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Questions about Mass

Why Do Catholics Cross Themselves When They Pray?

Making the Sign of the Cross may be the most common of all actions that Catholics do. We make it when we begin and end our prayers; we make it when we enter and leave a church; we start each Mass with it; we may even make it when we hear the Holy Name of Jesus taken in vain and when we pass a Catholic church where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle.

So we know when we make the Sign of the Cross, but do you know why we make the Sign of the Cross?

The answer is both simple and profound.

In the Sign of the Cross, we profess the deepest mysteries of the Christian Faith: the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--and the saving work of Christ on the Cross on Good Friday. The combination of the words and the action are a creed—a statement of belief. We mark ourselves as Christians through the Sign of the Cross.

And yet, because we make the Sign of the Cross so often, we may be tempted to rush through it, to say the words without listening to them, to ignore the profound symbolism of tracing the shape of the Cross—the instrument of Christ's death and our salvation—on our own bodies. A creed is not simply a statement of belief—it is a vow to defend that belief, even if it means following Our Lord and Savior to our own cross.

Why are Catholics one of the few Christian faiths to make the sign of the cross?

The sign of the Cross is common among both Catholics and Orthodox. It is considered a sign of reverence and a remembrance that Jesus died on the Cross to bring salvation to the world. It simply fell out of use among other churches following the Reformation.


What is the symbolism of dipping our fingers in holy water and making the sign of the cross?

It recalls our baptism into Christ, which makes us members of the Church, the Body of Christ.

Are we to bless ourselves with Holy Water upon entering and leaving the Church?
Is it proper to make the sign of the cross when genuflecting before you enter and exit a pew?

The traditional Catholic custom is to bless oneself with Holy Water on entering the Church and when leaving. When genuflecting, making the sign of the cross is optional. It is not an inherent part of the genuflection, so it can be made or omitted.

Why do we ring the chimes or bells during the Eucharistic Prayer?  
I was once told that before microphones were used, the bells would be rung to let the people who couldn't hear know that the most important part of the Mass was taking place.

The bells originally had a practical purpose. The Mass was in Latin, and the words were spoken quietly by the priest – so even microphones were not an issue. The bell was rung one time when the priest extended his hands over the chalice in blessing right before the Consecration. This was a signal to the congregation that the Consecration was about to take place. Then, when the words of Consecration had been spoken, the priest would genuflect, raise the Host (Chalice) to be visible to the people, and then genuflect again. The bell was rung at each of those steps – so the triple ring became common.


Nowadays, with the Mass in the vernacular language, and the words spoken aloud, the bells are rung in some parishes more as a continuity of tradition than as a practical matter.

What is the purpose of the cover the priest has over the Chalice during the Eucharistic Prayer?

The "cover" is called the Pall. It has been used for centuries. The purpose for it was to prevent dust or other foreign objects from falling in the Chalice. Until after the reforms following the Second Vatican Council, it was a liturgical requirement that the Pall be kept on the chalice except during the Consecration and Communion. That requirement was abolished. So it is now a practical decision for the priest to make. Some priests like to adopt the older practice.

Should parishioners remain kneeling after Communion until all the extra hosts are put back in the Tabernacle?

The general custom has been to kneel until the Blessed Sacrament is placed in the Tabernacle. But it is equally appropriate to sit. The primary consideration should be reverence and meditative prayer, whether this comes through silence or through a Thanksgiving hymn.

What does the light in the nave (near the Tabernacle) symbolize?

It is called a Sanctuary Lamp. It is lighted when the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the Tabernacle.

Why did Jesus "ascend" into heaven and why was Mary "assumed"? What is the big significance and difference between the two ways of getting to heaven?

Jesus was God, so he ascended into heaven. In other words, He went there by His own power. Mary was not God, so she was taken up into heaven by Jesus - she was "assumed."

Why do we believe in praying to saints?

The “saints” are those who are in heaven. So, they have a special relationship with God. We believe that they can be powerful intercessors for us, presenting our needs to God.


"Acts of" are Prayers:

What is an act of Consecration?

Consecration: is dedicated to the service and worship of God by prayers, rites, and ceremonies

What is the Act of Adoration?

Adoration: In the strict sense, an act of religion offered to God in acknowledgment of His supreme perfection and dominion, and of the creature's dependence upon Him

What is the Act of Contrition?

Contrition: Lat. contritio, a breaking of something hardened
'imperfect contrition.' Definition, its relation to sacramental penance, and moral considerations

What is the Act of Obligation?
: Defined in the 'Institutes' of Justinian as a 'legal bond which by a legal necessity binds us to do something according to the laws of our State'

What is the Act of Petition?

What is the Act of Reparation?

Reparation:  Theological concept of God demanding satisfaction for the injuries which man had done Him

What is the Act of Resignation?

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