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Etiquette/ what to wear at churches

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Hello everyone,

I was hoping for a little advice. I would like to visit and attend mass as often as I can along my Camino. I’m not Catholic or even Christian. I understand that I should dress appropriately and plan on bringing a full length jumpsuit, with a shawl to cover my shoulders. If it fits in my pack, I’ll even bring a light cardigan.

Is it ok to be wearing flip flops? It’s either that or my dusty walking shoes. What does everyone else do?

Also, other than be respectful, anything I should be aware of during mass?

Thanks
Fi
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
2012
You are not a practicing Christian yet you wish to attend Mass. Any particular reason?
Convention holds that you should be modestly dressed. No one will expect a pilgrim to carry a special outfit but do endeavor to keep exposed flesh to a reasonable minimum.

Why not make contact with your local Catholic church and discuss your interest with the priest
 
Time of past OR future Camino
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You are not a practicing Christian yet you wish to attend Mass. Any particular reason?
Convention holds that you should be modestly dressed. No one will expect a pilgrim to carry a special outfit but do endeavor to keep exposed flesh to a reasonable minimum.

Why not make contact with your local Catholic church and discuss your interest with the priest
Curiosity? I went to a CofE primary school, sang hymns. At home I had to light joss sticks and honour my ancestors on certain dates throughout the year.

It was a confusing time. I guess I would like to experience other how other people experience faith? I’m still unsure if I’m honest.

Attending as often as I can might also be a little ambitious. Experience at least once during my Camino might be more realistic.

If it’s not ok, please tell me it’s not ok. I don’t want to do anything that is not appropriate. But if you don’t know, you don’t know. And the only way I will know is to see and try.
 
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Nothing wrong with curiosity 😀 but I do urge you to make contact with your local resources. You’ll be as welcome at mass in the UK as you will be in Spain with the advantage of a shared language to help you understand what is going on.
This old pagan has made pilgrimage to Santiago and the shrine of one who may have touched the divine. And though I have attended Mass it was with my understanding that I could not participate.
 
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trecile

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Nothing wrong with curiosity 😀 but I do urge you to make contact with your local resources. You’ll be as welcome at mass in the UK as you will be in Spain with the advantage of a shared language to help you understand what is going on.
This old pagan has made pilgrimage to Santiago and the shrine of one who may have touched the divine. And though I have attended Mass it was with my understanding that I could not participate.
Easier said than done!

Been wanting to do it for a long while, probably longer than I realise. It peaks when I’m abroad and visiting wonderful churches and fascinated at what this means for people and to people.

I think speaking to someone in the uk means I need to believe. I want to be a fly in the wall. My heart rate is elevated right now, no idea why!

Anyway, I might pop in, I might not. Religion plural terrifies me as I just don’t know enough to know.

Basically I really would like to participate but I don’t want to offend anyone. That’s probably why I have never done it, spoken to anyone
Or attended a service here. I just have a lot of whys, and after a while it can come across as obtuse or offensive unless you are incredibly patient. I don’t feel it’s my place to walk in. I’m curious, others believe. I want to satisfy my intellect, other are trying to connect deeper to God. Am I making sense? 30 years later and still as confused as I was as a child.

Oh and by participate I mean to be a part of, sit and experience one percent of what the others do.
 

henrythedog

Veteran Member
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X
Realistically - and especially along a Camino route - you’ll be welcomed. Try to avoid bare shoulders.

I travel with a half-decent set of clothes for the evening. I might look like a tramp during the day; but I try to look half-respectable once the walking’s finished. Nobody’s really bothered; but I don’t feel comfortable in church (or similar) in shorts.

I’m not Catholic although I am technically C of E (belief in God optional).

I have attended Mass quite often whilst in Spain and assisted in one in O’Cebrerio when there was only the priest and I in attendance. Much like my occasional attendance at evensong in my local priory it’s a form of meditation for me; I like the structure, the process and the rhythm. It also keeps me out of the pub for half an hour. I may not know all the words; but if you can play it I’ll hum along.

On my last short trip I found myself with a spare day in Leon and did the full set of daily offices with the sisters of the convent adjacent to my accommodation. I’ve been to Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist services and conducted a humanist funeral. I’m fairly catholic (with a small ‘c’) when it comes to religion.
 
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SabineP

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some and then more. see my signature.
Easier said than done!

Been wanting to do it for a long while, probably longer than I realise. It peaks when I’m abroad and visiting wonderful churches and fascinated at what this means for people and to people.

I think speaking to someone in the uk means I need to believe. I want to be a fly in the wall. My heart rate is elevated right now, no idea why!

Anyway, I might pop in, I might not. Religion plural terrifies me as I just don’t know enough to know.
Again...do not overthink it. Pop in at an open church ( that in itself will be a challenge seeing local priests will be responsible for maybe five or six parishes) and see when a service is scheduled.
Follow the older ladies of the village.. 😉.
 
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Again...do not overthink it. Pop in at an open church ( that in itself will be a challenge seeing local priests will be responsible for maybe five or six parishes) and see when a service is scheduled.
Follow the older ladies of the village.. 😉.
Thank you SabineP, can you tell I’m terrified?! 😄

I’ll let the wind guide me.

Good night all, I feel supported in my quest to understand.
 

Anamiri

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2017, 2019 Camino Frances
Hello everyone,

I was hoping for a little advice. I would like to visit and attend mass as often as I can along my Camino. I’m not Catholic or even Christian. I understand that I should dress appropriately and plan on bringing a full length jumpsuit, with a shawl to cover my shoulders. If it fits in my pack, I’ll even bring a light cardigan.

Is it ok to be wearing flip flops? It’s either that or my dusty walking shoes. What does everyone else do?

Also, other than be respectful, anything I should be aware of during mass?

Thanks
Fi
I walk in shorts, but I take an all purpose large silk scarf, that weighs nothing, which I use for all sorts of things including quickly wrapping around over my shorts as a skirt for churches.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Most years since 2012
I understand that I should dress appropriately
Yes, but for pilgrims, that does not need to involve additional clothes, A shirt with some sleeves, and I wouldn't wear short shorts. (Easy because I don't wear shorts anyway.)

I have never been a church member (although I had 10 years of protestant Sunday School) and I am not on a quest, but I find it interesting and satisfying to attend services while on the Camino. I have no idea how to cross myself, or when to stand up and sit down, etc. I simply follow the example of others for the standing and sitting. On the Camino, there are many others in a similar situation, so there is no need to be terrified!

I saw a Spanish family all wearing roller skates at mass in Astorga one Palm Sunday.
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
A "Tourigrino" trip once Covid has passed, so 2023
I once attended a Sikh wedding and was conspicuous by being one of the few males who was not wearing a turban. A kindly grey bearded gentleman leaned over and whispered "just do what I do" and it all went swimmingly.

If you've been to a High Anglican church you'll be familiar with the routine - there's no need to genuflect towards the altar as you enter and leave but don't go up to receive communion (the wafer and the wine/body and blood of Christ). Stand when others stand, when they sit you sit.

Things have changed dramatically in Spain over the last 40 or so years. The Grannies in the village will still wear something to cover their heads (and gravitate to the front pews) but if you feel you must then even a bandana over you hair will be fine. Shoulders ought to be covered but it's been a long time since my wife caused a stir wearing Bermuda shorts in a rural town centre!

I've walked the Camino with Catholics and Protestants, Shintos and Jews, Bhuddists and Muslims and even a Copt as well as quite a few atheists and agnostics. Nobody ever minded. The churches can be breathtaking, the masses spectacular. The church in Rabanal goes in for Gregorian chants (as does the Gaucelmo refugio at breakfast time - to wake up the Pilgrims).

The mass at the cathedral in Santiago is something special, especially if the Botafumeiro is swung.

It's supposed to be a spiritual journey, just let your God, whoever she or he is, guide you and enjoy the journey.

Oh, and the priest will mention "Nuestro Señor" a lot - he's talking about Jesus 🙂

Have a wondrous experience and don't afraid.
 
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J Willhaus

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I had one dress this year that was my evening dress, after shower cover, and my nightgown and wore with some relatively nice looking croc sandals which also doubled as shower and evening shoes. It was actually a swimsuit coverup so it laundered and packed very well. Had a mesh jacket to cover my shoulders. Was the most versatile of my clothing choices this summer. I could throw it on in the evening while waiting for the walking capris and shirt to dry.
 

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Flog

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2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
Been wanting to do it for a long while, probably longer than I realise. It peaks when I’m abroad and visiting wonderful churches and fascinated at what this means for people and to people.
You will be very welcome. Being open and honest about it puts you way ahead of most if not all of the hypocrites and there are plenty of them here. You don't have to answer to anyone but yourself, nor do you have to speak, pray or sing. Observe quietly or participate, it's entirely up to you!

All that's required of you is that you're respectful of others. I hope you get something out of it.
 
