Latin in the Ordinary Form, seminary. Wherein Fr. Z rants.

I am forever lamenting the sloppy, inaccurate term long used by many of the traditionalist camp, “the Latin Mass”, to describe older, pre-Conciliar form, Extraordinary Form, Usus Antiquior, “Tridentine” Mass, even Traditional Latin Mass or TLM.

The Latin Mass… ought to be the Novus Ordo, the Ordinary Form as well.   Our liturgical language in the Latin Church is Latin and I don’t have to rehearse the why of that yet again.

I have long been concerned that the rise in the use of the older form, the TLM would drive the use of Latin out of the Ordinary Form entirely, would isolate the use of Latin in the ghetto of the traditionalists.

I read this in the Catholic Herald, the UK’s best Catholic weekly with my emphases and comments.

Why don’t we have more Novus Ordo Masses in Latin?

If you want a complete new rite Latin liturgy you have to go either to the very top or bottom of Britain

By Francis Phillips on Monday, 21 March 2011

A recent letter in the Catholic Herald has caught my eye. The writer, Susan Carson-Rowland, was raising the question of the new English translation of the Mass, which she described as a “true rendering of the definitive Latin text to replace the inaccurate version we have endured for 40 years”. [Let’s call it a “truer rendering”.] This situation has been lamented many times over during the last 40 years, both by traditionalists and those, like myself, who attend the Novus Ordo, and I have nothing new to add to the debate. What struck me about this letter was its author’s final question: “Why don’t we have Mass in Latin and avoid all this tiresome palaver?” [Do I hear an “Amen!”?  Let there be more Latin.  People can use the translation they prefer.  A great solution to those who are whinging about the new, corrected translation.]

I only understood the full force of the question when I happened to attend an ordination to the diaconate at the Oxford Oratory last week. The Mass, sung in Latin according to the Novus Ordo, with the readings and rite of ordination in English, was celebrated magnificently. Bilingual service books were provided for those of us who had forgotten, or were unfamiliar with, the Latin. Of course, having a professional choir helped, though the congregation joined in singing the responses, the Credo and the Pater Noster. And it was a special occasion; I understand that generally Oratories celebrate Mass in the vernacular, while providing at least one Mass in Latin on Sundays and on solemnities.  [Latin should not be relegated to “special occasions”, as if it were some aberration.  What does it mean for our identity as Catholics if we never or only rarely hear the language of our Rite?]

My mole in the Association of Latin Liturgy tells me that the whole point of this association during the last 40 years has been to encourage the use of Latin (and the musical treasury of the Church, including plain chant) in the Novus Ordo, in an attempt to prevent Latin being swept away altogether. Their remit has been the document on the liturgy which stated: “The faithful must be able to say or sing together in Latin the parts of the Mass which pertain to them.”  [It is the obligation of pastors of souls to see to that, btw.  Liberals love to quote their bits and pieces of Council documents.  They don’t like this bit from SC 54 very much.]

Have the aims of the association failed? Judging from the ordinary practice of almost all parish Masses it would appear so. There are only three Oratories in this country and, as my mole further points out, if you want a complete new rite Latin liturgy you have to go either to Pluscarden Abbey in Moray, Scotland, or to St Cecilia’s Benedictine convent in Ryde, Isle of Wight – either the extreme north or the extreme south of the country.

Back to the question raised in the letter to the Herald: why don’t we have Mass in Latin?

First, Latin Church clergy don’t know Latin any more.  That is not their fault for the most part.  It is the fault of those in charge of formation and of bishops of the past and present.  The Code of Canon Law specifically says that seminarians must be very well-trained in Latin (c. 249).   So, if they aren’t, why are the formators telling bishops that they are well-trained?  When a man is ordained, someone must stand in front of the bishop and declare that the man is properly trained.  They aren’t.

Is the solution more Latin in seminary?  I guess so.  Are we willing to add years to seminary training?

It strikes me that by the time a man reaches major seminary it is practically too late to give him a good working knowledge of Latin.  So many things are already loaded onto seminarians, we would have to add a year or two to their formation to give them both Latin and Greek.   Sometimes I have mused that before major seminary training begins in earnest, the men should have a propaedeutic year during which they do little else than learn Latin and Greek, read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Baltimore Catechism aloud, and serve every kind of Mass and sing chant.  Perhaps also be given a few little seminars on basic sewing, cooking, how to read spread-sheets and balance a checkbook, and small-engine repair.  Enough for a first year.  Build on that.

But I don’t think we should fall into a trap of thinking that major seminary is language school.  Seminarians need the Latin before they start.

That said, they can at least learn enough to pronounce the words properly, know where the best tools and resources are found, and also learn that it is valuable and important for our identity as Catholic priests.

We need more Latin everywhere.

Thus endeth the rant.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Brooklyn says:

    I went to a Novus Ordo Mass at lunchtime, and the lecturer led the “Agnus Dei” in Latin. There were only a couple of us who knew it and were able to sing it with him. That made me start thinking about Latin, and how fascinating it is that a dead language is still used so much, not just in the Roman Catholic Church, but in law, medicine, sciences, etc. Latin is also the basis for so many languages. And the fact that it is not the vernacular anywhere means it will never be corrupted. Words will always mean what they mean, and not have their meanings drastically changed, e.g. “gay” in the English language.

    The rumor about the further instruction for the SP is that the TLM will be a mandatory subject in the seminaries. So I guess that means they will have to learn Latin.

