QUAERITUR: Mixing Latin and English in the Ordinary Form

From a reader:

Last Sunday I attended a Mass where the priest used one Latin phrase during an English-language Novus Ordo: he sang “Mysterium Fidei” after the Consecration. Is this permitted?

Would that he had used more!

Latin is the true language of our liturgical worship in the Latin Church. It is always permitted.  (cf. can. 928)

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council explicitly mandated (SC 54) that pastors of souls make sure that people can both speak and sing the parts that pertain to them also in Latin. This has not been obeyed.

The implementation of a new translation closer to the Latin original is also an opportunity to reattach our ourselves to our forebears and reclaim our patrimony… and obey the mandate of the Council.

This will also provide a way to reopen the vast treasury of sacred music that is part of our inheritance as Catholics. All these years we have been given the dross when the true riches have been kept from us.

In some places this reintroduction will mean taking baby steps. We can bring in Latin a little at a time until people are used to the idea again.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. shane says:

    “The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council explicitly mandated that pastors of souls make sure that people can both speak and sing the parts that pertain to them also in Latin. ”

    Alas, such a task (like catechism) is probably much harder now than in the early 60s given the practical abandonment in the interim of Latin in Catholic schools (both in forming students in Sacred Music and as a secular subject).

  2. Frank H says:

    I know a priest who routinely does this. Any chance the reader is from Portsmouth, Ohio?

  3. dnicoll says:

    I’m swimming the Tiber at the moment, and asked our priest about Latin services. He said he had stopped doing them because no-one knew the Latin any more. To me that is a real shame, but then as a convert I’ve tried to immerse myself in all the beauty that is Catholic worship and service. And that included practising some Latin. At the moment I’m having to do ‘live translation’ during the Mass, because when the priest says “The Lord be with you” my first response is “et cum Spiritu tuo”

  4. JohnW says:

    I hope and pray that one day I will hear that at my home parish. I mostly attend Mass in the Extraordinary Rite.

  5. Velle Mere says:

    EWTN’s televised daily Masses use both Latin and English.

  6. nanetteclaret says:

    In this day and age of world-wide travel and communication, it seems to me that Latin in the Mass is needed even more than it was in the “olden days” when people rarely moved from one place to another. My understanding is that that is the reason many parts of the EWTN televised Mass are done in Latin – because people all around the world watch it.

    I can understand the readings and homily being in the vernacular, but at least if the rest were in Latin, we would all be more unified at Mass. The absolute worst is a “bi-lingual” Mass – where some people are saying the Our Father (or Creed, etc.) in English and some in Spanish – all at the same time! It makes me think of the Tower of Babel, and certainly is probably not what Our Lord meant when He prayed that we “all may be one.” If all of us have to read across the page to translate from English into Spanish or vice-versa anyway, I don’t understand why we can’t just read across the page to translate from Latin into our own language, whatever it may be. Having a bi-lingual Mass, but not a Latin N.O. makes no sense, whatsoever!

  7. Supertradmum says:

    Has not our good Pope been an example of this mixture as well in the not so distant past? Happens here at the only Latin NO in the country-Maltese and Latin mix every Sunday.

  8. Ed the Roman says:

    I’ve been saying the Latin non sum dignus for a long time.

  9. Gulielmus says:

    In the Archdiocese of Washington it’s been pretty common for years for a small amount of Latin to be used at Masses, even in some parishes where it was a real surprise. Most frequent in my experience was for the Agnus Dei to be in Latin, or the Sanctus– rarely both. I agree that it’s a step in the right direction, small or not.

  10. Here’s something I found some time back:

    Pope Paul VI: “There is nothing to prevent different parts in one and the same celebration being sung in different languages” (i.e., Latin and vernacular; Sacred Congregation for Rites, Musicam Sacram, 51).

    Also, while the new Missal is deficient in omitting the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, nevertheless, it includes several parts of the Ordinary in Latin.

    Finally, the U.S. Bishops issued a document several years ago, “Sing to the Lord,” that specifically encouraged at least some parts of the Mass being in Latin often enough so folks would know them.

  11. rakowskidp says:

    The priest who celebrated our Sunday Mass did the same thing. Did the reader mention a city or parish name?

