Speaking of 50th anniversary of vernacular Masses… BUGNINICARE! (Revisited)

In some circles there has been some panting whoopdeedoo about the fact that 50 years ago Paul VI celebrated Mass for the first time in a Roman parish in Italian.

I posted on the parish once before, some time ago.  I noted a photo from a friend of mine in Rome of the marble plaque and inscription commemorating the event.  Apparently the first plaque was damaged.  The replacement they put waaay up high, though it shows signs of people having thrown things at it.  There are stains.   I guess the event wasn’t embraced with universal joy.

Anyway, I was reminded of my post called BUGNINICARE (after Annibale Bugnini who engineered the dismantling of the traditional Roman Rite and the so-far-wildly-successful Obamacare).  What a gift they both have been.

Here is, once again, BUGINICARE, written for the anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium.




(Socialized Worship)

Taking his cue from post-war European national health care programs, Annibale Bugnini, assisted by a small circle of spiritual-care specialists and church policy makers, spearheaded a massive overhaul of the Catholic Church’s spiritual care system in the 1960s. The centerpiece of “Bugninicare” was a program known as Novus Ordo, so-called because it introduced a New Order into the regulation of the Church’s worship. The NO regulations were aimed at extending spiritual-care benefits to those for whom active participation was previously thought to be inaccessible. Bugninicare guaranteed that barriers to full participation were removed, thus permitting access to spiritual care on the part of ordinary believers. Bugnini and his consultants were convinced that the costs their programs would exact would not be excessive.

Special guarantees were built in to Bugnini’s socialized spiritual care system to protect the rights of women. The program also reached out to previously disenfranchised sectors of the general population, ensuring that mainline Protestants, Pentecostals and charismatics would no longer be excluded from participation. In fact, Bugninicare so lowered the bar of spiritual care throughout the Church that other obstacles to full participation, stemming from language, education, religion, gender and sexual orientation, were also effectively removed. The goal of equal distribution of spiritual care in the Church was now guaranteed. Novus Ordo was designed by Bugnini as a monopoly, a “single-provider” liturgy that would allow no room for competition from previous forms of spiritual care delivery. In order to ensure that élite types would not be able to opt out of the Novus Ordo, spiritual care decisions in the Church were left to a small circle of bureaucrats, headed by Bugnini.

Images for your contemplation.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    I think for his penance, Bugnini will be forced to attend and actively participate in the Extraordinary Form for all eternity. Maybe it was the late Archbishop who St. Pio saw doing his purgatory by the high altar.

  2. Dundonianski says:

    A wonderful tapestry of what was (and is) valid and licit; my sympathies to the SSPX!

  3. Bosco says:

    Speaking of Mass in the vernacular, anniversaries, and Bugninicare, Father Z., I thought fellow readers of your post would like to remember that Mario Palmaro, the Italian Catholic pro-life champion and faithful orthodox outspoken son of the Church, died one year ago today, March 09, 2014.

    Before his death he devised a plan to outwit authorities were they to deny him the opportunity to have a Traditional Roman Rite funeral Mass celebrated upon his death, which they did. Mario Palmaro had his Traditional Mass.

    May Perpetual Light shine upon him.

  4. govmatt says:

    So often I want to comment with anger when I see this kind of stuff, but by the time I get down to the combox, I’m just sad.

    There’s such a terrible concoction of superiority, triumphalism, progressive politics, and condescension in this that it does make you debate back and forth whether this is “good intent gone horribly awry” or “evil” (or both?).

    I pray that God’s mercy for the priests and Bishops who gave authority to this mess is more encompassing than mine would be… and I pray for all the souls that have been lost because of these “reforms.”

  5. mburn16 says:

    We’ve discussed many times before the numerous flaws in the application of the NO, but in many cases it is also getting tagged for things for which it makes no provision. Nothing in any liturgical reference on the Novus Ordo calls for women to don a stole, for Children to come dance around the altar, or for giant papier-mache puppets to be paraded about the sanctuary. I am thoroughly unconvinced that those who engage in these practices would do any better with the TLM. It is not, after all, as if the Novus Ordo cannot be celebrated reverently.

    Certainly we need substantial liturgical reform. But I would caution anyone against adopting a viewpoint that the ONLY thing needed is to go back to the TLM exactly as it was and leave it at that…as if human capacity to develop and perfect reverent worship mysteriously terminated in the 1570s.

  6. Gerard Plourde says:

    A clever parody article concerning sloppy and less than reverent celebrations of the Ordinary Form. I look forward to your serious treatment of the anniversary illustrated with photographs of St. John Paul and Pope Benedict giving example of the Form’s correct celebration.

  7. benedetta says:

    The marking of this anniversary seems, to me, to have been a bit of a triumphalist confirmation that, yes, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass may be offered, for all comers, in the ugliest and most grotesque terms imaginable.

    And why not. We are living in a culture that celebrates, in triumphalist manner, a lying sort of humanism that dictates that we must live with one another in and on the ugliest and most grotesque terms imaginable.

    Father Ciszek and many others like him had to resort to offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in confounding ways, and yet born out of necessity from attacks on the Faith from within and without, in many places the Faith survives to rise to live for one more day. I have become convinced, and this is solely my personal opinion, that people have it reversed: in the NO, Jesus is in hiding…in the TLM, a public, unafraid worship, unaffected by political storms from here or there, continues. That so many now happily and serenely reject the hippie clown mime lifecoach talk show edutainment wise shaman namaste buddha political pep rally self celebrational forgettable ditty bread and wine meal at the table come in your basketball sneakers and shorts on the way to the gym vacuous smiling taking communion in the hand whilst on the go and jocularingly but not with joy and be less than you are because yolo and whatever and 60s abortion based feminism and we’re too dumb to learn Latin but too smart to kneel, “experience” , to me is an indicator of the sort of trial Holy Mother Church is turning a corner on, at long last.

