For some time there has been a Latin mass celebrated in my diocese, but it was in a part of town that’s hard for me as a non-driver to access. Recently, though, they moved the mass to the cathedral downtown, which though an hour one-way by bus, is still do-able for me. This mass, I should add, has the approval of the Bishop.
I was very excited about going, as I’d never been to a Latin mass before, though I have seen them on TV and DVDs. They use the red paperback “Latin-English Booklet Missal For Praying The Traditional Mass,” which is put out by the Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei. I have two copies of this at home, so I was able to prepare myself somewhat.
I’m a little hard of hearing, so I sat fairly close to the front, though not so far up that I couldn’t watch others for cues of when to do what. A half-hour before the mass, a group of people began praying the rosary. Unfortunately they were whipping through the prayers a lot faster than I am used to saying them. I worried that maybe my rosary “didn’t count” since I wasn’t getting to say all the words.
An elderly priest arrived and headed to the sacristy. I’d never seen one in a biretta before.
A layman got up to explain how we were to line up for communion. I was unable to hear most of what he was saying, either because of his manner of speaking or his refusal to use the microphone at the pulpit. It all came out garbled.
There was so much I enjoyed about the mass, but I won’t go into specifics, for fear some people on this site might rush to the defense of all of the opposite practices–the ones I don’t care for (like hippie Jesus praise music, for example).
Now this missal was very helpful–it includes drawings in the margins that show what the priest should be doing at any given time. It tells most of the times you should stand, sit, or kneel–though not all. I had to play some of that by ear.
I had forgotten that much of the mass is spoken silently by the priest. I also had forgotten how much is sung. Since I cannot read music I had trouble with the parts where the congregation had to sing along. I got totally lost during the Asperges and the Kyrie Eleison, as there seemed to be a lot of repetition that wasn’t in the missal. Also it took me awhile to figure out that the Scriptural lessons were in the hand-out and not the missal. And I couldn’t hear the homily very well either.
My main problem was I wasn’t sure what I should be doing while I was trying to keep track of the priest. He seemed to be going through everything pretty quickly–quicker than I could read it in the missal in either Latin or in the English translation on the opposite page. For most of the time I was flipping forward and backward amongst the pages to see where we were.
There was a lot more kneeling than I expected. I am fat, so I wasn’t able to support my weight very well on my knees for that long, so I often had to rest my posterior on the front edge of my pew.
These may sound like complaints, but they are merely the comments of a somewhat confused first-timer. I suppose my confusion will abate the more often I attend–and I definitely intend to go again and again. I really loved that mass.
But if anyone has any suggestions as to how I can do better at my next Latin masses, I’d appreciate them.