Reverence and the Sacred Liturgy

Dear Catholic Exchange,

I have recently been attending the "Tridentine Mass" and would much prefer it over the "Norvus Ordo" liturgy. In the Tridentine Mass, we are asked not to just pray at Mass, but to "Pray the Mass." In addition, the use of Gregorian Chant and Latin choral hymns make the Mass prayerful and reverent. As a young adult, it took virtually no time at all to realize how much more reverent that mass is! It seems that, compared to a "Norvus Ordo" Mass the Tridentine Liturgy as ancient as it is must be preserved and continued. I admit I'm embarrassed to want to encourage outsiders to come to a Catholic parish because of the Norvus Ordo Mass. I see way too much "irreverence" in our masses today because of attire, contemporary music, talking and even sometimes clapping after a "beautifully emotional" song that is played during Holy Communion and/or after the Mass has ended. This makes it seem that our masses are what some would say are more "man" centered than "God" centered. Therefore, in regards to the Norvus Ordo, is there anything I can do to encourage more reverence at our Masses today? God bless you!



Dear Charles,

Thank you for this excellent question concerning reverence and the sacred liturgy.

We should start with a brief definition of reverence in the context of the liturgy. Fr. Hardon defines reverence as the virtue that inclines us to show honor and respect for God. Reverence is an interior disposition. However, as you rightly note, reverence is typically reflected in our external actions, in the way we show honor and respect for God, especially at Mass.

The first thing we can and must do to encourage reverence at Mass is to foster the virtue of reverence within ourselves, that we dispose ourselves for sacred worship through prayer, regular Confession, spiritual reading, and other such aids offered through the Church. This reverent disposition will also play itself out in the way we conduct ourselves at Mass. Do we observe silence in church or do we treat the church as a meeting hall? Do we wear our "Sunday best" to Mass, or do we push the envelope when it comes to modest, appropriate dress? If we do our part in this regard, without being obnoxious to those who are not quite there yet, we can help create a culture of reverence in our parish.

Next, I would suggest not judging the Mass as though we were there as movie critics or liturgy police. It is truly sacred worship, and when it comes to the Bread of Life, we are beggars — we need what is offered on the altar. We're unable to save ourselves, and if we don't partake in the Eucharist then we don't have life in us (cf. Jn. 6:53). This is serious business, and it's much better for us to put aside for the moment concerns about the music, the ministers, the external surroundings, etc. and throw ourselves at the feet of Our Lord, who really comes to us at each and every Mass. When distractions inevitably arise, we should do our best to offer them, along with our very selves, in union with Our Lady of Sorrows, and then serenely put the matter aside and redirect our attention to the sacred mysteries unfolding in our midst.

Sometimes the apparent irreverence is a mere matter of personal taste, or it might be a relatively minor or accidental occurrence that would not be considered a "liturgical abuse" or even involve any irreverence. Don't assume the worst. If the matter seems significant, find out what the Church's liturgy actually calls for in this situation. In this regard, we encourage CUF members to contact us ( with their questions and for how to bring any legitimate concerns charitably and effectively to the appropriate authorities, beginning with one's pastor.

Your question arose in the context of your preference for the "Tridentine" Mass. In that regard, I recommend our new edition of The Pope, the Council and the Mass (, which comprehensively addresses the liturgical reform that took place immediately after the Second Vatican Council. This book painstakingly distinguishes between legitimate, approved liturgical changes from scandalous, irreverent practices that never were sanctioned by the Church.

United in the Faith,

Leon Suprenant

Catholics United for the Faith
827 North Fourth Street
Steubenville, OH 43952
800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

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  • Guest

    It's quite late and I don't think anyone's going to read this, but I'm going to write it anyway.

    I appreciate Mr. Suprrenant's answer to this question.  He said all the right things. 

    My gripe is that I'm getting tired–sick to death!–of the question!  Look in a mirror, folks: is there a mitre on your head?  Didn't think so.  If the Novis Ordo is good enough for the Pope, what's your beef?

    I converted to Catholicism pre-Vatican II and loved the Mass.  I left and was away for 20 years.  When I returned, I found some changes.  At first, I wasn't happy–I came back looking for the "reverence".  Guess what?  I found it!  I found it in praying the Novus Ordo, in worshipping GOD at Mass, in celebrating the One Who calls me to adore Him and receive Him at Mass.

    A large number of my friends coerced me into attending the Tridentine Mass repeatedly, and it left me cold.  I prefer the Novus Ordo.  I can "get into" God  at the Novus Ordo.  The only problem with the Novus Ordo is the people who don't/can't/won't "get into" it.  There is real worship, real adoration, real connection there IF you're willing to accept it.  You get out of it what you put into it.

    Lastly, I have an acquaintance who invariably asks me if, when I went to our Adoration Chapel, I saw this person or that person.  My answer is always the same: "I didn't see them because I wasn't looking for them!  I went to see Jesus.  If He's there, I don't care who else is there.  If He's not there, I don't care who else is there."  Try taking that attitude to the Novus Ordo!

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    Well said, Cooky! – remind me never to confront you face to face – my beard would get scorched.

    I think, personally, that I’d love to alternate between both ritual forms. But, that, too, presumes both ritual forms are the Mass, as meant for and given to ME by Jesus Christ, and through His Church. (Which, of course, they are.)

    [Was your keyboard damaged in the conflagration?]

    Remember, I love you, too

    Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell or …

  • Guest

    eileen breen

    In the 1930s we went to the downstairs Church for the children’s Mass at 9:00 where the nuns kept a strict watch on us.  They used clappers to let us know when to stand, sit or kneel.  The three bells rang at the Consecration and you struck your breast 3 times each time.  The altar boys gave all the responses.   It seemed at the time  most people didn’t follow the  Mass and many said the Rosary instead of paying attention to the Mass.   I didn’t learn the Latin Mass until I went to a Catholic high school.


    I left the Church for a number of years and when I came back there were many changes,  the priest faced the congregation, we gave the responses and it was all in English.    I liked it, and I felt more a part of the celebration of the Mass. 


    I’m sure those that are voluntarily attending the Latin Mass today, really do pay attention and enjoy following the Mass.  I’d like to attend one, I think I’d feel quite at home.


  • Guest

    I attend a “Novus Ordo” Mass in Spokane which is done in Gregorian Chant (with some polyphony thrown in) and it is very nice and conducive for worship. The Novus Ordo is not the problem, the problem is people who pervert it with their music, demeanor, and “innovations.” There is no good excuse for the vast majority of the foolishness that goes on in many parishes except for the fact that people are very misguided.

    I look forward to the Pope’s (supposed) upcoming motu proprio on the TLM, I think it will focus more attention on good liturgy.