Catholic worship

Catholics are expected to attend Mass each week as an offering of themselves to God. The Mass recalls the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples before his death when he gave them bread and wine and told them to do this in remembrance of him (1 Corinthians 11:24).

Besides a memorial of past events it is also a sacrifice, as Catholics believe that during the Mass the sacrifice of Jesus is re-presented and re-enacted.

The Mass has two main parts:

In the first part, people express sorrow for sins, listen to Bible readings, hear a sermon, recite creeds and offer prayers for the Church and the world.

In the second part, bread and wine are offered to God, consecrated, and received by the congregation. An important prayer said during this part is the Lord's Prayer, also called the 'Our Father', which was taught by Jesus himself.

Features of worship

  • Hymns are sung throughout the service and the people respond to the prayers by following the missal.
  • A priest leads the service, but lay people, including children, serve on the altar and read some of the readings and prayers.
  • Some Masses, particularly for young people, include multimedia, modern music and dance. More traditional services may use Latin and Greek for some of the prayers and have traditional hymns accompanied by an organ and choir.
  • Catholic churches have a crucifix on the altar and candles that are lit during Mass. One candle, the sanctuary lamp, is always lit as a sign that Jesus is present in the bread that remains in the tabernacle between Masses.
  • Churches often have statues of Mary and some saints. Catholics do not worship Mary or the saints, but ask them to pray to God on their behalf. This is known as intercession.

Other services may include penitential services, saying the Divine Office together, and ecumenical services with other Christians.

Catholics may also gather to say the rosary together. This consists of the following prayers: an ‘Our Father’, ten ‘Hail Marys’ and a ‘Glory Be to the Father’ repeated five times.