  2. John Pepino says:

    Thank you for the rant, Father.
    For priests interested in dusting off their Latin this summer, there is a week-long summer camp at the seminary of the Fraternity of Saint Peter, in Nebraska (June 6-10).
    See for more details (and could you make this info better known, Father?):

  3. Sewing? [Of course. Sewing.]

  4. Brooklyn says:

    Timothy Mulligan – yes, indeed, sewing! I know a priest who is forever asking a seamstress in our church to fix his alb. What would he do if she wasn’t around? Right on, Fr. Z. :)

    [There is nothing wrong with having some people in the parish ready to do some sewing, cooking, small engine repair, but a priest in a pinch should be able to do some of these things on his own so that a) when he is confronted by the horrors of a loose or separated button he will not curl up in a ball in the corner and b) he will have that much more appreciation for the help he quite properly calls upon from others. And if Father constantly has problems with his albs, perhaps someone should teach him how to take them off properly.]

  5. stgemma_0411 says:

    I would love to see a reworking of the PPF (Program for Priestly Formation) changed to work in a year (4 10 to 12-week cycles) where you learned nothing but Latin, Greek, Catechism, Reading the entire Bible. This would make the understanding of philosophy and theology all that much easier to comprehend for those students who are more advanced in years and also reduce the number of academic classes when they are actually studying philosophy and theology in their pre-theologate.

    As well, I would love to see this occur for all men who wish to enter the seminary.

  6. dmwallace says:

    Perhaps also be given a few little seminars on basic sewing, cooking, how to read spread-sheets and balance a checkbook, and small-engine repair. Enough for a first year. Build on that.

    Building on this thought I am reminded of something a priest friend said to me in our discussion of suppressing the minor orders:

    Instead of suppressing the minor orders and replacing them with the “ministries” of reader and acolyte, why not simply restore the minor orders to something meaningful during seminary formation.

    Porters, for instance, would learn parish “door-keeping,” in the sense of how to run a parish, some finance and economics 101. Lectors would actually learn how to teach, catechize, speak effectively, not just how to read the readings. Exorcists would learn the ins and outs of “pastoral” sacraments and rites, such as all those things associated with Baptism, Anointing of the Sick, making sick calls, bringing Holy Communion to the sick and dying, etc.

    In this manner, seminarians would not simply receive a semester-long course or a workshop on this or that aspect of pastoral ministry, but would see with each additional order the proper ordering of pastoral ministry as directed to sacramental and priestly identity.

  7. disco says:

    Interesting points, Father. At our parish the bulletin always specifies Latin or English after the mass times as a sort of shorthand to mean Novus Ordo or Traditional Latin Mass. Elsewhere in the bulletin they are more properly identified as the “Mass of St. Gregory the Great” and the “Mass of Paul VI”. I know that personally, I would prefer the traditional mass to the novus ordo mass even if both were in Latin, but I assume the thinking is that most NO adherents would be equally upset at either in Latin.

  8. Brooklyn says:

    Isn’t it interesting that the venacular was introduced into the Mass supposedly to make the Mass more understandable, and yet, people understand less about what the Mass is about than they did 40 years ago when this change was made. Latin is a sort of liturgical “veil”. Martin Mosebach wrote in his book “Heresy of Formlessness”, that “to veil something is to reveal it: it is revelation through veiling.” Those who go to the EF on a regular basis understand completely what is being said in Latin, and yet so many of those who go to the OF in their own language have little clue about what is happening at the altar. As paradoxical as it may sound, I believe that the more Latin is used, the clearer the Mass will become to people. The words are pure and clear, uncorrupted. That can certainly not be said about any language that is in use today.

  9. mibethda says:

    If I recall correctly, some years ago EWTN’s televised daily Novus Ordo Mass was sometimes offered almost wholly in Latin. Unfortunately, Latin is now used in only a few portions of that Mass (Credo and prayers after the Canon).

  10. asperges says:

    There was a split in the 70s within the traditional movement in the UK and the Assoc for Latin Liturgy went their way for the new rite – on the grounds that the old rite was a lost cause – and the Latin Mass Society went for the old rite. They have had little to do with each other and the LMS has done rather better than the ALL.

    Fundamentally it is more to do with the rite (and what it seems stands for) than the language. The Novus Ordo can be done very well in Latin and that language brings its own cachet and hides many irritations; the Oratorians here do a wonderful job in this respect. They make it look like the old rite. However in practice, the NO is almost universally in the vernacular, whatever the original intention, and frankly, if you are going to go to all the trouble of having the Latin Mass, why stint yourself : go for the rite it was made for. The introductory dialogue of the NO, for example, sounds awkward in Latin, even unnatural. “Introibo ad altare Dei and Judica Me” sounds much better.

    The Holy Father has given us best steak; let’s not worry too much about the lesser cuts.

  11. Phil_NL says:


    This reminds me of a Mass (NO) I attended in Florence, Italy one afternoon in the monastery of San Miniato al Monte. The Mass was celebrated in the crypt rather than the main church, attendents were half a dozen monks and a few tourists. In many ways, this was as unimpressive a setting as one can get in a church – barren crypt, no instruments. But that all emphasised one thing: the unity that came from praying together in latin. (The entire Mass save the readings was in latin). Given the ages and apparent origins of the attendants – old monks, tourists – it would be very unlikely that the two groups would be able to have even a simple conversation for lack of a joint language. Yet we all knew the parts of the Mass in latin, so we prayed them together. (my own parish has a NO largely in latin, I suppose the few other tourists had something similar).

    And so the Mass did become impressive, as we all realised once more our common heritage. In fact, the priest (abbot?) turned on the stairs after the Mass, and blessed us once more with the Sacrament he was carrying to the Tabernacle. I suspect he too noticed something. It remains a cherished memory. And it would have been impossible if people didn’t keep latin alive in our parishes.

  12. JoeGarcia says:

    For those places where Romance languages are spoken by a majority of Catholics, the leap shouldn’t be particularly onerous. A couple of years ago, I was privileged to hear a N.O. Latin Mass at the Cathedral in Washington D.C. (my son commented on how YOUNG the priest looked) and while there were bilingual Missalettes provided, the Mass was easy to follow for those with basic command of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian or French.


