Apologia: The Fullness of Christian Truth

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Introduction to the Traditional Latin Mass

"We must admit it is a master blow of Protestantism to have declared war on the sacred language. If it should ever succeed in destroying it, it would be well on the way to victory. Exposed to profane gaze, like a virgin who has been violated, from that moment on the Liturgy has lost much of its sacred character, and very soon people find that it is not worthwhile putting aside one's work or pleasure in order to go and listen to what is being said in the way one speaks on the marketplace. . . ." -- Dom Prosper Gueranger, Liturgical Institutions, 1840

"It is now theologically possible for Protestants to use the same Mass as Catholics." -- Max Thurian, Protestant theologian, on the New Mass, 1969

"At this critical juncture, the traditional Roman rite, more than one thousand years old, has been destroyed." -- Msgr. Gamber, considered to be the greatest liturgist of the 20th c.

"Let those who like myself have known and sung a Latin-Gregorian High Mass remember it if they can. Let them compare it with the Mass that we now have. Not only the words, the melodies, and some of the gestures are different. To tell the truth, it is a different liturgy of the Mass. This needs to be said without ambiguity: the Roman Rite as we knew it no longer exists." -- Fr. Joseph Gelineau


When going to Mass today, Latin Catholics generally have five options:

1) attend the vernacular Novus Ordo Mass published in 1970 by Pope Paul VI. This is the Mass offered in most parishes today.
2) attend the very rarely-offered 1970 Novus Ordo Mass offered in the Latin language (note: this is not the same Mass that was offered before Vatican II)
3) attend Mass at a non-Latin ritual Catholic Church (Byzantine, Greek, Maronite, etc.)
4) attend the hard-to-find Masses offered by certain religous Orders who have their own Rites, e.g., the Dominican Rite, the Carmelite Rite ("The Rite of the Holy Sepulchre"), etc.
5) attend the traditional Latin Mass that sustained millions of Roman Catholics for centuries and centuries. The traditional Latin Mass (TLM)  is also referred to as: the the Mass of Pope St. Peter, the Mass of Pope St. Gregory the Great; the Mass of Pope St. Pius V; the Tridentine Mass, the Pian Rite, the "Vetus Ordo" (VO), and now, commonly, "The Extraordinary Form" (EF).

Contrary to popular belief and in spite of the wishes of progressive types, the traditional Mass has not disappeared; it is offered by various priestly fraternities, such as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), the Institute of Christ the King (ICK), the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), etc., and, since the 1988 motu proprio "Ecclesia Dei," by parish priests according to the 2007 motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum," (This has changed in some dioceses due to Pope Francis's motu proprio "Traditiones Custodes," which has as its purpose eradicating the traditional Mass altogether).

In this section, I focus solely on the traditional Latin Mass based on the Missal of 1962 which is used by most traditional priests (including the FSSP and the SSPX). After much study, I've come to the conclusion that, validity issues aside, the "Novus Ordo Mass" is tragically flawed, something my instincts and "common sense" have told me since I was a child. The very name of this Mass -- "Novus Ordo," i.e., "New Order" -- should make anyone with a true Catholic nature cringe, and its effects are so incredibly sad it almost hurts to think about it.

The "Novus Ordo," whether offered in English or Latin, whether offered reverently or with severe abuses, is a violent break with Tradition, directly responsible, in part, for the great loss of faith which followed its publication. "Lex credendi legem statuat supplicandi" -- let the rule of belief determine the rule of prayer" is the rule of liturgy -- but the Novus Ordo, designed to make Protestants comfortable with the Mass, expresses Protestant belief not by what it is, but by what it fails to be -- that is, by its omissions. It leads us to believe as Protestants in that it practically nullifies the experience of the realities of the Sacrifice and the priesthood. The Novus Ordo -- not so much for what it is inherently, but for what it isn't, for what it lacks -- appears as the "Mass of Cain," arrogantly bringing his own works to God; the ancient Mass is the "Mass of Abel," who humbly offered God a sacrifice -- a lamb that prefigured the Passover lamb which, in turn, prefigured the Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world, Whose offering of Himself to us is eternal.

