Latin Mass
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Frequently Asked Questions

THE ROMAN RITE AND THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM

1.  What are the liturgical Rites of the Catholic Church?

There are three major groupings of Rites in the Catholic Church, the Roman Rite, the Antiochian Rite (Syria) and the Alexandrian Rite (Egypt). Later on the Byzantine Rite derived as a major Rite from the Antiochian, under the influence of St. Basil and St. John Chrysostom. From these four parent rites, two-dozen liturgical Rites (Western and Eastern) have developed which are in union with the Holy See.

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2.  Is there more than one expression of the Roman Rite?

Most Roman Catholics today are familiar with the post-Vatican II Missal of Pope Paul VI, which Pope Benedict XVI calls the Ordinary Form. But there are actually nine forms of the Roman Rite Liturgy.

  • Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. In the Ordinary Form the Mass is celebrated according to the Missale Romanum of 1969, promulgated by Pope Paul VI, which is currently in its third edition (2002). This form is widely celebrated in the vernacular.
  • Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. In the Extraordinary Form, Mass is celebrated according to the Missale Romanum of 1570. While this Missal was codified at the Council of Trent, it was in use at least since the time of St. Gregory the Great. It is used today according to the 1962 edition, promulgated by Blessed Pope John XXIII during the Second Vatican Council. In accordance with norms of Summorum Pontificum, all Roman Rite clergy may celebrate according to the Extraordinary Form.
  • Bragan. – Rite of the Archdiocese of Braga, the Primatial See of Portugal, deriving from at least the 12th century.
  • Mozarabic. – This is the Rite of Spain and Portugal which dates from the 6th century or earlier. It is still used in the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Toledo, Spain, and some other parishes.
  • Ambrosian. – This is the Rite of the Archdiocese of Milan, Italy, thought to be of ancient origin, but organized by St. Ambrose.
  • Dominican. This is the Rite of the Order of Friars Preacher (OP), founded by St. Dominic in 1215.
  • Carmelite. – This is the Rite of the Order of Carmel, whose modern foundation was by St. Berthold c.1154.
  • Carthusian. This is the Rite of the Carthusian Order founded by St. Bruno in 1084.
  • Anglican Use. Where Anglican clergy with their parishes have come into full communion with the Holy See, Rome has granted the faculty of celebrating the Sacred Liturgy according to Anglican forms, doctrinally corrected.
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3.  Why is the Extraordinary Form of the Mass sometimes called the ‘Tridentine’ Mass or the ‘Traditional Latin Mass’?

The Extraordinary Form of the Mass is the patrimony of the Western Church. This liturgy is sometimes called the 'Tridentine' Rite, after the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century. This title is misleading, because the Council of Trent did not invent the liturgy, which was even then already ancient. It is sometimes called the ‘Traditional Latin Mass’ as this Mass is always celebrated in the official language of the Church (i.e. Latin).

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4.  Sometimes the Extraordinary Form is referred to as the ‘Tridentine Mass,’ but is it referred to in other ways today?

Sometimes it is called:

  • ‘Classical Rite’
  • ‘Usus Antiquor’
  • ‘Traditional Latin Mass’
  • ‘The Mass of the Ages’
  • ‘The Latin Mass’
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5.  Isn't the Latin Mass just the regular Mass said in Latin?

The Ordinary Form (the Missal of Pope Paul VI -1969) and the Extraordinary Form (the Missal of Blessed John XXIII – 1962) have similar elements, but each has its own distinguishing characteristics. For example, each form has its own liturgical calendar and cycle of readings. The Ordinary Form has multiple Eucharistic Prayers but the Extraordinary Form uses the Roman Canon exclusively.

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6.  Wasn’t the ‘Tridentine’ Mass banned by Vatican II?

The Second Vatican Council declared, in relation to all liturgical rites approved at the time, that the Church "wishes to preserve them in the future and foster them in every way." (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #4) A new Roman Rite was promulgated after the Council by Pope Paul VI (Ordinary Form), which is now in general use. But the ancient Latin liturgy (Extraordinary Form) remains also in use, and fully approved by the Supreme Pontiff. It was during Vatican II that the 1962 edition of the Missale Romanum was published, which is the Missal still used today for the celebration of the ‘Tridentine’ Mass.

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7.  But why restore the Extraordinary Form in the 21st century?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that: "The mystery of Christ is so unfathomably rich that it cannot be exhausted by its expression in any single liturgical tradition." (CCC, #1201) In the modern world, many Catholic today find it spiritually beneficial to recover contact with their heritage of worship. The Extraordinary fosters Catholic belief in the midst of the culture of death.

The liturgy of the ancient Roman Church emerged from the times of intense persecution and today, as Christians are more and more persecuted for their Catholic faith, they are attracted to the ancient Mass which helped to evangelize a world that has turned its back on Jesus Christ. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church succinctly says, "the liturgy itself generates cultures and shapes them." (CCC, #1207)

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