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Gary Giesbrecht wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • What is the protocol, for lack of a more fitting word, for non-Catholics to bless themselves with holy water and to make the Sign of the Cross when entering and exiting a Catholic Church?

I couldn't locate this in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Thanks,

Gary

  { What is the protocol for non-Catholics to bless themselves when entering a Catholic Church? }

Eric replied:

Hi Gary,

There is no difference between Catholics and non-Catholics on this matter. Like Catholics, they would dip their fingers into the holy water font and make the Sign of the Cross.

Eric

Gary replied:

Hi Eric,

Wow! Thanks for your quick response. As a visitor to a Catholic Church, I would like to reflect my respect for the traditions of the Church.

For those non-Catholic visitors attending Mass, it is my understanding that instead of partaking in the Eucharist, going up with folded arms on chest is the appropriate protocol to receive a blessing from the priest.

  • Is this correct?
  • Lastly, where in the Catechism of the Catholic Church can I read about the sign made prior to reading the Gospel (on the forehead, chin, and chest)?

Thanks very much for your insights and direction.

Gary

Eric replied:

Hi Gary,

You said:
Wow! Thanks for your quick response. As a visitor to a Catholic Church, I would like to reflect my respect for the traditions of the Church.

We appreciate that!

You said:
For those non-Catholic visitors attending Mass, it is my understanding that instead of partaking in the Eucharist, going up with folded arms on chest is the appropriate protocol to receive a blessing from the priest.

  • Is this correct?

Only in some places. This is an unofficial gesture adopted from the Episcopalian church.
It's somewhat problematic because it is the normal way to receive Communion in the Byzantine Rite, because not everyone administering Communion understands it, and because if you approach an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (a layperson in other words), they will be unable (licitly anyway) to give you a blessing. If, however, you know it's the custom of the parish and you are careful to go to a priest, I don't see a problem with it.

If you don't know if it's the custom, you might just see if you can catch the priest ahead of time and ask if you may do it (expressing your intentions), and then if he agrees, go to that priest (which may involve some line jumping).

Hopefully you'd only have to do this once or twice if you frequent the same parish. On the other hand, if you go up to Communion and bow your head and close your eyes together with the crossing arms gesture, most priests I should think would figure it out. The other alternative is to remain in your seat to remind people that it's OK not to go to Communion, and be in solidarity with those (even Catholics) unable to receive Communion for whatever reason.

You said:

  • Lastly, where in the Catechism of the Catholic Church can I read about the sign made prior to reading the Gospel (on the forehead, chin, and chest)?

You won't find it in the Catechism, which focuses on doctrine and teaching rather than liturgy (though you will see occasional references to the liturgy since, as we say, lex orandi, lex credendi, literally the rule of prayer is the rule of belief; loosely, as we pray, so we believe).

What's happening is that we are making the Sign of the Cross to mean,

"May the holy Gospel be on our minds, our lips, and in our hearts."

Eric

John replied:

Hi Gary,

You said:

  • What is the protocol, for lack of a more fitting word, for non-Catholics to bless themselves with holy water and to make the Sign of the Cross when entering and exiting a Catholic Church?

There is none as far as I know. Blessing yourself with holy water is in a sense renewing your baptismal vow, hence, it is certainly appropriate for any Christian, even if not Catholic.

For non-Christians it doesn't really make sense, because the Sign of the Cross is a profession of faith in the Trinity and Christ's atonement on the Cross.

John

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