Latin Is Lovely, But Vernacular’s Spectacular

Recently I overheard a woman speaking angrily on the way out of church. She was upset that the parish had recently reverted to Latin for the Agnus Dei and the Sanctus. Not the whole Mass, mind you; just those two brief and familiar Latin settings. “Why should we go backward?!” the woman exclaimed.

I’ll tell you why: 

Latin is a universal language. As Catholics, we are not just this small group, this ladies’ altar society, this community of believers. No, in faith we reach beyond this suburban parish with its young families at 9:00 a.m. Sunday, its grey-haired seniors on weekday mornings, its schoolchildren and its ushers and its hipster teens. In Christ, we Catholics are united with fellow believers in churches in cities and countries around the world, with those who have gone before us, with those who are to come.

And we have become a society of travelers. Several times through the years, my husband and I have attended Mass at parishes in Europe (or at foreign parishes right here in our own city). The vernacular, the language of the people, was German or French or Spanish or Italian. Language-starved as I am, I was rendered clueless. Had they been speaking Latin, I’d have responded with an enthusiastic “Et cum spiritu tuo.”

And of course, Latin remains the language of the Church. How else could the cardinals and bishops from around the world communicate with one another? How could they have met in the conclave to elect Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papacy?

I realize that I’m giving away my age here—but I remember the Latin Mass. For me and for others in my peer group, those hymns are a reminder of a cherished time, of hushed worship and candles and a fiddleback chasuble.

Not that the post-Vatican II changes aren’t welcome! They did, in fact, open the doors of the Church, and the use of the vernacular made it possible for more people to become involved in many ways. On the down side, it also made it possible for people to take for granted the miracle that happens on that altar; but that is the fault of the individual, not of the English-language prayers and lyrics.

But please, brothers and sisters, love one another! Even mentioning the use of Latin tempts vociferous complaints from the Right and from the Left, from ardent Traditionalists and earnest Modernists. Please don’t do that! Please don’t whine in the combox. You have a personal preference, and it is neither right nor wrong. Enjoy the liturgy, pray the liturgy, in whatever form draws you closer to God; but do not begrudge your brothers and sisters their preference, as well.

Our God is a great and awesome God, and His creation is amazing in its diversity. Let our worship, too, be full-bodied in its variety, in the Extraordinary Form and in the Novus Ordo.

Please love. Don’t complain. Don’t criticize. Just love. Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.

*     *     *     *     *

Msgr. Daniel Gallagher, the Pope’s Twitter translator

Here’s an example of the Church’s use of Latin:  Pope Francis writes his “tweets” on the @Pontifex account in Italian, or Spanish, or whatever.  It falls to translators from around the world to translate the messages into various languages.

You might be interested in the career of Monsignor Daniel Gallagher, a Michigan priest who serves as the Pope’s Latinist–translating papal tweets into Latin for the @Pontifex account.

The Detroit Free Press has Msgr. Gallagher’s story (with a video interview) here.

 

  • http://platytera.blogspot.com/ kkollwitz

    If English was good enough for Jesus it’s good enough for me.

    • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

      I have argued that mass was intended to be in the vernacular. Jesus said the last supper in Aramaic. Greek then had a priority as the language of the first century church fathers. It was only after that the church spread westward that Latin of the western part of the Empire came into practice. So there was Latin in certain parts, Greek in other parts, and Aramaic in others. In other words, it was the vernacular of the time and place. I forget which rite but there are churches that still say the mass in Aramaic. So the question I’ve presented is, in what language will they say the mass in heaven? I argue that it will be in Aramaic, Christ’s language, and they will hand out Rossetta Stone learning tapes at the Pearly Gates. ;)

      • Stephanie Mann

        No one will be saying Mass in Heaven.

        • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

          Is that a theological point? Can you explain? I’m curious why that would be so.

          • Christina

            The sacrifice of the Mass, of Jesus Christ, would no longer required once we are in Heaven, and we will be worshipping God 24/7, completely and fully. Worshipping in Heaven will supersede Mass infinitely!

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            Thanks.

          • irena mangone

            I bet it will be in all the languages and not in Latin

          • Stephanie Mann

            Christina describes the matter succinctly below: this blog post provides more detail http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2012/11/is-there-mass-in-heaven-is-christ.html

          • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

            That was fascinating. Thanks for a great blog to add to my favorites.

  • Kelly Thatcher

    LOL at kkowllwitz! Great post, Kath, thanks!

