Worship in the Roman Catholic Church

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that worship is at the centre of church life and the individual life of each believer. It is therefore very important for every Catholic to take part in public worship frequently, sharing the sacraments and observing festivals and holy days. Worship in the Roman Catholic Church is formal or liturgical.

Saint Audoen's Church, Dublin

The Sunday service

The main Sunday service is called the Mass, and in some churches there are four or five Masses said each day (as well as a Mass each weekday and perhaps two on Saturday). There is a common structure for every Mass and a Roman Catholic priest must always lead it. The services may vary depending on the Church calendar but the basis order remains the same.

Every worship service in the Roman Catholic Church involves the celebration of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. This is not the case with the Protestant tradition, where the usual Sunday service will not always be a Holy Communion service. For example, in the Methodist Church, Holy Communion will most likely be celebrated on one Sunday morning in the month.

The Bible

The scriptures have a central role to play in the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. At Sunday Mass there is a reading from the Old Testament, a psalm from the Book of Psalms, a New Testament reading from Acts or the letters and a reading from the gospels. Each reading is selected according to the Church lectionary, so it will be relevant to the time of year. As well as the direct reading of the scriptures, there are references to Bible passages in the prayers and creeds recited during worship. The homily (sermon) may contain a reflection on a particular reading.

The Catholic Church teaches that:

  • God has spoken to humanity through His son and conveyed His message to humankind.
  • The Bible is the sacred record of the life of Jesus.
  • The scriptures must be held in the highest possible regard.
  • God is the author of the scriptures. He inspired the human authors of the books of the Bible to write the truth.

Reading the Bible individually and hearing it read in public worship are therefore very important for Catholics. However, there is not the strong tradition of preaching that there would be in many Protestant churches. The priest’s homily would not take up a large part of the service.

Other forms of worship

Within the structure of the Mass it is still possible for there to be a great variation in the styles of worship in the Catholic Church. At some services there may be very traditional choirs who will sing in Latin. There are also folk Masses which are livelier and try to appeal to younger people through a range of folk instruments, such as guitars and violins. The style of these Masses will vary greatly from church to church depending on the musicians and instruments available.

Prayer

There are different forms of prayer:

  • Adoration – to praise and worship God
  • Confession – to come to God and say sorry
  • Intercession – to pray for the needs of others
  • Petition – to pray about your own needs and concerns
  • Thanksgiving – to thank God for all that He has done
  • Meditation – to reflect quietly and wait for God to speak

The rosary

The rosary is a traditional Roman Catholic aid to prayer. It is made up of groups of beads which worshippers touch as they recite prayers. Attached to one of these beads is a cross or crucifix. In using the rosary, four prayers are involved:

  1. The creed
  2. The Our Father
  3. The Hail Mary
  4. The Glory be or Gloria

The prayers start at the crucifix and the worshipper works his or her way round the whole string of beads. For some Catholics who use a rosary, the touching of the beads is as automatic to them as the saying of familiar prayers. This leaves them free to contemplate the most important events in the life of Jesus. These are called ‘Holy mysteries’.