The Traditional Latin Mass

     Some people fall in love with the Traditional Latin Mass the first time they see it. Others say they are so lost that they wonder if they have been to Mass! If you are in that category, please have patience. Many people say that if they try the Latin Mass at least five times, they come to understand the incredible treasure that the Church passes on to us with the Traditional Latin Mass.

The Tridentine Mass expresses the catholicity of the Catholic Church.

The way in which the Tridentine Mass developed in a steady manner from the earliest days gives it a perfectly clearer connection to the Mystical Body throughout the centuries.

The Tridentine Mass is also said basically the same way in every Latin Rite diocese in every country of the world. There may be insignificant differences in customs from one place to another (like whether the priest wears a biretta or not, or whether it’s a dialog Mass or not), but going to a Tridentine Mass anywhere in the world, you know exactly what to expect and everything is quite familiar.

The use of the Latin language and Chant also form an intimate connection between Roman Rite Catholics of every era and every nation.

Another way the Tridentine Mass is good is that everything is significant.

A person could spend a lifetime learning the meaning of every tiny detail of the Tridentine Mass. And it is an interesting thing to learn about. There are several advantages to this in the Tridentine Mass. For one thing, there is a lot of instruction that can be gained from watching and listening, when a person knows the meaning behind what is going on. This was the same advantage to the symbolism of stained-glass windows and statues (quite a bit of that was tossed out along with many items of symbolism in the Mass). With symbolism, much more significance and meaning can be squeezed into a much smaller space or much shorter amount of time. But it must be learned first.

When it is less necessary to learn about what is there because things are more blatant and obvious, people feel less need to study the Mass at all. Then what can happen is that people do not understand even the basics of what happens at Mass.

Some also enjoy the Tridentine Latin Mass for its beauty.

There is a grandeur and awesomeness in the prayers and rituals of the Tridentine Mass. The way things are expressed in the Tridentine Mass finds the perfect balance between being trite and being obscure. And the actions performed are unmatched in their precision and grace and expressiveness.

You can purchase Missals from the FSSP:

Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter
P.O. Box 196, Elmhurst, PA 18416 U.S.A.
717-842-4000; 717-842-4001 (fax)

Common Questions About the Tridentine Latin Mass

Why is it called the Tridentine Mass?

Because it was codified by the Council of Trent in the 16th century. But the Mass itself is far older than that. The Canon, or central part, of the Mass dates back to the time of St. Gregory in the sixth century.

In 1570, Pope St. Pius V – in his Papal Bull Quo Primum – said that priests could use the Tridentine rite forever, “without scruple of conscience or fear of penalty”.

Wasn’t the Tridentine Mass banned?

No, but following the Second Vatican Council, its public use was restricted by most Bishops.

After the introduction of Pope Paul VI’s new Mass, the only priests given permission to say the Tridentine Mass publicly were priests of England and Wales, thanks to an indult (or permission) granted by the Vatican to Cardinal Heenan of Westminster.

Other priests – such as St. Padre Pio – continued to use the old Mass privately in preference to the new rite.

What’s the advantage of the Tridentine Mass?

One of the great strengths of the Tridentine Mass is its uniformity. Wherever Catholics go in the world, the Tridentine Mass is exactly the same. The movements and gestures of the Mass are clearly prescribed, so there’s no room for “personalization” of the liturgy. And the time-honoured Latin of the Mass reverently reflects the sacrificial nature of the celebration.

Didn’t the Second Vatican Council forbid Latin Masses?

Not at all. The Council, in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, said: “The use of the Latin language is to be preserved.” The Council merely gave permission for the limited introduction of the vernacular (or local language) into certain parts of the Mass when celebrated in public.

Does the Pope approve of the Tridentine Mass?

Certainly. In 1988, in the late Pope John Paul II wrote in his Motu Proprio, “Ecclesia Dei” that “There are also those people who, having been educated on the basis of the old liturgy in Latin, experience the lack of this ‘one language’, which in all the world was an expression of the unity of the Church and which, through its dignified character, elicited a profound sense of the Eucharistic mystery. It is therefore necessary to show, not only understanding, but also full respect towards these sentiments and desires. As far as possible, these sentiments and desires are to be accommodated.”

Pope John Paul II also 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.”

Then later in 2007 after the election of Pope Benedict XVI, the Holy Father published his Motu Proprio, “Summorum Pontificum” allowing all priests who know how to say the Traditional Latin Mass to say it more freely and for bishops to establish parishes where the Latin Mass could be said. The Holy Father refered to the Novus Ordo Mass (the New Mass of 1962) and the Tridentine Mass as the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite.

What can I do to help promote the Tridentine Mass?

The first thing is to pray that God’s will be done in the restoration of the old rite. You can also organize Masses in your diocese, support pilgrimages and other initiatives organized by groups like Una Voce and offer financial or practical help.