QUAERITUR: Vernacular only readings in traditional Low Mass?

From a reader:

We have a priest that insists on reading the epistle & gospel in the vernacular for each Low Mass only. No one cares for it and it doesn’t even sound right. It impacts the integrity and fluidity I think of the Mass. Despite resistance we are left with no choice as he does it anyway. How do you feel about this?

I have written about this before.  It concerns Summorum Pontificum 6.   The explanatory document from the PCED, Universae Ecclesiae, says:

26. As foreseen by article 6 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, the readings of the Holy Mass of the Missal of 1962 can be proclaimed either solely in the Latin language, or in Latin followed by the vernacular or, in Low Masses, solely in the vernacular.


In Solemn Masses or Sung Masses, Latin only or Latin followed by vernacular.  Never vernacular alone.

In Low Masses, Latin alone, Latin followed by vernacular, or vernacular alone.

I do NOT think that what is permitted here should be imposed on congregations who don’t want vernacular alone.  That would be a terrible idea, if people don’t want it.  People should respectfully, politely, express their request for Latin only, or Latin followed by vernacular. Politely… did I mention politely?

Remember, Summorum Pontificum permits this.  I can think of some occasions when I might be good to do. I bet you can too.

But to impose the vernacular only option – non-traditional option – on a congregation that clearly doesn’t want it that way? Let’s call that arrogant insensitive clericalism.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I see no problem in vernacular only readings for Low Mass. It will certainly make it shorter, which is good for Low Mass. [Latin only is shorter.] We all join with great enthusiasm for the low mass Leonine prayers to St. Michael and the three Hail Marys, which are in English.

    We should make every effort to have as many as possible Sung Masses. For this we need a choir or a good Cantor (which is what the ICK tends to use). It is the sung mass that attracts new Catholic recruits to the TLM, and I imagine must also be most pleasing to God.

    We are so lucky that the heartless prohibition of the TLM introduced by Paul VI has been cancelled. We must do everything in our power to keep it, and the main thing is to offer High Masses. I do not sing in the choir, but compensate by giving as generously as possible. The TLM is a great investment for humanity, and we do not know how long it will be allowed. Hopefully for a long time, but better to get as many EF masses as possible while we still can.

  2. Cantor says:

    We ask a great deal of our priests with regard to Latin Masses. It requires sacrifice and extra work already for many of them to respond to the request of what is, in my experience, a fairly small number of congregants.

    In this case, it might well be that Father feels inadequate proclaiming the Word of God in Latin without sacrificing even more time for such preparation. If “no one cares for it” then get yourselves the English-Latin side-by-side books and read along while he speaks the English.

    For heaven’s sake, give the priest a break!

  3. Gaz says:

    The priest who celebrates our local EF Mass usually proclaims the readings in Latin. His effort in this regard is laudable. He decided to proclaim the readings for Passion Sunday in English and this was well received in our little congregation.

  4. Inigo says:

    I think it’s total nonsense, to allow the readings to be read in the vernacular in a low mass, but to prohibit it in sung masses or solemn masses. What is the difference? Why is it OK in low mass, which is a de-solemnified version of the mass, and usually attracts only the hard-core latin fans, and why is it not OK to use the vernacular in a solemn occasion, that will most likely have a more diverse group of faithful for example a nuptial high mass? I fail to see the logic in this. Also, if it is OK to proclaim the readings in latin first, and then in the vernacular, then why can’t the priest at a solemn mass double the readings, as he did prior to 1962, and after this the deacon and the subdeacon could sing it in the vernacular?
    I think this is one of the most silly rules regarding the EF. An other is that an instituted acolyte (who is canonically speaking equal to the subdeacon of old according to Ministera Quaedam) can only serve as a straw subdeacon…but I digress.

  5. iowapapist says:

    To the reader: When I was a little boy, my father told me about the man who complained about having cold hands until he saw a man who had no hands at all. Since the practice of conducting the readings in the vernacular is licit, please be thankful that you have a Latin Mass. Many of us out here in the liturgical wasteland would gladly exchange our situations for yours. I’m with Cantor; use your 1962 missal, or other publication, to follow the readings in Latin. I have done this with the ordinary parts of the Mass at Novus Ordo celebrations on many occasions for purposes of recapturing a sense of the sacred (it works).

