Some background regarding the Traditional Latin Mass
The Latin language is the national property of no one people, yet, through learning, can be common to all. This feature makes it especially appropriate for a universal Church. The use of Latin has enabled the Church to maintain unity amidst the disciples She has made of all nations. Most of the faithful who attend the Latin Mass do not know Latin. We choose the Latin Mass, not because of an attachment to the language, but because we believe it enhances our spiritual lives:
We find the Extraordinary Mass beautiful. The magnificence and solemnity of this Mass are the Church’s way of giving back to God grateful worship for all that He has given us. We believe beautiful Liturgy reverently offered illuminates the mystery of God’s very Presence among us. The rich sensory experience of a traditional Mass remind us that Mass is a foretaste of the heavenly Liturgy we will celebrate in the New Jerusalem at the end of time.
We are uplifted by the quiet reverence that is displayed before, during, and after Mass. We pray quietly before Mass begins (or remain quiet so as not to disturb others at prayer), and offer prayers of thanksgiving once Mass is over. We find the dignity and formality of the Latin Mass conducive to an encounter with the Divine.
We appreciate the Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is central in the sanctuary. We show Him reverence in traditional ways of posture and quiet demeanor.
The Gregorian Chant sung in the Latin Mass enriches us. The Church has used this manner of singing Her public prayers for many centuries. We find chant to be “poetry which sings on earth the mysteries of heaven and prepares us for the canticles of eternity.” There is even scientific evidence to show that chant aids one’s spiritual practice by causing brain waves to change to the alpha frequency wherein deeper states of prayer and meditation are possible.
We like participating in the popular devotions that have accompanied the Latin liturgy for many centuries to open their treasury of graces to us.
The Latin Missals we use offer a wealth of teaching about the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We know the Mass if not all the words of the language. Our missals contain beautifully worded English translations alongside the Latin that convey God’s awesome majesty and teach us how to pray with humility and piety.
I am not familiar with the Latin Mass. What should I expect if I attend?
You can feel confused at a Latin Mass if you do not know what to expect and why some things are done as they are. Here are some guidelines to help you better appreciate this treasure of your Catholic heritage:
- In the back of the church you will find missals containing the Ordinary of the Mass (that part that stays the same each Mass). You will also find a handout with the Propers (the part with the prayers and readings for a particular day of the liturgical year) in both Latin and English.
- Knowing when to stand, sit, or kneel can be hard for a newcomer. Just follow others around you, or refer to the guidelines in the margins of the missal.
- Some parts of the Mass are for the Priest only, and some are for the people and Priest together. At a Mass where there is singing, the organist/choir will sing all the parts of the people. You may sing all of these, but if you are not comfortable doing so, you may follow along by reading silently the English translation in your missal.
- Sometimes the organist/choir sings its part while the Priest says his part quietly at the altar. Because it takes longer for the singing of the prayers than it does for the Priest to say his, the two will overlap, and they will not be doing the same thing at the same time. You can either follow the singing or read what the Priest is saying.
- The Priest offers Holy Mass facing the altar because he and the people together are offering worship and sacrifice to God. He is not turning his back on the people to exclude us. Rather, we are all facing God.
- During the prayers surrounding the Consecration and the Consecration itself, there is silence as the Priest quietly prays the words that change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. You may read what he says in your missal. Appreciate this silence as a time of hushed awe in which we give thanks for the mystery of Christ’s saving sacrifice and for His coming to each of us in the Eucharist.
- Holy Communion is received kneeling at the altar rail on the tongue. “Amen” is not said when you receive.
- If you are not Catholic, you are requested not to receive Communion. If you are Catholic and know yourself to be in a state of mortal sin, you are to refrain from receiving Communion. A prayer to make a spiritual Communion at the time others receive can be found in the back of the missal.
- Those new to the Latin Mass often find that they have to attend several times to feel confident in their understanding of all that is taking place. Be patient if you feel unsure on your first few visits. In time you will become familiar with the Mass.
When you worship in the Extraordinary Form Mass you are joining a community of believers not only in this day and age, but you unite with the faithful who have worshipped in this manner for nearly two thousand years.