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Ten Things You Miss by Going to the Traditional Latin Mass


In the 1999 comedy Office Space, lead character Peter Gibbons (played by actor Ron Livingston) is interviewed by a pair of consultants hired by his employer to assess personnel. In one of the film’s more famous scenes, the consultants ask Peter about recent absences from work:

Bob Porter: Looks like you’ve been missing a lot of work lately, Peter.

Peter Gibbons: Well, I wouldn’t exactly say I’ve been “missing” it, Bob.

It is in that same vein that I present this list of ten things you will “miss” by going to the Traditional Latin Mass.

  1. Altar girls. Look all you want, you won’t find them. As the justification for this modern innovation comes from the 1983 Code of Canon Law and a 1994 clarification from Rome, the traditional Rite (using the 1962 liturgical books & norms) does not permit for them.
  2. Lay readers. Only the priest (at a Low Mass), or deacon and subdeacon (at a High Mass) can read the Lesson & Gospel, as this function is, of course, a liturgical function. In fact, prior to their elimination by Pope Paul VI in 1972, minor orders included that of lector for this very purpose.
  3. Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Or as they are sometimes erroneously called, Eucharistic ministers. Nowhere in the traditional Roman Rite will you find armies of laity (often female) storming the sanctuary in secular clothing to assist with the distribution of Holy Communion. When you assist (i.e. attend) at the traditional Mass you will only receive Our Eucharistic Lord from the consecrated hands of a priest.
  4. Communion in the hand. At the Latin Mass the faithful receive as all western Catholics have since the first millennium: kneeling and on the tongue. This is, of course, a means by which the Church demonstrates her reverence for the Eucharist and our very belief in the Real Presence. It’s also a way to guard against profanation of the Sacrament.
  5. Mass offered facing the people (versus populum). Not happening at the Latin Mass. Much like the pilot of a plane or driver of a car, the priest faces the same direction as we do during Mass, ad orientem (toward the east). Remember: the Holy Sacrifice is an action directed to God, and not simply a service or a conversation among friends.
  6. Bad music. Oregon Catholic Press (O.C.P.), Marty Haugen and David Haas music, those banal folk hymns from the 1970’s and 1980’s, Protestant  Praise and Worship songs…all are missing from the Traditional Latin Mass. In the ancient Rite you will have to either “settle” for the sacred silence of the Low Mass, or the sung Propers, Gregorian Chant, or even (if so blessed) Palestrina, Mozart, and Bach of a High Mass.
  7. Standing. While you will still stand for portions of the Mass, there are three distinct occasions in which you kneel, instead of standing, at the Traditional Mass: during the Creed (at the profession of the incarnation…“And was incarnate by the Holy Spirit…”), for receiving Holy Communion (as stated previously), and for the final blessing at the end of Mass (following the Ita Missa est).
  8. Improvisation. At the Traditional Mass you will not be subjected to the celebrant’s personality, attempts at humor, or personal preferences. The rubrics of the old Rite are precise (some might say rigid), and for good reason. The Rite demands obedience and fidelity. It’s been given to us, to priest and faithful alike, and forms us rather than being formed by us.
  9. The Sign of Peace. In the old Rite there is no interruption in the Mass for a meet and greet with the guy and his family in the pew behind you. Nothing at this moment will pull your attention away from the altar. We are all (together) proceeding forward in the liturgy, singularly focused on Our Eucharistic Lord.
  10. The Vernacular. Maybe this one should be obvious, but it still requires mention. The liturgical language of the Roman Rite will indeed be heard at Mass offered in the Traditional form of the Rite, as has been the case since the third century. Of course, the homily (or sermon) will be delivered to the faithful in their language. Many Catholics unfamiliar with the Traditional Rite do not know this and assume otherwise.

It is my hope that more of the faithful will seek out a Latin Mass nearest to them and see just what they’ve been missing.

Photo credit: Patrick Craig 

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