What to Do BEFORE Mass

Arriving at Church

What Not to Miss

  • A church is holy, that is, set apart for the worship of God. It is not an ordinary, secular space like a school, office, or store.
  • Churches are beautiful in order to honor God, show that he is the source of all beauty, and to draw our hearts and minds to him.
  • Holy water is usually provided at the entrances so we can bless ourselves. Dip your finger in the holy water and make the sign of the Cross while praying, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." This reminds us of our baptism, the sacrament that made us sons and daughters of the Triune God and members of the Catholic Church.
  • The tabernacle is an ornate container for the reserved Eucharistic hosts. If the tabernacle is visible in the church, genuflect (go down on your right knee) as an act of reverence for Christ's presence in the Eucharist before you sit down.
  • If the tabernacle is not present, bow to the altar, since it is a symbol of Christ and the place where the holy sacrifice takes place.
  • Pray in silence before Mass, either kneeling or sitting in your pew. Maintaining a prayerful atmosphere allows everyone to prepare themself for Mass.

Next Time You Go to Mass...

  • On your way, talk about how your family can honor God by behaving differently at church than in other places.
  • Arrive early! Whether this means half an hour or just five minutes, it will help you begin the Mass with a prayerful state of mind and heart.
  • Observe the church building before Mass and allow its beauty to draw you to God.
  • Reflect on your baptism when you bless yourself with holy water.
  • Greet and worship Jesus in your heart as you reverence the tabernacle and/or altar.
  • Prepare yourself for Mass by praying wordlessly in your heart, silently in your own words, or by using a prayer written by one of the saints.
  • Help your children prepare themselves for Mass by teaching them a simple prayer beforehand or quietly praying with them. It can be difficult for children to be completely silent, and that's OK, but they can do their best!
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.