Pre-Vatican II Mass

I’ve been reading in on the articles of Vatican II in order to write a paper about the change in the Church with this council. However no matter what article I read I can’t find anything that tells me how the common layman was effected by these changes.

So does anyone here know what was the normal mass pre-Vatican II?;u=13789;sa=summary;u=10785;sa=summary;u=361;sa=summary

Yes - simply find a 1962 Missal and you will find the exact way in which a mass was conducted, both low and high masses.

The 1962 Missal was actually the result of modification by John XXIII of the mass that had been in use for several hundred years by, I believe, Pius V in 1570. That mass could accurately be described as the first Tridentine Mass.

I happen to attended a Latin Mass that is said every Sunday in conformance with the decree by Benedict XVI entitled Summorum Pontificum.

If you want to see how the Latin Mass of 1962 was held, see the following:

This is one of the best websites I have seen regarding the Latin Mass.

In weekdays the majority of the Masses were low masses, completely silent, and without any loud voice. The Mass was the affair of the priest and the altar servers. The majority of the Masses was the mass for the dead in black. This sometimes, especially for new deaths or anniversaries was missa cantata or at least VolkMass with the cantor and the people singing hymns in vernacular.

In Sundays and Holy days of onligation there were many masses. All but one was VolkMass with vernacular Hymns (at least in Central Europe = Bavaria, Austria, Hungary). Some very early masses were silent Masses, either no vernacular at all, or only the Gospel was read in vernacular with a short sermon. One of the Masses was Missa Cantata when the priest chanted loudly some parts of the Mass and cantor and the faithfull were singing appropriate songs (some Latin, some vernacular).

Since the 1930’s in Europe (1950’s in the US) there were dialog Masses were some prayers were recited aloud by the faithful either in Latin or vernacular (or mixed)

The text itself was very close to the first option new rite, with the following differences:

  • Psalm 42 between the priest and server at the beginning
  • only one reading usually from St Paul’s letters
  • no prayer of the faithful only a single ‘Oremus’ (Let us pray) before the offertory
  • offertory prayers different from the new rite
  • only the communion of the priest was part of the rites, the communion of the faithful is separate from the Rituale Roman even during the Mass
  • concluding part if much longer and different order (first dismissing then benediction, and Last Gospel and in low mass or VolkMass the Leonine prayer)

The priest celebrated the mass always turning his back to the people (except in some Basilicas) and the main part always in inaudible voice

Vatican II itself only proposed some vernacular (keeping the Latin in undefined way) and some rationalization of the rites. This was accomplished by 1967: no Psalm 42, changing lectionary, communion of the priest and faithful combined, conclusion shortened and logical order: after the dismissal there is just a short prayer for the priest. The processes (entrance, Gospel reading, offertory, communion of faithful) and other actions of the people (rite of peace, hand holding) are later development.

The Mass was said according to the DOCTRINES of the Council of Trent (and, by the way, said without too many microphones then):



Being the sixth under the Sovereign Pontiff, Pius IV., celebrated on the seventeenth day of September, MDLXII.

The sacred and holy, ecumenical and general Synod of Trent–lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same Legates of the Apostolic Sec presiding therein–to the end that the ancient, complete, and in every part perfect faith and doctrine touching the great mystery of the Eucharist may be retained in the holy Catholic Church; and may, all errors and heresies being repelled, be preserved in its own purity; (the Synod) instructed by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, teaches, declares; and decrees what follows, to be preached to the faithful, on the subject of the Eucharist, considered as being a true and singular sacrifice.


That the Sacrifice of the Mass is propitiatory both for the living and the dead.


On the Canon of the Mass. And whereas it beseemeth, that holy things be administered in a holy manner, and of all holy things this sacrifice is the most holy; to the end that it might be worthily and reverently offered and received, the Catholic Church instituted, many years ago, the sacred Canon, so pure from every error, that nothing is contained therein which does not in the highest degree savour of a certain holiness and piety, and raise up unto God the minds of those that offer. For it is composed, out of the very words of the Lord, the traditions of the apostles, and the pious institutions also of holy pontiffs.


