ASK FATHER: Are blessings, holy water, etc., less effective if Latin isn’t used? Wherein Fr. Z rants.

From a reader… who picked up on something I wrote about blessings and holy water in the traditional form compared to the new, post-Conciliar form… HERE

QUAERITUR:

“The exorcisms of the salt and water are to be done in Latin.”

Father, how essential is this? I had my house blessed using the old rite at my insistence, but the priest knew little Latin and so used English at his insistence. Is the holy water any less efficacious?
God bless

The last thing that I intend to do is introduce doubts about the efficacy of blessings or the validity of sacraments.

Holy Church has provided for translations of Mass and other sacraments (Novus Ordo).   Even before Vatican II the Church allowed for some blessings of sacramentals, etc., in the vernacular.  Let’s look at that for a moment.

For example, I have a copy of an officially approved edition of the Collectio Rituum (a selection of commonly used texts from the larger Rituale Romanum) for use in these USA.  It is dated 1954.  There are side by side texts for most of the rites in Latin and English, meaning that the priest can choose either Latin or English.  However, within some rites, such as the blessing of holy water and the rite of the sacrament of baptism, only the Latin text is given, without the English in a side by side column (though the English is provided in a footnote).  That means that – in 1954 – the Latin was be used.  This is the case whenever there is an exorcism to be performed (as in the case of salt and water) and the forms of sacraments (“I baptize you…”, confirmation of the marriage bond, etc.).

Hence, in 1954 the Church didn’t compromise on the language to be used: for the really important bits, exorcisms and forms of sacraments, Latin was to be used.  For the parts of the rites that were more instructive, descriptive, hortatory, the vernacular could be chosen at will.

That makes sense.  When we are dealing with blessings and so forth, we are dealing with popular devotions.

I have also a US Collectio Rituum from 1964.  Remember that, according to Summorum Pontificum we use the books in force in 1962, not later.  The 1964 edition refers in the introductory decree to the 1954 edition (which I have) and then also a 1961 adaptation of the 1954 edition (which I don’t have).   However, in the 1964 edition, even for forms of sacraments (“I baptize you…, etc.”) the Latin and English are on facing pages.  In the 1954 facing columns are used, but that’s just a formatting point.  So, in 1954 Latin was obligatory for some things.  In 1964 (an edition which we technically shouldn’t use) English could be used.

I don’t know what the 1961 reveals.  Maybe someone out there has a 1961 Collectio.  Was the change already made in 1961?

Nevertheless, 1961 or not, the fact that the Church had allowed for the vernacular in 1954 for some of the rites of sacraments and blessings is significant.  When I baptize, I use the English for everything that can be read in English according to the 1954 edition and I use Latin for exorcisms and forms of sacraments.

That makes sense.

Latin is our language as Latin Rite Catholics.  Moreover, time and time again I hear from exorcists about the efficacy of Latin.

Does this mean that not using Latin in, say, the exorcism of salt and water before their blessing and mixing makes for “weaker” holy water?   I don’t know.  I have no way of telling.   For example, I haven’t made a study of the reactions of the possessed to different waters blessed with different languages.

But I remain convinced that, whatever the vernacular does or doesn’t do, the Latin DOES without a doubt.  Since Latin presents no special challenges to me, I use Latin for these clearly important bits, bits so important that the Church insisted that they remain in Latin not a very long time ago.

Abandoning Latin in the Church was and is spiritually dangerous.

What does it mean for our identity as Catholics of the Latin, Roman Church, not to use the language of our sacred worship and rites?  It erodes our identity.  That’s dangerous on many levels.

There are practical reasons for the use of Latin … or for its abolition.

Some people, when an opening for use of the vernacular was created, wanted to use people’s mother tongue for well-motivated pastoral reasons.  I am all for that (as I describe in my own practice, above).

However, others were not benign in their move into the vernacular.

