It is not too hard

From a reader for those who think that following the older form of Holy Mass is tooo haaard.

Just thought I would let you know about my eleven year old son.  He gets up at 5:15 am every Sunday morning with me to travel 25 miles to attend Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form.  He has been serving at the altar now for several months, something which brings him (and me) great joy, and he has learned almost all of the server responses in Latin.  To all those who say that the Latin in an impediment, I give my son as an example because he is in 5th grade and has a learning disability, but still has learned to pronounce the Latin words correctly and furthermore he has so internalized the Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form that is has become second nature for him to carry out his role as a server.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    God Bless you and your son. This is truly an inspiring account. It also does not suprise me. We have 6th-8th graders serving the EF Mass here at our parish and they do just fine. Other parishes I have been to have servers of the same age; and not only are they able to make the responses perfectly, they are able to execute the ceremonial will the utmost reverence and attention.

  2. TJerome says:

    Thanks for sharing this marvelous news which underscores the big lie Catholics have been fed for 40 years, that it’s “too hard.”

  3. momoften says:

    We have had third graders that serve as acolytes (and VERY well might I add) We have had 1st graders have memorize the latin responses too. We have had a 13 year old memorize the whole Mass in Latin Father recites and has Father’s footwork down too. We have teenagers chanting High Masses.The one thing I noticed is that the boys who can serve a Latin Mass can serve Mass flawlessly wherever they go. They are more focused with what the priest needs during Mass, and know how to provide it. I know, I have A LOT of boys that are serving and have served over the years! And for me, who didn’t attend the Extraordinary Form (actually I did until I was 4 or 5) it is a NO BRAINER to follow the Mass with the English side by side with the Latin!

  4. Amy MEV says:

    My six year old daughter just began learning Latin yesterday (along with her mother). A SIX YEAY OLD! If she can do it, so can anyone else (who is not determined not to). I am horrible with foreign languages, but am going to work along side her to learn the same. And I imagine, as it is with every other subject I teach my oldest, my younger children will pick it up. My two year will greeting guests with “Salve!” before I know it.

  5. robtbrown says:

    In ancient Rome bums and prostitutes spoke Latin. If they could, so can you.

    quoth (with some editing) Reginald Thomas Foster

  6. dontex says:

    Having cut my teeth as an acolyte on the EF of the Mass, it is still special to be able to attend or witness via EWTN Mass in this form. The opportunity to pray quietly and reflectively during the Mass is greatly enhanced in the EF.
    I admire the new young acolytes who are learning how to serve this beautiful liturgy – and as momoften said, it’s a no brainer to follow with latin on one side and english on the other.
    If something is worth doing, it is worth doing it well.

  7. Jack Hughes says:

    Kudos to the reader and her son

  8. Languages slip into the brain in all sorts of ways. Learning a new language or set of vocabulary can actually bypass the neurological problems someone has in their native tongue. (You see this also in stutterers who visualize singing their words in order to say them clearly.)

    Of course, the hard work of practicing a language, and the neural stimulation of learning it and using it, does your brain nothing but good. For a kid with learning disabilities, I imagine that it may have all sorts of good effects. Then there’s the confidence gained from learning something that many people don’t know, and the new perspective on English that you get by having another language to compare it to…. And Latin truly opens a huge swath of history and thought.

    All kids should be exposed to another language, if it’s at all possible. All adults, too. :)

  9. JonM says:

    The people were told by prelates that the Mass was ‘toooo haaard’ and needed reforming in order to ensure ‘active participation.’

    I just attended a First Communion Mass in a northern diocese. What I witnessed was that apparently the Novus Ordo is now ‘toooo haaard.’ Why? I embarassed my party by actually knowing the Ordinary Form responses (e.g., ‘May the Lord accept the sacrifice…,’ ‘Lord, I am not worthly to receive you…’)

    Naturally, EMHC directed the congregation to stand after kneeling (which only took place after the lengthy Sign of Peace. Naturally, I caught looks for not receiving Communion (missed Confession that week and this time it was necessary.) And naturally, the Chalices were not purified but rather just set down off to the side like one would push away a drained beer stein.

    And despite the other liturgical innovations, it was a valid consecration.

    What struck me was that no one out of the hundreds in the church seemed to think this was out of the ordinary. There were even people milling around throughout the Mass, chatting about Lord knows what.