  8. One thing we did not hear from the Bugninicare reformers was “In you like your old Mass, then you can keep your old Mass.”

  9. Legisperitus says:

    Henry Edwards: No, that was just what we heard from Sacrosanctum Concilium! But they had to pass the Novus Ordo to see what was in it.

  10. Robbie says:

    I celebrated the 50th anniversary of Paul’s Mass in vernacular by attending the traditional Latin Mass.

  11. anilwang says:

    You really need to put up a warning “Do not eat lunch while watching the photos”.

    Ultimately, I think the core of the Bugninicare damage is the turning of the Priest away from God and towards the people. If this never happened none of the above pictures would be possible since it would force all the “spectators” to “disrespectfully” turn their backs to the congregation. It’s also responsible for parishes moving the tabernacle off to the side and replacing it with the priest’s chair, since it would be obvious to the priest and everyone else that we’re worshiping himself, and consequently it would reduce the perceived need of the priest to entertain his parish during mass.

  12. scholastica says:

    Lord, when will you come to cleanse your temple?

  13. Sonshine135 says:

    Stars for Henry Edwards and Legisperitus this morning! I’d just be happy if I could look for a proper Mass across state lines or negotiate with a Priest.

    In all seriousness though, I agree with mburn16 to a point. I enjoy the Mass of St. John XXIII very much over the Ordinary Form, but I concur that when we celebrate the Mass from 1962, we are locked in a calendar from 1962. For example, I celebrated St. Thomas’ feast day on Saturday and back in February on the new calendar. I would love to see the calendars reconciled and one form of the Mass. Perhaps the Mass would follow the ’62 rubrics, but with the option of being celebrated in the native language. Any changes made; however, should have the consent of the Episcopate, which to my understanding, the current Ordinary Form did not have.

    Don’t shoot me. I am just brainstorming here. I think any growth in the Mass or reconciliation of how the Mass is said should start with the 1962 Mass, but I wonder how much support that would actually get.

  14. raininnewark says:

    Henry Edwards wins the Internet today – or at least a Gold Star for this post.

  15. HighMass says:

    Question for Father Z,

    Do you think the revision of the N.O. will ever happen, or done away with????

    The Damage Bugnini and his cohorts did…..Masons???

  16. SaintJude6 says:

    Henry Edwards,
    If you get to Dallas, dinner is on me.

  17. Athelstan says:

    Setting aside everything else, I have grave difficulty believing that some of the hosts depicted are unleavened bread.

  18. Charlotte Allen says:

    Hmm, Wikipedia says that Bugnini was secretary for Pope Pius XII’s Commission on Liturgical Reform and under Pius brought about some reforms for the liturgy of Holy Week that seemed to be very positive: moving the time of day for celebrating the liturgy of the Triduum from the morning (which never made any sense) to the afternoon (Good Friday) and the evening (Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday). The Bugnini liturgy for Holy Week is very beautiful, and it survives in both the 1962 missal for the Old Mass and the current Novus Ordo. These efforts of Bugnini’s seem to represent a genuine effort to restore the liturgy of the early medieval church.

    Bugnini also served as secretary for the Vatican II commission that produced Sacrosanctum Concilium, the council’s liturgical-reform document. While it may or may not have been a good idea to allow Mass to be said in the vernacular, that document did call for preservation of the Latin liturgy and Gregorian chant, as I recall.

    Did Bugnini go off the rails after that? The Novus Ordo isn’t my favorite thing on earth, and there didn’t seem to be any need for a drastic overhaul of the Mass. But it certainly can be said reverently–as it is in my own Dominican parish in Washington, DC.–and quite frankly the weekday no-music Novus Ordo Mass in my parish church seems in many ways an improvement over the “low Mass” of the old rite, which can go by in such a blur that I can’t keep up with it in my missal. If you have only 20 minutes for a Mass–because people have to get to work–there’s a point to some simplification.

    As for the hilarious photos above, it strikes me that the Novus Ordo was a necessary but not a sufficient cause of the abuses they record. There’s a whole lot wrong with the way it’s conducted in many churches, starting with the music, but it’s not to blame for everything that went wrong.

    Thus, if I were pope, I’d do yet another liturgical reform and synthesize the old Mass and the new, for the best of both worlds. Perhaps that will happen some day.

  19. magister63 says:

    Father, you forgot this classic which was fairly recent!

  20. moon1234 says:

    In Rorate’s posting they noted that the first Vulgar Language Mass also ushered in some radical (at the time) new changes. The Pope said Sunday Mass in local Parish instead of his normal Cathedral. He was lowering the status of the Papacy for no reason other than to usher in a new Mass. It seems Many Bishops also noticed. There is also a table altar used instead of a High Altar.

    Much of the abuse of the NO comes about because the Rubrics are not as strict as they were in the TLM. If it does not say “Do it this way” or “Face this direction” then many assume that it is up to the individual to decide what to do or which way to face. The TLM, with the say the black do the red, is despised not so much for it being old as it was for being rigid in application (which reduces abuse) and for being too Catholic.

    A non-Catholic Christian would not, most likely, feel comfortable at a TLM if they were not Catholic, yet they feel fine at the NO. Why is this? Could it be that the NO resembles a protestant service more than it does the TLM?

    In any event, I am of the firm belief that we attend the TLM, be outwardly happy and open to other Catholics and hope that they follow us to the TLM. The DST time change last Sunday forced some late sleepers to come to the TLM (which is the last Sunday morning Mass). We made it a point to say hello and that we were happy to see them. Hopefully this helps them to feel more comfortable. Once they start coming, they rarely stop.

