Brush up your Latin

Brush up your Latin May 13, 2011

That seems to be the gist of the new instruction on the use of the Extraordinary Form of the mass — a.k.a., the Latin mass — according to a new instruction released today.

From the National Catholic Register:

This morning, on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, the Vatican published a long awaited Instruction on the application of “Summorum Pontificum”, Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio which aimed to facilitate celebration of the Mass in the extraordinary form (the Roman Liturgy that was in effect in 1962).

Approved by Benedict XVI and signed by Cardinal William Levada and Msgr. Guido Pozzo, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, on April 30th, the memorial of Pope St. Pius V, the Instruction strongly affirms the motu proprio and aims to clarify and resolve notable difficulties that have arisen in its implementation over the years since it was published.

In an explanatory note, also released today, the Vatican says the Instruction “reaffirms the purpose of the motu proprio” and goes through nine topics covered under the heading of “Specific Norms”. These include the reaffirmation of the competence of the diocesan bishops in implementing the motu proprio, and the issue ofcoetus fidelium (the group of faithful who may request Mass in the extraordinary form).

The explanatory note highlights that the Instruction proposes “a spirit of “generous welcome” towards groups of faithful who request the forma extraordinaria.”  It also stresses that those who request the extraordinary form “must not in any way support or belong to groups which show themselves to be against the validity or legitimacy” of the forma ordinaria, or are “against the authority of the Pope”.

You can read more analysis (with links to the documents) from Fr. Z here.

Damian Thompson is also writing about it. Ditto Sandro Magister.

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23 responses to “Brush up your Latin”

  1. This document clarifies that the Extraordinary Rite (the “Tridentine Mass” or “Old Mas”) stands side by side with the Ordinary Rite (“New Mass”) as an equal form of one Latin Rite. The document recognizes the Extraordinary Form as an integral and everyday part of the liturgy of the Church.

    I attend the Extraordinary Form on Sundays and the Ordinary Form every weekday morning. I see no contradiction between them. The reason I attend the Latin Liturgy is because it is always said in the same reverent way, using established norms. It is a beautiful Liturgy that has been part of the Church since the time of Gregory the Great at least and then set in its final from by the Council of Trent. Its the mass that countless generations of Catholics have experienced.

  2. I guess we are no longer obliged to trust that the decisions of an ecumenical council are guided by the Holy Spirit for the Church in its day. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy called for the reform of the Missal of 1962 and now through B16 we have basically that same Missal as an alternative equal form of Mass. Hmmmm….perhaps the Holy Spirit couldn’t make up his mind or maybe he changed his mind. What’s up for grabs next? Religious freedom? Role of conscience? I suppose its all fair game for accepting or ignoring or reversing conciliar decisions based upon the whims of those in charge.

  3. My mother (born 35 years before Vatican II) used to tell me she enjoyed the Latin mass, but even Mom (an intelligent woman) would have told you she didn’t understand most of what the priest was saying during the mass. Yes, I know, one could follow along in the missal — but in that case, what exactly is the point of having the mass in Latin, when the faithful ended up having to “decode” in order to follow along and participate to the best of their ability.

    Does anyone really want to argue that Latin is a more “holy” language than any other language? Would anyone claim that God is more honored by our prayers when they are in a language that most of the people present do not, in any deep sense, understand? (I read on a conservative blog once that “Latin is the language God best understands.” I assume–or hope, at least–that the comment was tongue in cheek.)

    I don’t have any beef, personally, with folks who want to go to a Latin mass having access to it. My chief concern, really, is that the new instruction–as I understand it–means that any priest in any parish could substitute the Extraordinary (Latin) mass for a Novus Ordo (vernacular) mass at ANY (or perhaps every?) weekend liturgy. This may seem unlikely, but if you surf the Catholic blogosphere long enough, you’ll discover that many younger priests (those younger than 40, especially younger than 35) see themselves as standard-bearers for a pre-Vatican II version of Catholicism. (One of those priests proudly proclaims his cadre as “Young Fogeys,” which was a derisive label first applied by Andrew Greeley.) What if you end up with a priest who sees the Latin mass as the only devout, reverent way to celebrate mass? What if every weekend liturgy is EF? Is that really going to serve the needs of the faithful in most parishes today? (And as unlikely as that scenario may seem, think about the potential one priest could have to cut parish attendance in half with six months of masses that are exclusively EF.)