These others – let’s call them “libs” –  intended to change practice and doctrine.  One way to accomplish that was to slam shut the doors of the Church’s vast, rich, long-acquired wisdom and devotions and music, etc., by creating a less well-educated clergy, dependent on translations and commentaries, incapable of reference of primary texts and without the indisuputable forma mentis and the genius, the Romanitas, that training in Latin imparts.   To effect the sweeping innovations concerning law and faith and morals, they had to get rid of Latin and all that it implied for world-view, clerical formation, sacred worship, popular devotion.

Slam the treasury shut. Let the Devil in through “some fissure”.

And, yes, I think some of the people who worked – and who now work – to effect these innovations in the Church are servants of Satan.   Most of them are manipulated dupes.  A few of them – buried deeply behind the scenes – were and are conscious agents of the Enemy of our souls.

Training in any languages beyond the mother tongue has a powerful impact on a person.  Training in Latin, however, is particularly powerful.  There’s something inherent in the language that is special.   Moreover, constant use of Latin in the Latin, Roman Church has over many centuries “consecrated” it as our sacred language.  Religions have their sacred languages.  We have ours.  It provides for us the opposite of the Tower of Babel.  Latin is our anti-Babel, with – by now – Pentecost overtones.

And, I repeat, the Devil really hates it.  That’s good enough for me.  “Libs” hate it.  That’s also good enough for me.  If they don’t want it, then I am confident that that’s what we need.

So, was your home not blessed because the priest didn’t use Latin?  I would never say such a thing.  I’m sure it was.  Was the blessing as “strong” as it could’ve been were it in Latin?  I don’t know for sure, but probably, since this sort of invocative blessing didn’t involve any exorcisms, etc.  When the priest blesses, the priest blesses.  Was your home less blessed because the priest used English for the exorcisms of the salt and water in the traditional blessing of the holy water used after he blessed your home in English?   I don’t know about “levels” or “degrees” of blessings.  I would love to have Benedictometer, to test the level of local blessings.

Maybe “libs” are the meter?  I should start showing them more sacramentals and watch for reactions.  But I digress.

On another point, what happens if the place or thing is blessed more than once?  Is it more blessed?  At what point should it glow in the dark?  It doesn’t work that way.  At least it hasn’t for me.

All I know is that I will always use Latin when I bless holy water.  I will always use Latin for the important bits, such as forms of sacraments and exorcisms.

I am never going to leave anyone with the slightest whisp of a doubt about what just happened.  When you come to me for blessings or sacramentals or sacraments, I owe that to you.  It is my duty to make sure that you have no doubt as to what happened.  Latin always resolves that and the vernacular can resolve that.

The Church has always been concerned that people don’t fall into the trap of seeing blessings and sacramentals and sacraments as a kind of theurgy or magic.   We are confident that, when the priest blesses, God blesses in the person of the priest.  We are confident that, when the priest exorcises, God exorcises.  We are confident that when the priest consecrates items or places or persons, God acts in the priest to constitute them as blessed or consecrated, to tear from from the grip of the Prince of this world and set them apart for the King and the advance His Kingdom.  The efficacy of the blessings depends ultimately on God, who desires what is good for us.

It seems to me that at the same time as we saw the war on Latin arise, we also saw a decline in prayers against Satan, such as the canceling of the “Leonine Prayers” with the Prayer of St. Michael the Archangel.  We saw around the same time an increase of what can only be demonically driven movements in the world.  Coincidence?

We have nothing to lose by using Latin and, if the millennial experience of the Church teaches us at all, probably a great deal to gain for our identity, and for our well-being of body and soul.

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14 Responses to ASK FATHER: Are blessings, holy water, etc., less effective if Latin isn’t used? Wherein Fr. Z rants.

  1. jaykay says:

    A “Benedictometer”. I love it. How useful. And it could also have been used, prior to 2013, to measure the level of “Benedict Derangement Syndrome”, I’m sure.

    Although that was pretty much off a lot of scales, not least the Richter.

  2. Grabski says:

    Would a Byzantine Catholic prelate regularly use Latin?