  21. Charlotte Allen says:

    Here’s a photo of Pope Paul VI saying his first Mass in Italian in 1965. It doesn’t look that bad: [What does Italian look like?]


  22. andia says:

    You forgot this: http://www.westernjournalism.com/church-receiving-criticism-seahawks-display-altar-super-bowl/

    I am relatively newly bak to the RC church…and this breaks my heart and makes me wonder what I came back to.

    God Bless the good and faithful priests!

  23. magister63,

    I’m shocked. It looks like the swimming pool priest is actually wearing his stole outside his chasuble!

  24. rdschreiner says:

    What? No ordination tambourine?

  25. albizzi says:

    There was a strange double game played by Bugnini and Paul VI, according to the comments the late Fr Louis Bouyer has made when he resigned from the commission in charge of the liturgical reform.
    If truly the Pope Paul VI had been deceived by Bugnini, why did he enforce the NO mass anyways?
    In addition why did the Pope allowed things going as if the Latin Mass had been definitively suppressed and replaced by the NO? The bishops who forbade the “usus antiquor” were guilty of a serious abus of power since Benedict XVI said that it never was abrogated.

  26. mamamagistra says:

    One of the unintended (although some may argue intended) consequences is that there would be fewer and fewer clerics with a high enough degree of ordination to practice. Consequently, the majority of the population would only be able to receive transubstantiated matter from lay practitioners, which in turn would result in a loss of confidence in the entire system.

  27. Uxixu says:

    The Ordinary Form has just about all of the elements from the old Mass (though there are serious… issues with the Offertory as well the explicit Epiclesis adopted in contradiction to the theology of the Roman Church for the last 15 centuries). The readings and propers in the vernacular are entire appropriate. That said there is no good reason that the Canon and the Ordinary should be in anything but Latin for the Latin Rite and a number of good arguments (and citations in Sacrosanctum Concilium) why they should not be in the vernacular as it was going all the way back to at least Pope St. Gregory the Great in the 6th century. The other Eucharistic Prayers should probably be suppressed, the banal protestant hymns banned in place of sacred Chant, etc etc.

  28. mburn16 says:

    …there are also good arguments for the vernacular. At very least, for maintaining the communal prayers and the readings in the vernacular. Tell me, which is more likely to bring someone to the faith: that I, as an English-speaking American could go to mass in Botswana and hear it in the same language (which I don’t truly speak) as at home…or that someone off the street who is not yet a Catholic could nonetheless attend a Catholic liturgy in their own country and fully understand what was being said? Decisively, we must agree the latter.

    As for hymns….well lets just say I cast my vote firmly against getting rid of hymns. Choosing which hymns are appropriate is a far more challenging and subjective matter of taste. Good theology can be accompanied by bad music, and bad theology can be accompanied by good music.

  29. I read somewhere — wish I could remember where — that the most damning indictment of the Novus Ordo is that it can be celebrated reverently.

  30. Ben Kenobi says:

    Well. There goes my appetite.

  31. The Professor says:

    The photo of the “women priests” is hardly a fair argument since they are not Roman Catholic. I have no doubt that clown Masses and other events have occurred, but at least that photo above is not a Catholic liturgy. So, to blame the ordinary form (for at least that example) seems like a stretch.

  32. mobrien says:

    I left the Church after my first “guitar” Mass. I was never around for the puppets, the bowls of crunchies or the dancers — seems I did not miss much. I came back when the Extraordinary Form was permitted to be celebrated. To me the Extraordinary Form is Extraordinary! An Extraordinary source of grace.

  33. Gerard Plourde says:

    I note that the picture of Pope Paul VI celebrating the Ordinary Form in Italian resembles photos of Pope Benedict’s celebration. By all appearances it is reverent. It is an official Mass of the Catholic Church. This site rightly takes to task those who mock the or seek the suppression of the Extraordinary Form. Should not reverent celebration of the Ordinary Form be accorded the same treatment?

  34. benedetta says:

    For those who are still practicing Catholics who came into adulthood in the 1950s, they will say thoughtfully and I think quite validly that the ability to hear scripture in the vernacular and connect that to the prayers has been helpful overall. The catechesis they have received and benefited from in that process is thanks largely to Catholic media such as EWTN and blogs such as this one.

    But we have to be honest. A great number have actively particified themselves right out of any practice or connection with the Faith. The jury is in on the argument that the changes, themselves contrary to VII, prevalent in some places now as THE NORM for NO Mass, were things people for the most part desired and liked and helped them become more active: the people have spoken and with that sort of Mass, they really can’t be bothered to do that instead of going to the supermarket on Sunday morning. I expect it is quite similar in most places in the country as well. The ones who still go somewhat regularly have endured or suffered a sort of “reverse catechesis” where all the special flourishes and fancy touches one encounters in the typical NO Mass have been rationalized on quite explicitly political terms, sometimes with political goals that are very contrary to Christianity itself, which defy charity. Thus, these regulars believe they are participating actively in a political end, sadly instrumentalized by the powers that be. For true freedom of worship in some locales the TLM is the only place — for further reading on that point see Mosebach’s book.

    As to the vernacular, of course, quality catechesis which includes scripture for young Catholics actually is a better way to educate them both as to scripture itself and the Catholic senses of reading as well as the Mass and everything else one would be interested or needful of with respect to tradition, than NO attendance alone, because one may then discuss, read in context, read chapter to chapter over time, look at background, etc etc., and have time and space to pray on it. In many NO Masses the readings themselves have become dramatic interpretation/amateur theatre time with opportunity to reflect a bit reduced. When one grows up with the propers of the Mass and the readings, one has a much broader and contemplative experience of scripture as well. And, let’s be honest. The same people who are pro clowns for the Mass are also interested in prohibiting people from reading scripture authentically.