  12. Centristian says:

    I recall that last year my pastor was told that a parishioner had complained to a staff member about the fact that the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei were sung in Latin during Lent. This parishioner was upset and indignant because she felt that to sing parts of the Mass in Latin was in defiance of Vatican II! Imagine!

    Her wild misunderstanding isn’t wholly surprising, and can be attributed to the fact that so many of those who have spoken with the Church’s voice over the past several decades have all but supplanted Catholicism with what I’ll call “Vatican II-ism.” But this “Vatican II-ism” that they have promoted over Catholic tradition hasn’t got much to do with the Second Vatican Council at all. It reflects, instead, what has been termed by many the “Spirit of Vatican II”. It reflects a total misperception and distortion of the teachings of the Council and therefore a very warped notion of what the Church is meant to be like today.

    For Catholics like this scandalized parishioner, “Vatican II” doesn’t mean Vatican II at all, but rather, all the unfortunate deformations that occured largely on account of the cutural upheaval in the Western world, an upheaval that began just as the Council was concluding and which, alas, infected the Church to a devastating degree. This “spirit” was so embraced by the clergy and so fiercely defended as the “Spirit of Vatican II” that it continues to predominate and to deform our liturgy and our Church today, even to the point that Catholics question whether it is appropriate or even licit to use the Latin language in the Latin Rite!

    Matters are so disturbingly upside down, at this point, that’s it’s easy to despair of a resuscitation of the genuine character of the Latin Rite of Christ’s Church without some manner of Divine intervention. There are signs, here and there, of course, signs of a correction–a reform of the reform–that wants to come about, but there are more signs still that that correction, that reform, hasn’t got much of a chance of prevailing in a universally transformative way anytime soon.

    The “trickle down” reform theory that is evidently the favored plan of the Holy See at the moment (a trickle down of reform from the papal liturgy down to the parish level) doesn’t seem to be working very efficiently, to be honest, but nobody anymore seems to have the stomach to simply lay down the law and let the chips fall where they may. Suggestions are made from on high all the time…but we do not see much in the way of firm mandates for reform. I think it’s time the Holy See kicked things up a notch.

    In the wake of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI issued mandates left and right, from matters as profound as the publication and enforcement of a new Missal to matters as minor and mundane as regulations concerning what sorts of capes, robes, and even hosiery clerics were permitted to wear. When Paul really wanted to see things change (for better or for worse), he didn’t make subtle suggestions or attempt to set a quiet example…he laid down the law. He mandated the changes. They weren’t mere suggestions or possibilities, but commands: You WILL say Mass according to this new rite. You WILL NOT wear mantellettas or buckled opera pumps any longer.

    Today, as strange as it seems to say it, we could use a bit of Pope Paul’s heavy-handedness in the implementation of the “reform of the reform”. The Western Church needs real reform very badly, right now. Quiet examples and hints and subtle suggestions and expressions of hope for a reform that might just be on the way if we don’t mind very much are insufficient at this juncture, I think. If we’ve reached a point where Catholics imagine that it could actually be illicit to employ Latin in the liturgy of the Latin Rite of the Church, then meaningful actions need to be taken. There is no spirit of obedience among clergy any longer. If they aren’t told they must do something, most will not. If they’re just hearing suggestions, most will ignore those suggestions.

    Lay down the law and let the chips fall where they may. So many will grumble and kvetch. So what? Let them. So some protest and have a hissy fit. Is that a reason not to do what must be done? So laity and priests and even prelates split and create their own man-made “churches” as a response to the reforms. If any can so easily do that then they really weren’t alive in Christ’s authentic Church to begin with and they may as well.

    Restoring and maintaining the integrity of our Latin Rite, of our Roman liturgy, of our Faith, is worth the risk of any splits or public dissents. Mandate use of the Latin language for the Canon of the Mass, reform the way the Mass of the Roman Rite is celebrated, and let the chips fall where they may.

    Tu autem Domine miserere nobis.

  13. guatadopt says:

    It isn’t being obeyed because they don’t teach Latin in seminaries. Therefore….wait for it….priests dont know Latin themselves.

