Latin Questions


OK, I’m not a liturgical expert. I’m only a convert, and a new priest at that, but I have been trying real hard to understand the attraction of the Latin Mass.

Some time ago I attended a Latin Mass and enjoyed it up to a point, however, I have some questions. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to be critical or unkind. These are genuine questions. Can anyone who reads this blog, and who is keen on the Latin Mass answer them for me?
  1. If the Latin language is so wonderful, why is it inaudible on purpose?
  2. How does the priest reading the Scripture in Latin with his back to the people inaudibly in a language they don’t understand help the people of God to hear and understand the Word of God?
  3. How does no hymns and a choir singing in Gregorian chant help the people to particpate in the Mass, or have I got this wrong and the people are not intended to participate in the Mass at all? If so, is this better?
  4. How does it help the people to understand what is going on at the Mass when they can’t see what is happening at the altar, can’t understand the language, and can’t hear what the priest is saying?
  5. I’ve heard it said that the Latin language is ‘ancient and mystical’ and that having the Mass in a dead language assists the worship by making it more mysterious. But the Mass was first translated into Latin from Greek because Latin was the vernacular at the time. In other words, it was put into Latin so people could understand it. Isn’t the veneration of Latin therefore artificial?
  6. If one really wants an ancient, dead language that is mysterious, why don’t we have the Mass in Aramaic or Syriac, which are the dead ancient languages closest to what our Lord himself would have spoken? Why is Latin so special?

Now if you’re a Latin Mass afficionado don’t get all hot under the collar. I’ll say it again, this is not an attack.

These are honest questions by someone who is seeking to understand.

UPDATE: The combox on this one is now closed. Thanks to everyone who has contributed

  • Anonymous

    The understanding of the people present ought to come from Catechesis. It’s supposed to seem somewhat mysterious because it’s a mystery.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I agree with you, but given the present level of poor catechesis, how does having the mass in an inaudible dead language help? I also agree that the holy mysteries should be celebrated with a sense of awe and reverence, but I don’t understand how keeping the words inaudible and unintelligible means that what follows is necessarily ‘mysterious’. It might just be, well, inaudible and unintelligible.

  • Louise

    Father, I know that your saying “I enjoyed it up to a point” is just common usage that comes first to mind. I know that you know that the Mass is not for our enjoyment but for our participation in worship–losing ourselves in contemplation and love of God. “Feast of Faith” by Cardinal Ratzinger addresses this, but I know that you know all that, too. “Active participation” goes far beyond mental activity, and far more so beyond physical activity, both of which tie us to the here and now, not to the transcendent or other worldly. I can give myself over to the spirit of hymns sung in Polish, so Latin is no problem at all, and the chant lifts my mind and heart out of the ordinary, the mundane, and the predictable (although it is unpredictable when the organist closes a hymn in the minor mode with a major chord–aarrgh!). A missal should have helped in understanding. That said, cultural habits are deeply ingrained and are not easily set aside, and I might well have the same reaction. Perhaps it takes a long time for familiarity to overcome the strangeness of the experience, before you can let your mind be subservient to your spirit. Perhaps the introduction of the Latin Mass will be the occasion for improved catechesis, or is this too much to hope for?

  • Anonymous

    The priest faces the altar because he is praying to God, not to the people. If you look at some of the older holy cards, it shows the crucifix that the priest is facing at the altar merging into the sacrifice at Calvary.I’m not so much an afficianado, and I do see your points concerning the audibility and participation. You should look at a Novus Ordo Latin Mass before you send in your final judgment on the subject. A Non Mouse

  • mark

    Based on my experience of Latin in the Mass1. If it is inaudible ask the orator to speak up2. The Liturgy – readings Gospel & homely, are usually in the native language facing the congregation.3. Hymns are sung, Chant is usually reserved for the Creed, Gloria and Sanctus 4. Do any of us understand what is going on in the Sacrifice of the Mass, isn’t that the point, it is a mystery but do you think that for over 1000 years people attended mass and didn’t now what was going on? 5. Why dead language, all the ATMs in the Vatican are in Latin, the official language of the Church is Latin and Latin is still common in medical, legal and botanic circles. I believe the news is even read in Latin in Finland. The translation is not strictly true, although the Eastern Church was based in Constantinople under the Emperor and Patriarch, the Popes remained in Rome. In fact one of the complaints over the Three Chapters heresy charge was the Pope could not understand Greek and so did not understand the charge, I digress, in the early Church Latin was always present, Greek lost its importance and the Western Church became more dominant. 6. Again with the dead language! Its like a piece of furniture, we can go back to sitting on the floor with a few cushions (Aramaic or Syriac), we can sit on fine furniture crafted and honed by master craftsmen over centuries improving and refining their masterpiece or we can get some utility stuff from Ikea. Plastic and shinny, made in a hurry, doesn’t last long and most important no one comes back to but the same again.

  • Anonymous

    Father:Read some liturgical documents, and try to understand what the nature and role of music within the Roman Catholic Mass (whether Novus ORdo or Tridentine) is supposed to be. Hymns are in last place in terms of what is supposed to be sung. I’m sort of shocked that you don’t know this – about the PRopers, you know? This is a part of Anglican liturgy as well, isn’t it?2) Rather than asking what seem like sort of shockingly uninformed questions (for you – you’re at St. Mary’s right? Where Mass is celebrated ad orientem? And there’s a lot of Latin? I’m very confused by this post for this reason. It seems to me to be deliberately provocative, coming from a stance of feigned ignorance.)I think another question you might ask – and mind you, I’m not a Trad, and go to an all-English, regular parish Mass myself – is this..Why am I implying that the form of the Mass that was the Latin Rite for about 1400 years or so, through which the Catholic faith was spread around the world and that folks from St. Francis to St. Theresa to St. Thomas More to Dorothy Day found solace and the Presence of God …why am I implying that this Mass basically sucks?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Whoops, the last anonymous commentor has raised the temperature and started getting stroppy instead of answering my questions.Now that makes me suspicious. Why not answer some very simple, honest questions? I said I was not knocking the Latin Mass, but trying to understand it better.

  • Brian

    I think when some people say “mysterious” it is an emotional response to the quiet reverence they experience with the Tridentine Liturrgy. Rather than answer your questions individually, I would just like to explain what makes the Tridentine Liturgy appealing to me. Experiencing the Tridentine Liturgy has changed the way I approach understanding the liturgy altogether, even the liturgy as promulgated by Pope Paul VI. First and foremost, it has preserved the dilineation of roles in the celebration of the Eucharist. The priest, choir, servers, and congregation all have their roles to fulfill in the Eucharisitic celebration, and they are distinct not blurred. The Mass as it is often celebrated today has blurred these roles. The Choir and Cantor have basically become songleaders in most parishes as the music is sung by the entire congregation. The servers no longer are the models of prayer they once were, but frequently they are distractions because they get fidgety now that their role has been so diminished. Now the only really functional roles in many parishes are priest and congregation, and in my parish I even hear some people audibly saying everything that Father says including the Eucharistic Canon, so for those people, whether they realize it or not, the priest is merely part of the congregation.The Tridentine Liturgy for me is a more effective icon of the heavenly liturgy, and more, it is a sign of continuity between the Old Testament liturgy of the Temple (or even the tent of meeting seen in Exodus) and the heavenly liturgy described in Hebrews and the Revelation. When I first attended the Tridentine Liturgy, and I saw the priest facing the altar praying inaudibly, I realized in my mind first the image of Moses praying to God for the people of Israel in the Holy of Holies, and second, that of Christ interceding for us with the Father as is described in Hebrews. For the first time I understood clearly what the words in persona Christi truly meant. I also clearly saw that Moses was a type of Christ. I wasn’t scandalized that I couldn’t hear the words Father was saying. It was clear to me that he was offering prayers to God on behalf of me and the whole church. About participation. I used to think I would not like the Tridentine Liturgy because a) it was in a foreign language and b) I wouldn’t be allowed to participate. But after attending it and having the above insights, I realized that by simply being there I was fully participating in the sacrifice at Calvary in the same fashion as St. John and Our Lady. The Blessed Mother and St. John silently watched our Lord die on the Cross, but through their real and tangible suffering they entered into the mystery of the Cross. They participated in Christ’s suffering in a most profound way. That is the way I view full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgy. Not in the sense that I have to say something or sing something, (Which I do when I am at the Tridentine Liturgy: I sing the Gloria, the Kyrie, the Credo, and all of the responses.) but in the sense that I enter into the mystery of the Cross through Christ’s sacrifice re-presented to us in the Eucharistic Liturgy. Now, it’s true that all of this can be accomplished in the vernacular. In my opinion, there is really only one practical reason for the retention of Latin in the liturgy in today’s Church. (That is not to say that this is the only valid reason.) It unites the Church through time and space. Latin in the liturgy can unite a Catholic from the USA with one from China because it is the liturgical language on which all vernacular translations are based. It also unites our prayers with those of the saints before us, saints who prayed the same prayers which are prayed in our present liturgies. So a person who attends the Mass in Latin is praying the exact same words that St. Augustine, St. Gregory the Great, St. Leo the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Theresa of Avila, St. John Vianney, and St. Therese de Lisieux did. Otherwise, the use of Latin largely appeals to the aesthetic.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Thank you Brian. Good reflections.

  • Anonymous

    Though I am not a catholic, I have attended many catholic masses over the years, and I have asked myself the same questions. louise said “the mass is not for our enjoyment but for our participation in worship–loosing ourselves in contemplation and love of God.” How can we participate in worship if we don’t understand what is being said? How can we loose ourselves in contemplation if we don’t understand what we are supposed to be contemplating? How can we loose ourselves in the love of God if we don’t engage our entire beings? Loving the Lord involves heart, soul, mind and strength. (Mark 12:30) By putting the words of worship into a language people cannot understand (and I would say this goes for anyone, protestants included, who make worship unintelligible for whatever reason), we are making it more difficult for them to engage the mind and therefore hindering, not helping, their worship. It was a good thing when the Catholic church decided to put the mass in the vernacular. They should keep it that way. Your anonymous old friend

  • Anonymous

    To answer your questions: 1. Certain parts of the mass should be said inaudibily, reserved to the priest. But I don’t think an entire low mass should be inaudible. I favor the dialogue mass, where the people can participate in the responses. 2. At a high mass the readings are done facing the people. IMHO, this should also be the practice at low masses. 3. FYI, most of the hymns sung at mass are not really part of the liturgy. Whenever an entrance hymn is sung in lieu of the entrance antiphon, it is a suppression of liturgy in favor of devotion. If you read about the beginnings of the true liturgical movement, it was to involve the people in the liturgy rather than them singing the devotional hymns. 4. The people know what is happening on the altar–it’s the same at every mass. 5. No, the mass was not translated from the Greek into the vernacular Latin. Latin was the language of Empire–not the vernacular.If after VII the Church had replicated what it had done with the change from Greek to Latin, then English would be the liturgical language for the West, including France, Germany, S America, and Italy. 6. Greek is the language of the NT, not Syriac or Aramaic. I recommend that you read The Spirit of the Liturgy by JRatzinger. Hope this helps. Oremus pro invicem, Dr Robert Brown, STD

  • Anonymous

    I see you were in England for years. Have you read much by Aidan Nichols, op? RBrown

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I’ve read Spirit of the Liturgy and loved it.I think I understand the point of liturgy and its relationship to hymns. Good comments, and I respect the feelings of those who’ve pitched in, but no one has yet answered all my questions.