  35. Uxixu says:

    mburn16, note that I distinguished between the Propers and Readings versus the Canon and Ordinary (the parts that are the same every single Mass).

    To turn your example around, a non fluent Catholic might miss the reading or follow along in the hand Missal to keep up with the readings and be entirely lost in the sermon, but Catholics everywhere would hear it every week and know exactly what was happening for the Canon and Ordinary in Latin whether they were in Rome, Paris, Los Angeles, Munich, Trondheim, Westminster, Onitsha, or Hangzhou.

    Your argument OTOH works great for fragmenting churches which is the antithesis of the unity that Latin gives the Roman Church. That fragmentation is most prevalent in the schismatic Orthodox and manifest as ethnic and national autocephaly.

  36. williamjm says:

    Let me ask this question: would there have been more conversions to the Church if the vernacular had been spoken in the Mass throughout the Church’s existence?

  37. Gerard Plourde says:

    Dear Benedetta,

    I regularly attend an Ordinary Form Mass. It contains no flourishes. The readings are given in a simple, straightforward manner without dramatics. The homily is direct and reflects an aspect on the subject of the readings. Having been thus prepared, I am ready to attentively be present to the central action of the Mass – the unbloody Sacrifice that unites us to Our Lord’s on Calvary and to receive Him Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Communion. We should be thankful that the Church in her wisdom recognizes the value of all Her licit forms.

  38. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Back on 13 February, Fr. Z introduced us to a hubristic quotation from a 1978 book by Fr. Joseph Gelineau. When I read something like the following, I wonder how wide and varied the critique of abuse was during the first decade of ‘Bugninicare’:

    “there us a tendency to ‘desacralise’ the Eucharist, a reaction against a widespread failure in the past to recognise that its context is a community meal. Christians do come together for a meal. But it is a meal which is also a sacrifice, that is, a means of union with God. They bring their everyday lives to it but in order to transform them. So it is most strange that a renewed realisation of the Eucharist’s relevance to our lives should lead to the conclusion that it should be celebrated in a casual manner, in slipshod language, without beauty or dignity and even without any kind of awe. The ‘liturgical revival’, which was so urgently needed, will have proved a failure if it does not help Christians to pray [“pray”italicized in original]. A reaction against individualiztic piety can lead people to behave as though prayer meant nothing but ‘getting together’. It means getting to God, and each if us is related directly to him.” (Dom Illtyd Trethowan, Mysticism and Theology (published 1975, copyright 1974): a monk of Downside Abbey for 42 years by then, he had also lectured at Brown University, producing two books of those lectures in 1970-71, to which this one was indebted.)

  39. jacobi says:

    It really is time there was a proper investigation into Bugninni and what he was up to. Maybe this has been done. If so I would like to know. But clearly his overall influence was malign.

    I understand he was ”posted “ away twice, the second time permanently. There was clearly great tension between him and Paul VI, a very weak and irresolute man. Bugninni had a clear idea of what he was up, whatever that was, and Paul had some idea of it also.

    The best analysis so far has been by Michael Davies who was in no doubt that Bugninni was an active Free Mason and therefore had the destruction of the Catholic Church at heart. Wiki has surprisingly little to say about him.

    What is clear is that the usurping of the Second Vatican Council by the “ Relativist” movement and the widespread collapse in Western Catholicism that has resulted from this is very much in line with what the Masonic movement would have wished although others also would have wished that. This collapse is comparable with the destruction that followed the Protestant Reformation. But then Freemasonry is a product partly at least of the Protestant Reformation.

    It really is time that we had a proper analytical investigation taking in to effect the material which now must be available.

    Surely there are plenty of good professional Catholic writers out there!

  40. Gerard Plourde says:

    I would be cautious regarding Michael Davies claims since he supported Archbishop Lefebrve’s consecration of bishops in direct disobedience of St. John Paul.

  41. Marc M says:

    “Let me ask this question: would there have been more conversions to the Church if the vernacular had been spoken in the Mass throughout the Church’s existence?”

    Well, let’s be honest with our history here… it has. For the first couple hundred years, Mass was presumably in Greek or Aramaic, right? We still retain a snippet of the ancient Greek liturgy in the Kyrie. That was their vernacular, and the Church did flourish. Then Latin became the norm because it too was, remember, the vernacular at the time. Hence the “Vulgate” translation of the Bible. The “common” language version, in Latin. Latin remained the common tongue of the human race in the West until the last hundred years or so. Everyone would know a little Latin the way that you can travel across Europe today and everyone knows a little English.

  42. Prayerful says:

    That Freemason and his concilium who drew up that Protestant service have done untold damage.

  43. donato2 says:


    In an article that appeared on La Stampa’s Vatican Insider website, Enzo Bianchi gushed about the alleged fruits of the new Mass. According to Bianchi the new Mass has occasioned a spiritual renewal over the last 50 years. After reading that I wondered “What universe is that man inhabiting?” How could anyone living in today’s Europe, with its empty Cathedrals, monasteries that have been converted into hotels, and surging Islamic influence, possibly speak of “spiritual renewal”? It is unbelievable what denial some people live in.

    I am convinced that at least in the West the new Mass is destined for extinction — not in my life time but within next few generations. The current teacher, parent and student rebellion in San Francisco is the true fruit of the new Mass. The spirit that gave us the new Mass sprang from France, Germany, and Belgium and it is precisely in those countries where the devastation is most advanced. The rest of “new Mass Catholicism” in the West is heading down the very same path, and the pontificate of Pope Francis is accelerating the process.

