Guest Post: Use of Latin in the Ordinary Form

From a reader:

I thought you may be interested to know that our priest, for certain Daily Masses in the Ordinary Form, is using Latin for the majority of the Mass. We use English for the readings, the collect, postcommunion, and a few prayers which the congregation does not know the Latin response to. As far as I know, there has been no negative feedback.

A couple points.

Since Summorum Pontificum I have been worried, and I expressed this worry face to face with the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the former Prefect for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, that Latin would be systematically ghettoized.  “You want Latin? Go to those people… that parish.”

We need Latin in the NOVUS ORDO.

To anyone who dislikes the new translation: Just Use Latin.  (Then shut up!)

Fathers!  Your Excellencies.  Man up!

Just Use Latin.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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40 Responses to Guest Post: Use of Latin in the Ordinary Form

  1. Kathleen10 says:

    Sounds great to me!

  2. John Nelson says:

    Questiones ullae? Nullae? Bene!

  3. Ralph says:

    Our bilingual parish is getting a new pastor who only speaks English.

    My suggestions – Latin. Then we would all be unified. We will see what happens.

  4. YES we need Novus Ordo Latin Masses. It is such an enormous and nearly universal misconception here in the US of A that the Mass of Vatican II is in English, when in fact it’s just a translation! Even diehard EF folks seem to think this for some reason.

  5. timothyputnam says:

    Father,

    My parish has English and Spanish Ad Orientem, Novus Ordo masses that frequently (though not always) use the Latin responses. We also have an EF mass, not only on Sundays but several weekdays as well. Our small Diocese also has an FSSP Parish, an EF Benedictine Abbey, and at least one more parish is talking about adding EF masses.

  6. Geoffrey says:

    “We need Latin in the NOVUS ORDO.”

    Yes!!! But what can the average layman do to help this along?!

  7. Cool Catholic says:

    I wonder how the Pontifical Academy for Latin http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-establishes-new-pontifical-academy-for-latin is getting along.

  8. dahveed says:

    Regarding Geoffrey’s question, we, as laypeople, can bring this up with our parish priests. I know this is something I would dearly love in the OF (although I truly prefer EF), were it to happen here. But I need to cease sitting upon my (ahem) posterior, and ask Father.

  9. Greek Fire says:

    Geoffrey, I’d say for starters find a couple other people in the parish who feel the same way. Once you get a couple of people on board, announce regular meetings in the bulletin and meet a few minutes after a certain Mass. When you meet, learn the prayers together. Get a Latin rosary group going, and make a demonstration that more Latin is something that people want. The priests will notice.

  10. New Sister says:

    Recently heard something on EWTN that bothered me… a host on a show for youth implied that such things are a question of “style” and that we should all be “coming together” and accepting that “styles” [in Liturgy] work for some and not for others. Liturgical relativism, basically.

  11. Maltese says:

    Why not just have a Traditional Latin Mass if you are going to have mass in Latin? Why have a meal, when you can have a Sacrifice, which is what mass is meant to be?

    [This should be interesting…]

  12. Fr AJ says:

    It really bothers me that the new Roman Missal does not have the ordinary of the Mass in Latin anymore. For all the faults of previous Missal, you could easily turn to the Latin section. I can’t imagine what they were thinking in removing it.

  13. pjsandstrom says:

    It would be an interesting ‘thought experiment’ to try to imagine back in the late Fourth Century when Jerome was translating to produce the Vulgate Bible (that is, the ‘vulgar’ Latin language Bible, a language actually spoken by most of the Western Christians) and the Divine Liturgy switched from Greek to Latin in Rome — and elsewhere in the West. There were certainly those who whined and complained then too,. Those changes took place for the same reasons that our Greek Catholic and Orthodox brethren are now often celebrating the Divine Liturgy in the ‘local languages’ and not archaic Greek, or old Slavonic. If the Western Church is to continue to serve God’s People well it must do (albeit better) what it has already set out to do in the late 20th century.

  14. pjsandstrom says:

    It would be an interesting ‘thought experiment’ to try to imagine back in the late Fourth Century when Jerome was translating to produce the Vulgate Bible (that is, the ‘vulgar’ Latin language Bible, a language actually spoken by most of the Western Christians) and the Divine Liturgy switched from Greek to Latin in Rome — and elsewhere in the West. There were certainly those who whined and complained then too. Those changes took place for the same reasons that our Greek Catholic and Orthodox brethren are now often celebrating the Divine Liturgy in the ‘local languages’ and not archaic Greek, or old Slavonic. If the Western Church is to continue to serve God’s People well it must do (albeit better) what it has already set out to do in the late 20th century.

