If you are not familiar with the practices and traditions of the Catholic Church, then going to Catholic Mass for the first time will undoubtedly be an awkward and somewhat out of the comfort zone experience for you. Fortunately for you, the Catholic Church has and always has and always will be extremely open and will always interested in potential converts. There are a lot of things that you can expect by going to a Catholic Mass for the first time, so let’s dive right on into the matter, starting with the most important things!
Baptized and confirmed as well as practicing Catholics will not only be attending Mass every week but will also be taking the Holy Eucharist at every mass that they attend. As you are not Catholic, it is obviously not right for you to receive Communion if you have not been baptized in the church and have not received the proper sacraments.
During this time, everyone in the church beginning with the back row will go forward to receive communion from the priest. As you will not be receiving communion, there are two options that are laid out for you.
The first is to either continue sitting or kneeling in the pew and not go forward whatsoever. This is easier and less stressful, as well as more familiar and generally more proper, for new converts (or considering converts, that is to say) to do. Your second option would be to go up and cross your arms in the shape of an “X” to indicate that you are not intending to receive communion, but are instead willing to accept a blessing. Upon seeing this, the priest or deacon will bless you, and you can follow the line of people and go back to your seat.
Because practicing Catholics have most likely been going to Mass daily since their childhood, or at least for multiple years, you will notice how active and focused they are with the responses and the prayers that go on in the Mass. They will usually have these reactions and prayers memorized after years or decades of attending Mass, so you do not need to feel left out or feel like you are not doing enough if you are not saying these same responses. This also goes for Catholics, whether practicing or not, who are not affluent with all of the prayers.
3. The Sign Of Peace
During the Consecration of the Blessed Sacrament, the priest or deacon that is celebrating mass will most likely say a prayer and then ask the congregation to share the sign of peace with each other. In this case, you will most likely see people to your left, right, and all around you saying a few words of peace or blessing as well as shaking their hand in greeting.
It is your choice to either abstain from this peaceful ceremony or to engage yourself in partake in it. It is generally encouraged, but it will not offend anyone or, more importantly, God, if you decide not to do it. This is not as big as the section about receiving communion, but it is something that you will want to be on the lookout for.