READER REQUEST: Help to start attending the Traditional Latin Mass

From a reader…


My wife and I are interested in learning the Latin Mass so we can attend one here in Nashville. Is there a video or a book we could purchase that starts from scratch?

Great blog – keep up the good work.

My first thought…

MEME TLM Help release the readers

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, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. tho says:

    There is some great stuff on you tube.

  2. Patrick says:

    Folks may disagree but I’d say just GO!
    Alternatively you could flip through one of the “Red Books”, or if you have an old missal check that out.

  3. Kerry says:

    The FSSP has three videos for the training of Priests offering the traditional Mass. They are beautiful.
    Part I:

  4. acardnal says:

    I recommend “Treasure and Tradition” which has also been recommended by our blog host.

    [Very good.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  5. PMK says:

    I agree with Patrick, Just Go! My first TLM I purchased a Red Book at a local book store but noticed they were on a table in the back of the church to be used. Since then I have moved to another Diocese and this church has the same Red Book in the back for use. In each of these cases, they were returned at the end of mass.

  6. Roy Hobbes says:

    Go. Go. And Go.

    My wife and I attended our first TLM a little over a year ago. We were strangers in a strange land. But we kept going. And going. At first we used the little red missal/pamphlets put out by Ecclesia Dei. Then we each purchased our own 1962 missals, mine with English translations and hers with Spanish (her mother tongue). After six months we were getting the hang of it quite well, and now feel more than comfortable with it.

  7. Charles E Flynn says:

    The need to use a missal with native tongue/Latin translations may seem to be a distraction at first, but consider all the other distractions you will be leaving behind, almost as if the 1960s had never happened:

    Ten Things You Miss by Going to the Traditional Latin Mass

  8. James Maximilian says:

    Great that you are learning the Latin Mass! As a Methodist convert, nothing beats Lisa Bergman’s book: (In My Humble Opinion)! Also, purchase a 1962 Roman Missal and fumble your way through it until it is well worn! :) I was completely lost (in many ways)…but now, I simply love praying the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. God bless you and welcome!!! +JMJ+

  9. johnnys says:

    Treasure and Tradition is wonderful and when you are comfortable go deeper with Nothing Superfluous: An Explanation of the Symbolism of the Rite of St. Gregory the Great [i.e., the traditional Latin Mass]. By the Rev. James W. Jackson, FSSP.

  10. Nan says:

    I found the red book confusing and distracting. Then I just went. Last time I used the red book.

    I also have Treasure and Tradition, a recent purchase.

    What if the missal that emerges for me is slightly older than 1962?

  11. Sword40 says:

    We’ve been attending since 2011 every Sunday. However last week I had to go to an OF Mass; WOW I had forgotten how upsetting it was. I bought the CD’s from the FSSP bookstore on the TLM. Well worth the money. Or just go to Sancta Missa on the internet. But like the others have said “just GO, GO, Go.

  12. Fuerza says:
    It’s mostly intended as a tutorial for priests, but it’s useful for the laity as well. It also has a ton of interesting articles on the history of the TLM and the Roman Rite in general.

  13. christopherschaefer says:

    I posted this a couple of years ago in the Latin Mass group on and I still think it’s worthwhile:
    How to participate at the traditional Latin Mass
    “With all that page turning and confusing activities taking place at the altar, how am I supposed to pray and participate at a Latin Mass?”
    First, it is important to realize that most of the prayers of the traditional Latin Mass never were intended to be followed by the congregation. For example, the Mass begins with the “Prayers at the Foot of the Altar”. This is the personal preparation and declaration of unworthiness by the priest and servers; they are not prayers of the congregation. So here you can quietly read along—or recite your own prayers to prepare yourself for Mass. This also is true of the lengthy but very beautiful Offertory prayers which the priest silently recites. You can silently read these prayers yourself—or compose your own meditation on the great mystery that is about to take place.
    According to very ancient practice, the Canon (“Eucharistic Prayer I” in the modern Mass) is recited silently to emphasize the awesome mystery in which Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice on the cross becomes present (not “repeated”) upon the altar. This corresponds to practices in most of the ancient Eastern liturgies, e.g. closing the doors of the iconostasis at a Byzantine Divine Liturgy or drawing the curtain closed and removal of priest’s shoes during the Armenian Batarak. Because the traditional Latin Mass has only one Eucharistic Prayer—the Roman Canon—after a few weeks of reading along, you will have the prayer memorized and no longer will need to read along. The priest’s gestures throughout the Canon reveal which part of the prayer he is reciting.
    At a High Mass, the Propers sung by the choir (Introit, Chants between Epistle and Gospel, Offertory, Communion) are the personal prayers of the choir members. So again, you can choose to follow the texts which the choir sings—or you can pray your own meditation at these times. In fact, the Introit, Offertory and Communion chants always belonged to the choir alone. Singing congregational hymns at these times is a “modern” innovation, with the exception of some countries which long had the custom of singing vernacular hymns at Low Mass.
    Particularly at a High or Solemn High Mass, the chanting of the Epistle and Gospel is not meant to be a “Bible instruction”. Rather, it primarily is meant to proclaim and symbolize that the Word became incarnate and that the entire history of salvation has been revealed to us in God’s holy Word. This is why it often was the custom for the sermon to have virtually nothing to do with the day’s Scripture but instead might be an instruction on a particular aspect of the Catholic faith. This often is the practice today at my own parish, as the priests try to address current issues that Catholics face. This also is a significant contrast to the modern Mass which is much more didactic and much less “liturgical” in the sense that “liturgy” was understood for nearly 2,000 years and still is understood by all Eastern Churches.
    It’s also important to note that bilingual hand missals for the congregation did not exist until the 20th century. Until the 1960s it always was understood that the Mass was offered BY the priest FOR the people. So if you are attending the traditional Latin Mass for the first time, pretend that you have been transported back in time to a pre-20th century era—and simply let yourself be drawn into the quiet, awesome mystery that is unfolding before you.
    When I was a young boy and the Latin Mass was the only Mass, we were taught to “prepare” for Mass ahead of time by reading and meditating upon the Propers, including the Epistle and Gospel. By doing this, it was not necessary to follow the text during Mass—because I already knew what was being read or sung. I still do this today and I highly recommend this practice.