  15. JonPatrick says:

    pjsandstrom, of course Latin has been in use in the Church for long after it ceased being a common spoken language, yet I do not believe the Church was not serving God’s people well as a result of that. Consider how many saints came out of this Church with its “archaic” language and the traditional Mass. Can we say that the Mass in the vernacular over the last 40 or so years has “served God’s people well”, measured by the number of Catholics that are strong in their faith? Of course there may be other reasons for that besides the Mass, but the situation with the Mass certainly has not helped.

    There have bee many arguments made concerning the use of a liturgical language that is not the common language of the people, in fact that seems to be the rule rather than the exception in many faith traditions. For example the use of Hebrew in Jewish services, the Eastern Rite and Eastern Orthodox where many still use the archaic languages for at least part of the Divine Liturgy, even the use of Hieratic English in the Anglican/Episcopal Church.

  16. PA mom says:

    Dear Fathers, please keep parents of young children in mind in the quest for the perfect amount of Latin in the OF Mass. The five spots often listed make much sense, as they can be memorized and are always the same. [?] However, the opportunities I would have had over the last nearly eleven years with at least another two-three years to go in which I could have sat holding a missal to follow along with more Latin would have been few and far between.
    It is both more beautiful and more informative to hear the new translation. I would hope the goal would not be to blot it out.

  17. Athelstan says:

    “As far as I know, there has been no negative feedback.”

    The reader is blessed and fortunate in his (her) choice of parish. There are more than a few places where Father would be facing a robust insurgency.

    Still, the more common rubrics like this become, the more reassured many priests will feel in trying it themselves.

  18. Athelstan says:

    “Why not just have a Traditional Latin Mass if you are going to have mass in Latin? Why have a meal, when you can have a Sacrifice, which is what mass is meant to be?”

    For one thing, the TLM requires more training and practice than does the NO. Father may not be comfortable trying his hand at the Old Mass just yet.

    For another…well, a few years of this, and the congregation may be softened up for introducing a TLM into the schedule.

    I agree that the sense of propitiatory sacrifice in the Pauline Missal is diminished, alas; but it’s not vanished, either, especially if you insist on using the Roman Canon. It is still a sacrifice.

    I say all this as someone who attends and serves the Anglican Use and the TLM exclusively. Rome wasn’t rebuilt in a day, and we have to realize that. Truth to tell, I would prioritize having Father introduce ad orientem posture (at least for the Canon) and a communion rail (with reception on the tongue heavily encouraged) over Latin. But this is a good step in the right direction, too.

  19. Late for heaven says:

    I am fortunate to have access to a Dominican Rite Mass only 20 minutes from where I live. I don’t understand how exactly it differs from either the NO or the EF but It seems to me to be the very best of both worlds. This Mass is reverent, beautiful, prayerful and joyous. It is offered in Latin, with chant. The responses are the same as in the NO but in Latin. I have been looking for a Latin translation of the NO to use at this Mass but I can’t seem to find one. A hardbound missal would be good, and an app would be even better. Fr Z perhaps you or your readers could advise me.

  20. melanie says:

    The parish priest is teaching the Pater Noster to our primary school children so they can sing it at the next Holy Mass in school. This will be in the Novus ordo but the children have loved the EF Masses we have had in the past. They also like singing the Regina Caeli. Start with the children!

  21. Suburbanbanshee says:

    “Recently heard something on EWTN that bothered me… a host on a show for youth implied that such things are a question of “style” and that we should all be “coming together” and accepting that “styles” [in Liturgy] work for some and not for others. Liturgical relativism, basically.”

    Well, it’s a bit difficult to explain to people the reasons why High Mass and Low Mass can coexist if they’ve never seen High Mass and Low Mass, or why Byzantine Rite is just as Catholic as Latin Rite if they’ve never seen that. So they probably devolved to trying to explain why a chant Mass and an orchestral Mass are both acceptable. :)

    The host was probably trying to encourage people not to assume the worst if a Mass isn’t exactly the same as at home in their normal parish at their normal hour of attendance with their normal priest. Sometimes it’s not, yes, but sometimes it is.

  22. Supertradmum says:

    Father Z., another great issue would be settled if the priests used the Latin-messing up the so-called new NO. Still, especially in the Westminster Diocese, priests are not saying the new NO, at least, not all the way through. It is so frustrating.

