Could someone please give me the definition of extraordinary? I see extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at every mass I attend but I’ve been Catholic since March 26, 2005 and I’ve never seen the extraordinary form of the mass offered. Please explain to me the definition of extraordinary. Thanks.

Extraordinary in the context of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion means “not ordained”. Priests are ordinary ministers of the Eucharist and deacons are ordinary ministers of Holy Communion. Both have received the sacrament of Holy Orders - ie, they are ordained.

I hope that helps.



The extraordinary form of the Mass is Mass offered according to the older rubrics that were used before 1970, in which the service is offered in Latin and according to the 1962 Roman Missal.

I see you live in the Atlanta area(So do I!), so if you would like to experience this you can attend Mass at St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church in Mableton, which is a Latin Mass only congregation.

If you are asking for a definition of “extraordinary” in a non-Catholic point of view… the word comes from a combination of the two words “extra ordinary”

Below is from dictionary.com

beyond what is usual, ordinary, regular, or established: extraordinary costs.

exceptional in character, amount, extent, degree, etc.; noteworthy; remarkable: extraordinary speed; an extraordinary man.

(of an official, employee, etc.) outside of or additional to the ordinary staff; having a special, often temporary task or responsibility: minister extraordinary and plenipotentiary.

The Mass is called “extraordinary” based on the 1st definition . It is “beyond what is usual, ordinary, regular, or established”

The extraordinary ministers are “extraordinary” because they are “outside of or additional to the ordinary staff, having a special… temporary task or responsiblity”

Hope this helps, God Bless and Merry Christmas

I don’t know if this will help but the Pope who called the TLM the “forma extraordinaria” inserted a clause in the SP:

§ 2 Celebration in accordance with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII may take place on working days; while on Sundays and feast days one such celebration may also be held.

Note, though, that this is an unofficial translation. The official translation of Universae Ecclesiae to further the EF lists nothing as to its frequency. The previous decree of the TLM (by Pope JPII) was to make the missal of 1962 “more wide and generous.”

This might help you: the Latin roots of the word extraordinary are extra = out of or beyond and ordinem = order or turn of things, thus extraordinary means out of the ordinary turn of things. What we are used to is the ordinary Those helpers with the Eucharist are supposed out of the ordinary but they are quite ordinary these days aren’t they? But they aren’t supposed to be used as much as they are some places, thus the Church calls then *exactly *what they are supposed to be: out of the ordinary!

Hope it helps.


For the most part, it might be helpful to think of the Catholic usage of the word as “extra-ordinary” rather than “extraordinary”. We tend to most associate extraordinary with something that is incredible or amazing. However, while that is an acceptable usage, the usage in the two instances you sighted is closer to something outside of the ordinary, an exception, an unusual circumstance. It is extra (outside of the) ordinary.

To put it in layman’s term’s we’ll break up the word: extra•ordinary.

Ordinary means normal. Extraordinary indicates a non-normal situation.

Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are named as such because they are meant to be rarely used in situations where the Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (e.g.: Bishops, Priests, and Deacons) would not be able to distribute the Blessed Sacrament to the faithful.

The Ordinary Form of the Mass is the Mass most parishes offer (Mass of Paul VI), which has the option for the use of the vernacular, and ad populum (facing the people) celebration. In contrast: The Extraordinary Form of the Mass is more properly called the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Mass of John XXIII), and must be celebrated ad orientem, and the principal components of the Mass take are prayed in Latin.

Let’s first begin with law. The Catholic Church has more than one code of Canon Law and under those codes, there are statutes for different situations.

To make it easier for Canon Lawyers, bishops and major superior of male religious in the Latin Church to speak to each other, certain words from Roman law are used. Extraordinary happens to be one of them.

In Roman Law, anything that is not the norm is extra (out of) ordinaria(o) ordinary. In modern English we would say anything that is not the norm.

For example;

Laymen deputized to distribute Holy Communion are Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. The norm would be a clergyman (deacon, priest or bishop).

A mass in the Tridentine form (not rite), is mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite or simply TLM or EF. Tridentine is not a rite. It is a form of a particular rite. The Rite is the Roman Rite.

The Tridentine Form is the Extraordinary Form, because it is not the mind of the Church that it become the norm for the entire Latin Church.

The norm for the Latin Catholic Church is the Mass of Paul VI, sometimes called the Pauline Mass or the Novus Ordo (which is awkward, because the original novus ordo missal is no longer in use. This mass is the Ordinary Form, because it is the norm for the Latin Church.

To recap

Extraordinary – a legal term from ancient Roman Law that means not the norm. However, it is legal.

If it’s not legal then it is illicit, not extraordinary.

