The Ultimate Simple Guide to Catholic Mass

Tuesday, October 20, 2020 - 11:17am

The Ultimate Simple Guide to Catholic Mass

Praying at Mass: Ordinary or Extraordinary Form


New to the Traditional Latin Mass or Novus Ordo? This short and simple beginner's guide to Catholic Mass will give you an easy method of praying at Mass.


The sudden tap on my shoulder startled me and as I turned around to see who it was, I was blinded by the early morning sun.  After my eyes adjusted, I saw that it was a young lady who looked very nervous and out of place.


"Can I ask you a question?" She asked

"Of course." I said.

"I thought this was a regular Mass in English.  Do I have to wear a chapel veil?  I don’t want to do anything wrong."

I remember feeling the same exact way when I went to my first Traditional Latin Mass. 

Well, not about the chapel veil.

I had so many questions.

What were the altar boys doing? What's the difference between the left and right side of the altar? Can everyone tell I don't know when to kneel, stand, or sit?

We have all been there and I can tell you that you have nothing to worry about.

Bonus: Download a free Mass guide to bring to Mass for both the Traditional Latin Mass or Ordinary Form! {Printable}

A Quick Rundown

If you have been away from the Catholic Church for a while or are new to either the Mass in the Ordinary Form (also called the Novus Ordo) or are making the leap to attend the Extraordinary Form (also called the Traditional Latin Mass/TLM) it can be a little intimidating. 

The Catholic Mass for beginners is easy and it is truly wonderful that you will be attending!

Here are a few tips before you head out to Mass and use the Simple Guide to Catholic Mass. 

1. Find a Church that Offers Mass with Reverence.

If you want to increase your chances of attending Mass where the utmost care, reverence, and devotion is given to Our Lord, Jesus Christ, then check out our Reverent Catholic Mass Map.

2. Arrive Early and Pray


It is really important to arrive at least 15 minutes early.  This allows you some time to enter into a prayerful state where you can talk to God and prepare for Mass. 

When you arrive right on time or late, focusing becomes more difficult. 

In general, a good way to structure your prayer is as follows:

  • Give praise and glory to God.
  • Read the Epistles and Gospel and reflect on them. - (For the Ordinary Form, check the missalette in the pew and flip to the correct date or check here before you leave.)
  • Think about the times you have fallen and ask for pardon and mercy for your sins.
  • Pray for yourself, the Church, your family, friends, and any other petitions
  • Give thanks to God for all of His blessings.

Bonus: Download a free Mass guide to bring to Mass for both the Traditional Latin Mass or Ordinary Form! {Printable}

3. Attend with Attention, Reverence, and Devotion – Pray the Mass with the Priest.

Recommended Attire:

Jesus taught us in John 6 at the Last Supper that He becomes physically and divinely present in the Holy Eucharist.  The God who knit you in your mother's womb and who created the universe becomes present at Mass.  Dressing respectfully for this reality is a sign of your respect for God and the others worshipping.

Coat and tie

Long dress/skirt that falls below the knees
Shoulders covered
No cleavage
Chapel veil/mantilla – read more about chapel veils here.

Related: How to Easily Grasp The Traditional Latin Mass: A Step-by-Step Explanation 


The most important thing to keep in mind is that the Mass is the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross at Calvary.  Because Jesus is truly present on the altar, for Catholics, the Mass is the source and summit of the Christian life

If you are new to attending Mass in general or are starting to go to the Extraordinary Form/Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), the best method is to just watch, listen, and take it in. 

Don't worry about knowing or saying the responses.  When it comes to kneeling, standing, and sitting, simply watch what everyone else does and follow suit. 


The following chart displays a cursory comparison of the order of both Masses and shows what each part's prayers are communicating.


 Related: How to Easily Grasp The Traditional Latin Mass: A Step-by-Step Explanation 


As you can see, both forms of the Mass are more similar than some people let on.


Use the guide below to help you prayerfully reflect on what you see and hear, even if you do not understand everything. 

After attending a few times, no matter the Form, you will eventually have a good grasp of the order.   Whether you attend the Extraordinary Form, Ordinary Form, Ordinariate, or an Eastern Rite, you should be praying the Mass with the priest.

To get an even better understanding of what each part of the Mass is about, take a look at our post on how to grasp the Traditional Latin Mass.  You can find out more here.


Guides, Missals, and Missalettes

Guide is a booklet that contains information about what is going on in the Mass and why.

Missal is a book containing all the prayers and responses necessary for celebrating the Mass throughout the year.

