TLMs are not hard for the young… on the contrary

We all know… especially the liberals know… that the young take to the TLM like little ducks to water.

It is amazing how quickly boys can learn the Latin responses with some coaching and a good example.  They like serving the TLM, with its clear structure. 

Taking a cue from the grownups, they know they are doing something important and they revel in it.

A reader sent an interesting note (edited):

While news from South Africa has not been encouraging perhaps you would consider posting this story.
While some in SA are finding minor liturgical changes difficult, two young boys from the inner-city have started serving the Traditional Latin Mass. The boys only saw the TLM for the first time recently. But from that time they have been very eager to learn to serve the "old" Mass. Their mother made sure that the boys practiced their Latin at home and very soon they were word perfect.
The boys worked very hard never missing a single practice. They are now eager to learn more about the mass, continue with further server training and have even expressed an interest in learning a bit of Latin.
It would be a great encouragement to the boys and the cathedral faithful if your readers would send them congratulations and good wishes either in your comment box or at 

I remember some years ago a reader of my articles in The Wanderer and the blog sent me a book to read… which he wanted back!… a book for boys, actually… about a cadre of altar boys in a parish in, perhaps, the 1930’s – my memory isn’t clear. 

I wish I could remember the title.  It would be perfect for a reprint project.

From what I have seen in parishes on two continents, the TLM and formation of young men in good things, discipline and especially the virtue of religion, are a strong match.

We should give young men a fighting chance to acquire the virtue of religion in this age of the war on boys and manhood.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. paul zummo says:

    I attended a TLM on the Feast of the Assumption at the Parish near my house, one which was I believe the first celebrated there since the motu proprio. All of the altar servers (about 8 in all) were basically kiddies, and they were excellent. Of course there was a fair amount of adult supervision, but there’s absolutely no reason to believe that kids can’t participate in a TLM. In fact, the transition might be easier for them since they haven’t spent a lifetime hearing nothing but English.

  2. Amen, Father.

    Traditional Catholic worship (East or West) does definitely have an appeal for boys and young men in a way that is unique. Not that it does not have an appeal for women! But I think masculine sensibilities are points of secondary or tertiary consideration for those who serve in most Ordo of Paul VI Masses.

    There must be some connection to the “Theology of the Body” here…

  3. Paul Haley says:

    God bless these young men for serving at the Altar of God and may Our Blessed Savior richly reward them for their efforts.

  4. Don Hickey says:

    I’m 78 now. Was an altar boy from about 11 years old. I was taught the responses by Dominican nuns and served my last Mass at age 27. No one had any problem with the latin and I’m certain kids now would pick it up in no time at all. I still remember all the responses. What Dominicans teach you don’t forget!

    Pax vobiscum

  5. Ron says:

    Thank you for posting this Fr.Z! God bless these young men indeed! It shows just the beauty of the universality of the Church as well as the force of attraction of the traditional Mass, especially for the young! It is so beautiful!

    These two young men have been an encouragement to me.

    Pax Christi tecum

  6. Frank H says:

    What a wonderful photograph! How well I remember kneeling at the foot of the altar as a young altar boy. Our parish was in the Detroit Archdiocese, and looking back I realize that Detroit must have been at the forefront of the “reform”, because I was in the first group of altar boys to say the prayers at the foot of the altar in English. Here’s to the young who embrace the TLM and are the hope for our liturgical future!

  7. Roland de Chanson says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf: We should give young men a fighting chance to acquire the virtue of religion in this age of the war on boys and manhood.

    Well said!

    The Latin was actually very easy to learn – we had cards that had printed the Latin, a phonetic transcription, and an English translation. In our class, the ones who had memorized the entire card got assignments first. The director of the altar boys knew how to bring out the competitive instinct in us.

    When I learned the classical pronunciation in school, I once had the temerity to change … quare tristis in-CHAY-do dum AF-FLEE-JIT me .. to the “proper” in-KAY-do … AF-FLEE-GHIT. Father, whose face I could not see while kneeling at the foot of the altar, apparently took no notice. So I brashly ventured a “sus-kee-piat” and “sac-ri-fi-kium” during the Orate fratres. Again, nothing. I had escaped censure. Or so I thought.

