Traditional Latin Mass Newcomers Guide
The Mass of the Roman Rite
With his 2007 apostolic letter entitled Pontificum Summorum, Pope Benedict restored to the regular liturgy of the Church the traditional Latin Mass that dates back in its principal features to the early Christian centuries before Pope Gregory the Great fifteen centuries ago. He decreed that any Roman Catholic priest can celebrate Holy Mass in either of its two legitimate forms:
o The “ordinary form”, the newer post-Vatican II Mass of the 1970 Roman Missal
of Pope Paul VI—this is the typical vernacular parish Mass; or
o The “extraordinary form”, the older pre-Vatican II Mass of the 1962 Roman Missal
of Pope John XXIII—this the “traditional Latin Mass” (TLM).
The first traditional Latin Mass you attend likely will seem “different”, even a bit strange. It may take several Latin Masses to become acclimated to the new more interior and prayerful mode of worship of the TLM. It's probably best at first to mainly look and listen to get the look and feel of the ancient Mass—its sights and sounds, the bells and smells (the incense)--rather than trying to follow and understand everything fully.
But you should fairly quickly learn to spot the "big" parts of the older Mass that you already know (albeit in English) from your familiarity with the newer Mass in the vernacular—the Kyrie (”Lord, have mercy”), Gloria (“Glory to God”), Credo (“I believe”), the Sanctus (“Holy, Holy, Holy”) followed by the Eucharistic prayer, the Pater Noster (“Our Father”) and the the Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God”) before Holy Communion.
A new Mass–old Mass table included below details the close correspondence between the various parts and prayers of the old and new Masses. The fact that the principal parts of one form of the Mass are virtually the same as in the other — and that they occur in the same order, with many of the prayers worded almost identically — corroborates the declaration of Pope Benedict XVI that the ordinary form (OF) and the extraordinary form (EF) are two valid forms of the one Roman Rite of Holy Mass.
PRAYING HOLY MASS
Early in the 1900s, long before Vatican II, Pope St. Pius X encouraged active and conscious participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass:
"The Holy Mass is a prayer itself, even the highest prayer that exists. It is the Sacrifice, dedicated by our Redeemer at the Cross, and repeated every day on the Altar. If you wish to hear Mass as it should be heard, you must follow with eye, heart, and mouth all that happens at the Altar. Further, you must pray with the Priest the holy words said by him. You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings which are contained in these words and in this manner you ought to follow all that happens on the Altar. When acting in this way, you have prayed Holy Mass."
After participating several traditional Masses in the “look and listen” mode mentioned above, you may be ready to use a missalette—like the one pictured at left below—to follow the prayers more closely, and to begin to familiarize yourself with smaller details so as to follow more closely the actions of the priest at the altar. Pick one up off the entrance table on your way into Latin Mass. It shows the Order of Mass with Latin on the left, English on the right.
Don’t let the Latin be a barrier to your appreciation of this form of Mass. The priest at the altar offers the prayers of the Mass to God in Latin. But most people—even those not unfamiliar with Latin—pray personally in their own native language. And therefore unite themselves with the prayer of the priest by following the English column in the missalette and insert. This interior prayerful participation is the “active and conscious participation” that Pope Pius X urged (rather than some of the silly business seen in some parishes in recent decades).
The Campion Missal and the red missalette
As a (literally) weightier alternative to missalette and insert, on your way into Mass at Holy Ghost Church you can pick up one of the hardback copies of the stunningly beautiful St. Edmund Campion Missals (info here) stacked on an entrance table. Try it out, and see whether a full-fledged missal fits you better. The Mass propers for each individual Sunday are in the front portion of the book—e.g., turn to page 340 for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost. The Ordinary of the Mass—with the parts the same every Sunday—is in the full-color central section. Turn to page 569 for the beginning of Mass.
THE OLD MASS AND THE NEW MASS
The parts of the traditional Latin Mass that are printed in green below are contained in the 4-page inserts (like the one above right) that are available at each Sunday Mass at Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville. All the other parts are contained in missalettes. Most people move the insert through the missalette as the Mass proceeds, so they can follow and pray the variable "proper parts" (insert) and fixed "ordinary" parts (missalette) in turn. Note the pairing of EF parts on the left and the corresponding OF parts on the right.
Extraordinary Form (old Mass)
Prayers at the foot of the altar (pp 10–13)
The Introit (proper)
Kyrie Eleison ... (pp 14–15)
Gloria (pp 16–17)
The Collect (proper)
The Epistle (proper)
The Gradual (proper)
The Gospel (proper)
The Credo (pp 20-21)
Offertory verse (proper)
Offering of the Bread and Wine (pp 23–27)
The Secret (proper)
The Preface (proper)
The Sanctus (pp 28–29)
The (Roman) Canon (pp 30–39)
The Pater Noster (pp 38–39)
The Agnus Dei (pp 40–41)
Holy Communion (pp 40–45)
The Communion Verse (proper)
The Postcommunion (proper)
Dismissal and Final Blessing (pp 46–47)
The Last Gospel (pp 48–49)
Ordinary Form (new Mass)
Penitential rite (“I confess ... “, etc.)
Entrance antiphon (or opening hymn)
“Lord, have mercy ... ”
“Glory to God in the highest … ”
Profession of faith (“We believe ... “)
Offertory antiphon (omitted in OF)
Preparation of the Offerings
Prayer over the Offerings
“Holy, Holy, Holy, ...”
Eucharistic Prayer (I, II, III, or IV)
“Our Father, ... “
“Lamb of God, ... “
Prayer after Communion
Final Blessing and Dismissal
(deleted in Ordinary Form)
Page numbers refer to the red missalettes for the fixed parts of the Mass that do not change from day to day.
Proper prayers are found in the weekly inserts that provide variable parts of the Mass— the readings and prayers that do change from day to day.
The Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Angus Dei are sung by people and choir in a sung Mass.
After your first several Latin Masses, you may appreciate the reactions of someone who—after attending Holy Ghost’s first solemn high Latin Mass in decades (account here)—spoke of its “moving beauty and reverence, of how the elaborate actions of the ministers at the altar and the fragrance of incense had combined with sight and sound to provide an enveloping atmosphere of reverence that lifted them up to heaven in adoration and worship.”
One of the fullest and most complete explanations of the special ambiance and ethos of the traditional Latin Mass was given by the homilist at the first solemn high Latin Mass to be televised live around the world on EWTN on September 14, 2007—the day on which Pope Benedict’s restoration of the Latin Mass in its extraordinary form went into effect. Read it here or listen to it here. You may still be able view it here in the full video of this historic Latin Mass that was celebrated at Mother Angelica’s Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
TRADITIONAL CATHOLICS – STILL A MISSAL PEOPLE
Some older Catholics may remember the halcyon days of triumphant pre-Vatican II Catholicism when Catholic morality ruled supreme in the public square from Washington to Hollywood, when Bishop Fulton J. Sheen’s Life is Worth Living topped the TV ratings and Cardinal Spellman’s word was law in New York.
And when a young person typically received a children’s missal at first Communion (or perhaps Confirmation) and later graduated to a complete Sunday or daily Latin-English missal that served as a faithful and treasured companion at Holy Mass throughout the remainder of his or her life. The virtual disappearance of this Catholic “missal culture” may be counted among the sad consequences of the post-Vatican II era.
In his Milestones: Memoirs, 1927-1977 Pope Benedict XVI describes (pages 19-20 here) how a succession of personal missals shaped his development as a Catholic:
[My parents had received a Latin-German missal] as a gift on their wedding day in 1920, and so this was my family's prayer book from the beginning. Our parents helped us from early on to understand the liturgy. There was a children's prayer book adapted from the missal in which the unfolding of the sacred action was portrayed in pictures, so we could follow closely what was happening. Next to each picture there was a simple prayer that summarized the essentials of each part of the liturgy and adapted it to a child's mode of prayer.
I was then given a missal for children, in which the liturgy's basic texts themselves were printed. Then I got a missal for Sundays, which contained the complete liturgy for Sundays and feast days. Finally, I received the complete missal for every day of the year. Every new step into the liturgy was a great event for me. Each new book I was given was something precious to me, and I could not dream of anything more beautiful.
It was a riveting adventure to move by degrees into the mysterious world of the liturgy, which was being enacted before us and for us there on the altar. It was becoming more and more clear to me that here I was encountering a reality that no one had simply thought up, a reality that no official authority or great individual [or committee] had created. This mysterious fabric of texts and actions had grown from the faith of the Church over the centuries. It bore the whole weight of history within itself, and yet, at the same time, it was much more than the product of human history. . . . .
Naturally, the child I then was did not grasp every aspect of this, but I started down the road of the liturgy, and this became a continuous process of growth into a grand reality transcending all particular individuals and generations, a reality that became an occasion for me of ever-new amazement and discovery. The inexhaustible reality of the Catholic liturgy has accompanied me through all phases of life, and so I shall have to speak of it time and again.
So what finer birthday or Christmas present for the serious Catholic than a missal appropriate to his or her age and maturity? Some possibilities (click each image for details and purchase info):
Use of the ubiquitous red missalettes and propers leaflets (as described above) is a fine way for the TLM newcomer to begin. But the mature Catholic likely will in due course want to move up to the deeper spiritual engagement in the liturgy that a personal hand missal affords.