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echavez123

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Aug 2022
Easier said than done!

Been wanting to do it for a long while, probably longer than I realise. It peaks when I’m abroad and visiting wonderful churches and fascinated at what this means for people and to people.

I think speaking to someone in the uk means I need to believe. I want to be a fly in the wall. My heart rate is elevated right now, no idea why!

Anyway, I might pop in, I might not. Religion plural terrifies me as I just don’t know enough to know.

Basically I really would like to participate but I don’t want to offend anyone. That’s probably why I have never done it, spoken to anyone
Or attended a service here. I just have a lot of whys, and after a while it can come across as obtuse or offensive unless you are incredibly patient. I don’t feel it’s my place to walk in. I’m curious, others believe. I want to satisfy my intellect, other are trying to connect deeper to God. Am I making sense? 30 years later and still as confused as I was as a child.

Oh and by participate I mean to be a part of, sit and experience one percent of what the others do.
The churches are open to all. Do not hesitate to partake of the experience. You will know if there is something for you when you visit a church or attend a mass. I was born Catholic, but I do not practice the ritualistic side of Catholicism. However, I have a deep purpose for hiking the Camino, and the spiritual side is very high on my list. I feel like I will be immersing myself in the centuries of history and spiritualism and sincerely hope this trip will add significance to my life.

Here is a passage from a Devotion book my aunt gave to me. I do not believe the book is intended for Catholics only, it is for anyone who want to "tune in":

"Meet Me in the early morning splendor. I eagerly await you here. In the stillness of this holy time with ME, I renew your strength and saturate you with Peace. While other turn over for extra sleep or anxiously tune in to the latest news, you commune with the Creator of the universe. I have awakened in your heart strong desire to Me. This longing originated in Me, though it now burns brightly in you.... "
 

pepi

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Last: 2021, next: August 27, '22
Hello everyone,

I was hoping for a little advice. I would like to visit and attend mass as often as I can along my Camino. I’m not Catholic or even Christian. I understand that I should dress appropriately and plan on bringing a full length jumpsuit, with a shawl to cover my shoulders. If it fits in my pack, I’ll even bring a light cardigan.

Is it ok to be wearing flip flops? It’s either that or my dusty walking shoes. What does everyone else do?

Also, other than be respectful, anything I should be aware of during mass?

Thanks
Fi
As a fellow "non-believer" I agree with most that is being said above. Dressing and behavior should be respectful and modest. On one of my recent Caminos, at the lovely church in Rabanal, I noticed three Jewish New Yorkers (found that out in the discussion that followed), all wearing baseball caps. I told them that in a church, this is disrespectful. They responded that Jews cover their heads in the house of worship, What followed was a pretty heated debate which finally ended with a couple of bottles of good wine and hearty laughter. I still don't know what would be appropriate for a Jew in a catholic church; maybe someone in the forum knows the answer.
 
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LesR

Active Member
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Camino Frances 2017, 2018; Camino Portuguese 2019
Hello everyone,

I was hoping for a little advice. I would like to visit and attend mass as often as I can along my Camino. I’m not Catholic or even Christian. I understand that I should dress appropriately and plan on bringing a full length jumpsuit, with a shawl to cover my shoulders. If it fits in my pack, I’ll even bring a light cardigan.

Is it ok to be wearing flip flops? It’s either that or my dusty walking shoes. What does everyone else do?

Also, other than be respectful, anything I should be aware of during mass?

Thanks
Fi
"dress appropriately" is still a fairly wide field ...

I do recall reading an anecdote in which a priest was quoted as saying he would rather see a pilgrim in shorts inside his church than see a pilgrim in long trousers walk past the church...

I have also seen a pilgrim in a church in Gannon tapped on the shoulder by a parishioner indicating he should remove his hat.

SO what is 'appropriate'? IMHO, if it is a service frequented by pilgrims, the measure of 'appropriateness' is different to what would be applied in a service held primarily for residents of the area.
 

Suz2022

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Sept 2022 del Norte
Easier said than done!

Been wanting to do it for a long while, probably longer than I realise. It peaks when I’m abroad and visiting wonderful churches and fascinated at what this means for people and to people.

I think speaking to someone in the uk means I need to believe. I want to be a fly in the wall. My heart rate is elevated right now, no idea why!

Anyway, I might pop in, I might not. Religion plural terrifies me as I just don’t know enough to know.

Basically I really would like to participate but I don’t want to offend anyone. That’s probably why I have never done it, spoken to anyone
Or attended a service here. I just have a lot of whys, and after a while it can come across as obtuse or offensive unless you are incredibly patient. I don’t feel it’s my place to walk in. I’m curious, others believe. I want to satisfy my intellect, other are trying to connect deeper to God. Am I making sense? 30 years later and still as confused as I was as a child.

Oh and by participate I mean to be a part of, sit and experience one percent of what the others do.
just go. they don't check your religious credentials at the door, and they're not going to try to convert you as a guest in Spain. clearly you're a thoughtful person and you'll handle it with respect. I'm a former catholic and plan to go into at least one Mass in honor of a Catholic in my life.
 
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Thank you everyone.

This community…I don’t think I’ve quite ever experienced anything like it.

As a child we are often told to ‘go try it’, as an adult it becomes, ‘you should know better’.

On reflection it seems like I was asking for permission. Perhaps I was? ‘Have courage and be kind.’ Embarrassingly this is a quote from Cinderella but still, for me, a good one.

Thank you for taking the time, especially those who wrote to me personally. I’ll be the nervous one in the back pew 😀
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Time of past OR future Camino
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A couple of things.

First, and generally, it is far more acceptable to dress a little casually in southern European churches than it might be in northern, and particularly North American ones, particularly on warm days. Chastely certainly, but if it's sweltering hot, short sleeves, skirts/trousers are fine.

The shawl sounds like a nice touch though.

Secondly, there is a very old indult for foot pilgrims in particular, meaning you can walk in straight from the trail, in your pilgrim kit, and it's fine.
 
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@ficklefancyfree, attending Catholic mass has become part of the general pilgrim experience or general Camino pilgrim life. You are unlikely to be the only non-Catholic (lapsed or otherwise) or other non-Christian (lapsed, etc.) among the congregation, starting with the evening pilgrim mass in Roncesvalles.

At pilgrim mass (not in the Cathedral of Santiago, though) a pilgrim blessing is often offered at the end where all interested pilgrims come forward to the priest to receive a group blessing. It is up to you whether you want to join or not. I never felt the need, I am content with the universal blessings that are provided at every service.

This individual/group blessing at the altar is not to be confused with the Eucharist part of mass where Catholics in good standing, and only those, are invited to come to the altar and receive a wafer with specific meaning for them. Do not join them, stay in your seat but allow people to get out of the pew and back in again. Please, everyone, do not use this piece of information to start ecumenical discussions. I am merely quoting the announcement made by the security staff at the Santiago Cathedral.

As others have said, stand up when the congregation stands up, sit down when they sit down. That's all that is required, or expected, as to formal participation.

Towards the end, at least in Santiago, the priest invites all to exchange a sign of peace. Smile to those around you and/or shake hands with them. Mumble "peace" or "peace be with you". Any language will do.

At the Santiago Cathedral, the security staff does announce at regular intervals that men must not wear hats or caps while visiting the Cathedral; they should do so "out of respect".

Buen Camino!
 
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Thank you everyone.

This community…I don’t think I’ve quite ever experienced anything like it.

As a child we are often told to ‘go try it’, as an adult it becomes, ‘you should know better’.

On reflection it seems like I was asking for permission. Perhaps I was? ‘Have courage and be kind.’ Embarrassingly this is a quote from Cinderella but still, for me, a good one.

Thank you for taking the time, especially those who wrote to me personally. I’ll be the nervous one in the back pew 😀
The nervous one in the back pew 😀
Why nervous? Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye!
i am so glad you have found the experience of asking to have given you encouragement and support. The forum at its best!
 

Pafayac

On the way...
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2021: Le Puy-Cahors. 2022: Cahors-Puente La Reina.
Welcome in God's house !
Regarding attitude, it seems that your reasons to go in a church are perfectly correct.
Which clothes can you wear ? As a man, I can't be completely focused on prayer if a woman wears a short skirt (Mary Qwant style) or a crop top ! It comes from me, not from her, but please, be kind and try to put clothes that do not disturb men ! ;-)
 

wayfarer

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Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
2012, 2013, 2014.
Welcome in God's house !
Regarding attitude, it seems that your reasons to go in a church are perfectly correct.
Which clothes can you wear ? As a man, I can't be completely focused on prayer if a woman wears a short skirt (Mary Qwant style) or a crop top ! It comes from me, not from her, but please, be kind and try to put clothes that do not disturb men ! ;-)
Both men and women should dress respectfully when visiting any holy place, be it church, mosque, temple, shrine or indeed any holy place. They are all places of God for someone.
 
