Visiting our Parish

St. Jude is a Roman Catholic parish in the diocese of Grand Rapids. Thank you for visiting! 

Please be sure to visit the Shrine of St. Jude which is located down the hallway to your left as you enter the church.

Visiting as a non-Catholic

Thank you for your interest in visiting St. Jude Catholic Church! We are a Roman Catholic parish in the diocese of Grand Rapids. The word parish comes from the Greek word “paroikia” meaning “a pilgrim people,” a people on a journey of faith; a journey that we hope one day will lead to the fullness of life in God’s Kingdom forever.

Please introduce yourself to one of our ushers, so we can give you a welcome bag!

Visiting a Catholic church as a non-Catholic can be somewhat intimidating and foreign. Be not afraid! Here are some tips to help you relax and feel at home.*

  1. Arrive early. Arrive at least 15 minutes early to find a good seat. Don’t worry, most Catholics will arrive about 5 before Mass starts, so you should be able to find a good seat!
  2. You won’t understand everything (and that’s ok). At Mass, we Catholics do things and say things which are likely to seem rather alien to you. Don’t worry, it’ll all become less strange over time. The Mass is based on almost 2,000 years of Christian theology and practice, and this itself rests on the even older foundation of Judaism. Things at the Mass are sometimes initially hard to understand because it is so rich and it has so many layers of meaning. For example, consider incense… Incense is used at Mass for a host of reasons. It is symbolic of our prayers rising to God, but it also harkens back to the incense which was offered in the Jerusalem Temple in Ancient Israel. I can promise you that if you keep coming back each week and start digging into the Scriptural and historical roots of the Mass, it’ll all start to make sense and you’ll come to discover the profound richness which can be found there.
  3. There’s a script. When you visit, you’ll soon notice that there’s a “script” for Mass. The priest and the people have prescribed parts. The priest will say something (e.g. “The Lord be with you!”) and then all the people will respond in unison (e.g. “And with your spirit”). These exchanges and prayers have been prayed by the Church since its beginning and are worthy of a lifetime of meditation. The liturgy of the Church extends back to ancient Judaism where we can see how God prescribed the form of worship in the Old Testament. Everything will probably be entirely in English, but there may be a few small parts sung in Latin or Greek.
  4. Get ready for Catholic calisthenics. Not only is there a “script”, there are “stage directions” too! God made us body and soul. Therefore, at Mass we don’t just think pious thoughts, we also worship with our bodies. This means that we stand to hear the words of Christ proclaimed, we sit to listen to the priest’s homily and we kneel in prayer at Communion.
  5. Don’t worry about “doing something wrong.” No one will notice or care! Just follow along and copy those around you if you can. Don’t worry if you can’t. But you are free to participate in all the prayers and motions (except for Communion, but we’ll talk about that later). You don’t have to be Catholic to make the sign of the Cross.
  6. There are two parts. The Mass is divided into two parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The former part is devoted to prayer, the reading of Sacred Scripture and the priest’s homily, which is his reflection on the Bible passages which have just been read. It comes from the Jewish practice of reading in the synagogue. The latter part of the Mass focuses of Holy Communion, or as it’s more commonly called, The Eucharist. In the very early church, before Christianity was legal and accepted, the Christians might attend synagogue for the readings and then go to a house to celebrate the Eucharist. After Christianity became legal, the two parts were united into what we call the Mass. St. Justin Martyr describes the “Mass” around the year 150 AD in his First Apology. It’s worth reading!
  7. It’s all about Jesus. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Much like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we spend the first part of Mass reading the Scriptures and seeing how the old is fulfilled in the new and how it all points to Jesus. After Jesus unfolded the Scriptures to the disciples, He celebrated the Eucharist with them. The second part of the Mass is focused on Jesus in the Eucharist. Unless you understand the Catholic belief about the Eucharist, much of the Mass will seem incomprehensible…So what is the Eucharist? Well, in the part of the Mass known as “The Offertory Procession”, bread and wine (mixed with water) are brought forward and placed on the altar. Catholics believe that, by the authority of Christ, when the priest calls down the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine, while the appearance of bread and wine remain, they are transformed into Jesus’ Body and Blood. By consuming them, we are filled with the Divine Life.Understanding the Eucharist illuminates so much of what might be confusing about the Mass. This is why Catholics take the Mass so seriously. This is why we fast from food beforehand. This is why we don’t bring coffee to Mass. This is why Catholics kneel at Communion and why we bow towards the altar and genuflect toward the tabernacle, the shiny box which contains the Eucharist.
  8. About Communion… It’s sometimes a difficult topic, but it shouldn’t be. Since Catholics believe that Jesus is truly present in the bread and wine and in the light of Scripture, we take the receiving of Holy Communion very seriously. The Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. We must be properly prepared to receive it (1 Cor. 11:26-29). A non-Catholic who does not believe in the Real Presence would not be properly prepared to receive the Eucharist. Also, notice the word communion. The word implies a unity and a oneness. Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of faith communities with whom we are not yet fully united are not admitted to Holy Communion. As a result, Communion is restricted to practicing Catholics (and it’s restricted even among Catholics, but that’s a different story).  Likewise, Catholics should not receive communion in a non-Catholic church. Doing so symbolizes a unity that doesn’t exist. So what do you do? You can either stay in your pew or you can go up in the communion line, cross your arms across your chest (a hand on each opposite shoulder) and receive a blessing, such as “Receive Jesus in your heart.”


* Source: Restless Catholic