Following are some general guidelines to help you feel more at ease at a Traditional Latin Mass. These are very general guidelines for most Masses, there may be slightly different provisions made at a particular parish or Mass.
These are also reminders for any guests who have never come to a Catholic Mass of any kind before and want to know “what the Romans do in Rome” 🙂
Most importantly: Mass is not about what you GET from it – it is what you GIVE to God.
ATTIRE: Needless to say, please dress cleanly, neatly and modestly as you would for any Holy Mass. It is suggested men wear a shirt with a collar (polo shirt or buttoned shirt), with or without jacket and tie, dress slacks, and closed, polished leather shoes (loafers, oxfords, etc.). Ladies may wear dress blouses and slacks or skirts, but nothing tight fitting or cut too low on the neck or too high on the leg (i.e, at or below the knee). For your comfort, check that your shoes won’t get caught on your skirt when you kneel.
VEILS FOR WOMEN ARE NOT REQUIRED, BUT YOU MAY WEAR ONE IF YOU CHOOSE. If you wish to wear a veil, by all means please do! This is one situation where you will not be the only one wearing one! Contrary to popular (mis)belief, veils were neither banned nor suppressed by the Church; rather, the rule was omitted from the latest edition of Canon Law so veils are no longer mandatory. Put more simply, it is up to you whether or not to partake in this very ancient, very beautiful, and uniquely feminine (i.e., a privilege reserved only for women) way to express devotion to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
MISSALS – If you don’t already have a Missal at home to bring to Mass, no worries! Usually, there will be some red or white booklets available for you to use for the Ordinary of the Mass, and leaflets with the Propers (readings particular to that day’s Mass). Please return them to where you found them at the end of Mass. Also, please share your missal with others wherever possible, especially if you are well versed in the Latin Mass.
Not enough Missals? Lose your place in the Missal? Don’t worry. Just keep adoring Jesus in the Holy Eucharist and soon enough you’ll recognize what is happening on the altar. Prayer is lifting up your heart and mind to God. Mass is the highest prayer of the Church, offered for four purposes: Adoration, Atonement, Petition, and Thanksgiving. As long as you remain focused on offering the sacrifice with the priest, you are actively participating.
SILENCE – If you are able to follow in the Missal, pray the Mass silently. Part of the altar server’s job at the Latin Mass is to pray on your behalf. If you have lost your place in the Missal, remain calm, continue to pray the prayers in the Missal, and most of all, adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
RECEIVING HOLY COMMUNION – FOR ALL:
Any Catholic in a state of grace, who has fasted from all food and drinks besides water and medicines for one hour or more, is welcome to receive Holy Communion. However, if you do not believe that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, or if you have committed mortal sin(s) that you have not confessed, please, do not compound your sin and jeopardize your immortal soul by committing the sacrilege of receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin. If you are not sure, simply stay in your pew and pray an act of spiritual communion. Here’s one written by St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop of Naples and a Doctor of the Church. If it’s not in your missal, print it out and paste it inside the cover for reference:
I believe that Thou art present
in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love Thee above all things,
and I desire to receive Thee
into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment
receive Thee sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace Thee
as if Thou wert already there
and unite myself wholly to Thee.
Never permit me
to be separated from Thee.
Then, find out when confessions are being offered and GO! Father will help you, or look in your Latin Mass missal for guidance on preparing for the Sacrament.
Be aware that at the traditional Latin Mass, Holy Communion is received ONLY on the tongue, and ONLY at the altar rail or at the kneelers at the foot of the altar. There will be no priests, deacons or Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion stationed around the church.
Also, when receiving Holy Communion at Latin Mass, you DO NOT SAY AMEN. Father will say a prayer in Latin and say Amen for you as he places Christ’s sacred Body and Blood on your tongue. Tip your head back as far as you are comfortable and put out your tongue as far as you are able, to avoid any accidents.
RECEIVING HOLY COMMUNION – FOR THE PHYSICALLY IMPAIRED:
If you are physically unable to kneel due to health problems (such arthritis, knee replacements, pacemakers, vertigo, etc.) you may remain standing at the rail, but again, there is no reception of Holy Communion in the hand at Latin Mass, only on the tongue. Put out your tongue as far as you can and do not say Amen.
If you are physical unable to even walk up to the communion rail, but are in a state of grace (no mortal sin) and would like to receive Our Lord, before Mass begins, please ask one of the ushers or the altar servers to ask Father to bring Holy Communion to you at your seat.
Most of all, RELAX! Lift up your heart – Sursum corda! It is a joy to give up your heart to the Lord and worship Him in “the beauty of His Holy Temple” and to give Him “thanks for His great glory”….and for His Divine Mercy.
If you want to see clearly the differences between the Latin Mass and the Ordinary Form (Mass in English since 1969), this web site it very helpful. You will notice that there are prayers in one but not the other, and vice versa. Also some prayers are optional in the Ordinary Form, such as the Confiteor (I confess….which is NEVER optional, and is said three times in the Latin Mass) and the “Roman Canon”/”Eucharistic Prayer I”.
Here are some other helpful Web sites for first-timers and those learning the Latin Mass: