ASK FATHER: What are the authentic rubrics, postures for lay people at the Traditional Latin Mass. Are we doing it wrong?

From a reader…


Father, I had a conversation with someone who said that we were all kneeling and standing at the wrong time in the traditional Latin Mass that we have.  Instead, we are supposed to be doing what priests would do when they are in choir.  That doesn’t seem right to me.  Besides there are directions in the booklets we used and we follow them.  He said they were wrong.  What’s the real story?

I’ll bet that the “booklet” is the famous… infamous?… “red booklet” used in very many places.

This’ll probably get things going!

Two things, right off the bat.   I once heard about the origin of the “red booklet”, which was put out originally, I think, by the Coalition in Support of “Ecclesia Dei”.  Back in the day, when resources for the traditional Mass were in short supply, this booklet was created.  I was told that the rubric for the laity in the booklet were based on the memory of the priest they were working with.  But he got it wrong.  His memories wound up enshrined in the book and are now pretty much everywhere.  At least everywhere where the “red booklet” is used, which is pretty much everywhere.

Also, there are no official rubrics for lay people at the traditional Mass.  Do it this way.  Do it that way.  Fine.

It is interesting to note that the Novus Ordo imposes behavior on the congregation, while the Traditional Mass does not.  And yet the libs who hate the TLM say that it’s rigid and demands uniformity.  Ironic.

That said, perhaps is something is going to be done, there are better ways and less good ways.  Iron control of people is not good.  However, complete chaos is not good either.

If the “red booklet” isn’t the best source, is there a better source?

It seems to me that the principle of following what the clergy would do in choir is a good place to start.  Lay people aren’t clerics, but by their baptism they nevertheless share in their own way in Christ’s priesthood.   They aren’t priests in the same way as priests are priests, but Christ has shared his priesthood with them in their own mode, so that they, too, can offer pleasing sacrifices to God.  Priesthood is for sacrifice.   So, reflecting how the clergy compose themselves in choir is not a bad starting point.

What is a good source for how clergy stand, sit and kneel in choir?  We can start in English with Alcuin Reid’s reworking of the famous Fortescue/O’Connell classic, The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described.  US HERE – UK HERE  Reid, who is now helping to build a monastic community in S. France, reworked the old classic in 2009 after Summorum Pontificum was issued in 2007.  It isn’t cheap.  But not everyone has to have it.  Priests should have it!   Get one for your priests.  And seminarians.  And bishops, too!

That said, there is a longish essay about body postures assembled by a fellow named Richard Friend.  It is online and available in a PDF.

He has extreme detail about this issue, way too much for most people.  However, he distills his findings into handy tables.  He compares the directions in various rubric sources, including hand missals.  NB: This is not for, for example, participation in Rome.  In Rome you would kneel just before the consecration and perhaps even stand up afterward.

He gives variations for places where it is not customary to kneel for the whole Canon.    The “red booklet” is in the right column.

And… this table follows Fortescue/O’Connell/Reid for 1962MR.

I wouldn’t get overly worked up about this.  There are no official rubrics assigned by the Church for the laity at the TLM.  However, there are customs based on what the clergy are to do in choir.  Variations are okay, even within a congregation.

Variations, yes.  However, if you are trying to stand out, to be different, I’d examine your conscience.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Charles E Flynn says:

    I hereby dare anyone to name any living human being who could have answered this question in a more authoritative fashion.

  2. tho says:

    Before we lost so many teaching Sisters from the Spirit of VII, they were almost always at mass. We did what they did, infallible. Just as an aside, at Sunday mass the church was so crowded that we had many men standing, in the back, and on the sides of the church, but they all knelt for the consecration.
    It is a treat to remember back then, the respect people showed to the priests and Sisters, and this was during and shortly after WWII, where most of our young men were veterans.

  3. Charles Sercer says:

    Not sure I have anything of substance to add, since I am not well read on this – i.e. what has been written about laity postures. It seems a lot has been written and discussed particularly in the past century when the laity’s “active participation” was more and more stressed.

    I just wanted to say that obviously many places will have similar customs at particular places, but there are also so many local customs that it isn’t necessarily correct to tell someone they’re “doing it wrong.” I am sure most of the customs have their justification and practical and/or theological explanation, and thus one way is not necessarily objectively right and the other way objectively wrong.