On the solemn ceremonies of the Sacrifice of the Mass.

And whereas such is the nature of man, that, without external helps, he cannot easily be raised to the meditation of divine things; therefore has holy Mother Church instituted certain rites, to wit that certain things be pronounced in the mass in a low, and others in a louder, tone. She has likewise employed ceremonies, such as mystic benedictions, lights, incense, vestments, and many other things of this kind, derived from an apostolical discipline and tradition, whereby both the majesty of so great a sacrifice might be recommended, and the minds of the faithful be excited, by those visible signs of religion and piety, to the contemplation of those most sublime things which are hidden in this sacrifice.


On Mass wherein the priest alone communicates.

The sacred and holy Synod would fain indeed that, at each mass, the faithful who are present should communicate, not only in spiritual desire, but also by the sacramental participation of the Eucharist, that thereby a more abundant fruit might be derived to them from this most holy sacrifice: but not therefore, if this be not always done, does It condemn, as private and unlawful, but approves of and therefore commends, those masses in which the priest alone communicates sacramentally; since those masses also ought to be considered as truly common; partly because the people communicate spiritually thereat; partly also because they are celebrated by a public minister of the Church, not for himself only, but for all the faithful, who belong to the body of Christ.


On not celebrating the Mass every where in the vulgar tongue; the mysteries of the Mass to be explained to the people.

Although the mass contains great instruction for the faithful people, nevertheless, it has not seemed expedient to the Fathers, that it should be every where celebrated in the vulgar tongue. Wherefore, the ancient usage of each church, and the rite approved of by the holy Roman Church, the mother and mistress of all churches, being in each place retained; and, that the sheep of Christ may not suffer hunger, nor the little ones ask for bread, and there be none to break it unto them, the holy Synod charges pastors, and all who have the cure of souls, that they frequently, during the celebration of mass, expound either by themselves, or others, some portion of those things which are read at mass, and that, amongst the rest, they explain some mystery of this most holy sacrifice, especially on the Lord’s days and festivals.


CANON VIII.–If any one saith, that masses, wherein the priest alone communicates sacramentally, are unlawful, and are, therefore, to be abrogated; let him be anathema.

CANON IX.–If any one saith, that the rite of the Roman Church, according to which a part of the canon and the words of consecration are pronounced in a low tone, is to be condemned; or, that the mass ought to be celebrated in the vulgar tongue only; or, that water ought not to be mixed with the wine that is to be offered in the chalice, for that it is contrary to the institution of Christ; let him be anathema.

They shall also banish from churches all those kinds of music, in which, whether by the organ, or in the singing, there is mixed up any thing lascivious or impure; as also all secular actions; vain and therefore profane conversations, all walking about, noise, and clamour, that so the house of God may be seen to be, and may be called, truly a house of prayer.


It seems like you’re asking about the Council in a general way, not liturgy alone. Along those lines, here’s some notes I put together last year for 8th grade catechism class. For summary of how Council was experienced by ordinary Catholics, see in particular Fr. O’Malley’s list of changes in “personality” of Church.

His list is interesting because, although liturgical changes are very noticeable, they are not the only ones. They’re part of a bigger picture. In fact, to my mind, descriptions of the impact of the Council in terms of how the old liturgy wasn’t as good as the new liturgy are totally misleading.


Traditional Latin Mass: Translation and Grammar

Well, you’ve got one nearby! Go and see. :slight_smile:

This is one of the chapels for the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (in full communion with the Magisterium, of course):

Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin House (diocese: Phœnix)
1537 W. Monroe St.
Phœnix AZ 85007
Tel. +1 480 231 0573

I love the Tridentine Mass. The quiet contemplation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is very…I don’t know what. A few words come to mind: awesome, peaceful, encouraging, inspiring, deep.

Can’t set one form of the Mass against another, though, regardless of how you feel. The Lord Jesus is the Lord Jesus. The Catholic Church is the Catholic Church. The Mass is the Mass. Although many would argue that it isn’t quite that simple. You’ve got to be very careful in your research.

I can’t find anything that tells me how the common layman was effected by these changes.

The main difference that I see personally is that the Tridentine Mass is more passive (for the laity) while the Mass of Paul VI requires a more active role for the laity.

It’s kind of like the difference between contemplitive nuns and active sisters, heh. They’re both types of consecrated life, but they have different forms. Don’t know if that makes any sense for you.

You might want to read The Spirit of the Liturgy and A New Song for the Lord, both by Pope Benedict XVI. He talks about how the changes affected the laity and how difficult it was for many of them to adjust.


Oh, come on! The priest lead his people to Calvary and to the Father. The rubrics of the OF also assume the priest celebrates Mass in this manner.

With all due respect, that appears to me to be a mischaracterization of the priest’s proper orientation. This comes from “The Spirit of the Liturgy”, the book written by Pope Benedict XVI:

Misunderstanding of meal symbolism

This is, of course, a misunderstanding of the significance of the Roman basilica and of the positioning of its altar, and the representation of the Last Supper is also, to say the least, inaccurate. Consider, for example, what Louis Bouyer has to say on the subject:

The idea that celebration versus populum was the original form, indeed the way the Last Supper itself was celebrated, rests purely and simply on a mistaken idea of what a banquet, Christian or even non-Christian, was like in antiquity. In the earliest days of Christianity the head of table never took his place facing the other participants. Everyone sat or lay on the convex side of an S-shaped or horseshoe-shaped table. Nowhere in Christian antiquity could anyone have come up with the idea that the man presiding at the meal had to take his place versus populum. The communal character of a meal was emphasized by precisely the opposite arrangement, namely, by the fact that everyone at the meal found himself on the same side of the table (54f).

In any case, there is a further point that we must add to this discussion of the ‘shape’ of meals: the Eucharist that Christians celebrate really cannot adequately be described by the term ‘meal’. True, Our Lord established the new reality of Christian worship within the framework of a Jewish (Passover) meal, but it was precisely this new reality, not the meal as such, which He commanded us to repeat. Very soon the new reality was separated from its ancient context and found its proper and suitable form, a form already predetermined by the fact that the Eucharist refers back to the Cross and thus to the transformation of Temple sacrifice into the reasonable worship of God.

Not from the meal alone

Thus it came to pass that the synagogue Liturgy of the Word, renewed and deepened in a Christian way, merged with the remembrance of Christ’s Death and Resurrection to become the ‘Eucharist’, and precisely thus was fidelity to the command “Do this” fulfilled. This new complete form of worship could not be derived simply from the meal, but had to be defined through the interconnection of temple and synagogue, Word and Sacrament, cosmos and history. It expresses itself in the very form that we discovered in the liturgical structure of the early Churches in the world of Semitic Christianity. It also, of course, remained fundamental for Rome.

Once again let me quote Bouyer:

Never and nowhere before (that is, before the sixteenth century) is there any indication of the slightest importance being attached, or even attention given, to the question of whether the priest should celebrate with the people behind him or in front of him. Professor Cyril Vogel has proved that, “if anything was stressed, it was that the priest should recite the Eucharistic Prayer, like all other prayers, turned towards the East Even when the orientation of the church allowed the priest to pray facing the people, we must not forget that it was not just the priest who turned to the East, but the whole congregation with him” (p. 56).

I offer additional information:

The above is how I personally experienced the EF.

Here is another one:

I was privileged to meet Fr. Uwe Michael Lang in person two months ago. He is the one who wrote the magnifcent book, Turning Towards the Lord. He explains the issue of the priest’s orienation rather masterfully. Actually having the chance to discuss this issue with him in person was a real joy and a special blessing.