  44. Gratias says:

    Let them celebrate the 50th anniversary of Paul VI’s recklessness. It cost us dear, and drapes over the altar and tabernacle were but a starting point. Considering how the wind blows we might better keep our heads down under the radar lest they cancel our old Mass. Every time any Catholic can attend a TLM it helps keep the Faith. OTOH remember that 99% of Catholics attend the Reformed liturgy, which is all they have experienced.

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  46. Athelstan says:

    Hello Marc,

    Then Latin became the norm because it too was, remember, the vernacular at the time.

    Yes, but we should be clear that it was never a “street Latin,” but an elevated and even hieratic form of Latin. Even in a nominally Latin speaking society, there was still the sense of liturgy in a sacral language. Perfect comprehensibility and didactic purpose were not the paramount considerations.

    Obviously there is ancient precedent for liturgical languages other than Latin. But the vernacularization instituted in the 60’s has little in common with those traditions.

  47. TheAltarBoy says:

    Oh how much I praise Cardinal Ottviani and Cardinal Bacci for their intervention against the work of Bugini.

  48. Athelstan says:

    Hello Charlotte,

    Re: Pius XII’s Holy Week Reforms:

    There’s no time or space for me to unpack all of your observations about the Holy Week reforms of 1951-55. A couple observations must suffice: 1) I think you understate the extent and nature of the overhaul undertaken of Holy Week under Pius XII – NLM did a multi-part series looking into all of the changes in 2009 here . The changes were quite extensive (affecting much more than just the Vigil), though undoubtedly motivated by the desires you highlight. Formerly, the most important part of the Triduum was Paschal Matins and Lauds, which would be sung in the evening of Holy Saturday with great ceremony, including the ringing of the Church bells and the unveiling of icons and statues. Doing the Mass at that time eliminated the most important office of the year.

    2) The Bugnini liturgy for Holy Week is very beautiful, and it survives in both the 1962 missal for the Old Mass and the current Novus Ordo. Actually, very little of the 1955 Holy Week reforms made into the Pauline Missal (1970). The 1955 Holy Week was swept away in the later reform, very little was left of it. It was used universally for a very short time. You can read more about those changes in the NLM link above.

    I do agree with you that the Modern Rite can be celebrated in a reverent manner, such as as the Dominican parish of which you speak (I have been there too, living as I do in DC). Alas, such celebrations appear to be the exception, not the rule, and if this is not entirely the fault of the missal itself, the great range of options it allows does seem to encourage the unfortunate kinds of creativity and experimentation that seems to prevail in so many places.

  49. robtbrown says:


    I take issue with your historical assumptions, which, IMHO, are based on a progressive matrix.

    1. The Vulgate was not so called because Latin was the common (vernacular) language. In fact, there were already other Latin versions of Scripture. Rather, it was referred to as the Vulgate because it was intended for common, (universal) usage rather then the other Latin versions.

    2. It is also false that Greek was the vernacular. Mass was in Greek because it was the language of the New Testament. Although Greek was known in Palestine, it certainly was not the vernacular. Further, Herbrew, not Aramaic, was the language of Jewish Rites.

    3. The role of Latin in the Roman Empire is fairly complex. It was the language of the Empire, i.e., of government and commerce. The city of Rome was loaded with immigrants who likely were not well versed in Latin. Further, it is unlikely that peasants in Gaul spoke Latin. How would they have learned it?

    4. Thus, the liturgical change from Greek to Latin that occurred hundreds of years ago was not a move to the vernacular. Rather, it was a move to the language of Empire.

    5. To re-state what I have written here more than once: If the Church in 1965 had done what it did hundreds of years ago when Latin replaced Greek, English would have mandated as the liturgical language throughout the West—Europe and S America.

  50. Legisperitus says:

    I would love to see the pre-1955 Sacred Triduum liturgy restored someday. Some of the things Bugnini did there make no sense, except as preparing the ground for his later work.

    For example, the pre-1955 Holy Saturday Mass began with the lighting of a three-branched candlestick, known as the “reed,” from the blessed fire. The reed symbolized the Holy Trinity. Then the Paschal Candle was lit from the middle candle of the reed, symbolizing the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. But in Bugnini’s revised Easter Vigil, the reed is abolished and the Paschal Candle is lit directly from the fire. Why discard this clear piece of Trinitarian symbolism in favor of a more confusing image of Christ?

  51. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    1. Which is also to say that Latin was a common, intelligible language in the West (notably including North Africa).

    2. Which is not to say that it was not a common, intelligible language throughout the ‘ecumene’ since the conquests of Alexander the Great: the context for the Septuagint and the not inaccurate term ‘koine’. Jewish synagogue practice seems to have variously included Aramaic and Greek glossing of Scripture readings. Hebrew was never, so far as I know, the liturgical language of the Syriac (or Aramaic-speaking) churches.

    3. Indeed, there seem to have been Greek services in the city of Rome (though not, I think, only Greek services) for centuries. I’d be inclined to think that the role of Latin in the western parts of theRoman Empire is so complex, that we should not to sweepingly say it is unlikely that (many) peasants in Gaul spoke ( a certain amount of) Latin. They could have learned it from their landlords, priests, troops stationed nearby, and so on. There are certainly pre-Christian Latin inscriptions in Gaul and Britain. Where did the Romance languages come from? Large populations speaking (vulger forms of) Latin.

    4. Greek seems to have become less widely known in the western, Latin in the eastern, parts of the Empire. Was Latin not (a kind of) vernacular for much of the population of Italy and other parts (was something other than Latin Tertullian’s or St. Augustine’s first language, for example?).

    5. A fascinating thought, though surely there was also a huge ‘Hispanophone world’ then – but as the commonly intelligible international language, eclipsing the places of French and German, English would already have been ‘it’.

    Intelligible (if not perfectly intelligible) liturgical languages seem to tend to become established and continue so successfuly as such that they become less intelligible in the process, with the passage of time – Greek in Eastern usage, and Slavonic, being as lively examples as Latin (though one may also think of the Syriac, Coptic, and Ethiopian cases).

  52. Marc M says:


    A couple of fair points, but I think you’re making unfounded assumptions as well. The Vulgate was a revision of older Latin texts, yes, but it was embraced because it was useful- it was a superior translation. It wasn’t imposed, it wasn’t even universally promulgated for another thousand years. It would have been neither useful nor necessary if Latin was not a common tongue; if it was intended for scholars and clerics alone, they would just as well have read the Greek originals (and there was already a Greek Vulgate).

    Mass was in Greek in the places where Greek was the vernacular. It most certainly was in Aramaic in places where that was the vernacular. Maronites still retain an Aramaic liturgy today, as well as a couple other Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches, I’m pretty sure. And yes, I’m sure there were Hebrew liturgies as well in places. That’s my point.

    Therefore, regarding #4, yes, you’re right- but my point was not to say that the vernacular was somehow always the norm until Trent came along and changed things; rather, 1. that there were periods in Church history where the vernacular was the norm and yet the Church grew and flourished, and 2. that the role of Latin in the world today is unlike the role of Latin in the world at any point in the past.

  53. williamjm says:

    Perhaps the premise of my question was faulty. Should the Mass be a tool for converting non-Catholics? Isn’t intended primarily for the faithful?

  54. williamjm says:

    I’m sorry, but having thought a little, I realize the premise of my question was faulty. The Mass is intended for the benefit of the faithful, not as a Protestant-minded evangelization service.

  55. williamjm says:

    Whoops. My apologies for the pre- and post- editing comments. Please ignore the first one.

  56. Charlotte Allen says:

    Latin was in fact the dominant spoken language in much of the western Roman Empire. It was not only the official language but it conferred power and social prestige upon its speakers. In this respect, it was not unlike Arabic, which all but obliterated the existing spoken languages of the Middle East and North Africa after the Muslim conquests of the seventh century.

    The spoken Latin of the Empire was not the classical literary Latin used in documents, inscriptions, and works of literature. It was a “vulgar” or street Latin with a much-simplified grammar and morphology, a somewhat different vocabulary, and many slangy usages. All those features survived into the Romance languages of today.

    Interestingly enough, neither the Old Latin scriptures that preceded the Vulgate Bible (some of which are preserved in the Latin Mass), or the Vulgate Bible itself are written in vulgar Latin, but, rather “Late Latin,” which conforms to classical rules of grammar and morphology but includes vocabulary words and sentence constructions typical of vulgar Latin. These scriptural translations were clearly aimed at making the Bible more accessible to to a wide range of people who weren’t trained in classical literature and style. The Old Latin scriptures and the Vulgate Bible have a simple elegance and beauty–but they would have been regarded as shockingly inelegant to a Ciceronian.

    All this suggests that the language of the Latin liturgy of late antiquity, including the sermons, was probably an elevated form of Latin that would have been comprehensible to speakers of vulgar Latin but was not quite the Latinthat they spoke in everyday life. As the centuries passed and the dialects of vulgar Latin came more and more to resemble today’s Romance languages, even Late Latin became as difficult for uneducated listeners to understand as, say French to an uneducated Italian speaker.

  57. Uxixu says:

    Athelstan reminds me how much I would like to see the pre-1955 Holy Week allowed at least an option by Indult, if not formally restored by a future edition of the Roman Missal (as well as restoring overlapping commemorations and the traditional Vespers to None daily Office instead of 1960’s Matins through Compline, if not putting the precedence of the Feasts over that of the Lenten ferials).

  58. HighMass says:

    Can anyone tell us what the Holy Week was like prior to 1955…was there Mass in the evening On Holy Saturday? When was the Pascal Candle Blessed, Holy Water, etc.

    Does Anyone have a link to the former Holy Week Liturgy??? It is correct that Bugnini put into place or presented to Pope Pius XII the Current Latin Mass Liturgy???

  59. kat says:

    I guess I just do not understand all the fuss about having Mass in the vernacular. I have grown up attending the TLM. As have my children. The sermons are in English. On Sundays and major holy days before the sermon the priest will re-read the Epistle and Gospel in English. The little children who can read often use little missals with a child’s version of the day’s Gospel. By 2nd or 3rd grade, they follow along and read the Propers and Ordinary in the large missal. They don’t need it all prayed in English by the priest. I just don’t get it at all…if children can grow up understanding the Mass, and reading a missal, why is it so necessary that any part of the Mass be said in the vernacular, even the readings?

  60. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    It is not “necessary” (I don’t know what arguments people would make who think it so) – when you say “they follow along and read the Propers and Ordinary” do you mean the Latin text, an English translation, or both (‘both’ is certainly possible and convenient)? Anything said in the vernacular (as anything known by heart) can ‘get the noses out of the books’ (which is not necessary, but can be servicable). The vernacular gives the non-Latin-literate an approximation of the experience of someone who speaks Latin – not necessary, but not valueless either.

  61. kat says:

    I am referring to the hand-held daily Latin-English missals. Thus it is easy to follow along with the priest in Latin, and see the meaning in English. The school children also respond in the dialogue Mass.

  62. Subdeacon Joseph K. says:

    Thanks for the images Father! “Clown Paddy-Cake Mass” is a favorite of mine, but the best one is – without a doubt – “Nuns at a Table with a Smoking Bowl.” A classic.

    What is the fascination with smoking bowls and flaming chalices?

  63. HighMass: “Can anyone tell us what the Holy Week was like prior to 1955?”

    The pre-1955 Easter Vigil with the blessing of the Paschal candle, etc. was celebrated in the morning rather than the evening of Holy Saturday. It contained a good many readings and prayers that were eliminated in 1955.

