QUAERITUR: Latin for parts of the Ordinary Form of Holy Mass

From a reader:

Is there any reason why one cannot use Latin for only one of the ordinary prayers of the mass in the OF?  In other words, may the Agnus Dei be in Latin while the rest are in the vernacular?  Estne aut omnia aut nihil?


In the Ordinary Form you can always use Latin for any part of Holy Mass; all of Mass or only parts of the Mass.

There is great flexibility for music in this regard as well.

There is no reason why you could not have an Agnus Dei in Latin.

As a matter of fact it is difficult to justify not having parts of the Mass in Latin.

Latin is the language of worship in the Latin Church.

The Second Vatican Council’s Sacrosanctum Concilium 54 requires that pastors of souls teach their flocks to sing and respond in Latin and their mother tongue. 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ASK FATHER Question Box and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Rellis says:

    But here’s a question I’ve always had: can a priest use Latin for only part of a part of the Mass?

    For instance, Latin during the consecration part of the Eucharistic Prayer, but the rest in the vernacular?

    Or Latin for the end part of the preface, which usually is the same?

    You get the idea.

  2. Lurker 59 says:

    I have got a question….is it licit for the laity to say their parts in Latin?

  3. THREEHEARTS says:

    Pope Paul VIth. issued instructions around the time he wrote, “No more changes the people are confused”, and “The smoke of satan has entered the Church”. He instructed that a Latin mass must be celebrated at least once a week, that it must be Missa D’el Angelis. He also said that the other masses in the parishes should be offered with the priest making the offering in the vernacular and the congregation responding in Latin.

  4. irishgirl says:

    If you watch the Daily Mass on EWTN, Latin and English are both used.

  5. Lurker 59 says:

    THREEHEARTS — Can you give a citation to PPVI saying that the priest can make the offering in the vernacular and the congregation respond in Latin?

    Also to clarify my question — Can the laity take it upon themselves to say their parts in Latin? Secondly, can this be done at the discretion of the individual especially if done prudently with the shorter prayers and responses so as to not cause disharmony (for example saying et cum spiritu tuo in response to the priest saying The Lord be with you) ?

    If the priest can mix and match between the Latin and the vernacular, can the laity do so as well?

  6. Oneros says:

    Yes, Lurker, don’t be so scrupulous about such things. The laity doesn’t have to make ANY responses at all; they can sit there quietly and pray their rosary (ironically, something I do much more often at the Novus Ordo than at the TLM).

    So they can say whatever they want under their breath (for example, many people say quietly “My Lord and My God” at the elevation). Want to do Latin? Fine, I’ve been known to do it. It is especially helpful at other-language Masses you don’t know (Spanish, Polish, etc) when you don’t know what else to do. But do it quietly so no one can hear, otherwise we’ll have no right to get mad when we overhear people replacing “He” with “God” to get rid of the masculine pronoun…

  7. TrueLiturgy says:

    I second Lurker’s question and also Rellis’s. I know that the 1965 Missal had the Eucharistic Prayer in Latin and most of the rest of Mass in the vernacular. Is this still permissible or only for the Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, Pater Noster??? Father, please clarify.


  8. Fr. Terry Donahue says:

    Q: Can a priest use Latin for only part of a part of the Mass? (i.e. the consecration in Latin, but the rest of the Eucharistic Prayer in the vernacular)

    There is at least one example of recommending multiple languages being used for different parts of a liturgical prayer in an official document on liturgy:

    “At Midnight Mass, an event of major liturgical significance and of strong resonance in popular piety, the following could be given prominence: … * the prayer of the faithful should really be universal, and where appropriate, use several languages; …”

    (Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy – Principles and Guidelines, December 2001, n. 111)

    Multiple languages may be used in liturgy ‘where appropriate’. Since Latin is the official liturgical language of the Church, I think it is usually appropriate, provided the priest is also teaching the faithful about the importance of Latin in the liturgy, as required by Sacrosanctum Concilium 54 quoted above.

  9. Oneros says:

    Rellis. Yes. The priest can “mix and match” however he wants. Both when it comes to singing parts, and to putting them in Latin (and not just Latin, I’ve seen Masses mix English, Latin, Spanish, Polish…I mean, just look at John Paul’s funeral)

    But I don’t think this is a good thing, because it is incredibly inconsistent. The Old Rite was very consistent about chanting, for example. Either the whole Mass was spoken or the whole Mass was sung. Now, for example, I could see them allowing a “Middle Mass” even at the Old Rite, between High and Low, wherein just the Ordinary would be sung, or just not the Propers…but to have the priest chant the Collect at the beginning but then only speak the Postcommunion at the end is one of the frustratingly arbitrary things about the Novus Ordo given that those (and the Secret/Prayer Over the Gifts) are a “matching set” and you’d think if the priest chanted one…he’d chant the others.

