ASK FATHER: Marriage rite in the traditional form but Novus Ordo Nuptial Mass? Wherein Fr. Z rants.

From a  reader…


I have a friend who is seeking to get married. Due to various factors, the priest doing the marriage doesn’t know enough Latin to do the EF Mass, but could do the EF marriage rite. That said, is it permissible to do an EF wedding rite followed by an OF Mass, either the OF wedding Mass or the OF Mass of the day?

Wellll…. do one or the other.

And, frankly, … excuse me for a moment but…


This is YOUR RITE.

What does it mean for a priest who doesn’t know a) the language of his rite and b) the RITE of his Rite?

“I don’t know Latin!”

Some say this with sincerity and it wasn’t their fault … at first.

But Latin has been around for a while, priests of the Latin Church have known about Latin for a while, and Latin is NOT algebraic geometry.

Forgive me, dear lay readers.  I get frustrated when I hear about priests who won’t put their backs into learning some Latin. Little boys can learn the responses, after all.

As I cool a little, I note that the priest in question is willing to do what he can, the marriage rite.  And good for him.  I’m sure this is a good man – a good and busy priest – with a lot of things on his plate.

Yet another priest who was cheated and lied to in seminary and ripped off in his formation by formators who blatantly violated Canon Law with their eyes wide open and a smirk.

Seminarians and priests… now bishops, too… were victimized.  They were cheated of their patrimony.

Men should want to rise up and claim what was uncharitably and illegally denied!  Don’t just lie there like a victim.

On the other hand, there are also priests out there who give lip service to tradition and yet do not apply themselves.  They talk a lot, but they won’t do the work.   And it wouldn’t take them all that long if they would just put a couple of their projects to the side and really go all in.  At least for a while.

Some times I hear what is turned into an excuse not to do the work to learn Latin: “St. John Vianney had a hard time learning Latin.. and he’s a saint!”

Well… yeah.. St John Vianney struggled with Latin and other studies.  SO?!?  That doesn’t mean that he didn’t try.  He struggled by he TRIED!  He worked on it. He learned enough Latin and his other topics to an adequate point that he could be ordained.

He learned enough Latin to say Mass.

John Vianney didn’t have to learn enough Latin to write odes in Alcmanian strophes or declaim with Ciceronian clausulae. Perhaps if today’s priests are being hampered by, I dunno, something akin to the French Revolution and the Terror or being drafted into the army, we could cut a little slack.   St. John struggled, but he tried.  In contrast to his exemplary holiness, he may not have been the sharpest knife in the drawer.  But saints try.   St. John tried.  If he could try, then we can try.

Back to the topic.  Mechanically, I guess one could have the marriage rite at one point and then a Mass at another point.  But…

Fathers. I know that the Latin thing is daunting. It seems to be really hard. All good things worth pursuing are. The Enemy of your soul will try to keep you from it by planting doubts. Muscle through.

Start somewhere. Anywhere. Duolingo. Rosetta stone. Good old dependable Wheelock.

Sorry, dear lay people.  Sometimes it just has to come out.  Maybe some of you out there will encourage your priests to learn Latin and be willing to provide resources, etc.

Comment moderation is on.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Wheelock is excellent for self-study. I recommend getting the workbook as well. But you must persevere. Commit least an hour a day to studying the language. I am 59 years old, and although I have learned many languages when I was younger, my memory is not as good anymore. Struggling with Latin verb conjugations and noun declensions has been a big blow to my pride, more so since I can speak French. Perhaps it is fear of looking stupid, even to oneself, that is the barrier.

  2. Fr. Reader says:

    Some time ago, I think two years ago, I mentioned in this blog that in the Seminary in which I teach, the Rector mentioned in front of the Latin professor and the seminarians, that one of the problems of the European Church was precisely Latin (I suppose he meant before VCII), and Latin was almost a taboo in the ecclesiastical circles.

    Around that time the staff of the Seminary changed almost completely, with new formation team and some new professors, especially younger priests from different institutions and backgrounds.
    The new rector is not exactly a traditionalist, but he understand a bit more the importance of Latin.
    Recently during a meeting of professors, the Latin teacher (also new) explained with enthusiasm what he is doing to help students to learn, use and sing Latin. They were no negative reactions, no criticism, no fear of showing love for Latin.
    In this country our languages are non-European, and most seminarians do not speak any European language, so Latin is really is a big challenge.

