Been to a Tridentine Mass?

Many Catholics are not aware that there are many liturgies celebrated in the Catholic Church to worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The most common liturgy in the Roman Catholic church is the Mass of Paul VI (“Novus Ordo”) which was written after the Second Vatican Council, in 1969.  In the Eastern Catholic churches (along with the Eastern Orthodox Church), the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom is celebrated, among other Divine Liturgies.

Prior to the Mass of Paul VI, the common liturgy of the Roman Catholic church from the 1500s onwards was the “Tridentine Mass”.  There are many similarities and many differences between the Tridentine Mass and its follower, the Mass of Paul VI.  One of the main differences is that it is in Latin.  The Mass of Paul VI can also be celebrated in Latin, however the Tridentine Mass is never said in the vernacular (save for the Bible readings and the homily).  Therefore, if one attends a Tridentine Mass in the United States, if they go to visit a Catholic parish in New Delhi, India, the Tridentine Mass would be exactly the same language, save for the readings, which would be in the vernacular.  Also, the priest and other celebrants all face the same direction as the laity (many say that the priest has “his back to the people”).  Note that although the Mass is said in Latin, parishes that celebrate the Tridentine Mass generally have “missals” available for the laity, which show what is being said in both Latin and English (or the vernacular).  Many also purchase their own missals.

There are different forms of the Tridentine Mass, ranging from a Low Mass (which is spoken, not sung (a cantor may sing a few hymns), and much of it is whispered by the priest.  There is A LOT of prayerful silence in this one), a Missa Cantata (a sung mass, and also includes the use of incense), a Solemn High Mass (distinguished from a Missa Cantata because the priest is assisted by a deacon and a subdeacon), and a Pontifical High Mass (celebrated by a bishop, assisted by a priest, deacon, subdeacon, and others).

Today, the Tridentine Mass is again gaining popularity, and is generally found in cities (I have attended in both DC and NYC), and other locations where there is a call for it by the laity and the priesthood.  Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic letter entitled Summorum Pontificum in 2007, which allows for the more widespread celebration fo the Tridentine Mass, if there is a call for it by the laity.  This relaxed previous rules that called for the Bishop of a diocese to authorize the public celebration of the Tridentine Mass.

Many are attracted to the Tridentine Mass because it connects them with an older form of the Mass than the current one.  Both Masses are of course valid, and one isn’t “better” than another, though people may have personal preferences for one or the other.  I personally like both.  A properly celebrated Mass of Paul VI is very beautiful, and I attended one for a period of time during college in DC at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  Complete with chanting, full choir, incense, processions with candles, etc., such Novus Ordo liturgies show that it doesn’t have to be the way Traditionalist Catholics sometimes stereotype it.  As far as the Tridentine Mass, I can do without the Low Mass form, and love the Missa Canata and Solemn High Mass.  The Tridentine Mass, as well as a properly celebrated Mass of Paul VI, connects us with the more ancient liturgies, that retain the same general form, and even have many similarities to the liturgies in the Jewish temple.  Through the Mass and Divine Liturgy, we step away from the modern world, and enter into eternity, worshipping God with the angels and saints that have gone before us.  I feel that the Tridentine Mass captures this reality of our theology moreso than the Novus Ordo Mass, however again, a properly celebrated Mass (without liturgical abuses) does do this as well.

Below is a link to a Google video of a Missa Cantata at a parish in Paris, France.  Note that this parish is under the authority of the Society of Saint Pius X, which is in an irregular situation with the Catholic Church.  It is not a sedevacantist group (groups that claim to be Catholic but believe that the office of the Bishop of Rome, or Pope, is currently vacant, and that there hasn’t been a real Pope for a number of years.  They believe this for various reasons).  SSPX does honor Pope Benedict XVI as the current Bishop of Rome, however the Catholic Church does not hold it as having a status within the Catholic Church (therefore a Catholic should not attend Mass with them to fulfill their Sunday attendance, though there is nothing wrong with attending in and of itself).  SSPX and the Catholic Church are currently in talks to give them canonical status, which have progressed much in 2009, with Pope Benedict XVI lifting the excommunications of the four bishops of the SSPX.  A canonical equivalent of the SSPX is the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter/Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Petri (FSSP). Either way, the SSPX and the FSSP celebrate the Tridentine Mass, and below is an example of the Missa Cantata.

Saint John Cantius Parish, in Chicago, IL, celebrates the Tridentine Mass.  They also maintain a resourceful website on the Tridentine Mass, called Sancta Missa.

This website gives the Tridentine Mass rubric in both Latin and English, so you can follow along.


~ by onecatholic on September 28, 2009.

4 Responses to “Been to a Tridentine Mass?”

  1. The U S A in general has promoted heresy since the V2 Concil,both clergy and laity,so this article thankfully shows a reaction to this

    • Well, I wouldn’t say that it has promoted heresy since Vatican II, but there has definitely been liberalism throughout the Church in the USA sadly. My undergrad university, Georgetown, is an example. It seems that the USA church this year focused more on the excommunication of a priest in an affair than on other more important issues. One survey I’ve seen shows that USA Catholics are more liberal on many issues (abortion, maintaining tradition, etc) than others, such as evangelical Christians and Mormons, which is sad. We need to reclaim our true beliefs (that the Church has never swayed on), and show that we actually practice what we preach.

  2. Well said, well explained — nice promo for St John Cantius, too! It almost closed until the priests had the brilliant idea of getting a USP (unique selling point) for the parish, which was the Tridentine Mass. Now, folks drive in from miles around to attend Mass there every Sunday.

    Let’s hope that more Catholics avail themselves of this beautiful rite.

    Here’s a listing of churches by state where Latin Masses are offered in the US and Canada, if it’s helpful to you and your readers:

    • Thanks for the comment! I really like St. John Cantius, and wish there were more parishes like it, with such a full schedule of liturgical services. Daily Mass is nice, and you can find one practically everywhere, but what about Matins, Compline, Vespers, etc? I’ve been to Vespers at an Eastern Orthodox parish, and it was wonderful. Saint John Cantius really should be an example parish for the success of a traditional parish (that can celebrate both Masses), and that people aren’t giving up on tradition (in fact, that’s part of what drives people to the EO church sadly).

      Thanks for the list, I hope many find and experience the Tridentine Mass in their areas!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: