TLM in times of covid

I have really only started practicing my faith over the past few months, and am still learning a lot about the catholic mass. There is so much I am yet to learn! (slow learner).

I have read that a Traditional Latin Mass will be held next week in my neighbouring parish and I would love to attend.

I have to admit to knowing NOTHING of the TLM, apart from seeing it mentioned on this forum at times, and a few brief internet searches. I have just watched a TLM on YouTube - it was in the US, I’m in the UK.

I would love to attend next week, but am worried about knowing nothing about it, what will be expected of me, all the traditions etc. Is it acceptable to sit at the back and just watch? What’s the protocol for receiving Eucharist?

Also I was wondering are there generally many changes now with covid - changes with singing, communion etc? I’m assuming there will be a limit to numbers attending as with all masses now, otherwise I don’t know what to expect.


The congregation usually doesn’t do much, if any, singing at a TLM, so not much worry about that unless you are a member of a chant group singing the Mass parts.

Communion at TLM is only given on the tongue. However, the good news is that TLM priests generally know how to administer communion on the tongue without touching the person’s tongue or getting saliva on their fingers - they kind of drop Jesus onto people’s tongues. The fact that the person is kneeling at a rail with their head back also helps in this regard.


Thanks for your response. So do you think in these times of the pandemic they will still administer communion on the tongue? Even when this is prohibited during the standard mass here?

I have never received on the tongue before… especially not kneeling at a rail. If I am not comfortable with this can I forgo receiving communion on that occasion? Or is active participation required?


As at any Mass whether TLM or Ordinary Form. you do not have to receive, provided that you have received once during the year already, (usually around Easter but this year is different, of course.)

You do not have to receive communion at any Mass, TLM or OF. It is fine to go and not receive.

To my knowledge, priests at TLM will not distribute Communion in any manner other than on the tongue. There is no communion in the hand at TLM. The often have a big note about this in the bulletin or on their website so that no one will expect to receive in that way.

If you have never received on the tongue and are nervous about it, I would suggest that mayhe you not receive the first time you go, and just watch how other people kneel and receive. You can also watch some Youtube videos showing how it is done.


I respectfully agree with all posters here so far. Having attended, served and chanted the TLM for about 25 years, I would like to offer you a slightly different take on the TLM.

If you could arrive about 15-20 minutes earlier, (with a moment of prayers and reflection before Mass) try to find a “Red” book which would help you to follow the Mass and with the responses in Latin. This book includes translation in English and Latin. If are lucky enough to find the “Liber” which includes all the prayers and wordings for all the Masses which the Priest says at the Altar.

If you have yet heard of the practice of “silence participation”, you will see it being done. This practice involves the people following the Mass and pray with the priest in silence. If it’s done correctly, you would see that silence participation is truly active participation.

I wish you well and all the best.


Thank you. Useful information. I’m really looking forward to going now :slight_smile:

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There is no other option in the TLM but reception on the tongue (I’ll leave out my feelings about denying it in the ordinary form). As a general rule I have much less incidental contact when distributing on the tongue that I do when distributing in the hand (i.e. close to zero contact on the tongue compared to 15-20% of communicants receiving in the hand). I only mention it because those trained to properly distribute on the tongue are adept at placing the host without touching the tongue.

There are several videos online showing how to receive on the tongue if you wished to learn. One thing people might not be used to is that you fill in the rail as a group and the priest will walk down the rail. That means you kneel and it might be a few moments before you receive. That also means you generally tilt your head back, open your mouth wide and make a platform with your tongue only when the priest is at the person receiving immediately before you. You don’t kneel and sit there with your mouth open just waiting.

You might have a helpful priest like with my oldest son’s first time. He quietly, but sternly told him to tilt his head back and open his mouth. :wink:

This is also how Holy Communion is distributed to those who wish to receive on the tongue at our cathedral…at Ordinary Form Masses. Those who wish to receive on the tongue, during the pandemic, need to go to one particular side of the altar rail and receive in this manner from a designated priest. They make an announcement at every Mass “receiving on the hand is the method recommended by the public health authorities, however, if you wish to receive on the tongue…”. Its a nice balance!

