How to follow the Latin Mass if you don't speak Latin

Interested in the Latin Mass, but don't speak Latin? I have a confession to make: neither do we.

Most people who attend the traditional Latin Mass have never taken a course in Latin. Some study it for fun; others are old enough to have studied it in grammar school, but knowledge of Latin is by no means a prerequisite for attending the Latin Mass.

To follow along, consider purchasing an inexpensive Latin-English booklet missal available from Coalition Ecclesia Dei basic http://www.ecclesiadei.org. These booklets contain most of the text of the Mass, with Latin on one side of the page and English on the other.

The booklet missals also describe what the priest and altar servers are doing at key points of the Mass, so that even if you lose your place in the text, you'll be able to say, "Ah....Father just lifted his hands, so we must be here."

Each time you attend a Latin Mass and follow along with the booklet, you'll get to know the Mass a little bit better. You'll begin to meditate on its words and to truly pray along with the priest (though you won't be speaking his words out loud).

Once you're comfortable with the Mass consider investing in a complete 1962 Latin Mass missal. These can be ordered online or purchased at St. Stephen the First Martyr Book Store in Sacramento by calling (916) 223-3112.

Frequently asked questions

One of the first things you'll notice, of course, is that the priest speaks Latin for most of the Mass. But he will repeat the Epistle and Gospel in English so that the congregation can understand them, and he will deliver the sermon in English.

You'll also notice that the priest faces the altar, rather than the people, for most of the Mass. This practice symbolizes the fact that the priest and congregation together are focusing on God rather than on each other.

If the schola (men's choir) is chanting, you'll notice that the music is much more serene and prayerful than much of the music you'll find in a modern hymnal.
A Latin Mass may run a few minutes longer than a Novus Ordo (new) Mass, but you will probably discover that time flies by. The whole Mass is a cohesive whole, with no room for innovation or ad-libbing. It may be the best chance you'll have all week to pray deeply to God without distractions.
No. The difference between the two is more than just a matter of translation. The new Mass, commonly said in English, uses a heavily re-written missal. The traditional Latin prayers have a unique richness, fullness, and beauty. The rubrics (special directions on what to do) of the Latin Mass are also different, calling for much more bowing and genuflecting to show reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament.
Few people are fluent in Latin these days, so for some parts of the Mass, you'll probably have little idea what the priest is saying. To follow along, consider purchasing an inexpensive Latin-English missal available from Coalition Ecclesia Dei. Keep in mind, however, that you don't need to follow every single word. As the priest prays, you can pray too by meditating on the passion of our Lord. Just be aware of what is happening on the altar and avoid "spacing out."

The congregation at a Latin Mass kneels and genuflects more than you may be accustomed to. If you get confused, just follow along with those around you. Other than that, the Latin Mass makes few requirements of your outward behavior. There's no hand-shaking or hugging when the priest says "Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum," and there's no hand-holding during the Pater Noster (Our Father).
At times, the priest prays very, very quietly. Because he is facing the altar, you may not be able to hear his words at all.Even if you can't hear, you can keep track of the parts of the Mass using a missal. But if you attend the Latin Mass often enough, you will learn the parts of the Mass just by watching what the priest is doing. As he prays, you can pray for the Church or for your own intentions, or meditate on the passion of our Lord.
At the Latin Mass, we follow the tradition of kneeling and receiving the Eucharist on the tongue, not in the hand. Of course, those who are physically unable to kneel are not required to do so.
You will see some older folks at the Latin Mass. But you'll probably be surprised at how many young families you see. In fact, it's often the growing families in a parish who crave the Latin Mass most, because they want to raise their children with the beauty and clarity of the traditional Catholic faith. They're planning to bring many souls into the world and want the best possible environment in which to catechise them!
Absolutely. People who grew up attending the new Mass often ask this question, but when you think about it, it's an ironic one. The traditional Latin Mass was the norm for centuries and changed only very slightly over the course of many, many generations. It is not a new fad or experimental liturgy, and it has never been outlawed.

If the new Mass, which has been in use for less than 40 years, fulfills our Sunday obligation, then there is no doubt that the centuries-old Latin Mass does likewise. There is no reason to doubt the authenticity or legality of the Mass that is our heritage as Catholics.