A few weeks ago, I changed up my Sunday routine by going to Latin Mass at a parish in town. I’ve been a few times before and, after some awkwardness, I’ve learned a few things about how to enter into this liturgy without getting completely lost.
This is my unofficial list of tips I’ve learned and had to figure out along the way about how to survive a Latin Mass when you’ve never been before.
1. Embrace the Different
If you go into a Latin Mass expecting everything to be the same as a novus ordo you’ll miss a lot and probably wind up standing when you should be kneeling…(oops!) There will be incense, and lots of singing, and women in veils. And it will also be full of beautiful ritual. Embrace the fact that this Mass will be pretty different than your typical Sunday experience. And that’s okay.
2. Sit Towards the Back
Trust me when I say that this will make the whole newness a bit less overwhelming. First, you can watch everyone else to be cued when to stand and kneel. If you’re an awkward person (like me) you may find you’re less self-conscious when no one’s looking at you. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Don’t Sweat it!
Don’t worry if you get lost or don’t stand right on time. From my experience, people at Latin Mass are actually pretty chill. Just try your best and most importantly pray. Don’t worry about following everything or being on the right page of the booklet or any of that. Just enjoy the fact that you’re at Mass.
4. Know These two Common Responses
While you don’t need to try and learn the whole Mass before you go, a few responses can help you out with being able to participate at Mass.
First, the one every Catholic knows in English and makes Star Wars jokes about…
Priest: “Dominus vobiscum” (the Lord be with you)
People: “et cum spiritu tuo” (and with your spirit)
When the priest is saying a long prayer you may find yourself lost or if you’re reading along in a booklet you may finish reading before he finishes talking. Just wait until you hear this:
Priest:”…saecula saeculorum” (roughly meaning forever and ever)
5. Go back!
The first time I went to Latin Mass I walked out frustrated. I couldn’t keep track of the pages and it didn’t make sense. I knew it was beautiful, but I was upset I couldn’t appreciate that beauty because I was struggling just to stand and kneel at the right times.
Going back this week, I was much more comfortable and also less worried about following perfectly. It allowed me a chance to be a part of the Mass and enter into it. If you struggle the first time, don’t worry about it. Try again. It might not be your style but it’s hard to know that after just one experience.
Latin Mass can be daunting. But if you’re interested in going I recommend you try it. It can be a lot to take in, but focus on entering into the Mass and making it a prayer and I’m sure you’ll get something out of it.