  4. The simple motu proprio of a pop can undo the decisions of an ecumencial council. Why bother having councils? Much cheaper and quicker to just let the Man make all the decisions. I guess the positive side of this form of authority is that the next pope come could come along and undo what B16 has done, so hope spirngs eternal.

    I agree with Steve’s assessment of the under 40 clergy crowd (not all of course). Those I socialize with in my diocese who clap their hands over the EF also comment on how other things of Vatican II are questionable, and they are referring to what I would identify as doctrinal matters as well (such as religious freedom). I suppose its the “pendulum syndrome” in action.

    However, this latest development reinforces what we have learned over the past 30 years: if any group (left or right) kicks, screams or ignores somethings long enough, the Holy See will most likely eventually give-in for the sake of a desired unity. And if something has been practiced long enough to make it “sacrosanct” in our tradition, then why in the world are we not going back to “from midnight” communion fast, no laity reading the Scriptures at Mass, and let’s get rid of that horrible innovation of Bible Study by Catholics that came out of Vatican II…I mean for centuries lay Catholics didn’t study the Scriptures so why would we want to break with that venerable tradition? If it was good enough of centuries of saints and sinners, it should be good enough for us today.

  5. The Extraordinary Form was the Mass that I grew up with and still cherish. Some things that I remember are

    • As an eight year old struggling to read the missal and having my father tell me that the left hand page was in Latin.
    • Seeing people around me saying rosaries or reading from novena books during the Mass.
    • Reading Gospels almost exclusively from Matthew.

    I have a fondness of the extraordinary form but I prefer the ordinary form.

    As I read the links on this post by those who are devoted to the extraordinary form, I am coming to the conclusion that they will never be really happy until the extraordinary form is the ordinary.

  6. Oh I don’t know. This is a crisis that was self-inflicted by the hierarchy beginning in the 60s. Vatican II did not call for the abolishment of the form of the mass at that time, but it is wearisome to go through the history. I am ok with either form, and I noticed that the pope said the novus order in Rome on Easter in Latin. The chief benefit of Latin is that it expresses and to some extent promotes the Church’s universality. that is hard to disagree with.

  7. I always attend the Ordinary form, but I think it’s wonderful that others appreciate the value of the Extraordinary form. No one is forcing anyone to do anything…
    I think it is an act of generosity and openness that Benedict XVI allows for both forms, and is open to Anglo/Catholics having their form. The Catholic Church is the most diverse group of humans on the planet.

    Diakonos09: VII never said that the Mass, in a form for hundreds of years…beloved by John XXIII, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton…and thousands of saints, should be abolished.

    And if the Extraordinary Form helps to inspire reverence and beauty in the the Ordinary Form… all the better!

  8. I should have pointed out that I have no issue at all with the Mass in Latin as appropriate (apart from the readings). I think using Latin make a lot of sense at international shrines, multi-ethnic liturgies at the cathedral, etc. It supports a unity if worship in such cases.

    My concern is with the apparent contradiction with the consitution on the Sacred Liturgy. No one can argue that the council called for a reform of the 1962 Missal. What other Mass were they dealing with at the time of the Council? When one recalls the zeal and authority, the books and articles with which the Novus Ordo was introduced it makes your head spin to suddenly hear how it never was changed or replaced and has always had a palce of honor. HUH?????? Was I sleep[ing or unconscious for 30 years?

    Had B16 decided to estanblish the TLMers as a separate Ordinariate thatw ould be fine and dandy. Let them have it their way in their churches and communities. But as it is we now have a liturgically schizophrenic Roman Church and when you try to please everyone you end of pleasing no one.

  9. Of my three daughters (aged 13, 18, 23) two of them enjoy the Latin Mass while the 23 year old is reverent but prefers the New Mass. The 18 year old loves the Latin Mass! she prefers to go the Extraordinary Form. The 13 year old is now familiar with the Latin missal and has no problem following it. My and me prefer the Extraordinary Form. I see young people, those aged 40 or less participating enthusiastically and some of them as altar servers. I also have experienced that those in the age bracket above 55 and even more those above 65 are from somewhat troubled by the Latin mass to outright hostile.