  3. Ms. M-S says:

    Those priests who would use St. John Vianney, Solanus Casey, and others in religious life who didn’t have the gift of language learning as cover would do well to stop short and reflect on how these holy men spent untold hours hearing confessions or counseling at the gate, building up the Faith and the faithful. Would it really take untold hours for the NO-trained priest to learn enough Church Latin (a language with no native speakers to carp on pronunciation) to say the TLM?

    The NO Mass seems to have coincided with a growing number of priests who look on the priesthood as a job whose stripped-down demands they can live with and whose benefits they can settle for.
    Malcolm Muggeridge observed that Christendom was effectively gone but that Christianity was eternal. It seems easy enough to see that in this era we each have to do what our station in life and abilities suit us to do.

  4. JonPatrick says:

    Not trying to trivialize the effort involved, but it seems to me that learning to say the Extraordinary Form in Latin would be a lower bar than the normal effort to learn a language. After all the texts are all written out for you in the missal and the altar cards. One had to know how to pronounce the words correctly and generally understand the drift of what they are saying. But you don’t need to be able to conjugate the verb to be in the subjunctive mood. Not that it wouldn’t be helpful to actually be able to read and speak the language. Not something I was ever good at and I envy people who can do it.

  5. Danteewoo says:

    Father Z, thanks for the rant. “Seminarians and priests… now bishops, too… were victimized. They were cheated of their patrimony.” Add the laity to that list. Church has got the seasons of the year wrong. The New Springtime of Vatican II is clearly a long, bitter winter.

  6. Fr. Kelly says:

    Thank you for this, Fr. Z
    And a word to priests. I have not found a priest who wants to learn the Old Rite/ Extraordinary Form/TLM (Whatever you want to call it …. The Mass) and who is careful about celebrating the new form well and accurately without cutting corners (like always taking the shorter options) who I have not been able to teach to say the Old Rite at least as a low Mass.

    That being said, if you really want to be able to take up the rest of our Latin Rite, even if only for the sake of the faithful entrusted to your care, the best way I can recommend to prepare (besides studying and recovering your patrimony in the Latin Language) is to celebrate the Mass carefully, reverently, taking the first options where they occur. (Penitential Rite A with the Confiteor and the Kyrie, offertory prayers said quietly, Eucharistic Prayer 1 – Roman Canon, don’t let your fingers which have touched the Sacred Host touch anything else until you have purified them, don’t make up an alternate intro to the Our Father, be intentional about actually praying the celebrant’s prayers before the fraction, etc.) When you give Holy Communion to the faithful, as you say Corpus Christi, recall for each one the prayer you prayed over yourself when you received Our Lord. “corpus Christi custodiat me ad vitam aeternam”

    Building up this habit will make it relatively easy to adapt to the celebration according to the Olf Rite. after all, roughly 95% of the words are exactly the same. If you learn them in one, you have them for the other

  7. Charles E Flynn says:

    In this case, grand theft liturgy is being prolonged by grand theft language.

  8. Titus says:

    I wonder where Father’s interlocutor is. We’ve been spoiled here in Nashville for some years by the fact that almost every new priest for the last decade can say the TLM, so you can always find someone for something like this. Father’s interlocutor should ask around and find someone to help out. I doubt he’s close to here, but Father should send him my way if somehow he is, and I might be able to put him in touch with the necessary people.

  9. @Julia_Augusta:

    Here’s a suggestion: Spend some time looking at tables of Latin declensions and conjugations. You will start noticing patterns, and the patterns will help you quickly identify the forms: all pluperfect subjunctives have similar features, for example. The tricky part of Latin is figuring out why a particular form is used: why the dative here and the genitive there, for example. I’ve found Allen & Grenough’s New Latin Grammar to be very helpful in this regard.

    French and other Romance languages evolved from Latin, but not, as you undoubtedly know, from the formal written Latin of the classical and medieval authors (and also the Catholic liturgy), but from the slangy, simplified street Latin that people, especially the lower classes, spoke in everyday life. By the sixth or seventh century A.D. no one without a formal education could understand formal Latin–and people had to learn Latin in school, just as they have to do today. You would find Mildred K. Pope’s From Latin to Modern French (1934 and way out of print but still to be found) a fascinating book. She explains how such indispensable French words as dans or sous or tres can be traced back to colorful (and highly ungrammatical) Latin slang usage probably dating to the first century A.D.–which can help us understand and appreciate today’s colorful slang usages in English. Other Romance languages followed similar trajectories.

