POLL: Traditional Latin Mass with VERNACULAR readings for low Masses

There are groups which celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass and which, for Low Mass, have their readings in the vernacular. Alternatively, for example on a Sunday, while the priest reads the reading at the altar in Latin, someone reads the readings in the vernacular at the ambo.   This is especially a custom in, I think, France.

Summorum Pontificum says:

“In Masses celebrated in the presence of the people in accordance with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII, the readings may be given in the vernacular, using editions recognised by the Apostolic See.”

Universae Ecclesiae, which is in instruction on the application of Summorum Pontificum says:

Regarding that which is established in article 6 of the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, it must be said that the readings for Holy Mass, which are contained in the Missal of 1962, may be pronounced either in Latin alone, Latin with a vernacular version following, or in read [low] masses even in the vernacular alone.

I’m curious.

Insofar as reading vernacular during or instead of the Latin for the readings (not Latin and then vernacular)…

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Vernacular readings for Traditional Latin Mass (Low Mass) DURING or INSTEAD of the Latin (not first in Latin and then in the vernacular)...

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37 Comments

  1. Thomas S says:

    I think reserving it to Low Mass can be beneficial. We can’t undo the effect of the Novus Ordo all at once, and I think a few nods to the vernacular in the Usus Antiquior can help get more people into the Traditional Mass. I think the Latin is the biggest hurdle for most, but if that transition can be softened a bit, it could have great effect.

    I learned late that while the question of language is important for a variety of reasons, it’s also a bit of a smokescreen. And the Modernists are happy to keep it a smokescreen, distracting from the fact that the prayers of the Mass were eviscerated. No matter the language, the content isn’t what Catholics prayed and believed for centuries. The Novus Ordo of the Mass, the other Sacraments, and the Blessings LIMIT grace.

  2. JPCahill says:

    #2. Okay with that . . . BUT: only assuming use of the Knox or the Douay. I would even be O.K. with the KJV, although judging from your quotation it doesn’t look like Article 6 of SP would be. The RSV would be O.K. but disappointing. The NAB or some others I could think of (what’s that one you used to see bound in denim? “Today’s Happy News in Words of Two Syllables or Less” or something?) would most assuredly not be O.K.

  3. Personally, I would take it a step further. I believe the readings can and should be chanted in the vernacular at a High or Solemn Mass. For the rest of the Mass (for the most part), we speak to God, and many cultures over the ages have used an arcane or non-pedestrian language in addressing the Almighty. (Think of the Jews at the time of Christ, who spoke Aramaic, but prayed in Hebrew.) For the Epistle and Gospel, it is God who speaks to us. Some would say this renders a part of the Mass into an exercise in the didactic, but I would contend that that is what the readings have always been anyway.

  4. iPadre says:

    In public TLM’s I always read in Latin and before the sermon I read them in the vernacular. One exception is on my day off with my mother in attendance.

  5. Anunir says:

    I don’t know enough about the practice of a vernacular reading during the Latin readings to comment on that, but it seems that using the vernacular *instead* of the Latin is something that takes away emphasis from the latria element of the readings which, as far as I understand, is most important. By translating the readings to the vernacular alone, it can give the impression to the faithful (supported by standard NO praxis) that the readings are primarily a part of the Mass to instruct and form the folks in the pews. The readings do fulfill that important role which must not be ignored, but their primary role, like all of the Mass excluding the homily, is first and foremost to offer worship to God. Alongside the sacramental sacrifice we offer in the Eucharist, the whole liturgy is an offering of a “sacrifice of praise”. No matter how beautiful the collects, prefaces, or prayers of the canon are, as human words they can never equal the perfection of the inspired Word of God; these words are given back to God in the liturgical readings as the finest form of “verbal incense” that we can possibly offer to the Most High. When these readings are maintained in Latin (regardless of whether there is a concurrent or subsequent translation read–I’m personally a proponent of the vernacular readings introducing the homily), it serves as a reminder and an emphasis that the readings, just like the Eucharist itself, are offered first and foremost as a sacrifice to God “for the praise and glory of His Name, [which is] for our good and for the good of all His holy Church.” Just a thought.

  6. truthfinder says:

    David L Alexander,
    There has been a longer thought that the readings are part of the worship. Neither didactic nor God speaking to us as the primary reason. Also the reason why previously the priest had to do the reading himself even if the subdeacon or deacon were chanting the readings.

