Extraordinary Form of the Mass- Roman Rite

I have attended the Extraordinary Form of the Mass in the Roman Rite four or five times now. I try to follow along in the red book that they give us, but I still get lost trying to find which prayers are being said. The liturgy is very beautiful, but I would like to be able to follow along. If you had this problem the first few times you attended the Tridentine Mass, I would appreciate any advice you can give me on how to overcome this problem. Thanks!

I recommend this video-- it walks one through the Extraordinary Form step by step, and is a great resource. I watched it before the first time I went to the Tridentine Mass for the first time and it made things much easier than I would have otherwise expected. Once you’re there, I’d repeat after the schola director at my parish-- practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanence. Once you have been enough times, it will become more and more clear. Until then, perhaps take one of the red missals and read it at home!

Benedicat tibi Deus!

Link to video:


As you continue to attend the Mass, you will find that you are better able to follow along. Keep in mind that the priest says many of the prayers quietly while the choir is chanting something else. For example, as the choir is chanting the introit the priest and other ministers will be praying the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar. The more you attend, the more you will become aware of the subtle cues that indicate which prayer the priest is saying - be it a head bow, a Sign of the Cross, a slight elevation in the volume of the priest’s voice, a genuflection, etc.

I would also reccomend YouTubing some videos of topics like “how to serve the Traditional Latin Mass”. Even if you aren’t a server, these videos give an excellent over view of what is happening at the altar, and can help you as a member of the congregation come to a greater understanding and awareness of what is occurring throughout the liturgy.

Stick with it! If you do, you will continue discover the logic and sublime beauty of the ancient Mass.

Here’s another resource (which I think has been alluded to): sanctamissa.org/en/tutorial/

I have attended the Extraordinary Form of the Mass in the Roman Rite four or five times now. I try to follow along in the red book that they give us, but I still get lost trying to find which prayers are being said. The liturgy is very beautiful, but I would like to be able to follow along. If you had this problem the first few times you attended the Tridentine Mass, I would appreciate any advice you can give me on how to overcome this problem. Thanks!

First, be patient. It took me 6 months to a year to finally get the liturgy down pat, so be patient with yourself.

Secondly, pay very close attention to the priest and follow along with the Missal at the same time. Where you will get lost is when the laity is singing and the priest continues with the prayers. By the time everyone finishes singing, the priest is 2-3 pages ahead in the prayers.

Lastly, if you are really serious about learning the liturgy, the best advice is to attend the Latin Mass daily, with Low Mass during the week and High Mass on Sunday. And sit in the front row. If you do this for a few months, you will learn the liturgy quite quickly in a short amount of time, but it does take a lot of discipline to get up every morning to attend.

Or, you may find that there was reason why 2143 out of 2147 bishops said that the vetus ordo liturgy was in need of reform and of revision.

As a priest, I celebrated both forms of the liturgy. When I was asked by the bishop to provide the vetus ordo, according to the norms of the old indult, to those who had petitioned for it, I did – until, happily, that came to an end. Now, I would never celebrate Mass using the old rite.

While I greatly appreciate a well celebrated solemn high mass accompanied by a well trained schola (and get to experience such from time to time- always a treat for me as a lay man), I too prefer the OF from week to week. That being said, I live in an archdiocese where chant, incense and Latin are not completely excluded from the OF. But for those who live in certain regions of North America, who have only ever experienced the OF as the mass of drums and electric guitars, who have never heard chant nor ever smelled incense, I understand why they may “run” to the EF.

I would also argue that the OF Missal we got went a lot farther than what the Council Fathers actually called for. It isn’t for no reason that the Orthodox say liturgy has now become another stumbling block to resolving the schism. The EF had issues… But so does the OF.

The purpose of my comment was as a contrast, in light of the various posts that offered resources so that the original poster could attempt to better follow the vertus ordo Mass. They offered resources and I offered my own reflection from my years as a priest who has offered both forms that, in the end, the original poster may find that if s/he values being able to be engaged in the liturgy, then this may not be the best option…and that is perfectly legitimate.

In the years when I offered the indult Mass, it was a very small group of regular attendees who participated. There were some who came on an infrequent basis. There were others who passed through but did not become regular attendees for various reasons…time of the Mass, travel distance, etc. But there were also those who did not find the vetus ordo to be satisfying spiritually and I would always counsel them that they should not be disquieted by that finding since, in fact, the overwhelming majority of priests and bishops do not celebrate that Mass.

