Doing things “wrong” at Mass

A blog called EpicPew has some points to review about your participation at Mass.  NB: A serious omission in the blog post is that it ignores the Extraordinary Form.  It doesn’t even mention the Extraordinary Form.  That is, when the author writes of participation at Holy Mass, he doesn’t even consider the existence of the Extraordinary Form.  FAIL.

That said, we can take a look at a few points:

10 Things You Might Be Doing Wrong at Mass

Maybe it’s because we’ve just adopted these habits, maybe we’re just lazy…let’s take a bit of a tongue-in-cheek look at some common practices that may need correction during the Holy Mass. Here are 10 things you might be doing wrong at mass.

1. Changing posture early
Seriously, what’s the deal? Why can’t we just wait ’til we actually finish the Sanctus before kneeling? […] [ummm… really?  Uniformity?]


5. Standing in the Orans position during the Our Father
No. Just no. […] [Well… okay.  And it’s in persona Christi capitis….]

6. Walking around at the Sign of Peace [Huzzah… of course it can/should be eliminated where it is abused.]
What is this, social hour? Not only is this obnoxious (my opinion), but it’s illicit. The rubrics tell us that it is “appropriate that each person offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner”. We all love you, but stay where you are.

7. Not saying “Amen” before receiving Communion […] [ehem! EXTRAORDINARY Form!]


8. Not singing [Ummm… really?]

RING. OUT. Skill is not a prerequisite. Just, please, sing to the Lord.  [*cough*]



Check out the post over there and spike his stats.

Speaking of the Sign of Peace… here’s the old poll!

3rd ROUND: The congregation's "sign of peace" during (Novus Ordo) Mass

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Matthew Gaul says:

    I recently had the pleasure of experiencing liturgy without uniform pew benches. One of the most wonderful effects – of many wonderful effects – of not being crammed into pew benches is that you don’t notice others’ postures, nor are you inclined to judge them, you just go with your own piety.

    So also, the eye is not so distracted by someone being off of the posture rhythym, or by fidgety kids (or adults), because it’s expected that everyone moves around a bit.

    Aren’t full-nave pew benches a Protestantization, anyhow? A few seats for those who wish to sit is fine, but we should consider de-Protestantizing our sitting arrangements.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Fr. Z.

    I admit my failure to specify that I was writing with an eye only toward the Ordinary Form. The omission was accidental… but a valid critique all the same.

    I imagine the post caught your attention a couple days ago, because I actually corrected the “capitas” omission on Saturday. And, on a humorous note… I have only been to one EF Mass. It wasn’t long ago, and I made the mistake of saying “Amen” as I knelt at the altar rail. Only a few weeks ago did I learn why my “Amen” elicited such a strange glance from the celebrant. :)

    So, we at EpicPew would love to put up a post like mine that applies to the EF. Unfortunately, I’m woefully ill-equipped to write it. I think it’d be great to see though. It certainly would have made me better prepared to attend an EF Mass.

    [Another round in my Increase Extraordinary Form Awareness Initiative. Also, I don’t think it is a “mistake” to say Amen before Communion in the TLM. It is, however, almost the same moment, often the very same moment, when the priest is to place the Host on your tongue. So, there’s a little stutter in the rhythm is all. And priests shouldn’t express surprise at that. It’s hardly a surprise. In any event… rigid uniformity from everyone in everything is not really a) possible or b) desirable.]

  3. THREEHEARTS says:

    I have been under the impression from my reading of the sign of peace rubrics that Rome said, “It is Not Mandatory” and it is only to be offered to the one on either side of each memeber of the Laity. I find it symbolically disgusting when so many turn their back on Christ upon the altar. He comes and we ignore Him ritual is I think a apt name for these actions. Furthermore it, in my mind, destroys, in a very deliberate manner, the quality of Prayer claimed for the Novus Ordo. It is impossible for anyone to reach, which we should, the Prayer of Quiet at that noisy time. Contemplation of the Body and Blood leaves and bedlam reigns!!! Of course it is exactly the opposite at the EF or Latin Mass of the Tridentine council. I believe the prayer value of the EF Mass was counted on very strongly by the Theologians who revealed the Tridentine Liturgy all those years ago.
    I am also conscious of God’s teachings in scripture, the punishment for those who preach Peace claiming peace where there is none. After all without the sacrament of Reconciliation so many do not have peace of mind.