  • Michael McDonough

    Fr. Longenecker,”We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth.” This was the answer of the legates of the Slavic king reporting back after their experience of Divine Liturgy in Constantinople. Pope Benedict has remarked that the Liturgy is impressive because it is the worship by the whole Church of its Divine Savior, rather than due to any catechetical or didactic opportunity.The Traditional Latin Mass is a complete ritual rather than a “decision tree”, the rubrics are well-established, there are few, if any, options. We all attend, each in his proper role, and we can be at rest.The fact that the language is Latin is not necessarily better than that it be in English, but it emphasizes the fact that words are not the purpose, even if they are truly prayerful words. We are there to raise our minds and hearts to God; only the celebrant must recite prescribed words.I agree with another poster, that it would be better that the Liturgy of the Word be comprehensible to all. Certainly, nobody expects the homily to be in Latin! This portion of the Mass is probably the one thing that was improved in the Novus Ordo, or so it seems to me.The TLM places a greater weight on the Offertory of the Mass, and its purpose as the “preparation of the Gifts” than the New Order. I was struck recently in learning that in the Eastern Rites, they have always referred to the bread to be concentrated by the celebrant as the “Lamb”. It is brought into the sanctuary at what we call the Offertory, but they call the Great Entrance. (The Little Entrance is at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, when the celebrant enters.) We have a word in English for the Lamb, the Host, which in the Latin means the “offering” or “victim”. We are so used to it, that we think it means “small wafer of bread”, but it really does mean “Lamb”.Unfortunately, the Order of Mass of Paul VI, not only provides much optionality (requiring concentration on that aspect) but in its American version, even more optionality has been introduced, and even then each individual priest often “ad libs” depending on his mood of the day, or where he is in his personal interior life, all of which distracts from, and detracts from, the very reason we are there.The “freeing up” of the TLM should allow all of us to experience these things, and will encourage both celebrants and the people in their effort to recover a sense of reverence and awe in the presence and the service of God.One of the fruits of this will be, and even is, in those parishes where both rites are experienced, a cross-pollenization into the “New Mass”, in Latin or in the vernacular, so that it also will be a moment where we know not whether we are in heaven or on earth.

  • boredoftheworld

    Father, I was at the Mass from which you drew your observations and questions, given the circumstances it really wasn’t typical. As a person who only attends the traditional Mass I walked to my car saying “good grief what a mess”. Nevertheless, there it is.It seems that most of your observations boil down to “what was going on and how is any of this supposed to be spiritually edifying ?” I hope I’m not mischaracterizing your point of view. I don’t know what everyone else was doing but I was praying, or at least making the attempt.With that in mind I don’t need someone to tell me what page of the hymnal to turn to, nor do I need a witty sermily. What I actually need is a minimal amount of distraction. It’s not a show that needs me to respond to the applause sign in order for it to be effective. My presence isn’t even required and in the final analysis the only person who benefits from me being there is me.Beyond that, I don’t need to hear every word that is spoken at the altar, I’m not the one being addressed for the most part. By way of example, when you ask someone to pray for you you don’t worry that it won’t be effective if it’s not done in your hearing do you?Also, when there isn’t constant noise and competing and sometimes conflicting demands on my attention during Mass I am free to linger in my prayers and reflections. I’m not forced to go through every word every time without regard to my own spiritual disposition. I look at this as allowing God to actually speak through the liturgy to each person, where each person is. If anything, while the priest is much more confined and restricted during a traditional Mass, the people in the pew have much greater flexibility to pray, to reflect or even to stare off into space I suppose. If that’s how some people choose to spend this exceptionally valuable time then that’s their own loss… probably. I have come more and more to the belief that in this age more than any other, whether they like it or not, people need a time when they are not constantly under sensory bombardment. Most of us don’t know how to handle that anymore but we need to learn.We live in a world where if the laugh track isn’t there we don’t know what’s funny.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Most of the comments so far I agree with. They are general comments about how people like to worship, and what is good about the Latin Mass. I don’t disagree. I just happen to think that the same effect can be had at a Novus Ordo Mass that is celebrated with due reverence and care.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13824256061658361536 Fr. Christopher G. Phillips

    Fr. Longenecker, I agree with you when you say “the same effect can be had at a Novus Ordo Mass that is celebrated with due reverence and care.”I cannot number the times visitors have told me, after they have taken part in an Anglican Use Mass, “Father, that’s just like the old Mass!” In the most obvious sense, it isn’t just like the old Mass (it isn’t even in Latin!), but in the sense of what they experienced — the awe and majesty of the worship of God, lack of “folksiness” and the absense of all the other stuff that makes one’s eyes roll in the typical N.O. parish — in that sense, what they experienced was what they experienced at a well-done Tridentine Mass. I have the same experience with people who visit the parish for the Sunday evening celebration of the N.O. Mass in Latin. It’s chanted, the celebration is eastward-facing, there’s lots of incense, a terrific schola of men sing from the back gallery. It’s not the Tridentine Mass, but people still say “Father, I haven’t been to a Mass like that in years!”I have every respect for those who look forward to the motu proprio (although I don’t think it will mean a proliferation of Latin celebrations), but I really think the answer is in what has been said many times: the priest simply needs to read the black and do the red. The rest will take care of itself.

  • Michael McDonough

    Fr. Longenecker,”I just happen to think that the same effect can be had at a Novus Ordo Mass that is celebrated with due reverence and care.”I don’t disagree with you, Father. However, it is my perception that many folks have little or no assurance that they can expect that when they go to Mass these days, i.e., “due reverence and care”, when the clergy does not share this view, or when the clergy hasn’t the proper training or discipline to be able to constrain themselves to doing it.Where the priests do, in fact, put reverence and care into the Mass, I don’t hear people complaining.So, if one is the celebrant, one can control that sort of thing, and if you know the celebrant at the Mass is that sort of priest, then you can relax. Otherwise, you never know. And, the Sacrifice of the Mass should be about Christ, not his minister. The TLM takes this out of the equation. (As can a priest who has “due reverence and care”.)

  • http://vocemea.blogspot.com brian

    Anonymous said,”How can we participate in worship if we don’t understand what is being said? How can we loose ourselves in contemplation if we don’t understand what we are supposed to be contemplating? How can we loose ourselves in the love of God if we don’t engage our entire beings? Loving the Lord involves heart, soul, mind and strength. (Mark 12:30) “It is not a matter of us as individuals. When we as Catholics worship, we worship as a collective community, and as I said in my above post, each of us has his/her role in the liturgy. Besides, it is not as if we are going into the Tridentine Liturgy blind. Most places will have a missal with a vernacular translation on the opposite page from the Latin. I am not at all opposed to the Mass celebrated in the vernacular. I am opposed to the rampant amount of liberty with which people now celebrate the Sacred Mysteries. In my (very large) parish, we have 3 guitar Masses, 3 with cantor and organ (at one of which I am the cantor) and one with a traditional Choir. When I and another musician attempted to introduce the Gregorian Propers and Ordinary into the Pauline Mass at which I serve, one of the folks from one of the guitar Masses (who was in attendance at the Mass we were serving) told the Pastor (who then told me) that “this is not Trent. He shouldn’t be doing that.” This was not Tridentine, it was the Mass of Pope Paul VI with Latin Propers and Ordinary, so it was completely legitimate. That is the issue I have with the Mass as it is celebrated today, because for every “Rad-Trad” out there complaining about the Pauline Mass, there are people who take liberties with the Pauline Mass and feel threatened by the proper celebration of the same. Fr. Phillips, I would love to be able to celebrate in an Anglican Use parish, but they are few and far between, and it seems as if the ability to celebrate that liturgy is quite limited in its scope.

  • Louise

    Shortly after my husband and I entered the Catholic Church in 1971, we went to a first Mass celebrated by a newly ordained priest in his parish. He had joined the Order of St. Basil and the Mass was celebrated with the choir and in the rite of the Ukrainian Catholic Church from Vancouver, B.C. I didn’t understand a word. From beginning to end, it was sung antiphonally between the young priest and the choir, but I thought I was in heaven. I was amazed to discover that two and a half hours had elapsed from beginning to end. The experience was timeless–it could have been hours and hours or just minutes. I had never heard a basso profundo before, let alone a bunch of them; chant that I never expected to hear on this earth, angel choirs and all the saints joining in. No, I didn’t need to say a word or even to understand a word. I was simply lifted out of myself in adoration too beautiful for words. (Words are highly over-rated and often totally inadequate.) We also had four children with us, from a few months to mid teens. Not a peep from any of them. It was a truly transcendent experience that I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

  • Anonymous

    Fr. Dwight Longenecker said… Good comments, and I respect the feelings of those who’ve pitched in, but no one has yet answered all my questions. Huh? Point by point I answered your questions. Why do you think I numbered from 1 to 6?Which ones didn’t I answer?RBrown

  • Anonymous

    Fr. Christopher G. Phillips said… Fr. Longenecker, I agree with you when you say “the same effect can be had at a Novus Ordo Mass that is celebrated with due reverence and care.” I cannot number the times visitors have told me, after they have taken part in an Anglican Use Mass, “Father, that’s just like the old Mass!”That confirms what my best friend, a Swiss priest, said: In order to celebrate the Novus Ordo well, it is necessary to pretend you’re using the 1962 Missal.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Dear Dr Brown, I do thank you for your answers to my questions, but they didn’t really satisfy. You gave me your opinions, but nothing really solid and specific.1. I accept that certain parts of the Mass should be inaudible and only for the priest. The Latin Masses I have been to the whole things was inaudible.2. The Latin Masses I have been to, the Scriptures were read by the priest with his back to the people at the altar in Latin and inaudibly. This is the practice for which I am asking a rationale.3. I realize that hymns are not part of the liturgy proper, but not having them,when they are allowed, seems to isolate the congregation from participation even more than necessary.4. Many Catholics do not know what is going on at the altar in a Latin Mass. How does the whole thing being inaudible and in a foreign language help?5 &6 My point is that the Mass was translated into Latin in the first place so that it could be understood. For it to be retained in a dead langauge for the sake of ‘mystery’ is artificial. If unintelligibility and antiquity equals ‘mystery’ why not use Syriac or Aramaic?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02434467880411499130 Shawn Tribe