  14. I’ve seen the flexibility to mix Latin and vernacular work well with a funeral Mass where family members not into EF vs. Latin OF issues desired the greatest reverence possible (with perhaps a bit of nostalgia), and many present were only OF acquainted. For instance, a largely Latin OF Funeral Mass celebrated ad orientem with incense, priest in black Roman vestments. The readings, dialogues and responses, and prayers of the faithful were in English. No schola was available to chant the Latin propers, which instead were chanted by the celebrant, and part of the congregation sang the Kyrie (Gr.), Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and In Paradisum (text provided) in Latin. The priest chanted the Preface in Latin, but spoke the Roman Canon with a very quiet voice that lent a … well, funereal … effect, and might not have offended a devotee of the silent canon. A man and woman chanted alternately (and well) the verses of the Latin Dies Irae after communion before the blessing (a very apt time, it seemed). There was no eulogy as such, instead the sort of brief sermon about sin and death that one might hear at an EF Requiem Mass. Suffice it to say that–with a palpable emphasis throughout on prayer for the repose of the soul of the departed–the effect was unlike the usual vernacular funeral. Indeed, since the EF alternative under the circumstances might have been a low Mass without chant or incense, it seemed to me that the flexibility afforded by the OF (regarding ceremony and sacred music as well as language) was a distinct advantage. Though I suspect that some in attendance thought it actually was a TLM.

  15. Tina in Ashburn says:

    There is nothing wrong with mixing Latin into the vernacular Ordinary Form. This should be encouraged. Many years ago, my pastor did this in his Masses. This increased the familiarity of Latin for many and opened minds to the acceptance of Latin, and the Extraordinary Form as well. Father would regularly say the consecration in Latin, sidestepping the “for many” vs. “for all” quandary in the old ICEL translation. The choir typically sang the Ordinary in Latin, in which the congregation joined.

    This same priest had many vocations result from any parish he lead.

    For any priest who is unfamiliar with the Extraordinary Form and wants to learn the Latin, plus bring his parishioners along, mixing Latin into the vernacular OF bit by bit is an excellent start.

  16. AnAmericanMother says:

    Our parish has been doing this for awhile.
    Every first Sunday is “Latin Sunday” – Kyrie (yes, I know it’s Greek), Gloria (in season), Credo, PaterNoster and doxology, Mysterium Fidei and response, and Agnus Dei all chanted in Latin. Cue cards are in the pews, with chant melodies in modern staff notation. Our younger priests tend to add more Latin — fortunately the choir is prepared with a more extensive cue card so that we can follow along.
    The congregation is pretty enthusiastic about the whole thing. A couple of Sundays ago, it was announced at the beginning of Mass that a confirmation class of about 85 Methodist middle-schoolers was visiting, and that must have put parishioners on their mettle, because they raised the roof!

  17. jhayes says:

    Henry Edwards sais: “The priest chanted the Preface in Latin, but spoke the Roman Canon with a very quiet voice that lent a … well, funereal … effect, and might not have offended a devotee of the silent canon. ”

    The GIRM (32) requires tht the Eucharistic Prayer and other “presidential parts” be spoken in a “loud and clear” voice.

    The “presidential” prayers are :

    30. Among those things assigned to the Priest, the prime place is occupied by the Eucharistic Prayer, which is the high point of the whole celebration. Next are the orations, that is to say, the Collect, the Prayer over the Offerings, and the Prayer after Communion. These prayers are addressed to God by the Priest who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ, in the name of the entire holy people and of all present.[43] Hence they are rightly called the “presidential prayers.”

    It appears that applies to the Mass in Latin as well as English and whether said “versus populum” or “ad orientum”

  18. jhayes says:


  19. ipadre says:

    If she came to Holy Ghost, she would have heard the Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and the Mysterium Fidei.  That is all we ever do at all sung Masses.  Including the Gloria when sung and we even throw in a little Greek with the Kyrie.  We have been doing this for at least seven years.

  20. elaine says:

    Our priest cycles Latin in and out of the novus ordo Mass depending on the liturgical season. When he is in a Latin cycle he chants the Mysterium Fidei and we chant in response “Mortem tuam annuntiamus, Domine, et tuam resurrectionem confitemur, donec venias” It is lovely.