    [Why would he? This is about – as I make clear – the Latin Church. Byzantines have their own sacred languages, translations, and practices.]

  3. Chuck4247 says:

    “Does this mean that not using Latin in, say, the exorcism of salt and water before their blessing and mixing makes for “weaker” holy water? I don’t know. I have no way of telling. For example, I haven’t made a study of the reactions of the possessed to different waters blessed with different languages.” — That could potentially make for an interesting study, but setting it up appears to me to be morally suspect in a number of ways…

  4. TomG says:

    Upon our parish being entrusted to FSSP several months ago, our new pastor visited us and blessed our house and all and everything (statues, etc.) therein. Including a four foot Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima, which we had gotten at the Franciscan Holy Land Monastery in Washington, DC. This particularly delighted him, as he had visited there before.

  5. Dan says:

    “[Why would he? This is about – as I make clear – the Latin Church. Byzantines have their own sacred languages, translations, and practices.]”
    This has always been a question of mine as well, not so much whether they use Latin or not but how different rites of the Church relate with the Latin Church and the pope, how eastern rites are in full communion but almost seem a separate religion. I have been meaning to look for and find a good book on the structure of the rites of the Catholic Church. If anyone knows of a good one I would appreciate the recommendation.

    Also, regarding the use of the vernacular and absence of Latin. They say the greatest trick of the devil was to convince people he doesn’t exist. I have always thought that one of his other great tricks was the decentralization of the Church and the timing of it.

    The Church was convinced to move toward vernacular as a way of engaging more people in specific regions at the exact time when technology would advance to a point that would unite the world in a way that had never before been possible. In doing so now that we are united in communication and can speak in an instant to anyone in any region, we cannot unite in the language of the Church because it has been so successfully eradicated from the general public. So I cannot go on youtube and watch a Mass in Germany and understand it.

    It was incredibly foolish to disconnect based on languages and regions at the precise moment mankind was on the cusp of uniting in ways never dreamed of. More still to imagine greater separation is still the solution today.

  6. Daddio says:

    Father,
    Thank you for this explanation. Interesting commentary on the blessings, and good information on Latin in general. My wife and I are just beginning to sniff around the edges of the Latin mass. I can’t describe exactly what attracts me to it. In fact, I haven’t much “enjoyed” most of the few Latin masses I have been to. But I think there is something to that challenge that appeals to me. I’ll keep reading your stuff and hope to take the plunge soon.

  7. Fr. W says:

    Find this fascinating. Up front I acknowledge I am NOT an expert in the Latin language nor in the Traditional rites. Following the train of thought here I do have a question offered sincerely. Holy Water is a sacramental. Extremely important, however not a sacrament. IF we hold that the use of the vernacular calls into question the “validity” of the sacramental – or at least its efficacy, do we not have a potential problem with regard to the use of the vernacular in the celebration of the sacraments. Are they less “real” or effective? I always use the blessing and exorcisms for Holy Water and salt from the 1964 ritual. Soon after the new book of “Not really Blessings” was published I noticed that it was encouraged that the wordings be adapted to particular need. I just happen to adapt them to the 1964 version.

  8. jaykay says:

    Dan says: “The Church was convinced to move toward vernacular as a way of engaging more people in specific regions at the exact time when technology would advance to a point that would unite the world in a way that had never before been possible.”

    But, in fact, it wasn’t so moved. Latin was supposed to have been preserved along with a prudent use of vernacular i.e. Epistle and Gospel. And see St. John XXIII’s “Veterum Sapientiae” – yes, from the very founder of the Council.

  9. TonyO says:

    IF we hold that the use of the vernacular calls into question the “validity” of the sacramental – or at least its efficacy, do we not have a potential problem with regard to the use of the vernacular in the celebration of the sacraments.