    Fr. Longenecker,A few people have pointed out to me your questions. I’m going to try to answer them on my site, but you’re asking a number of questions, which means one either has to skirt all of them, focus intensely on one or a couple of them, or take a great deal of time to try to respond to all of them! I am not sure yet what I have the time and ability to do, but I’d like to try to offer something.On a point of note, I’ve only skirted the comments here, but I see the issue of Latin as the vernacular of the day coming up.In the most recent issue of the Saint Austin Review (which I presume you received since you are in it as a regular contributor) we had a series of essays on the sacred liturgy. Have you had a chance to read those as of yet?One issue you may wish to focus upon is Fr. U.M, Lang’s piece on Latin as a liturgical Language.Fr. Lang spoke of this topic in Oxford in the Fall at last year’s CIEL conference as well.The Latin employed in those times cannot be simply thought of as the vernacular. As he has brought forward, it was of a highly stylized idiom and thus would not be immediately recognizable to the average Roman in the street — let alone, for that matter, converted but non-Latin speaking cultures that were around at that time (such as the Germanic peoples, the Celts, and so forth). One might think, perhaps, of something like old English today, which employs not just “thee and thou’s” but older words and different styles of speaking. Think of Shakespeare for instance.In other words, the employment of Latin was not necessarily on the principle of the vernacular, but rather the language of the empire and the aristocracy.I’m simplifying greatly of course, but do read the article.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06739569698760671303 Royce

    Fr. Longenecker,I feel woefully inadequate to answer your questions, being a lowly college student who has only discovered the old rite in the past two years, but I suppose I will give it a shot.In general, your questions are why I never take first-timers to Low Mass. It just doesn’t work. I love it myself, but I have a missal and I’m well aquainted with the rite. I think you can grow to appreciate Low Mass once you’re familiar with the old rite, but for the first couple of years dialogue masses are a must.1. I don’t think any part of the Mass is only for the priest. Parts may only be for him to say, but everything involves the participatio activo. The Holy Father makes this clear in his discussion of how the whole congregation can pray the Canon together. Indeed, it is beautiful. I have been asked, “Why is the priest saying the prayers to himself?” Of course, you know he is praying them to God. I like to think of Jeremiah (or maybe it’s Eziekiel) — God was in the whisper. I think it’s mostly that that quietness fosters prayer, and the faithful can learn just as well from following in their missals or otherwise praying a long in that better environment than if the priest’s voice is booming over them.2. I like to think of the reading of scriptures at the high altar as a different view of scripture as prayer we offer up to God — like how we read scripture in the Office. The view here is that the Mass is not primarily instructive. Rather, it lays out for the faithful how they should relate to God — in quiet subservience. However, I do love hearing the scriptures chanted (as is done at High Mass or the more typical dialogue Masses that are typically offered by FSSP, etc). However, it’s not because I understand it better; either way I get all my understanding of the words from the missal or print-off.3. Agreed. I love hymns and Mass just doesn’t seem the same without a processional and recessional hymn. However, they can be awfully disruptive at the offertory and communion (and after communion — argh!). Trying to do an anthem (the type of hymn we usually sing from our hymnals) in the middle of a chant mass would be disruptive. I do think there could be some benefit to having the people sing along at those times, but I also think people do better to pray at communion rather than bother with singing — that’s something I miss very much when I’m in the choir.4. I think most people at the old rite actually know better what’s going on. The details aren’t nearly as important as the basic understand of the Body of Christ, and you’ve undoubtably seen the studies on how faith in the real presence has eroded. The old rite very effectively teaches the real pressence. I’m thinking not only of communion rails and receiving on the tounge, but also of the separation of the elevations from the rest of the actio by the first genuflection and the prohibition of extraordinary ministers. But that’s not your question. Understanding comes through catechisis, and you certainly wouldn’t have anyone at the old rite tell you that the priest is presiding over a community celebration, as many at the new rite might. Some might claim this is constant conjoinment, not true causation, but I think there’s a real causal (if only partly so) link.5 & 6. I’m not sure I really have a good answer for this. Part of the answer is that ecclesiastical latin really is beautiful and that much of the musical canon is in latin. The use of latin may be a bit of an historical accident, but we are still the Latin Rite, and it is neat for me to think of the 1,500 linguistic connection. Part of the answer too is that we need a language of the Church, and it doesn’t seem like it would make much sense to switch now. As the Pope has noted in much of his scholarship, the historical-critical method is useful, but it’s not everything. As he argues in Spirit of the Liturgy (and even more so in Feast of Faith) we shouldn’t seek to duplicate exactly Jesus’s Last Supper, which itself was full of historical accidents, to use St. Augustine’s terminology.I hope that helps. God Bless.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12373317560249811006 Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Thank you for your comments and ideas.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07637491041886997999 Mary Ann

    # If the Latin language is so wonderful, why is it inaudible on purpose?To emphasize the priest’s role as presenting the Sacrifice of the Mass to God on our behalf. We can follow along in Latin or English from a Missal.# How does the priest reading the Scripture in Latin with his back to the people inaudibly in a language they don’t understand help the people of God to hear and understand the Word of God?Every Tridentine Mass I’ve attended, the readings and Gospel were also read in English. The homily helps us understand the Word, and that is always in the vernacular.# How does no hymns and a choir singing in Gregorian chant help the people to particpate in the Mass, or have I got this wrong and the people are not intended to participate in the Mass at all? If so, is this better?The Masses I’ve attended did have hymns, at the Processional and Recessional, and I think at the offertory too.# How does it help the people to understand what is going on at the Mass when they can’t see what is happening at the altar, can’t understand the language, and can’t hear what the priest is saying?The faithful should be taught the significance of all of the priest’s actions and prayers at the altar. I would argue that many people can follow the Latin, or most Missals also have either an English translation or English prayers to accompany the parts of the Mass to help concentrate on what is happening. I think the last part was already asked in #1 above.I would further argue that many people who attend the Roman Rite each week in their own language do not attend to the prayers, do not have a proper understanding of them or of the priest’s actions.# I’ve heard it said that the Latin language is ‘ancient and mystical’ and that having the Mass in a dead language assists the worship by making it more mysterious. But the Mass was first translated into Latin from Greek because Latin was the vernacular at the time. In other words, it was put into Latin so people could understand it. Isn’t the veneration of Latin therefore artificial?Latin is the official universal language of the Church. Therefore it is given certain pride of place.# If one really wants an ancient, dead language that is mysterious, why don’t we have the Mass in Aramaic or Syriac, which are the dead ancient languages closest to what our Lord himself would have spoken? Why is Latin so special?Again, because it was chosen thousands of years ago as the official language of the Church. The point is not “use a dead language.” The point is to use the language of the Church (whatever it may be).Hope this helps. FYI, I prefer the current Roman Rite offered according to the rubrics, with the readings in the vernacular, but common parts (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Pater Noster, Agnus Dei) sung in Latin.I often attend a bi-lingual parish. Latin helps those of us who speak two different vernacular languages to pray as one.

  • Julia

    1. … The Latin Masses I have been to the whole things was inaudible.A. I have no idea why the whole Mass you attended was inaudible. But then there’s your Missal, right? It’s a religious ritual that is taking place, not a lecture. Try an Orthodox service -lots of it is inaudible and some activity even takes place behind a screen and you don’t even see the priest’s back. Look at the old churches in England at the time of the Reformation – they had screens, too. See the photos in Eamon Duffy’s book on “The Stripping of the Altars”. 2. …the Scriptures were read by the priest with his back to the people at the altar in Latin and inaudibly. A. I’m 62 and I never saw this at the old Latin Mass. I have no idea why the Mass you attended had the Gospel and Epistle read silently. Maybe it was a weekday “low” Mass? In any case, why would it bother you that you can’t see the priest’s lips if he is reading silently, anyway? 3. I realize that hymns are not part of the liturgy proper, but not having them,when they are allowed, seems to isolate the congregation from participation even more than necessary.A. Sometimes quiet is nice. We are so used to background noise these days from radio, TV, etc. that quiet time makes some people nervous. Why would a quiet few minutes isolate the congregation? Especially right after Communion? The Mass is not a prayer meeting, after all – there is something really happening at the altar whether we laity say or sing anything at all. 4. Many Catholics do not know what is going on at the altar in a Latin Mass. How does the whole thing being inaudible and in a foreign language help?A. I’m 62 and never had any problem understanding what is going on at the altar. I still have my old missals – they were quite explicit about what was happening. I think my generation understood it a lot better than the average person now – judging from what my children learned in their “Catholic” education. Being able to hear the words in your own language doesn’t mean you know or understand what is going on. 5 &6 My point is that the Mass was translated into Latin in the first place so that it could be understood. For it to be retained in a dead langauge for the sake of ‘mystery’ is artificial. If unintelligibility and antiquity equals ‘mystery’ why not use Syriac or Aramaic?A. Until the 20th century, Latin was also the language of the university – whether the scholars were Catholic or not. If you wanted to go to university, you first had to learn Latin. Vatican II was conducted in Latin, even the speeches and responses. The fact that it is a dead language is helpful – it isn’t constantly adding new turns of phrase or slang – it can be very precise. You avoid the squabbling over translations. The meaning stays the same over great expanses of time. The missal has everything in English. I don’t think the Latin makes it “mystical”. I think people may like the old Mass because of the absence of the informality and goofiness and Protestant feel of the current Mass as said in most places in the US> As a young person and in the past few years I have been at Latin Masses all around the world and it is so great to have it the same everywhere. If we don’t keep Latin, we will end up with national churches and be unintelligible to each other. Two of my siblings married Jews and I have been to a number of synagogue events. The ancient Hebrew keeps the Jews centered and united no matter where or when they are reciting or singing it. It was so great at bar and bas Mitzvas to see my nephews and niece solemnly read the ancient texts in Hebrew to everyone’s approbation and joy. Keeping your ancient religious language is more than sentimental mysticism. Latin was the language of the Roman Empire required to do business, appear in the law courts and to read records – it unified the various peoples who made up the Empire. Mass in the vernacular is OK, but the Latin Mass should not die out. We’ll rue the day if that really happens.

