One of my friends said to me recently that she was told by someone at the Latin Mass that she goes to in her Parish that the laity aren’t supposed to make the responses at Mass, but are supposed to participate only inwardly and silently. This troubled me, for the first document promulgated by the Second Vatican Council was the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which stated in paragraph forty-eight that:
The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this Mystery of Faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators.
Additionally, in paragraph fifty-four, we are told that:
Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.What is interesting to note is that this document was published in 1962, and hence these principles clearly apply to the Tridentine Mass said according to the Missal of 1962.
What I didn’t know however, was that this document was simply reiterating what had been made clear in the instruction De musica sacra et sacra liturgia, published under Pope Pius XII on September 3, 1958. The link to this fascinating and important document is given below:
This doument is very important because it lays out specific guidelines as to how the laity should participate in the Tridentine Mass, both in the so called “Low Mass” and “High Mass”. Before looking at the specifics of what it says, “De Musica Sacra” lays out a very important principle:
Care must be taken that the faithful assist at low Mass, too, “not as strangers or mute spectators” (Divini cultus, Dec. 20, 1928: AAS 21  40),
In paragrahp twenty-five “De musicra sacra” enumerates what the congregation should sing at the sung Mass:
In solemn Mass there are three degrees of the participation of the faithful: a) First, the congregation can sing the liturgical responses. These are: Amen; Et cum spiritu tuo; Gloria tibi, Domine; Habemus ad Dominum; Dignum et justum est; Sed libera nos a malo; Deo gratias. Every effort must be made that the faithful of the entire world learn to sing these responses.
b) Secondly, the congregation can sing the parts of the Ordinary of the Mass: Kyrie, eleison; Gloria in excelsis Deo; Credo; Sanctus-Benedictus; Agnus Dei. Every effort must be made that the faithful learn to sing these parts, particularly according to the simpler Gregorian melodies. But if they are unable to sing all these parts, there is no reason why they cannot sing the easier ones: Kyrie, eleison; Sanctus-Benedictus; Agnus Dei; the choir, then, can sing the Gloria, and Credo.Notice that the document says that “Every effort must be made that the faithful learn to sing these parts”. This is an extremely iomportant principle which Pope Pius X uttered in his 1902 Motu Proprio Tra Le Sollicitudine.
Lastly “De musica sacra” lists the responses that the faithful may say at the “low” or read Mass.
a) First, the congregation may make the easier liturgical responses to the prayers of the priest: Amen; Et cum spiritu tuo; Deo gratias; Gloria tibi Domine; Laus tibi, Christe; Habemus ad Dominum; Dignum et justum est; Sed libera nos a malo;
b) Secondly, the congregation may also say prayers, which, according to the rubrics, are said by the server, including the Confiteor, and the triple Domine non sum dignus before the faithful receive Holy Communion;
c) Thirdly, the congregation may say aloud with the celebrant parts of the Ordinary of the Mass: Gloria in excelsis Deo; Credo; Sanctus-Benedictus; Agnus Dei;
d) Fourthly, the congregation may also recite with the priest parts of the Proper of the Mass: Introit, Gradual, Offertory, Communion. Only more advanced groups who have been well trained will be able to participate with becoming dignity in this manner.32. Since the Pater Noster is a fitting, and ancient prayer of preparation for Communion, the entire congregation may recite this prayer in unison with the priest in low Masses; the Amen at the end is to be said by all. This is to be done only in Latin, never in the vernacular.
What is very important to note is that the Holy See refers to this participation as :
A final method of participation, and the most perfect formSo there is clearly much work to do to teach our faithful to “Say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass that pertain to them” (Cf.Sacrosanctum Concilium), and it is an undertaking that needs to be done in cooperation with our Priests, and with their support.
My own particular experience has been that our people are very happy to learn to participate more deeply in the Mass this way, and when taught properly, enter into the Mass with ever greater confidence and joy.