  21. jbpolhamus says:

    Today at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in San Diego, at the end of the noon mass, I was gold to “Go Forth,” literally “Ite.” I really enjoyed that. I knew that my priest wasn’t reading a comic book on the alter. And as I went forth, I couldn’t help thinking of all the improvements that have been made to the long abused and neglected St. Joseph’s, and what might be in store in the next phase of the restoration program, beyond moving the baptismal font from in front of the St. Joseph side altar to the narthex, and reducing the size of the enormous and monolithic 1970’s lectern. I truly felt exultant. I felt like I was strolling down the promenade deck of the Barque of Peter. My spirit magnified the Lord, and I really felt like things were moving in a better direction, practically speaking, for the first time in a long time. It was an early Christmas present. Laus Deo!

  22. picayunelayman says:

    Did some one already mention “Sacrosanctum Concilium” #54 second paragraph?

  23. BobP says:

    Same with SC #36 first paragraph.

  24. Geoffrey says:

    Considering how everyone in the parishes I frequent are embracing the new/revised English translation of The Roman Missal, I don’t see how some Latin could be tossed in every so often. Even the “Breaking Bread” missalettes in the pew have some simple Gregorian chants in the back!

  25. Cavaliere says:

    The implementation of a new translation closer to the Latin original is also an opportunity to reattach our ourselves to our forebears and reclaim our patrimony… and obey the mandate of the Council.

    But Father, do you want to live in a museum? You’re not Vatican II.

    I found this gem of a statement from a book published in 1966 written by a Mary Perkins Ryan. It is titled, “Has the New Liturgy Changed You?”

    It seems as though we must go forward toward forms of Catholic worship that are beautiful and living. Latin is not a living language for American Catholics. Gregorian chant is not a living musical language. The Latin liturgy and the treasures of Gregorian chant have become museum pieces. we may appreciate and love them—but they cannot serve the needs of Christian life today.
    Our ancestors who came to this country had, in many cases, to leave many values behind them in order to create a new life in a new country. So Catholics today have to leave behind much that is truly valuable, as well as much that is not, in order to live the Christian life in today’s world, not in yesterday’s, as the Church is asking them to do. We can’t live in a museum anymore, even if what is in it is more beautiful than what is — as yet — outside. And the fact is that the Church faces such vast problems today becuas Catholics have been too museum-minded during the past few centuries.

    Ironically she goes on to say

    But this does not mean that we ought to reconcile ourselves to the poor English and the second-rate music that characterizes far too much of the present liturgy… Our job today is not to cling to or regret the vanishing of old modes of expression. It is to do whatever we can to encourage and create the new ones that Christian worship and Christian life need today. . . For to live in the present and to be ready to embrae the future is always the Christian attitude.

    No doubt this lady would despise the recent improvements in the translation even though they are better than before, as she admitted then that they could be.

  26. Mitchell NY says:

    A big part of the Hermeneutic of Continuity would be to see Latin as a part of every Mass even in the Ordinary Form. While this part of the Liturgy Constitution continues to go ignored the Second Vatican COuncil will never be fully implemented. In this day and age it is easier than ever to learn a few prayers or the Ordinary in Latin via the internet. When everything else we do not know or understand is “googled” so can be the prayers of the Church in Latin. It makes the Vatican look silly to claim that Latin is the language of the Church and to go through one’s lifetime and never hear it at Mass or in the Church.

  27. Steven says:

    Some of the seminary priests typically sang the mysterium fidei (and we responded in Latin) until the new translation went into effect. Now we usually use the English.

  28. Jayna says:

    One of the priests in my parish here in Chicago started doing that recently. Just around the time we started using the new Gloria and Sanctus, but prior to the full implementation of the new translation. It’s amazing how two little words could make me so excited.

  29. Winfield says:

    At our parish in the northern part of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, we began singing the Agnus Dei in Latin last year, and in Advent and Lent (only, alas) we began singing the Kyrie in Greek–not everything that many of us would like, but it’s a start. No other Latin is ever used, and only Eucharistic Prayer II is used, year round, said, never sung, regardless of the day or season. No incense, ever. But the trends seem to be in the right direction locally and nationally, and I have hope that the ars celebrandi here and elsewhere will continue to improve, little by little. We have a long way to go.

  30. Tom says:

    After reading this post and subsequent comments I was a little confused. I thought the Ordinary form in Latin was a normal thing? At my parish we have the Latin Ordinary form where all the prayers are chanted in Latin (including the Introit, Gradual etc.) and only the readings are in English. I think this mass is what the reform of the liturgy was actually about, because it bears a lot of continuity with the Extraordinary form (prayers, incense, bells), especially if the first Eucharistic prayer is said.