  • Anonymous

    Fr. Dwight- CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! GLORIFY HIM! I found your post interesting. I did not grow up with the Classical Roman Rite although it was THE mass during my use. I only attended it during the intermediate period when priests began celebration it in English. The English translation used from the Missal was so close to the BCP that I scarcely noticed the difference, Then when the Massof PPVI came on the scene I barely recognized it; and so I did not convert to the Roman Rite but to the Byzantine Rite. All this to say that had the intermediate Mass been refined what has happened in the Catholic Church MIGHT have turned out differently. Hopefully the upcoming changes will restore ‘order’ to the Mass. God Bless You. Matthew the CurmudgeonP.S. I think SOME people are looking for any excuse to start a fight no matter what your questions are or how honestly asked.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06739569698760671303 Royce

    You are very welcome.I second the above comment that Latin can bring a bilingual congregation together. It reminds me of a recent series of talks I went to on Bible translations, after which more than one friend said to me, “I’m beginning to think you’re right about Latin.” Yet another great advantage of using Latin at Mass is it’s a great excuse to completely exclude the NAB and the RSV and instead use the D-R for your side-by-sides.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06739569698760671303 Royce

    I just noticed this … Why are there two deacons in the photo at the top of this post instead of a deacon and a sub-deacon? The one on the left is wearing a dalmatic instead of a tunicle.

  • Jennifer

    Father, I suspect that many people who love the Latin Mass are just plain in love.****It also sounds like you went to kind of a sorry Mass? (From your description, and the other comments). I’ve only been to one Latin mass, but at it I could hear most and read the rest; the congregation did have a speaking part (for those who could speak Latin quickly enough), the readings and homily were in English, and there were even hymns ordinary people could sing. It was still Tridentine, but something very different from what you are reporting. Much more approachable. Easier to love.So I can’t answer your questions, since #1-4 didn’t apply. And I don’t buy the “ancient, mysterious” reasoning in questions 5 & 6. I know just a smattering Latin, but find it to be a language accessible and straightforward, and found the prayers of the Mass to be delightfully poetic. Maybe the people who insist it is mysterious are the ones missing out despite themselves?re: Greek, Aramaic, and Syriac: Am I confused, or aren’t those three still in use? Are they less lovable languages? I doubt it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13738477945703303268 James

    As an Anglican who attended a Latin mass on Christmas Eve 2005, I was thrilled with the Gregorian chant. It literally brought tears to my eyes. We began attending regularly after that, each Sunday at a Latin mass church. I am relearning Latin by reading the missal each Sunday with Latin on the left and English on the right. I like the idea of the constancy of the Latin around the world and this year and a millenium ago. It pleases me to reflect on that, but that is just opinion. I have put effort into following the priest and the rubrics and I find the mass meaningful. I feel connected to God as much at that hour than at any other time of the week, and usually more so.In reading some information about the NOM, I began to think the old Anglican Holy Communion (RIte 1) was closer to the old Latin mass than the NOM. But that is also opinion.I attended a Saturday evening mass in Washington, DC with the choir of the Sacred Music Colloquim which was just ending its week. I heard both chant and polyphonic music which certainly lifted me, just as the incense lifted upward. It was a wonderful experience. I feel a bit sad that it has not seeped into you in this way. I have found it wonderful. I will pray for your finding the joy and inspiration that I have found there.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02434467880411499130 Shawn Tribe

    Fr. Longenecker, A slight more detailed response, though a quick one, on my site, The New Liturgical Movement:Fr. Longenecker’s Latin Questions

  • Anonymous

    For the person who asked about “why are there two deacons”…. that is a misconception.It is true that the Deacon often has one horizontal stripe, and a subdeacon often has two. However, the tunicle and the dalmatic have been considered indistinguishable for several hunred years.Reference the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia.The one stripe/two stripe thing is of very recent origin and not unviersal or customary.

  • Andrew

    Fr. Longenecker,I know you are seeking answers to each one of these but, since I am no rubricist, I can respond only to 5 and 6.5. The Church has never suggested the use of Latin because it is ‘mysterious’. I don’t know what a mysterious language is and I suspect that those who say such things don’t know either.The mass was translated into Latin for the Roman Church because Latin was the common language of the Romans, as you state. Latin expanded as the common language of the Western Church because it was the language of the Western Empire; this happened in the same way with Greek in the Eastern Empire. These languages were used because almost everyone could understand them– not because they were mysterious.The reason the Mass was not retranslated into vernacular afterwards is that, until a few centuries ago, Latin was considered to be THE language of the West. Evidence of this is that any scientific, philosophical, or theological work was written in Latin. All the languages spoken in the West were either Latin derivatives (the Romance languages) or highly dependant upon it for vocabulary (English and German). Latin, for the West, was the language upon which the whole culture had been built and was therefore considered the language most worthy to address the Most High. This original characteristic also gave it the practical advantage of being comprehensible and speakable (Latin pronunciation is very easy) by any literate person. Furthermore, Latin IS a beautiful language. Its vocabulary is small and sometimes ambiguous but it has an efficiency of expression that is unmatched in any other Western language. So while it is ‘artificial’ (ars-art, skill + facio, to make, do= Eng. artificial) it has not been used in the West out of blind veneration for its ‘mystery’; rather, it has been used for good, practical reasons.Also, I would like to point out that more than half the words used in the English language are derived from Latin. Our very thoughts depend upon it for expression. 6. Our forefathers would have considered Aramaic to be ridiculous because it was not the language of their people. They did not use Latin merely because it was ‘ancient’ but because it was THE language of the culture and society.

  • Anonymous

    I have no theological qualifications and I don’t help to “plan the liturgy.” I do remember though what the Mass used to be like when it was in Latin and I said the prayers in English which were being said in Latin. I knew what was happening because I received orthodox catechesis at school and the idea that father would preach a hetrodox sermon was unthinkable.I probably won’t attend a Latin Mass, because after attending the NO Mass for so long at a Latin Mass I do feel that it’s more about the priest and servers and less about me as part of the priesthood of the laity offering the sacrifice with the priest by my actual participation. That’s how I feel objectively but subjectively I know that there is something missing at the NO Masses; The sense of reverence, the sense of mystery the sure knowledge that something not of this earth was happening – this is what is missing. We weren’t so busy then – answering, laughing at the priest’s jokes, clapping, singing ditties etc. We could immerse ourselves in the Sacrifice and we had time to really unite ourselves with Jesus’ offering to the Father. I liken the two to a Beethoven symphony being played by a famous orchestra and the same symphony being played by a high school band; same notes being played but oh the difference.I know that the Mass is the Mass and theoretically we can do all of the above at the NO Mass but the manner in which most of the Masses I have attended are celebrated mitigates against this. I can’t go back and I don’t like where I am. Where does that leave me?

  • Anonymous

    OK, in simple direct terms from another convert:After the Resurrection, Peter himself lived in Rome and spoke Latin to preach and minister. He spoke Latin because it was the native language of the Roman empire. He went to Rome because there was the entire world to convert and teach the Christian faith to. It apparently wasn’t God’s design to have the Church remain only in the Middle East. Good thing, huh? So Catholic worship in Latin is entirely appropriate.Nowdays, there are many vernacular languages we maybe could use (and currently do) but they are all politically loaded in a global world. It is very difficult for people to use them in a timeless manner to convey timeless worship. They often don’t literally have the proper words in their vocabularies for what the Mass conveys, in liturgical terms. Latin does. It is timeless. Only the language no one speaks on the street can become the language everyone speaks in worship.As for your remarks about ignorance of the people, mass is not meant to be a primary school lesson. It’s meant to be worship. Therefore literal street level explanation ad infinitum is not a reason for accepting or refusing anything-especially Latin. Literal street level explanations are not what mass consists of. There is a great deal more to Catholicism and Catholic liturgical behavior than literal showmanship and entertainment. It’s much bigger than even you, apparently, think.The key to getting your parishoners to understand the faith is decent catechesis OUTSIDE mass.You can’t conflate the whole of Catholicism down to 45 minutes a week and expect your parishoners to act like Catholics when you’re not looking at them. YOu have to give them catechesis to learn their faith, and then Mass to worship in their faith.

  • Anonymous

    Besides, your whole comment, Fr. Dwight, makes me think of those Catholics I meet now and then who tell me they don’t ever need to read the bible because they “hear the whole thing every 3 years in Mass.” They most emphatically do not. They only hear selected verses, and paraphrased at that. And it shows me, a convert, that they have no idea what’s in the bible. Not a clue.Such blather is ignorant and LAZY. God deserves better. People have got to learn to put some effort into this or they’re just not engaging in that “full and authentic participation” that we are always hearing about.And the worship issue is analogous to this one. Mass, and the whole Catholic faith, is beautiful. It is a reflection of the worship of heaven. We sing with the angels. So we’d ought to at least try to stay awake and put some effort into it. Worship is not just putting in 45 minutes a week in the easiest way possible.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05983835520470686424 Fr Jay Scott Newman

    Off these questions, but on topic, are these considerations:1. Taken together, all of the Catholics in the world now attending the Mass of 1962 constitute less than one one hundreth of one percent of the Catholic population. The popularity of this subject in the blogosphere should lead no one to the false conclusion that a ground-swell is going on; it isn’t.2. Two years ago, the Synod of Bishops met in Rome for three weeks to discuss only one topic: the Most Holy Eucharist. These bishops came from every nation in the world and were chosen both by their episcopal brethren at home and by the pope. They were instructed to talk about anything they wanted to discuss with respect to the celebration of the Eucharist, and they offered observations about a bewildering array of concerns. But not one word was spoken about the Missal of 1962 or a wider return that form of the Eucharist. Not one. No one rose to speak for silent canons or Latin collects or tunicles with maniples. Not one.From these two observations, I draw this conclusion: The long-rumored and still invisible motu proprio notwithstanding, there is simply no interest in the Church beyond the statistically insignificant world of specialists and bloggers in retrieving what 99.999% of the Catholic people (and hierarchy) consider a noble part of our heritage but not a living part of our future (think of the papal navy!).Of course, we must have chaplains for the .001% who remain attached to the old Mass, but let’s be serious about where our primary efforts must be made.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14523031758614929928 Wm Riley

