For non-Catholics, the Tridentine Mass, more properly referred to as the extraordinary form of the Mass if I remember right, is the form of liturgy that most people refer to as the Latin Mass. That's a bit misleading, since the norm for the Novus Ordo Mass most people are now accustomed to is actually Latin. Nor is the Tridentine Mass exactly the Mass celebrated from the beginning although it, like any of our approved forms of Mass, encompasses the critical elements - its origins lie with the Council of Trent (1545-1563). It is beautiful, intensely reverent, and theologically rich, it's the form of Mass celebrated at our little Augustinian priory. And although I still need to use the translation given in the missal, I'm learning the Latin quickly enough that I'm referring to the English less and less.
The more common Novus Ordo Mass, introduced in 1969 by Pope Paul VI, is offered in English and Spanish, i.e., the local vernacular, just down the road at St. James. Using the vernacular has advantages and disadvantages. Latin is not a language that's changing - vernacular languages are, and that can create issues with the meanings of words. It also causes a problem when the local vernacular is not that of a visitor - those that celebrate the Tridentine Mass tend to have a missal with a translation from Latin to their own language. Offered in a single language of unity, it doesn't matter if every language spoken in the room is different - we all are following and responding as one. That was once an advantage of universities: their common language was Latin. Whatever your native language, as long as you knew Latin you could attend universities throughout Europe without a communications difficulty.
Both the Tridentine and Novus Ordo rites are Western Catholic rites. But they aren't the only recognized rites - there are more than 20 recognized as valid in the Catholic Church. Those two are just the ones that Americans are most familiar with. Pope Paul VI, I believe, was Ambrosian Rite and had to learn the Tridentine Rite after he was elected to the papacy.
I'm not an either/or person. As long as Rome says the Mass is legitimate, it's the Mass. It's the re-presentation in an unbloody manner of Christ's sacrifice. NOT a re-sacrificing - that seems to be a common misconception. Both rites incorporate the ancient practices of the early Church:
"Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]" (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).
"Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its sacrifices. Blessed are those presbyters who have already finished their course, and who have obtained a fruitful and perfect release" (Pope Clement I, Letter to the Corinthians 44:4–5 [A.D. 80]).
"Make certain, therefore, that you all observe one common Eucharist; for there is but one Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and but one cup of union with his Blood, and one single altar of sacrifice—even as there is also but one bishop, with his clergy and my own fellow servitors, the deacons. This will ensure that all your doings are in full accord with the will of God" (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Philadelphians 4 [A.D. 110]).I love them both, but, unfortunately, there are groups who have separated from the Church by denying the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass. It might come as a surprise to the news folks who keep reporting that Mel Gibson is a Catholic, but he's not. He's part of one of these groups and as such is essentially the same as an Anglican. Catholic rite, yes. Catholic, no. (He's a sedevacanist, too, I believe, but that's a whole 'nother issue.)
Anyway, all my Masses have been down at St. James recently because the Tridentine Mass is a half hour longer, my house was Grand Central Station, I'm the only church-goer in the bunch, and I felt that I couldn't absent myself for the longer Mass. But yesterday was a day to celebrate with the fraters at the priory and I spent the morning with them for the first time in a while. And I heard some pieces of very good news beyond the proclamation of the scriptural Good News: First, since the order now knows that it's remaining here it has been allowed to accept postulants, and there are now two new young men who want to give their lives to prayer and communal living as Augustinian monks and as a part of the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem. Dom Daniel, the head of the order, requests that we pray that he doesn't frighten them off. Second, some folks who have been making long drives from bordering states in order to attend Mass at the priory on Sunday mornings have made the decision to move to Charles Town so that they can be more fully a part of this church community. The spiritual nourishment that this area provides is so over-the-moon that I really get that. Every time I get a I'm-moving-elsewhere fit I think "And what would be my options for a church community?" Um...I can guarantee I wouldn't have what I have here so that puts a halt to the fit right there. And things like this always make me smile: as much as the media elites wish and hope that the Faith would die, and as much as our current government is attacking us, anywhere that the Faith is preached and celebrated faithfully the community grows. There are places in the world where there are too many young men wanting to enter the priesthood to be accomodated - the seminaries can't be built fast enough. And in the U.S., it's orders like this that are thriving, with Church of the What's Happening Now groups withering despite the media's hard work to keep them in the public eye.
The third bit of good news is that a local Chesterton Society group starts meeting next week after Mass. That is SO "Woo hoo!"and I am SO there! Chesterton, with his larger than life wit, brilliance, theology, wit, brilliance...Did I mention that he was larger than life and that he was a brilliant wit and lay theologian? And convert. Yeah, this is exciting.