    At a High Mass, If the laity are participating in a way that they are singing all of the parts proper to them, it would seem appropriate to use the postures of the choir. At a Low Mass, it seems there could be more variation, as some Masses might me dialogue or others not, and there is (at least for me) a lot more room for uniting oneself to the sacrifice in whatever way is best for that person.

    My personal opinion is there is probably an “ideal” posture for the liturgy based on what the ideal for laity participation is, but it’s just a fact that not everywhere does things the same way, and, as Fr Z says, we needn’t get overly worked up about it. Wherever we are, just submit to what the local custom is, or, if it is appropriate (i.e. if we’re not going to stand out in a bad way that might give a bad impression, quietly do your own thing. It’s ok, I think, to be passionate about what postures and when, but it doesn’t seem right, especially when talking about the universal Church, to say that their postures at their particular parish are THE right ones.

  4. Hidden One says:

    Now we just need someone to create and publish an inexpensive replacement for the Red Book….

  5. veritas vincit says:

    As an NO Catholic convert, who has attended a single TLM Low Mass (assisted by that “red booklet”), I am astounded that the actual rubrics, which are famously detailed for the priests, ignore the laity altogether.

    How were the laity expected to participate in the Mass, prior to Vatican II? How was “active participation” (understood to mean active :nterior participation) supposed to be reflected in our posture? Leaving it to local custom, or the opinion of a booklet publisher, seems out of character with the TLM is other respects, to say nothing of the NO’s rubrics.

    [Turning the sock inside out… the TLM doesn’t infantalize you, by telling you every thing that you must do. There is something good in the development of custom. The downside is that some negative things can develop due to a lack of understanding of certain aspects of Mass and the baptismal character.]

  6. Hidden One says:

    veritas vincit,

    Before the Council, the laity knew what postures to use because they used the ones they were already using. These had been derived, ultimately, from those of the clergy in choir, in some cases by way of the postures of the choir, which themselves possessed the same ultimate origin.

    As to your final point: the pre-conciliar missals actually allowed for a lot of variation, as the EF still does. Everything seems strictly regimented and utterly devoid of options until you really start to get familiar with it. Custom was huge in terms of determining which options were actually options in a particular place… and also, sometimes, in creating options that did not otherwise exist.

    (And yes, the Ordinary Form does allow for a lot more choice/variation than the pre-conciliar rites did.)

  7. Uxixu says:

    Dear veritas vincit, as a general rule, the laity are not required for the Mass. Even if it’s just one priest, by himself, the Communion of saints, angels, etc all still witness the Unbloody Sacrifice. In the novus ordo that became twisted to the participation of livity laity is now a concern and they have a categories for “Mass with the People” and “Mass without.” As if it should change the behavior of the priest (it should not).

    That’s the simple Cliff Notes version. Of course, Fortescue himself in a different book The Mass a Study of the Roman Liturgy details the evolution of the Mass. He does hit at that Ceremonies, but that was primarily intended to be a manual of ceremonies in English at a time when there were otherwise only French and Italian versions (the latter were particularly centered on the papal court which didn’t ordinarily have normal parishes, etc just pilgrim traffic, etc).

    But the fact of that matter is there were no rules for the laity. Recall that pews, for example, are an invention of the protestant heretics and most of the great Cathedrals in Europe never had them before the 17th century or so. Custom and tradition generally had men and women segregated (St. Charles Borromeo still presumes this is the case in his Instructions for ex), virgins and widows towards the front. Most would stand or kneel on the stone floor while chairs might be placed against the walls for the aged and infirm…

  8. Rob83 says:

    It’s not surprising there would be no rubrics on the postures of the laity in 1570. Pews were not really a thing in the Catholic church at the time, so the only choices would be to stand or to kneel, and that was probably left to local custom.

    There is confusion at times at the TLM regarding posture. I think the only thing you really don’t want to happen is to be the one person standing when everybody else is either sitting or kneeling.

  9. HvonBlumenthal says:

    I think Uxixu makes a very good point which it generally takes quite a time to grasp for those who are new to the TLM: the Mass isn’t about YOU. It isn’t about your feelings, your sense of participation, your postures, your appreciation of the beauty of the Mass. All these things will be added unto you, if first you seek the Kingdom of God by going regularly to Mass, which is about the Lord’s sacrifice.