    Frs. Newman and Longenecker,I have read wonderful things about your parish and I hope to have the chance to visit it.I attend a parish in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis which uses both the Pauline and the 1962 Missal. Our pastor is the Vicar General and the associate pastor is from the FSSP. We have another parish in the archdiocese which has two FSSP priests and uses only the Missal and rites in place in 1962. We have 132 parishes in the Archdiocese, yet I think the two churches referenced above say something more then the statistics. I think it represents a new tune being interjected into the archdiocese. It is not a tune that will overwhelm the Pauline Missal, but may serve to help anchor it in the organic developement of the liturgy.This would appear to be what the Holy Father is intending with the Motu Proprio. I do not think we can doubt its existence anymore. Cardinals Bertone and Kasper have confirmed it is a done deal. I anticipate we will soon see what the Holy Father has in mind with it. I think the buzz in the blogosphere and in the recent articles in the press indicate that this will have an impact past the percentage of people who now attend/have the opportunity to attend a Mass according to the 1962 Missal.I have seen it thrown about (but can’t confirm it), that more people attend the schismatic SSPX chapels on Sunday in France then the Pauline Masses said in union with the local Ordinary. If true, then that says something for the state of the French Church and for how the reforms were carried out in France.Both the High and Low Masses said according to the 1962 Missal in our parish are audible, except for the Canon. We have a congregation made up of mainly people under 40. I love the Mass according to the 1962 Missal and do not have any trouble following it or praying it. The Masses we have according to the Pauline Missal are also very prayerful and beautiful. I do not really see this as an either or situation, and I am happy to have both at my parish.God Bless both of you!Will Riley

  • Anonymous

    I’ll respond to 5&6 first–the others will probably take longer.A. It is a mistake to assume that there was linguistic homogeneity in the Roman Empire. For example, in Gaul Latin was the language of official business. Certainly, there were Latin speakers, but they were the educated classes–not the common man. In most of Gaul the native tongues continued among the rural people. B. And so, as I said earlier, the change to Latin c. 200 was NOT a change to the vernacular (the language of the people) but a change to the language of Empire (cf C below). Peasants in Gaul didn’t know Latin–there was no way for them to have learned it. C. Further, the change from Greek to Latin (c 200) happened not when Latinitas was flourishing but rather at the beginning of its decline. Pax Romana was ending because of the invasions of migrating Germanic tribes into Gaul, Hispania, and Italy. D. Latin has a relationship to the languages of the West that Aramaic and Syriac do not have. An American of average intelligence can recognize certain words in Latin but not even the letters in Semitic languages. E. I agree that Latin now is mostly unintelligible, but the study of Latin has been tied to Latin liturgy and ended with the vernacularization of liturgy. The average SSPX or FSSP seminarian knows more Latin than the average Novus Ordo seminarians.RBrown

  • Anonymous

    As I said, I’ll answer 1-4 later, but I want to make one point. Liturgy today has unfortunately acquired too much of a narrow meaning, i.e. what goes on at mass. And so liturgy is considered successful when the people mouth the responses at mass. But Sacrosanctum Concilium (no. 10) has a much broader understanding of liturgy, connecting it to the entire life of the Church. Thus: “Nevertheless the Liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.”Using this definition from Vat II, it is hard to find where the liturgy the past 40 years has been anything but a pastoral flop–empty churches, empty seminaries and religious houses, pro-abortion Catholics, failure of Catholic marriages, etc.

  • Anonymous

    Fr. Newman:As a commenter elsewhere pointed out – the proportion of Catholics who seem interested in the Mass, period is low, considering that in the developed world, perhaps an average of 20& of Catholics attend Mass on a given week.The vast majority of Catholics also contracept and have no interest in Natural Family Planning. So?

  • Henry Edwards

    Fr. Longenecker, Before attempting some brief answers to your specific questions, let me mention that I’m a completely “bi-ritual Roman Catholic” of the type that seems increasingly common nowadays — attending the new Mass daily and an indult old Mass on occasional Sundays. And writing a fair amount about both — for instance, at my site http://www.knoxlatinmass.net and (as an example) the personal account of Mass there in Greenville that Fr. Newman quoted in his Random Thoughts thread “Corpus Christi at St. Mary’s: A View from the Pew”.Q1. If the Latin language is so wonderful, why is it (the Roman canon, I assume you mean) inaudible on purpose?A1. I’ve heard a liturgist quoted as saying it’s “so the people can pray”. Seriously, I find it a great deal easier to unite myself as a conscious participant with the action of the priest in the silent canon of the classical Mass. Admittedly subjectively, after years of trying consciously day in and day out, it’s still rather difficult for me — when listening to the priest reciting the canon aloud — to avoid the same feeling of a mere spectator as when sitting on the couch watching a TV program in which I’m not an active participant. Incidentally, Friday before last I attended in St. Louis my first TLM of ordination, in which Archbishop Burke recited the canon aloud (so the newly ordained priests could hear him as they concelebrated), and though it was overall a glorious Mass beyond ordinary description, during the audible canon itself I had something of the same disconcerting feeling there as at a Novus Ordo Mass.Q2. How does the priest reading the Scripture in Latin with his back to the people inaudibly in a language they don’t understand help the people of God to hear and understand the Word of God?A2. Well, of course, the canon is addressed to God and not to the people. Certainly it has no catechetical purpose requiring their word-for-word understanding. When my lawyer appears before the bench or in chambers, there is no reason for me to hear his detailed arguments on my behalf. Of course this is a rather weak analogy, since I certainly believe my prayerful interior participation in the Mass increases my receptivity to the grace of which the Blessed Sacrament is the channel.Q3. How does no hymns and a choir singing in Gregorian chant help the people to participate in the Mass, or have I got this wrong and the people are not intended to participate in the Mass at all? A3. Of course, the whole object of the 20th century liturgical movement that began when Pius X introduced the term “participatio actuosa” (if not before) was full and conscious actual participation by the people. Prior to the aftermath of Vatican II, this participation was understood as prayerful and interior, not primarily in terms of exterior actions. Of course, people like Fr. Zuhlsdorf have written quite a lot about the fact that receptive attention to Gregorian chant and sacred music can and should be intensely participative, that true participation does not consist of doing things, carrying stuff around, etc.Q4. How does it help the people to understand what is going on at the Mass when they can’t see what is happening at the altar, can’t understand the language, and can’t hear what the priest is saying? A4. Well of course, the answer to this is the hand missal. My subjective but strongly held personal impression is that the people using missals at Latin Masses (whether Tridentine or Pauline) generally are much more cognizant of what’s happening at the altar than those not using them at the typical Sunday parish Mass.Q5. I’ve heard it said that the Latin language is ‘ancient and mystical’ and that having the Mass in a dead language assists the worship by making it more mysterious. But the Mass was first translated into Latin from Greek because Latin was the vernacular at the time. In other words, it was put into Latin so people could understand it. Isn’t the veneration of Latin therefore artificial?A5. Of course, no one (that I know) “venerates” Latin, any more than the canard that as Catholics we “worship” Mary. And I understand it’s a historical fallacy that Latin was a universally understood vernacular language at the time when it was introduced in a Roman empire that was then (perhaps even more than our own time) a chaotic melting pot of competing languages. But it seems true that Mass in a dead language not subject to rapid alteration of meanings renders it more “mysterious” and helps retain the sacred sense that is all too often missing nowadays. In any event, whatever happened in the past, the introduction of the vernacular seems closely associated with a loss of the sacred in recent decades.Q6. If one really wants an ancient, dead language that is mysterious, why don’t we have the Mass in Aramaic or Syriac, which are the dead ancient languages closest to what our Lord himself would have spoken? Why is Latin so special?A6. I know of no a priori reason for Latin, except — and a mighty big exception it is — Latin has been the language of the mind of the Roman church rite for a millenium and a half. However, I understand that Greek plays quite well the same role in much of the Byzantine church, along with church Slavonic in the Russian church, and indeed Aramaic or Syriac in certain Eastern churches. But surely you know these things, so I’m not sure I understand any serious intent this question may have.Finally, let me add (apart from your particular questions) that my own impression is that our Holy Father’s main intent in a putative restoration of the classical Latin Mass (whatever the details may turn out to be) is not for those few “attached” to it, but to anchor and guide the “reform of the reform” to get the Pauline Mass back on the track from which it has strayed.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02434467880411499130 Shawn Tribe

    Fr. Newman,You certainly seem to have a real bone to pick with the 1962 Missale Romanum. I must say it almost comes off that you deem it as a threat, even while you attempt to suggest no one is really interested in it. I find this very unfortunate and it is something ‘progressivists’ do as well — I’m not saying you are that!Is it the majority? No, but no one has claimed it was. The Eastern churches and their rites aren’t the majority either. That doesn’t change their value or importance. Nor does it define value since the issue isn’t about democratic interest.As regards interest, as seems must be noted over and over, it hasn’t exactly been given the conditions to flourish; it has been relatively marginalized up until the present. We could say a very similiar thing about the reform of the reform in that light. How many Catholics, percentage wise, make a concerted effort to go to a reform of the reform parish? How many are there in a particular diocesan landscape? This is a poor road to start going down because it misses a few major issues.Like the classical liturgy, which for all its marginlization for decades, is flourishing remarkably well despite those odds, the reform of the reform also works against similar odds in many diocesan climates. In both cases, there is a process of rebuilding at hand, and they have a very good start, and good advocates. (Though they need to learn to start working together, rather than nitpicking at one another.) Moreover, in all these regards, we need to identify two groups that exist to see what is really going on.One group are those intentional folks, whether progressivist, reform of the reformers, or classical riters, who make a concerted effort to both go to and promote a particular set of liturgical principles. That is not the majority of the Catholic populace, even put together I daresay.The majority are relatively apathetic in many regards, or they have been formed by a view of “rupture” and know nothing else (but could hear something else) or they simply go to whatever is most convenient Parish and Mass for their day to day personal pursuits, even when they might prefer more traditional liturgics (ultimately a kind of apathy as well). As such, the question of numbers can be deceiving.These various movements are off to a very good start, and they do have strength, thought, and much of who matters in the Holy See behind them. That being said, one of our precise challenges is that many Catholics are unfamiliar with either movement, and would likely be, in their current state, apathetic until they are formed otherwise. This is true as regards the reform of the reform as well.This is not because of some informed Catholic opinion, nor because of an inherent problem with those liturgical movements or our tradition in the modern world; nor because the progressivists are somehow “right” (it’s awfully easy to go with the secular flow — which isn’t about people’s adherence to liberals forms of “Christianity” but really adherence to secularism and its philosophies with a little cultural Christianity for sentimentality’s sake). Rather, this situation arises simply out of apathy and lack of catechesis. In short, it is a fruit of the very one and same problem we’re all facing who promote liturgical forms consistent with our organic tradition.So it is, with that majority who’ve inherited that problem, we’re left to re-catechize and re-introduce them to these things, just like we’re left to try to restore catechesis, and a better understanding and adherence to the Faith and morals of the Church. This is why, ultimately, numbers are both deceiving and not of concern. These matters are not about numbers as are reflected in our present state, but rather about evangelism and formation for the sake of the spiritual good — which can thereby help increase those numbers for the glory of God, and the even greater witness to the rest of the world.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06739569698760671303 Royce