Along these lines, I would have loved to have read so much more about life in the Church before Vatican II. When I read it, everything in V II seemed normal because it was the Church I was raised in.


See if you can find a copy of Monsignor George A. Kelley’s book In My Father’s House for sale on the internet. It is out of print. It will give you an excellent idea of Catholic life before the sixties.

Sorry for replying so late, but thank you everyone who posted in this thread. It’s midnight and I’m working on my Vatican II essay…heh I don’t think I’ll be sleeping tonight…

My primary association is the fable fro Esop, about the man, his son and their donkey.

I never heard the expression ‘ad orientem’ until recently. It may be somewhere in the old books, but in my life nobody used it, because on that good old times people were realistic, and de facto the churches pointed to different directions.

Last time I described the position of the priest as toward the tabernacle, some scolded me that it is not proper. So I said, again based on the reality, that turning his back toward the people. Now you do not like it.

I hate to say you, but fact is fact. From the XIX Ecumenical council until St Pius X the rite of the Mass was entirely matter of the priest and the servers. people were considered spectators or audience. To express this theology the priest turned toward the tabernacle and his back toward the people.

St Pius X understood that this was a mistake, people should be part of the mystery. **What happens now it is the explosion after centuries of suppression.

Christ is with His Church, and the balance will be achieved, but euphemisms, especially misleading euphemism which require the changing of the natural meaning of the words, like ‘liturgical ad orientem’ do not help this balancing process.

If we want the good outcome, we shall understand and acknowledge the mistakes of the past. The artificial excluding the laity from the mystery of the Holy Mass was wrong.

If we want the good outcome, we shall understand and acknowledge the mistakes of the past. The artificial excluding the laity from the mystery of the Holy Mass was wrong.

Wrong in what sense? Did it violate Church law? Was it an abuse? Seems to me the intent of the Council of Trent, to emphasize the proper respect to God, was everywhere applied equally, or close to it. It became a problem only for those people who thought the worship should be more about them (vernacular, ad populum, microphones, fewer prayers, fewer details, more laity in sanctuary, etc.) than God.

It was a mistake, elitism, clericalism, excluding people from the actuosa participation.

In our world everything should be balanced between the opposites. There is a blig cliff between the belief that people are more important than God, and the practice that people are not important at all.

Starting with St Pius X God is helping his Church to find again the lost balance between the respect to God and the open participation of the people.

The past before St Pius X was as much out of balance as is the exploding status now.

I recommend you to meditate on the question: what was the sin of the pharisee. Do not be satisfied with the answer: they were hypocrites, there was a conflict between their words and deeds. In some sense we all have this conflict, and probably the majority of the pharisees took seriously the Law, the formalism as much a the traditionalists today the rites. Still they lost the Lord in His physiocal presence, on the same way as many traditionalist do loose Him in his mystical body, the living Church.

The required keyword is the balance, not one side exclusively.

Agreed. The priest faced the same direction as the people to lead them to Christ. Saying that he turned his back to the people is DEAD WRONG!!. A lie!!. Take a good look at your Eastern Churches, which never changed or will change their liturgies. They too lead their faithful to Christ in the same direction.

I beg you enlighten me. Show pictures of the priest during the Canon turning his face or side toward the people in a regular pre Vatican II environment. I lived in that time, and either my memory and the pictures what I saw shows that the priest turn his back toward the people.

In my world truth is which represents the reality, and lie is which doe not represent the reality.

As for the Eastern Churches my knowledge is that during the 1930’s they changed their original ancient Greek or old Slavonic to vernacular, also stopped to klose the sanctuary during the Canon. What is your knowledge?

My point with the Eastern Churches was the direction they face, said nothing about languages.

Read this article from Diocese of Tulsa Oklahoma especially the part which says "“Turning Towards the Lord”. And you will be enlightened.

I’ve read a lot of comments criticizing Vatican II. But reading what you just wrote, these changes look like good changes.

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