  14. Serviam says:

    I have to chime in and add to the endorsement of Treasure and Tradition. The little snippets of information sprinkled throughout alone are worth it. Add to that the gorgeous pictures, helpful layout, historical information and it is a serious gem. So, now that I am sure you will be purchasing one or two for yourself, go ahead and take advantage of the discount on multiple copies and give them to priests, seminarians, family, friends, neighbors, the little boy hiding under the pew next to you (future priest possibly), you get the idea….. ;-)

  15. DanMan says:

    I may be able to help. When I was in the Air Force, 1956 to 1960, they provided be with MY SUNDAY MISSAL explained by Father Stedman. It’s very easy to follow with the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin on the left page, and the English translation on the right page. Then it goes through all the extra parts for each Sunday of the year. I checked E Bay, and there are many used offered there for only a few dollars. I still have mine and it was a treasured piece for me drawing me deeper into the mystery of the Mass. Eventually one learns some of the Latin with use. My edition is 1956, so I don’t know if it still corresponds. Good luck and God bless.

  16. jfk03 says:

    Fr. Peyton’s My Sunday Missal would be a good start — if you can find a copy. Went out of print in the early 60’s.

  17. jfk03 says:

    Correction. It is Fr Stedman’s My Sunday Missal. I’m sure you can find a copy on Amazon.

  18. Rich says:

    1) Get a good missal.

    2) Go to Mass.

    3) Don’t expect to get it all right away.

    4) Keep going.

  19. Eric says:

    I was in the same boat about 2 years ago. And also an avid reader. My first suggestion echos others, Just go, then go and go. It will be strange yet familiar. If you read first you will get stuck in having your head down trying to follow. At least I did, I got frustrated. I didn’t listen to many others who said just go and go, get familiar, then when you start reading you will know what the goodness they are talking about. Books: the Latin mass explained, but the best thing is get a missal. Angelus press to me has the best one. It has everything and more. Fortescue’s The Mass is awesome on the history. Nothing Superfluous was ok to me, a little too flowery for my taste.

  20. donato2 says:

    When I was a newbie I would quickly get lost when I tried to follow the Mass using the printed materials that are available because they do not distinguish between what one hears and what one does not hear. Ultimately I figured out that, basically, during the high Mass you hear the ordinary (the parts repeated every Sunday (Kyrie, Gloria, Creed, Sanctus, Our Father, Agnus Dei)), the preface and the propers (the nine parts in the Missal) and the rest (primarily prayers at the foot of altar, offertory, Canon and prayers before Communion) is either silent or not audible. When I figured out that simple fact it became easy for me to follow. Even if you’ve never studied Latin you basically know the ordinary (and then you pick it up (along with the preface of the Trinity and the common preface) in Latin if you attend the TLM regularly) and then you use the Missal for the balance.

  21. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    “The Mass explained for Children”, by Maria Montessori.

    “The Mass in slow motion” — I think this is Msgr Ronald Knox, but I won’t swear to that.

    Remember the wisdom of Pope Pius XII: we pursue the wrong course if we expect everyone to participate in exactly the same way, to the same degree at every Mass. Go with the intent to worship God, and know that BEING there fulfills your Sunday obligation, not intellectually comprehending the mystery of God (or, in too many parishes: “Why the heck did they do that?”)

