A Crash Course in Traditional Catholicism for Writers (Catholic Liturgy Week)

1:17 PM

Greetings from the cave!

Recently my dear friend Megan Chappie wrote an excellent post called A Crash Course on Catholic Liturgy for Writers, a highly well-done introduction to the Catholic Faith as well as the modern Catholic liturgy or worship. I highly recommend that y'all read that post first, because a lot of what I'm going to be talking about will not make sense without having that basic knowledge!

Basically, this post is intended for writers who want to write about historic Catholicism and the liturgies surrounding it. I'll also touch on fasting as this played a key role in the traditional Church. I was going to also discuss religious orders, but I've found that this needs to be discussed in it's own post.

Traditional Liturgy (The Mass)

In the modern day, the Traditional Mass is almost always the 1962 rite, or the Mass of Pius IX. The reality is that liturgy did experience several changes from the Mass of the Apostles, which is handed down from Christ himself. In fact, before the 1955 Mass was codified, there were even regional differences in the liturgy.

I really wish I could find it, but there was a graphic at one time that showed the Order of the Mass around 100 AD, and it's so different from even the 1962 rite.

The 1962 Mass is made up of the following:

Mass of the Catechumens
Note: This is an example of an historical remnant. For several hundred years, those who were preparing for Baptism would only be present for half the Mass, which is more instructional. It just goes to show how the Latin Church was so adamant on it's parishioners knowing what the Sacrifice of the Mass really is.

Prayers at the Foot of the Altar
Confiteor - confession prayer
Intriot - a Scriptural passage 
Collect - prayer of the priest in the name of the people
Epistle or Lesson - Lessons are from the Old Testament and Epistles are from the New Testament.
Gradual/Alleluia - another Scriptural passage

Homily or Sermon

Mass of the Faithful

Nicene Creed - created at the Council of Nicea to combat heresy
Lavabo - washing of the hands
Orate Fratres - prayer of the priest
Secret - silent prayer of the priest
Preface - prayer of praise by the priest
Sanctus - Holy Holy Holy!
Canon - silent prayers prior to Consecration
Consecration of the Body and Blood of Our Lord - the most crucial part of the Mass, the unbloody sacrifice of Christ, in which by the words instituted by the Lord, the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ
Pater Noster - Our Father
Agnus Dei - Lamb of God
Communion and Ablutions - distributions of the Hosts and the cleansing of the vessels
Post Communion - prayer of the priest
Last Gospel - first chapter of John, indicates at the perpetuity of the Mass

Prayers at End - Low Mass only

For those who would like a visual representation of the Mass, and how to follow along with it, I'll include this short video made by Joy of the Faith (which I highly recommend for all my Catholic friends, Ray's got a lot of really great videos on there!).

Now, that is the main order of the Mass. There are differing levels of solemnity - Low Mass, High Mass and Solemn High Mass. The video above is a Low Mass, which is just the bare bones. High Mass has a lot of singing, and several parts of the Mass are chanted. And then there is the Solemn High Mass, which has a lot more ceremonies, and has a Deacon and Subdeacon.

Here's a video from 2012 that is a Solemn High Mass:

There are also Votive Masses, Masses for Feast Days, For Confessors, for Martyrs and Saints, and so much more!

The Liturgical Calendar

Unlike the current calendar, the traditional liturgical calendar is broken up into much more specific seasons. I'll use the 1962 calendar as an example:

Octave of Christmas
Septuageisma - a pre-Lent that lasts three weeks, each week having a specific name: Septuagueisma (70), Sexagesima (60), and Quinquagesima (50). They correspond, very roughly, to the amount of days before Easter).
Octave of the Ascension

Some seasons have specific lengths - Lent has 40 days, octaves have 8 days, etc. However, most of the seasons are determined by the date of Easter, which liturgically is based on the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. This is of course, based on the fact that the Jewish calendar is a lunar calender. More information on that can be found HERE.

There are also minor octaves of major feast days, such as St. John the Baptist, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, etc.

Now we get into some of the major feast days that earmark the liturgical year. Often these are what are called "first class feasts" which supersede the current liturgical season. For example, St. Joseph's feast day is very often in Lent but it doesn't count as one of the 40 days of fasting. There is a set of these "first class feasts" that are called Holy Days of Obligation, which has the same weight as a Sunday obligation. In other words, you have to go to Mass and you're not allowed to do extra servile work that day. Each country has their own set, but these are the most common ones:

Christmas Day (Dec 25)
Corpus Christi (not in the US)
Ascension Thursday
All Saints Day (Nov 1)
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin (Aug 15)
Feast of the Circumcision (Solemnity of Blessed Virgin) (Jan 1)
St. Peter and Paul (not in the US)
Epiphany (not in the US) (Jan 6)
Immaculate Conception (Dec 8)

Liturgical Colors

In the Catholic liturgy, there is so much thought and detail put into it. Every single thing reflects some sort of belief or sentiment. And that even extends to the colors used for the vestments. 

