What, exactly, is the EF Mass?

This may seem like a strange question, but what is an EF Mass? Is that the same as the Tridentene (I probably spelled that wrong) Mass? Is that the Mass that’s in Latin? How much of the Mass is in Latin? What if you don’t understand Latin? (My Latin is limited to what little I sang in my public school’s classical choir back in the '70’s, which means we did an Agnus Dei and a Dona Nobis Pachem and Adeste Fidelis).

The reason I ask is because I have only been a Catholic for 8 years. The churches I was raised in would never sing anything in Latin because that was too Catholic.:shrug:

Honestly, if the Mass had still been in Latin, it’s more than likely neither my brother, nor my parents, and certainly not myself and my family, ever would have converted. How could I worship without understand what was being said?

Thanks for the info!

EF=Extraordinary Form=Tridentine Mass=“Traditional Latin Mass”

OF=Ordinary Form=Mass of Paul VI

The EF Mass is almost totally in Latin. The readings are often re-read in the vernacular, however. The OF Mass may be in Latin, an approved vernacular, or a combination of them. The differences are far more than language and are more to do with prayers of the Mass, although the same basic prayers are in both. Additionally, the atmosphere is very often extremely different, although this is a side-issue.

Our understanding of every word being said is not a prerequisite to our worship. Besides, the Mass is repetitive, so it is rather easy to understand Mass in Latin if one attends it habitually. I think there are good arguments for Latin and good arguments for vernacular, and I don’t see either as an all or nothing thing.

Everything YCT said above, plus as an aside, I’ve read that in the English-speaking west there were actually more conversions to Catholicism in the decades before the Mass changes than in the decades after. There is really something about going to virtually the same Mass as your ancestors and your favorite saints, in a language that was written on the original Cross, that crosses language boundaries. But the use of Latin is just one difference.

Hi Kris, the Latin should not be a problem at all. First, there are only a handful of responses we have to say in Latin. Very short phrases. For example, the priest will say Dominus Vobiscum, which means “The Lord Be With You”. We reply “Et Cum Spiritu Tuo” which is “And with Your Spirit”.

Second, the Missal has the English translation along side the Latin. Just read the English as the priest prays in Latin. It takes a few Masses in order to follow along without losing your place, but anyone can do it. If I lose my place, I can look at the priest and see what he is doing to get back on track. The rubrics he follows are strict and it makes it easy to tell what part of the Mass he is praying.

Don’t expect to be able to follow along the first time you go to the EF. Just take it all in :slight_smile:

Could that have been because in decades past taking Latin was considered part of a classical education, therefore, even non-Catholics knew at least some Latin? I could see where that could draw you into a place where the worship was also in the classical language. Unfortunately, by the time I was in school, Latin wasn’t even offered as an elective. I graduated from high school in California in 1980, when everything was very “modern” in terms of education.

For me, unless I learned Latin, I probably wouldn’t attend an EF Mass. I’m one of those people that for me to be engaged in the prayers, I need to understand them. Otherwise I spend my time trying to “translate” them in my head and figure out what’s what. Just like I’m not one of those that can read the missal and follow along using that. It seems to me the intent of the missal is to draw you into the prayers, not distract you from them!:wink:


Interesting. Several years ago I was raked over the proverbial coals for suggesting that there could be those exactly like yourself. I was called everything except a child of God for even thinking such a thing. Thanks for letting me know thatI was correct.

I think every Catholic should try to assist at the EF Mass at least once. Why not go and see?

For one thing, I don’t know where any are in my area. For another, I go to daily Mass at my church, and then to work, so no time. Mainly, I would hate to miss Mass at my parish. We are very blessed with absolutely wonderful priests.:thumbsup:


I can understand that. Later when I have time, I will try to find some good Youtube videos of TLMs and post links here. It’s nothing like being there, but it would be valuable to watch, I think.

I live to serve!:smiley:

From the time I was tiny, I was taught during prayer you bow your head, close your eyes, fold your hands and listen to the prayer. It’s ingrained. Years in Pentecostal type churches has taught me that my minid wanders when I don’t understand what’s being said. And following a translation (or the missal) goes so against that whole bow your head and close your eyes thing that it feels disrespectful. And no disrespect to those who use a missal. For them, it really helps them worship more deeply. It just doesn’t for me. I’m sure I would enjoy the EF immensly and truly worship…if I understood Latin. As it is, it would just be distracting. And being distracted in Mass is a no-no. (Could you imagine that confession? I was distracted in Mass because I went to an EF Mass and I don’t understand Latin…):shrug:

Thanks! I’d love to see a TLM. I remember how I felt when I attended my first Catholic Mass…like an observer, not a participant. I also felt totally lost as to what was going on, when to sit, when to stand, when to kneel, how to respond…all those things that Cradle Catholics take for granted. For me, attending a TLM would feel the same way. It’s okay to be distracted at Mass as a Protestant who’s never been to Mass. Not so much as a Catholic.