  10. HvonBlumenthal says:

    Sorry, I omitted the word “all” before “about”

  11. rhig090v says:

    Veritas Vincent,
    Something to remember is that pews are a new development, only in the last few hundred years, and by Protestants. The old European Churches and eastern churches do have them.

    My point is that it’s difficult for us to imagine having the liberty afforded by a pew-free church and so to have rubrics for laity to do in pews which didn’t yet exist in 1570 wouldn’t have been intelligible.

  12. Laurelmarycecilia says:

    “The red book” also enables a ‘dialogue’ mass. Is this as an invention of German maybe French) liturgists in softening the laity up for Novus Ordo and Church-of-Democratic-Practices…….. you know, WE participate, We decide stuff…. which leads in a straight line to the Amazon Synod.

  13. Markus says:

    In our altar serving training ( late 1950’s, including Latin responses) we were taught that we were the “leaders” of the laity’s posture. They followed what we did. We were sometimes slow to stand, after kneeling, if the cassocks were a little too long…
    There were always 4 servers at High Mass and the laity followed what the two “outside sub servers” did while the main servers performed their duties such as cruets and the washing of hands.
    Perhaps a search into the server training manuals (US) would provide some insight.

  14. BrionyB says:

    The freedom to participate as you are able and see fit is one of the things I love about the TLM. Of course there are many time-honoured customs which are worth following (genuflections, bowing, crossing yourself, striking the breast etc. at certain times, or singing/saying the appropriate parts) because we are physical creatures and it’s an excellent thing to pray with the body as well as the mind.

    However, if on some occasions you feel unable to keep up with all those things (or at some point in your spiritual life are drawn towards a stiller, more interior way of participating), it is absolutely fine to just sit/kneel quietly, to pray and be present in the best way you can.

    Technically it’s possible to do the latter at an ordinary form Mass as well, and I sometimes have done, though I suppose you would be disobeying the rubrics and perhaps drawing unwanted attention to yourself, and it just doesn’t lend itself so well to that kind of participation.

  15. Hidden One says:


    The intentions of pre-conciliar liturgists varied. That said, and the papal objection to liturgical archaeologism having been recalled and endorsed, I’d like to note that the people chanting the parts pertaining to them was the ancient practice, which started to die down during the medieval era. Unlike the patristic end of Communion in the hand, the dying down of congregational chanting did not come about due to proper doctrinal development and/or heightened reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. The substantial loss of congregational chanting in the West was a side effect/casualty of other liturgical developments (polyphony, Low Mass, etc.), and serious and legimitate arguments can be made for its restoration in one form or another quite apart from any modernist liturgical intentions.

    Incidentally, the 1958 instruction of the Congregation for Rites which addresses lay participation at length (and is available in English online) gets at the then-official understanding of “active participation” and lay people’s Mass responses and is worth reading if you’re interested.

  16. bourgja says:

    This might be a good opportunity for me to ask a question about a book that I saw many years ago, and unfortunately did not purchase. It was full of very detailed black and white drawings of the postures and positioning of servers at each point in the Mass, and I think that it also had similar pictures related to other liturgical ceremonies as well. Does anyone happen to know the title of this book, so that I can try to obtain it? Thanks for any help!

  17. APX says:

    I just follow the person who looks like they know what they’re doing the best. Everyone else just follows me.

  18. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Uxixu,

    It is not strictly correct to say that the laity are not required for Mass. The requirement that at minimum an altar server (who is by definition not a cleric) be present goes back to the 12th Century. [Here’s part of the problem of opening up a combox when the topic says “ASK FATHER”. No, servers are not, by definition, not clerics. If, now, the clerical state is reserved to diaconate, it was not always so. In many places even the young were once tonsured so that they could serve. And I’ve served Mass as a cleric. I’ve had a Cardinal serve my Masses. No.] This requirement is waived for good cause (i.e. a priest being held in solitary confinement as happens in times of persecution, or in times of serious epidemics when the presence of a member of the laity (which includes vowed but non-ordained members of religious communities) might be impossible.