  • http://www.dariasockey.blogspot.com/ Daria

    Exactly right. But I”m not holding my breath waiting for right and left partisans to read this and suddenly see the light.

  • David J. White

    Actually, you’re mistaken about Msgr. Gallagher’s role. His office produces the *Latin* version of the tweets. The original language of most of them is probably Italian, and I rather doubt that Pope Francis himself writes most of them. The Office of Latin Letters — in which my former teacher, Fr. Reginald Foster, used to work — produces the official Latin versions of Church documents, which these days are generally drafted in a working language such as Italian. (If you can read Latin, as I can, you can often tell that the Latin text of a Church document is a translation of something originally formulated in another language.) The same is true of the tweets; the Latin version is not an “original” from which the other versions are made. Msgr. Gallagher and his colleagues are responsible for crafting the Latin version, not the English one. The Detroit Free Press article to which you linked makes this clear. BTW, NPR had a nice interview with him a few days ago.

    • kathyschiffer

      Thanks for the clarification–I was too hasty tonight!

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I have always been and continue to be against forcing the Latin Mass on people. But a smattering of Latin within the vernacular makes for a prettier liturgy.

    • Mike

      Agree. Our choir once in a while will do a latin number and you can tell everyone just loves it; it seems so solemn and i don’t know mysterious.

      • http://platytera.blogspot.com/ kkollwitz

        Yes. Latin does a fine job of being serious yet happy; solemn yet joyful.

  • Kate

    I love when they use Latin in the liturgy for common prayers and songs. It doesn’t have to be an all the time thing, but when it happens I personally feel a connection with the past people in the Church who used these words. I never experienced a Latin Mass. I was born after those changes were made. But I see the happiness and joy that steals over some of our community’s elders and think that’s great. Of course it does help that I was in my college’s concert choir and sang and performed lots of classical religious music and Mass arrangements by some of the greatest classical composers. Also, I worship in a multilingual community, with Masses celebrated in English and Portuguese. When songs are sung in Latin we can all sing together, even if we can’t speak either English or Portuguese. That’s one of the things I really liked about World Youth Day Masses. The common songs were most often sung in Latin, which bridged linguistic differences and united us in the common language of the Church. However, I only really know and have experienced the typical Sunday and Holy Day Mass in the vernacular, which in the city in which I live can also include Spanish and Polish and when I was growing up, in French as well as English. It’s all good and certainly from a musical standpoint, opens up a much wider range of music to use from the entire history of the Church, not just the contemporary period and 20th century. As in all things, take what you like and leave the rest, unity in essentials and charity otherwise.

  • Jake

    Once again, Kathy finds the best stuff, and delivers it with charm and grace–and delightful humor!

  • Antiphon411

    “Not that the post-Vatican II changes aren’t welcome! They did, in fact, open the doors of the Church…”

    Unfortunately those doors were mostly marked “Exit”.

    “…and the use of the vernacular made it possible for more people to become involved in many ways.”

    Yes, everyone has a “ministry” these days. We have altar girls, because there aren’t enough boys to serve Mass; we have Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, because there aren’t enough priests to distribute the Precious Body of Our Lord; we all have so much time and energy now, because we’re not tired from raising big families; we’re on the Peace and Justice committee, but how many are making First Saturdays of Reparation in atonement for the sins of the world as Our Lady requested?

    • irena mangone

      Seems like many people blame Vatican II for many things it’s not fair to do that the Holy Spirit blows where it wills . We live in different times post world wars I and II not necessarily better in all ways but God still loves us the same no doubt medieval people would have been horrified at all the stuff happening pre world wars each generation thinks it was the best. Good and bad every where

  • Francisco J Castellanos

    “Don’t complain. Don’t criticize. Just love. Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Hum, You mean we Catholics are actually supposed to DO what Jesus said, not only TALK about it? What kind of crazy talk is that?

  • KyPerson

    I love Latin. I remember the Latin Mass with great fondness and am happy that our parish uses Latin for some of the responses and hymns during Lent.

  • Paul Gerard

    Latin was and still is a non issue.

    These comments and hang-ups here, and elsewhere on using Latin, fails to appreciate is that it’s NOT, NOT, NOT just language that changed after Vat II.

    Paul VI cleverly and possibly deviously changed the entire theology of the Mass.

    If the reformers just wanted accessible language, they could have vernacularised the old Mass.

    No, that would not do because they wanted to re-write the Mass.