    Una Voce has published a position paper that summarizes the 1955 changes in the Holy Week liturgy.

    Click here for a Roman Missal site that includes both the pre- and post-1955 Holy Week liturgies.

    Msgr. Bugnini was a prominent member of Pius XII’s liturgical revision consilium (appointed in 1948) and, according to some accounts, a principal architect of the 1955 reform. The work of this commission–of which the 1955 reform was the first fruit–led directly to the pre-conciliar preparation of the schema for the Vatican II document on reform the liturgy, and ultimately of the Roman missal as a whole.

  64. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    Thanks! I thought you meant something like that: Latin text with adjoining vernacular translation is my preference, as my Latin is just not so good as to be sure I can read and understand something, unaided (though the Latin text and the music notes for the Ordinary, or just the Latin text for something I may not have memorized with perfect accuracy).

  65. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Henry Edwards,

    Thank you for all the detail and links!

    My 1979 Solemes edition of the Graduale Triplex (Imprimatur 24 December 1973) includes a ‘Decretum quo approbatur “Ordo cantus Missae” ‘ signed by “Arturus Card. Tabera / Praefectus” and “A. Bugnini / Archiep. tit. Diocletianensis / a Secretis”: do we know what exactly Archbishop Bugnini had to do with it?

  66. I have no particular knowledge of the Graduale Romanum/Triplex, but I understand that the 1974 edition of the Graduale was produced by the Benedictine Monastery of Solesmes, rearranging the pieces of the preceding Graduale Romanum to fit the calendar of the Novus Ordo missal, but without changing the individual proper and ordinary chants. As such, I wouldn’t assume that Msgr. Bugnini had anything specifically to do with it (other than his prior role in the rearrangement of the calendar for the Novus Ordo missal).

  67. HighMass says:

    Henry Edwards says:
    HighMass: “Can anyone tell us what the Holy Week was like prior to 1955?”

    Thanks Henry, interesting to know what those liturgies were like.
    Bugnini did so much damage….and all the confusion that came with the N.O.

    I guess we should pray for his soul.

  68. robtbrown says:

    Marc M and Charlotte Allen,
    Excuse the delay.

    1. I am referring to the Church in the West. Then again, if you want to refer to the Church in the East, it’s important to keep in mind the Iconostasis that separates the celebrant from the people, even during the consecration. And of course, the Rood Screen once found in Western Churches also bears mentioning.

    2. Although Official Language and Vernacular Language are close to being the same in the contemporary West, it was not so when the Western liturgy moved from Greek to Latin—and for hundreds of years afterwards. The Official language was a written language, but the vernacular was spoken. It wasn’t for many years that the written language would influence the spoken language, bringing with it grammar.

    3. Further, the objection to dumping Greek for Latin was not because it was a move to the vernacular but rather because Greek was the language of the NT—and the Septuagint (which was adopted by the Church). It is likely that the movement from Greek to Latin was not meant to adopt the vernacular but rather to oppose it. The Empire had begun to weaken on the borders (cf the warning from Augustus), which began to allow influence of the Germanic languages (cf garcon, which is of Frankish origin.

    4. In ancient Rome the nobility spoke Greek not Latin. NB: According to Suetonius when Caesarspoke to Brutus he did not say Et tu Brute’? Rather he spoke in Greek: Kai su Teknon?

    5. In our times the vernacular can be learned through education and electronic communication. In fact, some years ago friends and I met a young man on the train to Versailles who spoke pretty good English. He had never studied English but picked it up from listening to the Rolling Stones.

    6. How would the indigenous people in, say, Gaul have learned Latin? They were illiterate and didn’t have electronic media. Even later, in the high Middle Ages, much of the populace was illiterate. It is common fare to know that the illustration of stories from Scripture in the windows of Chartres, among others, was because the people could not read.

    7. A distinction must be made between languages that are written and those that are only spoken. Grammar develops through written languages.

  69. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    robtbrown (and Marc M, Charlotte Allen),

    Thank you (all) for the instructive, delightful, and thought-provoking observations!

    2, 7 Even ‘ungrammatical’ uses of language cannot fail to exhibit ‘grammar’ in a more fundamental sense, but the related matters of grammar and style and their relation to ease of intelligibility are interesting. St. Jerome had a dream experience which contrasted ‘Ciceronian’ with ‘Christian’: in the one, generally-intelligible public Latin language there was the danger of higher style working against wider intelligibility. And even in the time of the Apostles there was a contrast between, for example, ‘Ciceronian’ and ‘Senecan’ written prose styles, with the ‘Senecan’ being closer to spoken Latin and ‘easier to follow’ for hearer or reader – yet Cicero’s spoken, courtroom style was (as far as I know) both not radically different from his written (and Senatorial spoken) style and meant to be persuasively intelligible.

    3, 4 Presumably many if not most of the literate would have read – and spoken – Greek and Latin in the early centuries of the Church (whether we think of St. Ireneus in Anatolia and Lyon, or St. Athanasius in exile, or even Pope St. Martin on trial in Constantinople, for three examples), with some kind of general shift in the ease with which one or the other was spoken and read in East and West. In Acts 21:37, St. Paul asks the Tribune (translating ‘Chilarchos’) a polite question in Greek, and he responds in apparent surprise, “Do you know Greek?”

    6 How indigenous peoples would have learned Latin, and the related question of how Latin- (and Greek-) speaking Christians would have brought the Gospel to them are interesting questions. I think I remember Professor Van der Meer in Augustine the Bishop (1961) discussing this as it applied in North Africa, outside the cities.