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TravellingMan2022

Active Member
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Norte
Welcome in God's house !
Regarding attitude, it seems that your reasons to go in a church are perfectly correct.
Which clothes can you wear ? As a man, I can't be completely focused on prayer if a woman wears a short skirt (Mary Qwant style) or a crop top ! It comes from me, not from her, but please, be kind and try to put clothes that do not disturb men ! ;-)
Gosh! Maybe it’s just me but surely I can’t be the only one that finds this to be inappropriate?
 

Pafayac

On the way...
Time of past OR future Camino
2021: Le Puy-Cahors. 2022: Cahors-Puente La Reina.
Gosh! Maybe it’s just me but surely I can’t be the only one that finds this to be inappropriate?
What do you find inappropriate ? My answer or wearing any kind of clothes in a church ?
 

Pafayac

On the way...
Time of past OR future Camino
2021: Le Puy-Cahors. 2022: Cahors-Puente La Reina.
Talking about female attire and how it can be distracting to you/men. Maybe it’s just me and Iif I am being oversenstive and Immisunderstanding I apologise but I find it inappropriate! Is it just me!
In my opinion, wearing some clothes and not others in a church is just because of that. If God is, I cannot imagine that He could be offended by simple clothes...
(English is not my mother tongue, please forgive me if I am not clear)
 
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TravellingMan2022

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Norte
In my opinion, wearing some clothes and not others in a church is just because of that. If God is, I cannot imagine that He could be offended by simple clothes...
(English is not my mother tongue, please forgive me if I am not clear)
Sure no Problem! I appreciate no offence was meant and maybe it’s just me. I was an equality and diversity rep when I was working so we tend to flag anything we find ‘inappropriate’ and maybe too keen
keen to police.
 

Pafayac

On the way...
Time of past OR future Camino
2021: Le Puy-Cahors. 2022: Cahors-Puente La Reina.
Sure no Problem! I appreciate no offence was meant and maybe it’s just me. I was an equality and diversity rep when I was working so we tend to flag anything we find ‘inappropriate’ and maybe too keen
keen to police.
I mean that decent clothes are required for women and men because of human nature.
 

MichaelB10398

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Suffice it to say I haven't yet stopped walking
Thank you everyone.

This community…I don’t think I’ve quite ever experienced anything like it.

As a child we are often told to ‘go try it’, as an adult it becomes, ‘you should know better’.

On reflection it seems like I was asking for permission. Perhaps I was? ‘Have courage and be kind.’ Embarrassingly this is a quote from Cinderella but still, for me, a good one.

Thank you for taking the time, especially those who wrote to me personally. I’ll be the nervous one in the back pew 😀
This should not be anything that brings concern or anxiety. Be at peace.

When traveling I make a point of attending religious services in the local religions. I have visited communities of faith from Hindu temples to Muslim mosques and enjoyed them all. My advice is to seek out an individual at the temple, mosque, etc. and let them know I am visiting and if it is acceptable to do so. I suspect they will be happy to see you there and may inform you about not participating in the Eucharist or not.

When you attend it would not surprise me that you find other pilgrims attending. Ask to join them and let them know you are not Catholic but would like to attend. You will have a supportive new friend to assist you.

You appear to already know how to dress - cover your shoulders (a shirt with short sleeves will work fine) and wear some long pants, a skirt, etc. Just avoid short shorts.

It is a wonderful time to observe the faiths of others.

I am envious of your opportunity to walk.
 
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Hiking clothes would be quite acceptable for pilgrims attending mass. You are much more likely to experience disapproval over attire in the English-speaking world than you are in Spain or Portugal. There's really no need to overthink this. Priests and parishioners are pleased to see pilgrims at their evening services.
 

Priscilla NC

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Spring 2016: Camino Frances, Finisterre and Muxia
April 2019: Frances, Salvador, Primitivo
I am Catholic (a convert). I did not bring 'evening wear' on my 2 caminos, just 2 changes of walking clothes (I don't wear shorts). I was never out of place in any of the churches/cathedrals I attended along the way.

Personally, I found the Spanish Masses to be difficult to follow, but I got much more from entering a church (ones that were open) during the day or early evening and just sitting in the quiet. This was my holy time, and an opportunity to take in the beauty of the church.

May you have a truly Buen Camino and may your experiences be exactly what you need.
And if you get to Santiago and go to the Pilgrim Mass, may you be blessed with the swinging of the botafumeiro, an awesome experience.
 
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Katherine Radeka

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Camino Francés (2022, 2023)
Relax! You will be welcome as a pilgrim in your pilgrim clothing. The towns all along the Camino know who you are and why you are there, and they will welcome you.

I suggest that you try to attend a Mass in English in your home country before you go. The Masses will all be in Spanish on the Camino, but this way, you will know what’s happening and the general order of things. This might be easier in a large cathedral than in a small church parish, simply because you will avoid the looks of curiosity.

The same rules apply in your home country as they do on the Camino: Stand when people stand, kneel when they kneel, sit when they sit, give something at the Offering if there is one, don’t go up to take Communion.

I save up my coins to put in the offering basket so that saves me from having to try to count it out when I buy things.

One helpful thing I’ve learned during the year that I was converting to Catholicism: if you’re not going to take Communion it’s much easier for everyone else if you sit on an aisle. That way you can stand up and move out of the way so that people can either get into or out of the pew rather than having to push in front of you.

If you find that you go often, I also suggest downloading an app that has the day’s Mass readings in English. They are the same everywhere, so you’ll be reading in English what your lector is reading aloud in Spanish. The apps often have the Order of the Mass in them so that again you can follow what’s happening if that’s important to you.
 
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As a man, I can't be completely focused on prayer if a woman wears a short skirt (Mary Qwant style) or a crop top ! It comes from me, not from her, but please, be kind and try to put clothes that do not disturb men ! ;-)
I hesitated to respond and I don’t think this may be attributed to a language barrier.
This is in my opinion is mysoginistic. Women are not temptresses for men. The old “Eve made me do it”. For each person’s sake be responsible for your own thoughts and actions.
 

PilgrimLiving

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2017
Curiosity? I went to a CofE primary school, sang hymns. At home I had to light joss sticks and honour my ancestors on certain dates throughout the year.

It was a confusing time. I guess I would like to experience other how other people experience faith? I’m still unsure if I’m honest.

Attending as often as I can might also be a little ambitious. Experience at least once during my Camino might be more realistic.

If it’s not ok, please tell me it’s not ok. I don’t want to do anything that is not appropriate. But if you don’t know, you don’t know. And the only way I will know is to see and try.
Church is for anyone and everyone who wants to go. Go as you are. No need to stress about it or do extra research but it would help if you understood some Spanish.
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
May to July, 2014
Hello everyone,

I was hoping for a little advice. I would like to visit and attend mass as often as I can along my Camino. I’m not Catholic or even Christian. I understand that I should dress appropriately and plan on bringing a full length jumpsuit, with a shawl to cover my shoulders. If it fits in my pack, I’ll even bring a light cardigan.

Is it ok to be wearing flip flops? It’s either that or my dusty walking shoes. What does everyone else do?

Also, other than be respectful, anything I should be aware of during mass?

Thanks
Fi
I’m Catholic and I also plan to attend many masses on the way. I’m wearing shorts—not going to buy long pants until the weather forces it on me.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
I save up my coins to put in the offering basket
Good point! I have not seen this mentioned. Yes, useful to make sure that you have coins or a banknote ready for the offering basket, so you don't have to rummage around in your bag or not donate anything and feel embarrassed.

Does the advice to "cover your shoulders" actually reflect the reality in Spain? I usually have my arms covered for the simple reason that most of my clothes have short or long sleeves anyway and I feel quickly cold in old churches with thick walls. Judging by photos and videos I've seen, and that includes the solemn mass in Santiago on the Apostle's feast day there are women with sleeveless dresses and tops, and that includes women who don't belong to the youngest age group and who appear to be local and to know how to dress for mass within their own cultural environment. And I guess that's what the OP's question is about: how to fit in locally and not stick out like a sore thumb.

Along the Camino Frances, this includes of course what you also stated:
You will be welcome as a pilgrim in your pilgrim clothing. The towns all along the Camino know who you are and why you are there, and they will welcome you.
 
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henrythedog

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
X
I am Catholic (a convert). I did not bring 'evening wear' on my 2 caminos, just 2 changes of walking clothes (I don't wear shorts). I was never out of place in any of the churches/cathedrals I attended along the way.

Personally, I found the Spanish Masses to be difficult to follow, but I got much more from entering a church (ones that were open) during the day or early evening and just sitting in the quiet. This was my holy time, and an opportunity to take in the beauty of the church.

