Because of the fact that I am a cradle Catholic, and soon to be priest, I've spent a lot of time in churches. And I mean, A LOT of time. In middle school, when one of my friends had a sleep-over Saturday night, I could go, but on Sunday morning at 6:30 am my parents would pick me up and take me to Mass with them. Then, after Mass, they would drop me off again at my friend's house. My dad even insisted that my sister and I go to Confession every three months. So on Friday evening, on the way to my Tae-kwon-do lessons, we would stop by the church and I would have to go to Confession (still wearing my martial arts uniform, with its kung-fu bandana).
The upside to spending so much time in church, is that there are fewer times when you feel out of place in church. For many people, church is that strange place that their grandmothers drag them to on Easter morning, and it can be an intimidating place. Thus, on any given Sunday it's easy to spot the Church-newbie by how awkward they look. But even experienced veterans can fall victim to the awkward moments that come with attending church. Because any time you put a group of strangers together, there's bound to be some awkwardness. Hence, I've listed the top 7 instances of when people might embarrass themselves (and those with them) during Church.
1. When you dip your hands in the Holy Water font, but you miss the water.
You usually see this when you're entering a church. Everyone makes a b-line straight for the Holy Water and quickly makes a sign of the cross or even genuflects. Normally it's easy to hit your mark and plant your fingers into the water, but not everyone bats a thousand. There's that one time when you miss. You reach for the water but they come up dry. What do you do? Do you try again? Do you pretend like nothing happened? My suggestion is you just keep going and waddle to your pew like the socially awkward penguin you are.
2. When everyone forgets the words for the Responsorial Psalm.
It's the great moment in the Liturgy of the Word when you get the chance to say something other than an "Amen" or "Thanks Be to God", but instead of something simple like "The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor" it's long and hard to remember: "The Lord Hears and Doesn't Forget to Listen to the Poor, but He Also Hears and Remembers Israel." Or, the reader hasn't quite mastered enunciating words, so half of the congregation proclaims: "God goes out with shouts of joy" while the other half proclaims "Doug eats out with sprouts of soy." Either way, you know when the reader raises his hand for people to respond it's going to get awkward.
3. When you're the odd one out during the sign of peace.
This is a hard one to predict, and if you come from an odd-numbered family you know this awkwardness personally. It comes at the moment when we're supposed to turn to our neighbors and give 'em the ole sign of peace. So you turn to your right--that person is hugging the person to their right. You turn to your left-- that person is shaking hands with the person behind them. You turn back to the right--that person has moved onto the next one. It's like an endless cycle of awkward. Perhaps at the end, you might get one "peace be with you" in before the Lamb of God comes to relieve you of your pain.
4. When you go for the handshake, but the other person goes for the hug.
This precious moment is one way of figuring out how good of a relationship you have with the people around you. Do you take the risk and go for the hug, showing that you are truly close with the person? Or do you play it safe and go with a handshake, showing you like them but not hug-like them? Choose wrong and you have the weird handshake-hug syndrome, which everyone knows is an aborted hug. It's like playing rock, paper, scissors but with your whole body and people's feelings.
5. When you are in line for receiving communion from the chalice, but when it gets to you, they're all out.
This is the danger of sitting in the back of Church: sure you can sneak in late, and duck out early, but you'll usually be at the back of the communion line, which means you're one of the last ones to receive communion. While it is possible for everyone to receive the host during Mass, it is possible that the precious blood ministers might run out of the precious blood. Perhaps the priest just miscalculated the number of people at Mass; maybe there were some big sippers ahead of you in line. Whatever the reason, it's awkward when you bow and go up to the minister and they just place their hand over the chalice and just walk away. Of course, you still receive the fullness of Christ in both the host and the chalice, but it just stings when you're the first one turned down.
6. Forgetting which pew you were sitting in.
Let's face it, when we get down to it, every pew looks the same. Sure it's easy enough to remember where you sit relative to how far you are from the altar or the entrance, but when everyone gets up together for communion, it's easy to lose your bearings. So who could blame you when you're kneeling quietly praying, and suddenly realize that the jacket sitting next to you isn't yours, nor is the fluffy pink purse.
7. Genuflecting at a movie theater.
Ok, so this one doesn't happen in a church, but it's connected to churches. It becomes all the more awkward when you're going to a movie (or play) with a group of non-Catholics. While everyone else seems to have no problem just walking from the aisle to their seat, the inner Catholic in you just can't resist the instinct to get down on one knee and maybe make the sign of the Cross. When this happens you just can't wait for the lights to dim and for you to bury yourself deep into your seat.
Why they're secretly awesome--
While these awkward moments might come with a sting to our egos, they're actually little moments that make the Mass secretly awesome. As Catholics we have a communal faith, meaning we aren't meant to be alone. Every time we go to Mass we engage the same rituals and the same actions, which has the strange ability of turning complete strangers into pew-buddies. These are the moments where the prayers, rituals, and people around you allow you to forget about yourself for a moment--where it doesn't matter how much homework you have, or how long you have to work, or whether or not the pretty girl in your English literature class likes you. These are the moments that show us that no matter how seriously we take ourselves, God has a sense of humor.