  4. FL_Catholic says:

    As much as I detest going through the “sign of peace” every Sunday, and I take every opportunity possible to avoid even making eye contact with those who are busy shaking hands like its a social hall instead of the Temple of God, I can at least tolerate it. But that hand waving during the Our Father, along with applause during Mass, is practically a near occassion of sin for me every time it happens due to how angry it makes me. For goodness’ sake people, put your arms down! You aren’t priests, stop pretending to be ones! Not to mention, I live in Florida, and in the middle of the summer that isn’t something we want to smell either.

  5. benedetta says:

    I have actually rather enjoyed doing the “peace out” towards everyone in my pew zone and sector in a 360 literally with the two fingered peace sign held and intentionally exchanged, with and among numerous fellow pew-sitters and the like at the Novus Ordo parish I have been attending of late. For my son’s opportune edification and a mini history lesson I am contemplating doing a double peace sign with both arms held aloft a la President Nixon some Sunday soon. Or doing like a diva peace with a full arm wave. I am sure I am quite inappropriate, no matter what I do, so perhaps it just doesn’t matter. The peace flows like a river. I do miss the EF sometimes, sure, but I still believe that people are good at heart. It’s actually a very prayerful and faithful Novus Ordo. It does seem to be a lot of “orans” going on from my angle but hey it’s all good.

    Of course

  6. benedetta says:

    Of Course? No idea…Blog post follies. “Of course”. Mais oui.

  7. rigid uniformity from everyone in everything is not really a) possible or b) desirable.

    You’re correct Fr., and I hoped to communicate sufficiently with the article intro that while liturgical issues are serious issues, my list of critiques were not all terribly serious. Someone rushing through the Our Father at twice the speed of everyone else isn’t helping anything, but it’s an overstatement to call it ‘abuse’. However, the laity adopting the Orans posture is another matter.

    To my surprise, the Orans issue is the one that people seem most upset about, even while numerous deacons and priests have expressed that it was the one that most pleased them. It certainly didn’t surprise any ordained persons, some of whom have received explicit instruction from their bishops to make sure only celebrants assumed that posture.

    Sadly, many people think that everything is permissible save for what is expressly forbidden. They have it backwards.

    “To promote the proper identity (of various roles) in this area, those abuses which are contrary to the provisions of canon 907 are to be eradicated. In eucharistic celebrations deacons and non-ordained members of the faithful may not pronounce prayers — e.g. especially the eucharistic prayer, with its concluding doxology — or any other parts of the liturgy reserved to the celebrant priest. Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions which are proper to the same priest celebrant.”

  8. benedetta says:

    Also, forgive me, as to the singing… I think as to that too, a little skill would be necessary. Not anything special mind you but, hey, if you can’t match pitch, don’t sign out. It’s just common courtesy. If the public school where you attend isn’t teaching you the rudiments of music, then, as a Catholic who sings at Mass, it is incumbent upon you to do what you have to do to become able to actively partificy, in harmony with your fellow man. Don’t just say it’s good enough and too bad. Say you’ll give it a try and before you know it you’ll be ringing out sweetly with the cherubim.

  9. HyacinthClare says:

    Thank you, Benedetta. I’ve always heard the virtue of “making a joyful noise” (no matter how off pitch), but it’s excruciating to one’s neighbors.

  10. Shonkin says:

    You learn something new every day.
    Several years ago our then-pastor, now retired, told everyone the proper posture for the laity saying the Our Father was orans. (To be perfectly fair, he was trying to get people to knock off the hand-holding. Lesser of two evils?) Meanwhile, about 10 years ago people seemed to start making weird hand gestures during the Dominus vobiscum. It seemed spontaneous, but it happened all at once in every parish I went to. How do those things get started? Is it the Ultreya groups or something? Do people meet at night and say “Hey, let’s all do the Macarena!”?
    I tolerate the “sign of peace,” but I detest it. Not only do people overdo it and distract from the solemnity of the Mass, but they pick their noses, sneeze into their hands, etc. and THEN want to shake hands with you. Ecch!