    Actually these situations give me much trouble because I do not want to be ‘that guy’ running around telling everyone they are wrong. And so I politely smiled and made no indication of perspectives. However, is this being an accessory to a grave injustice? Perhaps some can give me insight on how to help improve these situations, but not come off as ‘the angry and full of judgement Latin Mass goer?’

    I was forced to conclude that the vast majority can’t possibly understand the Mass and that is why such poor preparation, attitudes, and approaches can be found in the Church today.

    Therefore, whenever I hear about how the Latin is too hard, I think of two things. First, apparently the New Mass is now too hard, using such logic, because in many cases parishioners walk out with nigh a clue of what they just heard, seen, and witnessed. Second, people sure are able to become experts in trivia like sports, TV shows, and Hollywood stars. We all know someone who has dozens of car specs memorized (though is not in the automotive trade) or assiduously keeps up on the dalliances of an actress.

    Father Z is right, it’s not too hard! Learning the Mass takes effort – just like anything else in life!

  10. Blissmeister86 says:

    Deo Gratias!
    I think the Extraordinary Form is much more beautiful and much more reverent than even the most reverently celebrated Novus Ordo. I’m 23, and, God willing, when I’m ordained a priest someday (I’m not a seminarian yet, I just haven’t found the diocese or order Our Lord is calling me to, yet), I hope to be able to celebrate Mass in private using the 1962 Missal.

  11. jlmorrell says:


    Perhaps you’ve already considered these two groups, but if not, you should consider the Preistly Fraternity of St. Peter ( and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (

    In my opinion, these two societies provide the best priestly formation in the Church today. I have been extremely impressed when I’ve had the opportunity to meet or hear the preaching of these priests.

  12. Gail F says:

    Too hard? I finally got to one last week and let me tell you, there is nothing easier for the laity! There is hardly anything for them to do or say. And I do not mean that in a bad way. There’s a lot of standing, sitting, and kneeling, and a lot of “and with your spirit” (in Latin, of course), but all you have to do is follow what everybody else does. Most of the time you are simply witnessing what the priests are doing on your behalf — during which time you can pray privately, if you like, follow along in the missal (easy), or simply listen and witness. Frankly, I thought it was great. I wouldn’t say I preferred it to my N.O. parish, but I thought it was great and would attend this sort of mass from time to time, or on certain days, if it were offered. In fact, I found myself appreciating my own Sunday liturgy MORE, not in opposition to the old Latin one but because, having the experience of both, I saw the continuity a lot better and saw what the N.O. mass is trying to do.

    I think JonM has a great point above. It seems to me that lots of Catholics really have no clue what is going on in the mass, all the while many priests and catechists think it’s as clear as day. It certainly seems clear to me, but the reality is obvious everywhere: Many people DON’T understand it.

  13. I think that the home diocese should be given the first, best shot.

  14. Trad Tom says:

    As third graders in 1956-57, my best friends Steve and Tim and I were chosen to be “trainees” for our parish altar boys. We studied and LEARNED the Latin, we learned the necessary rubrics for servers, and we practiced, practiced, practiced. By mid-winter we were ready. We could not wait to begin serving holy Mass and participate in an apostolate that would last until high school. Two of us even served as Master of Ceremonies for certain Masses when we were juniors and seniors in high school.

    The point is that we were able to learn everything about the EF Mass very young and very easily. Why? Because we wanted to and we were encouraged to do so. That’s all it takes. I am sure that there are young boys today who would be able to do the same.

  15. Blissmeister86 says:

    My local diocese turned me down in 2007. They wouldn’t tell me why they turned me down when I asked in 2007 and when I asked again two years later, in 2009, after I had changed and grown a lot, so that’s apparently not where God is calling me.
    I’m drawn to the Extraordinary Form, anyway, and it holds a special place in my heart, so I will check out the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest. Thanks for the suggestion!

  16. therecusant says:


    May I suggest the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius in Chicago. As far as I know, they are the only order in the world who pray both forms of the Mass. I personally think that is the best way forward. Their Mother Church is in Chicago and they administer several other churches in Illinois and Wisconsin. I am confident they will grow and will expand territorially.

    God bless.

  17. RCOkie says:

    As a teacher of children who have learning disabilities, this may have been no small feat. How wonderful he has learned all this and what a confidence booster for him. He now knows he can learn. Hooray!