I’ve been going the the TLM for several years now, but grew up going the the OM. The first time I went, I had no idea what was happening and just knelt, stood and sat when everyone else did. I actually did that for quite a while, until I understood what was happening.
Depending on which one you go to Low/High mass, you don’t really respond or sing at all, so I wouldn’t worry about that. You also have no choice but to accept communion on the tongue. This doesn’t mean you have to go up for communion though. You’re more than welcome to just sit at the back and follow along as best as you can. If it makes you feel better though, the priest will be pretty experienced in putting the Host in your mouth correctly, much more than priests in the OM (I’ve never received communion by hand).
Also consider wearing a head veil. I know that I felt like the odd one out when I first went and didn’t wear one, although it could be different in the UK.
Hope you enjoy :slight_smile:

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Certainly a fair balance. In theory people are supposed to come to receive on the tongue after everyone else, but bishop told us not to make a huge scene and distribute to anyone on the tongue regardless of when they present themselves. We have abolution cups with water and rubbing alcohol and use them after anyone receives on the tongue. The largest issue is that the next two or three hosts begin sticking to the finger tips even when blotting with a puraficator. I’ve gotten adept at holding the host with thumb and any of the other 4 fingers so I can let the one that was cleansed dry off.

To add to the above, in my experience it is more common for people at the TLM to refrain from receiving so you shouldn’t feel selfconscious about people wondering why you aren’t approaching the rail.

One thing to not do is to fold your arms and approach the rail without intending to receive. I don’t know if this gesture is common in the UK to indicate you are not receiving, but is very common in parts of the US. The expectation in the TLM is that you approach the rail to receive the Eucharist, not to “get a blessing”.

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Anyone who goes to the TLM for the first time should approach it with the understanding that it is a contemplative spirituality. It’s not so much about you but about God and especially His sacrifice. Don’t worry about following the missal or trying to read the translation. It’s not about your comprehension, it’s about the priest’s action. Don’t worry about what you have to do. There are no absolute rules, only customs. If you want to sit at the back, do though I suggest you sit nearer the front to be able to focus on the altar better.

If it’s a low Mass there will be considerable periods of near silence. This can be quite tough for someone used to “active participation” but it can also be quite beautiful.


My local OF church has a similar arrangement - people who want to receive on the tongue are supposed to go after everyone else on weekdays, and to go to the center line on Sundays. However, some people don’t get the message, and last Sunday I heard some older couple complaining to the priest outside that some people ahead of them had received on the tongue in the wrong line and they themselves weren’t comfortable receiving after these people, etc. I feel bad for the clergy having to deal with this.

That’s true. At my first TLM a few years ago, I felt self-conscious for going up to receive, even though I’d been to confession within the previous couple weeks, because everybody else in my pew stayed seated and I had to literally climb over people to join the communion line.

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I am glad I will never be a pastor. If we process in wearing masks people complain. If we don’t people complain.

Father must have been sick of it a couple weeks ago because we had a similar situation as above and he told them tersely that they don’t have to receive if they are uncomfortable, their choice, but people had the right to receive on the tongue even if it made them uncomfortable.

The biggest problem we have is people juggling taking off a mask after receiving in the hand. I have had over a dozen host dropped on the floor in the past 6 weeks; once twice in the same mass within 5 minutes of each other. We ask them to remove their mask before receiving, consume and put the mask back on, but more than half of people don’t listen. I’m to the point that I want to not even present the host until their mask is off so their hands won’t be competing between host and mask. I’m sure that won’t make the pastor get a ton of complaints. «sigh»

I sometimes watch the FSSP’s Sung Mass in Fribourg (the closest to me they livestream). Since public Masses were allowed again after lockdown, the priests have been dipping their fingers in disinfectant between each communicant at communion.

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Receiving communion every Sunday is not a requirement and this is a great moment not to.

I’ve perfected the art of pushing the mask up just enough to put the Communion in my mouth and then pull it back down, but I did see an elderly man right in front of me drop Jesus by accident a few weeks back.

That is the practice here. I’m always curious how bad of a taste it leaves on the host as it generally takes 10 - 15 seconds for my fingers to fully dry and not transfer it to the host. Only 8-10% of our parishioners receive on the tongue so I have time to rotate disinfected fingers, but I doubt there is that much time when disinfecting after each and every communicant.

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