    I agree with those here who express that both rites are totally valid and I give thanks to BXVI for his understanding of Tradition and his generous heart.

  10. Steve,

    I find your coloring of the issue somewhat unfair – and unrealistic. You rightly note that even someone with no clue of Latin can easily follow along in a missal. However, you describe this as “decoding” – and why should that have to be done by the faithful?

    The text of the Holy Mass in the extraordinary form is pretty easy to remember even just reading through it once. No need to “decode” anything each time. The Propers for the Mass, i.e. those parts which change from Mass to Mass or day to day, are also often provided and are short and easily accessible.

    There is also something worth noting regarding your fear that a priest could simply replace the ordinary form with the extraordinary form, which requires Latin, and therefore the people would be subject to only-Latin services. The thing is, a priest is fully within his right to celebrate Holy Mass entirely in Latin – even in the ordinary form! – and he needs no special permission to do it.

    So, theoretically, your priest could walk in tomorrow and start celebrating the Novus Ordo in Latin only, just as much as he could the extraordinary form. So I don’t see the issue of Latin as merely an ordinary/extraordinary form issue.

    But what do I know? I am a constituent of the younger generation you describe as being positively inclined towards the ancient Liturgy and rites, so my views are perhaps not surprising. But they are nevertheless becoming more mainstream as the pendulum swings back towards the center.

  11. “But they are nevertheless becoming more mainstream as the pendulum swings back towards the center.”

    Center? It’s playing far out in right field.

  12. It’s all relative, Diakonos, so there’s no use quibbling over it. The point is, the pendulum is swinging.

    By the way, Diakonos, I think you misunderstand the role of the Council and the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy in particular regarding the reform of Holy Mass. In any case, the reintroduction into mainstream Catholic life of the extraordinary form will have an effect on both forms of the Mass, and the hope is that the Council’s desired reforms will take place organically and gradually through the interaction of the two forms.

    And, as you well know, the Council didn’t give us the Novus Ordo, whose existence would not come for another few years. Arguably, the Missal of 1965 was more a product of the Council and what it was aiming for.

    In any case, no one’s arguing the situation is perfect: thanks to 30 years of Novus Ordo oppression and kinds of shocking innovations and “options” ad infinitum, the fact that we are now at this juncture regarding the Traditional Mass and Sacraments is, to me, proof of Divine Providence itself.

  13. Since parts of the new translation imposed on English-speaking countries sound more like Latin than English anyway, perhaps it won’t seem altogether strange if priests just revert to that ancient language altogether.

  14. Our small-town Church offers the “traditional Latin Mass,” as our pastor says, about once every six weeks in the chapel. My understanding is that attendance is not high. I wonder what percent of those who regularly attend Mass prefer the Latin Mass. (There is obviously a presence online. But how do you know what percent of practicing Catholics that represents?) Could we end up with one Sunday Mass in Latin and one in English when only five, ten, or twenty percent prefer the Latin Mass? Does this become a popularity contest or a game of local Church politics?

  15. Diokonos: I find it interesting that you claim 1) that the request by the II Vatican Council for a reform of the liturgy was inspired by the Holy Spirit and 2) the Novus Ordo Missae implements the will of the council.

    There is simply no reason to believe #2. The New Mass represents the will of the Consilium, not the will of the II Vatican Council.

    As to #1, the Holy Spirit certainly protects an ecumenical council from error, but there is no reason to think that simple disciplinary decisions of the council are inspired by the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, the disciplinary decisions of the (pastoral, non-dogmatic) II Vatican council are fallible and, in some cases, were simply mistaken.

  16. I can see what you are saying, William, and it is an excellent principle that you state and which we can apply to the motu proprio: fallible and simply mistaken. Thank you for bringing this to light!

  17. I am happy to see further support given to the Latin Mass.

    The next step, as I see it, is to give additional support to bringing back Gregorian Chant to replace Peter, Paul and Mary.

  18. I personally am very happy with the new Vatican document. Just think: As the influence of Latin grows, how many fewer clown Masses, for example, will be held! Those pastors who favor giant puppets, servers in Halloween outfits, who bring in liturgical dancers dressed like extras from Star Trek — all of them, I suspect, are unlikely to be willing to do the work to learn the Latin, which requires intellectual effort and diligence. It would be even better if Gregorian chant were to be fully implemented. It is virtually impossible to “preside” over “Mass: The Musical” when the choir is chanting.