    If they stuck to the Latin, this anomaly would disappear.

  23. Andrew says:

    Maltese:

    Why not just have a Traditional Latin Mass if you are going to have mass in Latin?

    We should not hold Latin hostage to this question. Those who understand the triple importance of Latin (universal, immutable, sacred) should not have to be associated with the friction related to ritual differences (NO vs EF). Let those questions be resolved but there is no need to drag Latin into it. Because the Novus Ordo, ipso facto, is by definition also a Latin Rite and it needs to be understood and experienced as such. There is no American rite in the Catholic Church, and presently, that is big news in most of our parishes. If Catholics understood this they wouldn’t ask question like “why are we using Latin.”

    So it is ESSENTIAL that the Novus Ordo be celebrated in Latin.

  24. Jon says:

    Father,

    “Since” Summorum Pontificum you’ve spoken “face to face” to the former Prefect for Divine Worship and the Sacraments and the former Prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith.

    Surely with regard to the former you’re speaking of Cardinal Arinze. Although I may be mistaken, I’m pretty sure regarding the latter you’re not referring to the fellow currently living in San Francisco. That just leaves…

    C’mon, spill the beans!

  25. JuliaSaysPax says:

    I’m really excited that I get access to daily Latin Mass (both NO and EF) come next school year.
    As Ralph said, I think a switch would be PERFECT for a bilingual (or trilingual) parish. Sometimes, it seems as though my home parish is really three separate groups, the English speakers, the Spanish speakers, and the Tagalog speakers. The only time we even come close to interacting is at a painfully confused trilingual Mass every so often, with the priest and congregation expected to switch somewhat randomly between languages, with the end result of nobody knowing what on earth is going on. If we just had Mass in Latin, people could have missals in their own language and it would be truly unified, not some sort of frankenstein Mass.

  26. For what it’s worth, my thoughts were that those who revised Roman Missal completely blew a wonderful opportunity to restore some universality to the celebration of the Holy Mass. I was hoping for a “baby step” in that direction by requiring Latin for those elements of the Mass that would enable Catholics to participate more actively no matter where across the globe they were worshipping. For example, the introduction to prayer (the Sign of the Cross, the Kyrie), every “Let us pray,” the Orate Fratres, the introduction to the Preface, the per Ipsum, as well as the dismissal. I’d also have suggested using Gregorian Chant for the psalm response, whether in Latin or vernacular matters not as the idea is to expose people to the riches of the Church’s liturgical tradition.

    My belief is that implementing these small changes would have re-introduced the universal language of the Church in a way that emphasized universality without denigrating “local” languages (e.g., the presidential prayers, the readings, homily, prayers of the faithful). Doing so would have also have inculcated a greater respect for the Church’s liturgical tradition without “turning the clock back” wholesale.

    Lastly, for those who would have found this change “offensive,” there’s always the Anglican Church or the Lutheran, Presbyterian, or Methodist denominations to meet their liturgical tastes.

  27. Late for heaven says:

    THANK YOU Fr. Thompson!

  28. I am still hoping that I might live long enough to see a substantive amount of Latin in the Novus Ordo. Things have improved over the last ten years, but at a pace that would embarrass even a snail.

  29. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:

    pjsandstrom,

    It is a misconception that the Latin Vulgate was translated into Vulgar Latin. Its style is that of the educated classes of the 4th century, Late Antique Latin, not the language of the “vulgus”. Those parts of the Latin liturgy that are not taken from the Vulgate use an even more elevated language, even further removed from Vulgar Latin.

  30. Geoffrey says:

    “Why not just have a Traditional Latin Mass if you are going to have mass in Latin?”

    Because Latin is the official liturgical language of the Western / Latin Rites, which includes the Roman Rite with its two forms, ordinary and extraordinary.

    “It really bothers me that the new Roman Missal does not have the ordinary of the Mass in Latin anymore.”

    The USCCB answered this question at one of their televised meetings. “The Roman Missal, Third Edition”, is an attempt at being the exactly like the Latin edition, but in English. Since the Latin does not have any sort of extra Order of Mass in another language, the English does not either. Lame, I know, but that was the apparent reasoning of ICEL.

    I am hoping that I live long enough to see every parish with 1 EF Mass, 1 OF Mass in Latin (readings in the vernacular), and then all other Masses in the vernacular as is now the norm. I believe there are currently a few oratories and parishes like this. They should be the model for the entire Church (in the Roman Rite).