  11. Chon says:

    At our Novus Ordo Masses, whether in Latin or English, we almost never do the sign of peace. It is very peaceful :-) I love my Dominican parish.

  12. Martin_B says:

    To me the first item (Changing posture early) isn’t so much about uniformity but often a sign of missing “participio actuosa”.
    If anybody wants to pray the sanctus while on their knees instead of standing: fine, but if someone kneels down just before the end of the sanctus, this is often a sign that this person isn’t really following the words in his heart and mind.
    And this is something we should try our best to avoid.
    (Of course, this isn’t true with everybody but very often.)

  13. bsjy says:

    Due to the inherent variety of the Ordinary Form’s offering of four Eucharistic Prayers, and worsened by disobedience or inattention of the clergy celebrating the Mass, the people are often unaware of the presence of liturgical laws. When the faithful come forward as ministers, they are often poorly formed for the role and many misunderstand the nature of ministerial service. When Father will not teach his flock, blogs step forward but lack the necessary competency and rarely do more than fire up the factions among the faithful. Rather than offering unserious posts about serious points of the rule of praying, we should encourage our pastors to provide serious teaching for his lay ministers and all the faithful. Liturgical abuse is no less serious than any other abuse. We believe as we pray, and we pray as we believe.

  14. Suburbanbanshee says:

    As a naturally loud, enthusiastic singer… I don’t agree that it’s wrong not to sing, or that it’s wrong not to sing loudly. Singing comes from the heart. If your heart directs you to sing quietly (or if you were instructed forcefully by your parents and culture that singing audibly is egotistical), it’s not somehow more meritorious to sing loudly. Also, this denigrates persons who are mute, have breathing problems or throat ailments, etc. I see no point making people ashamed of their bodily failings or psychological stage frights.

    Finally, the honest church musician knows that congregations failing to sing are often giving a valid and compassionate response to terrible choices by church musicians and music directors.

    We can’t even hear the angels and saints who are singing the Mass with us, and yet they are the fullest sign of singing. So if we can bear with them and vice versa, I think we can afford to be gentler toward the feelings of non-singers and quiet singers.

  15. Suburbanbanshee says:

    That said, it’s a good article idea, and it’s interesting to learn pet peeves for the sake of parish harmony.

  16. our new parish is wonderful.I can’t get over what a vibrant community they have here.They take the call to a new evangelization seriously.
    We could do w/0 the sign of peace because the people here actually live it.It seems like a faux gesture and interrupts where our focus should be-Eucharist. Sometimes the people who dothe sign of peace hardly say boo to you once you’re out the door.
    Our Father-nope. never hold hands. the Our Father is not our sign of unity.If you want to hold hands knock yourself out.Just don’t look this way.
    It’s not the NO Mass.It’s the improvising.Love the new parish. Beautiful church. Remarkable ppl.They even have a Catholic school that is doing well.

  17. Imrahil says:

    I tend to be quite tolerant of #4 – after all, it marks you as a liturgical precisionist already if you bow at all. How profound the bows then are… I think though, that the rubrics about “bowing to the name of Jesus”, etc., strictly apply to the priest only.

    I’m quite tolerant of #2 on a weekday (because you don’t have too), and #10. At least the respective person is there. In any case, while it is true that the obligation comprises all of Mass, that obligation is venial. The grave obligation does comprise only “most part and the most important parts”, as the casuistrists taught of old.

    I also don’t think people are obliged to sing. This is a purely moral statement (whether now right or wrong), but I don’t think people are obliged to sing. They aren’t obliged, either, to only sing when skillful. Isn’t it nice to have a choice? In any case, I personally do prefer if they would all sing (and, come on, the right tones – whether the voice is beautiful is irrelevant).

