ASK FATHER: Resources about Traditional Mass for newbies

From a reader…


Can you provide or refer me to a resource that explains the beauty of the Traditional Mass for those who have never experienced it – in a simple and easy-to-understand way? A soft-of Traditional Mass for beginners?

I have an opportunity to invite large numbers of men to attend it in a local Church and am looking for a some content to share with them about it.

I can think of something off the top of my head.

Try this 1941 video by Ven. Fulton J. Sheen.  It’s old but it is good.  The advantage is that this is Ven. Fulton, whose cause is progressing well.  He has a wonderful ability to break things down into understandable, bite-sized pieces.

Sancta Missa, the nice people at St. John Cantius in Chicago, has some good resources.  HERE

The SSPX have some good resources as do the FSSP, but they tend in the direction of explanations for priests about how to celebrate the older form of Holy Mass.  That doesn’t eliminate them as a possibility, but they are more specialized.

Also, go to the Extraordinary Form as often as you can.  Looking at the texts ahead of time will help.  Don’t sit in the front, at first.  If you sit a little farther back you can see what other people are doing in regard to posture.

Having a good hand missal will help as well.  The beautiful missals from Baronius Press or Angelus Press are marvelous aids for full, conscious and active participation.

There are often booklets available at churches where the older Mass is offered.  They are helpful too.

Another thing.  You may be coming from a parish where you have been told that “active participation” means that you have to be doing something outwardly.  If you aren’t singing everything or saying everything or looking at the priest look at you, then you “aren’t participating”.  Critics of the older form of Mass claim that the congregation is forced to be “passive”.

That’s simply false.

True active participation is active receptivity to what Christ, the true Actor during Mass, wants to give us through Holy Church’s liturgical worship.  Our baptism makes us capable of participating at Mass and then we engage our will and minds to follow carefully the words and gestures of the sacred action.  This culminates in the perfect form of active participation, which brings the outward and physical and the inward and spiritual together: the reception of Holy Communion in the state of grace.

What I am aiming at here is that you may need a deeper view of what “active participation” means so that you are not from the very first moment left scratching your head about what to do or why people aren’t more outwardly expressive.  They aren’t passive, friend.  Not in the sense critics use.

I don’t think this should be seen as hard or daunting.  After all, lots of people over the centuries got along very well with the older form of Mass, people of every age and level of education.  It isn’t a mystery, even if it is the mystery, if you get my meaning.

Fr. Z kudos for your interest and for the men who will undertake this project!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. torch621 says:

    Can you recommend a good hand missal for the TLM. I’ve already orderes one for the OF (St. Paul Daily Missal ) and id like a good one for the TLM as well.

  2. torch621 says:

    And please forgive the appaling grammar. Its not easy typing on smart phone.

    [See my top entry for links.]

  3. FranzJosf says:

    Here are four links that might be helpful in preparing a presentation or handout:

    You could also print out photos of different points in the Mass; they are easily found on the internet. Corpus Christi Watershed has wonderful photos of both Low and Solemn Mass. Scroll down a bit:

    (There may be copyright considerations; if so, it wouldn’t surprise me if they gave you permission for a one-time use, or you could simply bring them up on a computer screen for all to see.)

  4. Catherine A. says:

    I found a great short video on A Catholic Life blog which gives any one who is interested in learning about the Latin Mass a great inspiration for wanting to delve right in. The link is:
    A Catholic Life: A Video Meditation on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Not only is there a video but below the screen is an explanation of some of the most important parts of the “Mass of the Ages”. Even Traditionalists who love the Latin Mass will feel inspired with this.

  5. Relating the old Mass to the new Mass:
    The Mass of the Roman Rite (TLM newcomer’s guide)

    Brief explanations of a half-dozen features of the TLM:
    The Beauty and Spirituality of the Traditional Latin Mass

    Great exposition of the ethos of the TLM;
    Sermon at 1st televised TLM after Summorum Pontificum:

    See the beauty yourself:
    Pontifical EF Mass with commentary by Fr. Z and Fr. Goodwin: (3-hr complete) (3-min sample)

  6. Louis says:

    I have been reading this blog for years. I am still totally intimidated. My wife’s opinion (anti Catholic) I have no idea how my boys would react. I am not sure I would know what to do or how to dress. But it has been nagging me for years because I think i would absolutely love ti

  7. David Zampino says:

    I seem to recall a video taped in Ireland called “The Most Beautiful Thing This Side of Heaven”.