  31. MichelleJehanne says:

    My home parish has an OF Latin Mass every Friday. Throughout the week, Mass is in English, and we have Mass in 3 different languages on Sunday. I see the same thing that Julia mentioned, with the 3 groups who attend different language Mass and prayer groups not really interacting much, so that it seems like 3 separate communities instead of one united church.

    Most of the Latin Mass attendees now are English speakers, and over 50 or under 35 or so. I do think it would bring more unity if more people were encouraged to attend and maybe if the history of Latin as the language of the church was emphasized to people of all origins. I would love to see an EF Mass on Sundays here, as the closest one is close to 2 hours away.

  32. pjsandstrom says:

    To Robertus Pittsburghensis

    I well know about the ‘education level’ of the Latin in the work of Saint Jerome, and also in the sources of the present Roman Missal. Jerome’s work was called the ‘Vulgatus’ not because it was ‘low class’ Latin, (unlike the ‘koine’ Greek in the New Testament where the ‘lingua franca’ of the time was used) but because it was the common Latin of the educated classes as opposed to the Greek which was up to that time in use, and less and less understood even by educated folk. By the way, this is one of the linguistic conundrums for the Greek speaking Christians even today — the archaic Greek in use in the Liturgy is not easily understood even by well-educated native speakers of Greek. And it is certainly a great problem for the Christians who are native speakers of a Slavonic language — the great differences between old Slavonic and each of the Slavic languages. This is the obvious basic reason why both the Greek speaking and the Slavonic speaking Churches are moving relatively rapidly into ‘local languages’ for the Divine Liturgy.

  33. Clinton R. says:

    I think this is another example of the resistance against the use of Latin in the Novus Ordo being greatly solved with the “biological solution”. At my NO parish, which definitely skews toward the Vatican II era crowd, most people HATE Latin. I have heard that “Latin was used in the Old Church” and now in the “New Church”, everyone can understand what is being said.” Reason #6921 for Summorum Pontificum.

  34. Athelstan says:

    As Ralph said, I think a switch would be PERFECT for a bilingual (or trilingual) parish.

    It worked pretty well for Fr. Paul Weinberger at Blessed Sacrament in Dallas – at least until the ordinary moved him out.

  35. William Tighe says:

    No doubt this has been stated numerous times before, on this blog and elsewhere, but the late great scholar of liturgical Latin, Christine Mohrmann (1903-1988) demonstrated clearly and conclusively that the liturgical Latin of the Roman Church, including especially the translation of the Canon of the Mass (somewhere between the mid-360s and the early 380s) and subsequent “original” compositions (the collects, secrets and postcommunion prayers of the Fifth Century and later) were highly archaic in their diction, vocabulary and grammar, and nothing at all like the late Latin spoken in Rome at the time, and so most likely barely understood by most of those present at liturgical celebrations. In fact, they were far more “obscure” than St. Jerome’s Vulgate Scriptural translations, which themselves were, as pjsandstrom rightly wrote above, “the common Latin of the educated classes … and less and less understood even by educated folk.”

  36. Gratias says:

    In November of last year I attended a Public Audience by Pope Benedict at St. Peter’s square. At least 25,000 people. The crowd could chant-along the paternoster with the Pope just fine, even though the text was not provided. It was very touching, and an indication that in Europe Latin is not rejected.

    Benedict was a great blessing. Individual American bishops will have to wake up and smell the incense.

  37. At Christendom College, we are blessed to have 13 Masses a week – of those, the only Sunday Mass celebrated on campus, which most of the college and many of the professors attend, is entirely in Latin except the readings. On two days of the weeks, both Masses are in Latin, with one morning a week being EF. With two daily Masses during the week, 1 of 13 EF, 5 of 13 Latin, and 13 of 13 reverently done, we’re very lucky. It’s also one place where you can’t refer to EF as the “Latin Mass” because “Latin Mass” means the OF celebrated in Latin!

  38. MattH says:

    Are there any guidelines for mixing the Latin and the vernacular translations when using the Novus Ordo? For example, I was at a Mass a few weeks ago where we did the Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei in Latin, but the Bishop celebrating only used English. I have been at other Masses where the opposite was the case – the Eucharistic Prayer was in Latin but people’s responses were in English. I have never seen any rules saying “If X is in vernacular, then Y should be as well” or conversely, “If X is in Latin, then Y must also be.” I assume, therefore, that the celebrant may use any combination of the Latin and the approved translations.

  39. Yes, the Novus Ordo needs to be the way it was intended. People often forget that vernacular was supposed to be limited to certain readings and prayers.