Latin Mass
Sancta Missa

Frequently Asked Questions

NEWCOMERS TO THE TRADITIONAL LATIN MASS

1.  How should people dress at the Traditional Latin Mass? Do men need to wear a suit? Do women need to wear a chapel veil (i.e. mantilla)?

Whenever Catholics attend Mass, whether it is in the Roman Rite, in the Byzantine Rite, the Chaldean Rite, or any other approved Rite of the Church, everyone should dress modestly and in a manner that is suitable to the occasion. One should avoid coming to Mass dressed in attire that is physically revealing, vain or especially casual.

It is always most edifying to note that gentlemen wear a coat and tie to Holy Mass. Going back to the tradition of the early Church, many women, in imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, choose to wear the chapel veil (i.e. mantilla), as a way of expressing their modesty and femininity.

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2.  How long is a Latin Mass?

On average, a typical Sunday Low Mass with a sermon/homily is from 45 minutes to 1 hour. A Sunday High Mass sung with Gregorian Chant and with a sermon/homily is usually 1 hour to 1 hour and ten minutes. If the choir sings a polyphonic Mass setting the Mass be 10 to 20 minutes longer, perhaps. This, of course, will vary with the number of communicants approaching the rail during the distribution of Holy Communion and with the length of the priest’s sermon.

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3.  Do young people attend the Latin Mass?

Some people are surprised at how many young families choose to attend the Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Typically, it is the large families in a parish who crave the Latin Mass most. While young people are the largest group that attends the Tridentine Mass, adults are returning today to be spiritually fed by the Mass of their youth. The Latin Mass must be available to any Catholic who wants to enjoy its rich spiritual fruits.

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4.  Does the Latin Mass fulfill my Sunday obligation?

Catholics of any rite can fulfill their obligation for Mass on Sundays and Holy Days at the Roman Mass in the Extraordinary Form. The traditional Latin Mass, of course, was the norm for centuries and as Pope Benedict XVI has stated, it has never been outlawed (i.e. abrogated).

In light of the proper understanding of the documents of the Second Vatican Counsel, and the clear teaching of Pope Benedict XVI in Summorum Ponficum, who today would dare question the validity, excellence, or spiritual benefits of the Mass that for centuries nourished the souls of the great saints and martyrs!

Mass in the Extraordinary Form (1962 Missale Romanum) fulfills the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, and there is no reason to doubt the authenticity or legality of the Mass that is our proud heritage.

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5.  What is the Structure of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form?

The first part of the Mass is a kind of introductory service, made up of chants, prayers and lessons (i.e. readings from Holy Scripture) -- namely, the Introit, the Kyrie, the Collect, the Epistle or Lesson, and the Gospel. On certain days the Gloria and the Nicene Creed are added.

This first part of the Mass is called the Mass of the Catechumens, while the remaining part is called the Mass of the Faithful. These names have their origin in the discipline of the early Church. In the first ages of Christianity, persons desiring to become Christians were obliged to undergo a course of instructions preparatory to baptism. They were called "catechumens," a Greek word meaning "one whose is being instructed." Catechumens, not yet fully initiated in the teachings and practices of Christianity, were customarily dismissed before the Offertory.

Likewise public sinners who had not yet been absolved were ordered to leave the church before the Offertory. The Sacrifice of the Mass was considered too holy for the presence of notorious sinners; likewise, it was thought to be too mysterious for catechumens. Only those who were baptized, -- "the Faithful" -- could take part in the actual Eucharistic Sacrifice. The Church, during the course of centuries, modified her discipline in this regard, and all are now permitted to remain.

The Mass is one continuous action, reproducing in a mysterious way the Life, Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. The structure of the Mass is as follows:

§ The Preparation – beginning with the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the Introit, Kyrie and Gloria.

§ The Instruction -- including the Collect, the Epistle, Gradual, Alleluia, (or Tract, and on certain feasts the Sequence), the Gospel (usually followed by a sermon), and the Credo.

§ The Offertory -- which includes the Offertory antiphon, the offering of bread, the pouring of water and wine into the chalice, the offering of the chalice, the washing of the hands, the prayer to the Blessed Trinity, the "Orate fratres" and the Secret.