    Further, the distribution of the Holy Eucharist to the faithful is an essential element of the Mass (another reason for required presence of an altar server). [No. Communion by the priest celebrant is essential. It is not essential for Mass that anyone other than the priest receive. As a matter of fact, there are no rubrics in the older Missal for distribution, only about tidying up afterward.] As mentioned above, in extreme circumstances, a priest may celebrate alone, but it is merely condoned and certainly not the norm as your comment would imply. [It is not merely condoned. Mass without even one other person present is even praiseworthy by the mere fact of the priest’s desire to say Mass and the Mass itself. Cf. John Paul II.]

  19. KateD says:

    We don’t need charts and tables, Father! Every church has that gal who sits up front on the right. We all just do what she does.

    I think this is why most Catholics prefer to sit towards the back…that way we can follow along with standing, kneeling and sitting without looking like we don’t know what we’re doing.

    “Wait. What!? The moon walk?!?”

    And, yes! It’s incredibly ironic that the hippie skippy New Massers are like the gestapo when it comes to marching in lock-step when celebrating the Lord’s supper….

  20. Gerard Plourde says:

    I would phrase this somewhat differently. The Majesty of God as our Loving Creator forms the necessary condition that we each have an obligation to acknowledge and joyfully celebrate His Sovereignty by doing Him the homage He deserves. In that sense, and that sense alone, the Mass is about us. God then responds to the homage we give by further gifting us with the Eucharist – the humble reception of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior, that He may heal and strengthen us to more closely align our lives to His Will.

  21. Legisperitus says:

    Gerard Plourde: I would disagree with the assertion that an altar server is “by definition” not a cleric. The normal and preferred practice is for all those serving at the altar to be clerics. (Fortescue for this reason refers to the servers at Mass as “the clergy.”)

    Lay altar servers are a concession to the fact that most parishes don’t have priests or seminarians available to perform this function. The reason the office is (traditionally) restricted to males is because boys and men are potential clerics.

  22. Legisperitus says:

    I would further disagree with the statement that the distribution of Communion to the faithful, as opposed to the clergy, is an “essential element of the Mass.” Traditionally, it’s not strictly part of the Mass at all, but more an interruption of the Mass, as is the homily. A (traditional) Mass is perfectly licit and complete without either of these elements.

  23. ReadingLad says:

    I’m always slightly perplexed by the ‘just do what clergy sitting in choir do’ guidance. I’m sure it’s accurate and appropriate, but when, in the modern world, do you get the chance to see clergy sitting in choir at a TLM? Not saying it doesn’t ever happen, but…

    The only time I’ve seen clergy sitting in choir recently was in a military setting – the Principal RC Chaplain was retiring and returning to his diocese, and the Bishop to the Forces came to his final Sunday Mass as a military chaplain, and sat in choir – for a (very reverent) NO Mass.

  24. adriennep says:

    Essential rubric: Now is the perfect time to click on links to the right and get Father his wishes for books and stuff. Plus the St. Augustine Academy Press has the beautiful Treasure and Tradition Ultimate guide to the Latin Mass. I just went to their site now and am overwhelmed at how everything there is stunning and necessary to save our Faith and the Church. And our children. There is: A Is Our Altar, Catholic Nursery Rhymes, and Illustrated Catholic History. So beautiful and lovingly done, it makes you want to buy them all and run out to tell the whole world!

    Also makes me cry knowing what they are using in Catholic schools instead these days.

  25. veritas vincit says:

    Thanks to all who responded the questions in my last post.

    I did have a sense that the rubrics of the TLM, for lack of a better word, “ignore” the laity. The fact that the history of the TLM predates, in particular, the use of pews, explains quite a bit, although pews have still been around for 400 years, time enough, one might think, for customary postures to have been added to the Roman Missal, updated several times since 1570.

    Some took my comments to mean that I was complaining that the Mass was supposed to be “about US”. Let me assure all, that was not the case at all. The Mass is not “about” any of us, even the priest, but about giving due worship to God.

    And of course, the laity are not required for the Mass, as only the priest is essential. But, as has been pointed out, at least one other person, the server, who need not be a cleric, is canonically required in most situations.

    But while the laity are not necessary for the Mass, they are often required to attend Mass, and their attendance at other times is salutory, even apart from reception of Holy Communion. That makes guidance for the laity desirable, both fo uniformity and to allow the laity’s participation to be pleasing to God.