  13. jfm says:

    Good day, Father –
    Everytime I am in London, I try and check out the NO Mass in Latin at the Farm Street Church of the Immaculate Conception in Mayfair.
    Beautifully sung in Latin, priest facing the congregation, etc.
    (But only when I don’t want to go to the Wigmore Hall Sunday Morning “Coffee Concerts” at 11:15 – on those weeks, I attend Mass in English earlier in the morning, because I cannot resist the coffee concerts where your ticket entitles you to a cup of coffee, tea, or a glass of sherry. Guess which is the most popular drink….)

  14. MichaelJ says:

    Speaking on a purely practical level, the term “Latin Mass” is quite accurate. Do a google search for “Latin Mass in ” and you’ll not find any Ordinary Form Masses.
    I suspect that you realize this though and instead are decrying an inaccurate term that has become accurate through usage and experience.

  15. wgaertner says:

    I am at a college seminary that leads to theology, and here all the guys in arts must take Latin, and a few of us take Greek as well. We also have Gregorian chant daily at Mass, and once a month there is a novus ordo Mass in Latin!

  16. Centristian says:

    Beyond the minimum of an ability to pronounce the Latin texts, future clergy will, of course, need to be persuaded of the (seemingly obvious) merits of preserving the Latin language in the Latin Rite, beyond just the occasional Gloria or Agnus Dei sung by a choir.

    As Father Z seems to be suggesting, however, if the extraordinary form of Mass is the only form of Mass that is to be regarded by Catholics as the “Traditional Latin Mass”, then the ordinary form of Mass will suffer by always being regarded as something other than a “traditional Latin Mass”…as something that must necessarily be celebrated in a way that is less than traditional, and never in Latin. The imprecise terminology we use affects the way we think and the way we perceive things. [The Novus Ordo is, properly, also the “Latin Mass”. This is not hard.]

    I think the fact that the ordinary form of Mass is seldom celebrated in Latin has actually less to do with the modern celebrant’s lack of Latin than it has to do with a misperception that exists that the ordinary form would not be celebrated in Latin or ad orientem or with liturgical solemnity because those attributes really belong to the extraordinary form. [A lot of people were lied to after the Council and persuaded that Latin was forbidden.]

    It would be no great challenge for most seminarians to be able to get enough of a handle on Latin pronunciation to enable them to celebrate Mass and the office and Sacraments in Latin. It isn’t necessary that they be conversant in Latin, only that they be able to adeptly employ the language in the ecclesiastical realm. That’s not the real challenge, of course.

    For as often as Latin and traditional Roman liturgical solemnity are called for these days, the 1962 Missal is almost invariably taken up as the only vehicle through which such solemnity can be offered. Recently, for example, my parish hosted a solemn Mass in Latin in order to feature a Mass by Palestrina. Automatically, the organizers decided that the Mass, then, had to be celebrated according to the extarordinary form of Mass, using the ’62 Missal. Why? Why would a church that only ever celebrates the ordinary form of Mass suddenly switch over to use the 1962 Missal in order to feature, in Latin, the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, all of which are in the ordinary form of Mass, too? [Part of the reason for this is that, as Palestrina wrote for the older form, working out a divided Sanctus/Benedictus are much easier. Etc.]

    The answer is that it would never have occurred to anyone involved that the ordinary form could be presented as a “Traditional Latin Mass”. I actually did address that with someone else involved in organizing the Mass, afterwards, and he seemed stunned and perplexed by my point, for a moment. What a great opportunity that event would have been to showcase the ordinary form of Mass as a “Traditional Latin Mass”. [The obviously differences within the Novus Ordo can be worked around. Besides, the Second Vatican Council said that Latin, with Gregorian chant and polyphony should be preserved.]

    Both forms of the Roman Rite are able to be a “Traditional Latin Mass”, and it would be such a marvelous thing if the traditional “wing” of the Church were to give more attention to allowing the ordinary form to be a traditional Latin Mass more often.

  17. Marc says:


    You wrote: “Liberals love to quote their bits and pieces of Council documents. ” In my experience, in Catholic education, I have never met a liberal that has quoted a Church document. I don’t even think they know any of the names of the Church’s documents. less what they contain. But, according to them, they understand the “Spirit.”

  18. Tom in NY says:

    A few years ago, quick research told me that in both Reform and Roman graduate seminaries in the USA, it was possible to graduate without studying the whole Bible in English; it appears the historical books of the OT (after DT and Josh) were generally dropped.
    For a while, it has appeared that those who lack a degree in philosophy or theology need two years of college in those areas before admission to major seminary. It also appears those propaedeutic undergraduate years lacked Latin and Greek. Sometimes major seminaries had Greek and Hebrew.
    Temporibus antiquis (usque annos MCMLX) 10-year old altar boys could manage their part of the Mass. Why can’t modern seminarians in the USA?
    Salutationes omnibus.

  19. jbas says:

    The Spanish missal (Mexican edition) we use in our parish has the Latin Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Pater and Agnus Dei placed alongside the Spanish translations of these texts (rather than in an appendix). Although I have little reason to believe these are actually used in Mexico with any regularly, I have often wondered if the Mexican bishops once assumed they would be.

  20. Gail F says:

    Father, you are overlooking the fact that Latin is all the rage in American high schools. Latin classes, Latin clubs, Latin Latin Latin. I’m not saying it’s at all of them by any means, but it is a big deal. Latin is more widely available at younger years than it has been in years. At Walnut Hills HS here in Cincinnati, one of America’s top 100 public high school, Latin is mandatory starting in 7th grade (it’s grades 7-12). [I am not overlooking that. But I can’t mention everything in every post.]