  7. Philmont237 says:

    One of the criticisms that I have at my parish is that the readings are done ONLY in the Latin. Our pastor tells us to read them in English ourselves. While he makes this as easy as possible for selling really cheap missals and printing the readings int he bulletin, there is something about the proclamation of the Word during Mass that speaks to me differently.

  8. Bthompson says:

    I would be fine with readings proclaimed (at least from time to time) at Low Mass solely in the vernacular, and indeed the only things that would stop me in reality is that: I rarely if ever do a public EF Mass (come to think of it, I don’t think I ever have, just folks coming to a private Mass or for folks on retreat; in those cases, I repeat the readings in the vernacular without ceremony before I preach), even if I did say a public EF I am not sure the average lay attendee would even want readings solely in Latin,
    but the biggest reason is that I am not aware of a vernacular lectionary for the EF approved for use in lieu of Latin readings at a Low Mass (as the law seems to require).

    I have the Sunday and Major feasts book of readings from Biretta Books, but I don’t think that is approved to be used beyond the typical informal repetition of readings before preaching.

  9. Padre Pio Devotee says:

    I know the Oratory in Cardiff, England recite the readings in the vernacular during Low Mass.

    IMHO I think the readings in the vernacular is unnecessary because:
    1) The reading of the Epistle/Gospel during Mass is a prayer in itself. The priest is praying these readings.

    2)Most priests read the Epistle/Gospel at the beginning of their homily.

    3) It’s very common for there to be print outs, missals, or even websites to follow along with the propers and readings of the day. I personally use the following website for Mass propers and readings: http://www.extraordinaryform.org/properssundays.html

    I think there needs to be a re-catechesis on the purpose and reason of why the readings are read in Latin during the Mass (besides the sermon). I think that would change a lot of people’s minds.

  10. Dan says:

    I am not strictly opposed to this, I think there are many priests where the reading of the readings in Latin is an obstacle to them learning and saying the Latin Mass. Most priests were sadly not formed in Latin and while the meaning and the pronunciation of the ordinary parts of the Mass would not be difficult to pickup the readings are a larger obstacle.
    I am torn though, because, you give an inch they take a mile. The readings in the vernacular could be a pathway forward for priests and laity to return to the TLM, and correct the MANY errors of the NO but, it should be exactly that, a pathway, not a place to stop so ultimately the goal should be to have them in Latin.
    One of the plagues of the NO are options. Applying too many options to the TLM may not be the best option in the long run.

  11. FranzJosf says:

    Pet Peeve: Standing twice for the Gospel at high mass.

    In my opinion, the congregation should stand when the Gospel is being “officially” or “liturgically” proclaimed. When a translation of what has already been proclaimed is being read for convenience, the congregation should remain seated, and the responses before and after should be omitted in English. The translations have no liturgical function.

    My two cents.

  12. Mike_in_Kenner says:

    When Universae Ecclesiae came out in 2011, the diocesan priest who offered the sung TLM (Missa cantata) I was attending had been using a layman to read the readings in English simultaneously while the priest whispered them at the altar. I asked him about the new instruction in UE n. 26, but he pretended the instruction was not clear on this point. He attempted to dismiss my question by suggesting I needed to send a dubium to the PCED. I did, they responded promptly (6 weeks turnaround), and PCED completely supported everything I suggested was supposed to be done. The PCED response reiterated that: (1) the readings must be chanted in Latin at sung Masses; (2) they may not be read in the vernacular simultaneously while the priest whispers them, but may be repeated in the vernacular after they have been proclaimed aloud in Latin, or may be read only in the vernacular only in Low Masses; and (3) that the proclamation in Latin is the real liturgical action, and that repetition in the vernacular is a liturgical commentary, so the vernacular repetition is not accompanied by liturgical ceremonies such as the liturgical greeting “Dominus vobiscum” etc. at the Gospel, except that the old custom of standing for the vernacular reading of the Gospel is appropriate.

  13. majuscule says:

    As it is, we are having low Masses only at this time. The priest always reads the English at the ambo just before the sermon.