    These vandals used the call for understandable language, as the cover they needed to change the deep and enduring meaning of the Mass,

    They wanted to remove Truth that had withstood 2000 years and built Catholic culture and society.

    They could not allow the old Mass with its silence and reverence, its clear and profound meaning of sacrifice in Christ to stay – not even in the vernacular.

    No it could not stay, as Paul VI freely admitted, “keeping the old Mass would undo all the planned changes”.

    Simply it would have exposed the nakedness of the new religious order in Rome.

    The old Mass simply had to go. Latin was not the issue, it was the cover!

    Those who hijacked Vat II and the Pope that allowed it to occur wanted to change everything. Retaining the old Mass would have prevented this revolution from succeeding.

    The vandals used the argument of restrictive Latin as the cover for their deliberate and radical revolution on the faith, on the faithful and on ancient Church teaching.

    The subtle changes of Paul VI, clearly and shockingly echoed the changes introduced by Luther 500 years before.

    Like Luther, Paul’s changes seemed subtle, but it has led hundreds of millions of Catholics into apostasy, a mass loss of faith, a disembowelling of mindset and religious practice; to an outright rejection of ancient Catholic teaching and a collapse in Mass attendance.

    This loss is probably irrevocable: Paul VI and Bugnini have implanted in the minds of most current day Catholics a view of God, scripture and tradition that is overtly protestant.

    The old Mass, the old theology of Christ’s enduring sacrifice of atonement to God has simply be expunged in the Novus Ordo service.

    The Mass could have been offered in the vernacular after Vatican II, vernacular version of Pius V’s Mass. But such simple changes did not serve the revolutionary intention of Bugnini and Paul VI.

    They wanted to change Catholic theology and Catholic understanding, forever!

    Bugnini and Paul VI changed the Mass from this ancient sacrifice, silently offered by a Priest on the Altar of Sacrifice to God, into an enclosed and clearly protestant meal, around this new protestant table.

    The Novus Ordo service refuted the representation of Calvary, the perpetual sacrifice of the Christ, replacing it with the Lord’s supper.

    That is not what St John’s Book of Revelation describes to us of the Mass in 90 A.D. John clearly and emphatically describes a High Priest, within the sanctuary of God, amidst the Menorah Lamp offering himself as the upright Lamb, giving himself in atonement to the Divine Majesty for the salvation of a sinful and corrupt world.

    This is clearly fudged in the Novus Ordo service.

    Just compare the words of the offertory and canon pre the 1962 changes and even more so for the service approved by Paul VI’s – this protestant novo service.

    In the Novo service we no longer hear or read about the “offering of the immaculate host, the spotless victim”: nor do we pray for the salvation of our immortal souls through the offering of this spotless sacrifice.

    Bugnini did a great job destroying Catholic prayer, Catholic intimacy with the devotion to the Mass: what he and Paul VI bequeathed the world is no longer Divine, Catholic Reverence for Christ in the Real Presence and Catholic the ancient Catholic Sacrifice found in the Book of Revelations.

    Paul’s service has also removed the underlying tone of the old Mass, that being the need for the faithful to fight the spiritual war against the Devil, his minions and all evil so as to save one’s immortal soul from Hell

    In the old Mass Sacerdotal was also removed from the faithful, because he was entering into the etenral sacrifice of Christ… mystically entering into this twilight area where he become one with the heavenly sanctuary.

    Now this once holy and near mystical Sacredotal is replaced by a “president” who presides over a “protestant table” where people come to celebrate themselves and share a protestant meal.

    The Novus service results in little attention to humility and the concept that we offer Christ as Pascal victim to God for: worship, propitiatory, atonement and prayer .

    Quote form the old offertorium:
    “Come, Thou, the Sanctifier, God, almighty and everlasting: bless (+) this sacrifice which is prepared for the glory of Thy holy name”

    Such majestic words and ideas; such profundity and beauty and it was all replaced with Paul VI’s empty, banal and often meaningless gabble.

    May God have mercy on souls of both these misguided and deluded men

  • Paul Gerard

    Latin was and still is a non issue.

    These comments and hang-ups here, and elsewhere on using Latin, fails to appreciate is that it’s NOT, NOT, NOT just language that changed after Vat II.

    Paul VI cleverly and possibly deviously changed the entire theology of the Mass.

    If the reformers just wanted accessible language, they could have vernacularised the old Mass.

    No, that would not do because they wanted to re-write the Mass.

    These vandals used the call for understandable language, as the cover they needed to change the deep and enduring meaning of the Mass,

    They wanted to remove Truth that had withstood 2000 years and built Catholic culture and society.