    That said, if someone makes mistakes in singing – the burden is on the congregation to, simply, drown his voice by singing loud enough! It can be done. I try to do it on my own if noone else does.

    As for the sign of the peace, I confess that I like it and think this is even one of the few changes that, in themselves, were fine. Though the “handshake” variety seems a bit unnatural when a woman is part of it. Women should either be hugged, or (by men) have their hands kissed. Married (and engaged) couples should just kiss each other. But I digress. In any case,

    We all love you, but stay where you are.

    Being composite of soul and body, we sometimes need to feel that – whether it be the handshake within Mass, or the hug after Mass. It may be nice in general to know that the others love you and only quite sensible convention hinders them from showing it at any time, but sometimes one just needs to feel it bodily.

  18. YoungLatinMassGuy says:

    Me singing is outlawed by the US Constitution’s prohibition against “Cruel and Unusual Punishment”.

    Therefore, I do not sing.

  19. Imrahil says:

    Dear YoungLatinMassGuy,

    it isn’t, as those subject to it aren’t guilty.

    That said, in my opinion whoever can’t bear to hear a co-singer’s mistakes must simply sing loud enough – correctly, of course, that he only hears himself (or that, preferably, the weaker singer has a line to follow – it’s not that hard, actually).

  20. Mary Jane says:

    Imrahil, singing louder over someone who is making mistakes might (might…might) be okay if you’re scattered throughout the congregation singing a recessional hymn. If you’re in the choir, though, doing that just makes it sound like you’re shouting…over someone who is singing wrong notes (then you’d have to wonder why they’re in the choir if they can’t get the pitches down).

    “Not Singing”, in my humble opinion, is okay. Know your limitations. I like to say it’s he who sings *well* who prays twice. :)

  21. Imrahil says:

    Dear Mary Jane,

    I might write an answer to that… maybe later…

    in the meantime, I never supposed a bad singer would find himself in the choir, of all places. And in fact, when I said “loud singing” I meant confidently singing the song in question at full voice without abashing one’s voice in a shy manner, not taking explicit care that to vanish undistinguishably in the congregation, as most seem to do (I never found out for what reason). That is loud enough.

    I do not know how you can sing “Holy God, we praise thy name” or “O thou my saviour high, sublime” or “Earth start singing, let it be ringing loud and strong: a jubilant song” [the latter rhyme is not in the original] or “A house full of glory’s watching” or “To thy Saviour and thy teacher, to thy shepherd, fodder-reacher, Sion go li-ift up thy voice (etc.)”, “Glory, glory to God in the highest” (that’s the Schubert melody^^), “Come, Creator Ghost, enter here with us” (that’s the Bone melody^^), “Beautiful glorious, ‘xalted, victorious, lovely and blissfullest heavenly maid” and so on and so on, without thundering the words out at full voice. Seriously. They’re meant to be sung that way.

    (Did I mention that I love that. Seriously. And I can seriously say that if I do thunder them at full voice, it’s not selfish. I don’t want to be louder than the others, I’d love it if they’d all be as loud as I am; only I don’t see that fact that they aren’t as a reason to hold back. That would do the song unjustice, and, I frankly admit, spoil the fun. I don’t think liturgy is about not having fun.)

    So much for the digression; maybe later for a real (and shorter) answer.

  22. Just a note…

    I ought to have been clearer about the singing. The real point there was about the Gloria, the Agnus Dei, and other sung responses; not so much about the processional hymn, etc.

  23. Mary Jane says:

    Thank you Imrahil and David for your replies. I think people should do what their pastors ask (sing this or that, or let the choir handle it, etc). However, in general, I stand by what I said. I don’t agree with #8 on the list. Good music is supposed to lift minds and hearts and help foster prayer. If you can hold a tune, great, by all means sing. But, if you know you have trouble hitting the notes, perhaps it’s best not to sing out. If you are annoying your neighbor to the point that they want to escape to another pew, that’s definitely not helping those around you pray better (although it might give your neighbors an opportunity to practice patience and charity :).