    E-gads this has turned into an enormous thread. To respond to Fr. Newman’s comments … I’ve actually seen statistics that suggest up to 5% of Catholics who actually attend Mass are at the old rite. This does seem a little high, but given that those who go to the old rite always go every week kind of makes sense. Additionally, I’m sure there are countless people in the same situation as me who would go the old rite more often if it was more available and done in better taste than many diocesan indult Masses are. Additionally, in France, 20% of priests currently ordained are for the old rite! (That’s combining FSSP, ICRSS, SSPX, and the others). Additionally, interest in the old rite is very strong among those entering the seminary, leading FSSP and ICRSS to have more seminarians than priests. My bishop is considering inviting FSSP to the diocese to deal with the priest shortage, something he might not have to do if he hadn’t lost seminarians because of his hostility to the old rite. To top it off, think of how many beautiful, old parishes these ‘orders’ have been able to keep open (along with the commuters who drive in from hours away).If I was a conservative (liturgically, of course) minded diocesan priest, I think I would be a bit weary about the situation. The parish I go to (which seems to be very like St. Mary’s Greenville from what I’ve been able to gather from Mr. Weigel’s book) has had two of its young men enter the FSSP seminary instead of the diocesan seminary. Of course, that doesn’t put its pastor into the bishop’s favor.I think we need the old rite around because — and I’m stealing this idea straight from Pope Benedict — we need it to excercise a magnetic influence on the new. I really believe this because of my personal experience. I’d probably still be advocating Mass bands if I hadn’t been to the old rite and suddenly realized that everything I thought about liturgy was just wrong. It wasn’t liturgical orthodoxy that brought me to the old rite, but rather the other way around.As a side note, I greatly enjoyed discussing this issue with your friend George Weigel when he was at Wabash College. But do you think he would have arrived at the conclusion that we should consider ad orientem without every going to the old rite? I somehow doubt it, but perhaps you think otherwise. You’re certainly right that we shouldn’t lose sight of the real objective: reforming the new rite. But I think we have to be informed by something. If not, we end up like the liturgically-uninformed men who caused some of the problems with the old rite that triggered the reform. We can’t just stab in the dark, and I’m sure you don’t want us to.I’ve thought about this very much, and I know you’re right that we can’t all abandon our home parishes for indult churches. But sometimes the suburbs are just too much to bear.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05983835520470686424 Fr Jay Scott Newman

    In no particular order:1. I have no bone to pick with the Missal of 1962, and I am not in any way threatened by it. What I do share, however, is the conviction of an ecumenical Council of the Church that all of the liturgical books as they stood in 1962 were in need of reformation and adaptation.2. Post hoc ergo propter hoc is one of the most common logical fallacies. The witch doctor danced and then it rained, so the witch doctor made it rain by dancing. The Church changed the Mass and then Western civilization fell apart, so the new Mass made civilization fall apart.3. It is a simple fact that only the tiniest number of Catholics will ever again join in the celebration of the Mass of 1962. Moreover, no one–including Benedict XVI–has any certain idea what effect a wider use of the Pian Mass will have on the celebration of the Pauline Mass. We simply cannot know that until and unless it happens. However, we can be sure of is that even with the widest conceivable availability, the number of people participating in the Pian Mass will remain statistically insignificant.4. All of which leads to my conclusion that those who harbor hope that the general liturgical life of the Church will be improved by a few more celebrations of the Pian Mass have simply and profoundly misunderstood the situation of the Church in our time.5. And that’s probably enough about this.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06739569698760671303 Royce

    Fr. Newman,I may have a simple yet profound misunderstanding of the situation of the Church, but I do know that the old rite has had a not-so-simple, profound impact on my life and the lives of several of my friends considering a vocation to the priesthood.Peace,Royce

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14275572949942001330 Peter John(son)

    >>>However, we can be sure of is that even with the widest conceivable availability, the number of people participating in the Pian Mass will remain statistically insignificant.Fr. Newman, I not sure how you can predict this honestly. Do you think the overflowing ICKSP and FSSP and IGS seminaries are going to leave their seminaries and not find parishes needing to be served? Our rather large reasonably orthodox diocese just ordained ONE seminarian. Last year it was one as well. I also think you radically underestimate the number of people like me who would love to attend the Traditional Rite but the closest one we have is 55 minutes away at 8:00 AM. With two young children, it makes it near impossible for those like myself to attend the Traditional Rite. So I’m going to do a little experiment. I have a newpaper ad ready to run in the local paper for 1-2 months following the MP. I build a very nice website (using Joomla) with no previous experience of the sort. I have opened a P.O. Box at the local post office for correspondance by mail with those who may not have internet access. So I’m going to run the ad referring people to my e-mail, the post office box, and the website (for those who know little of the traditional rite). I live in a rather rural area, and the newspaper circulation is only about 15,000 households, so I don’t yet know what to expect. I’ll keep you updated either way.

  • Anonymous

    Reposting the link to Shawn Tribe’s very thoughtful response:http://thenewliturgicalmovement.blogspot.com/2007/06/fr-dwight-longeneckers-latin-questions.htmlJust a small comment: statistically insignificant? As statistically insignificant as say… one stray sheep??God bless.Dave Werling

  • Jamie

    Hello Fr Dwight, it’s Jamie here. For your readers, I’m the husband of bloggist Aunite Joanna of “Auntie Joanna Writes”. First, congratulations on your recent priesting. Second, your questions. Well, you and I have been here before. And so has Andrew Swampillai who pointed your questions out to me. But thank you for your honesty in putting them as you do. I am bound to say that I think it is a sign of the times that a priest should be asking these questions and a layman has to answer him. That, in itself, would be enough to make our fathers in the faith look on with astonishment at the extent of the impoverishment of the Church in our time that a priest could not, himself, answer these questions. Don’t get me wrong – that is not meant to be an insult (though I appreciate it may sound a bit like one!) but I am censuring the system that has allowed priestly education to become so weak and jejune as to fail so markedly to educate our priests to understand questions like these which are really very elementary. First, let me dispense with the “Latin Mass afficionado” tag. For most of the Church’s history the Roman rite, the oldest rite in the Church, East or West, has been celebrated in Latin. It is not a private quirk of “aficionados” like, say, collecting rare moths or coins: it has been for most of 2,000 years the primary public rite of prayer of the Roman Catholic Church. That, of itself, should give you pause for thought that something so ancient might just have a claim upon your attention, your intelligence and, yes, your loyalty. The hallmark of the Catholic Church is, as St Vincent of Lerins taught, tradition and timeless continuity – not only in teaching but also in practice. For instance, we venerate the bodies of the saints because it is right of itself but also because Christians of the 1st century did it. How much more, then should we venerate those traditions of prayer that have been handed down to us by popes and bishops, generation after generation, time out of mind since the very beginning of the Church and, indeed, since much earlier, even from the days of the Jewish Temple worship for that is where our liturgical traditions stretch back. Plainchant was not invented by St Gregory the Great as some unlettered persons seem to think. It was used, first, in the Jewish temple worship and is ancient, ancient, ancient. But today we simply throw it out with the trash and replace it with trite, ill-written, ill-considered, ill-judged and inappropriate ditties worthy more of the nursery than the Church’s solemn and ancient liturgy. But that is symptomatic of the mentality that prefers the superficiality of modern liturgy and cannot (or will not?) see the importance of the Church’s rich and beautiful liturgical traditions. It takes an Anglican like Dr Catherine Pickstock (because so few modern Catholics know much about their faith) to understand that the Roman rite of the Mass has been the centrepiece of western culture. The modern barbarians who inhabit our Chanceries no longer understanding this, have scrapped it rather like an ignorant philistine might throw away a priceless Leonardo painting or, worse, use it to wrap fish or give it to children to draw on with crayons. The degree of vandalism is, however, much, much worse in the case of the traditional rites since they are the priceless gift of the Holy Spirit, honed and refined to perfection by the Divine hand as a beautiful and priceless gift for His favourite sons. His ingrate sons have thrown away the gift preferring their own tawdry imitation to the genuine original. The Father, being indulgent and respectful of His sons even when they are froward and wayward, allows them to trumpet their tawdry achievement to the world even though He knows that it is leading them astray. But He knows their childish stubbornness must run its futile course and that they will not listen otherwise.Now your questions I shall answer in another frame as this one may be too long. See next frame.Jamie.

  • j.mart@mac.com

    Latin mass churches tend to:1. not have despicable church-in-the-round design2. have a far more reverent attitude–there is not a dull roar pre-service making prayer hard3. have people dressed like they have respect for the riteWhen the N.O. churches can do the same, maybe the Latin mass crowd will have less ammo. But as it is, misdirected as they may be, they have the fruits to show something among them IS right.

  • Jamie

    One other but separate point: when we use the maxim “Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia” (Where is Peter, there is the Church) that does not mean, as many think and your pic of Papa Benedict seems to imply, only the present incumbent of the throne of St Peter. EVERY pope is included in that axiom. EVERY pope is where the Church is, not just the present Pontiff. That, indeed, is why we say “Petrus” (Peter) and not just “Papa” (the Pope) in that maxim. Thus, as Lumen Gentium teaches us at LG25, the Pope has the duty and obligation to hand on what his predecessors handed on to him. He has no right to introduce novelties and if he tries then he must be resisted, even to his face, because, as St Alphonsus Liguori and St Robert Bellarmine teach, he is not “confirming the brethren” but subverting them. As such he is not acting as Peter but as an impostor and thus the maxim “Ubi Petrus” does not apply to him when he does that.Slavish and unquestioning obedience to a pope who reverses the teaching or practices of his predecessors forms no part of Catholic teaching or practice and is not Catholicism but rather heterodoxy and a form of atheistic Legal Positivism or even gnosticism.Why atheist?Because it places the Pope above God by making him so final an authority that he can even reverse and reject the infallible teachings and practices of his predecessors whose teachings have been hallowed by the Holy Spirit.If the Pope can overturn what has been sanctified by the Holy Spirit then the Pope is above God in which case there is no God.Hence such a view is a form of atheism.It is not Catholicism.Ergo.So how about a picture of lots of popes and not just the present pope. However much we love him, we must also love all holy and orthodox popes. We must not make of the Pope some mere personality cult as the pagans do their leaders and teachers.Fondest,Jamie.