May you have a truly Buen Camino and may your experiences be exactly what you need.
And if you get to Santiago and go to the Pilgrim Mass, may you be blessed with the swinging of the botafumeiro, an awesome experience.
A copy of the standard Mass in English and Spanish may help:

 

Molly Cassidy

Travelling light
Time of past OR future Camino
Starting May 2023 from St Jean Pied de Port
Good point! I have not seen this mentioned. Yes, useful to make sure that you have coins or a banknote ready for the offering basket, so you don't have to rummage around in your bag or not donate anything and feel embarrassed.

Does the advice to "cover your shoulders" actually reflect the reality in Spain? I usually have my arms covered for the simple reason that most of my clothes have short or long sleeves anyway and I feel quickly cold in old churches with thick walls. Judging by photos and videos I've seen, and that includes the solemn mass in Santiago on the Apostle's feast day there are women with sleeveless dresses and tops, and that includes women who don't belong to the youngest age group and who appear to be local and to know how to dress for mass within their own cultural environment. And I guess that's what the OP's question is about: how to fit in locally and not stick out like a sore thumb.
I think cultural standards vary. I'm sure my grandmother would never have gone to mass in trousers, but I actually think she wouldn't have objected to someone having bear arm/shoulders if they were wearing a nice dress. Of course, times change and of course the camino is different and there is an expectation that pilgrims don't walk in their Sunday best!
 

Nick Barlow

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: April 2022
Like you, I'm not a Catholic, but I did go to a few Masses on my Camino. I don't recall any of the pilgrims I saw - including the Catholic ones I knew - having a special outfit with them for going to Mass, and churches on the Camino know that most people aren't carrying a huge range of clothes with them!

One tip I would have is to ask at your albergue if they know of any pilgrim masses in that town, as they'll usually know about them and will be used to people asking.
 

GraemeHall

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017/18; Portugués 2019
@ficklefancyfree, attending Catholic mass has become part of the general pilgrim experience or general Camino pilgrim life. You are unlikely to be the only non-Catholic (lapsed or otherwise) or other non-Christian (lapsed, etc.) among the congregation, starting with the evening pilgrim mass in Roncesvalles.

At pilgrim mass (not in the Cathedral of Santiago, though) a pilgrim blessing is often offered at the end where all interested pilgrims come forward to the priest to receive a group blessing. It is up to you whether you want to join or not. I never felt the need, I am content with the universal blessings that are provided at every service.

This individual/group blessing at the altar is not to be confused with the Eucharist part of mass where Catholics in good standing, and only those, are invited to come to the altar and receive a wafer with specific meaning for them. Do not join them, stay in your seat but allow people to get out of the pew and back in again. Please, everyone, do not use this piece of information to start ecumenical discussions. I am merely quoting the announcement made by the security staff at the Santiago Cathedral.

As others have said, stand up when the congregation stands up, sit down when they sit down. That's all that is required, or expected, as to formal participation.

Towards the end, at least in Santiago, the priest invites all to exchange a sign of peace. Smile to those around you and/or shake hands with them. Mumble "peace" or "peace be with you". Any language will do.

At the Santiago Cathedral, the security staff does announce at regular intervals that men must not wear hats or caps while visiting the Cathedral; they should do so "out of respect".

Buen Camino!
At one pilgrim Mass I attended in the Cathedral at Santiago, the chief celebrant,in both Spanish and English, invited any " who are a baptised Christian and who love the Lord" to come forward and receive the Sacrament.
I was quite surprised, but joyfully accepted the invitation.
 

Scott Sweeney

Veteran Member
Easier said than done!

Been wanting to do it for a long while, probably longer than I realise. It peaks when I’m abroad and visiting wonderful churches and fascinated at what this means for people and to people.

I think speaking to someone in the uk means I need to believe. I want to be a fly in the wall. My heart rate is elevated right now, no idea why!

Anyway, I might pop in, I might not. Religion plural terrifies me as I just don’t know enough to know.

Basically I really would like to participate but I don’t want to offend anyone. That’s probably why I have never done it, spoken to anyone
Or attended a service here. I just have a lot of whys, and after a while it can come across as obtuse or offensive unless you are incredibly patient. I don’t feel it’s my place to walk in. I’m curious, others believe. I want to satisfy my intellect, other are trying to connect deeper to God. Am I making sense? 30 years later and still as confused as I was as a child.

Oh and by participate I mean to be a part of, sit and experience one percent of what the others do.
I was baptized and raised Catholic. Went to our Catholic school attended Mass every day before classes started. My Parent raised us to believe in the teachings of the Church however, after I was Confirmed my mother encouraged me to attend other services with my neighborhood friend's. I never felt unwelcome at any church I visited. Don't not go just because you feel uncomfortable.
Herself is Presbyterian but does not practice. She enjoys the services at the Church and her participation involves just sitting during the actual service. She really only stands when the Priest enters and when the Priest leaves.

It sounds like you're curious.
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
At one pilgrim Mass I attended in the Cathedral at Santiago, the chief celebrant,in both Spanish and English, invited any " who are a baptised Christian and who love the Lord" to come forward and receive the Sacrament.
I was quite surprised, but joyfully accepted the invitation.
That may well have been the case. However, currently, a member of the Cathedral staff - not one of the celebrants or the chief celebrant - takes the microphone just before the distribution of the hosts starts and announces that it is for Catholics in good standing only. I've watched a number of live broadcasts of pilgrim masses at the Cathedral this year and I've heard this phrase so often that I know it by heart. Happy to check again today in three hour's time at 19:30 Santiago local time.
 

Scott Sweeney

Veteran Member
At one pilgrim Mass I attended in the Cathedral at Santiago, the chief celebrant,in both Spanish and English, invited any " who are a baptised Christian and who love the Lord" to come forward and receive the Sacrament.
I was quite surprised, but joyfully accepted the invitation.
I'm a divorced Catholic and I won't take the Sacrament at Mass. I've never been to a Catholic Church that encourages non-catholics to receive Communion.
 

John_H

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances 2019
I am a practicing Catholic. We often sing at the beginning of Mass a hymn called "All are Welcome", and we believe that. Wear whatever clothes you have for the day after walking, do not worry about it. As has already been said, you will not be the only non-Catholic there. We are happy to share our celebration with you.

Pope Francis has asked us "to evangelize, not proselytize". We do that by being open and loving to visitors, but not trying to convert. Recognize the reverence in a Catholic Church/Mass is because we believe a miracle occurs at every Mass where ordinary bread and wine becomes Christ's actual body and blood. Then we receive as Catholics. You are welcome to approach the Priest at Communion with your arms folded in front and receive a blessing, but not Communion. Or stay seated, either is fine.

Your sense of exploring faith is admirable. Buen Camino!
 

J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2022
As a hospitalera, I always feel it is part of my work at the albergue to let people know when and if there is a pilgrim mass and although I am not Catholic, I always attended with them, inviting them to sit with me and explaining if there would be a pilgrim blessing, when to go forward, etc.

When it is not a pilgrim mass, but a regular community service, I also try attend as a hospitalera representing the albergue. In some small communities this is only every other week or so and someone in the community usually has the church key if pilgrims want to enter to pray, etc. Many of our hosting albergues are run by churches or communities of faith and the Mass schedule is often posted inside the albergue.
 

J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2022
Also this year in Canfranc and last yearr in Caldazilla de los Hermanillos there was a special protocol in place where the priest did not have people come forward, but went to the pews to deliver the host. Blessings were delivered from the end of the pew by a raised hand instead of placing the hand on the head, etc. Don't know how long this will continue, but it was a Covid precaution with the priest wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer during part of the ceremony.
 
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lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
Easier said than done!

Been wanting to do it for a long while, probably longer than I realise. It peaks when I’m abroad and visiting wonderful churches and fascinated at what this means for people and to people.

I think speaking to someone in the uk means I need to believe. I want to be a fly in the wall. My heart rate is elevated right now, no idea why!

Anyway, I might pop in, I might not. Religion plural terrifies me as I just don’t know enough to know.

Basically I really would like to participate but I don’t want to offend anyone. That’s probably why I have never done it, spoken to anyone
Or attended a service here. I just have a lot of whys, and after a while it can come across as obtuse or offensive unless you are incredibly patient. I don’t feel it’s my place to walk in. I’m curious, others believe. I want to satisfy my intellect, other are trying to connect deeper to God. Am I making sense? 30 years later and still as confused as I was as a child.

Oh and by participate I mean to be a part of, sit and experience one percent of what the others do.
Maybe my experiences in a church may help you. I am a non practicing Jew but I consider myself 100% Jewish even though I am not a fan of organized religion. (kind of long and complicated reason which I will not get into). I grew up in New York at a time when virtually everyone was Jewish or Catholic, except a large number of Baptist African Americans, at least the guys I went to school with. I have been to and been in some wedding parties of close Catholic friends. In the past and now doing caminos especially when I go to the Pilgrim Mass, this is what I do. I sit quietly during mass, and when I was in a wedding party stood quietly of course. When the congregation stands, I stand. When the congregation kneels I sit quietly, I say no prayers at all. I do not even say Amen. Of course I do not participate in any of the ceremonies, like getting the wafer and wine from the priest. On camino I try to at least wear the cleanest clothes I can. I am respectful but do not feel a part of the service, just an observer. Even in Santiago where the cathedral itself has great meaning for me. It is not religious, it is spiritual and connects me to my past, present and future caminos.
 