    They could not allow the old Mass with its silence and reverence, its clear and profound meaning of sacrifice in Christ to stay – not even in the vernacular.

    No it could not stay, as Paul VI freely admitted, “keeping the old Mass would undo all the planned changes”.

    Simply it would have exposed the nakedness of the new religious order in Rome.

    The old Mass simply had to go. Latin was not the issue, it was the cover!

    Those who hijacked Vat II and the Pope that allowed it to occur wanted to change everything. Retaining the old Mass would have prevented this revolution from succeeding.

    The vandals used the argument of restrictive Latin as the cover for their deliberate and radical revolution on the faith, on the faithful and on ancient Church teaching.

    The subtle changes of Paul VI, clearly and shockingly echoed the changes introduced by Luther 500 years before.

    Like Luther, Paul’s changes seemed subtle, but it has led hundreds of millions of Catholics into apostasy, a mass loss of faith, a disembowelling of mindset and religious practice; to an outright rejection of ancient Catholic teaching and a collapse in Mass attendance.

    This loss is probably irrevocable: Paul VI and Bugnini have implanted in the minds of most current day Catholics a view of God, scripture and tradition that is overtly protestant.

    The old Mass, the old theology of Christ’s enduring sacrifice of atonement to God has simply be expunged in the Novus Ordo service.

    The Mass could have been offered in the vernacular after Vatican II, vernacular version of Pius V’s Mass. But such simple changes did not serve the revolutionary intention of Bugnini and Paul VI.

    They wanted to change Catholic theology and Catholic understanding, forever!

    Bugnini and Paul VI changed the Mass from this ancient sacrifice, silently offered by a Priest on the Altar of Sacrifice to God, into an enclosed and clearly protestant meal, around this new protestant table.

    The Novus Ordo service refuted the representation of Calvary, the perpetual sacrifice of the Christ, replacing it with the Lord’s supper.

    That is not what St John’s Book of Revelation describes to us of the Mass in 90 A.D. John clearly and emphatically describes a High Priest, within the sanctuary of God, amidst the Menorah Lamp offering himself as the upright Lamb, giving himself in atonement to the Divine Majesty for the salvation of a sinful and corrupt world.

    This is clearly fudged in the Novus Ordo service.

    Just compare the words of the offertory and canon pre the 1962 changes and even more so for the service approved by Paul VI’s – this protestant novo service.

    In the Novo service we no longer hear or read about the “offering of the immaculate host, the spotless victim”: nor do we pray for the salvation of our immortal souls through the offering of this spotless sacrifice.

    Bugnini did a great job destroying Catholic prayer, Catholic intimacy with the Divine and devotion to the Mass: what he and Paul VI bequeathed the world is no longer Divine, Catholic Reverence for Christ in the Real Presence or the ancient Mass as described in the Book of Revelations.

    Paul’s service has also removed the underlying tone of the old Mass, that being the need for the faithful to fight the spiritual war against the Devil, his minions and all evil, so as to save one’s immortal soul from Hell

    In the old Mass, the Sacerdotal was seperated from the faithful in prayer as well as action removed. The Priests was unique for he entered into the etenral sacrifice of Christ, mystically entering into this place where earth and heaven are one.

    Now this once holy and near mystical Sacredotal, is replaced by the “president” who now presides over a “protestant table” where people come to celebrate themselves and share a protestant meal.

    The Novus service results in little attention to humility or on Christ as the Pascal victim. in with and through whom we: worship God, make an act of expiation, ask for atonement and pray.

    A quote form the old offertorium:

    “Come, Thou, the Sanctifier, God, almighty and everlasting: bless (+) this sacrifice which is prepared for the glory of Thy holy name”

    Such majestic words and ideas; such profundity and beauty; all replaced with Paul VI’s empty, banal and often meaningless gabble.

    May God have mercy on souls of both these misguided and deluded men

    • ProVobis

      That’s only part of it. Veterum Sapientia effectively banned the vernacular in religious matters. Vatican II commanded Latin to be retained in the liturgy. The Anglophones et al, in their attempt to change doctrinal standards, had other ideas. And they (the ICEL) profited nicely from all the royalties they collected.

  • ProVobis

    It’s all very simple. Latin meanings don’t change. English does. Italian does as well. In fact until the 16th century Italian was basically Latin without the grammar. SInce then they have gone their separate ways, but Church documents meant to be preserved are written in Latin.


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