A Missalette is a small booklet containing all the prayers and responses necessary for celebrating the Mass on during the month or quarter usually provided by the church.


Eventually, you will want to pick up a missal for either the Ordinary Form or Extraordinary Form or both. When you open the missal, start by finding the day's date for the Mass you are attending. Read the Epistles and Gospel and reflect on them.  Use the missal to follow along with the priest and pray at Mass the prayers that are being said.

If you are looking for a English/Latin Translation Missal to print for the Extraordinary Form, one can be found here. Free Printable Missal with English/Latin Translation: Free Printable Latin Mass Missal


If you follow along with the missal, you will be fully engaged in the worship of the Mass, even if you are unable to understand the meaning of everything being said or done.  If you are new, it will be a challenge to keep up.  Just be patient and it will come with time.


The following Simple Guide to Catholic Mass is truly for beginners and will get you started on what to think about and meditate on throughout the Mass.

The Simple Guide to Catholic Mass - Traditional Latin Mass or Novus Ordo

Bonus: Download a free Mass guide to bring to Mass for both the Traditional Latin Mass or Ordinary Form! {Printable}

Mass2 1


The Responses are using the Latin Translation and are similar but not the exact same translation used in the Novus Ordo.
[Brackets Mean Extraordinary Form Only]
{Braces Mean Ordinary Form Only}


I. The Sign of the Cross {Greeting}

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form
“Mass starts with the sign of our redemption.” [1]
Place yourself in the presence of God and silence your mind as Holy Mass begins.


II. [Pslam 42] Penitential Act

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form

In the Ordinary Form the faithful say - I confess to almighty God, to blessed Mary ever Virgin, to blessed Michael the archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy apostles Peter and Paul, to all the saints, and to you my brothers (and to thee, father) that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, [strike breast] through my fault, [strike breast] through my most grievous fault [strike breast]. Therefore, I beseech blessed Mary ever Virgin, blessed Michael the archangel, blessed John the Baptist, the holy apostles Peter and Paul, all the saints, [and you my brothers (and thee father)] to pray for me to the Lord our God. Amen. 

Think About:  A certain sin or sins that you have been struggling with and admit in your heart to falling short. Ask for prayers and help.  “We strike our breast because that is where our sinful heart is located and it deserves to be broken so God may make us clean and new.” [2]

Short Meditation for Praying at Mass: "Take away from us our iniquities, we beseech Thee, O Lord; that, being made pure in heart, we may be worthy to enter into the Holy of Holies. Amen". [3]


III. [Introit] Kyrie Eleison

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form
The faithful repeats after the priest
 - Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison

Think About: We're like the crippled blind men sitting on the side of the road crying out to Jesus as described in Matthew 20:31. How good and merciful our Lord Jesus Christ is for giving Himself to us through His crucifixion, despite our failings and constant turning away from Him. 

Short Meditation for Praying at Mass: I have offended you my God, who is all good and deserving of all my love. I'm sorry.  Lord, have mercy on me.

IV. Gloria in Excelsis

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form

The faithful say: Glory be to God on high. And on earth peace to men of good will. We praise Thee. We bless Thee We adore Thee. We glorify Thee. We give Thee thanks for Thy great glory. Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty. Lord Jesus Christ, Only-begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father. Thou Who takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. Thou Who sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For Thou alone art holy. Thou alone, O Jesus Christ, art most high. With the Holy Ghost, & in the glory of God the Father. Amen

Think About: The creator of the universe, who has every hair on our heads counted, loves us with an unfathomable depth.  He did not come to be served, but to serve. He has suffered as we suffer, and He has wept as we weep.  Our God knows what it is like to be us and He wants to free us from our sins and to forgive us so we may be with Him in eternity.

V. The Collects {1st Reading, Responsorial Psalm} Epistle, [Gradual], Gospel, Homily

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form

Think About: We are people of the Good News. Our God proved His love for us through His suffering on the cross and conquering of death. Have a heart filled with joy as you hear the readings and the Gospel.  The way of trust and love is truly Good News.

Short Meditation for Praying at Mass: "Cleanse my heart and my ears, O almighty God, and in Thy loving kindness so to purify me that I may be enabled worthily to hear Thy holy Gospel. Glory be to Thee, O Lord." [4]




VI. The Credo

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form

The faithful say - I believe in one God, the Father Almighty Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God. Born of the Father before all ages. God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God. Begotten, not made: consubstantial with the Father; by Whom all things were made, Who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven. kneel And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary: and was made man stand He was crucified also for us, suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was buried. And on the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures. And He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father. And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead: of Whose kingdom there shall be no end. And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life: Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son. Who together with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified: Who spoke through the Prophets. And in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life  of the world to come. Amen.