I met on occasion those who felt, for any number of reasons, that in coming to experience it, they should appreciate the vetus ordo Mass but, in fact, didn’t. It was a matter of reassuring them that the Council Fathers had very good reasons, born of the Liturgical Movement, to mandate an overhaul of all the facets of the liturgy…the Mass, all the sacraments, the breviary, and the other rites. The liturgical reform was a great gift to the Church…and I say that both as a priest and having been a professor of liturgy and sacraments.

When I was much younger, as a budding academic, I had occasion to interact with various Council Fathers and periti in the aftermath of the Council. Since it was my field, we had occasion to speak at some length on these topics. They saw the implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium as very much what had been envisioned and hoped for; they turned without hesitation from the vetus ordo to the novus ordo and I never had one express otherwise in their conversations with me.

Fair enough, Father. I do not have your expertise not experience, but I can’t help but feel that many OF masses I have attended over the years fall short of what the Council Fathers wrote. It isn’t perhaps the Missal itself but rather the execution. Don’t get me wrong - as I already stated a well celebrated OF mass is my preferred norm… But the utter banality experienced in some parishes is depressing. When the Church’s treasury of sacred music is discarded in favour of evangelical “praise and worship” accompanied by a loud electric guitar and the beat of the drum, I look around and see a quiet congregation. I came from an Evangelical background- but it doesn’t seem to work in Catholic parishes. It’s impose by music leaders and the congregations, from what I’ve observed, are apathetic. Catholics don’t seem to sing along no matter what genre we try… So how is it ulimately more beneficial than a more traditional schola? Of course this isn’t an OF issue per se. If I didn’t have access to OF masses celebrated in a more traditional manner (and thankfully I do) I probably would be very tempted to attend EF masses for the music alone. The local FSSP parish has a mind blowing schola trained by a well known local musician.

I have to say this is one of the most helpful comments I’ve ever seen with regard to the EF. I appreciate this insight.

With respect, you are hijacking the thread, Father.

With respect Father, you are derailing the the thread. The OP is seeking resources to better follow along with the Traditional Latin Mass.

Is he? I thought he made the relevance of his comments very clear. Perhaps you just don’t like what is being said?

He can say whatever he pleases. I’m not a moderator. Personally, I thought the justification for his posts was quite weak. If he wants to discuss the Novus Ordo Missae, he can start a new thread relevant to that, no?

The OP asked for advice on overcoming their problem of finding the EF to be difficult to follow along with. Father offered them advice.

The problem some might see is that his advice involves perceiving the EF as having an inherent flaw that leads to problems like the one the OP is experiencing. Methinks that sort of view is a bit too much for some enthusiasts to handle.

Father is entitled to that view. While I often disagree with him, there is no disputing he brings a wealth of experience which he can draw upon to make observations. However, in this particular thread I cannot see how his posts are contributing to the topic? To me, whether he intended it or not, his posts are a classic example of derailment. The poster did not inquire as to whether or not the Traditional Latin Mass has any “inherent flaws”, as you call them. Not only does Father fail to offer any resources for better following along with the TLM like the OP requested, he uses his posts to launch an anecdotal tirade against it, all while singing the praises of the Novus Ordo Missae.

However, the more I go back and forth with you, the more I become guilty of derailment myself, so I will be excusing myself from this conversation until it returns to the topic.

Fair enough. :slight_smile:

But in your original response to Father, you did claim that the OP wanted resources.

I just want to be clear that the topic of the thread is not resources, but advice on overcoming the problem of finding the EF to be difficult to follow along with.

Your problem here is that the sort of advice given does not correspond with the sort of guidance you want the OP to be getting. :wink:

I happen to be very fortunate that I can attend Mass on a regular basis, at a Benedictine monastery of the Solesmes Congregation where liturgy is taken very seriously and where the Ordinary Form Mass is celebrated exactly like Sacrosanctum Concilium intended. In Gregorian chant for the Propers and Ordinary, the rest in French plainchant of Gregorian inspiration. They also sing Lauds and Vespers in Latin, in Gregorian chant, every day.

However regarding the treasury of sacred music, while I agree with everyone that it is vitally important to preserve that treasury, the ability to perform it publicly requires skills that are not always within the reach of a small rural parish choir, or an inner-city parish impoverished for resources, to name a couple. The reality is that it will most likely find its preservation in religious communities.