  24. The Masked Chicken says:

    “2. Leaving before the Mass is over

    AKA the “Judas Shuffle”. I’m sorry, did you think Mass was over as soon as you received the Eucharist? It’s as though some people think the proper response when receiving Holy Communion isn’t “Amen”, but “Goodbye”. We should observe proper decorum for Mass: depart after the celebrant.”

    One must be very careful about judging the motives of others or inferring motives from actions. Necessitas non habet legem. Some people leave early because they have to, of necessity. Unless one is a mind-reader, one ought not jump to conclusions, even if many people leave.

    I leave early (after the Ite Missa Est or the final blessing) after many Masses for medical reasons and, sometimes, because it would mean an hour-long wait for the next bus, which runs infrequently, on Sundays. Speculating on someone else’s business is tricky, at best, and possibly sinful, at worst, as rash judgment.

    From the Summa Theologica (II.II art. 60):

    Q2. Article 2. Whether it is lawful to judge?

    I answer that, Judgment is lawful in so far as it is an act of justice. Now it follows from what has been stated above (1, ad 1,3) that three conditions are requisite for a judgment to be an act of justice: first, that it proceed from the inclination of justice; secondly, that it come from one who is in authority; thirdly, that it be pronounced according to the right ruling of prudence. If any one of these be lacking, the judgment will be faulty and unlawful. First, when it is contrary to the rectitude of justice, and then it is called “perverted” or “unjust”: secondly, when a man judges about matters wherein he has no authority, and this is called judgment “by usurpation”: thirdly, when the reason lacks certainty, as when a man, without any solid motive, forms a judgment on some doubtful or hidden matter, and then it is called judgment by “suspicion” or “rash” judgment.

    Q3. Article 3. Whether it is unlawful to form a judgment from suspicions?

    I answer that, As Tully says (De Invent. Rhet. ii), suspicion denotes evil thinking based on slight indications, and this is due to three causes. First, from a man being evil in himself, and from this very fact, as though conscious of his own wickedness, he is prone to think evil of others, according to Ecclesiastes 10:3, “The fool when he walketh in the way, whereas he himself is a fool, esteemeth all men fools.” Secondly, this is due to a man being ill-disposed towards another: for when a man hates or despises another, or is angry with or envious of him, he is led by slight indications to think evil of him, because everyone easily believes what he desires. Thirdly, this is due to long experience: wherefore the Philosopher says (Rhet. ii, 13) that “old people are very suspicious, for they have often experienced the faults of others.” The first two causes of suspicion evidently connote perversity of the affections, while the third diminishes the nature of suspicion, in as much as experience leads to certainty which is contrary to the nature of suspicion. Consequently suspicion denotes a certain amount of vice, and the further it goes, the more vicious it is.

    Now there are three degrees of suspicion. The first degree is when a man begins to doubt of another’s goodness from slight indications. This is a venial and a light sin; for “it belongs to human temptation without which no man can go through this life,” according to a gloss on 1 Corinthians 4:5, “Judge not before the time.” The second degree is when a man, from slight indications, esteems another man’s wickedness as certain. This is a mortal sin, if it be about a grave matter, since it cannot be without contempt of one’s neighbor. Hence the same gloss goes on to say: “If then we cannot avoid suspicions, because we are human, we must nevertheless restrain our judgment, and refrain from forming a definite and fixed opinion.” The third degree is when a judge goes so far as to condemn a man on suspicion: this pertains directly to injustice, and consequently is a mortal sin.

    The Chicken

  25. Christ_opher says:

    A few questions here firstly I’m in France and there are many strange things or trends that thankfully haven’t taken a grip in our parish but do disturb the unity of the mass. In France we kneel after the Sanctus is this correct? In one of our Priest’s masses on Sunday sadly many Catholics refuse to kneel but the next and bigger problem is that there is a trend to kneel at the point when the priest says Sanctify which is well after the Sanctus so is this practice correct or incorrect?

    Finally, good news we do not have the hand shaking sign of peace our priest has never allowed this habit to enter.

  26. Pingback: 10 More Things You Might Be Doing Wrong at Mass - EpicPew

Comments are closed.