Think About: Do you believe everything in the Nicene Creed?  Then be joyful, have hope, trust, and don’t worry so much. 


Bonus: Download a free Mass guide to bring to Mass for both the Traditional Latin Mass or Ordinary Form! {Printable}


VII. {Prayers of the Faithful}, Offertory Verse, Offering the Host and Chalice, Lavabo, The Orate Frates

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form

Think About - In the ancient Church, this short antiphon was chanted while the Faithful walked up to the sanctuary with their offerings of bread, wine, or other gifts for the Mass. 

"During the offering of the host, Christ unites our petitions to the offering of Himself to the Father." [5] "The mixing of wine and a little water together expresses the incarnation. This is because the wine signifies Christ’s divinity while the water signifies our humanity" [6]

{The Faithful say} - May the Lord accept the Sacrifice from thy hands, to the praise and glory of His Name, for our benefit and for that of all His holy Church. 

Short Meditation for Praying at Mass: "We offer unto Thee O Lord, the chalice of salvation. May it ascend as sweet odor before Thy divine majesty, for our own salvation...May the Lord receive the sacrifice for the praise and glory of His name, for our welfare and that of all His Holy Church." [7]


VIII. The Sanctus

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form

The Faithful say: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts. Heaven and earth are full of Thy Glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He Who cometh in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. 

Think About: The Sanctus combines the words of the seraphim from Isaiah 6:3 and the exclamations of the Jews in Jerusalem as Christ entered the city from Matthew 21:9. Our Lord Jesus Christ will be physically present soon, just like when he came to Jerusalem. 


Related: How to Easily Grasp The Traditional Latin Mass: A Step-by-Step Explanation 


THE CANON OF THE MASS, {Eucharistic Prayer II, III, IV}
The Consecration

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form

Think About: The Canon of the Mass is the rule that must be followed to offer up the unbloody sacrifice and consecrate bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  This is the most solemn, silent, and mysterious part of the Mass.
“On the cross our Blessed Lord was looking forward to you, hoping that one day you would be giving yourself to Him at the moment of Consecration.  Today in the Mass, that hope our Blessed Lord entertained for you is fulfilled.  When you assist at the Mass He expects you now actually to give Him yourself…He passed through His consecration on the Cross that we might now pass through ours in the Mass.” [8]

Short Meditation for Praying at Mass: My Lord and My God.  (Christ is truly present)


Masspic 1


Related: How to Easily Grasp The Traditional Latin Mass: A Step-by-Step Explanation 

IX. The Consecrations and Elevation 

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form

Think about - Analogous to the Apostles at the Last Supper, the faithful are together.

Consecration of the Bread. The words of consecration and the elevation of the Consecrated Host and Chalice is a re-presentation of the crucifixion of Jesus. 

Consecration of the Wine. The double consecration of bread and wine into the Body and Blood represents the death of Christ by the separation of His Body and Blood.


X. The Prayers after the Consecration/{Mysterium Fide}

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form

{In the Ordinary Form the Faithful say 1 of 3 prayers. Only 1 is here} Save us Savoir of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free.


Bonus: Download a free Mass guide to bring to Mass for both the Traditional Latin Mass or Ordinary Form! {Printable}


XI. The Minor Elevation & Final Doxology

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form

Think about - The priest takes the Host in his right hand and the Chalice in his left, elevates them slightly and repeats the words of St. Paul from Romans 11:36.


XII. The Pater Noster

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form
{The Faithful say} Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom the power and the glory are yours now and forever.
Think About: Our Lord, Jesus Christ, present in the Eucharist taught us how to pray.

Short Meditation for Praying at Mass: Pray the Our Father and think about what you are saying.  He is your Father. His name is holy. Let His will be done, not yours. Ask Him to give you what you need today. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins and give you the grace to overcome temptation.

XIII. Prayer of Peace

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form
{The Faithful say to each other reverently}
Peace of Christ.

XIV. Agnus Dei

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form

The Faithful say {Ordinary Form}
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

Think About: Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of God fulfills the Old Testament by allowing Himself to be slain for the forgiveness of sins.  The power of true, pure, selfless, and courageous love is demonstrated by the fact that He rose again, and conquered the consequence of our sin, which is death.

