One of the many wonderful features about Catholicism is the fact that our form of liturgical worship is the same wherever you go. You really realize how wonderful this is when you’re a college student going to Mass both at school and at home. In the stresses of college life and the in the turmoil that comes with not really living in one place ever, it’s really nice to have the consistency of the Mass.
At home, there are three parishes that are very close by; depending on Mass schedules, I go to one of these three churches when I’m home. At school, I go to Mass mostly at the Catholic Center on campus, but I’ve occasionally gone to the parish in town, which isn’t too far from campus. As consistent as the Mass is at all of these places, at school I’ve noticed some “Mass add-ons”–some extra gestures that parishioners make during Mass in an effort to enhance their worship, many of which I’ve adopted because I think they enhance my reverence. (Interesting note: my home parishes are diocesan, whereas my school parishes are all Dominican–I don’t know if these practices are somehow Dominican or if it’s just a coincidence.)
- Sign of the Cross during the Penitential Rite – When the priest says “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life,” many people make the Sign of the Cross.
- Sign of the Cross when Gospel is announced – I’ve noticed a couple of people who, after tracing crosses on their forehead, lips, and heart, will make the Sign of the Cross.
- Striking your chest during the Penitential Rite – I’m mostly noticed this one among the daily Mass crowd. Basically, some people will strike their chest on “you take away the sins of the world” in the Penitential Rite. There’s one man at daily Mass who strikes his chest so hard that it makes an audible noise. That’s how I was first alerted to the fact that this was going on.
- Bowing your head during consecration – The churchgoers at both my home parish and at my school parish usually bow their head at some point during the consecration of the Eucharist, but the timing, interestingly, varies. At home, people bow their heads when the bells are ringing. At school, people look at the Eucharist as the bells ring and then bow their heads after, as the priest is kneeling behind the altar.
- Leaning over to pray during the presentation of the gifts – I once knew a priest who said that the presentation of the gifts was an ideal time to pray and make your own offerings to God — like maybe offering him your day or your classwork or whatever you have to offer him. I’m not sure if those who lean forward to pray at this point in Mass are making their own offerings to God or if they’re more generally praying; either way, it’s a thing.
- Genuflecting before receiving the Eucharist – Most people bow before receiving communion, but I’ve noticed some people do a full out genuflect. Props. Your quads will be stronger than the rest of ours. (Haha; but seriously, that is super reverent and cool.)
- Praying the rosary throughout Mass – Not really sure how this one goes. For me, anyway, that seems like too much to focus on at once, but apparently some people are capable of this and find it enriching.
- Kissing your fingers after the Sign of the Cross – Some of the students at the Catholic Center of Hispanic origin do this. I looked it up online one time, and it signifies kissing the cross–those who do this make a small cross with their thumb and index finger and kiss that after making the Sign of the Cross.
- Kneeling to pray after Mass – The majority of people at home do not do this, but a lot of people do this at school. After the Mass is over and the priest has exited, many people kneel back down to continue praying.
- Not using the kneelers – Some people go sans kneelers, particularly during Lent.
- Receiving communion on the tongue – Comparatively more people do this at my school parish than at my home parish.
I’ve found that several of these enhance my worship. Maybe you’ll like some of them too!
Have you observed other cool or interesting Mass add-ons that I’ve missed? Comment below!