  • Jamie

    Hello Fr Dwight, again! Carrying on from the previous frame I now essay your questions: 1. The use of the Latin language for the Roman rite is not chiefly to do with its “wonder” as a language, still less for purely aesthetic reasons. To think this is to misunderstand its use. There are 3 primary sacred languages in the Christian Church. They are: Hebrew (Aramaic), Greek and Latin. Why? Primarily, because they are the languages which God chose to use in revealing Himself to us. That, with nothing more, renders them sacred. But there is more. They were also the languages over the Cross of our Redemption – read the Scriptures and you will see it (Mel Gibson unaccountably left Greek out of his film although it was the primary language of the time). They also correspond to the Holy Trinity: Hebrew, the language of the Jews and the Old Testament, to the Father, Greek the language of the New Testament and of the Eastern Roman Empire (pace Mel Gibson, Latin was largely confined to the Roman army not the Roman administration and trade), to the Son, and Latin, the language of the Western Empire, to the Holy Spirit since it is chiefly in that language that the Holy Spirit has unlocked to us the deeper understanding of the mysteries of the Catholic faith so that, for most of the Christian centuries, it has been the language of theologians, learned men, scientists and scholars. So the choice of these languages for the liturgy was not accidental. Sanskrit or Mandarin would not have done, honourable and venerable though they may be. I suspect because you have confined your study of the traditional mass to the Low Mass alone (a common mistake) you think that the Latin is inaudible. It just isn’t in the Missa Cantata (what you Yanks call High Mass) or the High Mass (what you Yanks call Solemn High Mass). Solemn High Mass is the norm, for parishes and dioceses, not merely the Missa Cantata, still less the said Low Mass. Low Mass is a concession for travelling priests or priests who are in a hurry for a good reason. It is not the norm. To celebrate Low Mass as the norm is an abuse. It is an abuse that arose out of persecution in the Anglophone countries, especially Ireland. Every parish should have Solemn High Mass at every mass, where possible. It is NOT reserved for “special occasions”. The East does not have anything else. Low Mass does not exist for them. At Solemn High Mass or Missa Cantata the Latin is sung and is very much audible, beautiful and highly conducive to devotion and prayer. It is also the ancient tradition of the Church and thus, we can be certain, the manner of prayer which the Holy Spirit has taught us and thus the form of public prayer most pleasing to God. 2. Same answer. When the Mass is sung as it should be, all the readings are sung, in a beautiful chant, and everyone can hear their beautiful words. Moreover, it is sometimes the custom to read them again, in the vernacular, at the beginning of the sermon. If you want to understand the traditional rite of mass, Dwight, you have got to attend the Solemn High Mass, well sung, and attend it numerous times so that you fully see and understand it and how it works. Otherwise you will continue to tilt at windmills and merely waste your time attacking a straw man. The priest, deacon and sub-deacon do not always have their back to the people and certainly not when chanting the readings. That is yet another of your straw men! However, when they go to the altar of God they face God. They do not have “their back to the people”. On the contrary, it is the New Mass priest who has his back to God – that is, assuming that he believes that it is really God in the tabernacle behind him which he has turned his back on. It is fitting, right and proper for the priests of God to face Him and to bow low before Him when they pray to Him. Let us not forget that is what we are doing at Mass: we are praying to God, first and foremost. We are not engaged primarily in a public meeting in some lecture hall as Protestants often seem to be. We are approaching the Holy of Holies before Whom we kneel and lie prostrate as before the presence of Almighty God Himself, albeit, in His great humility, He has chosen to appear to us disguised as a circlet of bread and a cup of wine. What arrogance, then, for the sacred ministers of the altar to turn their backs upon the sacred presence of the Divine Majesty of the King of Heaven. But more surprising, still, are those who still speak of the priest who turns toward the Lord as though he were thereby “turning his back” upon his people. On the contrary, he stands as one pressed forward by the people to be consecrated to address the prayers of all to that Sacred and Majestic Presence that inhabits our tabernacles. How is that the humblest and most ignorant Jew of the Old Testament understood this but we modern Christians, in all our knowledge and arrogance, cannot understand so simple a thing? I shall carry on in another frame hereafter, with the other questions. Jamie.

  • Jamie

    Hello Fr Dwight, again! Carrying on from the previous frame I now continue with the next questions:3. With respect you need to read a bit more about what “participatio actuosa”, the proper active participation of the faithful at mass, actually is. I suggest you start with The Organic Development of the Liturgy by Rev Dr Alcuin Reid OSB, one of the foremost liturgical scholars in the English language. Let me try to put it simply: the purpose of liturgy is to lift up and conform ourselves to God through the public prayer of the Church, hallowed by tradition and the Holy Spirit. The purpose of liturgy is NOT (repeat NOT) about trying to bring God down to our merely human level by cutting and slashing what the Holy Spirit has provided us and so seeking to get God to conform to us. That is the very reverse of liturgy’s purpose and yet so many modern liturgists and clergy are seeking to do just that.So “active participation” is about the faithful participating in that way: lifting themselves up, through the liturgy and public prayer of the Church, to God. It is not about rendering the sublime and sacred less sublime and more ordinary and hum-drum so as to bring it down to our level. If we do not understand some part of the liturgy we should not then require that it be re-written or re-presented so that we, in our ignorance, can understand it better. What we must do is to learn about the liturgy so that we can understand it better and so that what is now obscure will become clear to us so that we are then lifted up and conform ourselves to God, not try to bring his great mysteries down to our shoddy level. THAT is active participation, not the singing of trite ditties and bad nursery rhymes in place of the ancient rites of Holy Church.The Church does not rule out hymns, even vernacular hymns, where necessary but that is really an admission that the people are so dull of spirit that they are seemingly unable to lift their understanding to appreciate the beauty of the ancient rites of the Church and must have something less sublime to meet their low level of understanding. It is allowable but it is far from perfect. For the same reason the Church allows a vernacular liturgy such as did St Cyril and St Methodius for the ignorant, pagan Slavs and for the pagan Croats in the Glagolitic rite. In time, however, these vernacular rites have taken on a sacred hue of their own. But, good though they are, they are not as good as the sacred liturgy in the sacred languages of Hebrew, Greek and Latin which are the languages of all the most ancient rites in the Church, even today e.g. the Syrian and Chaldean Churches use Aramaic, the Greeks and Melchites use Greek (although the Arabic vernacular is creeping in fast), and, until recently, the Western rites, chiefly the Roman but also the Toledan, the Ambrosian, the Bragan and the other Western rites, used Latin.4. You really repeat yourself here and I have answered your question 4, I think.5. Here you make the classic mistake of thinking that the reason the liturgy was first put into Greek and Latin was because the Church wanted to use the vernacular. As I said earlier, the first Christian liturgical language was almost certainly Aramaic-Hebrew and the Jews used a liturgical variant of it. Greek, being the language used by our Lord, quickly followed. Latin came later when it became clear that the Roman Empire was going to be the first vehicle for evangelisation and its language was going to be the primary language of the Church. A liturgical version of Latin was used, as also Greek. These languages were used because they are sacred languages: they appeared over the Cross, they were the languages of the Old and New Testament and of the continuing revelation of the Christian Gospel by the Holy Spirit through the Church. To describe the veneration of Latin as “artificial” is therefore to display the kind of dismissal of two millennia of Christian learning, scholarship, theology, teaching, government, law, science, medicine, literature, art and continuing enfolding of God’s revelation that one might normally expect only to hear from the most primitively minded and ill-informed of Protestants. And yet, to be frank, one does hear such things from the clergy of the Catholic Church time and time again. I go back to my first remarks: it is demonstrative of the extent to which our clergy are no longer properly educated. Indeed, the poor, ignorant and superstitious clerics of the immediate pre-Reformation period begin to look actually rather better informed than do many of our moderns! So many of our clergy have become so imbued with Protestant and Enlightenment ideas that they seem no longer able to see the difference between them and the true teaching and practice of the Catholic Church.None of these ideas and complaints about the traditional practices of the Catholic Church are new, of course. They are no more than regurgitated ideas dredged up from the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment. The VERY SAME arguments were advanced by the Philosophes of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution that are now being used against traditional liturgy, Latin, facing God, High Altars, plainchant and sacred music and so on. I repeat: NONE OF IT IS NEW. It is also a re-hash of the very ideas that were advanced by the Enlightenment and the enemies of the Church in the 18th century. One need only read the decrees of the heretical Synod of Pistoia to see that.To argue their case now, in the 21st century, is to argue the case for those same historic enemies of the Church. They were wrong then and they are wrong now.The solution is to re-educate oneself about the true liturgical teaching and practice of the Roman Catholic Church and not to allow oneself to wallow in the ignorance and prejudice of the Reformation and the Enlightenment.I recommend reading what the great popes had to say on the subject e.g. St Gregory the Great, St Pius V and St Pius X. The reforming popes always sought to return the Church’s liturgical practice back to the main stem of tradition, eliminating inappropriate novelties. There never was a papally-approved liturgical reform that consisted in ditching the old and substituting the new, not, that is, until Pope Paul VI allowed Archbishop Bugnini to begin the unprecedented experiment which is the Novus Ordo Missae. And what have been its fruits? Well, the evidence is before our very eyes: a massive decline in attendance at mass and the sacraments. Not a very propitious or edifying legacy, I think we must all agree.What then is artificial? The faithful handing on of the traditions, including Latin, sanctified by pope after pope after pope and bequeathed to us by our fathers in the faith, or the substitution for it by a novelty put together by a committee appointed by Archbishop Bugnini?The answer is surely obvious!Now, when you add to that mix, the fact of the appallingly bad and trite translation of the Latin which is the ICEL English mass, with its over 300 mistakes of translation, that so many modern Catholics attend, you compound the problem a thousandfold. This is another reason why it is better to have a small number of liturgical languages: it is easier to avoid mistranslations, and easier to keep an eye on deliberate mistranslations designed to undermine the faith of the faithful. It is bad enough that Bugnini’s Collects for the Novus Ordo are already doctrinally ambiguous, as Professor Lauren Pristas has shown, but those ambiguities are made worse and even turned into actual errors by the ICEL mistranslation that has so watered down the faith of millions.That, surely, is what is properly characterised as “artificial”.6. And your question 6 I have now answered several times over.I again emphasize that your questions reveal the extent to which you have been short-changed in your priestly education. I do not blame you for that but rather the Seminary Rectors and professors who have so signally failed whole generations of seminarians in recent decades. At a time when we were told that the use of the vernacular and modern idioms would open up the riches of the Church’s traditions to the faithful, the true reality is that there has never been such appalling ignorance in the Church of even some of its most basic traditions and practices.I know that I have been a convert for many more years than you but I have made an effort to study and understand the public prayer of the Church. I began with the best of intentions to study and follow and conform myself to the Novus Ordo Missae thinking, like you still do, that it was proper so to do. Gradually I began to see and learn more and more about it, about the Church’s rites and traditions, and about the Church’s traditional teachings and practices. Anyone who sincerely and honestly studies these things will eventually see what is undeniable and indubitable: the Novus Ordo is not the same as the old Roman rite but rather a radical departure from it so that it is not accurate to describe it as the Roman rite. It is an entirely new rite, man-made and confected by a committee. It might at best be called the 2nd Roman rite or “new” Roman rite but more accurately it should be called the Pauline rite or, better still, the Bugninine rite, after its real inventor.What has, in fact, happened, is exactly what Sacred Scripture warns us against: substituting the traditions of men for the traditions of God. We have substituted the traditions of Bugnini and his committee for the ancient and hallowed traditions of God handed down to us for the greater part of 2,000 years, taught and sanctified by the Holy Spirit through the Church. Not surprisingly the results have been disastrous.The fact that it is a radical departure and a novelty would have been sufficient for every previous great reforming pope, if not, indeed, every pope, to have rejected it tout court. But the idea that it should be imposed upon the faithful and the traditional rites abandoned and even prescribed and forbidden would have filled every previous pope before Paul VI with the utmost horror at such a sacrilegious idea. And yet that is what has happened. And with dire and disastrous results. It has split not only the Church but also families, husband and wives, children and parents, priest from priest and faithful from faithful so that some of the most vitriolic and hateful abuse ever to be uttered in the name of theology has been uttered by those on either side of the liturgical fence, against each other and all, amazingly, in the name of Christ and His Church. And that at a time when the Catholic Church needs unity more than ever. How appalling! What a catastrophic state of affairs. The authors of such a state of affairs should hang their collective heads in shame.It is not, my dear friend, about being the “aficionado” of one rite over another. Alas, the differences are much greater. They are about the very survival of Catholic tradition. The issue is nothing less than that, so serious a matter is it.Read, learn, reflect, pray. It is the only answer. And as you do so, you will also enjoy, grow and be greatly blessed and nourished in your faith. However, great the disaster has been, to learn more of these great riches of the Church’s tradition will nevertheless inspire and uplift you and warm your spirit and the inner reaches of your soul.In these parlous times that is of the greatest comfort, not least for a priest of God.I commend it to you, therefore.With all love and blessings,Jamie.