  22. Cicero_NOLA says:

    I’ve never been to Mass in the EF and won’t for at least a year (not available in Japan, yet). I have Treasure and Tradition since it was recommended here and worry about two points when we do eventually go: silence is prized, but my growing troupe of young children don’t share my enthusiasm for it. The NO Mass on base is so noisy with Haugen and general murmuring that my two year old is really only noticable during the elevations. Is it acceptable to bring books and quiet toys for the little ones? The other hurdle we’ll have is that my wife is a gifted musician who desires worthy music at Mass, but worries that most EF Masses, even on Sundays, will be low and without any music at all. Is that the general consensus, that sung or solemn Masses are only for high holy days?

  23. APX says:

    I would also say to just go and DO NOT try follow along with the red books or a hand missal or anything. Just go and experience it (and don’t sit in the front row, but not at the back either).

  24. Eric says:

    Cicero, both of those really depend on where you go. I have seen both.

  25. HealingRose says:

    Before I went, I had watched the daily Mass a few times on a local TV station in the Twin Cities, on St. Michael Broadcasting. That Mass can be found here:
    I recognized the different parts of the Mass in a general sort of way from the little bits of Latin I picked up in choir, so I made an effort not to worry about following perfectly. I like it simple, less distraction, more focus on the sacrifice of the Mass. I love the silence of the TLM, I don’t want a book to interfere with that.
    I did buy a 1962 missal, however, I choose not to look at in much during Mass. I absolutely love using it for preparing to go to Confession and for things besides following along with the Mass.

    I introduced my kids to a TLM during the week when it was a low Mass and very brief. I am lucky enough to have the chance to often attend St. Agnes church in St. Paul, MN. It has a stunningly beautiful choir and orchestra that often works wonderfully with my youngest child. As for your wife’s worry regarding music at the high Mass vs. low Mass, I can relate personally to what a struggle it can be to sit through unworthy music. I have to remind myself that I am not at Mass because of music, I am there to participate in the worship of God and sacrifice of the Mass. It’s not about me. As long as it isn’t bad, distractingly unworthy music, I can listen to the music at other times or eventually I will join the Choir.

    Don’t over think it, just go. You always have the following week(s) to try a different approach.

  26. Riddley says:

    It’s definitely worth making the leap, but be prepared to find it hard going to start with, especially if you go to a Low Mass, where there’s no music and not an awful lot to look at. I went to my first TLM determined to like it and thinking it would be like a very traditional, Latin Novus Ordo, and came away rather bemused.

    My wife found that it didn’t really click for her until we went to our first Sung Mass, so I would recommend making it a priority to get to Sung Masses regularly, even if you can’t get to one every week. You get more of a feel for what’s happening at what stage, and that makes Low Mass much more accessible to you.

    Personally I would recommend getting a booklet (the “red book” or something like it), and then buying a proper missal once you feel like spending the cash. Don’t try to follow it all word by word in your book though; the Mass shouldn’t be an exercise in synchronised reading!

  27. Scott Wilmot says:

    I have only recently begun to assist at the TLM and have found the St. Edmund Campion Missal & Hymnal ( to be of great help. What I have found of great help are the mass photos (as the blurb states):
    “A distinguishing feature of our book is the inclusion of the complete Ordo Missae for both Solemn and Low Mass, along with 100+ color photographs, made possible by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, to help the congregation follow the prayers and ceremonies. All vestments used were 200+ years old.”

  28. drforjc says:

    Many of the 40’s – 60’s hand missals have the little pictures in the margin showing what the priest is doing or where he is standing/inclining/kneeling, as well as little “bell” symbols that mark where the sanctus bells are rung. I found that those little pictures helped me quickly get back on track when I was unsure exactly where we were in the Mass.

  29. Knight from 13904 says:

    I was in the exact same situation about a year ago when a TLM parish was opened in the diocese of Manchester (NH) staffed by FSSP. Seemed to me that everyone else knew what to do but me. Basic stuff like when to stand, sit and kneel is very different than NO. Looking back I can see for myself that there was a process in learning that revealed so much more than I realized at the time.
    At our parish we have Latin-English Booklet Missals that are available. Many people have their own missal with all of the readings. The booklet missal has all of the prayers in both Latin & English. For me, following along in the Mass with the missal became a real intellectual exercise. As you read and re-read the prayers week after week I started to see the spiritual depth of the prayers. Different pieces were unlocked to me over time. Talk about “active participation”, everyone fulfills their priestly role by praying the Mass along with the priest. As Pope St. Pius X said “Don’t pray at Holy Mass, but pray the Holy Mass”.

  30. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    I agree with everyone’s book recommendations (Treasure & Tradition, etc.)

