ASK FATHER: Using Latin in the Ordinary Form

From a reader…


For about a year now, we have been using Latin for the “Our Father” (sung, BTW) and “Agnus Dei” (also the Kyrie) but the rest is said in the vernacular. When I asked about it, my priest said he hopes to begin saying the EF and this is a way to slowly teach the prayers. Is there anything “wrong” with this? I mean much leeway is given in the other direction, so I like seeing change going more “traditional”.

Wrong with it?  On the contrary!  The more Latin in the Ordinary Form the better.

Latin is the proper language of the public sacred worship of the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Council Fathers had intended that Latin be maintained while giving some space to the vernacular.

A great deal of content is lost in translation.

And if Father is moving toward also using the traditional form of Holy Mass, that’s great.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    We’ve also recently started singing the “Agnus Dei” in Latin. That’s it, but it’s better than no Latin at all. As Father Z says, “brick by brick.”

  2. Bender says:

    During the holy seasons of Lent and Advent, we typically pray the Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin.
    The Kyrie we say in Greek though. A few of the hymns too are Latin.

  3. pannw says:

    Almost the first thing our priest did when he came to my NO parish some 3 (?) years ago was print up cards for each pew with the Kyrie Eleison, Gloria in excelsis Deo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, all chanted. Shortly thereafter, he took out the table altar. He is committed to offer a faithful Vatican II liturgy.

    It is very good. One small thing (maybe not so small) it has done for me personally, is create a real sense of the penitential nature of Advent and Lent, when the Gloria is removed. It is so beautiful in Latin, and I miss it so when we don’t get to sing it. Throw in that he started veiling our gorgeous statues and Crucifix during Passion Tide and it really makes it more so.

    Deo gratias.

  4. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I’ve happily met a spectrum of partially Latin N.O. ranging from Ordinary and Pater Noster through Propers as well, and on through almost everything (often, with added motets) but Lesson, Intercessions, and Sermon. While I’m grateful for a parallel translation of (especially) the Propers, it often underlines that “A great deal of content is lost in translation.”

  5. TWF says:

    Our Cathedral choir regularly sings the Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin- though it’s often polyphony and not something the congregation can sing along with (no complaints here!). Latin in the Ordinary Form is the default with vernacular an option.

  6. JamesM says:

    Latin in the OF?

    How very Vatican II

  7. Latin in the O.F. is an awesome idea.
    Years ago I belonged to a parish where the pastor used Latin at every possible place in the Mass. He introduced it slowly – reducing the shock of change. And at times, he would explain the concepts in sermons. Besides the fact that the Mass is supposed to be in Latin anyway, I consider it an excellent method to introduce Catholics to the heart of the Church and Its traditions. This priest even took to saying parts of the Canon in Latin – at that time a great way to avoid the old more controversial translation for the consecration of the wine.

    For the unsure priest, this method also helps with getting used to the older form of the Mass. Dropping options that didn’t reflect the old Mass as much got us used to a tighter form – and for priests, this will help them become more familiar with the E.F. as they teach themselves. [Priests saying the E.F. privately is a good way to perfect the practice of course].

    Additionally, being of Italian descent, this conscientious priest loved great music and we sang, not only the ordinary of the Mass as chant, polyphony most had never ever been exposed to. This grew into four-part hymns scattered throughout such as Panis and Ave Verum too. Under his corrections, directions, and simple requests, the music just took off – there is SO much good stuff!!

    Better art started appearing in the church too – and yea, you could say it matched better what was now happening in the Sanctuary and the more complex and lovelier music.

    The sung Masses were packed. Standing room. Maybe even clergy jealousy in other parishes… Part of the attraction was the excellent fiery sermons. And his insistence on reverence. For instance, after Mass, he’d be in the back greeting and chatting. But if he heard talking in the church, he would abruptly excuse himself and enter the church and demand silence. Then he’d walk back and finish the conversation. AND he’d talk about confession with those after Mass – many a time he would leave the line with a penitent headed toward the confessional. Right then and there. It was often an encouraged teenager lol.

    Yes Latin is extremely important! But everything else – holy encouragement, charity and kindness, robust teaching, gutsily working through indignant parishioners and even other clergy – all of that counts too.

    So in the end, anybody who attended these Masses were much more open to the use of Latin and the E.F. – and this seemed to create many vocations as our many devout young priests demonstrate.

  8. An OF funeral Mass I attended recently was celebrated mostly in Latin, ad orientem at the high altar, in black Roman vestments, Ordinary, propers, and preface sung in Latin, Roman canon in Latin, with all the Graduale Romanum chants (which for the Mass for the Dead are the same in both OF and EF) sung by the choir, including the gradual (instead of a responsorial psalm) and the Dies Irae (after communion) and the In Paradisum at the final incensing of the body—but with the readings at the altar in the vernacular, as were the sermon and intercessions. No congregational hymns, and no congregational handshake of peace.

    Notable was the apparent unifying effect this OF requiem on the diverse congregation—some non-Catholic family and friends, but the majority probably about evenly split among those who regularly attend the EF and those who likely never do. Perhaps it was the manifest reverence of the Mass that prompted everyone to kneel at the altar rail for communion on the tongue (though I suspect many had never done so before).

    A principal difference between the OF and EF lines in their offertory rites. But here this difference was not perceptible, because the celebrant was facing the high altar and the offertory was silent because it was “covered” by the choir singing the lengthy offertory chant of the requiem Mass—the same in bothboth OF and EF, however rarely if ever heard at a vernacular OF funeral–in English translation:

    O Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell and from the bottomless pit: deliver them from the lion’s mouth, that hell swallow them not up, that they fall not into darkness, but let the standard-bearer holy Michael lead them into that holy light; which Thou didst promise of old to Abraham and to his seed. We offer to Thee, O Lord, sacrifices and prayers: do Thou receive them in behalf of those souls of whom we make memorial this day. Grant them, O Lord, to pass from death to that life which Thou didst promise to Abraham and to his seed.

    Might not regular celebration in parishes everywhere of such “an OF Mass celebrated with EF sensibilities” be an example of what Pope Benedict meant by “mutual enrichment”? This particular Mass brought to mind the fact that the OF does afford some beneficial flexibility—e.g. use of vernacular as seems appropriate for the occasion (which surely is all Vatican II intended)—while allowing for those “EF sensibilities” as well.

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