    Later in the sacristy, Father, after placing the chalice on the table, turned to me, glowered and with a accusatory gesture thundered, “Ciceronianus es, non Christianus.” I wasn’t up on my Jerome, but I got the message. Suddenly I realized that he had said “Kikeronianus” and my face must have shown my puzzlement. He winked and told me the year he graduated from the same public high school I was then attending.

    He did however tell me to save the pagan Latin for the forum not the sanctuary.

  8. Tominellay says:

    I remember serving Mass in the late ’50s; we boys enjoyed tackling the Latin and learning the moves…

  9. Ken says:

    I think a strong point to make is that altar boys are serving in clerical roles, respnding (when the congregation lets them, but that’s another issue) to the celebrant as the priest offers his Mass.

    This direct involvement surely must be a reason for so much fervor and, thus, the healthy number of vocations in traditional Latin Mass-based orders and societies. Perhaps that is a research paper to be written.

  10. ED says:

    Here in Sacramento at the FSSP parish we used to have a Nigerian priest Father Evaristus,FSSP, he has since returned to Nigeria to start the FSSP apostolate in that country. Parishoners from here that hae visited him have been shocked how well the Nigerian traditionalists know their Latin responses and their Latin choir is brillant!!!

  11. ED says:

    Maybe these 2 young boys can train the South African hierarchy in Catholicism!

  12. ekafant says:

    My 11 year old serves Mass every Sunday and has been serving for the last year and a half. He has never been to any other form of the Mass, so, everything was familiar. He learned most of it with very little instruction. The first Mass he served was a private Mass, and the priest quietly guided him if he made any errors or was not sure. He gets to train his 3 younger brothers now!

  13. Matt says:

    we had cards that had printed the Latin, a phonetic transcription, and an English translation

    SSPX currently distributes similar cards to their young boys to study with along with publishing study aids. I have seen these and they are good quality materials. Other materials available here

    Cards like you used are available here:

  14. Nathan says:

    I heartily agree with the discussion going on. Perhaps (if it is not a rabbit hole) I could pick everyone’s brain on strategies to help with a little problem I have training altar boys for the TLM–my home parish has a weekly Low Mass on a weeknight, and the pool of altar boys is mostly 8-year-olds. My experience is that while they enjoy the challenge and work hard, they really do lack the maturity and day-to-day understanding of the structure and flow of the Mass to handle the expanded responsibilities of serving the TLM without an adult as the other server or a “hands on supernumerary.” Is there a general sense at what age you can allow the boys to fully handle the responsibilities if they are serving once or twice a month and don’t attend the TLM every Sunday?

    Since I’m responsible for their training, I really want to help form them in discipline and religion–I just don’t want to over-reach and turn them off to the TLM.

    In Christ,

  15. MW says:

    May God bless these boys for their efforts (and their mum of course)!

  16. mbd says:

    What seems to be not understood by the contemporary mentality that has come to dominate in the last few decades is that boys are attracted to the challenge of something such as the EF which, with its use of Latin and the complexity of its ritual, provides them with a satisfying sense of accomplishment when they have mastered it. A certain formula to turning young people off is to simplify the liturgy to the point of boring banality.

  17. Maureen says:

    Roland — your story made my day!

  18. leo says:

    the phonetic versions are the most helpful for training i havent seen one for a while

  19. I serve the TLM at my parish, I love every minute of it. It’s a challenge, something serving the NO isn’t.

  20. tjm says:

    If these young men can handle this then surely their elders can handle “ineffable,” Bishop Trautman must be grieving. Tom

  21. meg says:

    Father – maybe you could ask your readers if any know the title of the book about altar boys you mentioned from the 30’s. It sounds wonderful and I know so many families who would love a book like that. As you said, there are publishers who might be willing to reprint it.

  22. Don Hickey says:

    Re: Teaching Altar Boys…

    It\’s just the thing. St. John Cantius’s site has videos of TLM that might also be helpful.