The stripping away of the signs and symbols of the Mystery, the eradication of the poetic, the blurring of the line between the ordained and common priesthoods, music that typically ranges from the banal to the offensive, the ignoring of Gregorian chant, the failure to retain our sacred language, the "busy-ness," the dearth of silence, and, most of all, the almost total lack of emphasis on the Sacrifice -- to not be offended by these things after having studied the purpose of the Mass and our worship's relationship to our belief, is to be either ignorant of or ill-willed toward the Catholic Faith. Please know that I say this without any intention whatsoever to impugn the motives or holiness of those who haven't studied these issues.

Further problems with the Novus Ordo are the International Committee on English in the Liturgy's (ICEL) translations of the text, its failure to conform itself with Vatican II and Council of Trent documents, and the fact that its own pale rubrics are so often abused.

The lectionary has been stripped of mention of sin, miracles, the demonic, or anything that offends Jewish people; see this pdf -- Gutting the Gospels -- and be shocked at what's been torn away from our liturgy. Just one example: The words of I Corinthians 11:27-29 -- "Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord." -- are words heard three different times throughout the year in the traditional liturgy. But they've been stripped away entirely from the Novus Ordo. Gone.

Abuses not inherent in the 1970 Missal but which predominate thanks to the "the spirit of Vatican II" -- the use of altar girls which destroys priestly vocations, not kneeling to receive the Eucharist, lay people taking the Blessed Sacrament in their hands, lay people (usually women) swarming the sanctuary in perfect imitation of Korah (see Jude 1:11 and Numbers 16) -- there is no defense for these practices. None. But they are so prevalent as to be almost universal.

Even celebrated according to its rubrics (and God bless those few, well-intentioned priests who even try to do that), the New Mass is a Protestantized (not Protestant) "service" up to its core, with an abbreviated Kyrie thrown in. Even with the few words retained in the Consecration to keep it valid, its semblance to the ancient Mass is like that of a dry twig to a flowering tree. What the modernists (may God have mercy on them!) have done to the Church is the liturgical equivalent of whitewashing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and this has happened with all of the sacramental rites, from Baptism to Unction.

Each Catholic must study this issue prayerfully. And each must know that believing -- knowing -- that the 1970 Mass was an extremely bad idea, a break with Sacred Tradition, an unlovely thing that leads to heterodoxy and disbelief -- is not "disobedient" and does not make you a "bad Catholic"; it makes you an informed one with eyes to see. Saying these things aloud does not make you "dissident" or "schismatic"; it makes you a warrior for the true Faith.

Now, I can imagine a dialogue with some of you who are new to the concept of "liturgy" -- and many who have been Catholic for years but "really like" or are at least not bothered by the Novus Ordo Mass:


"What's the big deal?"

The 'big deal' is that Jesus Christ glorified becomes really and truly present at the Mass -- Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity -- under the appearances of bread and wine, in fulfillment of all the Old Testament sacrifices and as predicted by the Prophet Malachias. The Annunciation is made present again when the Holy Ghost comes upon "the gifts" of bread and wine, bringing Christ to us in the Flesh just as He came to us in the Flesh in Mary's womb. The Crucifixion is re-presented as He is offered up to appease the Father 's wrath at our sins and for the remission of those sins; Calvary is made present before our eyes. You either believe this and are Catholic, or you do not believe this and are not Catholic. If you believe this and are Catholic, you will want everyone else to believe this, too. You should, therefore, want liturgy that points to the reality of these Mysteries in every way possible, and should be extremely bothered by liturgy that is banal, ugly, sterile, offensive, and that may as well have been designed to lead to heterodoxy. Think those words are too harsh? This is what Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, who was to become Pope Benedict XVI, said about the new Mass, my emphasis:

The liturgical reform, in its concrete realization, has distanced itself even more from its origin. The result has not been a reanimation, but devastation. In place of the liturgy, fruit of a continual development, they have placed a fabricated liturgy. They have deserted a vital process of growth and becoming in order to substitute a fabrication. They did not want to continue the development, the organic maturing of something living through the centuries, and they replaced it, in the manner of technical production, by a fabrication, a banal product of the moment.

The Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is our greatest prayer to God and our most solemn act of worship; should't we give Him our very best?

Please read An Open Letter to the Church Renouncing my Service on I.C.E.L. by Father Stephen Somerville, STL., who worked with the "ICEL," the Committee that translated the Novus Ordo Mass into English.