  19. Brush up on my Latin you say??? Already working on it. In fact I bought a few months ago the first part of four for the Cambridge Latin Course including the teacher’s manual with translation answers. It’s a little at a time, but I am on Chapter 5 of 12 so that’s not bad. This was on purpose to prepare for one day going to a Latin Mass so as to be less frazzled by it.

    Rudy, You are so blessed to have 3 reverent daughters of whom 2 love the Latin Mass!!! Yes I’m a young male under 30 but I gotta say ths: It’s so hard to find lovely, mature and reverent Catholic women these days. Even at my novus ordo parish very rarely do I see a young woman or two who come weekly, and if they do they come dressed casually (mind you there is one exception). At those ages your daughters are, they usually give into secular culture and yours sound like they are the total opposite.

  20. Many excellent points here.

    the idea of an Ordinariate was floated- often- but was not followed up on.
    Here’s my sneaking suspicion: The ’88 Indult was initially designed to minister to the old folks who had a real, life-long connection to the E.F., and once they died, it was supposed to peter out.
    But- no one expected that young families would start to attend them, find in them the spiritual home they’d been looking for and stay. Or, for the seminaries of the F.S.S.P., et al., to have so many aspirants. Or for families to be starting on their second generation of children raised in E.F. communities.
    Obviously, something was going on. And the majority of these folk were not rebellious relicts of the S.S.P.X.- they were people who’d spent years, or been raised, going to the N.O.
    But when the licit alternative was offered, they took it.
    So- I think this is a way to get the two Masses side by side and to have them eventually cross-pollinate each other and produce, in a hundred years or so, an organic hybrid that truly realizes the goals of Vat II.
    So no one in charge- and remember, both Bl. John Paul II and Benendict XVI were young men during Vat II and knew all about it- has to come right out and say that the N.O. was kind of an epic fail.
    The documents on Liturgy were guided by the Holy Spirit- but they were terribly implemented. The two are not mutally exclusive.

  21. Isn’t it wonderful we can have liturgical variety! Whether Mass is the Novas Ordo or the Extraordinary form, Jesus is made truly Present. This is Who we should focus on. Its time we get beyond this divisive debate, drop our personal agendas and embrace our common Catholic faith. Mass in Latin IS Vatican II, and it is a valid part of the Church today. Let’s move towards embracing Jesus in the Eucharist no matter what language it’s celebrated in!

  22. I find the EF mass both a bore and a distraction. The incessant moving of books by altar boys operating like robots, andlater with those torches? These priestly whisperings, these frequent signs of the cross and other hand movements by the celebrant are all a huge distraction.

    Luther had a point. I despise the mumbled Roman canon. It should be replaced with a new canon along the lines of the Novus Ordo’s EP 3 and EP4 and put to music.

    I hate these large kitschy, wedding cake altars with the atrocious plaster statues of the BVM and St. Joseph. In the EF oriented churches these altars always seem to have the numerous unlit candles on them, with relics between the candlesticks. Most of these relics are fakes anyway. Just get rid of them.

    Ah yes, next the framed cue cards. These always give the altar a crowded and over-decorated appearance. Why should they even be needed when the rubrics for celebrating the EF could be easily simplified or just swept away? As Paul VI did with the OF.

    Having a proclaimed and chanted canon and a true major elevation, instead of the remnants of an elevation you see in the EF, really enhances the Pauline rite immensely and makes it a truly outstanding moment in the liturgy.

    The EF has no provision for a concelebrated mass, a third lesson from the Old Testament, or permits incense for a low mass as we have in the OF. The EF needs to make provision for communion under both forms, and for an
    offertory procession (which I admit needs a serious rehab in the worst way in the Pauline rite).

    The prayers of the faithful should also be added and taken from either the Gelasian litany, the Roman Good Friday prayers, the Anglican or Byzantine rite. Anything is better than just reading a list of badly phrased petitions we find in so many places today.

    I can’t wait for the Anglican ordinariate’s liturgy to be authorized and their churches begin to pop us throughout the US. I’ll be rushing to join. They and the Orthodox will put the RCC to shame.

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