As you may already know, the Eucharistic Congress event originally scheduled for this coming week has been postponed until some time later in the year. The keynote speaker is now not available and Bishop Neary and the team organizing the event decided it was best to put this on hold. So the retreat day on September 8 and the family events on September 9 will not be held. The St. Mary’s Cathedral Block Party will continue as scheduled, however.
As it shares life together, every group of people develops certain customs and practices that reflect “good manners” or the proper etiquette for the behavior that is accepted in the group. The life of the Church is the same in this regard.
In a previous setting, I presented a brief series on “Catholic Etiquette” – some norms and customs of common courtesy and appropriate conduct related to the Church. As we observe the
Eucharistic Revival, it is a good opportunity to revisit this topic as a reminder for us all.
Dress: part of our conscious preparation for Mass involves our dress. Dressing in one's “Sunday best” still has an important part in our approach to the Eucharist. This is part of the reason for the priest's vestments: to remind us that we are stepping outside of the ordinary routines of our lives for the sacred encounter that gives our life as believers its meaning. As a congregation, our dress, while being comfortable, should reflect reverence and the importance of the event. Just as one might feel out of place wearing a suit or formal dress at the beach or sitting in the bleachers, so clothes suitable for those settings are out of place in church.
Good taste, modesty, and simple dignity should prevail; how we dress for Mass ought not be a distraction to others. This is even more important for those who take a special and visible role in the celebration (lectors, ushers, cantors, musicians, extraordinary ministers, servers). The phrase “our Sunday best” ought to indicate not only our best clothes, but our best efforts at prayer and attention to the Lord as well.
Genuflection and the Sign of the Cross: when one enters or leaves the church, it is proper to genuflect fully on one knee towards the Lord present in the tabernacle. Those whose physical condition does not allow genuflection make a bow instead. These are signs of reverence to Christ and a gesture of faith in the Real Presence. Some make a Sign of the Cross in addition to this, or when receiving Communion, which is appropriate though not necessary. The genuflection, bow, Sign of the Cross, and any other such gesture of reverence should never be done mechanically, but rather thoughtfully and carefully, conscious of their meaning as signs of humility before the Lord, greeting to and love for Christ. The Sign of the Cross is done by touching forehead, then abdomen, then left shoulder, then right shoulder. It is a reminder of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for us, and a dedication of our attentive worship, body and spirit, to the Lord. The Sign of the Cross also links us to our Baptism, where we were first signed with that Cross that gives us our place in the Body of Christ.
Bows: in addition to the bow before receiving Communion and bows made by the priest and deacon in their role, the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) instructs the assembly to bow at various times during Mass. This too is a gesture of reverence and honor to persons (God and the saints) or the signs that represent them. A slight bow of the head is made when the three divine Persons are named together, and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the saint in whose honor the Mass is being celebrated. A bow of the body from the waist (“profound bow”) is primarily reserved to priests and deacons in their roles; the lay faithful however are to make a profound bow during the Profession of Faith at the words: “by the power of the Holy Spirit … and became man.”
Whatever gestures we make in accord with the liturgical norms are part of our worship as persons who are body and soul. They are to be done sincerely but without exaggerated motions or repetitions that draw attention to us and distracts others from focus on God.