"We shouldn't get 'hung up' on this 'religious' stuff!"

Was God "hung up" on "religious stuff" when He commanded the ancient Israelites to take a male lamb without blemish (not a female one or one with blemishes), one year old (not two), and to kill it on the 14th day of that month (not the 15th day of the next month), in the evening (not the afternoon)? Was our Lord "hung up" on "religious stuff" when He kept the Old Testament Feasts or demanded that His Father's House be kept holy? Was He "hung up" on "religious stuff" when He told His disciples to do what the Pharisees told them because they sat on the chair of Moses? Was Jude "hung up" on "religious stuff" when he admonished those who followed in Korah's footsteps?

Those who believe that "religion" is unimportant because we are under Grace and not the Law seem not to understand that the Sacraments are media of Grace. Balking about "religious"stuff" as though it's sheer silliness is to betray ignorance about the nature of man: look around and see all the "religous stuff" in every culture of the world. This is so for a reason. The question is, "Which 'religious stuff' is true? Which 'religious stuff' honors well the true God? Which 'religious stuff' serves the needs of human nature?"

Christ founded a Church, and for almost 2,000 years, Her liturgy developed in a manner meant to preserve Tradition, dignity, beauty, and deep Catholic truths. This was veritably undone a mere half-century ago, and the evidence is in the percentage of Catholics who don't know the Faith, the closing parishes, the dwindling priestly vocations, etc.


So, what, are you saying the Mass can never change? Has never changed?

Of course the Mass can change in some ways. But the words of consecration, its expressed theology and catechetical qualities, its sacred purposes, its holiness, its beauty, and its and arrows toward the Transcendent -- these things cannot be changed without danger.

When the Mass has changed in the past, it was done in keeping with Tradition, the Mass's sacred purposes, and the purpose of expressing sound Catholic teaching. This is the key. What was done post-Vatican II was not a "face-lift"; it was a head transplant, and the patient woke up almost Protestant. The millions of Catholics who've left the Church, the horrible state of the Faith, the scandals, and the crisis of Catholic culture are evidence that the Novus Ordo Missae has failed to teach and inspire Catholics.

But I really like the sound of guitars at Mass, and the Protestant song 'Shine, Jesus, Shine' really makes me happy!"

Buy CDs. You can listen to them after the the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

What's the matter with being "upbeat" and happy and joyful and stuff?

Not a thing! We are called to be joyful! But if you think that glee is the appropriate attitude while standing at the foot of the Cross, I think there might be a little something wrong with your wiring. If you don't understand what I mean here, then trust me, my friend, with all due respect, you don't understand what the Mass is. I beg you to consider that possibility and study this! Really, do you think Our Lady and St. John were standing at the foot of the Cross singing anything like "Shine Jesus Shine" or dancing or waving their arms around in joy? Even if the Mass were only a memorial of the "Last Supper" as in the Protestant way, what's the "mood" of a Jewish seder, anyway? Are they be-bopping all over the place and raising the roof? Or are they somberly, with gratitude and humility, re-experiencing their deliverance? Even if the Mass were a mere memorial of Calvary, would you commemorate the Sacrifice of anyone or anything else by bringing out the Rock and Roll and having a party? Have we lost all sense of majesty, awe, thanksgiving, gratitude, and duty?


But He is risen!

Amen and alleluia! But we are not; we have work to do. And Christ, the High Priest and Perfect Victim, appearing to St. John in Heaven as a "lamb as it had been slain," pours out the graces of His once and for all time Sacrifice to us in the Mass so we might be sanctified -- something we must become in order to have our own "little Easter." We get to the Resurrection through the Cross. It must be always remembered that it isn't Christ's Resurrection that saves us in itself, by itself; it was the shedding of His Blood on the Cross that led to His Resurrection! His having shed His Blood is what remits our sins and is what will allow us to experience the fruits thereof: our own resurrection.

Our awareness of the glorious fact of His Resurrection is ever-present (it is the very reason we worship on Sundays!); but that joy is tempered by the Sacrifice and by the knowledge that while He is risen, He pours Himself out to us yet -- and we still have our own Calvary to go through.


Well, who the heck are you? You like the traditional Mass, I like the New Mass. Why should your opinion matter more than mine?

