Catholic Mass

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CapnJack

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Ok. I'm a Baptist turned Episcopalian (long story, and my personal business). One scene in my story takes place during Mass of a Catholic Church.

I don't know anything about how it would work, much less how it would have worked in the 1880s. It's not really something I can change, because of where the story is set, and this POV takes place with the Priest.

Can someone help me with the details on how a typical Mass, in August, would have gone? Please?
 
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Chris P

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Lifelong Catholic here, but that life doesn't include the 19th Century. Ask away and i'll do what I can. Nowadays, there isn't much difference in the order of the elements between Catholic Mass and a Lutheran service (wife is Lutheran) and I understand Episcopalian practice is even closer to Catholicism.

For resources, you might try to find a Mass missal from that time. I'm told not everything was in Latin, just the Liturgy of the Eucharist, but if you get better information go with it.

Also, this might get more attention in the Experts forum, although this is a good place too (just not as many people post here). You can ask a room mod to move the thread if you don't get many responses here.
 

CapnJack

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I'm still relatively new, in terms of being Episcopalian, so I'm not sure if that would be much help here.

With how I have it written right now, the Mass goes like:

Priest starts it off by telling his congregation to open their hymn books. And after they've sang some, he presents the Gospel. And, after it's over, he goes to discreetly meet someone (the main character).

This is what I got, coming from my experience as a Southern Baptist, and I'm really sorry, but how far off from the mark am I?

Since this POV is from a Priest, how would he go about his sermon? How would a typical Mass go?

I know, during it, he's on edge, because of someone in his church (It doesn't show visibily, but mentally he's really on edge). But that doesn't stop him from doing his duty, and well, after the sermon, three people got saved, so he must have been doing fine.

What are your thoughts?
 

frimble3

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In my limited experience of Catholicism, I don't recall being 'saved' as being a thing. Not in the 'coming up to the altar and declaring Jesus Christ as your personal savior' way, which I associate with Baptists. Or at least Protestants. Catholicism is more of an immersive learning process, rather than suddenly seeing the light.
I cannot really envision someone getting up at the end of the service and declaring "I have been saved!". Unless perhaps he was some sort of non-Catholic who had wandered into church by chance? Or the Catholic church was the only church in town? Which seems unlikely, unless most of the residents were Catholic.
(I was christened as a infant, but never followed through with catechism and Confirmation. My relatives and my parents' friends were mainly Catholics, so I heard stories. None about 'being saved'.)
 

cornflake

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People get saved? No.

Why don't you, call me crazy here, go to a mass?
 

Calla Lily

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I'm about to leave for work, so this will be short. In the 1880s theMass would have been Tridentine--all in Latin. Look up Tridentine Mass and that will giveyou an idea. I was 7 or 8 when my Church implemented Vatican II, so my LatinMass memories are fuzzy.
 

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In my limited experience of Catholicism, I don't recall being 'saved' as being a thing. Not in the 'coming up to the altar and declaring Jesus Christ as your personal savior' way, which I associate with Baptists. Or at least Protestants. Catholicism is more of an immersive learning process, rather than suddenly seeing the light.
I cannot really envision someone getting up at the end of the service and declaring "I have been saved!". Unless perhaps he was some sort of non-Catholic who had wandered into church by chance? Or the Catholic church was the only church in town? Which seems unlikely, unless most of the residents were Catholic.
(I was christened as a infant, but never followed through with catechism and Confirmation. My relatives and my parents' friends were mainly Catholics, so I heard stories. None about 'being saved'.)

Seconded. Went to catholic mass_every_Sunday for years, still go somewhat regularily. No public declarations of salvation.
 

josephperin

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Lifelong Catholic here.

Catholic masses are available online if you don't want to actually go to one.

I'm pretty sure you can find Latin masses, as well. Perhaps even transcripts from decades back.
 

CapnJack

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Thank you guys for your input, and I will correct what I have written as needed.
 

mrsmig

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Yep, the Mass would have been celebrated in Latin back in the 1880s. And getting "saved" is not part of a Catholic service.

Put very, very simply, there are two parts of a Catholic Mass. The first is the Liturgy of the Word. This focuses on prayers, readings from the Bible and instruction through the words and teachings of Jesus Christ. The priest's sermon occurs after these, and is intended to expand on their themes. The sermon is followed by the Liturgy of the Eucharist, in which bread and wine are consecrated and shared among those in the congregation who are in a fit state to receive it. This Sacrament of Holy Communion is one of the most important aspects of the faith (Catholics believe in the transubstantiation of the bread and wine, which is one of the biggest differences between that faith and most Protestant religions). After Communion, there are a few concluding prayers and then Mass is over.