    Easter Sunday was interesting. The vernacular NO Easter Masses were still outdoors. The TLM was the only one inside the church (probably due to lower expected attendance). It happened that many of the regulars were not there —probably because they had an opportunity to attend the TLM Easter Vigil at another church. I noticed many new people (I will reserve comment on how I knew). I think it might have been beneficial to have the Epistle and Gospel in English at the altar but I can’t say for certain. The people did hear it from the ambo.

    I am praying that people took an interest and will return.

  14. Adelle Cecilia says:

    I always find it jarring to hear readings in English during a Latin Mass.
    However, I realize that it’s “okay,” and in a Low Mass (such as a daily Mass) where there might be no homily, I understand the usage.

    I don’t see any reason for reading it in the vernacular *during Mass* for a Sunday or otherwise sung Mass. If there is a homily, the custom in my area is to read it in English, at that time, or to not re-read it, at all, and suffice that everything is available online, even in the “myparish” app the upkeep of which is regular.

  15. David L Alexander says: Personally, I would take it a step further. I believe the readings can and should be chanted in the vernacular at a High or Solemn Mass.

    Disagree. That would be a huge distraction, because not every language lends itself well to chant. English and chant, for example, really do not go well together.

  16. LDP says:

    In our parish in Kent, England (where a Low Mass is celebrated semi-regularly), the readings have always been in the vernacular only. Fr turns around at the altar to face the congregation and then reads these from a 1962 hand-missal so they are always from the Douay Rheims version. We have never had the Latin read beforehand or at the same time as the vernacular for the readings.

  17. Gab says:

    I read the Lesson and Gospel beforehand in English and then read the English again while the readings are prayed during Mass in Latin by the priest. It is not onerous at all. Given how they tinkered with the Mass during 1948 – 1974, I fear changing any part of the traditional Mass of the ages, by for example, saying the readings in the vernacular, is the start of a slippery slope. Just my opinion.

  18. Fr. Charles A. F. says:

    All the groups I say the TLM for do it that way, including very traditional young people. I used to grumble a bit: how hard is it to read a translation if you can’t keep up with the Latin, seriously? But now I’ve mostly given up. Call it “mutual enrichment”.

  19. Peter O says:

    The readings are worship, first and foremost, and not about teaching, so they should be prayed in Latin to the Father by the Priest. At the beginning of the homily (if there is a homily) is the time to read them in the vernacular).

  20. Felipe says:

    I prefer that it stays how it is currently done in most places. Latin and then vernacular after. I would request the Church not tinker with the Holy Mass for at least 150-200 yrs since the last time it was tinkered with.

  21. robtbrown says:

    Gregorian Chant doesn’t really work with English. Its rhythms flow from Latin, which is a highly inflected language.

  22. Kenneth Wolfe says:

    Two groups of people I will never understand:
    1) Those who stare at their Latin-English handmissal translations but prefer more English read/sung at the Latin Mass.
    2) Those who attend the Latin Mass but constantly advocate post-1962 novelties at it.

  23. rhig090v says:

    I would be curious to look at communities of Latin Mass groups who’ve diverged on this issue to see if in the long term this change has been positive or negative.

  24. GM Thobe says:

    I would hope that the custom doesn’t spread. It would be nice to not change things for a few lifetimes, and reading them before the homily takes just a couple of minutes. Surely that is not an unendurable sacrafice.

  25. Amateur Scholastic says:

    No, please don’t do this. The readings are not there for the people. They are there for God. They are part of the offering that the priest makes to God. They are, supremely, an act of love offered to God, and form a unity with the unbloody sacrifice about to be offered. For this reason, they should be kept in the sacred and timeless language.

    Putting them in the vernacular shatters the unity of the Mass. And speaking personally, I always find it jars me out of my recollection and whatever little meditation I’ve been able to do.

    Once you start imagining the readings are for the people, you’ve taken the first logical step to imagining Mass is for the people. Versus populum follows, along with any number of other heartbreaking tragedies.

    Please, dear fathers, do not do this. Please don’t do this. We laity have suffered enough dragging of the Holy Mass down to earth when we long to be raised up to heaven. We’ve found a refuge in the eternal Mass. Please remember it’s an act of love offered to God, with its own unity. A sudden change of language shatters the unity, and the beauty.

  26. Rob83 says:

    It does not make good sense to do the Epistle and Gospel propers in the vernacular only whilst leaving all the others in Latin. That implies, simply by the contrast, that the readings are on a lesser plane than the rest of the Mass.