My opinion doesn't matter more than yours per se; neither of our opinions are what matters because the Mass isn't a matter of "opinion" or "preference." The Mass is not about me or you; it is about the worship of Almighty God, and the way it is "supposed to be done" has been shown to us by the Apostles, Fathers, and Saints over the course of 2,000 years. We can no more treat it as a plaything than we can Sacred Scripture. The Mass isn't a coffee flavor or a new Fall TV show one either "prefers" or not. It's not a performance in which "creativity" and "getting the audience's attention" matter. To paraphrase the Talking Heads, "It ain't no party, it ain't no disco, it ain't no fooling around!" And it's not (despite popular jargon) a mere "meal" where we all "gather" to admire ourselves, ponder the "mystery of man," and bond over a snack the priest "Eucharistic minister" hands us. It is a matter of divine realities -- Christ's very sacrifice!

And, very importantly, aside from the Sacrifice itself, the Mass has distinct purposes which are either fulfilled or not: it either feeds the Faith or it destroys the Faith through either negligence or positively dangerous changes. That so many "Catholics" are about as "Catholic" as Calvin, Zwingli, or your neighborhood Wiccan is proof enough for me that the New Mass does too little to feed the Faith. And it's no great shock considering that Jean Guitton, close friend of Paul VI said

… the intention of Pope Paul VI with regard to what is commonly called the Mass, was to reform the Catholic liturgy in such a way that it should almost coincide with the Protestant liturgy… there was with Pope Paul VI an ecumenical intention to remove, or at least to correct, or at least to relax, what was too Catholic in the traditional sense, in the Mass and, I repeat, to get the Catholic Mass closer to the Calvinist mass.

In this graphic, "TLM" refers to the Traditional Latin Mass; "NOM" refers to the Novus Ordo Mass

But I don't speak Latin! How can I understand what's going on?

Quite frankly, you don't have to intellectually understand the minutiae of the Mass (though this is of tremendous subjective benefit and is absolutely encouraged); one doesn't need to understand every word of Latin to offer his own heart to Jesus, to pray, to understand the basic purpose of the Mass and kneel in awe and humility as the Sacrifice takes place.

As to "understanding what's going on," consider that now, since the institution of Bugnini's Mass, 70% of Catholics between the ages of 18 and 44 do not believe in the Real Presence -- that is, they are material heretics. Can you honestly say that the Novus Ordo Mass increases understanding of what the Mass is?

As to not speaking Latin, neither do I, and neither did most Catholics who attended the traditional Mass throughout its history -- including many of the great Saints. But that's what they make Missals for -- and after a while, one can recognize and easily understand those parts of the Mass that do not change. You've heard the expression "hasta la vista" enough times to know what it means, right? I'm sure you know what "merci," "la vida loca," and "je ne sais quoi" mean, too, eh? Then you can come to know what "Deo gratias" and "per omnia saecula saeculorum" mean, too, just as have millions of Catholics before you.

Consider: Millions of Muslims can figure out how to pray in Arabic, even if they are not native Arabic speakers. Jews from the Midwest, USA manage to pray in Hebrew, even though English is the language they grew up with; their young boys even learn to pray in Hebrew at a very young age when they go through their "bar-mitzvahs." Our Lord Himself prayed in Hebrew -- even though Aramaic was His family language, Greek was the lingua franca of the area, and Latin was the official tongue (Hebrew may well have been, outside of Jewish liturgy, a dead or dying language)! Hindus all over the world have the intelligence to handle prayer in Sanskrit. Are we Christians too stupid to figure out a little Latin?

Besides, and this is the greater point, not all understanding comes from hearing language; it also comes from silence and prayer and beauty and sign and gesture, from the other things one hears (chant and bells), and from what one sees (stained glass, statues, beautiful vestments) and smells (incense) and experiences (majesty). All of these things teach us and impress themselves onto our minds in a way that words alone can't. Recall how Proust wrote that one taste of a tea-soaked madeleine brought forth a rush of associations which "taking their proper shapes and growing solid, sprang into being...all from [his] cup of tea." (read a short excerpt from the relevant scene in "The Remembrance of Things Past"). In the same way, incense and bells and silence can affect the Catholic.