Pre-Vatican II (and yes, I date back that far), the Mass followed one of two formats: a High Mass or a Low Mass. In a High Mass, parts of the Mass were sung/intoned, incense was used, and altar boys, a deacon and a choir might all assist in performing the ceremony. It's a longer, more elaborate service than the Low Mass, which was usually celebrated during the week. Hymns might be sung in the Low version, but the parts of the Mass were not. Unless it was a very small parish or an extremely informal low Mass, the priest would not act as "emcee" - he wouldn't announce the hymns.
 
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amergina

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There are some things you need to be aware of, if you're writing about Catholicism in the 1880s.

One is that the late 1800s saw a huge amount of immigration of Catholics into the US. In 1850, Catholics were only 5% of the population, and by the early 1900s, they were 17%. You had a huge swelling of congregations from different countries. Now, the Mass was in Latin, so language wasn't so much an issue with the Mass, but ministering to the congregation might be interesting...

You're also going to have anti-Catholic sentiment floating around in the greater population. While the Know Nothing party was active in the 1850s, and this is 30 years later, there will be a lot of people who don't trust Catholic immigrants to truly become Americans.

This seems to be a decent source of what was going on with Catholicism in the US during certain periods:

http://www.catholichistory.net/index.htm
 

CapnJack

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In that case, I guess I need to ask an important question.

How likely would it have been for an Irishman in that time period to have a Catholic Priest for most of his life? (Time of the story, he's in his early 40s).
 

CassandraW

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I'm still relatively new, in terms of being Episcopalian, so I'm not sure if that would be much help here.

With how I have it written right now, the Mass goes like:

Priest starts it off by telling his congregation to open their hymn books. And after they've sang some, he presents the Gospel. And, after it's over, he goes to discreetly meet someone (the main character).

This is what I got, coming from my experience as a Southern Baptist, and I'm really sorry, but how far off from the mark am I?

Since this POV is from a Priest, how would he go about his sermon? How would a typical Mass go?

I know, during it, he's on edge, because of someone in his church (It doesn't show visibily, but mentally he's really on edge). But that doesn't stop him from doing his duty, and well, after the sermon, three people got saved, so he must have been doing fine.

What are your thoughts?

I don't know how it was in the 1880s, but growing up, the congregation in my Catholic church didn't do all that much singing, and it wasn't the way mass started out.

The priest did a lot of talking and some brief readings.

The congregation had some set responses at various points e.g , priest says "the lord be with you"; the congregation responds "and also with you". The congregation sits, stands and kneels at various set points in the mass. When I was a kid, everyone knew when to do that, but based on recent masses I've attended, that doesn't seem to be true anymore.

There was no "saving." Catholics don't do that.

Somewhere in the mass, there is communion. Those who've made their first communion with the church (which happens usually around age 7 or 8, btw) line up to take the host. That's invariably part of the service, by the way. So -- no babies or tiny children, but most of the adults and older kids will get up, line up, and take the host in their mouths from the priest's hands (now some take the host in their hands, but I think that may be recent). There is a whole ritual around this and it is quite important and central to the mass.

Also, there is a part where the congregation shake hands with all their neighbors and wish them peace.

Really, you should attend a mass or watch one online. I think Catholic masses are quite different from Southern Baptist services, at least the ones I've attended.

As for history of how masses have changed, if you can't find historical information online (and I'll bet you can), you probably can get it from some Catholic organization.
 
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CassandraW

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In that case, I guess I need to ask an important question.

How likely would it have been for an Irishman in that time period to have a Catholic Priest for most of his life? (Time of the story, he's in his early 40s).

religion would have been pretty important to most people at that time. certainly, I would think, to an irish catholic.
 

CapnJack

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religion would have been pretty important to most people at that time. certainly, I would think, to an irish catholic.

How likely is it that, say maybe around the late 1860s, early 70s, that he might have made his way down South?
 

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With how I have it written right now, the Mass goes like:

Priest starts it off by telling his congregation to open their hymn books. And after they've sang some, he presents the Gospel. And, after it's over, he goes to discreetly meet someone (the main character).

Other readings would be done by lectors before he presents the Gospel. After the Gospel, he'd give a homely on those readings (the only English part). After the homely, the Eucharist part starts. He is not likely to stop or shorten that part. I've seen Priests hurry up the readings before for an emergency, and the cleaning up after administering Eucharist. But never during that part.

A lot of discreet meetings happen between priests and parishioners in confessional boxes. Maybe that would be a possibility?
 

CassandraW

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How likely is it that, say maybe around the late 1860s, early 70s, that he might have made his way down South?

as likely as that anyone else would have, I would think. There are plenty of descendants of Irish Catholic immigrants down south.
 

CapnJack

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Not really. Person he's going to see is leaving the building. And, it kind of is a plot point.
 

dirtsider

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It depends on what point in the mass the MC sees the person leaving. People in the 1880's will (likely) wait until the end of the mass (which includes the priest exiting the nave area [where the congregation is]). If the person leaves early/before that, there's a good chance that a lot of people will notice that person doing so.
 