    I’m sure that before Vatican II, most parish priests’ Latin comprehension was terrible. They’d probably taken Latin in high school and were forced through more of it in seminary. They undoubtedly simply memorized the Latin they needed in order to say Mass and were helped along by missals and altar cards. But they had one advantage that today’s priests struggling with Latin don’t have: They were surround-sounded by Latin as the language of the Church. They heard it everywhere from church choirs to papal encyclicals. That was an advantages that today’s priests don’t have.

  10. Fuerza says:

    Getting Started with Latin, as well as the second level, Keep Going with Latin, both by William Linney, are excellent texts designed for self study and homeschoolers. I’m using the first to teach my kids Latin right now and it’s awesome. Certainly a priest could take the initiative and go through both books in only a matter of a few months of part-time study. From there he would certainly have enough background to start to memorize and accurately pronounce the Mass, perhaps using the tutorial on the St. John Cantius website.

  11. aflusche says:

    I’m told we live in “Catholic Disneyland” here in the Diocese of Arlington… Yet we continue to ordain priests who don’t know how to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass. Priests are STILL being cheated in their formation.

  12. A friend of mine suggested that I should study Greek in order to read the New Testament in its original language and said that I could be proficient in six months if I put my mind to it. If true, since Latin has to be considerably easier for a native speaker of English, maybe three or four months?

  13. iamlucky13 says:

    A thought for the questioner:

    Is the priest’s concern that he doesn’t know Latin, or that he does not know the extraordinary form? I would think the latter is actually the bigger challenge. At least he is open to the idea in part, which is a good start.

    Would you be interested if he would consider Mass in the ordinary form in Latin? I still think it would merit some study on his part beforehand to be properly prepared to celebrate Mass this way, rather than mechanically read it and struggle over pronunciations, but since he already knows the ordinary form, I imagine it would be much easier than learning the full extraordinary form.

  14. APX says:

    I’m sure that before Vatican II, most parish priests’ Latin comprehension was terrible. They’d probably taken Latin in high school and were forced through more of it in seminary.

    At least where my grandma grew up, Latin was taught throughout elementary school right up until high school. She was fluent in Latin. I suspect she may still have retained much of the language. Latin used to be part of the basic curriculum.

  15. Let us remember that, back in the day, the daily Office was in Latin.

  16. The Masked Chicken says:

    A recent FRI study of language acquisition among older people (+40?) found that the brain uses both right and left hemispheres to read a foreign language, but seems to exclusively use the left hemisphere to speak the language. Thus, in theory, it is easier to learn to read Latin than to speak it, off-the-cuff. If one is merely reading Latin out loud, however, it should be no more difficult to do that than to learn to read it. Thus, it is not that difficult to learn to read Latin, even out loud, but carrying on conversations might be substantially more difficult.

    The Chicken

  17. Charles E Flynn says:

    Here is what Google Translate makes of The Chicken’s posting:

    A recens studio linguae FRI in senior populus acquisition (XL?), Qui inventus est in sinistra cerebri hemisphaeria jacet, et utitur utroque jure legere linguam alienam, sed solum videtur uti lingua loquor ad sinistrum ejus hemisphaerium. Sic in doctrina, discere legere Latine est facilius dicere quam eum,-the-off COLAPHIZO. Si modo est aliquis legens ex voce Latine autem id non sit magis ad facere, quam difficile est scire legit illud. Et sic, non est facile discere legere latine, ex magna quidem, sed sermonibus gerendum esset substantialiter magis difficile.

    et Pullus

  18. The Masked Chicken says:

    That should have been fMRI, not FRI. FRI (usually, with batter or bread crumbs) is what you do to chickens on any day of the week except FRIday.

    The Chicken

  19. StOlavssøn says:

    Father, I have a question and am not savvy enough to know how to ask other than entering a comment. It’s this: must my mother attend Mass for the first RCIA initiation rite, or can it be done privately? She is 78, high risk due to autoimmune disease as well as age, and finally, after much prayer along a difficult road (her patron will be St Monica), almost home. Your guidance would be much appreciated. God bless you.

  20. StOlavssøn says: my mother attend Mass for the first RCIA initiation rite, or can it be done privately? She is 78

    Of course. The pastor has great discretion in this. It can all be done privately, without RCIA. Private instruction is usually better anyway.

    Talk to him.

  21. StOlavssøn says:

    Thank you, Father!

Comments are closed.