  18. RichR says:

    My oldest, when he was almost turning 3, could sing “In Paradisum/Chorus Angelorum”. Our schola cantorum was singing this at the funeral of the first fallen Texas A&M student in Iraq. Our group had a grand total of 5 days to prep for the sudden event, and I was singing this chant over and over at home so I’d be prepared. The 2 year old heard it so many times that he could sing it by heart.

  19. ejcmartin says:

    Not to long ago my four year-old was playing priest and out of nowhere piped up “et cum spiritu tuo” (and it was in the proper context!).

  20. AnAmericanMother says:

    I find that singing is the fastest way for me to memorize.

    I used to study for exams by setting lists of items to familiar tunes.

    It certainly works for Latin, because I can chant the entire Ordinary of the Mass from memory and could do so within about a month of the time our parish choir started rehearsing it. If I try to say it, I have to roll the chant in my head.

    My eldest daughter at age 3 was nutty for Mozart’s Zauberfloete. She watched the video over and over, and could sing the entire aria “O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn” from memory. Including the high F. My mother at the time was a music education prof (now retired), and she and one of her fellow profs video’ed daughter to prove to her students that small children can carry a tune. (My daughter still doesn’t speak a word of German).

    One of the guys in our choir sang Tamino for the Santa Fe Opera, and when I pointed him out to daughter as “Prince Tamino” her eyes got big and round. She’s 22 now, and she still refers to him as “Your Highness”.

  21. Patrick50 says:

    God bless you and your son! This is what we need our younger generation to start doing so they can really grasp our faith.

  22. mikew says:

    Simply outstanding! I am a father of four and have served Mass since I was 7 years old, still serving in my parish where we have a tradition and practice of adult altar servers. I have also learned how to and started serving at the Extraordinary Form within the last year. If ever there was a sense of starting all over again – this is it! Additionally I have the pleasure and honor of serving the Mass in the Ordinary Form with my 13 year-old son, who will soon begin to serve the Extraordinary Form with me during the Summer in our local Latin Mass Community.

    Well done… again… simply outstanding!

  23. jeff1989 says:

    Here’s a scenario for you all: I live in a diocese where Ascension Thursday has been transferred to Sunday. I attend Mass in the extraordinary form every Sunday. Unfortunately, this EF particular parish is quite a distance from me and while the drive is easy on a Sunday morning, it is absolutely brutal with rush hour traffic. I work until 5PM and so I would never make the special 6PM High Mass that they are offering for Ascension Thursday. My only option is to go to my local Novus Ordo parish. Except, they are offering a Mass in honor of Our Lady of Fatima on that evening. Now I know this sounds silly, but would I be obligated to attend a Novus Ordo Mass this Sunday so that I fulfill the obligation of the Feast of the Ascension? Or would simply attending the NO Mass on Thursday fulfill the obligation, despite the fact that it technically is not the correct feast? Obviously, I love the Extraordinary form and would prefer to go to it this Sunday but then I fear committing a mortal sin. This is so confusing and utterly ridiculous. I can’t even believe that I need to ask such a question but there you have it. Not only is it a bad idea to transfer Ascension Thursday to Sunday, but it is absurd to replace it with another feast on the actual day. Why not just offer the Mass both days and give people the option if they must?

  24. momoften says:

    I am not sure, but I believe you have to actually attend a Mass that has the readings for Ascension Thursday to fulfill that obligation. I think it would be no different if you went to a wedding nuptial mass on a Saturday night–it would not fulfill your Sunday obligation as the readings are not for or meant to fulfill the Sunday obligation. Personally I wish Holy Mother Church would just quit trying to make it easy for the people (and priest) by NOT having the Holy day on the day required. It’s no wonder Catholics have problems with the church, as the church in trying to make it EASIER for folks, in a way is confusing them with the Church’s Teachings on many issues thinking there are exceptions to some rules because it is toooo hard for them to follow…sorry Jeff…but check with the priest offering the Extraordinary Form…perhaps he is offering the Ascension Mass on Sunday in the Extraordinary Form?

  25. DarkKnight says:

    My son has Aspergers. The Extraordinary Form is wonderful for him. He and I serve Mass together. The only hard part is the Sanctus Bells, their pitch hurts his ears.

    But he’ll put up with the bells over the amplifiers and the hootenany of the local OF.

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