The Mass is the primary worship gathering for Catholics. In the beginning, it might feel a bit like a dance when you don’t know the steps – people standing, kneeling, sitting and responding to the prayers and readings with learnt phrases. Don’t worry – it’s an easy dance to learn!

We stand to pray, we sit to listen and reverently kneel at those sacred moments. We also put the words up on the screen to help with the responses.

The Mass itself follows a very simple structure:

  • We gather as a community.
  • We listen.
  • We give thanks (through celebrating the Eucharist).
  • We go in peace.

These simple actions effectively bring a change in our lives, transforming us into the Body of Christ for the world.

FAQ

How long does it take?

About an hour.

What do I wear?

You don’t need to “dress up” to come into our church. Most people wear casual attire.

Where do I sit?

Wherever you like!

There are no designated seats. Newcomers might feel more comfortable towards the rear, just so you can see when others sit or stand without feeling too exposed.

What do I do? When do I sit/stand/kneel?

In the beginning, it might feel a bit like a dance when you don’t know the steps – people standing, kneeling, sitting and responding to the prayers and readings with learnt phrases. Don’t worry – it’s an easy dance to learn!

We stand to pray, we sit to listen and reverently kneel at those sacred moments.

The easiest way to learn is to take a seat towards the back of the church, and watch everyone else!

Does it cost anything?

No.

You will see during Mass members of the congregation offering money when a plate or bag is passed around the church. Any giving here is entirely voluntary. There are generally two “collections”:

  • Money from the first collection is sent out of the parish to a central fund to provide living expenses for priests, including retired priests.
  • Money from the second collection is used to pay for expenses in the parish, including wages of staff.

What are the "rules"?

For newcomers to a Mass, there are a few aspects of etiquette you should observe:

  • You will see many members of the congregation move forward to Eucharist (Holy Communion) about 1/2 way through the Mass. Only persons who are full members of the catholic community (have been baptised, confirmed, and received first Eucharist) can receive Communion.
  • Adults should not consume food or drink during Mass.
  • Turn your mobile phone off, or put on silent, during Mass.

What about Communion?

The focus of the celebration of Mass is the Eucharist, when we believe the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus, which we are invited to eat and drink. At this time of the Mass (about half-way through), you will see members of the congregation move forward to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.

The reception of the Eucharist is for fully initiated Catholics (Baptised, Confirmed and received first Eucharist). As Catholics, we like to make a big celebration the first time you receive the Eucharist. This is done after some time of formation and is a special moment in the faith journey of the individual.

If this is your first time at Mass, you can still receive a blessing at the time of Eucharist (Communion) by crossing your arms over your chest as you approach the Communion Minister.

What do we believe?

During each Mass, we recite a brief summary of our main beliefs. This is called the Profession of Faith (or “creed”), and states:

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in
glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with
the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I
look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

Amen.

What does this action/part mean?

Sign of the Cross

This is a ritual movement, which is really a short prayer. You trace the outline of a cross by touching the forehead, chest and each shoulder in turn. This is accompanied by the words (perhaps said silently) “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen”. This short prayer professes our faith in the Holy Trinity.

You may see it performed on entering the church, leaving the church at at the start and end of Mass.

Blessing with Holy Water

You may see people dipping their fingers into a small bowl of water near the entrance to the church, and making the Sign of the Cross with this water. The water is holy water, blessed by a priest during the Easter Vigil mass. Holy water is also used for baptisms.

Originally, the bowl of water (the font) was much larger, and used to actually wash away dirt before people participated in the communal meal of Mass. Now, we accept it as a reminder of our baptism, and to mark our passing from the secular world into the sacred space.

During some masses, especially during the seasons of Easter, you may receive a blessing with holy water being sprinkled on the congregation during the Mass.

Touch one knee on the floor

This is known as “genuflecting”.

It is a sign of respect, and you may see persons entering the church make this symbolic act of reverence towards the location in the church where the Body and Blood of Jesus are kept. You will also see the priest perform this act of reverence during the Mass.

Bowing the head

This is an act of reverence you may see performed by members of the congregation at various times, such as any time they are required to approach the altar, or just before receiving Eucharist. You may also observe this any time Jesus’ name is mentioned during prayer.

Gospel Response

You may see members of the congregation tracing a small cross on the forehead, lips and chest when the priest announces the gospel reading.

This symbolism is a prayer asking for the Word of God to enter and influence our minds, our speech and our hearts.