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Jodean

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
22 Sept. to 21 Oct. 2015, Pamplona to Santiago
6-23.04 Porto to Santiago 2018
17.09-30.09 CF 2018
Who gets to decide what is modest?
Just the shoulders? Just knees (yeah, they are pretty funny looking)? Maybe my hair? Maybe ankles (they are goofy looking too? Maybe faces?
It is not my fault if my face is distracting you, nor my knees, hair, shoulders, ankles or belly. I cannot believe that in 2022, someone is writing this kind of nonsense.

To the OP, once you get there and see that most people are wearing the same things they wear everyday and that no one cares, you will stop being nervous.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
2019
Speaking as a Roman Catholic clergy, I know a pilgrim would be welcome in their pilgrim attire. I know when I did the Camino, I did not carry any special clothing and felt welcomed at mass. Please feel free to participate to the degree that you can. Even if you are from a Roman Catholic background, unless you are fluent in Spanish, full participation may be difficult, but familiarity with the liturgy will make it easy to follow along. Respect is very important. Your choice to participate in what is a deeply important spiritual experience for the participants requires your respect of their worship. Relax and enjoy the use of the space for the purpose for which it was designed.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
2022
Curiosity? I went to a CofE primary school, sang hymns. At home I had to light joss sticks and honour my ancestors on certain dates throughout the year.

It was a confusing time. I guess I would like to experience other how other people experience faith? I’m still unsure if I’m honest.

Attending as often as I can might also be a little ambitious. Experience at least once during my Camino might be more realistic.

If it’s not ok, please tell me it’s not ok. I don’t want to do anything that is not appropriate. But if you don’t know, you don’t know. And the only way I will know is to see and try.
You might really appreciate the chapel service for pilgrims at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago. There they provide a print-out card so that you can follow along and join in the communal replies that make up the process of coming into "communion" with your fellows (even if you cannot take part in the communion with the host).
If you attended CofE, much will be familiar (if your church observed the formal mass).
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
2019
Curiosity? I went to a CofE primary school, sang hymns. At home I had to light joss sticks and honour my ancestors on certain dates throughout the year.

It was a confusing time. I guess I would like to experience other how other people experience faith? I’m still unsure if I’m honest.

Attending as often as I can might also be a little ambitious. Experience at least once during my Camino might be more realistic.

If it’s not ok, please tell me it’s not ok. I don’t want to do anything that is not appropriate. But if you don’t know, you don’t know. And the only way I will know is to see and try.
Hello
I don't know if this will help but here goes.
I was born to an Irish Catholic mother and a CofE Brummie father so brought up Roman Catholic and schooled as such. I learned of the Camino at school and it was always in my mind. I lost all faith and eventually, in my 40's, through family joined the Anglican church. Still with the Camino in my mind. Eventually at 60 I got to walk the Camino Frances from SJPDP to SDC. I attended my first service in Roncesvalles and it was aimed specifically for pilgrims albeit mostly in Spanish of which I have a little. After that I actively sort out services especially those aimed at pilgrims. There are many to chose from. I had wonderful experiences in various places. For example at a German Ecumenical hostel in La Faba where 8 of us attended the Spanish priest translated to a French lady who translated to a German couple who translated into English for me. He also had us washing each others feet to show how we care for each other on The Way. It may sound strange but it was fabulous. I attended some form of service every 2 or 3 days, always different and always inspiring. Things are there if you take the time and trouble to search them out. There is no dress code, I only wore the clothes I walked in, the usual parishioners recognise pilgrims and welcome them. Then of course there is the Pilgrim's Mass in the cathedral at the end. Go with an open heart and an open mind you will be welcomed and have a fabulous journey. This year at 69 I have just been on the Camino for the fifth time.
Buen Camino.
Vince
 

smallp

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Jul 22 - Camino Primitivo, Aug 22 - Camino Ingles
Hello everyone,

I was hoping for a little advice. I would like to visit and attend mass as often as I can along my Camino. I’m not Catholic or even Christian. I understand that I should dress appropriately and plan on bringing a full length jumpsuit, with a shawl to cover my shoulders. If it fits in my pack, I’ll even bring a light cardigan.

Is it ok to be wearing flip flops? It’s either that or my dusty walking shoes. What does everyone else do?

Also, other than be respectful, anything I should be aware of during mass?

Thanks
Fi
I walked the Camino Primitivo in July and attended the Spanish Pilgrim mass in Lugo, the early morning one in Santiago at the Cathedral and the English speaking mass in the Chapel in the Pilgrim Office. In my experience, there was a lot of tolerance. I think everyone understands that you are travelling light or might have attended at the last minute straight from your walking day. Especially when it's hot too. When I was unsure I sat quietly at the back with a fleece wrapped over my shoulder for modesty.

In terms of the service, as others have mentioned, just follow what others do and you'll be fine. I went to the mass in Lugo with some of my Camino family who are Catholic and they mentioned that it was ok to go up when people are taking communion but make a visible cross to indicate that you can't take communion so the priest will give you a blessing instead. To do the cross, place your left hand on your right shoulder and right hand on your left shoulder and hold your arms against your body. Hope that makes sense.

I don't speak Spanish, so the English mass at the Pilgrim office was lovely. We sang Amazing Grace and had a lovely sheet detailing the sections and words of the service which, in hindsight helped me understand the Spanish services more. There I again crossed my arms and had a blessing. It was really beautiful and very emotional. In fact it surprised me very much as to how emotional the experience was. I thoroughly recommend it. ETA: I'm not a Catholic or even religious but there is just something intangible that seems to flow at these ceremonies.
 
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K_Lynn

Buen Camino!
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances 2021
I saw some people in tank tops and yoga shorts so I would assume no one is enforcing a dress code. I had a very light merino shift style dress that I wore in the afternoons and to mass (when I went).
You don't need to bring extra clothes. Be respectful, follow what others are doing (stand/kneel), leave your camera in your pocket.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Time of past OR future Camino
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
At one pilgrim Mass I attended in the Cathedral at Santiago, the chief celebrant,in both Spanish and English, invited any " who are a baptised Christian and who love the Lord" to come forward and receive the Sacrament.
I was quite surprised, but joyfully accepted the invitation.
There is a very old indult on the Camino de Santiago for foot pilgrims and other pilgrims on a longer Camino, when Christian but non-Catholic, that when prevented from partaking in Communion according to their own religion and rites, they may by exception, and conditionally with the acceptance of the celebrant, take Communion.

A precondition in principle is acceptance of the Real Presence in Eucharist. From the purely practical point of view, if you don't believe that, then you should refrain, if only for respect. I could type a bunch of other stuff to help explain the above, but I won't.
 
Wel
I hesitated to respond and I don’t think this may be attributed to a language barrier.
This is in my opinion is mysoginistic. Women are not temptresses for men. The old “Eve made me do it”. For each person’s sake be responsible for your own thoughts and actio.
I hesitated to respond and I don’t think this may be attributed to a language barrier.
This is in my opinion is mysoginistic. Women are not temptresses for men. The old “Eve made me do it”. For each person’s sake be responsible for your own thoughts and actions.


Well done to you and TravellingMan2022
for calling out the mysoginistic post of Pafayac.As a woman I found his remarks offensive and unacceptable .
 
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Helen Robinson

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Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2023
Curiosity? I went to a CofE primary school, sang hymns. At home I had to light joss sticks and honour my ancestors on certain dates throughout the year.

It was a confusing time. I guess I would like to experience other how other people experience faith? I’m still unsure if I’m honest.

Attending as often as I can might also be a little ambitious. Experience at least once during my Camino might be more realistic.

If it’s not ok, please tell me it’s not ok. I don’t want to do anything that is not appropriate. But if you don’t know, you don’t know. And the only way I will know is to see and try.
You don't really need to explain to anyone why you choose or don't choose to attend a church service. It's between you and your maker. Please don't be put off by anyone policing your decisions. I'm planning on bringing a shawl or two to drape my shoulders and act as a skirt. Go and enjoy.
 
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I know enough Spanish to get by with some short easy chats. During masses I would try to keep up but when it got to be too much I would quit trying for a while and pretend I was attending a Latin mass.
 

Scott Sweeney

Veteran Member
I'm a divorced Catholic and I won't take the Sacrament at Mass. I've never been to a Catholic Church that encourages non-catholics to receive Communion.
Now the Anglican Catholic does allow a Baptized parishioners in good standing to receive Communion, but they look at the host and wine much differently than Roman Catholics.
 
