By Father Woods
Some things are the way they are just because they are the way they are. Time, tradition or experience often dictate that some things are done correctly or incorrectly. This is true about our religious practice as well. We should regularly examine how we do what we do in very simple matters just to make sure we’re not acting out of habit or by rote. Here are a few examples:
♣ The Sign of the Cross – in the Roman Rite the Sign of the Cross is made using the right hand. The right hand is placed first on the forehead, then in the center of the chest, then to the left shoulder, then the right shoulder. (the Eastern and Orthodox Churches make the Sign of the Cross from right to left shoulder; we do not maintain this practice in the Latin Rite.)
♣ Genuflecting – we genuflect by touching the right knee all the way to the floor and rising immediately. (The left knee is reserved for royalty; not touching the knee to the floor is some sort of curtsy, not a genuflection.) We genuflect to the Blessed Sacrament whenever entering or leaving the pew in Church or whenever crossing in front of the tabernacle as an act of reverence to Jesus in the tabernacle. We do not genuflect to the altar alone, or statues, or to the pew.
♣ Receiving Holy Communion – the Bishops of the United States of America, with the permission of the Holy See (the Vatican), have decreed that the sign of reverence before receiving Holy Communion is a bow. This bow is made while the person in front of you is receiving Communion – not while you’re trying to receive Holy Communion! When receiving Communion in the hand, the hands should be placed so that the hand one feeds oneself with is underneath the other hand. Once the Sacred Host is placed in the palm of the hand, take one step to the side and immediately place the Host reverently in your mouth and move on to receive the Precious Blood or return to your pew. One should never simply walk away putting the Host in one‘s mouth. When receiving the Precious Blood from the Chalice, please grasp the Chalice with both hands.
♣ The Rosary – the Rosary is never used as a necklace. It may be carried in a pocket, purse or in a case. It is not, however, jewelry.
♣ Old or broken blessed objects – may be reverently disposed of by burning or burying. This includes old palms, broken statues, crucifixes, medals or books.
♣ Behavior in Church – out of respect and reverence for the Church as God’s house, particularly in the tabernacle, we never eat or drink in Church (this especially includes chewing gum). Gentlemen never wear hats in Church. Cell phones, audible pagers, and Blackberry devices should be turned off in Church. Quiet makes prayer possible. This includes the time before and after Mass.
Games are much easier to play when everyone knows and observes the rules. While our dealings with God are no game, we still need to know how to properly do those things that identify us as Catholics – and thereby set a good example to teach others and draw them to the Lord Jesus!