    Same thing with Latin. I think they’ve got to release some rules that say, “If you use Latin for the Ordinary chants, you should do it for all of them.” It is absolutely stupid that sometimes a Mass in the Latin Rite has more GREEK than Latin (because they do the Kyrie but then nothing else). And it’s just arbitrary to have a Greek Kyrie, an English Gloria, a Latin Sanctus, and then an English Agnus Dei again. If you’re going to do some parts of the Ordinary in Latin…do all of the “matching set” for consistency’s sake. Please! I can see a Mass with English Propers and a Latin Ordinary, that makes sense. But just random parts thrown in arbitrarily in Latin?? C’mon, we can do better than that.

  10. Lurker 59 says:

    It is not about scrupulosity but rather by having the ability for the laity to say their parts in in Latin, at their own volition, instead of in the vernacular, it allows the laity to have more ownership and participation in the Mass (instead of being a passive observer). More importantly an organic growth of participation in Mass through Latin by individuals of the laity can grow to the point where more of the congregation uses Latin by its own volition. This allows for positive change to be made in the liturgy without waiting for instruction or the go ahead from a liberal priest.

  11. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    I have often thought that the “ideal” vernacular Mass would be all of the Ordinary, repeating parts in Latin, with the variable parts in the common tongue. It would be no great burden for the people to learn, even if by rote, the Latin parts and their meanings, if they heard them every week.

  12. Random Friar says:

    The Roman Missal we use in the States, btw, has the whole Mass in Latin in the back. It doesn’t require much, aside from ribbon placement.

    If I’m at a large, multi-lingual event, I will say “Corpus Christi” when the people come to receive Holy Communion. I’d rather not try to figure out what language each person would prefer to receive in.

  13. ArtND76 says:

    The cathedral parish in San Jose, CA, quite often has the Agnus Dei in Latin plainsong. I and I believe many others find it very worshipful. When used, I notice it is sung by nearly the same percentage of the lay faithful as those who sing the English hymns. I don’t know much Latin, but I do know the meaning of those words.

  14. Geoffrey says:

    Lurker 59 & THREEHEARTS:

    Very interesting! I usually whisper the responses in Latin out of consideration for those around me. Perhaps I should be a little louder?

    I would love to attend Mass in the Ordinary Form in Latin, even if it is just the ordinary parts (like most Papal Masses). Sadly, they are few and far between. The pastor at our local cathedral parish will intone the Agnus Dei in Latin (simple tone) at daily Mass, and everyone sings it with no problem.

  15. DT says:

    @ Lurker 59

    When I studied in Europe, I found that it was easier to say the prayers and responses in Latin. I gradually picked up some of the Italian/French/Spanish (German still escapes me) responses; however, the Latin still came most readily to the forefront of my mind. ;)

    It helped also that the daily OF Mass in St. Peter’s is celebrated in Latin!

  16. Lurker 59 says:


    That is the question. Should we who are doing these and those parts of the laity in Latin be a little louder? Do we laity have the right to choose to speak in the mother tongue of our Rite according to our individual volition? Can grass roots movements to speak in Latin be started that dovetail with the grass roots movements to receive the Eucharist on the tongue? What rights do our tongues have in our Rite?

  17. dnm2812 says:

    Lurker 59,

    I was told by my pastor that I shouldn’t do the responses in Latin anymore because we should be in unity with the other parishioners. If the mass is in English then we should respond in English. However, if someone else has more insight I would love to be able to do the responses in Latin again.


  18. DT says:

    @ Danny-

    Hmm… Interesting comment by your pastor. At the parish church I attend from time to time, there is a conflict between those who use the inclusive language (e.g., “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth”) and those who “say the black.” Quite jarring to the ears, really. I wonder whether your pastor would see that as a prayer in unity or not.

    On a separate note, I have served at the altar for many OF Masses where the priest would subvocalize his prayers in Latin (e.g., the washing of the hands). Personally, I do not see any problem with the laity responding in Latin so long as the intent is not to cause a scene to others.

  19. DT says:

    correction to note above… neutral language*

  20. Gino_Romagna says:

    At the parish I attend here in Washington State, I am fortunate to have a young pastor who celebrates a very sacred and beautiful NO Mass and once a month offers a TLM on Tuesdays’s at 7PM.
    During Advent and Lent through the Easter season,the Greek Kyrie is sung as well as the Latin Agnus Dei, Santus and Pater Noster at Sunday Mass. In Ordinary time, sadly however,the whole Mass returns to English. I have suggested that it would be nice if we could keep it that way all year, but I fear there may some resistance in the Parish or Diocese that I may not be aware of since Father is a great admirer (as I) of Pope Benedict XVI and his Liturgical Reform efforts.

  21. mpolo says:

    THREEHEARTS: Did Paul VI really forbid all Choral Masses except “De Angelis” (at least in cases where there is only one Sunday Mass)? This strikes me as somehow wrong. I love “De Angelis”, but in Ordinary Time, we will often use Mass XI or XII (I believe XI is even specifically labelled as being for that purpose). There is a proper choral Mass for Sundays in Lent, and longstanding tradition has Mass I (“Lux et origo”) for Eastertide.

    So does this document really exist, and does it have force of law?

Comments are closed.