What is the Traditional Latin Mass?

Often referred to (inaccurately) as the Tridentine Mass, it is is the form of the Roman Rite Mass contained in the typical editions of the Roman Missal that were published between 1570 and 1962. Other names for it include TLM, Traditional Mass, and Extraordinary Form. Often it is simply referred to as the Latin Mass, although any Roman Rite Mass (such as the Novus Ordo, or “New Order of Mass,” in use since 1969) said in Latin is in fact a “Latin Mass.”

At the time of the Council of Trent, the traditions preserved in printed and manuscript missals varied considerably, and standardization was sought both within individual dioceses and throughout the Latin West. Standardization was also required in order to prevent the introduction into the liturgy of Protestant ideas in the wake of the Protestant Revolt. The term “Tridentine” is derived from the Latin word Tridentinus, which means “related to the city of Trent, Italy.” It was in response to a decision of the Council of Trent that Pope Pius V promulgated the 1570 Roman Missal, making it mandatory throughout the Western Church, excepting those regions and religious orders whose existing missals dated to before 1370.

Pope St. Pius V accordingly imposed uniformity by law in 1570 with the Papal Bull Quo Primum, ordering use of the Roman Missal as revised by him. He allowed only rites older than 200 years to survive the promulgation of his 1570 Missal. Several of the rites that remained in existence were progressively abandoned, though the Ambrosian rite survives in Milan, Italy and neighboring areas, stretching even into Switzerland, and the Mozarabic rite remains in use to a limited extent in Toledo and Madrid, Spain. The Carmelite, Carthusian and Dominican religious orders kept their rites, but in the second half of the twentieth century two of these three chose to adopt the Roman Rite. The rite of Braga, in northern Portugal, also seems to have been practically abandoned: since 18 November 1971 that archdiocese authorizes its use only on an optional basis.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a motu proprio called Summorum Pontificum, in which he designated the Traditional Latin Mass “an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.” Since then, the 1962 liturgy has often been referred to as “the extraordinary form.” Summorum Pontificum granted greater freedom to use the Tridentine liturgy in its 1962 form, stating that all priests may freely celebrate Mass with the 1962 Missal privately, without having to ask for permission from anyone. It also provided that pastors (parish priests) and rectors of churches should willingly accept requests from stable groups who adhere to the earlier tradition (“usus antiquior”), for permission for a qualified priest to celebrate Mass for them using the 1962 Missal, and should “ensure that the welfare of these faithful harmonises with the ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the guidance of the bishop.”

Since publication of Summorum Pontificum, there has been an increase in the number of regularly scheduled public Traditional Masses in accordance with the 1962 Roman Missal, for which the priests in charge of the churches in question now have authority to grant permission.

On June 14, 2008, Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos told a London press conference that the Vatican was preparing to instruct seminaries to teach all students the Tridentine form of the Roman Rite. He also said that Pope Benedict wants every parish to offer both the old and the new forms for Sunday Mass.

What Is So Appealing About It?

More and more young people, who have never before experienced the profoundness and beauty of the traditional liturgy, are deeply touched by their first contact with it and are everywhere requesting its wider use. It is very convincing to see how the apostolates of the Institute of Christ the King and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, as well as those of other communities where the Traditional Mass is celebrated, are frequented by young families and youth. All of them are attracted by the force of tradition itself. Everyone should have the opportunity to know the classical Roman Liturgy because it strengthens their faith, it helps them in their struggle for a Christian life in the world of today, and it always attaches them more to the Church and to the Holy Father.

The founder of the Institute of Christ the King, Monsignor Gilles Wach, STD, compares the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to a diamond that needs a dignified, beautiful setting to show even more its value and brilliance. The Tridentine Rite elevates our souls to God, and, as it draws us from the realities of the senses to the eternal mysteries, it permits us, already on earth, to unite our voices to those of the Blessed. This is the goal of all the gestures and of all the ceremonies. The orientation of the altar, the gestures of adoration, the sacred language, the mystery and the silence which surrounds the consecration: all these aspects manifest the sacrality of the Mass.

If you would like to see the Traditional Mass celebrated at your parish, there is a link in the right panel to sample letters you can adapt to address to your pastor and bishop. There may not be a single “right” way to approach them, but there are plenty of wrong ways to do so. We will help you avoid those.

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