    Gaul is an interesting ‘question’ as there are still people today whose first language is Breton (with a long Christian history), and as ‘French’ is a Romance (Latin-derived) language rather than Germanically ‘Frankish’ (or Germanically ‘Norman’ for that matter). A lot of Gauls must have learned – and spoken – a lot of Latin for the latter to be the case, while the Gauls of Brittany may not have had their vernacular Gaulish largely eclipsed by Latin, but by a different Celtic language! – in how far that followed, or preceded and helped, their becoming Christians in Brittany I do not know. There are striking Latin and Latin-Christian influences in Welsh, Breton, and Irish vocabulary, such as the words for ‘book’ and for ‘church’ (‘eglwys’, ‘iliz’, and ‘eaglais’, all from ‘ecclesia’), though I do not know if any go back to before the fall of the western Empire or ‘only’ more than a millennium, to later missionary activity.

    Centuries after successful missionary work among the ‘Germanic’ invaders/settlers in ‘England’, we find Alfric beginning his sermons with an (Old) English translation of the Gospel lesson which his flock would have heard proclaimed first in the service in Latin.

    Sts. Cyril and Methodius used the Slavonic they had learnt in their youth in Thessalonica to celebrate the liturgy among the Slavs of Moravia, and were supported in this by Pope Hadrian II against the German missionaries who wanted to impose Latin on them: he laid copies of their Slavonic service books on the altars of the principal churches in Rome.

    1 Audibility is another aspect of the immediate intelligibility of a generally intelligible language, with invisibility behind iconostasis or rood screen being a distinct consideration from whether what is being sung or said is done so loudly and clearly enough for all to understand.

    The accounts of “Iconostasis” by Andrew Shipman and of “Rood” (including rood-loft and rood-altar as well as rood-screen) by George Alston in the old Catholic Encyclopedia are well worth (re)reading. The former says, “Originally the altar stood out plain and severe in both the Oriental and Latin Rites” and notes, “In its present form in the churches of the Byzantine (and also the Coptic) Rite the iconostasis [is] comparatively modern, not older than the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries. It was never used in the Roman churches or any of the Latin churches of the West, and was unknown to the early Church. The modern chancel rail of the Latin Rite correctly represents the primitive barrier separating the altar from the people.”

    That latter explains, “Over such screens was a loft or gallery (rood-loft), which, according to some authorities, was used for the reading of the Epistle or Gospel, certain lections, the pastorals of bishops, the Acts of councils, and other like purposes. The episcopal benediction was also sometimes pronounced, and penitents absolved, from the loft” and “In churches where there were both pulpitum and rood-screen the latter usually had two doors, and between them was placed, on the western side, the rood-altar, which, in monastic churches, often served as the parish altar, the parishioners being accommodated in the nave. This was the case in almost all the monastic cathedrals and greater abbeys of England”.

  70. robtbrown says:


    1. I would think in every primitive, oral language is found some kind of simple grammar, if nothing else a primitive notion of tenses–nothing, however, approaching any distinction between, say, the nominative and accusative. Even though contemporary English distinguishes between the two in pronouns, it does not in nouns, instead depending on, as a primitive language might, word order that mirrors the order of action.

    My point is that there was a strict distinction between written and oral languages when people were illiterate, which was the case hundreds of years ago. As the two grew closer, certain parts of the oral language began to be absorbed by the grammar.

    There is the question of speaking as one writes, or writing as one speaks. As the latter has begun predominate, grammar starts to evaporate. I don’t know where you live, but in America there seems to be a conspiracy to eliminate adverbs. “Really good” has been replaced by “real good”. And “he played well” became “he played good”, which now is “he played at a high level”–an adverb indicating quality became a phrase indicating quantity. Hello, Materialism.

    2. In a Greek community, as Lyons was said to be, some form of Greek was of course the vernacular.

    3. Judaism has a long history of literacy because of the necessity of learning the Torah. By the time Christ was born, Hellenism had penetrated Israel: Greek documents were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Qumran community was nothing if not hard line Judaism.

  71. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    Thanks for your continuing the discussion!

    As you say, Israel was literate and very carefully passing on Scriptures for many centuries, and “by the time Christ was born, Hellenism had penetrated Israel” including not only translations, like the Septuagint, but things written in Greek, which would soon include much of the New Testament.

    So, a lot of the preaching of the Gospel would from the first have been by literate people (or people who could quote Scripture they had learned by heart from hearing it) whether to equally literate (or Scripture-loving) Jews, or to non-Jews of varying degrees of literacy. The further afield missionaries went down the ages, the more it would be the literate (or Scripture-steeped) going to peoples with unwritten languages (in a lot of Europe, and then further: though there were obviously contacts with literate civilizations in Asia and Egypt, too) – or, I suppose too, Greek or Vulgar- or Late-Latin/Romance-language speakers who could not read.

    I suppose, with this in mind, I would be more inclined to say, there were varieties in degrees of strictness of distinction between written and oral languages when most people were illiterate.

    I am not in everyday contact with native English speakers, and probably read a lot more English than I hear, on internet. I grew up where the spoken English probably had a good deal of historical German immigrant influence, so some of the “he played good” I heard might have been ‘Germanism’ rather than adverb-dropping or substituting.

    Though it is more about educated style and usage than grammar, this comment by C.S. Lewis from a letter of 26 June 1956 to a young writer involves grammar, and struck me as very interesting: “About ‘am’t I’, ‘aren’t I’, and ‘am I not’, of course there are no right and wrong answers about language in the sense in which there are right and wrong answers in Arithmetic. ‘Good English’ is whatever educated people talk; so that what is good in one place or time would not be so in another. ‘Am’t’ was good fifty years ago in the North of Ireland where I was brought up, but bad in Southern England. ‘Aren’t I’ would have been hideously bad in Ireland but very good in England. And of course I don’t know what (if either) is good in modern Florida.”


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