It fascinates me how often questions on a similar idea come in at the same time.
From a priest and from a student (edited):
Here in Ireland, it sometimes happens that, when Mass is being
celebrated in English, some parts are prayed in Irish, such as the Our
Father. In most places, people would not understand enough Irish to
want the full Mass in Irish, but most people know basic prayers like
the Our Father in Irish. So, is it OK to mix languages in this way or
ought a priest stick to one Missal language translation at a time?
I go to the University of ___. We had a visiting a priest who
usually serves as a missionary in Pakistan celebrate Mass. He informed
us beforehand that as a way of praying for those in Pakistan, he was
going to sing the words of consecration in Urdu (language of
Pakistan). This made me a little uncomfortable. Is it licit? Or, I
hope, valid? Am I just being paranoid or was that uncomfortable
feeling an appropriate response?
We are obviously talking here about the Novus Ordo, or Ordinary Form wherein seemingly anything goes when it comes to languages.
Commonsense isn’t always applied in liturgical decisions, of course. That said, it seems to me that, if a text in language X has been approved for liturgical use, then it can be used in liturgical worship. We see all the time the Babel Tower principle in effect in some large international gatherings wherein many languages are used in the context of one rite, usually Mass.
It seems to me that if one is in a country with a modern official language and an old regional language, there is greater justification to have a mix of languages in certain parts of the Mass. A Gaelic Our Father in the Gaeltacht in Ireland makes certain amount of sense. However, a consecration in Urdu (are there approved texts in Urdu?) for students just because, as a kind of “show and tell”, seems to me a strange liturgical decision unless many of the students in the congregation were of Pakistani descent.
“But Father! But Father!”, some of you clever-boots shout as you leap around with arms waving, “You think you are so smart! Don’t you realize that you just argued against the use of Latin?!? After all, none of us are ancient Romans and no one speaks it! Therefore, it shouldn’t be used!”
First, Latin is the language of our liturgy in the Latin Church. It is part of our identity even if is has fallen into desuetude in many places. It was mandated for use by the Second Vatican Council in a way far more authoritatively than any modern language. If we have forgotten our Latin liturgical roots, that is a bad thing. It isn’t a bad thing if people who have no connection with Pakistan don’t pray in Urdu. The purposeful undermining of Latin is an abuse of the members of the Latin Church which calls for correction.
The Ordinary Form allows for some flexibility, it seems to me. I am not aware of any restrictions in liturgical on the use of more than one language in the celebration of Mass, so long as the texts are approved. That said, a lack of restrictions doesn’t mean that mixing many languages into Mass is a good idea.
Something of this problem arises, if I understand things rightly, in some places in Africa. In some African nations there are hundreds of languages, each rooted in a culture. I have been told by African prelates and priests that Latin is often appreciated by people because Latin doesn’t favor one tribe’s language over another. When Latin is used there is less of a possibility of causing offense by exclusion or by appearing to favor one group or another. Latin offers a possibility of unity.
I have been in a parish where Mass was celebrated on Sundays in English, Spanish, Korean and Latin. Which language offered the greatest possibility of unity in common worship?
Everywhere I have been where Masses are offered in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form, I have seen that the Extraordinary Form is the most ethnically diverse.
This isn’t rocket science. We need more Latin. We need Latin because it is the liturgical language of the Latin Church and is therefore an important dimension of our Catholic identity, and we need more Latin because we have an ever more diverse global village to tend. Latin unites us with fellow Catholics diachronically, across the ages, and globally, across the planet.
And, just as baseball is the game that pleases God the most, Latin is the language that pleases God the most. The back of my hand to your football and rugby, your Hebrew and your Greek. Since the liturgy of heaven is obviously in Latin, Latin unites us with the saints and angels before the throne of God.