    It’s also become more and more clear that getting “used” to the TLM takes time. I remember it took time for me as a new convert, to get used to the NO Mass, itself different, and much more structured, than the Protestant services I had been more accustomed to. (I probably won’t take the time, because I don’t have the problems with the NO that many here express, and because the TLM is not offered often enough to attend regularly without disrupting my family’s Sunday worship).

  26. veritas vincit says:

    And I see now that Father Z responded to my initial post. I don’t get where I even implied saying that the NO Mass “infantilizes”. me.

    [You didn’t. But since this is my blog, I get to say whatever I desire, wherever I care to add it.  o{]:¬)  ]

  27. Interesting, since I actually mentioned posture at Mass in the “old days” in passing during my sermon today.

    For what is worth, I do remember very well the practice at Low Mass in my New York area parish. The congregation knelt from beginning to end except for: 1. Standing for the Latin and vernacular Mass Gospels and the Last Gospel; 2. Sitting for the vernacular Epistle and the sermon. Since we were always far enough back so that I could not hear anything but the English readings, sermon, and Leonine Prayers, and I could not see the altar (too low when kneeling), I would just read along in my (English only) hand missal and stop and wait for the sermon. Then, after the readings and sermon, I would stop reading at each picture of a bell in margin of the hand missal and wait to hear it ring so that I could start reading ago.

    I do remember instructions for more sitting and standing in my little missal for High Mass, but we never went to that so I don’t really remember them. I suppose they were based on choir rubrics. Again, in any case, those looking for a Dominican Rite Pew Booklet can order one here:

    Thanks, Fr. Z., for letting me get away with a little advertising . . .

  28. Prayerful says:

    I always took it as a mix of doing what others are doing as customs vary a bit from place to place, and to copy the posture those assisting in choir whether subdeacon or servers, to kneel when they kneel. Mostly kneel at a Low Mass, while there is more sitting or standing at High Mass. The Baronius Missal, which is an update of Fr Slyvester P. Juergens, The Daily Roman Missal, seems to come with a card suggesting posture. I’m surprised most don’t suggest kneeling at the Sanctus. I would take that as a basic posture, and also always done when I used to attend the New Mass. Not doing so would seem odd to me.

  29. As one old enough to remember when the “Old Mass” was simply “The Mass,” knowing what to do, and when, hasn’t been an issue in the pews, at least not for me. The issue arises when training the servers.

    You pick up one manual, and it says to kneel for everything except the Gospel and Last Gospel, even at High Mass. Pick up another one, and it basically tells you what the congregation is told, except (for obvious reasons) when it comes to sitting. Perhaps the good Father’s experience is different, but when it comes to training servers, I personally defer to local custom (to the extent that there is one), or I talk it over with the parish priest, and go from there.

    Barring that, there’s the old expression among aging altar boys the world over: “When in doubt, genuflect.”

  30. Kevin Jones says:

    I’ve always been a keen observer of the postures of lay people at the TLM as it varies from country to country, city to city, diocese to diocese and even churches within the same diocese. I have reached a few conclusions. Firstly, are the lay in0fluenced by the journey they followed toward the TLM? i.e. have the majority been/still are attendees at Mass according to the Novus Ordo Missae and therefore they bring with them the actions of that Mass. 2. We are very fortunate to have a strong influence in England and Wales of the ICKSP and the FSSP. It is apparent that the respective orders have developed their own postures for the laity and this has had a positive effect at non ICKSP/FSSP Masses. You may be interested to read a blog post I created on the subject some years ago. It can be read here (short URL)

  31. Kenneth Wolfe says:

    Sometimes Americans think our way is the only way, including congregational posture at the TLM. One trip to France or Italy will change that.

    A strong point made above is that if a congregation has sit/stand/kneel customs and there is one lady in pew twelve doing her own thing in her own little world, that is a problem. Hopefully no one here is that lady in pew twelve. Look up.

    Also, when visiting a parish for the first time, for the love of all things holy, do not sit in the first pew. Look for someone who is clearly a regular and follow him.

    Like so many other situations, common sense and an awareness of one’s surroundings (look up!) can answer so many questions.

