When we enter the narthex, we are greeted by a member
of our community and given a songbook. We dip our hand
in the font and put water on ourselves in the sign of the
cross (touch your forehead, your abdomen, your left shoulder,
and your right shoulder). This is to recall our baptism—that
we have been invited and incorporated into the life of
Christ, which we will now share with the community in liturgy,
and which we are to share with all the world through the
example of our lives.
Inside the church we bow to the altar (a reminder of Christ)
as we enter the pew. We don’t genuflect here—we
genuflect when we enter the Blessed Sacrament chapel, which
is in a separate room behind the altar.
For those still learning (or re-learning) the mass, the
outline in the front of the songbook can be helpful. Where
you see letters (A, B, and C, for example), that means
the presider has the option of doing either A, B, or C—we’ll
skip that which is not done.
During the mass, sing the songs with a full voice, even
if you don’t like your voice. Many of the prayers
involve responses from the assembly—respond with
a full voice to these, too.
A collection is taken for two purposes. First, it is the
primary way people contribute their share to make the parish
run. It’s helpful to register in the parish at the
Welcoming Committee cart in the narthex, in part so you
can get envelopes. If you use envelopes, the parish can
give you a letter at the end of the year showing how much
you contributed, for use in filing your taxes. Second,
the collection, along with the gifts of bread and wine,
are symbols of the people, being taken to the altar. Like
the bread and wine, we hope we will also become more fully
the body and blood of Jesus Christ, a source of life for
the whole world.
During communion, everyone is invited to come up in the
procession. If you have not been prepared to receive first
eucharist by the Catholic church, simply cross your arms
over your chest (hands on shoulders) and you will receive
a blessing rather than communion when you get to the front.
Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of
the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged
to respect the discipline of their own churches on the
reception of communion (Catholic Canon Law does not object
to you receiving communion).
For those receiving communion, you place one hand under
the other and extend the to the minister. Look at the minister,
who says "The Body of Christ", which means that
the bread is in fact the body of Christ, that it is offered
to you to receive, and that it is what we are and are to
become more fully in communion. You respond "Amen".
If you chose, you may also receive from the cup, where
the minister will say "The Blood of Christ" to
which you respond "Amen".
Following the communion procession, all return to their
seats and sing standing until the last one has received
communion. Then we sit.
The mass is not over after communion. We all stay until
the prayer of thanksgiving after communion, and the announcements,
final blessing, and dismissal. When the procession of the
ministers has gone by, others may follow.
Take time after mass to connect with new and old friends,
learn what’s going on in the parish, greet the presider,
and on most Sundays, share donuts and coffee with the community.
Then we go off into our separate lives where we all engage
in the same task: making the presence of the Risen Christ
a positive, vibrant, and ever-growing experience for all