§ The Consecration -- including the Preface and the Canon of the Mass, embracing the prayer "Te igitur," the Memento of the living, the Communicantes and the other two prayers before the Consecration and Elevation, the three prayers after the Consecration, the Commemoration for the Dead, the "Nobis quoque peccatoribus" and the Minor Elevation.

§ The Communion -- including the Pater Noster, the Libera, the Agnus Dei, the three prayers before the Communion, the "Domine non sum dignus," and the Communion of the Priest and the Faithful.

§ The Thanksgiving--which includes the Communion antiphon, the Post- communion prayer, the "Ite missa est," and the Last Gospel.

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6.  How can I recognize the celebration of the Mass according to the Extraordinary Form?

When the priest enters the sanctuary, he begins the Holy Sacrifice with the immortal words Introibo ad altare Dei ('I will go unto the altar of God'). Hearing these treasured words, every Catholic knows he is present at one of the oldest and most venerable rites of Mass in the Catholic Church.

In the Traditional Latin Mass, the Church sets forth in a fully explicit way her doctrine of the Communion of Saints. The doctrine of the intercession of Our Lady and the Saints whose merits can win grace for our souls is given frequent prominence in the Ordinary and the Propers of the traditional Latin Mass.

The Offertory prayers of the Ancient Form of the Roman Mass are now unique in the Church for their doctrinal richness, employing sacrificial terminology of great rhetorical beauty. This is an important spiritual preparation for the moment of Consecration and has been handed on to us as a precious heritage of Catholic piety through the centuries.

The Consecration is the culminating point of the Traditional Latin Mass. It is because of the supremely sacred nature of this Sacrifice that it is celebrated with solemnity and devout veneration. All the words and gestures of the priest are meticulously regulated by the rubrics (laws) of the Mass, which include multiple genuflections, to ensure the greatest possible reverence in worship.

The 1962 Missale Romanum omits nothing that may serve to remind us that the Sacrifice of the Mass is the Sacrifice on Calvary mystically re-enacted on the altar. Hence the many Signs of the Cross made over the Sacred Species and the eastward orientation of the priest towards the altar of Sacrifice.

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7.  Why does the traditional Latin Mass have so many restrictions and regulations in it?

The Mass is the sacrifice of Calvary made present on our altars in an un-bloody manner (Council of Trent). Therefore, as the pre-eminent Liturgy of the Church, it is of utmost importance that its celebration by regulated liturgical law.

All the prayers, ceremonies, laws and customs that have developed organically over time exist to guarantee its stabile and unchanging quality. These liturgical regulations (i.e. rubrics) provide the clergy a clear guide to the reverent celebration of the Liturgy. Furthermore, St. Thomas Aquinas stated that: "It is absurd and a detestable shame, that we should suffer those traditions to be changed, which we have received from the fathers of old." During the English Reformation Catholics would say: "It is the Mass that matters."

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8.  So are Catholics entitled to attend a Tridentine Mass if they wish?

Yes. In 1988, Pope John Paul II issued his binding instruction Ecclesia Dei Adflicta. The Pope ordered: "Respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued by the Apostolic See."

This instruction grants a privilege to Catholics under Canon Law. Cardinal Mayer, the former head of the Vatican Commission Ecclesia Dei, said the Pope had spoken of the "lawfulness" of the Tridentine Mass and of the "legitimate aspiration" of Catholics to celebrate or attend that Mass. "Hence a privilege in the canonical sense of the term was granted to the faithful by the supreme legislator of the Church," said Cardinal Mayer. "Once a privilege is duly granted, the subject indeed has the right to benefit from it."

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9.  Where can I experience the Roman liturgy in the Extraordinary Form?

For the United States of America, The Coalition in support of Ecclesia Dei gives this directory of Masses in the Extraordinary Form here:

http://www.ecclesiadei.org/masses.cfm

In the United Kingdom, the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales provides a similar listing at: http://www.latin-mass-society.org/masses.htm

An international listing of Masses in the Extraordinary Form celebrated by the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter is located at:
http://www.fssp.org/en/coordonnees.htm

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