  32. ex seaxe says:

    Sorry to disagree with you Father, and one of the other comments, about the rubrics for the distribution of communion to the faithful. They are not lacking, but quite clearly set out in the Ritus celebrandi Missam* (as the 1862 edition names it) which has half a page in section X, subsection 6.
    * called Ritus servandus in celebratione Missæ in the 1920 edition, but otherwise unchanged.

    [Those are all rubrics for the priest. There are no directives for the communicants. How they get to the place where they communicate and how they receive is not described.]

  33. zeremoniar says:


    you said that there are no official rubrics assigned by the Church for the laity at the TLM.
    Actually, the Cæremoniale Episcoporum contains one – according to CE II, viii, 32 the people are to kneel during the Confiteor.
    Also, Prior to 1962 there was another rubric in par. 2, chapter xvii of Rubricæ Generalis Missalis: “Circumstantes autem in Missis privatis semper genua flectunt, etiam Tempore Paschali, præterquam dum legitur Evangelium.”

    [A little thin. One of them isn’t in the Missale, but the Caerimoniale. The other pertains to private Masses, which suggest that it might be for a server. I knew about that second one, but had forgotten about it. Thanks.]

  34. arga says:

    In my FSSP parish, posture is radically different as between high Mass and low Mass. I never understood why it should change from high to low. The parish also does not follow the second chart. I am not sure what authority if any we are following except parochial custom. Which is fine.

  35. mamajen says:

    I usually attend the NO, but our priest will typically do the TLM for holy days. I had the great misfortune once of arriving just in the nick of time for a holy day mass, and only the front pews were open. There was much frantic watching out the corner of my eye! The red booklet, which, yes, we use, was of little help since I couldn’t follow along. I’m a bit more familiar with it all now, but not ready for the responsibility of The Front Pew!

    Interesting to know about “the red booklet.” Seems like with the recent growth of the TLM, the time is right to produce something better.

  36. Markus says:

    veritas vincit,
    “although pews have still been around for 400 years”
    Pews were adopted first, by many RCC’s, from our Protestant cousins here in the USA, East Coast. Europeans later adopted temporary chairs. In the SW US (where the oldest claimed church is), many of the older churches have pews but are not attached to the floor. These “pews” are about 10″ deep and the kneelers are about 4″ deep with no pads.
    So yes, parishioner “traditions” varied by country (especially Europe) but as I recall not much, if at all, within continental US during the 1950’s. Being a server travelling on family, summer vacations across the country, the Mass was exactly the same as were the parishioners postures and actions. Quite universal in those days.

  37. One of my favorite things about the traditional Mass is that Jesus Christ, through the priest, does all the heavy lifting, and I get to rest and be recollected. There is a lot of precision, soldierly drill to the TLM, and I don’t have to worry about any of it. I take beatings enough in the secular world. It is refreshing when I am able to leave all that outside and attend to the August Sacrifice without noisy distractions.

    Last month’s TLM came after a particularly grueling work week. There came a point in the Mass when I felt weariness descend upon me like a cloud. I usually like to follow the prayers in my hand missal, but this time I put it aside just watched what was happening at the altar, and gave thanks that there was nothing for me to do but just be present, and it was enough.

  38. mibethda says:

    A couple of years ago, Romanitas Press came out with a Mass Assistance Card for the use of the laity in determining the appropriate posture at the Low, High and Solemn Masses. As Father suggests, it is based in large measure on the rubrics for the clergy in choro set forth in the C.E. It is generally similar to the table above, but contains a little more detail and explanation. It is foldable, convenient, and can fit into a personal missal (it is a bit expensive, but is sturdy). Romanitas publishes and sells a number of liturgical materials for the traditional Latin Mass. The card is still available on its site.

  39. What struck me about the first table above is that the consistencies are more striking than the differences. Still, perhaps it is time for better materials; I recently thought about the irony of those who are quick (and rightly so) to criticize parishes that use disposable “worship aids” while they themselves are using the usually dog-eared paper-bound red booklets. With the resurgence of the extraordinary form, I am sure that the demand exists for hard-covered books with some appropriate sacred art and illustrations. While the red booklets provide a minimum level of utility, our sacred worship should always be about more than the minimums.