  31. AnAmericanMother says:

    If you’re not too far away, come down to Holy Spirit Atlanta sometime and visit. On a First Sunday.

  32. TGWWS says:

    Actually, in the Arlington Diocese it’s not uncommon for priests to do a “mixed” Novus Ordo. Variations range from N.O. Masses said entirely in Latin, with the exception of the readings, Gospel, and other variable parts (Preface, etc.), to Masses said mostly in English, with only the sung parts in Latin.

    (Incidentally, for this reason–because Latin Novus Ordo Masses are common in the Arlington Diocese–quite a few friends of mine were underwhelmed both by the Motu Proprio allowing the celebration of the E.F. and by the new translation of the N.O. If you’re already going to an N.O. Mass that’s 3/4 Latin, where the priest celebrates ad orientem and communion is received kneeling under one species on the tongue, and the choir sings Gregorian chant … :) But of course, I realize that our diocese is a lucky exception in having parishes like this.)

  33. Jayna says:

    Winfield: Your parish wouldn’t happen to be in John’s Creek, would it? Sounds a bit like the one I was in before I moved. Though incense wasn’t used regularly, they did use it on major holidays.

  34. Joanne says:

    The pastor at my EF/OF parish does this during the OF Mass, and did it when he was parochial vicar at the nearby OF parish I go to sometimes. We used to sing the Gloria in Latin too at the EF/OF parish, but now we use the “new” English translation during the OF Mass. This parish also uses Latin hymns during the Processional and the Offertory, and at Communion time.

  35. I wonder whether the new English translation will push aside Latin in parishes which previously have regularly had the Kyrie in Greek and the Sanctus and/or Gloria in Latin.

  36. Winfield says:

    AnAmericanMother and Jayna: I’m not terribly far from Holy Spirit and know it’s an impressive parish, and I’ll do my best to drive down on a First Sunday. I’m further away than John’s Creek, though. Mass is celebrated with dignity in my parish, and for that I’m grateful–no ad libbing from the pastor. Lots of hand-holding during the Our Father, although not by me; some grand old hymns, and some insipid “songs.” I’m sure part of the problem is that the pastor is the only one in the area and is, consequently, too overworked and too tired to take what he may see as unnecessary steps in celebrating Mass.

  37. AnAmericanMother says:


    Can’t guarantee that you won’t hear a tacky hymn or two . . . . we have a few VCII types around like everyone else, and they have to be thrown a bone now and then. But you’ll hear good Gregorian and some 4 part Anglican chant (on the Psalm) as well as first class choral music from High Renaissance on down to good moderns (Taverner, Vaughn Williams, Faure). The preaching is sound and orthodox, the hand-holders are scarce, and the Mass is celebrated with dignity here. Glad you enjoy that benefit too – not everybody does. And you’re right, it’s harder for one priest with multiple parishes to do everything that a rector with the luxury of two parochial vicars and three deacons can manage (even with 2000 families) (not all of which show up simultaneously, thank goodness, the church wouldn’t hold them).
    Come up to the choir loft and make yourself known. I look just like every other little Black Irishwoman, but my husband is the Viking in the bass section.

  38. Winfield says:


    Thank you for the invitation. I’ll do my best to get to Holy Spirit and seek out you and your husband–the Viking! The service sounds lovely. Holy Spirit must be the most dynamic parish in the archdiocese, or near the top. I actually lived in Duluth (Ga.) when we became Catholic years ago and attended Mary Our Queen back when it was still a “storefront church.” Fr. David Dye brought us in–a prince of a man. We then moved out of the region for well over a decade. Thanks again and it’s good to be in touch.

  39. AnAmericanMother says:

    Any time, we’d be pleased to see a fellow WDTPRS-er! This Sunday there will be a treat — “Creator alme siderum”, chant, with parallel organum in fifths and thirds . . . and handbells! The Viking will be ringing.

    We’re certainly a busy parish, what with the school and all! And Monsignor never rests, so far as I can tell.

    I agree that Fr. Dye is a prince – he was good as an Episcopalian minister, way back when, and he is better – even great – now. I sure hope that his parish is able to accomplish saving that church building and moving it from Buffalo – if anyone can do it, he can.

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