  21. Fr Matthew says:

    Fr Z, I could not agree more.
    I used to teach Latin to seminarians, and wholly agree that “the sooner the better”, because with the exception of those particularly gifted with languages and/or who already speak more than one language, it can be rather difficult for them to pick up Latin later in life.
    Much of my novitiate was dedicated to learning Latin and Greek, and I’m very grateful.
    When I taught in the seminary I used to celebrate the N.O. in Latin almost every day. I miss it!

  22. BobP says:

    Whatever happened to Pope Paul VI’s Jubilate Deo, a minimum of Latin chants which everyone was supposed to learn? [What happened to Veterum sapientia?]

  23. MattW says:

    Most students are required to have studied a language in high school or to take one or two years in college. With that base, any seminarian should be able to learn the rudiments and read with reasonable proficiency any familiar texts (the Missal, the Psalms, etc). This could easily be accomplished in their propaedeutic year.

  24. Henry Edwards says:

    At many or most of the daily OF Masses I have attended recently, the Kyrie has been sung in Greek and the Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin–and occasionally a few other snatches also–with the folks seemingly singing these more robustly than vernacular hymns.

    Although my enthusiasm for the correct new translation has been growing for ten years — since Father Z started WDTPRS the column — I do fear that it will work to extinguish the use of Latin in the OF that has been growing during the Benedictine years. (I’ve been carrying Latin texts to OF Mass all these years more for accuracy than for any aversion to English.)

    Which may then actually relegate Latin to the “traditionalist ghetto”. Although I’m not sure where to find the trad ghetto any more. With most of the people now attending the TLM in ordinary parish settings being ordinary Catholics who may never have knowingly met a real trad. But the truth is that these are the folks who would be the prime “clientele” for a Latin OF Mass if a Latin EF Mass were not available.

  25. marthawrites says:

    Love the part of your comment wherein pre-seminarians should read the CCC and the Baltimore Catechism aloud. For almost a year (with a break last summer) I have been reading a half dozen pages of the CCC aloud to my husband each night after dinner. We stop to look up terms, clarify issues, express surprise (“I didn’t know that, did you?”) and generally we LEARN a great deal. I have had only Catholic schooling from kindergarten through graduate school and we were both raised in good Catholic families, but there is so much to think about that it boggles our minds to think of the unfamiliarity most Catholics (ourselves included) have with the Catechism. We got the idea of daily reading by listening to a taped talk by Card. Arinze who said he reads and meditates every day on a line or two of the CCC. What a wise teacher he is!

  26. disco says:


    “Traditional Latin Mass” or TLM always means the extraordinary form. Father Z contends that when we speak of a “Latin mass” it should be in the ordinary form and when we speak of a “Traditinal Latin Mass” we mean only the extraordinary form.

    The kyrie is slightly different in the novus ordo in that it’s a 3×2 instead of a 3×3. kkcckk in the of kkkccckkk in the ef. That might explain the use of the EF for the Palestrina mass.

  27. robtbrown says:

    Fr Z wrote: It strikes me that by the time a man reaches major seminary it is practically too late to give him a good working knowledge of Latin

    On the other hand, because of his deficient education in Latin and philosophy, it is probably too early for him to study theology. [You’ve got it.]

  28. david andrew says:

    Our parish began undertaking the offering of the EF once a month on Saturday mornings, which has developed into Missa cantata from “low Mass with vernacular hymns”, thanks to the selfless work of two priests (both trained in the EF) who travel from another part of the diocese to offer the Mass, with the blessings of the Pastor.

    I, together with our deacon, have suggested on several occasions that we gently convince the Pastor of the parish that it would be a worthwhile endeavor to offer the NO in Latin (ad orientem or otherwise) at least once a month at a regular weekend parish Mass. A member of the local TLM group (who is a tireless advocate of the TLM and has worked very hard to establish TLM celebrations all over the area) who is active in the Latin Liturgy Association in the US actually said, “No, you don’t want to do that. If you want the TLM to get established in your parish, you shouldn’t ‘confuse’ the issue by offering both forms in Latin.” At first this seemed like a reasonable and rational philosophy.

    Having read this rant, I realize just how destructive this philosophy is, and in fact I can see how taking the kind of position advocated by this individual is likely to guarantee the death of the use of Latin in the Mass outside the TLM. I’m going to continue advocating for the use of Latin in the NO, even at the risk of being “shunned” by the TLM advocates in the area.

  29. hugonis says:

    Having the NO in Latin would be a great help in the dioceses of the United States, where we could use it to replace the English-Spanish bilingual masses.

  30. Jayna says:

    When I lived in England (a London suburb), the Masses I attend were NO in the vernacular, but all the major prayers were sung in Latin. We didn’t always do Pater Noster and Credo in Latin, but it was known to happen. It was just your average parish church, very small, one priest running the whole show. I haven’t been to an NO Mass like it since, no matter where in the world I’ve been.

    I worked on the pastor of my former parish (in Georgia) for about three years to no avail. He absolutely hates Latin and won’t even consider using it unless he is directly ordered to by the archbishop.

  31. MargaretC says:

    “It strikes me that by the time a man reaches major seminary it is practically too late to give him a good working knowledge of Latin.”

    Father, I must respectfully disagree with you on this. I took three semesters of intensive Latin when I was already on the wrong side of 50. While my level of mastery is not as deep as yours, the experience has opened up the liturgy for me like nothing else could. (It’s also made me eager for the corrected translation, but that’s another story.) Your idea for a preliminary year of intensive studies has a lot going for it.

    Somewhere I remember reading that St Jean-Marie Vianney had a horrible time learning Latin. True?

