Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Preparing For Your First Traditional Latin Mass

September 21st, 2009, Promulgated by Dr. K

Though a number of Cleansing Fire readers have experienced the Traditional Latin Mass already, there are many who have not yet had the opportunity. A CF reader, Ben, informs us of a nice article he scribed intended for the newcomer to the Latin Mass. Here is a link. The article provides the TLM novice with helpful tips, and a basic walk-through of the Mass.

You probably won’t be an expert the first time you go, in fact, you likely won’t even after a few visits. The TLM is a more “advanced” version of the Latin rite liturgy compared to the Novus Ordo. This Mass requires more of the participant than the N.O. Mass, even though much of this participation is internal and not external. Anyone who will be experiencing the TLM for the first time would be wise to flip through a Missal, watch TLM videos online (there are many good ones on YouTube and elsewhere), and read through the day’s proper parts in advance (introit, reading, Gospel, etc. etc.). After you’ve gone to the Mass for the first time, watch the online video again, to help you figure out where you got lost, and help yourself get back on track. Learning the TLM takes some time, especially if you’ve never been exposed to it before. Don’t worry, you’ll understand it better as time goes on, and you’ll want to experience it again.

Good luck to our Latin Mass newbies!


Above is a YouTube video of a Latin Mass, narrated by Rochester’s own, His Excellency Fulton Sheen.

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12 Responses to “Preparing For Your First Traditional Latin Mass”

  1. Anonymous says:

    These beautiful explanations by Bishop Sheen are the very reasons I voted for him as Rochester's greatest bishop. No man has served the Diocese of Rochester who has understood the Catholic faith as well as this holy man.

  2. Ben Anderson says:

    ok – so I'm excited to come again, but I just don't have time to "do the homework" beforehand. Would you still suggesting coming if I'm a totally ignorant of latin?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I don't understand more than maybe 5 words of Latin and I love the Latin Mass! You'll be fine, let Jesus be your guide.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Fulton Sheen does an amazing job of explaining the Mass.

  5. Ben,
    Oh sure, do come, no matter what your level of Latin is.

  6. Nerina says:

    Thanks for posting this video, Dr. K. I've watched 30 minutes of it thus far and I have a few observations/comments and a couple of questions.

    First, I am overwhelmed by the sense of dignity and reverence (and this comes through even watching a video on a screen – I can't imagine what it is like to be there in person). And I can see where people who have been raised on the NO might recoil at this Rite. The overwhelming sense I get at my local NO is that we are there for social hour. There is talking before the Mass, talking throughout the Mass (I've even seen people texting and reading books). With the TLM there is so much…mystery.

    I think the TLM would make many people uncomfortable. It forces the participant to really focus and concentrate – and we don't like doing that. We certainly don't like contemplating our need to humbly approach God and offer worship. We are opposed to words like sacrifice, suffering, humility, obedience. I suspect I will be looking at worship in a whole new light.

    Anyway, a couple of questions.

    1)Who is flanking the main celebrant? Are these other priests or deacons?

    2)Do they always move as a group? Their moves seem highly choreographed. Also, is there a significance to their movement as a group?

    3)Why do they put up their head coverings when they sit to the side of the altar?

    4)How long was the Latin Mass the ordinary form of the Church?

    5)During the Holy Sacrifice, are the prayers at the altar inaudible to the congregation?

    Thanks for any answers.

  7. ben says:

    Nernia, some answers as best I can.

    1. this is a solemn high mass so they are the deacon and subdeacon.

    2. they each have their own roles at the beginning of the video they are holding the cope out of the way of the celebrant.

    3.I don't know.

    4.About 1500 years, in the west Latin gradually replaced greek. the oldest massbooks in latin we have are about that old. their was of course organtic development along the way.

    5. Many of them.

    Ben Anderson, don't worry if you cant do alot of study beforehand, just take it all in.

  8. Sister Emily says:

    I can't quite explain this but I do not understand one word of Latin however I do understand the Latin Mass. (i guess it is the holyspirit at work) I should not give advice as I have only been attending the Laatin Mass for a year.But I must say if you have not been to high Mass, don't worry about following the missal the first time you go. You must see the beauty of the Mass. Watch it and listen to the music. I always stay after and listen to the organ music it is magnificent. I am so excited about this Sunday, knowing many of the Cleansing Fire Bloggers will be there.

  9. Sister Emily says:

    NERINA,I too would like to know about the Priest head covering. i have noticed at a high mass when the choir is singing Father takes his headpiece (sorry don't know what it is called)off several times during the music and pops it back on in seconds. i hope someone will answer this.
    Also Nerina, i took your lead and wrote Bishop Clark and told him why I was not contributing to the CMA. He must be busy he has not written back 🙂

  10. Dr. K says:

    The head piece worn by priests in the TLM is called the biretta. The biretta is worn, according to the Pre-Vatican II rubrics, when the priest enters and leaves the sanctuary, and when the priest is seated. The priest will take off the biretta temporarily when the name of Jesus is sung by the choir (i.e- The priest will sit after he has recited the Gloria. The choir will sing through the duration, and the priest removes the biretta at the name of our Lord). The priest touches the biretta at the name of the Blessed Mother.

    The biretta may also be worn when the priest gives the homily, and when giving absolution during confessions. It can be used for parts of a Baptism, but I'm sketchy on these.

    Although required dress before the Council, the biretta is now optional. Sadly, few priests employ it anymore. I have only seen it used once in a Novus Ordo Mass (at Holy Name in Greece).

    Hope this clears things up.

    ~Dr. K

  11. Sister Emily says:


    If we are talking about the same biretta Father Bonsignore wears it at all high Masses.

  12. Nerina says:

    Thanks, Dr. K.

    Thanks to all for the encouragement.

    Emily – I think everyone who doesn't donate to the campaign should write a letter. It does little good if we don't voice our concerns and even though I know I won't get a response, I feel I've done my small part. I have copied the letter to my parish priest too.

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