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Types of Masses

The types of Masses listed below are not exclusive.

  • Parochial Mass — Regular Sunday or daily mass said for the benefit of parishoners. In Latin, Missa pro popula or Mass for the People refers to the requirement for an ordained minister to offer mass for the general public.
  • Private Mass — Mass celebrated by a priest in the absence of a congregation or Sine Popula. The term 'private mass' has been de-emphasized since Vatican II.
  • Conventual Mass — Daily mass celebrated for the benefit of a religious community.
  • Votive Mass — Mass offered for a special intention. Types of votive masses include: Requiem (for the dead), Nupital (for the rite of matrimony) , Supplication (for a special intention), or Commemoration (in honor of a mystery or saint on a day other than the day proscribed by the Liturgical calendar).
  • Requium Mass — Mass said in black vestments and with special prayers for the dead. Requiem masses usually use scripture readings and prayers from All Soul's day, including the sequence 'Dies Irae'.
  • Nupital Mass — Mass said at Catholic Marriages, typically following the rite of matrimony. Nupital masses include special prayers for the couple.
  • Mass of Thanksgiving — Mass said in celebration of a great event such as the End of a War, the Dedication of a Church, an anniversary of a wedding or ordination, or a national holiday.
  • Mass of Supplication — Mass said to request God's assistance in some personal or public difficulty such as poor health or national disaster.
  • Vigil Mass — said late in the evening on the eve of a Major Holiday. Two best known in Roman calendar are Christmas and Easter, but vigils were formerly celebrated for many major feasts. In Eastern Church vigils are celebrated for the 'Twelve Great Feasts'.
  • Pontifical Mass — Mass elebrated by a bishop, usually concelebrated with several priests or assisted by a deacon and sub-deacon.
  • Concelebrated Mass — Celebrated by more than one priest, or by a bishop and several priests. The primary celebrant speaks most of the mass, but all priest together speak the words of the consecration.

The following types of mass are distinct variations in regard to the Traditional Latim Mass. The guidelines for celebrating the new mass allow for more variation in the roles of both priest and choir, so the distinction between high and low masses is not as meaningful. The new mass also allow for concelebration, which is recommended when multiple celebrants are present.

  • High Mass or Missa Cantata — Mass that has some of its parts sung by the celebrant, and other parts sung responsorily between the celebrant and the congregation or choir (schola). In addition to a sung liturgy, Hymns are usually sung at a high mass.
  • Low Mass or Silent Mass — Mass that is entirely read or spoken by the celebrant instead of being sung by the choir. Hymns may be sung at a Low Mass, but there is no 'Schola'. The low mass evolved from the high mass as a simplified ceremony that could be said by a single minister with no choir or lector.
  • Solemn Mass — High Mass at which there are two assistants to the celebrant, a deacon (who sings the Gospel) and a subdeacon (who sings the readings). Traditionally during a Solemn Mass there is a schola, a choir, and incense is used.

Ranking of Feast Days

  • Solemnity — Feast day of the highest rank in the liturgical calendar. Solemnities are usually major holidays, Sundays within Lent and Advent, major events in the life of Jesus or Mary, or dedicated to especially important other saints (Joseph, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul). (Class I Double in the traditional calendar) .
  • Feast — Feast days of Secondary rank in the liturgical calendar. Feasts include all Sundays in ordinary time, Feast days of important saints, and events of secondary importatance in the life of Jesus and Mary. (Class II Double in the traditional calendar).
  • Memorial — Feast days of lesser important saints who are recognized in the official Roman calendar. (Class III in the traditional calendar).
  • Ferias — Week days (non-Sunday) in the Roman calendar that are not designated as Solemnities, Feasts, or Memorials. On these days votive masses may be said.

Baltimore Catechism — Types of Masses

Q. 924. Are all Masses of equal value in themselves or do they differ in worth?

A. All Masses are equal in value in themselves and do not differ in worth, but only in the solemnity with which they are celebrated or in the end for which they are offered.

Q. 925. How are Masses distinguished?

A. Masses are distinguished thus:

1. When the Mass is sung by a bishop, assisted by a deacon and sub-deacon, it is called a Pontifical Mass;
2. When it is sung by a priest, assisted by a deacon and sub-deacon, it is called a Solemn Mass;
3. When sung by a priest without deacon and sub-deacon, it is called a Missa Cantata or High Mass;
4. When the Mass is only read in a low tone it is called a low or private Mass.

Q. 927. Explain what is meant by Requiem, Nuptial and Votive Masses.

A. A Requiem Mass is one said in black vestments and with special prayers for the dead. A Nuptial Mass is one said at the marriage of two Catholics, and it has special prayers for their benefit. A Votive Mass is one said in honor of some particular mystery or saint, on a day not set apart by the Church for the honor of that mystery or saint.

Q. 953. How are the persons who take part in a Solemn Mass or Vespers named?

A. The persons who take part in a Solemn Mass or Vespers are named as follows: The priest who says or celebrates the Mass is called the celebrant; those who assist him as deacon and sub-deacon are called the ministers; those who serve are called acolytes, and the one who directs the ceremonies is called the master of ceremonies. If the celebrant be a bishop, the Mass or Vespers is called Pontifical Mass or Pontifical Vespers.