  32. JKnott says:

    Bring back the minor seminaries!
    Well, ….. good ones anyway.
    We all probably know devout young priests who have immersed themselves in learning about the Faith and related necessities AFTER they left their seminary formation and were ordained.
    Bring back the minor seminaries or increase the years of major seminary formation.

    I agree with Father Z. I always try not to refer to the EF as a Latin Mass for the reasons he noted.

  33. skull kid says:

    It’s funny: the liberals are all for tolerance, diversity, pluralism and all that other nonsense, but not if you want a Mass in Latin. Then their tolerance is zero.

  34. skull kid says:

    Note to the author of the CH piece: there is a daily EF MAss in the London Oratory. Can’t understand how he won’t have known that. It’s not quite as extreme a scenario as having to head to either end of Britain when the capital is well served.

  35. PostCatholic says:

    I know he’s in the doghouse with many folks here, but I thought I’d point out Cardinal Wuerl’s Cathedral of St Matthew in Washington offers a Novus Ordo Mass in Latin with organ & schola cantorum every Sunday. Which is perhaps only to say that he’s continued a tradition that began with the late James Cardinal Hickey.

  36. AnAmericanMother says:

    I have to quibble a little bit.

    It’s one thing to develop the depth and ease of thought in the Latin language as demonstrated by our host.

    It’s quite another to get enough Latin together to ‘get along’. My last formal Latin class was in 9th grade; thereafter I switched to German, and in college I took mostly Greek. I survived the undergraduate Classics courses that I took on Latin authors by means of a good ‘crib’ and the policy of giving the examinations in English!

    I have always sung in Latin even in the Episcopal church . . . but once we converted I sat down with Wheelock’s and started brushing up. It has been very helpful because we sing most of our anthems in Latin. Obviously the level of expertise required for a choir singer is considerably lower than that of a priest . . . but it’s not like you’re going to be defending a thesis or anything.

    And as Gail F says, Latin is all the rage now. My daughter’s school (also mine long, long ago) now offers SIX different high school Latin courses, including honors, AP, and literature courses. The junior high is now offering Latin (6-8). They didn’t do that when I was there!!

  37. wow, good stuff.

    1) The St. Ann’s Chapel Choir in Palo Alto has done a Sunday NO Mass in Latin pretty consistently since the 1960s. They have Dr. Bill Mahrt’s choir to sing all the parts, and lately a string of European priests with Latin that’s probably as good as their English – very good.
    2) 2 of the local parishes do some chant, usually the Kyrie and Agnus, pretty regularly. It’s not much, but I’m grateful for whatever we can get. There are at least a couple parishes in the Bay Area that do TLM and NO in Latin at least once in a while.
    3) Thomas Aquinas College has NO in Latin regularly, I think daily. They also require 4 years of Latin.
    4) After our lovely new bishop, Salvatore Cordeleone, gave a homily at my eldest’s confirmation, charging the confirmandi to see this as the beginning of their religious education, not the end, I, with the help of a priest and staff member at a local parish, started a CCC reading group, with the hope that people, especially young people, would come learn something. Worked through it cover to cover over about a year and a half. Out of about a dozen regular attendees, maybe 2 or 3 are teenagers or 20 somethings. Gotta start somewhere. We’re now reading a book by the Pope, and will do the catechism again in a year or two.

    Anyway, just a report from the field. Things are not all bad, and quite often very good – praise the Lord.

  38. kallman says:

    Learning Latin needs to start at school. Starting it at the seminary is way too late in life.

  39. Jim Dorchak says:

    Well the problem with the term “Latin Mass” being used is that in our community (starting in 1992) we all called it “The Latin Mass”. It was not until much later when the SP came out that the nomiclature was rightfully changed by the “HF” which would help the people recoginze it was not the “NO”. In essence we had no guidance prior to the “HF” naming it the “EF”, and old habits are hard to change, especially for some of us who have been at this for 10 years prior to the Latin Mass beining named the “EF”. So please do not be vexed since we had no leadership in the nomiclature area for 10 years! It has been a hard row out here in the ditches fighting for the Latin Mass or now the “EF”.

    This kind of reminds me of the play on words in the movie “Good Morning Vietnam”… Vp is a VIP and if it leaks to the VC then we could end up MIA….

  40. Mitchell NY says:

    More young people are studying Latin, schools are adding it back in the curiculum, the internet is has a wealth of courses for Latin studies and even google translate has added Latin. It just does not seem to make much sense anymore to keep avoiding it. People of all ages and backrounds are getting the basics. It seems just that they should be able to utilize more in their own Catholic Parish. The Church is behind the curve on this one. I always thought that the Motu Proprio should have had a couple of words referencing Veterum Sapientia reminding the world that the Tridentine Mass was never abrogated and neither was VS. And thus implementation of both would go hand in hand. Maybe the clarification document? That would be an excellent opportunity to bring it up.

  41. Christopher Gainey says:

    I suspect that the intolerance so many of us note for the NO in latin is the fact that it operates as an excellent bridge between both forms of the rite. “Spirit of Vatican II” Catholics instinctively sense danger at the thought of latin mass in the familiar form. All the problems with music and language and reverence immediately become apparent. More terrifying than even the EF.

  42. asophist says:

    MargaretC — I am 63 yrs old and consider that I am on the RIGHT side of 50 (for myriad reasons). I have decided, since I will be retiring from my professional career at the end of April, thus having enough time on my hands, to take up the study of Latin. Please don’t anybody tell me it is too late. Having some slight facility with other Romance languages, I believe my hope is not entirely misplaced. I don’t expect to master Latin, but would at least like to be able to read it with more facility than I do now.

  43. Ceile De says:

    We attended a really nice Latin Novus Ordo at St Michae’s Abbey (Norbertine) in Silverado, CA on Saturday. I think it is what the Vatican II fathers thought they were voting for.

