Non Solum: Mass Etiquette Cards

Another reader writes in:

The attached photos came from a friend who was visiting a church for Easter this past weekend. They’re “Mass Etiquette” cards in the pews, complete with typos (apparently “bread and wind” are changed into Body and Blood, while those receiving should respond with a clear “AMEM”).

She found them somewhat offensive, but her non-Catholic spouse learned a few things from them.

Is this a viable pastoral solution? Is there a better, “more charitable” way to do this? In this post-Liturgiam authenticam era, with Mass response cards and Mass setting cards and missalettes and hymnals, are we shoving too much stuff in the pews?

The images were a bit blurry so I have reproduced them below.

Mass Etiquette Card-1B Mass Etiquette Card-2b

I agree wholeheartedly with our reader that there is “too much stuff in the pews.” I am hesitant about the usage of missalettes and worship aids which provide more than the basics. They can become barriers to active participation by tying the faithful down to the text of the Mass instead of the lived liturgy being celebrated.

This etiquette card points to a larger problem: a lack of catechesis. An etiquette card does not replace the need for catechesis. If we have to explain to people in the pews how to worship at Mass through a card, then we have not done our jobs as liturgists, ministers, and pastors.

Small notes here and there in the worship aid which help remind the faithful and guests about the “proper way” to worship at Mass are appropriate; however, a whole etiquette card is ill-advised.

I am curious to hear your thoughts. Please comment below.


  1. I don’t dispute the necessity for these sorts of cards – I teach in a Catholic school where, for at least 70% of our students, their only exposure to liturgy and Church, will be what happens during their time at school. I am concerned about the caustically savage language being used in this card. If I wanted to welcome and catechise someone, this is hardly the language with which to do it.

  2. A few thoughts –

    Why dinner with the Pope? Why not dinner with Jesus!

    Isn’t the Eucharistic Prayer in it’s entirety consecratory?

    What’s with this coming forth to get a blessing? Do people really feel left out if they don’t “get” something?

    The whole thing could use revision. Convert it into positives… “Out of deep respect for the Word of God, we remain in our place during the proclamation of the Scriptures” or to that effect. Or, “As the priest prays the words of Institution on our behalf…” Also include items such as “Please participate fully, by speaking/singing the responses well, taking a hymnal/song sheet and singing the hymns…” etc….

  3. I’d have walked out before the Mass started, shaking the dust from my feet and trying to find a church that wanted to celebrate the Resurrection. “You’re not doing it right” , from both the right and the left, is where our church displays its fear (i.e. lack of faith). I hope they didn’t laminate the cards, but I’ll bet at least someone wants to.

    PS re-graping the chalice — I would see a self-refilling chalice as at least a minor miracle. Maybe I’d stay for that.

  4. It never ceases to amaze me, when clergy want to talk down to the People of God as to children, how incompetent they are themselves.

  5. Funny.

    Sure this is not a way-late April Fools joke?

    Actually, there’s a lot of this going around in the church.

    Last one out, turn off the lights…

  6. The local Presbyterian church has a wealth of information tucked into the pews. Hymnal, Bible, how to join, communion, common prayers. As a frequent traveler, I appreciate the hymnals, and the responses in the pews (not everywhere I go is English speaking and though I speak the language, I don’t know the Mass response).

    The local retreat house, which has many non-Catholic visitors, often leaves out a handout (not in the pews) with the title, “The Catholic Mass for new eyes” by Dan Ruff SJ. It’s a one page introduction to the form and celebration of the Eucharist. Catechesis need not and should not be condescending.

    And I will admit to having a poor reaction to being greeted by instructions on dress.

  7. I too, hope that this was a late April-Fool’s joke.

    However, if it is not, I say “I wonder why anybody over the age of 8 goes to Mass there.”

  8. Since the card is clearly written by a lay person, I wonder what the pastor thinks of it, or if he even knows it is there.

      1. @Paul Boman – comment #14:

        Style, ignorance, mis-spellings. I can’t believe that even one of Jack’s young and ardent priests could produce something this bad. (If so, they should never have been ordained.) But I have seen many similar efforts from well-meaning but misguided lay people.

      2. @Paul Inwood – comment #20:
        That’s funny, Paul: I assummed it was a priest, because I’ve seen many similar efforts (in parish bulletins, for example) from well-meaning but misguided pastors. The terrible quality didn’t at all disabuse me of that assumption; it “fit the profile.”

  9. Anyone care to contribute to a “Mass Etiquette Card” for priests?
    I’ll start:
    1. Speak loudly and clearly enough to be understood.
    2. Smile.
    3. Don’t make up your own rubrics.
    4. DOn’t assume the congregation is completely clueless.
    5. Wear decent vestments.
    6. Work on the homily.
    7. Exude hospitality and welcome.
    8. Don’t be a show-off.
    9. Remember, Jesus not you died for our sins.
    10. Please lift us up to carry us through the week.
    11. DOn’t impose your personal pious preferences on us.
    12. Be cordial and discreetly helpful to visitors, nonCatholics, etc.

