Capitalization of the term "Mass"

Should the term Mass be capitalized? I have always capitalized it, but someone mentioned that it is not proper to capitalize it, people do it out of respect.

It’s how the word is spelled. And it is a proper noun for an event.

That is correct. The word in lower case would mean large, such as, “mass quantities of grain spilled over the tanks”. However, Mass, using uppercase, is the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

I see no reason that mass by itself should be capitalized. Only if it is a formal title, such as Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, should it qualify as a proper noun.

I know there is quite a bit of capitalization in the GIRM, Canon Law, and other Church documents. I’m not sure whether such use is peculiar to the more legal-oriented documents, or if this tendency to capitalize a large percentage of the nouns is ubiquitous, perhaps influenced by the German rule of capitalizing every noun. But it doesn’t seem to me correct English usage to write about the Pastor and other Priests of the Parishes in each Deanery.

The distinction that I see between mass and Bible (another religious word that is always accepted as a proper noun) is that Bible is the actual title of the book - more complete titles are also acceptable “Holy Bible,” “RSV Bible,” etc. Mass, on the other hand, is the general term for any Eucharistic liturgy. You can have a Satanic mass, a clown mass, a red mass, an Anglican mass. In a Bible, the content is presumed to be essentially the same, despite some variations due to translation. If it is significantly different, you will often see quotes around the word, such as the “bible” of stamp collectors. Except on Catholic sites where the quotes add to the feeling of disapproval and rejection, you will rarely see quotes around Satanic mass, even though everyone knows such a ceremony is quite at odds with a Catholic mass - this suggests that most English-speakers consider mass to be a general term, rather than a unique one that should be treated as a proper noun.

Laudatur Iesus Christus.

The quoted argument alone is sufficient reason always and everywhere to capitalize the word “Mass” when it refers to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The fact that each Mass is a participation in the same Holy Sacrifice would probably qualify the word “Mass” as a proper noun referring to a single and unique reality. However, this argument is hardly necessary when one considers the blasphemous equivalences being attempted in the argument quoted above.

Spiritus Sapientiae nobiscum.

John Hiner

Which part of the argument?

[quote=John Hiner]The fact that each Mass is a participation in the same Holy Sacrifice would probably qualify the word “Mass” as a proper noun referring to a single and unique reality.

This logic would also suggest that we capitalize any noun when it refers to this single and unique reality. Like Reality. Or Celebration, Sacrifice, Gathering, etc. I suppose that’s a defensible position, but I wouldn’t consider it proper English usage except when done in a specific case for emphasis, say in an apologetic tract explaining the difference between the Sacrifice at the altar, and the sacrifice of missing Desperate Housewives.

It is a Proper Noun refering to the title of an event.

Sort of like how we captialize ‘Superbowl’ or ‘World Series’.

I almost always capitalize it. I use a capital when using the definite of titular form, lower case for the indefinite. I do the same with Bible.

Laudatur Iesus Christus.

The argument as a whole, which equates the Mass with lesser things and even with sacrilege: the equivalences that would otherwise result argue for the use of the initial capital to honor the Holy Mass as an act of Christ.

Pax Christi nobiscum.

John Hiner

But do we capitalize the shortened form, such as “series” when referring to that event? The mayor may schedule a Town Hall Meeting, but if he asks whether I’ll be at that meeting, I’ll put that word in lowercase, unless there would be confusion about which meeting.

In some cases capitalization may be required for clarity or emphasis, as I stated above, but in most cases it’s best to limit capitalization, to reduce clutter in writing.

Do you then agree with the statement I rejected in post #6, that every noun referring to the Holy Mass ought to be capitalized? Similarly, do you embrace the practice first introduced by Protestants in the late 19th Century of capitalizing every pronoun which refers to God? And if so, when we refer to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass should we capitalize pronouns that refer to It?

The Oxford dictionary indicates that it is usually capitalized and then uses it that way in a sentence. That’s good enough for me.

The way I understand it, there is only one perpetual Mass and we join in that celebration with the Angels and Saints every time we attend, but it is still the same Mass. I think it’s also clear in the way we phrase our attendance. If someone were to ask where we were going, we don’t say “I’m going to a mass”, instead, we respond, “I’m going to Mass”.

I don’t have any official documentation on this, I just remember a priest explaining it to me that way once. It is quite possible that I mis-interepreted him.

Usually capitalized:

1capitalized : the liturgy of the Eucharist especially in accordance with the traditional Latin rite

2often capitalized : a celebration of the Eucharist <Sunday mass**es held at three different hours>

3**:** a musical setting for the ordinary of the Mass

Of course we do the same thing when we speak of going to school or to church.

I saw that Merriam-Webster definition yesterday, but it really raises more questions than it answers. A liturgy of the Eucharist is always capitalized, but a celebration of the Eucharist is not always? What does that mean? And it also appears that a TLM or EF mass is always capitalized, but not necessarily an OF or NO mass.:whacky:

Those words are not capitalized, at least in that usage.

Okay, so here is what I’m getting: If I am referring to “a mass” it is lowercase, but if I am referring to “the Mass” it is capitalized.

Laudatur Iesus Christus.

The better practice would be to use “Mass” whenever one is referring to the Holy Mass, either a particular Mass or to the Mass generally. Only use the lower case when referring to either the physical quality or to a non-Catholic action modeled on (or, as in the “black mass,” ranged against) the Holy Mass.

As the Sacrifice of Christ, the Mass is unique and ought be distinguished from everything that might have a similar name.

Spiritus Sapientiae nobiscum.

John Hiner

This discussion seems colored to me, I think by the likelihood that all prior participants are Catholic and know all about their Mass. Allow me to offer a non-Catholic viewpoint. When I see the word “mass” it does not signal any religious context to me. I read it as a general gathering of some objects or persons, or as a measure of the gravitational attraction of a body. I much prefer the use of Mass when referring to the Catholic event. It makes the word far less ambiguous. Seeing it capitalized immediately tells me that we are talking about a Catholic Mass – or possibly Massachusetts, but that is a different issue.

From the secular point of view, what you are celebrating is a Catholic Mass, a specific, named event, and with the use of “Mass” alone, the “Catholic” is implied. I noted one participant who was correct in that a Mass is a general sort of term, not referent to any particular named Mass, e.g. we usually capitalize the Superbowl but not the Football Game.
But the two examples are not equivalent. In my opinion the Superbowl is an inconsequential unimportant event. A Catholic Mass can hardly be considered inconsequential or unimportant. To me, the use of lowercase “mass” in referring to it rings of disrespect. Religion in general requires other exceptions to capitalization convention. When a writer uses “God” it means something entirely different from “god” – I think everyone would agree on that. “God” is a named entity, and therefore a proper noun. But what about the standard use of “He” or “His” (or “She” if the author leans that way) in referring to God? It is a sign of respect, I think.

I came here looking for the official rules from the Catholic perspective but there seems to be some disagreement. I am a writer; for the nonce I shall use “Mass” in my writing when referring to a Catholic Mass, for the purpose of clarity.

I often refer to the Church, so my finding this forum was welcome. When I write “the Church” it generally means a specific church organization, often Catholic. Again, in “the Church” we are talking about a specific named body. A “church” is just a building that happens to be used for a specific purpose. If the article is about the Catholic Church, then the “Catholic” is implied. When writing in this forum “Church” certainly implies “Catholic Church.” It seems a similar usage to me.

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