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Frequently Asked Questions


Why is the Mass in Latin?


Latin is the ancient liturgical language of the Roman Catholic Church.  While Latin ceased long ago to be the spoken language of the people, our Holy Mother the Church chose to maintain its use in public worship.  The use of Latin is a means of maintaining unity in the Catholic Church.  Nations and cultures that are separated in language are able to worship God together with one voice.  

Likewise there is an element of mystery about Latin. The use of Latin conveys to the people that they have entered something beyond comprehension; that a mystery is being enacted.  Pope John XXIII wrote “The Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular” (Veterum Sapientia).


Do I have to know Latin?


No. Special booklets can be provided that include every part of the Mass in both English and Latin (they can be purchased here). With a little practice they are easy to follow and very useful for actively participating in the Mass. That said, while the faithful are strongly encouraged to follow the Mass with the use of a Missal, a lack of understanding does not prevent the faithful from participating in the act of worship.  St. Augustine wrote: “If there are some present who do not understand what is being said or sung, they know at least that all is said and sung to the glory of God, and that is sufficient for them to join in it devoutly.” The important thing is not to follow every word of the liturgy (in whatever form) but to be with God, to offer praise and thanksgiving and to listen to His voice in the quiet of one’s heart.


Why is the priest facing away from the people? 


The priest does not “face away” but rather “faces with” the people as he leads them in prayer to God.  They are not looking at one another but rather both looking toward the altar, on which is placed the tabernacle and above which is a crucifix.  

While Christ is most especially present in the Eucharistic species, the tradition of the Church teaches that Christ is also present in the Word, the priest, and the people (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 7).  Jesus Christ is present in the priest as the “one mediator between God and man” (1 Timothy 2:5).  When worshiping in this way the special nature of the Priest’s role becomes obvious to our senses: like the priests of the Old Testament, he is a representative standing for and before the people, between themselves and the Holy of Holies.  At times he faces the people to address them directly or bring them God’s blessings while at other times he turns toward God to pray for them and offer their sacrifice to God in a unique and consecrated way.

This form of celebrating the Mass is called “ad orientem” which literally translates “toward the East,” the direction from which scripture says the Lord will return (Matthew 24:27).  The East also recalls anticipating the rising of Christ who is the “Sun of justice” (Malachi 3:20).  While not all churches are built facing the east, the rear wall of the church is considered “liturgical east” and the priest and people together face in this direction when praying to God.


Why is Gregorian Chant used as the music?


Sacred music, being an integral part of the solemn liturgy, has as its purposes the same purposes as the liturgy itself: the glorification of God and the sanctification and edification of the faithful. Music is admitted to the liturgy that it may dispose the faithful to more readily receive the graces proper to the liturgy.  Many modern styles of “liturgical” music possess a form which is opposed to the noble and contemplative character of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Gregorian Chant, rather, developed and grew over centuries with the Mass itself.  The chant was written uniquely to accentuate the meaning of the Sacred Liturgy and was passed down through the centuries because of sacral character.  Gregorian Chant forces us to slow down and quiet ourselves.  It requires us to leave this world which is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:31) and enter into that sanctuary not made with human hands (Hebrews 9:24).

The role of Gregorian Chant in the Roman liturgy has been continually affirmed by the Church.  The document from the Second Vatican Council on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, teaches that “the Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman Liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 116). Following the council the Church issued the document Musicam Sacram, which repeated that “Gregorian chant, as proper to the Roman liturgy, should be given pride of place” (Musicam Sacram, no. 50). 


Why can’t I hear the eucharistic prayer and the words of consecration?


Many of the prayers of the priest in the Traditional Latin Mass are said silently so that only the priest may hear his own voice.  The silence increases our reverence at the most sacred moment of the Mass, removes the Consecration from ordinary vulgar use, and is a symbol of our Lord's silent prayer in the Garden and silence during his Passion.


What’s the difference between a Low Mass and a High Mass?

Low Mass is the simpler form. The priest recites rather than chants the parts of the Mass and is usually assisted by one or two servers. Two candles on the altar are lit. High Mass, on the other hand, has more solemn ceremonies and usually six lit candles on the altar. Parts of the Mass are sung in Gregorian chant by the priest or a special choir called a schola, incense is used, and usually there are at least four servers.

Of the two, High Mass is arguably the more beautiful. But each has its charms because each imitates in its own way the heavenly worshippers who are described in the Book of Revelation as either silent in awe or singing in exultation before the Lamb.

Additionally a Solemn High Mass is a Mass with full ceremonial. It is said by a priest who is assisted by a deacon and subdeacon. 


How do I receive Holy Communion in the Extraordinary Form?


Kneeling and on the tongue, with the tongue extended enough for the priest to place the Host on it. The communicant does not say, “Amen.” At a traditional Latin Mass, communicants only receive from the priest, whose hands were specially consecrated at his ordination for touching the Body of Jesus Christ. And communicants only receive Holy Communion under the species of bread lest a single drop of the Precious Blood be spilled. In receiving “only” the Host, however, communicants still receive the entire Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, for according to Catholic theology even the smallest particle of the Host contains the entirety of the Risen Lord.


Why are many of the women wearing veils? 


The custom of women covering their heads in church and men uncovering theirs goes to St. Paul the Apostle (1 Corinthians 11:4-6). There are a number of reasons for this, but they can all be traced to a respect for the sacred. Women who wear veils are reminded that they are in a sacred place experiencing a sacred moment and others who see them are reminded of the sacred and unique dignity of womanhood. For as we see with the Ark of the Covenant and the tabernacle that contains the Blessed Sacrament, only the sacred is veiled.


I’m a woman. Am I required to wear a veil?


No, it is voluntary.


I’m a man. How should I dress?


Both sexes should use their best judgment.  It is important to remember that the Holy Sacrafice of the Mass is the greatest thing that we can experience on this earth.  Dress should be modest and dignified.


Where can I find a Latin Mass in the Diocese of Erie?


The Latin Mass is offered at one church in the Diocese of Erie: St. Hedwig Church in Erie.  A Low Mass is said every Tuesday at St. Hedwig Church at 5:30pm.  A High Mass is said at St. Hedwig Church every Sunday at 9:30am. 

How can I learn more about the Traditional Latin Mass?


For more information check out the following:

Why is the Mass in Latin
Do I have to know Latin
Why is the priest facing
Why is gregorian chant
Why can't I hear
What's the difference
How do I recieve
Why are many of the
Am i rquired
How should I
Where can I find
How can I learn
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