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My oldest is taking a music in religion course at the university. One of his assignments is to visit several services of various faiths and do a report on how they use music. Since he didn't want to go alone, I've been going with him.

He wants to do Easter Vigil for his Catholic portion.

Being non-Catholic ourselves, I'm only vaguely aware of the etiquette, having only been to midnight Christmas mass before. He's also chosen a brand new cathedral in a much more affluent area than the one I'm familiar with. I attempted to simply go ask there and was a bit surprised to find locked doors. I have visited many Catholic churches in my travels just because they are beautiful and never been met with a locked door before.

So, I have a couple questions:

1. Are visitors welcome to Easter Vigil. I know it's something of a special occasion. Would just a regular mass be better?
2. At present, my only dress shirt is a black one from my grandma's funeral. I really don't wish to offend anyone and can go procure something else if this will.
3. I know enough to cross the arms and not take the Eucharist, any other etiquette I might not know?
 

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His name is Roger Clyne
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Not A Catholic But Married to a Non Practicing One so this is just my limited experience speaking here.

-People don't really seem to "dress" for church much anymore in general, not even the Catholics (with a few exceptions like the older folks but I've seen people wearing jeans in church). So as long as you don't put a "collar" on that shirt you should be fine, but if you feel you need a different one, go for it. I wouldn't spend a ton of money on one either since it would probably be what I call "a wedding & funeral shirt" for you.

And remember Easter is one of the BIG church holidays so get there early because people we jokingly like to call "Holiday Catholics" will show up for the 2 or 3 BIG holidays only, so if you don't get there early it will definitely be standing room only.

That will also make the service longer & the music will be different too. So if you're not ready for over an hour long service you may wanna choose another day.

-I'm also pretty sure that most churches would welcome you on Easter, no matter what the religion.

-I've never heard the crossing the arms thing but the last time I went to a mass you just didn't go up to get the Eucharist if you didn't want to.

Many years ago at my first Mass with a friend in high school I remember the first time I saw someone taking the Eucharist & then the wine & I was thoroughly disgusted at the fact that you're lips are touching a thing that is only wiped with a white cloth. My first thought was "OMG!!HE DIDN'T SANITIZE THAT THING!!HE JUST WIPED IT WITH THAT CLOTH!!"

I was VERY glad I wasn't a Catholic that day!!:D
 

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I think I figured out one of the double post things. Start editing your post, click the back button. I had the edit post form still showing. Clicked save. BOOM double post.
 

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I think crossing the arms is supposed to be asking for a blessing which I am not honestly sure is a common practice since I don't really attend church anymore. Also the person giving you the Eucharist may not necessarily be a priest so I don't know if they can actually give you a blessing. I never remember seeing anyone do that, even when I was an alter boy. I think if you are not receiving communion you simply don't get up for communion. In Eastern rite churches, like a Ukrainian church for example, you do, and I assume still do, cross your arms as you approached the priest to receive communion so it can be different. (see http://pbvmnh.org/how-to-receive-holy-communion-in-an-eastern-catholic-church for example)

RGAIG, I remember the communion wine thing when I was a kid and thinking the same thing especially during winter when almost everyone was sniffling and coughing. I wonder if most churches still use a single communion cup like back then. Seems like a good way to give an entire congregation the flu, or hepatitis.

As far as attending if you are not catholic, I don't think anyone will care, or notice. You already know not to receive the Eucharist and not everyone does anyways. By the way keep a buck or two in your pocket when they come around for collection or just pretend not to see the guy with the collection bucket like my dad. That always worked for him. If the Bishop thinks he needs more money they might do two collections especially since as mentioned, Easter is one of those masses with an above normal attendance. Hopefully they don't still do the "Folk Mass" thing. Those were agonizing, and I always found the music was very disappointing. Maybe that was a late 70's early 80's fad. As far a dress, anything with a regular collar, or even a nice sweater over the black shirt would be fine. You could always do a recon mission around the beginning or end of mass and drive by and see what people are wearing. I doubt it will be that fancy.
 

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My oldest is taking a music in religion course at the university. One of his assignments is to visit several services of various faiths and do a report on how they use music. Since he didn't want to go alone, I've been going with him.

He wants to do Easter Vigil for his Catholic portion.

Being non-Catholic ourselves, I'm only vaguely aware of the etiquette, having only been to midnight Christmas mass before. He's also chosen a brand new cathedral in a much more affluent area than the one I'm familiar with. I attempted to simply go ask there and was a bit surprised to find locked doors. I have visited many Catholic churches in my travels just because they are beautiful and never been met with a locked door before.

So, I have a couple questions:

1. Are visitors welcome to Easter Vigil. I know it's something of a special occasion. Would just a regular mass be better?
2. At present, my only dress shirt is a black one from my grandma's funeral. I really don't wish to offend anyone and can go procure something else if this will.
3. I know enough to cross the arms and not take the Eucharist, any other etiquette I might not know?

I'm a Lutheran but not Catholic; I do have Catholic friends and family.

All visitors are welcome! Locked doors could be for safety in a bigger city; perhaps they've had break-ins and/or vandalism in the past or maybe no one was in the church at the time so last one out locked it.

I would suggest dressing in casual fancy or dressed up (jeans or fancy pants and a polo or dress shirt) since it is a special occasion (though some could argue that church is always a special occasion hence "wearing one's Sunday best"). Your black dress shirt should be fine. Bare shoulders are not allowed. I think the Easter Vigil is a somber-ish time?

When you arrive at the church, totally feel free to ask the greeters (if present) or people around you in the pew what to do for the Eucharist and for the Vigil in general (a basic "Hello, I've never been to a Catholic church before...what should I know/do?). For the Eucharist, some churches give a blessing when the arms are crossed, some recommend just staying in the pew. Ask a regular church-goer or the greeter/usher there what the norm is, and they should be able to answer all your questions. 🙂

Or if you don't want to wait until the night of to ask questions on etiquette, see if they have a phone number to call during the day or an email contact. 🙂

Just so you know, if they don't have a bulletin handout or order of service in the book for you to follow, they may have all the responses memorized, so it may feel awkward, but I have found just rolling with it and listening/reading the responses helps it to feel less awkward. If there are responses to follow, my monk friend once recommended to me to listen twice as hard because sometimes there are pauses between the priest and congregation responses.

If they make you stand up and greet others around you with a handshake before or as the service begins, I've heard variations of "Peace," "Peace be with you," and "Good morning/evening." My favorite is just to copy what they say to me. Not all churches do this, though.

Good luck, and I hope your son's project goes well!
 

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At Catholic Churches, they tend to keep the front doors locked when no one is in that part of the building if it's not a "confession" day, there usually is an office around the back of the church, or in a nearby building(either a rectory or presbytery) that you can get information from. The church will welcome you on Easter, no don't go to Eucharist, yes wear a nice shirt, doesn't need to be white or any special color, though black is uncommon because the priest wears black. Do get there early because as said already, "holiday" Catholics will be out in force, it will be crowded. The music should be very nice, I love the Easter hymns. I don't know what your religion is, but listen to the lesson from the priest, if he's any good, it could be quite inspirational regardless of your religion, many of the scriptures hold wonderful messages. These are the words of a former Catholic, turned Lutheran, turned Congregationalist. I hope you enjoy your Easter Service with your son, it may be very nice.
 
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