  8. akp1 says:

    I’ve been sending people this link recently from here – it’s one of the simplest, yet encouraging, articles I’ve found.

  9. majuscule says:

    Louis– don’t be intimidated. Just don’t sit up front! No one will be looking at you (or grabbing your hand for the Our Father).

    You may not be able to keep up, especially if you don’t have a missal, but you will recognize what’s going on.

    I love the booklet missals that are usually available. And they have a bit of explanation plus the Latin and English.

    If you can find a Mass, then go! You can always introduce your boys to it later when you’ve become comfortable with it. I’m assuming that you will love it.

  10. Wiktor says:

    I bought a hand missal and read mass propers every day. It doesn’t get boring.

  11. Legisperitus says:

    David Zampino: “The Most Beautiful Thing This Side of Heaven” is still available from Coalition Ecclesia Dei; it’s on DVD now. It’s meant partly as an instructional video for priests to say the Low Mass, but the details and insights provided in the running commentary are educational for anyone.

  12. kmmurphy says:

    The Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei has so many resources that would be helpful to you. I recommend calling and talking with them They are so very helpful!

  13. mburn16 says:

    Its certainly true that one can be an “active” participant in the liturgy, even by sitting silently in the pew as the Priest carries out the liturgy. But I sometimes wonder if such a situation is truly the “ideal” model of worship. This is one of the reasons that, thought I appreciate the EF (and a good OF) form, I’m not convinced that the “end result” of the Catholic liturgical debate will simply be to tell people to go back to the EF, and learn Latin, and live with the fact that they are doing far less while sitting in the pews. It seems like, ideally, worship should involve as many of the senses as reasonably possible: sight, sound, voice, etc. We listen to the Priest, we watch the consecration, we smell the incense, we sing the hymns, etc. And, of course, we internally reflect on all of these things both during and after the Mass.

  14. New Sister says:

    Angelus Press has excellent resources:
    Explanation of the Holy Mass (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B.) and there used to be another one with photographs that explained very well rubrics, called “The Visitor at the Mass” – but they seem not to have it anymore.

    I also recommend “The Heresy of Formlessness” by Martin Mosebach.

  15. Mike says:

    I only go to the TLM about 8 times a year, and its beauty is so strong you can practically taste it–and that’s before Holy Communion.


  16. Hank Igitur says:

    Angelus Press missal has sl. larger latin text then Baronius, better ribbons and a nice commentary on the side of the pages of the ordinary of the Mass I find it is better laid out than the Baronius. If you want an older missal St Joseph’s and Fr Lasance are both good. The new illlustrated pew missal from Watershed is nice but is bulky and more of a book then a hand missal

  17. Uxixu says:

    Try to find a Solemn High Mass. It’s Heaven on Earth from the Aperges to the Last Gospel. You will probably be very underwhelmed if you try a Low Mass, though I think a strictly reverent Novus Ordo can exceed it.

    To start without really expensive, use the Ecclesia Dei

    I believe that’s the red book one? Most parishes have them free but love the little illustrations and notes.

    I use the Baronius myself. I aim for the whole of pre-Lent season and otherwise once a month for a TLM but prefer my home parish most of the time. I won’t be complete until and unless I can convince the pastor to do a TLM there. I hope to coordinate a stable group with the local KoC council and prepare all the particulars before bringing it up to him, though.

  18. HighMass says:

    The more one complains….what happened to our Church and this Holy Mass??? I guess bugnini took care of it didn’t he! Sad today that Catholics who have never attended Mass in the E.F. have been poisoned about This Holy Sacrifice Of the Mass…..When attending a High Mass, it is like you are suspended in time….the beautiful Prayers, the Reverence, Sacredness….do not compare to the N.O.

    It is difficult to put into words but one can only wish that the E.F. of the Mass was used in a wider fashion. Maybe someday our prayers will be answered, hopefully we will be here to see it!

  19. tcreek says:

    Here is a link to a 1940 Solemn High Mass from the Internet Archive web site. The quality is not good at full screen but viewable.

    The caption says – “A Traditional Catholic Latin Mass filmed on Easter Sunday in 1940 at Our Lady of Sorrows church in Chicago. The film presents the ceremonies of the Missa Solemnis or Solemn High Mass in full detail with narration by then-Mgr. Fulton J. Sheen. Celebrated by Rev. J. R. Keane of the Order of Servites (hence the white habits and cowls), the ceremonies are accompanied by a full polyphonic choir, orchestra, and fifty Gregorian Chanters.”