I have heard this whole not understanding thing for years and just don’t understand it. You don’t have to pray in Latin, nor do you have to do everything in lockstep with the Priest. Since the essential non changing prayers are the same what would be the major problem? You can easily say the prayers yourself in whatever language suits you. In fact that is what most people that I know do. We know what the canon says in the vernacular and we pray it that way.No need to hear the Priest, who is not offering the prayer to us, but to God.

How about a Spanish or French speaker who speaks no English for example who is at a Mass celebrated in English? Are they distracted because of the English to the point where they cannot participate in the Mass? I haven’t heard of that happening in much the same way I have never heard of someone being distracted at Mass because of the Latin. Its the exact same thing. In fact, most of the complaints I have heard werejust the opposite in thatpeople could not hear the Latin and thus became lost.:confused:

Most of the prayers in the EF are prayers intended to be said quietly or in low-tone by the priest. This is in accordance with the principles put forth by Trent. You would understand them not by listening to them so much but by following along in a missal or some Mass handouts; these are now plentiful thanks to the internet.

=klm120861;10221610]This may seem like a strange question, but what is an EF Mass? Is that the same as the Tridentene (I probably spelled that wrong) Mass? Is that the Mass that’s in Latin? How much of the Mass is in Latin? What if you don’t understand Latin? (My Latin is limited to what little I sang in my public school’s classical choir back in the '70’s, which means we did an Agnus Dei and a Dona Nobis Pachem and Adeste Fidelis).

The reason I ask is because I have only been a Catholic for 8 years. The churches I was raised in would never sing anything in Latin because that was too Catholic.:shrug:

Honestly, if the Mass had still been in Latin, it’s more than likely neither my brother, nor my parents, and certainly not myself and my family, ever would have converted. How could I worship without understand what was being said?

Thanks for the info!

Kris, here’s some information you ought to know as an Informed Practicing Roman Catholic:)

Since about the year 400 AD the Official language of the World wide “Catholic” church[that’s what the name means];** has been and continues to be Latiin.**

The Now EF “Extrodinary Form” of the Mass was in Latin except for the Bible reading and the homily.

Most [if not all] came to know what was being said over time.

The ISSUE not comprehended in present times is that the Mass/ SACRED LITURGY is NOT about us; the laity. it’s God Centered Worship wherein we join in and offer ourselves with the priest as a gidt BACK TO GOD.

The Ordinary Form we use at present has changed our focus from God to "US and then God.:o So One has to be carefully, and prayerfully aware of the Nature of the Mass being:

From God the Father
OF God the Son
By God the Holy Spirit

It’s God’s Sacrifice for us and OUR sacrifices being returned to Him.

When we had just the Latin Mass:
There was no preist shortage
No religious shortage
Few if any Catholic school closings

By a VERY large percentage more Catholics attended mandatory Sunday and Holy Day Mass [more than twice as many by %]; and an even higher percentage went to the sacrament of Confession at least Once a year compared to current stats. [PEW report 2008/9]

My post is NOT to take away from anything that we have or or now do; but to bring a historical persepective into play.

These ARE different and in many was more difficult times we live it for a great many reasons. And many of the problems we have DEAL with the society we now live in; and are not the direct fault of the OF Mass.

But as a 68 year old Life long catholic, active in the church; I have never heard of “Latin”
being an obstacle to conversions. Then again if there were a choice between English and Latin; NO doubt many, even most may well have opted for English?

Certaintly there is a more active participation in the OR Mass.:slight_smile:

I have only been a Catholic for 8 years. This means that I have only attended Mass approximately 500 times in my entire life. That’s including RCIA, and assuming I went every Sunday, which I didn’t. Therefore, while a Cradle Catholic may be familiar enough with the prayers to “say them in whatever language suits them,” I’m not. Nor are the exact same prayers said at each Mass. There are several the priest can choose from, not to mention special ones for certain feasts, solemnities, etc. I know the priest is not offering the prayer to me. But I am supposed to join my prayer to his, with his. How can I do that if I don’t know what he’s saying, given that I don’t know the prayers all that well? How can I not be distracted by trying to figure out where he is in the Mass so I know which prayer I am supposed to be praying? The problem is that you seem to be putting my problems with distraction into the same category as those who either were 1) raised with Mass in Latin, or 2) Have been going to Mass their entire life and so can quote the prayers verbatum if necessary.

I don’t think this is the same as attending Mass in a foreign country, either. I think if I were in a foreign country and my only option was to attend Mass in a language I didn’t know, God would give me the grace to worship and not be distracted because it’s my only option. That’s not the case here. If I were to attend a Mass in Latin, I would become…confused. Somehow, I don’t think God wants us to be confused at Mass.

If God didn’t think it was important for us to understand, why did the crowd at Pentecost all hear St. Peter in their own language? Please understand, sometimes here on the Forum people post things, especially Latin phrases that I honestly don’t know. I don’t speak “Catholic” fluently yet. And Cradle Catholics sometimes…forget that, while you have had the blessing of a lifetime of learning your Catholic faith, we’ve only had a few years. And those were dedicated to learning the essentials, like the Sacraments. Or the fact that it’s a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. Or that eating an hour before Mass applies to daily Mass, the same as Sunday Mass. In other words, you have a college degree (figuritively speaking) while I’m still in grade school. Please be patient with me.

I’m a convert (8 years, too) to Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism, and I’m with you on everything you’ve said so far!

I fully understand and appreciate the history of the Latin Mass. And I know I would enjoy observing one. But that’s the problem. It would only be an observation. I also know the Mass isn’t about me, or the laity. For me, I can’t join with the priest in offering myself as a gift back to God if I don’t comprehend what is going on. Maybe some can, but I’m just not “wired” that way. I can, and do, when I do understand. And I don’t want to wait to eventually come to some sort of comprehension of what’s going on.

For me, when I attend Mass, in a way I can’t explain, I am not just sitting in a pew. I am joined to the great liturgy of the ages. But it’s precisely because I can comprehend what is going on that I am able to do that.

I asked my questions because I see so many references to the EF and the OF and all of those initials and terms posters used and I had no clue what you were even talking about.
So I thought I’d ask.

The reason you “just don’t understand it” is that you were not raised Protestant like we were. I was raised Evangelical Protestant, and from the time I was a wee tiny child, the most important thing was “understanding.” For me, Latin is something that I just don’t “get.”

Here’s something else you probably don’t understand–how Protestants (and Catholic converts) can worship God with contemporary Christian music or even Christian rock music. Again, you weren’t raised with it. Also, if you are a typical Catholic, you probably went into bars when you were old enough, and so for you, this kind of music has a definite secular feeling. I didn’t go into bars growing up (forbidden in our church), and I didn’t even listen to much rock music on the radio, so for me, the contemporary and rock music does not have secular feeling, but instead, feels like reverent, holy, worship music.

So much depends on how we were raised.

I think that Protestants can learn to appreciate the Latin Mass if they choose to. I also think that Catholics could learn to tolerate and possibly even appreciate, or at least, not denigrate, contemporary Christian music, if they choose to.

BTW, I am very aware the Latin is the Official Language of the Church, and for this reason, I respect it and believe that it should continue to be used in the Mass, even in the OF Mass. But that doesn’t mean that I “get it.”

I’m writing a separate post here because I am hoping everyone will read it. When I asked my original questions it was because I was seeking informaiton, so I could understand the terms and abbreviations I had seen in other posts.

Some of you have been very kind with your replies and have given what I have asked for, that being information.

Some of the comments, however, have left me feeling a bit like I’m not a “good Catholic” because I’m not doing an internet search to find the closest Latin Mass. I know that issue is probably on my end and not anyone’s intention.

That being said, converts, especially fairly recent converts who are still trying to figure out the basics, often have …Catholic self-esteem issues, for want of a better phrase. By that I mean that when you take for granted that we know what you know and understand what you understand, it makes us feel…less, because we don’t.

So please, be gentle. Be understanding of where I am on my journey with the Church. I don’t have the benefit of being Catholic all of my life. Or a Catholic education. And what I don’t know is infinately more vast than what I do know.

Just an aside, but it doesn’t logically follow that because conversions declined in the period after the introduction of the new Mass, the new Mass is to blame.

Looking at the context, all mainstream Protestant denominations as well as the Catholic Church lost membership in Western countries (not just English-speaking). At the same time the number of people claiming no religious belief has been increasing based on census statistics.

It seems clear to me that a larger demographic shift has occurred in that period that is not entirely related to the form of the Mass.

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