Imagine two married couples:

Couple 1:
They never say in words that they love each other, but: he brings her bouquets of lillies, he touches her lovingly and for no other purpose than to make her feel cherished, he listens to her and looks deep into her eyes when he talks to her, his respectful protectiveness of her shows in every gesture. She bakes his favorite muffins every Satuday evening for breakfast the next day, she kisses his receding hairline and calls it beautiful, she signs "XO" at the bottom of grocery lists she gives to him, she brings him coffee in bed every morning and wakens him gently with a warm smile.

Couple 2:
They say they love each other and, well, that's about it.

Both marriages are "valid" -- they each have a license. But which couple leads you to believe that a marriage exists? Which couple would you want your children to see as an example of what marriage should be? Which couple makes a mockery out of marriage? Which couple teaches you what marriage is -- and which couple has the potential to destroy the concept of marriage in your mind? Which couple inspires you? And which couple leaves you feeling empty?

Couple 1 is to Couple 2 what the traditional Mass is to the Novus Ordo liturgy -- except that the traditional Mass has the language, too -- a much richer language that makes no bones about things like the Sacrifice, sin, contrition, etc. The language is just in Latin, so we use Missals or learn the language.

In addition to the importance and catechetical value of those "right-brained" elements (as it were), the use of Latin assures unity in a way that the sole use of the vernacular cannot. As things are, the English Catholic travelling to Italy or Brazil or Korea would be lost during the liturgy; "back in the day," a Catholic could travel anywhere in the world and hear the exact same Mass he would have heard at home, and his Missal would've been good anywhere. Now we have, in a single parish, an English Mass at 9:00 and a Spanish Mass at 10:00 -- with the English-speaking Catholics and Spanish-speaking Catholics fighting over the best Mass Times and saying not a word to each other in between. All this "diversity" is nothing but divisive! Latin unifies us all -- Hispanic, Anglo, African, Asian -- into one people worshipping God in the same way, the way of our ancestors.

Another analogy for those who've seen Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ": did the fact that the movie was in Aramaic and Latin take anything away from the experience of it -- or did it, on the other hand, add richly to the experience? Could the movie have possibly been experienced in the same way if Jesus had spoken in the standard movie-Jesus English with a British accent? That movie, as I write, is being shown all over the world -- France, England, Brazil, the United States -- and each movie-goer experiences the exact same film in the same way, just as traditional Catholics from all over the world experience the Mass in the same way. The only difference is in the subtitles, which are the equivalent of the translation of the Mass's Latin found in our Missals. If a "Novus Ordo-oriented" person had directed that movie, Jesus would have spoken English with an American accent (to be dubbed into local dialects for other countries), and would have thrown in slang and politically correct, inclusive language to make everyone (but traditional Catholics) feel more "comfortable." The movie wouldn't have been shot in rich amber hues with deep Caravaggio-esque shadows, but on a stripped-down sound stage with bare walls. The Jews would have been nowhere in sight unless they were pleading for His release, or somehow shown as victims in the entire spectacle. There would have been no brutal Cruficixion, but maybe one slap across His Face, a bloodless nailing to the Cross and a rapid death (for political causes, of course) -- all followed by a Resurrection and images of people -- some of them noticeably active lesbian couples -- holding hands and singing vapid happy-songs. Wow! If anything would not lead one to examine one's conscience and desire to appease the Father for one's sins, that would be it.

The smallest of rubrics in the traditional Mass all point to the Sacred. The priest facing East, toward the tabernacle, signals that he is worshiping God with us and for us. In the Novus Ordo, whether or not it is through the actual rubrics or how it is almost always done, the priest faces us, forcing him into a "show business" mentality -- and, worst of all, putting him in the position of literally turning his back to God in the tabernacle. Our focus is not on the Transcendent, but on the priest himself, his face, his mood, his banter, his jokes. It's that focus on priests' personalities that's helped lead to such incredibly irreverent phenomena like priests processing to the altar on hoverboards, priests wearing clown make-up, priests doing Elvis impersonations, and so on.