Short Meditation for Praying at Mass: Let not the partaking of Thy Body, O Lord Jesus Christ, which I, all unworthy, presume to receive, turn to my judgment and condemnation; but through Thy loving kindness may it be a safeguard and remedy for my soul and body. [9]


Bonus: Download a free Mass guide to bring to Mass for both the Traditional Latin Mass or Ordinary Form! {Printable}


XV. The Prayers at Communion

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form

The Faithful say - Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof; but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.

Think About: During the crucifixion of our Lord he cried out, “I thirst.“

“Men may hunger for God, but God thirsts for men…He had already expressed it in the parable of the Lost Sheep, when He said He was not satisfied with the ninety-nine; only the lost sheep could give Him perfect joy…He comes to us, so that we cease to be men and begin to be children of God” [10]

Short Meditation for Praying at Mass: "Into a pure heart, O Lord, may we receive the Heavenly food which has passed our lips; bestowed upon us in time, may it be the healing of our souls for eternity." [11]



Related: How to Easily Grasp The Traditional Latin Mass: A Step-by-Step Explanation 

XVI. The Communion of the Priest and the Faithful

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form

The priest and faithful receive our Lord in Holy Communion.


XVII. The Ablution Prayers, Communion Antiphon, & Post Communion

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form

Think about - We thank God that we received Christ physically hoping He receives us divinely. [12]

XVIII. Ite Missa Est, The Final Blessing, [The Last Gospel]

Ordinary Form/Extraordinary Form

Think About: The light of love and truth shines in the darkness of a fallen world. 

Short Meditation for Praying at Mass: Hail holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness, and our hope!   To thee do we cry poor banished children of Eve, to thee do we send up our sighs mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.  Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us; and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.

That we made be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The Mass has concluded.


Bonus: Download a free Mass guide for both the Traditional Latin Mass or Ordinary Form. {Printable}

4. Prayer After Mass Concludes

It is encouraged that you pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the opportunity to be close to our Lord in the Holy Eucharist and for His grace to help you through the week. 

Additional Customary Prayers for After Mass:
Saint Michael Prayer:

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the Power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits, who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls.  Amen.

Hail Mary 3 Times:

Hail Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.


No Tlm Printable Pic 1

Download the "Guide to the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form Mass" Booklet


5. Introduce Yourself!

Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to the priest after Mass if he is around or to an usher or volunteer.  Tell them you are new and want to learn more.  They will be thrilled to help you along.


We hope this helps!  Let us know how your first TLM or Reverent Novus Ordo Mass goes!



Tony and Kendra



[1] Hahn, S. (2018). Signs of life: 20 Catholic customs and their Biblical roots. New York: Image. [P. 29]

[2] Juergens, S. P. (2004). The Roman Catholic Daily Missal, 1962: With kyriale in Gregorian notation. Kansas City, MO: Angelus Press. [P. 843]

[3] Lasance, F. X., Walsh, F. A., & Kelly, W. R. (1993). The new Roman missal in Latin and English. Palmdale, CA: Christian Book Club of America. [P.759]

[4] Lasance [P. 763]

[5] Jueugens [P. 859]

[6] Lasance [P. 82]

[7] Lasance [P. 768]

[8] Sheen, Fulton J. Calvary and the Mass. Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei, Ltd., 1996. [P. 43]

[9] Lasance [P. 789]

[10] Sheen [P. 47-48, 52]

[11] Lasance [P. 792]

[12] Jueugens [P. 915]

Reverent Road to Sunday: A Daily Journal for Developing Habits in the Liturgical Year 

Journal 1 1

If you have been struggling to stay on track and make progress in the spiritual life, perhaps The Reverent Road to Sunday: A Daily Journal for Developing Spiritual Habits in the Liturgical Year will help.


  • Novus Ordo feast days and readings

  • Traditional Latin Mass (1962) feast days and readings

  • Checkboxes with daily spiritual habits reminders such as the Morning Offering, daily Mass, silent prayer, rosary, spiritual reading, Angelus, and Daily Examen

  • Monthly confession reminders

  • Weekly Friday abstinence reminders

  • Tons of space for notes to track your progress


The Beads: Rosary Meditations Guided by the Saints


This Rosary Meditation Guide will help you meditate on the life of our Lord, Jesus Christ by taking you bead-by-bead on a journey using reflections from the Douay-Rheims Bible, St. Alphonsus De Liguori, and St. Bonaventure.

If you're looking for a new resource to help you pray the Rosary better and stay more focused, definitely check out "The Beads."


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