    Apart from that, I like to think that ultimately we have some sort of justification for each posture at Mass and when it is used. The more variation we see, the more arbitrary it appears to be.

  40. APX says:

    16 February 2020
    We don’t need charts and tables, Father! Every church has that gal who sits up front on the right. We all just do what she does

    I am that girl at my Latin Mass. It’s amusing on week days when there’s a special feast and we have a high Mass, but not a lot of people in attendance (usually because no one announced on Sunday that there would be a high Mass), and being in choir, I’m up in loft. No one really knows when to stand and sit.

  41. Zeremoniar.

    “Circumstantes autem in Missis privatis semper genua flectunt, etiam Tempore Paschali, præterquam dum legitur Evangelium.”

    Thank you, that confirms my memories of Low Mass when I was a kid. And what the server does at private and said Masses in the Dominican Rite practices of my province.

    I suspect that the standing and sitting some people remember at Low Mass was actually at Dialogue Masses, rather than the “silent” Low Mass, which was the norm in my parish until 1964. Once the congregation was reciting the choir parts, it makes a certain sense to have them mimic the (clerical) choir rubrics.

  42. Archlaic says:

    In the absence of definitive rubrics legitimate variations in custom did indeed occur… I am reminded of the anecdote about Hilaire Belloc attending Mass in NYC: at a certain point he was standing and an usher approached him: “sir, we kneel at this time”. “Go to Hell”, Belloc is said to have retorted. “Sorry sir, I didn’t realize you were Catholic” was the usher’s reply.

  43. WVC says:

    With regard to the “red book” – caution to anyone out there thinking of teaching old dogs new tricks. I once attended the Latin Mass at a very well known church which had been saying the Tridentine Mass long before JP2’s indult. It was an established community. However, they ALWAYS genuflect when the holy water is sprinkled during the Asperges / Vidam Aquam. A very knowledgeable monsignor went so far as to lecture the congregation during a homily, explaining that this was just plain wrong, especially during the Easter season. Having been directly admonished, my wife and I remained standing during the Asperges after that. We were the only ones, much to that monsignor’s chagrin. And my experience is that this genuflecting during the Asperges has spread everywhere.

    So now I genuflect. When in Rome . . . .

  44. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I have told this story before… But I once visited an Orthodox synagogue in Boston, where both men and women were adopting all sorts of different postures at the same points of the service. People sitting next to each other were doing totally different things and nobody was fazed; but the words were the same.

    I asked about it afterward,and it turned out that they were all correct. Each person had the duty to preserve the family traditions of how they prayed in the synagogue from whatever old country village they were from. Nobody shamed anybody else. All of their traditions dated from time immemorial, and it was an act of piety to continue each of them when everybody else was dead or scattered.

    Everything I have seen about the old days, before centralization, is that the Catholic Church had a lot of ethnic and regional differences in lay participation and Mass customs. 19th century materials are full of complaints about this from progressive authoritarian types, while others fought to record and continue them. It is an important part of folklore and popular devotion that is seldom examined.

    So come on, people! Relax a freaking bit, or I will teach you Gaelic poems for.Mass attendees!

  45. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I direct people to art of Masses. Frequently, many different postures can be seen in a congregation at the same time, even in an ethnically same area. And one of the best examples is the picture of the Mass in a cabin in Connemara, where everybody is attentive and devout, all dressed differently, all positioned differently.

  46. Suburbanbanshee says:

    If there was a substantial amount of consistency in lay Mass practices in the US before Vatican II, I suspect it was the work of teaching by nuns, brothers, Jesuits, etc. A lot of the orders that did missions here were rather precision-oriented from the 19th century until the 1950’s. I bet ethnic parishes with more recent immigrants did things differently, and that there was some friction between what the nuns taught and what the parents and grandparents did.

  47. kimberley jean says:

    Since there are no rubrics for the laity I remain kneeling or sitting if my knee hurts except for the gospel and. Nobody has said one word to me about it.

  48. roma247 says:

    I have it on good authority that a new improved “red book” is in the works…or will be soon…and by some very competent people. Please pray for the success of this endeavor!

  49. scholastica says:

    This is a great product by SSPX publishing arm. You can be sure they never forgot the rubrics. I especially like the explanations in the margins. Much sturdier than the paper red book. You can buy individually, but a much better deal in bulk. I buy them and give to friends and family that are interested in the TLM.