    Currently at Mass, whether High or Low, the readings are in the Latin and only given in the vernacular before the sermon if there is one – and usually there is no sermon on weekdays unless it’s a first class feast. Many people are opting to use phones for the translation as it’s somewhat easier to follow Divinum Officium than trying to page through a hand missal and one of the priests encouraged the practice some time ago.

    My thought here is that anyone who wants the translation has a much easier time of it than in 1962, or even in 2007. Those resources should be used and the Mass should be without the vernacular readings whilst the priest is at the altar.

  27. Fulco One Eye says:

    We are wonderfully blessed to have a properly sung Latin language Tridentine Rite Mass every Sunday with a choir most of the time. Our priest does not repeat the two readings in American but chants them only in Latin. I’m very glad of that. It is easy to see many young people with a missal or with the red book and propers on the side follow exactly what is going on. It’s difficult to understand adults who claim to be stymied by the Latin. As our priest has told us, some day, each of us has to grow up and stop whining about what we claim to be our heritage as Latin Rite Catholics

  28. eamonob says:

    A spokesman for the SSPX that was on Catholic Answers Focus a couple years ago said Archbishop Lefebvre himself supported having the readings in the vernacular. I would support that. That seems to be the true intent of Vatican II’s allowance for limited vernacular. After all, the Eastern Churches use the vernacular.

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  30. Kate says:

    We had the vernacular NO readings during the Latin TLM readings for the first time on Easter Sunday. Don’t think there wasn’t a lot of eye rolling going on.

    We have been having a hard time getting our TLM reestablished after the Covid shutdown. We were experiencing a “golden age” in our parish with the TLM — lots of altar boys, fantastic choir, beautiful vestments, attendees that were in various important roles in the parish. We had no TLM for quite a while. We kept insisting with the bishop to give it back. He relented once a month, as long as we were behaving ourselves and put additional covid measures in place that no one else had (but did allow us to receive on the tongue). So, here we are a few months in, still begging the bishop for the return of what we had.

    The whole point of that rambling is that it seems that certain things are being done to poke us in the eye so that we will either “misbehave” or say that it’s not worth the trouble. Please pray for our community!

  31. Imrahil says:

    I voted “okay, I would be open to that”, because it somehow comes closest (though “I prefer not, but no game changer” would come close too). An even closer point would be “I don’t really so much care”. The beauty of Latin and the value of our liturgical mother-tongue are certainly given; but equally certain these are very minor issues. Yes, all-Latin is preferable to all-vernacular (to make the question easy). But if the liturgy reform had simply said “vernacular now”, issued a faithful translation, and kept all the rest as it was, it wouldn’t have been the liturgy reform nor nearly so problematic.

    That being said:
    1. The very argument by the dear David L Alexander,
    For the rest of the Mass (for the most part), we speak to God, and many cultures over the ages have used an arcane or non-pedestrian language in addressing the Almighty. (Think of the Jews at the time of Christ, who spoke Aramaic, but prayed in Hebrew.) For the Epistle and Gospel, it is God who speaks to us.
    is an argument to keep the thing in Latin. Reading the lesson is no less prayer than reading something else (which might possible be a psalm and thus also some sort of lesson). And while this particular form of prayer does have to do something with instruction, it also serves as symbol for the instruction. The sermon on the other hand is simply instruction; the vernacular repetition, though somewhat an innovation, is a sensible one as it makes a nice symbol for the two rôles of the Mass readings.

    2. I consider myself an educated man and I really do experience knowledge and insights, even (I should rather say: especially) when not needed for a concrete advice in a moral question, as delightful in themselves. That being so, reading in the two languages simultaneously is fun, if you pardon the expression. It was quite an eye-opener to hear and read, on Holy Thursday: “et tradidi vobis… in qua nocte tradebatur… quod pro vobis tradetur” and the like; the German I believe does not use the same word. Does this mean anything? Not to my knowledge. But it’s great.

    In fact, if it is read in the vernacular, I experience that sometimes, and I have a missal at hand I tend to read the Latin parts.

    3. That being said, having it in the vernacular, especially the epistle (of Epistle and Gospel, the Epistle does more of “play the instructive part”, the Gospel more of “play the rejoicingly proclamative part”, as it were), makes sense especially when there’s no time for repetition in the sermon, either because there is no sermon or the readings are long, and perhaps in Lent where the instructive function is more underlined.

