told my best friend that, generally speaking, the Catholic Church is like going to a megachurch without a great small groups program.

      My first attempt was going to a rosary group, which was 4 older women praying 15 decades and me. I had never even prayed a rosary once! At the end I thought, “I’m pretty sure she’s been hailed enough” and left. FAIL

      The second attempt was playing volleyball and basketball with the Young Adult group. Through that I helped garden one Saturday too. Through them I also met a fantastic Mexican couple and others who I’ve gone out to eat with and spent the 4th of July with, talking about Jesus and nuns! SUCCESS

      The third attempt was going to the Catholic Single Alives group. Only a few very older people. I didn’t stay. EPIC FAIL.

      The fourth attempt was getting closer to my discernment person and sponsor. I met my sponsor through basketball and asked him to help me through the process. He and his wife had me over for dinner and it’s been great getting to hang out with their daughter. SUCCESS

      The fifth attempt has been getting involved in the Church. This has obviously been a lot easier since joining and I helped chaperone at a youth group conference last weekend and was a lector too. SUCCESS.

      There are some Catholic small groups/Bible studies, but not much in my area. Each diocese is different–some have thriving Theology on Tap programs and Young Adult groups and mission trips and some don’t. One thing to do would be check out if you have a Catholic group on campus, even if it’s for undergrads. That’s where my friend, who was a bit older, met his wife.

      Ultimately, though, my advice would be what people told me and was hard to hear: trust God and pray. He hasn’t led you into this place to be abandoned. When I was feeling really lonely and not connecting with anyone I found a friend from old college who has reconnected with her faith and is on fire! She has been such an encouragement. The online community can help too!

    • The best Catholic equivalent to small groups is Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). We were at our parish (very large) for a while and never met other people our age with kids. Then our oldest started PeeWee Soccer. Now, we are involved in so many different groups/functions/prayer groups/etc., we can’t keep up with the all. So if you have kids…..

  3. I’m planning on going to a mass for the first time tonight and this was EXTREMELY helpful! Thank you!

  4. Thanks for the tips. I’m a catholic and try to evangelize whenever I can. When someone decides to come with me to mass for the first time, I know that they are overwhelmed. This helps me get some perspective on what they may be experiencing. I’ll use this to try to help prepare them before we walk in the door.

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