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  51. Elizium23 says:

    I am not sure how it plays out in common practice, but when I was becoming acquainted with the Byzantine Rite Divine Liturgy, I became aware that the faithful were quite accustomed to “wandering around” during the liturgy and doing different things. It’s partly because the Byzantine temple, like any traditional Catholic Church, has so much to see, smell, touch, and do! Many of the icons warrant a close-up look to contemplate the “window to Heaven”, light a lamp and venerate it before moving on. The priest being hidden behind the iconostasis for much of the time, leads us to find other things to occupy the center of attention, and personally I believe that is a good thing. Also, prostrations and signs-of-the-cross and other symbols of reverence are widely varied. For a while I tried to follow “what everybody else does” but I soon realized that there is no uniformity and people are following their own traditions and their own family/tribe.

    I think much of this wanderlust was curtailed with the introduction of pews and an influx of Roman Catholics who latinized the liturgy, but there is still ample evidence that liturgical worship is more, ah, individualistic than the rigidly regimented Novus Ordo Masses have led us to believe. And this is, perhaps, a toddler parent’s best dream come true: care for your children as you see fit, this is not a museum but a “PLEASE TOUCH” is on all the images!

  52. oledocfarmer says:

    Father, thank you and God bless you for all the good you do. I KNEW that these Red Books tended to be maybe a lil “Jansenist” on the posture front. Kneeling through the Epistle? Huh? Make-uh no sense, mang.

    Thanks for clearing these matters up!

  53. RPBOOKS says:

    We have a custom for 35 years – what is layed out in the red booklets.

  54. robtbrown says:

    Although there are certain lay gestures at a TLM that are necessary, e.g., kneeling during the consecration, and others that are recommended, I don’t think that lay “rubrics” should be patterned on the 600AM formation prior to marching to the mess hall.

  55. Arrrrgh! Thank you Father Z for posting this, and for your notes in the interesting comments. Yessssss!

    Attending Tridentine Masses, especially Low Masses, and the varied lay activity is confusing. Indeed, I end up doing what the others are doing as customs vary crazily. But at the same time, many of the lay actions demonstrate ignorance of what is going on during the Mass. I am not a stickler, knowing customs change from parish to parish – but I admit to noticing.

    For instance, I have learned that when the laity prays or sings aloud, that should be while standing [thus the confusion of kneeling during the Sanctus or Agnus Dei] – one can kneel afterwards. At the Novus Ordo where there has been so much unrelated postures that ignored the action on the altar, we tended to want to kneel during these prayers in demonstration of reverence.
    Too, my experience with the Byzantines [Melkite and Ukranian] one stood almost through the whole Mass because one is praying/singing the whole time. Ah! So now I can relate this to standing during Roman Mass when the congregation is singing the Ordinary –the Creed or Gloria or Sanctus… EVEN when the priest might sit —

    Not only is there the confusion in postures, but in responses too. In spite of the totally still, dead silent private low Mass which is okay, if responses and postures are made, the laity might want to wake up and speak parts that represent the required interior activity that is going on – such as at the Confiteors, Creed, Gloria, the Orate Fratres…?

    Over the years, we had TLMs in all kinds of circumstances. When the first years of no-old-Mass hardship began, we had priests traveling in to say Masses. In those circumstances congregations were simply continuing the culture of a few years before and the traveling priests said little about expectations. Or there might be an old priest who was still saying the Tridentine by the indulgence of a rare sympathetic bishop, with severe rules of “keeping it quiet”. Then it was very rare indult Masses – again, the laity depended on experience of their youth. In many parishes today, Masses might be said by visiting priests who aren’t teaching the congregation because of not-my-job. And now mostly, many very insecure [but brave] priests learning the ropes are unable to direct the congregation because they are up front sweating through their own details [order priests seem better prepared]. So there you have it – the congregation kinda makes it up as it goes. And so, the chaos. Everybody thinks everyone else knows what to do but that isn’t always the case. And very very few people are basing actions of real very old memory – its all mostly copying others, reading something in a book, relating to the Novus Ordo.
    To have better direction, and explanations why, on updated corrected posture and response, would be way cool.

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