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HeyRobin

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2021 and 2022
Curiosity? I went to a CofE primary school, sang hymns. At home I had to light joss sticks and honour my ancestors on certain dates throughout the year.

It was a confusing time. I guess I would like to experience other how other people experience faith? I’m still unsure if I’m honest.

Attending as often as I can might also be a little ambitious. Experience at least once during my Camino might be more realistic.

If it’s not ok, please tell me it’s not ok. I don’t want to do anything that is not appropriate. But if you don’t know, you don’t know. And the only way I will know is to see and try.
I thought his question about why was a little out of line. You have absolutely no duty to answer why. Mass can be very comforting and spiritual for many and there is no obligation to be a card-carrying member to attend. Taking comunión is a different story; not meant for non-Catholics until they become members. Dress conservatively, leave the backpack behind if possible and if not, people will understand. I hope you have a lovely time in Spain and I hope you find what you are looking for by attending mass. Buen Camino. 🥰🙏🏼💒
 

PJN

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2019 Comino Frances
You are not a practicing Christian yet you wish to attend Mass. Any particular reason?
Convention holds that you should be modestly dressed. No one will expect a pilgrim to carry a special outfit but do endeavor to keep exposed flesh to a reasonable minimum.

Why not make contact with your local Catholic church and discuss your interest with the priest
Haha. Tincatinker , this reply reminds me of questions and answers when I was a child. Ficklefancyfree asked a perfectly respectful question, and O NO - the answer is not just the answer. It is unnecessarily fabricated by inflexible, intrusive, imposing and unnecessary personal questions .

it is glorious to attend Spanish Mass whilst on El Camino. Mainly cover bare skin, shoulders etc, and legs. Ocasionally respectful to wear a scarf over your head, but not essential.

Have a great time and Buen Camino.X
 

henrythedog

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
X
Haha. Tincatinker , this reply reminds me of questions and answers when I was a child. Ficklefancyfree asked a perfectly respectful question, and O NO - the answer is not just the answer. It is unnecessarily fabricated by inflexible, intrusive, imposing and unnecessary personal questions .

it is glorious to attend Spanish Mass whilst on El Camino. Mainly cover bare skin, shoulders etc, and legs. Ocasionally respectful to wear a scarf over your head, but not essential.

Have a great time and Buen Camino.X

This isn’t an encyclopaedia; it’s a forum of real people all of whom see the world through their own lens; cracked and in need of a good clean in my case.

There are plenty of other sources of information which don’t talk back.

I think there have been lots of worthwhile replies to the OPs question; many of which provoke thought. Given that there appear to be no definitive ‘rules’; all the replies are opinions - mostly better informed than mine.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
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Dear all,

Again, the support from all angles is incredible. I am so happy that you have all taken the time to respond.

I have taken no offence to anything that has been said. I asked for opinions and I have had opinions. Some I pay more attention to than others.

Some views may seem a little dated, some responses can seem slightly aggressive and some on the wrong side of what is ‘proper’. But don’t forget, a message on a forum has no body language and if I remember correctly, body language is behind most of the intent, followed by tone, followed by the text.

I can see the intention behind each message and the advice has been helpful to me. I will sit in at a mass on my journey, at least once. It is clear that I have nothing to be afraid of, and that being there is OK.

I might even try to attend a service in London, I work right by St Paul’s, seems silly to not experience that once in my life.

I may even walk up to a Catholic Church and have a conversation with a priest(?) about my future journey and ask for advice there too.

My main concern was
1) I want to be respectful. My dress and behaviour seemed an easy one to control.

2) I don’t want to take away from others. I’m a ‘tourist’ for lack of better word. My presence should not affect anyone who has a deeper purpose to be there. Religion can be very deep and personal to some, I have spoken to many friends because the notion of faith does fascinate me. But my curiosity should not negatively affect anyone who is there to worship. That’s my standard, if it was the other way around and I was the faithful one and someone was there who seemed as they did not take the time to find out what was appropriate. I’d probably be miffed. Think loudly eating during a service. No one has mentioned it, but probably not a good idea.

Thank you again, to everyone. This has been a most uplifting chat for me and after 40 years, I’m ready to take a step into the unknown.

Goodnight all - I have a 5am wake up call!
Fi
 

Amused212

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2019 CF, 2022 CF, 2022 Finisterre-Muxia
Hello everyone,

I was hoping for a little advice. I would like to visit and attend mass as often as I can along my Camino. I’m not Catholic or even Christian. I understand that I should dress appropriately and plan on bringing a full length jumpsuit, with a shawl to cover my shoulders. If it fits in my pack, I’ll even bring a light cardigan.

Is it ok to be wearing flip flops? It’s either that or my dusty walking shoes. What does everyone else do?

Also, other than be respectful, anything I should be aware of during mass?

Thanks
Fi
Churches can be some of the most peaceful places on earth. Even if you don't know the ritual or understand the language, let yourself sink into the peaceful sanctuary of church. You might find God. You might find yourself. Or maybe you will find a peaceful respite. It's all good. Oh, and I used to joke that I could tell who the pilgrims were in church by their footwear. I wore wore flip flops. Sometimes with toe socks. God loves us all despite poor footwear choices..
 
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2) I don’t want to take away from others. I’m a ‘tourist’ for lack of better word. My presence should not affect anyone who has a deeper purpose to be there. Religion can be very deep and personal to some, I have spoken to many friends because the notion of faith does fascinate me. But my curiosity should not negatively affect anyone who is there to worship.
Could your quiet presence possibly hinder someone else? Really, there is no problem.
Perhaps it will be a relief to reflect that it's not as if you will have a sign around your neck saying "NOT Catholic," or even "Tourist." If you are quiet and respectful, no one will know you are not Catholic - not all Catholics take communion. And (quite honestly) no one will likely even pay any attention to you sitting there, except perhaps to ask if an empty seat next to you is taken or not. It's wonderful to just go and be quiet, and to appreciate the common humanity of us all - exchanging the sign of peace is always very connecting and touching to me.

And @ficklefancyfree, full disclosure - I'm not Christian. And I have always, always felt most welcome. You will be too.
As Fr @Arthur Gil de Lamadrid said:
Relax and enjoy the use of the space for the purpose for which it was designed.

When you get to Santiago, I'd encourage you to go to the English-language Mass and have a quiet word with Fr. Manny afterwards - his kindness and wisdom are precious.
 

Aspigrina

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino del Norte
I agree with most of people here, there's no problem at all with your attendance, many other people do, pilgrims masses are pretty informal, wear your sandals with no concerns.
I just want to share my experience of it helps you somehow. I am Spanish and I don't believe in God at all. As a child I attended mostly Catholic schools. After that, I've avoided contact with the church.
Anyway, I feel that Christian religion is at the base of European culture and that it connects is with our past and that is for me part of the charm of the Camino de Santiago.
I enjoyed religious references all along the way as historical waypoints and I am very glad that I attended the pilgrims mass in Santiago. It seamed a nice way to share our feelings of fulfilment at the end of our ways, sharing that with so many people from all the world was magnificent. I had been as a child in the cathedral when my family lived in Galicia and so I had good memories to relive and also I was lucky to see the Botafumeiro do its thing which is quite impressive.
So all in all, I would recommend you to at least go to mass at Santiago, I'm sure you won't regret it .
Buen camino!
 

KFH

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
^
Some good advice throughout the thread, fff.

Let any worry go. You have everything you need to attend a mass in Spain or anywhere-- a sense of respect and an open heart.

I went to my first Catholic church about ten years before I became Catholic. Was nervous just walking in and couldn't articulate why I was even there. But, as Evelyn Waugh wrote, there was "a twitch upon the thread" which drew me there.

Take some time to go early to sit or kneel and pray. Take a few minutes afterward and light a candle for your loved ones, similar to what you did when you were younger.
 
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Hola (or G'day from Oz) @ficklefancyfree
As a practicing Catholic I am happy that you wish to be appropriately dressed when attending Mass. Most of the above post have covered this aspect. However as a non-catholic (by your own admission) and not even christian then you should not line up to receive communion. But you could come forward for a blessing - cross your arms (palms) to opposite shoulders is normally an accepted sign of requesting a blessing.
At the end of the Mass the priest will normally ask pilgrims to come forward for a blessing. You can join this group. The Mass will be in the local language so unless your Spanish is good you may not understand. Best wishes for a happy Camino.
 

Bob from L.A. !

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Camino Francis 2012, 2014, 2016. Camino Norte 2018. Many more to come in my future God willing !
Not being a Catholic or Christian I admire that you are taking the time and concern to be seek appropriate norms. Good on you!
I believe if you just exercise common sense you will be fine. As you enjoy your walk good luck finding an open church along the way.
In my previous Camino's and enjoying masses in the larger cities I/we have never been confronted by any "church police" while wearing shorts or sandals.
No need to overthink the topic. My suggestion is to use good judgement and common sense.
 