  44. Alice says:

    The vast majority of graduate programs have pre-reqs. What’s wrong with saying that 4 semesters of Latin (or 4 years of high school Latin) are pre-reqs for graduate seminary? Applicants who cannot demonstrate proficiency in Latin (and other pre-requisite subjects) can be accepted, but can expect to spend at least one extra year in seminary. When I was in college as an undergraduate, I knew several young men who were planning to go to seminary after graduation, but none of them were taking any Latin electives.

    Every Lutheran pastor I’ve ever met has shown a greater proficiency in Latin than 90% of the priests I know. When I was a freshman, I was taking an advanced course in Latin, and one day a young woman from a Christian Reform College sat in on our class because she was interested in our Classics program. When I asked her if her college had a good Latin program, she said, “Oh, yes, because ministers have to know it.” Last I checked, not even the most conservative Lutherans or Christian Reform congregations offer services in Latin, so it seems like it would just be common sense to have similar requirements for Catholic priests.

  45. liz says:

    St Joseph’s in Raleigh, NC has NO mass in Latin ad orientem generally once a month. From my experience masses in any language at the parish are reverent and the parish is overflowing with many children. These children experience either a true confessional or a screen from the outset as well. I pray this reverence will make a lasting impression upon all the children. Of note many parishioners travel from other counties to attend this parish.

  46. benedetta says:

    It’s tangential but in addition to Latin NO and more Latin in schools and in homeschool, I vote yes on a little sewing. On a visit to Gettysburg, where kids can get “mustered up” we learned that civil war soldiers kept something called a “housewife” among with their few possessions, which would typically contain, needle, thread, buttons. And if you want a fun project to introduce a boy to basic cooking skills, make a batch of hard tack which, along with the housewife would be kept with canteen. Campfire cooking would also be another way to introduce a boy to cooking. I’ll have to leave the car engine ideas to the better minds here…

  47. dcs says:

    Both forms of the Roman Rite are able to be a “Traditional Latin Mass”, and it would be such a marvelous thing if the traditional “wing” of the Church were to give more attention to allowing the ordinary form to be a traditional Latin Mass more often.

    It’s not the “traditional wing” of the Church that’s standing in the way. What is necessary for the Novus Ordo to be more traditional (sorry, it is not a traditional Latin Mass) more often is for those who celebrate it, and their superiors, to learn to love the Church’s liturgical tradition.

  48. Maltese says:

    “Why don’t we have more Novus Ordo Masses in Latin?”

    Why have a Novus Ordo in Latin when you can have the “real thing” in Latin?!

    “The new rite of Holy Mass practically silenced the nature of sacrifice making of it an occasion for gathering together the people of God…the eucharistic gathering was given the mere sense of sharing a meal together…” Msgr. Gherardini (

  49. Dear Ishmael Alighieri,

    Off topic, I know (sorry Fr. Z) but of those five supply priests celebrating for Bill Mahrt’s choir at St. Thomas Aquinas in Palo Alto CA all but one were born and bred in the United States. I know because I am one of them. And Fr. Anselm, the German, is also a member of the same Western Dominican Province as are the other four.

  50. I have long been concerned that the rise in the use of the older form, the TLM would drive the use of Latin out of the Ordinary Form entirely, would isolate the use of Latin in the ghetto of the traditionalists.

    I second this concern– it is interesting to see the word “ghetto” as it is the same term I have been using to describe this situation. I am still waiting to see an increase– even a tiny increase– in ordinary form Latin Masses. I do not think that any recent Pope had the slightest desire to write off 95% of the Church as beyond hope the way many of us seem willing to do, and certainly not the Pope of Christian Unity. The Novus Ordo and its attendees must be redeemed, not written off. I hope that the process of redemption will gather significant momentum with the 2011 translation of the Roman Missal.

  51. The Egyptian says:

    this is late in the discussion, we USED to have these things at least in the CPPS. The Boys started out at Brunnerdale HIGH SCHOOL, thats right, high school, then on to seminary after the four years of latin and such. I know that it is no longer done but the boys learned latin and the “life tools” you spoke about there, then on to the studies of seminary, several years at St Charles including work on the farm (our last Pastor did the butchering for several years there), steers, hogs and dozens of chickens a week plus the dairy herd provided the milk and butter and 600 acres of crops all under the supervision of the Brothers. , then on to a year of silent reflection at the Novitiate Farm, and then back to St Charles for final studies. A well rounded education. Now how many years does it take?

  52. robtbrown says:

    Tom in NY,

    It’s not a matter of academic degrees for seminarians. Years ago the norm was for a seminarian to have two years of philosophy. If someone knew no Latin, he could begin it then

    After the Council, because of the move toward Existentialist theology, philosophy in the US was all but abandoned (with a few exceptions), and vernacular liturgy eliminated the need to study Latin. The study of philosophy and Latin withered together. There was a time when only 9 hrs philosophy was required for US seminarians to begin theology. Then it was bumped up to something like 20.

    The Vatican plan in the 90’s was to re-introduce the 2 year philosophy courses in seminaries. The first step was to be a document extolling philosophical study, to be followed by its implementation. Unfortunately, there was a lot of arguing about the importance (or lack thereof) of phenomenology. The result was Fides et Ratio, which could hardly be used as a guide for re-establishing seminary philosophy programs.

  53. The Cobbler says:

    “which she described as a “true rendering of the definitive Latin text to replace the inaccurate version we have endured for 40 years”. [Let’s call it a “truer rendering”.]”
    We could just call it a rendering, seeing as some of us are convinced the previous one was merely every other word translated then run through a thesaurus a few times and the result of that given to a third party (who never saw the original of course) to correct for grammar and attempt to make some sense of (with, in addition, strict forbiddance to flesh out any of the poetry in form or content).

