Many who have never attended the Roman Catholic Mass in the Extraordinary Form (Traditional Latin Mass) have concerns about what to expect from the experience. However, the purpose of the Ordinary Form (“Novus Ordo”) and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite are the same – to give glory to God through adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication as expressed through the liturgical prayers and actions of the priests during the Mass.
The parishioners and priests at Mater Dei are friendly and welcoming, so feel free to ask questions about elements of the Latin Mass that may be confusing or different from your regular Mass experience.
Modesty in dress, in words, and in action
When you first walk in the door of the nave of Mater Dei, you will notice a respectful “Sacred Silence” that will ease your transition from the mundane to the supernatural. Arriving a few minutes early is always a good idea. This will give you opportunity to join the Rosary, offered before the 9:00 A.M. Mass on Sundays and various times throughout the week.
You will notice an air of prayerfulness and silence as parishioners recollect themselves for assisting at the holy sacrifice of the Mass. There is a cry room available with audio and video feed from the chapel.
Many women cover their heads while in church, either with a lace mantilla or chapel veil, or with a hat. Women also wear skirts of a modest length, below the knee, and tops that are not sheer, tight, or cut low in the neckline. If possible, men and boys wear clean, pressed shirts, often with ties and jackets, as well as dress pants and shoes. The parishioners truly exemplify the phrase “Sunday Best”.
Confession – Preparing the soul for the reception of Christ in Communion
To worthily receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist, one must be a baptized Catholic in a state of grace. At Mater Dei, priests are available to hear confession at least 30 minutes before every Mass, both on Sundays and during the weekday. Lines form outside the confessionals, located at the back of the church.
Going to confession at Mater Dei may remind one of something he has seen in the movies – wooden “booths,” kneelers, and a screen of anonymity between you and the priest. You do not need to know Latin to confess at Mater Dei, although the priest may say the prayers of absolution in Latin.
After making a thorough examination of conscience, kneel in the confessional and start with the phrase “Bless me, Father for I have sinned, it has been [X days/weeks/years] since my last confession.” Confess your mortal sins by number and kind, and do not be afraid to ask for assistance from a priest if you are struggling with the confession process. As our priests are known to say, they are professionals, they do this for a living.
Low Mass/ Sung Mass?
In the Extraordinary Form, there are two primary types of Masses celebrated: the spoken or “Low” Mass, and the “Sung” Mass (sometimes referred to as High Mass).
Low Mass is celebrated by a priest assisted by one or more altar boys. The prayers are spoken (in Latin), and much of the Mass of the Faithful (after the offertory) is almost inaudible, in imitation of the ancient Jewish liturgies given by God to Moses, and emphasizing the fact that we are faced with a profound mystery.
During Low Mass, only the altar servers respond to the priest. The priest alone says the Pater Noster prayer (Our Father), and only he assumes the Orans prayer position (hands extended and held shoulder-width apart).
Sung Mass is normally celebrated once a week, at 9:00 A.M. on Sundays, as well as Holy Days of Obligation and other special feasts throughout the year. Sung Mass includes the Asperges before Mass, in which the priest sprinkles the congregation with Holy Water as part of the opening liturgical ceremony. Sung Mass is so called because many of the prayers of the Mass are sung by the priest, choir, or schola. Sung Mass also usually employs the use of incense.
At Sung Mass, the faithful chant the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei with the Schola (choir). The congregation also responds to the Priest in chant during multiple points during the Mass.
The Readings and the Sermon
The priest will first read the Epistle and Gospel in Latin. In all Sunday Masses and during Daily Masses where a sermon is preached, the Priest will then step down to the ambo (podium) and read the Epistle and Gospel in English. A sermon (in English) will follow.
Using a Missal to follow along with the prayers of the Priest
Each pew contains multiple copies of a Red Missalette booklet. These booklets contain the common texts of the Mass in both English and Latin. The Propers for the Sunday Mass liturgy (the Gospel reading, etc.) can be found on printouts in the vestibule of the church which supplement the missalette.
The Parish also has copies of the 1962 Daily Missal printed by Baronius Press available, and these will be located at the end of the pews when available. Spanish/Latin Missalettes and Propers are also available, and are located in the vestibule of the church. Chants for the Sung Mass can be found at the back of the red Missalettes found in the pews as well as the 1962 Missal.
As the priest offers the prayers of the Mass, do not be worried if you have problems following the Latin or keeping up with the priest in the missal. St. Padre Pio recommends during the Mass to “keep your mind focused on the mystery that is unfolding before your eyes. In your mind’s eye transport yourself to Calvary and meditate on the Victim who offers Himself to Divine Justice, paying the price of your redemption.”
In addition to translations for the liturgy, the Missalette also explains many of the actions of the priests that are done differently from Masses said in the Ordinary Form. For example, in the Extraordinary Form, the priest appears to be facing away from the congregation during Mass.
The priest is facing ‘Liturgical East’ with you. This is because of a long standing tradition heavily rooted in Scripture that tells us Christ will come again from the East. The Priest, as Alter Christus (another Christ), leads the people, all facing the same direction, in the supreme act of worship: the representation to the Father of the Sacrifice of the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. The priest does not give us his back; instead he humbly offers sacrifice and stands before God on our behalf.
Receiving Communion on the tongue at the altar rail
Communion at Mater Dei is received kneeling at the altar rails, and on the tongue, not in the hand. As the priest administers Holy Communion, he will say “Corpus Domini Nostri Iesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam, Amen,” which in English means “May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul unto life everlasting. Amen.” Because the priest says “Amen,” there is no need to respond to him as you await reception of the Sacrament.
Here are some helpful tips on how to receive communion on the tongue:
- Make sure to open your mouth wide and stick your tongue out, as it gives the priest a better “landing pad” to place the sacred Host.
- Close your eyes – looking at the priest and the paten can be distracting and can cause movement that could inadvertently lead to a dropped Host.
- Tilt your head back, but not too far, as you don’t want to force the priest to use a “coin slot” maneuver.
- Make sure to close your mouth as soon as the priest’s hand is away from your mouth, again, to lessen risk of a dropped Host.
- Walk back reverently to your pew and commune with the God which you have just received and who is present in you both spiritually and sacramentally.
After Mass – Leonine Prayers (Low Mass) and Prayers of Thanksgiving
After Sung Mass, the priest will process out with the servers as the congregation sings a closing hymn. After Low Mass, the priest will kneel at the stairs in front of the altar and pray the Leonine Prayers in English. These prayers are a set of prayers introduced by Pope Leo XIII in the early 1900′s, and offered for the salvation of Russia. These can be found at the back of the Red Missalette
At Mater Dei, the congregation waits in silence for the priest to return, who then leads prayers of petition for the faithful. St. Louis de Montfort says “When we pray in common, it is far more formidable to the devil, because in this public prayer it is an army that is attacking him.” As we unite ourself to Christ within us and in each other, we petition God for blessings upon the congregation, for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for the leadership of the Catholic Church and civil leaders, and other graces to give strength to the Church and to the followers of Christ.
On most Sundays after the 9:00 A.M and 11:30 A.M. Mass, refreshments are served in the main social hall across from the sanctuary. All are welcome to join in the fellowship. For those who share in the refreshments, a small donation is requested to help reimburse the social committee. These events can vary from simple coffee and donuts to pancake breakfasts hosted by our parish chapter of Knights of Columbus.