The traditional priest's keeping his fingers joined after the consecration of the Host so that not even the tiniest particle could be lost : contrast that with "Extraordinary Eucharistic Ministers" or "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion" -- lay people, usually women, dressed in anything they may have thrown on that morning --- handling the Blessed Sacrament with their unconsecrated hands and placing it in your unconsecrated hands. What a radically different attitude toward the most profound Mystery of the Eucharist! Is it any wonder at all that Catholics of 100 years ago believed in the Real Presence while those of today don't?

To cut to the chase, this stuff wouldn't happen if the traditional Latin Mass were being offered:

Aren't you a little tired of the nonsense?

Using the old Missal is a step backwards! We must move forward; we can't go back in time, and traditionalists' longing for the old Mass is mere nostalgia. Get over it, and get with the times! Sure the Novus Ordo is sometimes sloppily celebrated, but there's no real difference between the old Mass and the new. What we need is a reform of the reform, not a leap backwards.

A "reform of the reform," eh? Why would you waste time trying to fix up a rusted-out Pinto when you have a polished, classic, perfectly-running Ferrari in the garage? And why would you do that when the situation is urgent? Souls are at stake!

Now, first, the alleged "reform" was not a reform at all; it was a destructive, revolutionary exercise in politically correct ecumenism -- an experiment that resulted in a tragic loss of faith. Why should one use that as a starting point for the Mass of the future?

Second, those who see no "real difference" between the Novus Ordo Mass and the ancient Mass are like the "personage" of Hillaire Belloc's youth who insisted that a diamond "is the same thing" as a lump of coal. They can point to the Novus Ordo's short Kyrie, the Canon, the changed words of Consecration, etc., and say that because these elements are there, "it is the same" as the ancient Mass, but this sort of thinking makes me wonder if those same people would buy their wives rings encrusted with coal because both diamonds and coal are made of carbon. Belloc would say these people have lost their power to know "an oak tree when they see one" without having to examine every leaf. In short, he'd say they've lost their powers of "integration."

Finally, on a practical level, even if the Novus Ordo were worth salvaging, how could you possibly "reform the reform," in any sense that even a moderately orthodox Catholic could mean by the word "reform," when so many of our hierarchs are so liberal? Would you leave this "reform of the reform" in the hands of a Cardinal Kasper? A Weakland? A Mahony? A Pope Francis? What sorts of "working groups" and "dialogues" would have to take place to please all the political elements in the human element of the Church in getting the Mass "just right" for them? And how would each country's Bishops handle all the hundreds of vernacular translations? What further committees and working groups would have to be thrown together to manage all that -- and all the rubrics? Stand? Kneel? When? Isn't there enough confusion?

We have a Mass that has worked for two millennia, a Mass that is the product of Apostolic Tradition and the greatest Popes and Doctors who've ever lived, a Mass that perfectly reflects Catholic theology; why not use it and fight for it?


But the Latin High Mass is so long!

"Can you not watch one hour with Me?"

Yes, the traditional High Mass is longer than the Novus Ordo Mass, but don't think of it that way; think of it as the amount of time it takes to watch a few episodes of "Friends."

Look, a microwaveable McMass isn't healthy; you really need to slow down and eat something substantial. Take some time....

Shhhhh...quiet yourself. Breathe in the sounds of bells that call you here, and the stillness between the chimes. Contemplate. Don't you know why you've been summoned? It is the Lord's Day! Christus resurrexit! -- and a miracle will occur again at the Altar when the bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ -- the Pure Offering as predicted by Malachias (Malachias 1:10-11). Has the "Our Father" ever sounded so beautiful as when it is chanted in the same ancient melody heard by Sts. Augustine and Thomas, Catherine and Joan -- made our brothers and sisters by the very sacrifice which will be re-presented today? Pray for His coming. Offer your life to Him -- your joys, your sorrows, your suffering. Give yourself to Him as He gave Himself to you at Calvary and gives Himself to you now in the Eucharist. Look at the Crucifix above the Altar and behold the Lamb Who appears "as it had been slain"; He pours out His life for you, now and ever and unto Ages of Ages. Kneel when you receive Him, and tell me if it doesn't feel right and, more importantly, is not right. Savor the sweetness of the incense that blesses this holy place. Can you locate yourself in time, Christian, as you sit in that pew praying as your ancestors have done for two millenia and as the Saints do now in Heaven with the angels beside them? Or are you both in time and touching eternity?