Br JR, would this (or rather Novus Ordo Missae) be any more awkward than Pope Benedict’s reference to the older Mass in UE as Usus Antiquior? Just an honest question. I know the term Novus Ordo offends many.

The interim Mass of 1964-1969 also had the option for use of vernacular, ad populum, hymns, etc. Pope Benedict specifically pointed to Mass of Paul VI (as you did) but as Br JR said or implied, the norm has now become the 2002* Roman Missal.

  • Br JR, is this the typical edition?

To avoid future mishaps with the terminology used: Does anyone know of a catch-all term which refers to all post-conciliar liturgical forms in the Latin Rite (“conciliar” referring to the Second Vatican Council)?

The term Novus Ordo is per se a neutral term. But some, by no means a majority or even outside the Internet a significant minority, of persons attached to the EF, usually laymen, in misplaced zeal, use it as an insulting manner, usually abbreviated, as if to (wrongly) say that the Ordinary Form was “NO Mass”. This naturally insults most Catholics, as both forms are true Masses.

Oh JR! What a beautiful explaination:

I don’t believe you’ve left anything out. Good job.

Oh if only both were available at the parish where I am and done properly…(sigh)…I’d be really close to heaven.


Antiquior in law does not have the same meaning as it does in conversation. In Roman Law is means “older”. Many people who are not familiar with the vocabulary of Canon Law think that it means “ancient”. That’s not how the term is used in law.

Usus Antiquior actually means the older used form, which is very awkward when you translate it literally into English. I flows much better into the Romance languages. In English, a smoother translation would be “the older form”. Just leave out the word “use”. We know that it was used.

The problem with Novus Ordo or NO is not the term, but the who. You’ll hear the priests from the Society of St. Peter (FSSP) use it when they teach the mass, simply because it’s it’s more specific than “the ordinary form”. It’s more specific because most people attending such a workshop knows what the term means. When they say it, no one is offended. They are not being dismissive of the Ordinary Form Mass.

When a Traditionalist layman uses the term, I tend to be a little skeptical and sensitive. Too often, there is a spiritual snobbery behind it. Whatever form of the mass we prefer, we must avoid spiritual arrogance.

The interim Mass of 1964-1969 also had the option for use of vernacular, ad populum, hymns, etc. Pope Benedict specifically pointed to Mass of Paul VI (as you did) but as Br JR said or implied, the norm has now become the 2002* Roman Missal.

  • Br JR, is this the typical edition?

This would be typical edition.

It would be nice. It’s not always practical. I volunteer at a parish that has seven masses every weekend. There are two problems that make the Extraordinary Form difficult to introduce.

First: All 7 masses are full. The church is small. I seats 800. This leads to the next problem.

Second: The parish has only two priests. A priest should only celebrate two masses at most. With two priests, this adds up to four masses on Sunday a rented priest for the fifth Sunday mass and the two priests for the two Saturday masses.

If you added an EF mass, who’s going to celebrate it? That’s the first problem. The second problem is that rules do not allow you to bump 800 people who attend the mass in the Ordinary Form for 100 who want a mass in the Extraordinary Form. The Ordinary Form is a right. The Extraordinary Form is NOT a right. Many people do not get this. Pope Benedict deliberately used this legal term, “out of the ordinary”. If something is a right, then it’s ordinary for that person or that population.

Catholics have a right to the mass. We do not have a right to the mass in a form or language of our choice. We have to take what the Church can reasonably provide. The Church has a duty to provide whatever is reasonable.

Bumping 700/800 people for 100 people and one priest who want an EF mass does not sound very reasonable.

This would make it inconvenient to have the EF in every parish. Where I live, we have what I call clusters. These are celebrations of the EF in several parishes that are accessible from different points in the diocese. The people who attend the mass at St. X may come from four or five parishes within a smaller radius, rather than driving across the state.

I wonder, though, if it would still be that insulting if the 1970 Missal were to be said only in Latin, and the 1962 Missal were allowed in 500 vernaculars, facing the people, etc. Which form would be extraordinary in that situation? Just a hypothetical question.

The same thing could happen if those 700-800 people were all Spanish speaking and only 100 spoke English. They’d probably drop the English Mass ceteris paribus. Just saying as that seems to be happening a lot.

Similar to the situation in my former city of residence, where the Bishop provided a Chaplain for the Francophone community and where Francophone Catholics drove from all the neighbouring towns and villages to attend the one French language Mass offered each week. I personally drove through at least 4 different parishes on my way to Mass and others may have passed 6-8 different ones.

From a marketing standpoint, the local (and more modern) vernacular sells better, be it the liturgy, the Bible, or even Shakespeare.

But what do I know, I learned marketing at a Benedictine school. :smiley:

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