By Katie Burke, Together Let Us Go Forth Magazine

There was a time when Catholics would “hear” the Mass — they might show up to church and spend their time watching and listening to the priest. After the Second Vatican Council, Pope St. Paul VI promulgated the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, which expressed the desire “that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations, which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy” (14). The passive participation of a spectator became our actual participation in the work of Christ as we unite ourselves to Him who does the work of sacrifice and worship.

Just a few decades later, we Catholics live our actual participation in the holy Mass in a very active way. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to Mass or if you are ready to bring a friend with you for the first time, here is an overview of what to do and when.

Stretch your church muscles and hit those kneelers

STAND: for the entrance procession through the opening prayer, for the Alleluia and the Gospel, for the creed and the Prayers of the Faithful, after the Offertory hymn as the priest says, “Pray, brothers …”until after the “Holy holy,” from after the Great Amen through the Lamb of God, and from the Prayer after Communion through the end of Mass.

SIT: for the first reading, responsorial psalm, second reading, homily, offertory, and after Communion if you can’t kneel.

KNEEL: from the Eucharistic Prayer until after the Great Amen, after the Lamb of God, and after receiving Communion.

GENUFLECT AND BOW: Genuflect, touching your right knee to the ground, any time you pass before the tabernacle. Bow your head when the Trinity is named together, at the name of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and before receiving Communion. Bow at the waist (a “profound bow”) when praying the Creed: “And by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary …”

What’s that you say?

The easiest way to know what to say during Mass is to use the Missal. That red book in the pew in front of you isn’t just your go-to for songs! It includes the Sunday Mass readings and the Order of the Mass. Can’t find it? You can buy personal missals online (and you can get it in an app on your phone, but try to ignore the hairy eyeballs from the people who think you’re scrolling Twitter).

How to receive Communion

You arrived on time, you’ve been to confession recently, and you’re ready to receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist. Amen! Wait, that’s your line. If you’re receiving in the hand, make your throne — left hand flat above your right, so you can pick Jesus up carefully. Be sure to consume Him right there in front of the priest or extraordinary minister. If you’re ready to try receiving on the tongue, bend your head back, open wide, and touch the tip of your tongue to the part of your chin just below your bottom lip.

I don’t know what to do with my hands!

Speaking of hands … If you are ever wondering what your hands should be doing, look to the deacon. Any time he’s not doing a specific job, you’ll see him with his hands folded in prayer. This is the best place for our hands too! Sometimes, it’s more comfortable to clasp them together in front of or behind you. Sometimes, you’re juggling toddlers, and you have no say in what your hands are doing. But generally, keep your hands folded in prayer. Yes, even during the Our Father; even “and with your spirit”; even lifting your heart to the Lord. Check that deacon!


Coronatide made it hard to go an hour or two without snacking, but we’re past that now, and Mass is definitely not the place for the munchies. Remember: an important part of receiving Communion is fasting for the hour before Mass. Did you know this used to be a full fast for the day, breaking your fast on the Eucharist? Now it’s just an hour before, plus the length of Mass, and then you can grab lunch on the way home. Hey, be sure to double check for gum on the way in!

We’re happy to see you!

Sometimes, we’re distracted or forget what to do, and that’s OK. No matter what, your parish community would rather have you in the pew than not, present and praying with them! Thank you for being with us in prayer. The Body of Christ, the Church, is not the same without you as a part of it.

– – –

Katie Burke serves as the digital content and media relations manager for the Diocese of Phoenix.

We invite you to participate in discipleship and evangelization efforts at the Diocesan level, including the Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante campaign, the Charity & Development Appeal, the TV MassCatholic School Support 365, and through supporting our seminarians and Nazareth House. If you would like to receive the magazine at your home, we invite you to support the mission by participating in one of these efforts. You may also call our donor services team at (602) 354-2235 to receive future issues or provide one of our team members with an updated address.