Here's the bottom line: though "emotional highs" and "good times" aren't the purpose of the Sacrifice, you will emotionally take from the Mass what you bring to it, and the more you understand the Mass, its Sacred purpose, its history, and, most of all, the more you pray the Mass, the more you will "get out of it" emotionally. Everyone has bad days - days they are sick, tired, distracted, easily bored, or just not "in the mood" to be at Mass (and that's OK); but it remains true that these challenges are problems with you, not the Mass. And it remains true that the Mass is not about us, but about honoring, glorifying, beseeching, and appeasing God, and offering to Him His Son. I imagine our Israelite ancestors didn't find the incessant slaying of lambs and red heifers entertaining after a thousand years or so.

Please, for the love of all that is Holy, study this issue (links below). And then fight for the traditional Mass, support traditional orders which train priests in orthodoxy, and ask the Ordinary of your diocese to support the traditional Mass in your diocese. And, no matter what, if your parish is filled with dissidence, if its priest and catechists water down Catholic teaching, if your pastor abuses even the rubrics of the Novus Ordo, if he is soft on sin -- do not support that parish, and tell your priest and Bishop why. Support the Church as is your duty, but do it in a way that does not hurt the Church. Give your tithe to orthodox, fully traditional priests, parishes, orders, missions, and apostolates.

Note for those who are new to Tradition

There are two main types of Latin Masses, Low and High. And there are different sorts of High Masses:

  • Low Masses (Missa Privata): the priest isn't assisted; no part of the Mass is sung (but hymns may be sung as priest enters and exits, and during the Offertory or Communion); incense isn't used; only two candles are lit. The Low Mass is usually seen for daily Masses, but it's sometimes offered on Sundays, too. It's a much quieter and much less impressive affair than the High Mass, but even it is more dignified and reverent than the Novus Ordo.

  • High Mass (Missa Cantata): the celebrant is not assisted by a deacon or subdeacon; some parts of the Mass are chanted or said aloud, all sung parts of the Mass are sung by the choir or a cantor; incense may be used; six candles are lit. This is likely the most commonly Sunday Masses offered by most traditional priests.

  • Solemn High Mass (Missa Solemnis): celebrant is assisted by a deacon and subdeacon; all parts of the Mass that are said aloud are chanted; all sung parts of the Mass are sung by a choir; incense is used; six candles are lit.

  • Pontifical High Mass: celebrated by a Bishop. In addition to the six candles which are lit, another candle is lit to symbolize the Bishop's office. A Mass offered by the Pope (the Bishop of Rome) is a Pontifical High Mass called a "Papal Mass".

The Missa Cantata and Missa Solemnis are the silver and gold, respectively, of Sunday Masses. Don't be too disappointed if only the Low Mass is available to you -- but do know that there's much better out there, and "you ain't seen nothing yet" if the Low Mass is all you have to attend for the time being.

You might also encounter traditional Masses offered according to the rites of various religious orders, such as the Dominican Rite.

See also:

The Liturgical Year to get a sense of traditional liturgical time
Attire and Etiquette how to dress and behave at the traditional Mass
The Order of the Mass
How to Buy and Use a Missal
Novus Ordo Bingo Card Just for fun...

Further Reading


Gutting the Gospels (pdf)
Not Just More Scripture, But Different Scripture — Comparing the Old and New Lectionaries
The Ottaviani Intervention  A critical study of the "New Mass."
Mediator Dei Pope Pius XII's Encyclical on the liturgy

Offsite (will open in new browser windows)

The Mass of the Ages video trilogy
Honoring Authority by Refusing to Consent to Its Abuses
Problems with the Reformed Lectionary: A Summary
Discovering Tradition: A Priest’s Crisis of Conscience
Missal of 1962: Rock of Stability
A Priest's First Tridentine Mass

The Spirituality of the Ancient Liturgy: Part I and Part II
Spiritual Eructation
The New Mass: A Flavor of Protestantism
Dossier on the Novus Ordo Missae Cranmer's "Mass" and the Novus Ordo
Protestants have no problem using the Novus Ordo rite
Pius XII and "Paschal Mystery Theology"
How Communion in the Hand Came to America
The Problem of Liturgical Reform (.PDF file)
Hand Missal History
The True Notion of Tradition

Back to Being Catholic