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How To Behave In A Catholic Religious Temple

Jean Hey. The Virgin in Glory, Surrounded by Angels.
(Jean Hey. The Virgin in Glory, Surrounded by Angels. Source)

1) Introduction

With Summer and the Holidays, many families travel and do a bit of tourism. For all kinds of reasons, these people can end up in religious temples, sometimes even Catholic churches.

How should we behave in a church, in order to respect the beliefs of Catholics? Here are a few rules.

2) Rules which apply to religious temples in general

A Catholic church is a religious temple. We must therefore respect the "plain old common sense" rules which are probably pretty much the same for all temples of major religions:

2.1) Dress decently. Yes, it's summertime and it's often hot. But a religious temple is not a swimming pool!

2.2) Respect the prayerful silence of others. As far as possible, we must not talk, or if necessary, speak softly.

2.3) If you're a man, take off your hat. Generally speaking, wearing a baseball cap is not perceived as a sign of respect!

2.4) Ask permission before doing something unusual, like taking pictures, etc. A religious temple is not a museum!

3) Rules which apply to Catholic churches in particular

To understand the rules for Catholic churches, we first have to try to understand Catholics themselves.

Catholics firmly believe that the founder of their religion is Jesus Christ and that Jesus is not only a man, but that He is also God. Catholics also believe that during Mass, the bread and wine are changed to become the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ (what is known as "Transubstantiation").

This explains the great signs of respect given to the altar (where the sacrifice of Mass occurs) and the tabernacle (where are stored the Holy Species, i.e. Jesus-Eucharist, God really present under the appearances of bread). It is therefore stongly recommended to:

3.1) Do the sign of the Cross. At every entrance in a church, there are holy water fonts, little bowls with water that was blessed during the Easter ceremonies (and according to the needs of the faithful). Generally, you sign yourself once when you come into the church. Catholics do this among other reasons to remind themselves of their Baptismal commitments, but also to prepare themselves to receive grace and to dispose themselves to cooperate with it. [See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1667 to 1679].

3.2) Do the genuflexion. Generally, you genuflect once before getting into the pew or church bench, and once when you leave. It's easy to do: you just face the tabernacle, then gently put your right knee on the ground, as a sign of reverence.

4) Conclusion

Do all persons claiming to be Catholics respect these rules? We could answer by asking another question: Do all politicians who claim to defend the environment actually do everything they should to protect Nature?

Seriously, in a pluralist society, we must respect the beliefs and the religious temples of others. And if you're a Catholic yourself, then you'll give a good example by respecting these rules.

May Christ, truly present in the tabernacle under the appearances of a host, bless you, especially in this Eucharistic Year!

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