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I'm still relatively new, in terms of being Episcopalian, so I'm not sure if that would be much help here.

With how I have it written right now, the Mass goes like:

Priest starts it off by telling his congregation to open their hymn books. And after they've sang some, he presents the Gospel. And, after it's over, he goes to discreetly meet someone (the main character).

This is what I got, coming from my experience as a Southern Baptist, and I'm really sorry, but how far off from the mark am I?

Since this POV is from a Priest, how would he go about his sermon? How would a typical Mass go?

I know, during it, he's on edge, because of someone in his church (It doesn't show visibily, but mentally he's really on edge). But that doesn't stop him from doing his duty, and well, after the sermon, three people got saved, so he must have been doing fine.

What are your thoughts?

I think you should attend Mass. You can sit in the back. It's one of the most beautiful ceremonies you'll witness.

But the congregation does not sing. People are not saved publicly.

Google "video of a latin mass" and watch a couple.

The date of the particular Sunday may be of import; specific dates are associated with specific saints and readings, just as they are in the Episcopalian church.
 

CapnJack

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Is there anyone, when I get done rewriting it, who'd be willing to read over it? See how I did?
 

mrsmig

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It's a homily, not a homely. :D

Second, parts of the American South were still considered missionary territory when I was a young'un, so the location of your Southern parish will have a big impact on just what kind/size of parish your character serves, as well as the church building itself. Places like New Orleans, with its large French Catholic community, will probably have better established churches than a small town in the hills of Tennessee.

Since Ireland is largely Roman Catholic, a young Irish man entering the priesthood would be nothing out of the ordinary.

And Catholics do, indeed, sing. Not like Methodists, perhaps, but congregational singing was part of the Mass even before Vatican II. (I sang in my church choir as a kid and was a song leader when I got older.) Even if a choir is handling most of the singing, in a High Mass the congregation is expected to intone responses to the celebrant (e.g. the Et cum spiritu tuo response to the priest's Dominus vobiscum).

A caution when you're writing, CapnJack: don't lean too heavily on contemporary Mass as a guide to an 1880s service. Things have changed, and indeed, continue to change. For example, there was no "sign of peace" prior to Vatican II, and allowing a lay person to handle the Host (the consecrated bread) is a fairly recent change. When you received Communion, you received it on your tongue from the priest's hands. You NEVER took it into your own hands.
 

CassandraW

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It's a homily, not a homely. :D

Second, parts of the American South were still considered missionary territory when I was a young'un, so the location of your Southern parish will have a big impact on just what kind/size of parish your character serves, as well as the church building itself. Places like New Orleans, with its large French Catholic community, will probably have better established churches than a small town in the hills of Tennessee.

Since Ireland is largely Roman Catholic, a young Irish man entering the priesthood would be nothing out of the ordinary.

And Catholics do, indeed, sing. Not like Methodists, perhaps, but congregational singing was part of the Mass even before Vatican II. (I sang in my church choir as a kid and was a song leader when I got older.) Even if a choir is handling most of the singing, in a High Mass the congregation is expected to intone responses to the celebrant (e.g. the Et cum spiritu tuo response to the priest's Dominus vobiscum).

A caution when you're writing, CapnJack: don't lean too heavily on contemporary Mass as a guide to an 1880s service. Things have changed, and indeed, continue to change. For example, there was no "sign of peace" prior to Vatican II, and allowing a lay person to handle the Host (the consecrated bread) is a fairly recent change. When you received Communion, you received it on your tongue from the priest's hands. You NEVER took it into your own hands.


Yes, there is some singing -- but in my experience the amount done by the congregation itself tends to be more limited than in some Christian churches. (I don't know whether that used to be different in the 1800s, though.) I liked singing, and it always felt like there was waaaaayyy more talking and ritual than singing. That said, the ritual moved me and oddly (since I'm now an atheist), still does at some level.

Despite my long-lapsed status, I still can sing a few songs we sang often during mass -- my favorite as a child included this line "He IIIISSSSS our saving Loooord. He is joooyyyyy for all aaaaaaaggggggessss." (Sorry, can't resist trying to mimic the sound.) It always sounded like an advertisement for a Messiah action figure to me.

And yes, even when I was a kid we were taught to always receive the host on our tongues. In recent years, I've seen the receiving-in-the-hand thing, but yeah, that's fairly new.

Interesting -- I didn't know the sign of peace was new as of Vatican II! (And this, Cap'n Jack, is why i'm not a good beta for you.)
 

josephperin

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Re: singing. Guess it depends on the congregation.

The really loud and completely off-key (me) singing is an important part of the Sunday morning attractions at the small church I attend.
 
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