    “Is the solution more Latin in seminary? I guess so. Are we willing to add years to seminary training?”
    Or are we willing to stop wasting time teaching our pastors how [not] to give pastoral homilies and use the time for other things? (Granted, ideally we’d teach them how to give good, genuinely pastoral homilies and say the Mass in Latin with [at least] some smattering of knowledge of what they’re saying…)

    Although, and I know I’ve said this before, I’m still not sure you have to be any good at school Latin studies to “get” the Mass in Latin and the things it means… isn’t Fr. usually harping on how whether we understand the prayer is important (hence his blog) but not as important as the worship itself, if I understand him right? The point being, if I’m not mistaken, that ideally you’d pray the old prayers in accurate and deep language (which, in the case of the Latin Rite for the foreseeable future, means in Latin) and be able to see into the words to be guided in your prayer by the insight you draw from them, but barring that you should go ahead and pray what you can tell you barely understand rather than use a sloppy translation that gives you the illusion of understanding without actually allowing you to pray what you ought anyway. (Anyone ever think about that last point — that if we must understand the prayers of the Mass, being told to pray something that’s kinda similar but rather off doesn’t actually help that, and so the need for understanding ought to be an argument against any but the more scrupulous of translations?)

  54. JamesA says:

    You get a huge AMEN from this seminarian in Texas, Father. As a late vocation with no minor seminary, all I will have the opportunity to get is one year of Latin and one of Greek, and nothing on the liturgy in Latin in either form. Woefully inadequate–I will simply to have to learn more on my own. It is worth the effort.

  55. shane says:

    Anyone familiar with the language wars in Belgium, Canada or Spain knows that there are few things more divisive than the politics of language. The fact that Latin is a dead tongue is its strength and is a brilliant way of keeping national rivalries out of the sanctuary.

  56. Mike says:

    Father Z – thanks for your article and comments!
    Should you or anyone else ever be in Denver, Colorado on a Sunday, the 10:00AM Mass at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in downtown Denver has the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Novus Ordo) in Latin. It is choral Mass (closer to a Missa Cantata). It is said versus populum and not adorietem. The church is beautiful as is the care with which the Mass is celebrated. If you have the time and can go, I believe that this is much closer to what the true spirit of Vatican II had in mind when the Mass was changed. This Mass is well attended by the young and old alike.

    Holy Ghost Catholic Church –

  57. jflare says:

    Am I falling behind the times?
    I’m VERY surprised, but pleased, to see mention of Latin being taught in high school. I intended to suggest it….

    When I reached 9th grade, I was required to take a foreign language; apparently colleges required it. I never understood why really. I took Spanish, if only to get SOME use of the time, but it only rarely helped. I’m afraid I’ve grown severely skeptical of the academic world in the past 20 years: I learned an awful lot that never seemed to me to have any real use, but I’ve had to learn MUCH critical stuff on my own. Why did I bother with school if they didn’t intend to teach me anything useful?????

    I’ve long had the thought that high schools ought to require Latin exclusively. Considering how much of law, science, philosophy, and yes, the Church, have been written in that language, I should think the advantage obvious. I’ve actually long wondered, if people REALLY wish for us to be bilingual, why they don’t emphasize the language most obviously useful to so many.
    Despite the growing Hispanic population, we still don’t have the standing need for Spanish in daily life. Even if we did, I should think being conversant in Spanish fairly uncomplicated if you’ve already learned the language from which it derived….

    Anyway, I’m hoping to have the chance to become better acquainted with Latin within the next year I think I’m going to devote more time to understand the traditional Mass.
    I don’t know that I’ll ever join the parish that offers it, but I’d like to be better acquainted. It IS part of my spiritual heritage, after all…..!

  58. becket1 says:

    I don’t think that ecclesial Latin will work with an Ordinary Form Charismatic Mass, like the Archdiocese of LA promotes.

  59. The Latin Program at Wyoming Catholic College exists, in part, to address this problem and answer the calls of John Paul II and of Benedict XVI for the revival of Catholic culture. WCC’s Latin classes are conducted in Latin, and students learn not only to read the language but to converse in it and express themselves in writing as well.

  60. Athelstan says:

    Hello Fr. Z,

    It strikes me that by the time a man reaches major seminary it is practically too late to give him a good working knowledge of Latin.

    As a traditional Catholic and an advocate for restoring the traditional liturgy, this often worries me. It is not an easy obstacle to overcome.

    The reality is that, however inadequate classical education (particularly in Catholic schools) was in the decades before the Council, it still ensured – along with, generally, some experience serving the traditional mass and knowing all the responses in Latin – that there was a significant cohort of incoming seminarians with a reasonably familiarity, if not necessarily fluency, with Latin. And that is best acquired in childhood.

    Today, priestly vocations come from a much wider swath of age brackets and life experience. How easy will it be for a man in his 20’s or 30’s (let alone older) to achieve any facility in Latin in seminary? (Learning Latin in my 30’s was not easy for me, I can say that.) He’ll need more time, and seminary is already quite long. The difficulty is not just that traditional seminary formation broke down, but that the society and educational systems on which it rested have also vanished. And with that, we lost not just good formation, but a common heritage we all had, however imperfectly, as Roman Rite Catholics.

    In this respect, I enjoyed Phil in NY’s anecdote from his Florentine monastery: “…Yet we all knew the parts of the Mass in latin, so we prayed them together. (my own parish has a NO largely in latin, I suppose the few other tourists had something similar). And so the Mass did become impressive, as we all realised once more our common heritage.” I have had the same experience attending EF masses in Europe myself. I might not be able to understand the homily; but we can all have the same access to the rest of the mass together. With mass in the vernacular, the Church has lost that magical experience.

