Frequently Asked Questions about the Tridentine Mass
Q. I don’t know Latin. How am I supposed to know what is happening during Mass?
A. Does anyone really know Latin anymore? Don't worry. Easy-to-use booklets are available at the back of the church for you to borrow for the duration of Mass. These red booklets have the words in Latin on the left and in English on the right. They also include illustrations to help you follow the movements of the Mass, as well as brief explanations about the parts of the Mass.
Q. Why is it so quiet during Mass? I can’t hear what the priest is saying!
A. Ahhhhh, isn't it wonderful? During most of the Mass the priest prays to God on our behalf in a low voice. It is not necessary to hear what he is saying, however, you may follow along in the Mass booklet or Missal. In fact, that's encouraged is it allows you to "pray" the Mass with the priest. This silence means there are less distractions and more time to meditate on the mysteries of our Faith and on Christ’s love for us.
Q. What's up with the dress code? It seems that people are more dressed up than usual.
A. You'll probably notice that people who attend the Mass in the Extraordinary form tend to be a little more formal. You'll often see women dressed more modestly and sometimes wearing veils. Men often wear suits and/or ties. The idea of dressing for the Mass is not new. There was a time when everyone saved their best outfit for church. Hence the phrase, "wearing your Sunday best". Remember, the Mass is a re-presentation of the crucifixion of our Lord! Jesus humbles Himself to come down to the altar so that we can partake of His body and blood. He is there, present on the altar! We wouldn't think of dressing in shorts or flip flops to go to a wedding or a funeral. Isn't wearing something nice the least we can do for Him?
Q. Why don’t we get to say anything? I want to participate in the Mass, too!
A. Since Vatican II, many people have become used to the idea of the laity having specific verbal or physical opportunities to participate in the liturgy. This idea comes from the Latin term participatio actuosa, meaning "active participation. However, the actual meaning of this “active participation” specifically refers to an interior participation by being attentive during Mass, praying, and giving thanks to God for His many gifts. Our prayers are joined with the entire Communion of Saints who are worshiping God along with us during the Mass. While we cannot see or hear them, they are there – actively participating, too. So, while you may be quiet and still on the outside, your mind and soul should be very active during Mass.
Q. Why do some women wear veils? Do I need one?
A. Not really. Women traditionally were required under canon law to cover their heads during Mass. The tradition fell out of practice after Vatican II. Many women view it as a way to give honor to God, present in the Holy Eucharist, and also as an act of humility. See the section entitled Veiling.
Q. What about Communion in the hand? Is that permissible?
A. That's a no-no. The Latin Mass is governed by the liturgical laws that were in place in 1962 and thus priests are not allowed to give anyone Communion in the hand at a Latin Mass. The indult (exception) to receive Holy Communion in the hand given for the Novus Ordo Mass is not extended to the Latin Mass. While Catholics are allowed to receive Holy Communion in the hand at Novus Ordo Masses, doing so is not the “normal” way of receiving Holy Communion. Many question if it is a good idea to receive in the hand as small fragments from the Hosts often flake off and can be easily lost (and thus desecrated). Remember: even the smallest fragment of a Host is our Lord! Moreover, receiving in the hand robs that most sublime moment of the Mass of some of its mystery and reverence. Perhaps Cardinal Llovera, Prefect for the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, said it best:
“What does it mean to receive Communion in the mouth? What does it mean to kneel before the Most Holy Sacrament? What does it mean to kneel during the Consecration at Mass? It means adoration, it means recognizing the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist; it means respect and an attitude of faith of a man who prostrates before God because he knows that everything comes from Him… That is why it is not the same to place the host in the hand, and to receive Communion in any fashion; it is not the same to receive Communion kneeling or standing up, because all of these signs indicate a profound meaning.”