  20. tcreek says:

    Sorry, my last post was to a link of the same video that Fr. Z listed.

    [Reading the top entry can be an aid to posting comments. o{];¬) ]

  21. Uxixu says:

    Thanks for that tcreek. Wow, 50 Chanters in addition to the choir and orchestra.

    I dream of a full schola at my regular parish, which is so very suited to the TLM (beautiful marble altar rails… just have to add the gates back on). I have noticed that I think the standing altar is too far forward. Barely one step width between that and the top step. A large gap between the altar and the tabernacle in it’s niche with a big marble arch over it. Moving it probably wouldn’t be easy/practical so I take it that would be a deal breaker?

    Perhaps straying off topic, but I’ve been searching for the best plan to organize BEFORE asking the pastor (who might not otherwise be inclined and don’t want to ask without having some legwork done beforehand). So far I’ve been going off of “be the solution” from The Man with the Black Hat’s blog:

    My Google-Fu might be weak but not finding much here on that aspect: how best to Be the Solution. We do have a fairly full Mass schedule already with 3 priests and the retired pastor emeritus. I’m not sure the best way to reach out and find out just how many families could/would be interested and afraid to skyline myself too early and decrease the prospects so want to keep it close to the vest at first until I can help get the ball rolling.

  22. Uxixu says:

    Meant to specify ad orientem to the “deal breaker” while it’s more precisely just one of the more challenging aspects, perhaps.

  23. PCali says:

    I personally own a hand missal from Angelus Press, and it’s great; very easy to use. The only issue that I have now, having found out that Angelus Press is run by SSPX, is that they’re not in full communion with Rome. Anyone have thoughts on the propriety of patronizing them, given that? Is it appropriate?

  24. Lucas says:

    I know some people who are intimidated because sometimes EF people get a bad rap. I’ll admit, I was very nervous the first time I went. And in all honesty, the people were fairly cold towards me until I started going more.

  25. Vecchio di Londra says:

    I’d start by taking a place near the back and just seeing what goes on for a couple of times. Then get a booklet of the Ordinary, and maybe follow with that a few times, without worrying about the Propers of the Day for the moment.
    But then a time will soon come when you want to know what is being said in the Epistle and Gospel, and the other prayers special to the day.
    This useful website (Sancta Missa) gives the combined Ordinary and Propers for each day of the year, and automatically opens at the right page, and it’s good to browse through it before going to or coming home from Mass.
    Eventually you’ll need a good missal (plenty of good ideas in the OP and comments above) – just make sure it’s a 1962 text. And you may need to ask someone to show you the basics of how to use it.
    And that’s it!

  26. Hank Igitur says:


    I don’t think Angelus Press is making an actual fortune from selling the missal. A lot of people at FSSP and diocesan TLMs use it. A number of people I know who have a couple of missals all prefer the Angelus Press over the Baronius but it is a matter of personal preference. There is nothing contentious in the content of the Angelus one.

  27. Sonshine135 says:

    “It is a long established principle of the church never to completely drop from her public worship any ceremony, object, or prayer which once occupied a place in that worship.”

    There it is. Where is our Archbishop Sheen in today’s world?

  28. Jason Keener says:

    Hi, Father. Thank you so much for posting that Easter Sunday Mass with Fulton Sheen doing the narration. It completely boggles my mind that even watching that video, one feels as if they have been transported to another Reality. On the other hand, our parish Masses celebrated today have been mostly zapped of all such sacred tension. I don’t understand why some Catholics continue on with bad liturgy when we too can have Masses like the one narrated by Fulton Sheen. Bishop Sheen, pray for us!

    I also wish Bugnini and company would have been guided by this gem from Bishop Sheen:

    “It is a long established principle of the Church never to completely drop from her public worship any ceremony, object, or prayer which once occupied a place in that worship.”

    I would only add: “It is also a long established principle of the Church that a Liturgy can never be cobbled together in a meeting room by a gang of liturgists.”

  29. Gabe says:

    This is an excellent book for newbies and oldbies alike:

  30. pinoytraddie says:

    Perhaps the Comic Book: “Know your Mass” can be a Good Start(haven’t purchased the book myself,but I wish).

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