18 Devout Catholic Behaviors That Others Don’t Understand

SharePinEmailCatholicism is an ancient and historic faith that is filled with tradition and ritual, many of which stand out from other Christian groups. Despite their quirky nature and the fact that other people don’t quite understand them, these practices are integral to the Catholic faith, spirituality, and community. In this article, we have compiled 18…

Catholicism is an ancient and historic faith that is filled with tradition and ritual, many of which stand out from other Christian groups. Despite their quirky nature and the fact that other people don’t quite understand them, these practices are integral to the Catholic faith, spirituality, and community. In this article, we have compiled 18 of the most unique things that Catholics do that people of other faiths don’t understand.


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Catholics often genuflect before they take their seats on a pew or when they pass the altar. This action, when they bend their knee to the ground, is a display of reverence for the presence of Jesus and a gesture of humility based on the belief in Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist.

Sign of the cross

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You may have seen Catholics making the sign of the cross when they enter a holy space. Famously, Catholic soccer players often do the sign of the cross when they come out onto the pitch, touching the forehead, chest, and each shoulder representing the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This prayer invokes the Holy Trinity and is commonly used at the beginning and end of other prayers.

holy water

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When entering and leaving a church, many Catholics dip their finger into a bowl of holy water and use it to make the sign of the cross. This is emblematic of their baptism and is a way to cleanse and bless themselves on entry to the church. Many Catholics also have containers of holy water in their homes or gift them to family members as a blessing.

ash Wednesday

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Have you ever seen people leaving church with ash on their foreheads? On Ash Wednesday, Catholics mark the beginning of Lent with ash in the shape of a cross on their forehead. This is symbolic of repentance and mortality, and when received is accompanied by the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.

Rosary prayers

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Many Catholics own a set of rosary beads, and each bead represents a prayer. For example, some of the prayers represented on the beads are the Apostles’ Creed, Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory Be’s. Each ten Hail Marys is said to celebrate the lives of Jesus and Mary, with the beads providing a framework for this form of worship.


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Catholic churches tend to include a booth that is a dedicated space to take confession. Here, they confess their sins to a priest and express remorse for their transgressions, receiving absolution and penance in return. This sacrament is a way in which Catholics receive spiritual healing and forgiveness from their priest.

fasting and abstinence

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During the season of Lent, Catholics take part in feasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Those who are particularly devout abstain from meat on all Fridays during this period to demonstrate self-discipline. Often, Catholics and even atheists within Catholic societies give up something for the whole period of Lent, for example becoming vegan or giving up alcohol.

holy days of obligation

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There are many special holy days within the Catholic calendar where they attend a special Mass, such as Christmas, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and All Saints’ Day. These days celebrate and acknowledge events of significance in the life of Christ, Mary, and all the saints.

adoration of the blessed sacrament

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Catholics spend time in reflection and prayer during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, demonstrating their belief in the real presence of Jesus. Eucharistic adoration encompasses a time of silence, prayer, music, and readings. For Catholics, these practices are a way of receiving and honoring Jesus Christ himself.

veneration of saints

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Saints are holy individuals and revered role models in Catholicism. They are honored throughout the faith, through prayer, particular holy days of feasting, and decadent artwork and statues, which serve as beautiful reminders of their virtues. Many Catholic countries’ calendars are full of Saints days that celebrate the life and lessons of particular saints.

Marian devotions

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Mary, the mother of Jesus, is very highly revered within Catholicism, to a unique extent when contrasted with other faiths. Devotions include praying the Hail Mary, and the Rosary, and celebrating on feast days such as the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception. All of these dedications represent a heartfelt acknowledgment of the love and reverence for Mary and her role in history and faith.

stations of the cross

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The Stations of the Cross is a devotion in which Catholics pray at fourteen stations, each one representative of events from Jesus’ condemnation through to His burial. Each station is prayed upon with specific prayers and invitations to reflect, particularly during the period of Lent.

scapulars and medals

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Catholicism has a lot of art and imagery used to revere their holy saints and symbols. Many Catholics, for example, wear items around the neck known as scapulars that bear these images or symbols, as well as medals. Wearing these pieces is a way to remind them of their faith, and their commitments to Catholicism, and for some represent holy protection.

incense and bells

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You may have seen videos of Catholic church Mass’ with smoke rising above the congregation. This is incense, which is burned to symbolically represent the prayers rising from the Mass up to heaven. The sound of bells rings out at key moments throughout a service, for example during the consecration, to highlight the significance of the moment and attract attention here.


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Relics are remains or materials of the saints, such as items they touched, their bones, or clothing. These pieces are very significant to Catholics and are often held and displayed reverentially in churches, or taken out on special occasions as a way to connect the congregation to the holy person related to the relic.


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Catholic priests regularly bless people, material objects, and places as a way to place God’s grace and blessing upon them. Examples include a new home, religious items, newborn children, pets, and cars. This is a way for believers to have divine safeguarding placed upon the things most important to them.

the sign of peace

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Like the Sign of the Cross, the Sign of Peace is another gesture that takes place in churches and during Mass. It can look a bit different depending on the circumstances, whether it is a hug or a handshake, but in all cases symbolizes a unified community based on peace and love. The practice happens in a service just before the distribution of the Eucharist.

feasting and festivities

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Catholicism involves some great days of celebration and feasting, often marking the days of patron saints. Festivals, processions, particular masses, and community meals are just a few of the festivities that bring together religious, cultural, and societal traditions, creating a sense of community within the wider Catholic faith.

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