    Perhaps I need to go look up my catechism, but I thought that we believed in a very definite demarcation between the 7 sacraments and all other acts of blessings/benediction: the sacraments are efficacious ex opere operato, in their own operation. This means, as I understand it, that they are efficacious not by reason of the holiness of the priest, nor by reason of the holiness of the recipient, but of their own power. The Eucharist, validly confected in the Mass said by a great sinner priest, is no less efficacious than the Eucharist validly confected in the Mass said by a saint priest. Baptism performed by a priest who is a great sinner – as long as he intends what the Church intends as baptism – is valid baptism that removes the guilt of original sin and brings the soul to the state of grace, just as it does performed by a saint.

    Other blessings, however, are not said to have this attribute (as far as I have heard, anyway, someone please correct me if I am wrong). If I have that right, the effectiveness of a blessing said by a saint may be greater than that said by one who is less holy – even though both DO have good effect. Similarly, blessings received with greater faith and devotion by the recipient may have greater effect than otherwise. Nevertheless, God can always work greater good in His free choice regardless of the perfection of the vessel through which the blessing comes, or the purity of faith of the recipient, out of His great mercy, so it’s not like God is inherently limited in effect by lesser holiness in His instruments.

  10. TonyO says:

    IF we hold that the use of the vernacular calls into question the “validity” of the sacramental – or at least its efficacy, do we not have a potential problem with regard to the use of the vernacular in the celebration of the sacraments.

    Perhaps I need to go look up my catechism, but I thought that we believed in a very definite demarcation between the 7 sacraments and all other acts of blessings/benediction: the sacraments are efficacious ex opere operato, in their own operation. This means, as I understand it, that they are efficacious not by reason of the holiness of the priest, nor by reason of the holiness of the recipient, but of their own power. The Eucharist, validly confected in the Mass said by a great sinner priest, is no less efficacious than the Eucharist validly confected in the Mass said by a saint priest. Baptism performed by a priest who is a great sinner – as long as he intends what the Church intends as baptism – is valid baptism that removes the guilt of original sin and brings the soul to the state of grace, just as it does performed by a saint.

    Other blessings, however, are not said to have this attribute (as far as I have heard, anyway, someone please correct me if I am wrong). If I have that right, the effectiveness of a blessing said by a saint may be greater than that said by one who is less holy – even though both DO have good effect. Similarly, blessings received with greater faith and devotion by the recipient may have greater effect than otherwise. Nevertheless, God can always work greater good in His free choice regardless of the perfection of the vessel through which the blessing comes, or the purity of faith of the recipient, out of His great mercy, so it’s not like God is inherently limited in effect by lesser holiness in His instruments.

  11. Dan says:

    @jaykay “But, in fact, it wasn’t so moved. ”
    I know that and you know that, and most of Fr.Z’s readers know that. But even is it wasn’t legally moved it moved anyway.

  12. Fr. Kelly says:

    Fr. Z,
    I have the 1961 Collectio Rituum. It is called a “Practical Handbook of Rites Blessings and Prayers Arranged for the convenience of the clergy under the direction of The Most Reverend William O Brady, STD, Archbishop of St. Paul. Compiled from the New Collectio Rituum, the Roman Ritual, Indults from the Holy See, Decisions of the Bishops and established Parish Customs in the United States.”
    The Introduction and Preface are in English, the Sacraments are for the most part put in double columns of Latin and English, except for the exorcisms which are only in Latin – Much like the 1954. The profession of Faith and abjuration of heresy for an adult convert are in English only.
    Interestingly, the blessings (It only includes the most common ones) are in Latin only.

    [Thanks for that. I would appreciate photos of the pages in, for example, the blessing of water and the of the baptismal rites where the exorcisms are designated to be in Latin by being placed in the single column.]

  13. Fr. Kelly says:

    I would be happy to send them to you.
    Last night I had trouble uploading the scanned pages.
    Is there a trick to uploading pdfs?

  14. Fr. Kelly says:

    Fr Z,
    I just sent them to you in 11 separate emails from my parish email. I hope you got them.

    I did not realize how rare this is. My copy rides in my door pocket wherever I drive. It gets fairly regular use.