  23. Fr. Z:

    My friend Brant Pitre, a fellow professor, has introduced me to Wipf and Stock, a publishing house that does a great job printing out of print books. Now as a professor, whenever I need one of those great older Catholic textbooks, e.g., on Jesus, the Gospels, etc., I can get them into my students’ hands. Their system really is geared for university professors, but if someone were to teach a class at a diocesan or parish level he or she might be able to use them as well. I’m thinking specifically though about perhaps a class offered in Rome on addressing the pastoral implications of the TLM. If someone were to teach a class on that, I would think they could easily get that book brought back. It’s relatively easy to do. In other words, if you want the book you mentioned you can probably get it brought back more easily than you think. God bless…

  24. Marco de Puna says:

    PLEASE take a moment a do as Fr. Z requests and LEAVE THE BOYS A MESSAGE OF ENCOURAGEMENT

    Fr.Z has provided a direct link in the above posting.

    Let’s thank and encourage these young men!!

  25. father Totton says:

    Leo, the little book Serving Low Mass reprinted by angelus press has the phonetic pronunciations in it.

  26. Andrew Siwko says:

    Could the book be, “Book for Boys” by Fr. Leo J. Trese?
    Copyright 1961, Fides Publishers Association, Notre Dame, Indiana.
    The collection of articles was taken from, “The Catholic Boy” magazine.

    These stories are fabulous, here’s an example of the ending of, “Freddie Made It” from the, Some Boys I’ve Known” section:

    As I was getting ready to leave, Freddie grinned at me. His eyes were bright with fever and puckered with pain, but he could still grin. “You know, Father” he said, “I really wasn’t much of an altar boy. I made an awful lot of mistakes and I seemed to get everything wrong. But there’s one thing I can say. Father: I always kept my eyes on the altar. I never even wanted to look anyplace else. I never looked back. Not even once. I never looked back!”

    I stopped with my hand on the doorknob. I couldn’t see Freddie very clearly; there was too much water in my eyes. “Well Freddie,” I said. “I hope you’ll look back once in a while from now on. Especially at the old pastor you left behind.”

    My altar boys all know the story of Freddie, and I have noticed one thing. Ever since he died I have had very few complaints about my boys looking back.

  27. Aine says:

    What beautiful pictures. They make very fine altar boys. Father was fortunate to have found such intelligent young men to help him serve at the altar. God bless them.

  28. Andrew: I just don’t know. That could be it, but I had the impression that it was in an earlier period.

    But my recollection is that it was a little novel, rather than a collection.

    Maybe it was a serial published as a book?

  29. kat says:

    My 10 year old has been serving at the TLM off and on (depending on military assignments)for 3 years and it amazes me every week (we attend a small parish with only 3 servers) how he is so attentive and precise when he is up at the altar. When he is at home he is a regular mischief maker, except for this incident last week where he was teaching his 4 year old brother how to serve…

  30. Roland de Chanson says:


    Thanks for the links to those cards. They are very similar, better in some ways than the one I remember. I think ours had the English as well but that may be just a lapsus memoriae.

    I do remember that “Michaeli” was pronounced “mee-kay-lee” which the card specifically says is wrong based upon the Hebrew. It was many years later that, having tried to teach myself a bit of Hebrew, I recalled this mispronunciation. In fact, my classical Latin pronunciation had by then become so ingrained that I was saying “mee-kigh-lee” (privately of course, the fleurs du mal of Novus Ordo were by then in full blow and I was seldom to be found defiling a pew.)


    Thanks. I miss those good old days. The Church was the Church. Under Benedict’s guidance She may become Herself once again.

    Also, I appreciated your commentary on Origen in the John Allen thread. I will be looking at him again.

  31. Kimberly says:

    Nathan- I was a DRE for our parish for fourteen years and the thing that really got under my skin was how the curriculum “dumb-kids-down”. I kept getting feed this stuff about how kids just can’t grasp the truths of the Church. From my own expereince, I know that the more I challenged them, the more they learned. I have never taught in the area you are talking about (servers), but I do know that they are getting a lot more than you think. Hang in there. My evening prayers will be for you and the work you do with these precious souls.

  32. Joe says:

    to Roland de Chanson, I say “mee-ka-ay-lee”, because Michael used to be spelled in Latin Michahel. This denotes a separation of the diphthong “ae” which is “e” in ecclesiastical Latin, the way Latin was pronunced circa 6th century. There was a glottal stop there (the “-” in uh-oh) in Hebrew.

  33. Peter says:

    It would be well if the boys were presented with Fr Fortescue’s brilliant ‘Ceremonies of the Roman Rite…’


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