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How to Bring Yourself into the TLM during the Novus Ordo

You have discovered that the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM or EF) is the form of Mass for you as it not only suits your preferences, but more importantly, orients your soul and attention towards God, gives better reverence to the Holy Sacrifice, not to mention possessing rich theological symbolism and historical antiquity, but for whatever reason, be it distance, transportation, time, family, or luck, you are attending the Ordinary Form (OF) for now.

While there are many good points on how the TLM could enrich the OF (ad orientem, EP I, Gregorian Chant, etc.), those depend on the good will of your priest and your fellow parishioners. But what can you do to enrich yourself with the TLM? Without banging your head on the pew every Sunday, follow these five steps to live out the TLM while attending the OF.

Disclaimer: The following advice is in no way authoritative, and I am not personally responsible for what you choose to do at Mass. Additionally, this article does not intend to minimize or downplay the goodness and graces that comes from the OF but does acknowledge the practical superiority of the TLM.

Get a TLM Hand Missal

Nothing beats having a missal that you can call your own and bring every Sunday. Sure, the readings and prayers do not usually match the OF, but having that missal is your first step to bringing the TLM into your heart and mind during the OF. There are plenty of recommendations and choices on getting a Traditional Missal, but just getting one is the most important step. As the OF was made from the TLM, with a traditional missal, you can see the original contexts of the prayers and actions left intact in the OF. Additionally, most TLM missals have excellent illustrations of the Mass throughout the missal, as well as supplemental devotional prayers.

Respond in Latin, or Don’t

One of the major reasons for the creation of the OF compared to the TLM is the emphasis on “active participation”. This was interpreted as “external participation” that resulted in a vernacular Mass that expects the response of the congregation. From the Kyrie, the Responsorial Psalm (remember the Gradual!), the Prayers of the Faithful, the Offertory Reponses, and the Memorial Acclamation, the congregation is expected to respond at all the appropriate times. This leaves you with three options: (1) reply in vernacular, (2) reply in Latin or (3) not at all. The first choice is the easy choice; it is what is expected. However, the vernacular would be out of place at the TLM and therefore unfitting. Moving on, the second choice would be the natural choice for many. Latin is the official language of the Roman Church and is the chief language of the TLM. This choice speaks of your commitment to keeping the traditional sacred language, as Vatican II teaches. Furthermore, this corresponds one-to-one with the rubrics of the OF: you can respond when expected to respond, only in Latin.

The third choice of choosing not to respond may sound questionable at first but understand that the priest is not addressing you. Instead, he addresses God throughout the Mass, and when he refers to his brothers during the TLM, he refers principally to the clergy, particularly the deacon and subdeacon present. The responses are then appropriate to the clergy, and by modern practice, altar boys. By not responding, this choice better prepares and transports you better to the mindset of the TLM. There is also a beauty that the Mass will go on without your responses, as it had been for the last 2000 years. The priest, imbued with the priesthood of Christ, the High Priest, does not require us, but offers regardless the Living Host to God. We require him to sacrifice for us. This is not to ignore our own sacrifices and praises, but the priest brings Christ to us. We can rest on Sundays, and that includes a sense that we can simply meditate and contemplate on the Mass and follow along the Priest. This is not to say that responding during Mass is a wrong, but rather that it is not an absolute necessity.

Pray and Read the Omitted Prayers

What else can you do then? Since you seek to be enriched by the TLM, prepare yourself into the mindset of the TLM. Here are a few suggestions: With your missal, read the propers for the day. During the procession, if there is no or bad music, you can start by praying Psalm 42. Then move on to the Introit. Perhaps say the fuller, original Confiteor and nine-fold Kyrie. Read the collect. During the Responsorial Psalms, read the Epistle, Gradual, Alleluia, and Gospel. Follow along using the old Offertory. Meditate on the Secret. Always read the Roman Canon, regardless of Eucharistic Prayer used. Say the triple Domine, non sum dignus. Consider reciting the Confiteor again before Communion. Recite the Last Gospel after Mass and pray the Leonine prayers as well.

Externally Participate

Even though the OF has an emphasis on external participation, bodily participation is curiously lacking compared to the TLM. This can be done by imitating what is done in the TLM, namely, by making a Sign of the Cross more often, such as at the end of the Gloria, Credo, and the Sanctus. In a spirit of humility, you could also do other pious devotions, such as striking the breast and bowing at appropriate times. Additionally, you can also genuflect during the Credo and the Last Gospel. An article by Dr. Kwasniewski wonderfully expands upon this.

Accept the Situation

Let’s face it. Even after following all these steps, whatever happens at Mass is (probably) beyond your control. It is important to note that many Ordinary Form Masses are not said the way they are ought to be. The biggest problem with the OF is that it is much more vulnerable to abuse than the TLM. By nature the rubrics, combined with a lax attitude and a lack of knowledge towards the faith and tradition, there might be less-than-desirable choices made at Mass. By itself, the OF is not bad; rather, it is the irreverence and “creative license” that tends to occur at the OF. Therefore, there is no reason for anyone to have contempt for the OF itself, but plenty of reasons to be unhappy with poorly said and irreverent OF Masses that are far too common these days.

You might know what the priest ought to be doing, but you cannot change what he actually does. The music might be terrible. You might be the only one kneeling at times. Ultimately, it goes back to being patient, a sub-virtue of the cardinal virtue of temperance. Also belonging to temperance is humility, for which a gentle reminder is put forward not to fall into the mindset or thought that simply because the TLM is richer than the OF, it makes you, an aspiring TLM attendee, more virtuous. Attending Mass does not automatically eliminate pride or other sins. The Mass exists for our good, that we made be made better through attendance, meditation, graces, and communion.

For now, you can be grateful to attend the OF. Just a short while ago, most of us had no Mass at all. Attending the Most Holy Sacrifice shouldn’t be filled with nitpicks and grievances. If it is, perhaps accept it as a lesser cross, for the greatest Cross is already won.