    It would be wonderful to have that again, outside isolated pockets. It will not be easy at all to achieve it.

  61. Athelstan says:

    Maltese said: “Why have a Novus Ordo in Latin when you can have the “real thing” in Latin?!”

    I do think this has been the “response” to the question that the Herald asks, for better or for worse. In the “indult years” a Latin NO was the best you could hope for in most places – and even then, formidable to undertake. And in those years, I was fortune to have access to well-done Latin NO communities.

    But the arrival of substantial networks of TLM communities and masses in the years before and after Summorum Pontificum seems likely to make Latin NO’s even harder to come by: the priests and laypeople likely to be drawn to OF in the form clearly envisioned by the Council are also, by and large, those who will be drawn to the EF – and most of the time, such Catholics are likely to prefer what they perceive to be “the real thing.”

    One hopes that the “mutual enrichment” spoken of by the Holy Father might counteract that in time, especially as more and more (mainly young) priests are exposed to (and appreciate) the traditional Roman Rite. But I do wonder.

  62. Mitchell NY says:

    Maybe this is the situation now, but as more Seminarians become familiar with Latin and begin to offer the EF Mass we will most likely see Latin “spillover” into the OF Mass bringing it more in line with the EF. Which is probably what the Holy Father desires. Right now it is an either or for most places. If a Priest speaks Latin he will be more likely to offer an EF Mass and if he doesn’t you won’t see and EF or a Latin NO for that matter. But as the Latin becomes more universal in Priestly Formation you will probably see it start to blossom in the OF Mass down the line. The Seminaries and training need to come first before we see anything tangible as far as Latin goes in the OF Mass. But it will come. There is a lull now due to preparation. Pray for Seminarians.

  63. Sr_Lisa says:

    I completely agree, Father Z, with your assessment that having seminarians learn Greek and Latin before starting their theological studies is important. Having studied at a Pontifical Institute, I witnessed first hand, seminarians that came with some language already under their belt, fared much better, without having to look up every Latin word the Dominican professors would use in their lectures. I also like the idea of having a pre-year of preparation. It sounds funny at first (sewing and small engine repair!), but these are practical things that, in the long-run, will only strengthen the seminarian for his future life as a priest while he gets a foundation in Greek and Latin.
    God bless you, Father, for your excellent work!

  64. Jason Keener says:

    It seems Latin might be making a bit of a comeback in American high schools. I was browsing through job listings for teachers in different states this morning and was surprised to see quite a few postings looking for Latin teachers.

  65. John the Convert says:

    St Stephen’s in Portland OR hosts a lovely all-Latin NO periodically on Saturday evenings, in conjunction with the wonderful Cantores in Ecclesia. I go up as often as I can, to support it. A few local priests seem to take turns presiding. It’s wonderful, and invariably brings my cradle Catholic wife to tears.

  66. mark1970 says:

    Unfortunately it seems that one or two Traditionalists can be guilty of the idea that “only” the EF constitutes a Latin Mass. I had the experience a couple of months ago of listening to an attendee at an EF Mass referring to somebody who had attended the OF, in Latin. His comment was “They think they’ve attended a Latin Mass but they’ve not!” I’m assuming he meant that there may be confusion as to whether any Mass in Latin is the EF, but it did raise the idea that only an EF Mass is a “proper” Latin Mass.

  67. Dave N. says:

    A very good rant.

    I agree with those who posit that seminarians need Latin before they begin. If they haven’t had any, I’d suggest the many good six-week or eight-week summer intensive programs programs offered at universities around the country. And all this hand-wringing about it being “too late in life” is just that–thousands and thousands of adults, including some who are quite advanced in years, learn new languages every year. Because so many English words have Latinate roots, there’s a lot of overlap–sorry, but it’s just not that hard. I speak from having done virtually all of my foreign language learning after the age of 40.

    I’d also very much encourage everyone to scroll through the course requirements for an M.Div. at your diocesean seminary. See what the requirements actually are; take an active interest. Seminary education (at not all, but most seminaries) is truly the “don’t look behind the curtain” moment for Catholicism in the US; the bar is set sooo low, it’s not surprising that we have significant problems in the church.

    I recall a rather appalling conversation with a seminarian who was in his last semester prior to ordination. He was an order seminary–an order particularly well know for its many institutions of higher learning in the US…let those who have ears…. In any event he was only THEN getting around to taking his “Introduction to the Gospels” class. Thankfully, he was finding it quite interesting. Most lay people think the entire Bible is covered in seminary (plus Greek and Hebrew), which is far from the actual case. Although Protestant seminaries are certainly now participating in this “race to the bottom,” their language and other requirements still put Catholic seminaries to shame as others have already pointed out. Why is this deficiency in seminary education never addressed? Is it out of embarrassment?

  68. I’ve taught many subjects to many kinds of students, young and old. There’s phrase elementary school teachers use when they ask students to help each other: “Each one teach one”. If you know Latin, share it. Yes, you will be poo-hooed by your pastor, sneered at by traditionalists who will only learn from a priest, and you will be despised by men and women who don’t think women should teach anything–let alone laypeople. But, you will share Latin. Getting Latin into the hands, mouths, and minds of lay Catholics is important. I have devoted a decade to doing that at my parish. We simply used Fr. Henle’s books, cheap dictionaries, our Missals, and a pitch pipe. No, my students are not being prepared for ministry or a Ph.D. in Classics. They are, however, prepared for lay participation in the liturgy, both OF and EF. Chant for the people is not much harder than learning the tune for “On top of Old Smokey”. So there’s no excuse. Learn Latin. Teach Latin. Each one teach one. And don’t let the snobby, self-righteous, or misogynist folks stop you. Remember: the Devil hates Latin. Use it frequently. Pax, y’all.

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