Frequently Asked Questions
Why are so many young people attracted to the Traditional Latin Mass?
The traditions of the Church instinctively attract all people. Youth especially seek a form of liturgy that has depth, mystery, and meaning. In a modern world so confused and devoid of meaning, the richness of Catholic culture and tradition is inspiring. Pope Benedict XVI wrote in a letter to bishops of the world:
Immediately after the Second Vatican Council it was presumed that requests for the use of the 1962 Missal would be limited to the older generation which had grown up with it, but in the meantime it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.
Why does the priest face the altar and not the people in the Traditional Mass?
The focus of Mass is our Lord, not the priest or his personality. In every Divine Liturgy since the beginning of the Church until the modern age, the priest and people always faced a common direction of prayer, known as "liturgical East." As a cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI explained why:1
The common turning toward the East was not a "celebration toward the wall"; it did not mean that the priest "had his back to the people": the priest himself was not regarded as so important. For just as the congregation in the synagogue looked together toward Jerusalem, so in the Christian Liturgy the congregation looked together "toward the Lord."
At the Last Supper, Christ and his apostles faced the same direction in prayer.2 This continues in the Traditional Latin Mass.
How does one follow the Mass if it's in Latin?
The best way to experience the Latin Mass is to "pray the Holy Mass," as Pope St. Pius X exhorted us. The Latin Mass naturally encourages the active participation of the laity—listening to any priest recite prayers is only a passive participation.
Most places (and all locations near northwest Indiana) offer the ubiquitous "red missals" at the back of church for the faithful to borrow. These little missals have the Latin prayers on one side and their (very beautiful) English translations on the other. They are very helpful for beginners. It's best to read the prayers as the priest does. Just remember that it takes time to get accustomed to the Traditional Mass because it's so rich and meaningful—don't be intimidated if you lose your place!
The red missals don't contain the several changing, or "proper," prayers of Mass, such as the Epistle and Gospel. So you'll eventually want to graduate to a full "hand missal." The most popular is the Roman Catholic Daily Missal; many others are available, including the Baronius Daily Missal, the Saint Andrew Daily Missal, and the St. Joseph Daily Missal to name a few. It is a worthy investment that will last a lifetime. Your parents or grandparents may even still have theirs!
How can I learn more about the meaning of the ceremonies in the Latin Mass?
Catholic Latin Mass offers videos and articles for the laity who are new to the Traditional Liturgy. An old but excellent online video narrated by the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen explains the ceremonies of the Traditional Latin Mass and their rich symbolism (the Mass takes place at a church in Chicago). Sancta Missa offers free online training videos and documentation for priests and servers. A classic and thorough book is The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Nicholas Gihr, which is available in print and for free online.
We will eventually offer conferences with guest speakers to help explain the many facets of the Traditional Liturgy.
I'm completely new to the Latin Mass. What can I expect at my first visit?
Enter the church and take your pew as usual. Take a red missal (see a picture below) to help follow the Mass, but don't be discouraged if it's difficult to follow on your first visit. The postures—kneeling, standing, and sitting—are slightly different. Just follow everyone else. The biggest difference is that, shortly after the Traditional Mass begins, everyone kneels while the priest prepares to ascend the altar.
If a collection is taken up, it is done at the Offertory as usual.
Lines are formed as normal for Holy Communion, but receiving is different. Communicants kneel (or stand if they have difficulty) along the Communion rail (or the sanctuary's first step). There they wait as the priest goes back and forth across the sanctuary distributing. When you get to the front of the Communion line, wait for a nearby spot at the Communion rail to become available and then kneel down there. Wait there until the priest comes to you, and he will give you Communion on the tongue (not the hand). Communicants don't say "Amen" when receiving. Then return to your pew as usual.
- Ratzinger, Joseph. Spirit of the Liturgy. Ignatius Press, 2000.
- Gamber, Klaus. The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Background. Una Voce Press, 1993. (Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote the preface to this book.)