  10. Good on them for making such a resource available. The fact is that Catholics often have such a disregard for visitors so as to be nearly sinful. Our Lord said “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me,” and yet visitors are either treated with disdain or ignored completely. This card, while obvious in its flaws, is an attempt to make the visitor feel more at home by telling him how to participate in the liturgy. At any protestant church, everyone receives a program with complete instructions on how to participate in worship, where at a Catholic church it’s just assumed that everyone knows what to do.

    All of us charged with liturgical leadership ought to look to our Masses with an eye to answer: “if someone completely unfamiliar with Catholic doctrine and worship came here, would he know what to do?” I recall visiting a Latin Mass where they had a booklet saying everything we needed to do. I didn’t feel comfortable with the foreign words, but at least I could tell when I was supposed to sit and stand. On the other hand, I’ve attended progressive churches where the Mass is so made up that I didn’t know what to do.

    The sort of brow-beating of this card is certainly unhelpful, but at least they’re making the effort.

  11. When I die, is my fitness for heaven really going to judged on whether or not I took holy water or genuflected.
    If so, I’m DOOOMED!!!!!

  12. I’d be willing to bet this card was the product of one of our younger “John Paul II” priests. It seems to reflect the great gap they perceive between real priests and priestly people. The regular members of the parish acquire whatever etiquette is needed, and newcomers pick it up from returning again and again. For drop-ins or visitors, it’s really of little consequence.

  13. Except for the request about the cell phones, the contents of the card are very not very welcoming or hospitable.

    As a diabetic, I can’t do dessert anyway!

  14. The title may call this a “Charitable Effort,” but I find the ALL CAPS shouting to be anything but charitable. If one is already feeling a bit adrift as a newcomer unfamiliar with customs and practices, the shouting will likely send them out the door again rather quickly.

    The whole card has a tone of “act this way, or else face eternal damnation” which mistakes cultural attitudes and customs for universal truths. Whether written by a layperson or a member of the clergy is beside the point. The typos, odd use of numbering, and other layout issues are beside the point. The parish community that puts this in their pews is sending messages to visitors that are LOUD AND CLEAR, to the detriment of the community’s worship and their spiritual life.

    I don’t recall Jesus saying “Blessed are the Well-Behaved” or “Woe to those who do not genuflect” in his preaching. The words of Amos 5 come to mind as well.

    This being a blog rooted in the Benedictine tradition, I can’t help but think of the Rule of St. Benedict on the reception of guests (ch 53): “In the salutation of all guests, whether arriving or departing, let all humility be shown. Let the head be bowed or the whole body prostrated on the ground in adoration of Christ, who indeed is received in their persons.”

    Is this card how one would welcome Christ to worship?

  15. Quite apart from all the other problems people have pointed out, there are even more errors! Some people cross themselves when leaving a church, and I’m never going to try to stop them, but since when was that part of “Mass etiquette?” The Ceremonial of Bishops only mentions the use of Holy Water on entering church, presumably, as a reminder that we entered the Church through baptism.

    As well as the condescending tone, and sloppy format, my biggest problem with this is it completely confuses important points (like being attentive to the readings) with marginalia (like using Holy Water on the way in) and mixes in one person’s personal piety (like Holy Water on the way out, or singing a closing hymn, or what height your hands should be out to receive communion(!)) with the Church’s liturgical law. Its denial that deacons can intinct is just plain wrong, I think (although I’ll confess to not having checked this).

  16. I see a bit of negative commentary about “personal piety” in the comment section here. I agree that the tone of the etiquette card is, perhaps, misguided. A more pedagogical and irenic approach might involve a discussion of sacramentals and their value within the church.

    Most of the acts that earlier comments have dismissed as “personal piety” are indeed sacramentals of the church, and they therefore can enrich the worship and the spiritual lives of those who use them. I’d sooner see sacramentals explained that way — a means to enrich our spiritual lives — than as “the way we’ve always done it at St Swithuns.”

  17. Boy, this person really put those heathens in their place. They may end up getting the silence they seek–by driving away all of those pesky people. An empty church is a quiet church! Problem solved!

  18. Kudos to Adam Booth regarding his comment on the pious practice of taking “holy water” on the way out of church. We sign ourselves on the way in with water from the font as a reminder that it was through baptism that we became a priestly people able to offer an acceptable sacrifice. Some are taking it on the way out because some catechist or family member told them it was what Catholics do. It is not a harmful practice by any means, just a practice in search of a purpose.

  19. A couple of months ago I was visiting another city and wanted to find a church for Mass. is great for getting times and locations but tells you nothing about the spirit or style of the parish. As I looked at parish websites I found one that had something very similar to this on their homepage. I quickly moved on to a different parish that acted like people were actually welcome there.

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