    4. We might all get over our prejudice about “let’s not use electronic devices for Mass; electric is fine, even amplifiers are fine, but please no computers”. Myself included. Yes, there is something sympathetic about it, but those who have no missal at hand should not hesitate to use a mobile phone or, better (because of the illumination), ebook-reader. I don’t say that the others would stare them down, of couse, but we should get over feeling wrong about it ourselves… That being said, reading is not entirely a supplement for hearing in an understandable language; this needn’t be in Mass (and if, it might be at the beginning of the sermon), but then it must be done somewhen else.

    So, I guess I’d want to restrict vernacular lessons to “exception of the rule”. But I do think, personally, there is a place for such exceptions to the rule; and I wouldn’t even mind, though to that I wouldn’t approve, if they were more than that.

  32. Agree with David Alexander
    And I already attend Masses like this. I really appreciate it this way!I frequently attend mass with someone who is not a good reader. this person frequently misses the messages in the propers of the mass. This method is very reverent and effective. I have no problem with the vernacular readings of the epistle and the gospel.

  33. Father G says:

    “Alternatively, for example on a Sunday, while the priest reads the reading at the altar in Latin, someone reads the readings in the vernacular at the ambo. This is especially a custom in, I think, France.”

    Yes, you can see an example of this at the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fribourg (FSSP): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUa_pU7DVoU

    At other Low Masses celebrated there, the celebrant annnounces the Epistle reading, takes a book with the vernacular readings located behind the missal, turns around and reads the Epistle while facing the people. When finished, he turns back around and the server makes the response.

    The same thing is done with the Gospel. The celebrant annnounces the Gospel reading, takes again the book with the vernacular readings, turns around and reads the Gospel while facing the people. When finished he turns back around, puts the book behind the missal and then lifts up the missal to kiss it. The server then makes the response.

  34. Geoffrey says:

    At most of the EF Masses that I have attended, the celebrant will re-read the readings in English immediately prior to the homily. This is one of the things that drives me nuts about the EF: unnecessary repetition. Do not repeat the readings. Just pick one language and proceed (and I vote for Latin).

  35. WVC says:

    Personally, I have no stomach whatsoever for any additional liturgical tinkering, be it ever so mild and good intentioned. Folks should buy a missal, learn how to use it, and READ. If one cannot clear that terribly low bar for “active participation” in the liturgy, one should take time to seriously reflect on their Faith and the role it is playing in one’s life. When a person is willing to put more effort into researching players for a fantasy football team or vetting cars before buying a new vehicle at the dealer’s than one is willing to put in worshipping God . . . that person has a very serious problem. A problem that “reading in the vernacular” ain’t gonna fix.

  36. WVC says:

    Personally, I have no stomach whatsoever for any additional liturgical tinkering, be it ever so mild and good intentioned. Folks should buy a missal, learn how to use it, and READ. If one cannot clear that terribly low bar for “active participation” in the liturgy, one should take time to seriously reflect on their Faith and the role it is playing in one’s life. When a person is willing to put more effort into researching players for a fantasy football team or vetting cars before buying a new vehicle at the dealer’s than one is willing to put in worshipping God . . . that person has a very serious problem. A problem that “reading in the vernacular” ain’t gonna fix.

  37. Charles Sercer says:

    No. I can imagine that in very, very limited circumstances it could be allowed, but the general rule should always be Latin only.

    If priests are so concerned that people pay attention to the readings, then he should preach on them, if not also read them in the vernacular at the homily. In addition to encouraging laity to study/learn Latin, if not facilitating that study himself, and making sure that Latin is taught at any school to which his parish might be attached.

    If laity are so intent on “understanding” the readings, they should be prepared/exhorted to give up whatever frivolous activity they regularly engage in, and use the extra time to study Latin. If we’re honest, almost every single person probably has some useless or at least nearly useless pastime that is not necessary and could easily be turned in to Latin study, if encouraged/rightly guided by one’s priest or other competent parishioners.

    Vernacular always changes the character, the “atmosphere,” of the Mass into a less God-oriented and more man-oriented one, no matter whether that is actually anyone’s intent or not. Especially if the priest turns around and faces the people to read them (!) as some commenters have said is done at some places.

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