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Vancouver Rose

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Camino Frances (Fall of 2022)
Maybe my experiences in a church may help you. I am a non practicing Jew but I consider myself 100% Jewish even though I am not a fan of organized religion. (kind of long and complicated reason which I will not get into). I grew up in New York at a time when virtually everyone was Jewish or Catholic, except a large number of Baptist African Americans, at least the guys I went to school with. I have been to and been even been in some wedding parties of close Catholic friends. In the past and now doing caminos especially when I go to the Pilgrim Mass, this is what I do. I sit quietly during mass, and when I was in a wedding party stood quietly of course. When the congregation stands, I stand. When the congregation kneels I sit quietly, I say no prayers at all. I do not even say Amen. Of course I do not participate in any of the ceremonies, like getting the wafer and wine from the priest. On camino I try to at least wear the cleanest clothes I can. I am respectful but do not feel a part of the service, just an observer. Even in Santiago where the cathedral itself has great meaning for me. It is not religious, it is spiritual and connects me to my past, present and future caminos.
As a fellow Jew, I'll be travelling the Camino for the first time next month, I plan on doing much as you've described: An occasional stop in, to experience, observe, honor the practices of others, but not try to make them my own. Just as I would if I were invited to have Christmas or Easter dinner with others. Having said that, I'll be on Camino on Rosh Hashana (likely in Burgos), and have thought about buying apples and honey to share with others at my alburgue that night.
 

dbier

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Last 114km Camino Frances, Jul 21
2023 - Camino P
Buen Camino!
It's very kind of you to want to visit and participate in a spirit of respect. I wish I were on pilgrimage this year. Keep seeking!

By way of comparison, Western Roman Catholics used to share more cultural practices with our Orthodox brethern and sisters. To this day, they *really* appreciate women being covered in their churches, with men in long pants. I always carry a scarf for my head and stay covered, if I think I may be visiting. And I do what they do (mostly, they stand) when I am there, as their liturgies differ significantly from what I know.
 
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To Santiago and back (roads & paths; Tours; Francés; sea; roads & paths)
You could come forward for a blessing - cross your arms (palms) to opposite shoulders is normally an accepted sign of requesting a blessing
Just out of curiosity since this suggestion has been made repeatedly for pilgrims who are not at all familiar with the ins and outs of Holy Communion at a Catholic mass. I know that folding your arms in the manner described to request merely a blessing and not the host has become a practice in a number of countries in recent years. I understand that it makes sense in certain situations: If you are the non-Catholic or non-practising partner in a couple, or in a family, then you will not be totally left out when your partner or family members get up to receive and you are in your home parish but is this even common in Spain and especially for single pilgrims walking on Camino?

As I mentioned, this year I've watched the live broadcast of the pilgrim mass at the Cathedral of Santiago numerous times and I've not seen a single person doing this. I just wonder. One can try, of course, but I myself would not give this advice for the misa del peregrino at the Cathedral for example.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
06,CF;13,CP;17,SSal;19,Ingles
Just out of curiosity since this suggestion has been made repeatedly for pilgrims who are not at all familiar with the ins and outs of Holy Communion at a Catholic mass. I know that folding your arms in the manner described to request merely a blessing and not the host has become a practice in a number of countries in recent years. I understand that it makes sense in certain situations: If you are the non-Catholic or non-practising partner in a couple, or in a family, then you will not be totally left out when your partner or family members get up to receive and you are in your home parish but is this even common in Spain and especially for single pilgrims walking on Camino?

As I mentioned, this year I've watched the live broadcast of the pilgrim mass at the Cathedral of Santiago numerous times and I've not seen a single person doing this. I just wonder. One can try, of course, but I myself would not give this advice for the misa del peregrino at the Cathedral for example.
I agree with you. If anyone wants to check out the situation, I suppose a question to the Pilgrim Companions in the Pilgrim office would supply an answer.
link here, in a few languages:
The last one is in English And includes a gmail address.
 

Molly Cassidy

Travelling light
Time of past OR future Camino
Starting May 2023 from St Jean Pied de Port
Just out of curiosity since this suggestion has been made repeatedly for pilgrims who are not at all familiar with the ins and outs of Holy Communion at a Catholic mass. I know that folding your arms in the manner described to request merely a blessing and not the host has become a practice in a number of countries in recent years. I understand that it makes sense in certain situations: If you are the non-Catholic or non-practising partner in a couple, or in a family, then you will not be totally left out when your partner or family members get up to receive and you are in your home parish but is this even common in Spain and especially for single pilgrims walking on Camino?

As I mentioned, this year I've watched the live broadcast of the pilgrim mass at the Cathedral of Santiago numerous times and I've not seen a single person doing this. I just wonder. One can try, of course, but I myself would not give this advice for the misa del peregrino at the Cathedral for example.
I've only seen this at family events like baptisms where some family members or friends are non-Catholics.
 
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Hi Fickle, I don't know when you plan to walk. However I would say try to find a copy of the New King James version of the bible. Begin in the book of Matthew. The more you read the more you will understand what the christian faith is about.
 

LRH

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
September/October (2016)
May (2023)
Easier said than done!

Been wanting to do it for a long while, probably longer than I realise. It peaks when I’m abroad and visiting wonderful churches and fascinated at what this means for people and to people.

I think speaking to someone in the uk means I need to believe. I want to be a fly in the wall. My heart rate is elevated right now, no idea why!

Anyway, I might pop in, I might not. Religion plural terrifies me as I just don’t know enough to know.

Basically I really would like to participate but I don’t want to offend anyone. That’s probably why I have never done it, spoken to anyone
Or attended a service here. I just have a lot of whys, and after a while it can come across as obtuse or offensive unless you are incredibly patient. I don’t feel it’s my place to walk in. I’m curious, others believe. I want to satisfy my intellect, other are trying to connect deeper to God. Am I making sense? 30 years later and still as confused as I was as a child.

Oh and by participate I mean to be a part of, sit and experience one percent of what the others do.
You should be fine with your evening attire - something to cover your shoulders (modest presentation). I would not over think this. The fact you have a curiosity/desire to experience all that your Camino will bring is all you need - being open to whatever will be.
There were several places that did a special service for pilgrims. Many chose to attend for similar curiosity that you express here.

Bottom line - as expressed by several already - be respectful, go with open heart/mind, take in "the experience" for whatever it may offer you. And worth repeating, try not to over think this...it's enough that you want the experience.

Buen Camino!
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
As a fellow Jew, I'll be travelling the Camino for the first time next month, I plan on doing much as you've described: An occasional stop in, to experience, observe, honor the practices of others, but not try to make them my own. Just as I would if I were invited to have Christmas or Easter dinner with others. Having said that, I'll be on Camino on Rosh Hashana (likely in Burgos), and have thought about buying apples and honey to share with others at my alburgue that night.
Maybe there might be a service you could attend if you are taking a rest day there. It might be fun to experience.
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
As a fellow Jew, I'll be travelling the Camino for the first time next month, I plan on doing much as you've described: An occasional stop in, to experience, observe, honor the practices of others, but not try to make them my own. Just as I would if I were invited to have Christmas or Easter dinner with others. Having said that, I'll be on Camino on Rosh Hashana (likely in Burgos), and have thought about buying apples and honey to share with others at my alburgue that night.

Vancouver Rose,

After Burgos and Castrojeriz you will climb the Alto de Mostelares; then you will see widely; to the east the path taken from Castrojeriz and to the west the path to take.
Looking north you might glimpse the location of Mota de los Judios, a "lost" 13th c Jewish settlement recently excavated. Archeological finds from the site were published 2018 in this
illustrated scholarly overview

Whenever/wherever you do go Carpe diem.
 
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Katherine Radeka

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés (2022, 2023)
I know enough Spanish to get by with some short easy chats. During masses I would try to keep up but when it got to be too much I would quit trying for a while and pretend I was attending a Latin mass.
I found that my Spanish improved a lot by working out the translations for the parts of the Mass that I knew by heart. And by the end, I could say the Rosary and the Lord's Prayer in Spanish.
 

KFH

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
^
Just out of curiosity since this suggestion has been made repeatedly for pilgrims who are not at all familiar with the ins and outs of Holy Communion at a Catholic mass. I know that folding your arms in the manner described to request merely a blessing and not the host has become a practice in a number of countries in recent years. I understand that it makes sense in certain situations: If you are the non-Catholic or non-practising partner in a couple, or in a family, then you will not be totally left out when your partner or family members get up to receive and you are in your home parish but is this even common in Spain and especially for single pilgrims walking on Camino?