White - purity. Used for high feast days. 
Gold - glory. Used for high feast days. 
Red - Holy Ghost and blood. Used for martyrs, feast of the Holy Ghost, Pentecost, Confirmation. 
Violet - penance. Used for Lent, Septuagesima, and Advent. 
Rose - joy in penance. Used for Gaudete Sunday in Advent and Laudate Sunday in Lent. 
Green - eternity. Used for Pentecost
Black - mourning. Used for Good Friday and funeral Masses

Blue can also be used as an accent color for the Blessed Virgin. 

More information about that can be found HERE.


Unlike the current guidelines, the fasting and abstinence laws of the traditional rites are much stricter. Instead of having just Lent, there was required fasting during Advent, Vigils of major feasts, Ember Days and Rogation Days. The level of fasting is also different depending on the time period.
For example, in the medieval period, there was three days of fasting and abstinence a week. This was not to increase the fishing industry, as I've discussed previously in THIS POST, but as a form of piety.

Fasting basically brings our flesh under the Divine Will and so fasting and abstinence is a heavy part of our spirituality. It even affects our everyday decisions, as I've talked about some of this in detail on other blogs, such as THIS POST and THIS POST. It's a great way to sneak in Catholic doctrine and practice in a subtle way.

More information about the nitty-gritty of Catholic fasting laws can be found HERE.

That indeed is just the tip of the iceberg. But there is no way that I can fit it all into one post. If there are any specific questions people have, I'll be glad to answer them!

This was done in conjunction with the Catholic Liturgy Week, which you can find HERE.

Scribbingly yours,


You Might Also Like


  1. Catherine, great post! Honestly, besides the rubrical differences, the pre-1962 Mass sounds fairly similar to Novus Ordo, at least in structure...and perhaps in language, though technically the "base" (I forget the technical term!) language of Novus Ordo is Latin.

    Even if you don't have time this week, you should totally do a post on religious orders sometime later! (As long as you talk nicely about the Dominicans :D).

  2. SUCH a fantastic breakdown, Catherine! I love the specificity of the Septuageisma, and the Holy Days of Obligation not celebrated in the U.S.--I did not know Corpus Christi and the Feast of Peter and Paul were on that list, but it makes sense that they would be!

    I shall have to read your posts on fasting because they sound amazing.

    Thank you for this excellent contribution to CLW!!

  3. Oh, there are some things that I didn't know here! Good and informative post!

  4. So interesting! Thanks for sharing!!


Contact Me!


Email *

Message *

Now Where is that Post?

#RebelliousWriting (12) Aesthetic Change (6) Aesthetics (5) All the Children (1) Alpha Squad (7) Ancora Spei (2) Animals (1) Animation (1) Anne of Green Gables (1) Announcements (5) Ask Me Anything (9) Author (1) Avatars (12) Awkward and Awesome (2) Beautiful People (4) Blog Game (1) Blog Link-Up (27) Blog Tour (2) Blogging Buddies (11) blogoversary (5) Book Dragon's Library Stash (13) Books (19) breaking barriers (4) Camp Log 2018 (9) Camp NaNoWriMo (17) Camp Recap (3) catherine's craziness (62) Catholic (4) Celebration (9) character mommy (3) character sketch (4) Characters (17) clean writing (2) Collaboration Post (2) Couples (1) cover reveal (2) Cringy Old Writing (5) Culmore (11) Disney/Pixar (2) editing (3) Editing Catherine (1) Eowyn (6) Fair Winds (14) fandoms (8) Fangirl Moment (8) Fantasy (3) Fantasy Writing (1) femininity (1) From the Cave (12) GIFs!!! (13) Goals (15) Goodreads (3) Help (1) Hilarity (2) Historical Writing (4) Jane Austen (3) Lists and More Lists (7) little sister (10) Lord of the Rings (4) Maps (3) Marvel (2) Mock Covers (4) Monthly Wrap Up (29) Movies (8) Music (5) Music Videos (8) Musicals (5) My Muse (18) my photos (1) my spy (11) NaNoWriMo (10) Period Drama (5) Plain and Simple Truth (3) Plot Help (1) Preptober 2019 (5) Project Blueprint (1) quotes (2) Rebel for God (6) Reviews (2) Romance (4) Rooglewood FPA (11) Seeds of an Orchard Invisible (19) Shared WIP Tag (7) Shattered Chandelier (10) Shaxpir (2) Shield-Maiden (3) short story (2) Soap Box Rant (4) Songs from Playlist (8) Soul Sisters (1) Spotify Playlist (1) Star Wars (2) Story Scene (4) Story Snippet (19) TAG!!!!! (50) Taggy Tuesday (10) The Apple in the Snow (11) The Midnight Cave (6) the wade girl (1) The White Rose (42) Theme (1) Tolkien (5) Top Ten Tuesday (1) TV (4) Update (9) Videos (1) Wattpad (1) WIP Post (50) world-building (10) Writing (17)