    Learning to follow in a 1962 daily Miss comes with time.

    The sanctamissa website is great as well.

    My wife and I started attending the EF Mass when we moved to downtown Indianapolis 7 years ago; Holy Rosary parish had daily EF low Mass at the time. I recommend trying to make EF LOW Mass as frequently as possible. I found learning the EF from the Low Mass much easier in the first few months because, while the music is beautiful at the High Mass, I would get lost and have no idea what the priest was doing during High Mass. Once you get used to the pacing of the EF and uniting your prayers and thoughts to the actions of the priest at the Low Mass, keeping up at a Sunday High Mass is so much more natural.

    My family moved to Nashville recently and have enjoyed Assumption parish which hosts the EF community. They have a Low EF Mass Mondays and Saturday mornings. Not quite as large of an EF community as we had in Indianapolis, but everyone has been welcoming. Fr. William Fitzgerald is wonderful and offers reverent OF Mass as well. The parish also hosts the local Syro-malabar rite community whose Qurbana (Holy Mass) is an…interesting…liturgy.

  31. Mrs. Bee says:

    I started attending the TLM by chance, not knowing anything about it – my baby needed to be nursed at the end of the NO Mass we would regularly attend, and being winter, I would just sit in a far corner of the “cry room”, where parents can be when their kids misbehave: one wall is glass, and there are micophones, so you can still know what is going on at the Altar. The next Mass would begin, and it was a TLM, a Sung Mass.

    Having already attended Mass, I was free to simply watch what was going on, without worring about intellectually understanding it, or feeling that I had an obligation to follow with a Missal and know every detail exactly. I just sat there and basked in the glory of that glorious silence.

    After this happened a few times, I started glancing at the little red Missal people talk about (, which I just found in every pew. That’s when I discovered how beautiful the prayers were!

    To learn more, besides this blog and articles that I can’t really remember, I used Maria Montessori’s The Mass Explained to Children, Treasure and Tradition, and Dom Prosper Gueranger’s Explanation of the Prayers and Ceremonies of Holy Mass, which I found on Amazon – it may or may not be the same as Gueranger’s The Holy Mass Explained.

    My experience makes me think that going to Mass at first without worrying about understanding everything is a good attitude – that kind of knowledge will come in time and with no trouble, if one has the right resources, while it can be overwhelming and discouraging at the beginning. I tell people to just soak in the splendor of the liturgy, knowing that we’re glorifying God: it’s a piece of Heaven before our eyes. It can be difficult to shed the notion that if we’re not doing or saying anything along with the priest, Mass doesn’t seem right. If one is embarrassed by not knowing about kneeling, standing, etc., sit in a corner where you feel unobserved, and do what others are doing. At least some Missals do say when to kneel, sit, or stand. It’s a great learning process, and we must be patient – and even accept that, the Holy Mass being bigger than us, we will never understand it completely.

    Knowing some Latin, and having being taught basic prayers in Latin by my parents, the language was never a barrier for me, so I’m not sure what it can be like for someone with no background. I would certainly start by learning the Pater Noster, Ave, Gloria, etc. Make them yours by learning them by heart, as Prof. Kwasniewski was saying recently. Soon one learns to love Latin as a sign onf the unity of our faith: the Latin Mass is the same no matter where, no matter when! It’s a strong link with the Catholics of the past and of the future.

  32. JABV says:

    I second Mrs. Bee’s recommendation of Gueranger’s “Explanation of the Prayers and Ceremonies of Holy Mass.”
    In print, it is more of a booklet than a full book, so it is easier to scan, then read, then read deeply to get an outline in mind and then fill it in.
    It is available as a free webpage here:

  33. hwriggles4 says:

    Try the book “The Latin Mass Explained ” by Msgr. George Moorman. It was written in the 1920s, and has been reprinted in recent years.

    I did find an old Missal that my grandfather had used way back when (1950s). He was Catholic, and I found it at my uncle’s house about 20 years ago after my uncle died. I have taken it with me to the TLM, and it does help me follow the Mass. Some of the used bookstores carry these (people clean out attics), but it helps to know what one is looking for.

  34. Nan says:

    Hwriggles, is your missal very different than Mass? I have a 1958 Sunday missal but am sometimes going to Saturday Mass. I’m uncertain what the other missals are and haven’t yet encountered their box.

  35. Titus says:

    Ooh, ooh, pick me, pick me!

    I was instrumental in getting the weekly TLM in Nashville up and running a couple of years ago. If the interlocutor will go to, he will (1) find various materials that were written specifically to assist Catholics who knew the N.O. become oriented in the TLM and (2) find an e-mail address that will reach me. I will be more than happy to provide whatever sort of follow-up assistance the interlocutor might need.

Comments are closed.