I can speak with some authority on this as a member of a Gregorian schola for the past 14 years, who has had some training in it from the choirmasters of the abbey. Executing the Graduale Romanum in its entirety is not for the faint of heart and the weak of skill. Gregorian chant that is badly mangled sounds just awful. Monks practice it full time! They sing it every single day and even then, mistakes, sometimes blatant ones, are not unheard of. In addition one also has to master the ability to read Latin fairly quickly and smoothly, without hesitation. That’s not so difficult for Francophones or any master of the Latin-based languages, but when I hear Anglophones who can’t roll their R’s try to sing Gregorian chant, it grates on me. Maybe other Anglophones don’t notice it but this Francophone certainly does…

Our schola sings once a month and we require at least two rehearsals prior to Mass to adequately master the chants. Some chants we have had come back on a regular basis and require less rehearsal now, especially the Ordinary, but new chants take a lot of prep. Some chants, such as offertories and graduals, are simply beyond the reach of non-professional choirs. There is the Graduale Simplex, where the chants resemble more the psalmody of the Divine Office, but even that is not obvious. Most amateur choirs don’t know how to properly psalmody on the Gregorian modes (I do, I teach it). There simply isn’t the concentration of talent required in most parishes now. Our schola sings in a small city; the others that I know sing in larger cities; we have managed to pull together a dozen and a half or so men, of which about 15 show up for any given Mass, who are enthusiastic enough about it to want to learn and invest themselves in it. At least one previously lived in a religious community, and several of us are Benedictine and Cistercian oblates with close ties to our community and its choirmaster.

The monks have many of the same issues: many chants from the Sanctoral and Temporal come back only once a year. For that reason, the eve of most solemnities or feasts with these chants, the monks outside the Mass and the Divine Office to rehearse them. They have extensive rehearsals at least once a week, more in liturgically complex seasons. It would be almost impossible to find someone in public to do that on a weekly basis unless they are religious and tied to a community.

It’s also important to note that some forms of the Vetus Ordo Mass allowed singing of popular hymns at otherwise recited Masses, before and after the “official” start of the Mass (and I believe, though I may be wrong, there was some latitude for the Offertory). There is nothing to suggest that this would not also be the case if the Vetus Ordo was still the only form of the Mass, and that it wouldn’t be the predominant way Mass was celebrated in modern parishes, with the same situation existing regarding Gregorian chant: available from more experienced choirs, on an occasional basis in parishes with a visiting choir from time to time, or on a more regular basis in religious communities. The demographics of belief in God and Mass attendance would likely be no better today regardless of the form of the Mass; secular pressures would still be there. Therefore the ability to pull together the resources needed to execute the sacred treasury of music everywhere and at all times would be just as compromised as today.

As for sacred polyphony, take what I said above and multiply by 10. At my parish I have only heard good choirs doing polyphony on a very sporadic basis; again a visiting professional choir.

It’s unfortunate, but it’s just the reality. Just because some FSSP parishes manage to pull off chant on a regular basis, because it’s their mission to preserve the old Mass, does not mean that other than the simplest chants would find widespread use in parishes should the EF suddenly become the norm.

Yes, it’s just a matter of time before threads like this get derailed. It didn’t take long this time.

It may indeed have had flaws. But reform for the sake of reform isn’t necessarily the answer.

Does contemplative prayer really need reform? Apparently Pope John Paul II didn’t think so when he restored the ancient liturgy.

If there are any flaws, they are probably more connected to the lack of teaching on the EF.

I appreciate your comments very much. I came to my first Traditional Mass - a Midnight High Mass - with high expectations. I love to experience beautiful liturgy and I was looking forward to that Mass very much. I came away disappointed and wondered how I had failed to appreciate it properly. A friend reassured me that I simply needed more exposure, that appreciation for the Mass would surely come. It has been several years now, and I’ve now been to about 20 such masses - for weddings, First Communions, homeschool events etc. High Masses, low Masses, sung Masses; diocesan, FSSP, SSPX - I’ve experienced quite a variety. While I appreciate the beauty, the smells and bells, the choir, etc., I still find myself utterly lost for almost the whole Mass. Every once in a while, as I flip through the missal and look at pictures, I can figure out for a moment where we are. Maybe it would get better with time and more exposure, but I don’t find it conducive to prayer. Friends continue to tell me that I just need more exposure. Maybe so. My husband tells me it took him an entire year of regular attendance to learn to really appreciate the Divine Liturgy of St. John Crystostom and to not be totally lost. To me, it was just normal.

It is good to have the reminder that the liturgical reform didn’t come out of nowhere and that it was seen as a deep and urgent need in the Church.

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