As I mentioned, this year I've watched the live broadcast of the pilgrim mass at the Cathedral of Santiago numerous times and I've not seen a single person doing this. I just wonder. One can try, of course, but I myself would not give this advice for the misa del peregrino at the Cathedral for example.
Excellent point and question K.

This is a well-meaning but non-liturgical practice which started in America but I don't know how widespread it is around the world.

I've been to mass in Spain many times but never on the Camino (our first one is upcoming) and have never thought of watching to see if there is this sort of blessing in my previous travels around Spain.

It is up to the priest to do these sorts of things and oftentimes fellow priests in a parish will be of one thought about it-- yea or nay. A lot depends on the specific church you are walking into, and I'd wonder if it is a practice in small towns along the Camino.

Those with direct experience with this on the Camino--please answer this question because we don't want our friend to be embarrassed.

I've been to masses in the U.S. where the priest is a little flustered by someone walking up and expecting this. Please understand that the reason for his frustration is that this is not a liturgical practice. Some priests don't like it while some are very happy to do it.

Please note to those who go to mass expecting this blessing: *Be very clear that you are not in line for communion but rather for this blessing.* You can be very clear by crossing your arms on your chest BEFORE you stand in front of the priest. You want the priest to see you in this position asap because otherwise he will instead be preparing to offer you communion which means he will have to change what he is doing with his hands.

Perhaps it is a good idea to be a little early at any mass you are considering doing this in order to ask if it an accepted practice at that particular church.
 

Katherine Radeka

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés (2022, 2023)
Excellent point and question K.

This is a well-meaning but non-liturgical practice which started in America but I don't know how widespread it is around the world.

I've been to mass in Spain many times but never on the Camino (our first one is upcoming) and have never thought of watching to see if there is this sort of blessing in my previous travels around Spain.

It is up to the priest to do these sorts of things and oftentimes fellow priests in a parish will be of one thought about it-- yea or nay. A lot depends on the specific church you are walking into, and I'd wonder if it is a practice in small towns along the Camino.

Those with direct experience with this on the Camino--please answer this question because we don't want our friend to be embarrassed.

I've been to masses in the U.S. where the priest is a little flustered by someone walking up and expecting this. Please understand that the reason for his frustration is that this is not a liturgical practice. Some priests don't like it while some are very happy to do it.

Please note to those who go to mass expecting this blessing: *Be very clear that you are not in line for communion but rather for this blessing.* You can be very clear by crossing your arms on your chest BEFORE you stand in front of the priest. You want the priest to see you in this position asap because otherwise he will instead be preparing to offer you communion which means he will have to change what he is doing with his hands.

Perhaps it is a good idea to be a little early at any mass you are considering doing this in order to ask if it an accepted practice at that particular church.

I didn't see anyone do this on the Camino, and as an English speaker, I wouldn't have known if the priest had made this available.

Here in the States, it's parish-by-parish. The more conservative ones in my diocese discourage the practice, even for children. They tell parents that they can bring their children with them to receive Communion but won't bless the kids.

Other parishes are so encouraging of the practice that they deliver a specific invitation right before Communion. Before my baptism, I'd go if I was invited but otherwise I'd just step aside to let others get into the Communion line.
 
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BJ Santavy

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
I plan to walk from SJPP in May 2020
Easier said than done!

Been wanting to do it for a long while, probably longer than I realise. It peaks when I’m abroad and visiting wonderful churches and fascinated at what this means for people and to people.

I think speaking to someone in the uk means I need to believe. I want to be a fly in the wall. My heart rate is elevated right now, no idea why!

Anyway, I might pop in, I might not. Religion plural terrifies me as I just don’t know enough to know.

Basically I really would like to participate but I don’t want to offend anyone. That’s probably why I have never done it, spoken to anyone
Or attended a service here. I just have a lot of whys, and after a while it can come across as obtuse or offensive unless you are incredibly patient. I don’t feel it’s my place to walk in. I’m curious, others believe. I want to satisfy my intellect, other are trying to connect deeper to God. Am I making sense? 30 years later and still as confused as I was as a child.

Oh and by participate I mean to be a part of, sit and experience one percent of what the others do.
I grew up Catholic but haven’t practiced for about 30 years. But I’ve been to some Catholic weddings a funerals and a couple special occasion services. In Canada they welcome everyone into the church and encourage everyone to pray, song and listen to the messages. There is value for everyone. As for the Eucharist, only Catholics who have received their first communion and have recently been to Confession can receive it. But at the services I’ve attended, those that weren’t going to receive the Eucharist are encouraged to go up in the line and when in front of the priest cross their arms in an x across their chest and would receive a blessing from the priest. Who couldn’t benefit blessings?? And even if you are not catholic, I think these churches are places for everyone to rest, think and pray. The feelings in these spaces can be powerful.
 
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I've only seen this at family events like baptisms where some family members or friends are non-Catholics.

I really think we need to remember that this is a custom which originated in North America just before the turn of the century, and not universally known in Spain. When I first walked the Camin (2002) I saw priests clearly puzzled by this-- in discussion with one of them, he had no idea what this meant. Since then it has become better-known but there are clergy who will not recognize the practice.
 

kelleymac

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
March/April 2015, Late April 2016, Sept/Oct 2017, April 2019.
Hello everyone,

I was hoping for a little advice. I would like to visit and attend mass as often as I can along my Camino. I’m not Catholic or even Christian. I understand that I should dress appropriately and plan on bringing a full length jumpsuit, with a shawl to cover my shoulders. If it fits in my pack, I’ll even bring a light cardigan.

Is it ok to be wearing flip flops? It’s either that or my dusty walking shoes. What does everyone else do?

Also, other than be respectful, anything I should be aware of during mass?

Thanks
Fi
I love going to mass on the camino, I go mass, vespers, and/or a blessing when I can. (Just call me a happy Catholic.) Not only do I love the mass, but I also go into churches when I can to look at the centuries of art and think of all those who made this building their beautiful communal and holy place. There are stories behind the saints-- which I find fascinating. And I light a candle when there is the opportunity. (You can do this too- it's easy. pm me if you want more info.) You can often go into a church when there is no mass going on.

Regarding clothes-- just wore my walking clothes and shoes. And yes, my knees and shoulders are covered. Each time I have walked, I plan on packing a silk sari-skirt that weighs next to nothing, but then at the last minute I set it aside as unnecessary weight.
So just stand and sit when other do, or just sit (like my protestant mom always did).

The one thing you oughtn't do is go up to the altar to take communion.

I also want to chime in with the others and suggest you head for a local mass in English, so you can get a feel for what is going on.
 
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MinaKamina

Eclipsigrina ~ August 12, 2026
Time of past OR future Camino
Jacobspad 2017
If you are the non-Catholic or non-practising partner in a couple, or in a family, then you will not be totally left out when your partner or family members get up to receive and you are in your home parish but is this even common in Spain and especially for single pilgrims walking on Camino?

As I mentioned, this year I've watched the live broadcast of the pilgrim mass at the Cathedral of Santiago numerous times and I've not seen a single person doing this. I just wonder. One can try, of course, but I myself would not give this advice for the misa del peregrino at the Cathedral for example.

Mass is a religious ceremony and not at therapy group. Catholic churches are very welcoming yet there are rules. (There are rules everywhere in the world.) If anyone feels left out because they cannot join others for the holy communion, well that is as it is, and one should either practice resilience or convert.

Don't join the line, don't cross your arms, because the priest is not handing out blessings at that moment. This is specific ritual and not a drop-down menu with options to choose from.
 

BrazenlySober

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Planning to arrive in SdC 8 June 2023
Hello everyone,

I was hoping for a little advice. I would like to visit and attend mass as often as I can along my Camino. I’m not Catholic or even Christian. I understand that I should dress appropriately and plan on bringing a full length jumpsuit, with a shawl to cover my shoulders. If it fits in my pack, I’ll even bring a light cardigan.

Is it ok to be wearing flip flops? It’s either that or my dusty walking shoes. What does everyone else do?

Also, other than be respectful, anything I should be aware of during mass?

Thanks
Fi
I would not advise flip flops, and would recommend modest dress, but no need to fret too much. While your are certainly welcome to attend services and I in fact highly recommend it, you should NOT receive the Eucharist during the reception of communion as this is only rightly received by Catholics who are properly disposed to receive it.
 
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Mass is a religious ceremony and not at therapy group. Catholic churches are very welcoming yet there are rules. (There are rules everywhere in the world.) If anyone feels left out because they cannot join others for the holy communion, well that is as it is, and one should either practice resilience or convert.

Don't join the line, don't cross your arms, because the priest is not handing out blessings at that moment. This is specific ritual and not a drop-down menu with options to choose from.
Please excuse us! Goodness, @MinaKamina - there's no need to scold anyone here. No-one was whining or otherwise demanding anything that is not being offered, but merely wanting to know (or explaining) how best to be respectful. It's no wonder that people are concerned about not causing offense as it seems it is easily aroused.
 
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