  6. VexillaRegis says:

    I too agree with Cantor: Give the priests a break! Priests, servers, organists and other musicians (choir directors et al.) need some space. Please do not rush to the sacristy or the organ loft to tell Father or the music director what they should do or do better next time. Leave the language thing to the priest :-)

  7. James Joseph says:

    I was at a Wednesday evening Mass, in the middle of nowhere Utah America’, (I drove 75-miles to go to Mass in town) where the priest did the vernacular translations of the readings at the homily; two people in the church…. a parking lot literally LOADED with minivans and moms picking-up their kids from the ‘nice Catholic folk’. The odd thing was they were the readings for the Ordinary Form.

    He’s a good pistol bearing priest. Probably had a tired day. It must be rough. Maintains he a blog in fact! I think he serves as an archmandrite for the Eastern folk. Incidentally, when I lived in Maine, the city where the Cathedral honestly does not actually do confessions, the only priest willing to Latin things-up was an Eastern priest, who drove a couple hours south.

  8. APX says:

    May I also suggest laying off the priest on this? Perhaps the congregation could use this as an opportunity to practice humility and respect for the priest and his authority as the head of their congregation? Since he’s not doing anything illicit, this is really just a matter of preference.

    I’ve noticed this attitude amongst Traditionalisfs (as have some Tradional-friendly diocesan priests), and all they do is hurt their cause. I was asked to ask a diocesan priest I know to fill in as a subdeacon. He was hesitant because he was worried about making a mistake and having a traditionalist shoot him for it. He agreed, and did the best he good, which from what I could hear was excellent. Nevertheless, someone came up to me a few days later only to tell me that he messed up the epistle ending flexes. Even worse, I’ve witnessed Tradionalists complain about priests using the OF Rubrics when saying the OF instead of the EF Rubrics. Umm, that’s what they’re supposed to do!

  9. Jackie L says:

    While permitted everywhere, the intent of this may have been to allow the readings in the vernacular in places where that had been the custom prior to the Vatican II.

  10. Rellis says:

    My parish has a TLM low Mass every Thursday evening. The priest reads the epistle and gospel in the vernacular. No one seems to mind or care.

    Given that this is a valid option (and in keeping with the direction the Mass was clearly going in 1962), I don’t see what the big deal is.

  11. APX says:

    Furthermore, if this is daily Mass, doing so allows the majority of Mass-goers the opportunity to know what the readings are about. Not everyone has a daily Missals.

  12. VexillaRegis says:

    APX: Thank you! Some people think that they are entitled to make impromptu reviews of the Mass they just attended. It usually starts with: “A nice church you’ve got here, but why are the carpets red/green/old? You should buy new ones, just like we did in our parish. Doesn’t your pastor know that (an obscure Saint) criticised the use of #¤%&” in the liturgy? You, being the organist, should remind him of that. And, BTW, why didn’t your (quartet) choir sing Handel’s Hallelujah chorus today – we heard it in Westminster Cathedral last year, THAT was something! Weeelll?”

    The TLM tends to attract the same kind of people as stamp collecting, train spotting and other hobbies like that. Not everyone is there to meet God, no they get a kick out of detecting, reporting and discussing the mistakes they hear and see.

    I don’t think the Reader above falls into this catogory, but please be gentle with your priest. Instead of commenting, just thank him for today’s Mass! Have a beer and calm down.

  13. Cool Catholic says:

    In a different post, there is the phrase “homo homini lupus… sacerdos sacerdoti lupissimus”. Google Translate comes up with “lupissimus priest … the priest is no free lunch”. Can someone please give a better translation.

  14. VexillaRegis says:

    Cool Catholic: Here you are. Look at the seventh paragraph : http://www.jcmckeown.com/fch12.php?PHPSESSID=413e62880258330a555b3807b111f256

  15. wolfeken says:

    The weird part is hearing a priest (and they are almost always Reform-of-the-Reform priests who use vernacular at a Latin Mass) read the Epistle and Gospel in the vernacular while most of the congregation hold handmissals with Latin on one side and the vernacular on the other.

    Personally, I now avoid a TLM that has English readings. So for those who say no one seems to mind that there is English at a Latin Mass, perhaps you are not taking into consideration that fans of Latin at a Latin Mass have left for other locations when the vernacular is regularly used.

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