  • Jamie

    And just one final comment to Fr Jay Scott Newman:Father, the fact that you describe teh traditional mass as the “Pain mass” tends to indicate that you are unaware of the origins of the Roman rite – again a strange thing that today’s priests whould not know such a thing. I do not, however, blame you. It is the weakness of the modern Seminary that has caused it.The traditional mass was not invented by St Pius V as the Pauline rite was invented by Archbishop Bugnini. On the contrary, he sheared away novelties in order to restore the Roman rite to its traditional stem. However, he was liberal (in the good sense): he allowed novelties that were orthodox and were more than 200 years old on the basis that they had stood the test of time.But the so-called Tridentine Mass was not invented by Trent or St Pius V. It goes back hardly changed to the time of St Gelasisus and the central parts are much older. Indeed, the Roman rite is the oldest rite in teh Church, older even than the Eastern rites.You then play the numbers game.Do I really need to remind you, a priest, that Christianity began with our Lord and only 12 Apostles and a handful of disciples? And that they all ran away when trouble came so that the Church then consisted of our Lady and St John?Do I really need to remind you of this?True faith is not a numbers game, Father.For a more detailed response to Fr Dwight’s questions see my other answers.Jamie.

  • Jamie

    And one other comment to Fr Jay Scott Newman:Your over-emphasis on numbers might lead an observer to think that you put a higher premium on popularity than truth or right practice.Can you really mean that?I do hope not.Christianity is not, as I said, a numbers game.If you want to get with what is “serious” then you need to concern yourself less with numbers and more with truth and tradition.Otherwise you may find yourself numbered with those disciples who got with the numbers by running away, rather than with those who stood at the foot of teh Cross.I know it is difficult for a priest these days to give any favour to the traditional rite without incurring trouble with his bishop but do not let that skew your vision or compromise your intellectual impartiality.Jamie.

  • Benfan

    I won’t add to the above. I would just like to make some observations. I love the Classical Rite in Latin (excepting scripture reading and sermon). I asked my husband which he prefered. He said the vernacular Novus Ord. Why I asked? He replied that he could understand what was being said. Today is Sunday. We had just been to mass. I asked him to recount paraphrased the Euchasristic prayer. He could not. I asked him to recount paraphrased the preface. He could not. So much for the vernacular! I wanted to understand the mass. I could not understand the Novus Ord clearly. I can understand the Classical Rite. In fact, it was my search for understanding that led me to discover it. I love the prayers, the English translations are brilliant. I cannot understand what our superiors were thinking to have dumbed the mass down so much. It upsets me.Regarding Latin itself. I can read the translation in the vernacular so that is not a problem. When I had enough of reading I could just enjoy the sound of a language that seems to put me in touch with a bigger reality. It is not by accident that Latin chant is used by the film industry to invoke the sense of the transcendant. It works. This may seem senseless but it is true. Furthermore, understanding the mass is a nice to have. Experiencing it is the important thing since we can never really understand its’ mystery. I would happily choose a device to bring the experience of the true appreciation of the mass into focus, over and above the intelectual understanding. Why? It’s like the difference between a man who knows that Christianity is the Truth and being a man who is Christian. They are often two different men. One knows it. One lives it.Yours Argy

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05983835520470686424 Fr Jay Scott Newman

    Anyone who thinks that:1. I am concerned about numbers to validate the truth2. I am afraid of controversy3. I make decisions based upon bishops will think about themhas not followed anything I done, said, or written in the past 15 years.Tbe primary point of my observation above was that far too many of those who pant for the Pian Mass have utterly unrealistic and fantastical expectations about what life in the Church would look like if only we had the “Mass of the Ages” more widely available. Based on 20 years of experience, I believe that such folk will be sadly disappointed, no matter what the yet-to-be published (or even seen) motu proprio may or may not say.

  • Anonymous

    Fr. Newman:I catch a glimpse of a straw man in your last comment. Could you cite some commentary among those looking forward to the rumored Motu Proprio – say from blogs like the New Liturgical Movement, Fr. Zuehlsdorf, and so on – exact quotes that express these overblown expectations?I see no such thing. I see two things:1) A hope that for those that want it the roadblocks thrown up by bishops and other bureaucrats will be no more, and that for those that want it the TLM will be more widely available.2) The hope and suspicion that there might be some sort of trickle-down effect of the impact of celebrating such liturgies on younger priests, on congregations. In my mind #2 is not an unreasonable hope. Just in the last year, since rumors of this have been floating, there is definitely more interest in such matters than there was a few years ago, and conversations are taking place about chant, ad orientem, and so on, that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Again, my simple request is that you provide quotations and citations to back up your condemnations, that’s all.And Fr. Dwight:There are two primary values in Latin, none of which have anything to do with mystery. 1)History and the historical role of the Classical Rite in the West.2)An expression of universality. Latin as a liturgical language needs to be emphasized and celebrated as a way of concretizing the universality of the Church. Consider the sign power of, next year at World Youth Day in Australia, of hundreds of thousands of young people from all around the globe simply receiting the Pater Noster together, in a single language. No one contemporary culture is privileged. All are equal, and all know what the words mean. Have you ever attended a multicultural liturgy in which, at some point, all join in in say, the Agnus Dei? It’s breathtaking and moving.

  • Anonymous

    And I want to repeat a question that was asked earlier, that no one has answered. Isn’t the Novus Ordo at St. Mary’s celebrated largely in Latin, at least at some of the liturgies? Or am I wrong about that?

  • Anonymous

    No there are no Liturgies in Latin at St. Mary’s in Greenville. The only liturgy to ever be celebrated in Latin was the First Mass of Fr. Christopher Smith. He is now the Parochial Vicar at St. Peter’s in Beaufort and will be celebrating the Traditional Mass at Stella Maris Church when he is able. At St. Mary’s the only Latin that is employed is the Sanctus and Agnus Dei (and some music by the choir). The hymns are all english, the liturgy itself is english, the people do respond in english at all liturgies. St. Mary’s is a very High Church Anglican/Lutheran/Evangelical style Parish.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11357441841842897534 jasoncpetty

    Uh-oh. It appears that sort not necessarily desired, yet ever ‘expected’ when such matters are discussed, are on cue and are now out in full effect. Still, I admit that I loathe seeing this type of discussion between folks who, for all purposes, ought to be striving on the same side. Yet, Fr. Longenecker, why those questions? Those are the big softballs the self-styled ‘traditionalists’ always seem to face, i.e., easily answered elsewhere. Asking them, then, seems unhelpful unless you’re truly willing to be persuaded on the matter. And I couldn’t imagine anyone answering those questions to my full satisfaction were I not otherwise, i.e., experientially, satisfied. Nothing bad will come of the issuance of an MP on the subject–other than dashing unrealistic hopes on the part of some. I imagine none of those folks have cleaned up after vandals before: what took them ten minutes to wreck takes a day or two to repair. (And if the MP does issue, by the way, celebrants should be required to take lessons from Fr. Phillips’ baritone Latin NO, which dominates completely.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15524610142124101725 ~|..BIAN..|~

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Anonymous

    Some general observations:The ritual of the Latin Mass is a vehicle. By its very nature, it is corporate and traditional in essence. We “bend” as a group to its demands, not it to us, and by doing so it “takes” us to a destination. Latin in the Mass unites us to our collective Catholic past, heritage, ancestors, and the Church Triumphant. St. Anselm had as his motto, “Credo ut intelligium: I believe in ORDER to understand. Understanding is good and necessary, but it is transcended by faith. The Latin Mass, both in form and language, speaks not only to the intellect, but to all our senses as well. The acts and gestures of the ritual impart meaning, and this meaning DOES reach us and have an effect on us, even if we do not totally understand the language intellectually. For centuries, scholars and fools, sinners and saints, participating in the same ancient Mass, received the same benefits. Christ on the altar in the Eucharist, heaven and earth meeting, the liturgical drama of the MYSTERY that is our faith, had nothing to do with “understanding” per se in the common sense of the word. People “understood” what went on in the Mass ultimately via faith. Their focus was on the actions of the priest, not the “person” of the priest. They were there to receive Christ in the Sacrament, not to interact with each other.And their hope was not for a better transient world and social justice (as good as these are) but hope in the eternal world to come.Hans Jaegerstatter


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