Because of the Latin Mass . . . or Not

Our poll results are in, and interesting. If the Latin Mass were available, 23 percent of you said you would always attend the Mass in Latin. Always.

Admittedly, this is not a random sample, but we did receive over 200 votes and throughout the week of voting, this percentage stayed above 20 percent. Which means that one out of five voting readers of this blog would prefer to attend only Latin Masses.

The obvious follow-up question is, Who are you? And to your number we might add an additional 46 percent who said they would sometimes attend the Latin Mass. That means that nearly 70 percent would like to have the Latin Mass available at least some of the time.

Why? Why do you want the Latin Mass, at least some of the time? And while we’re at it, let’s add an additional 14 percent who said they don’t care what language the Mass is in. Which leaves only 18 percent of those responding who were adamant about keeping the Mass in English.

What is the appeal of the Latin Mass? This is a particularly interesting question for me, since as a convert I have never known anything but the English Mass.

I told Father Barnes that I thought interest in the Latin Mass would wane as Baby Boomers and their parents pass on. (They are the only generations who remember the period before Vatican II.) Father Barnes said he thought just the opposite; he sees an interest in the Latin Mass among the young.

What do you think? Why does the Latin Mass appeal to you? As a member of what generation? I’d like to know because—two years a convert—I have never attended a Mass in Latin! The English Mass is the only Mass I know.

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  • Interesting question.I didn't vote, as I have never seen a Usus Antiquor Mass (I prefer this to "Latin Mass" – according to Vatican 2, even the Novus Ordo Mass should usually be in Latin, and the vernacular should be the exception. Needless to say, this precept was not followed…), only the Novus Ordo in German, English and French.I imagine that the UA lends itself much less easily to the kind of "entertainment Mass" one sees once in a while in the NO. However, it is quite easy to avoid the most painful instances of "Youth Masses" or similar happenings, so I have been quite fine with properly celebrated NO Masses.But still, I would like to see what Catholics lived with for over 400 years, just to see…

  • As someone still on the banks of the Tiber, the Latin Mass appeals to me because it was the study of Latin (using texts written by a Catholic Priest in the 1940s, Fr. Henle) with my homeschooled children which helped open the doors of the Catholic Church to me.That said, I attended my first Latin Mass in November and found it to be much different than I expected. We went to Holy Innocents in NYC with my son, daughter and 3 other college students to a Saturday afternoon mass. I was unprepared for how little participation the congregants have and for how little I understood of what was going on. I missed the familiar Latin Mass. THEN, during Communion when our row sat/kneeled in our pew while the rest of the parishioners went forward to kneel at the altar for communion, a wonderful peace settled upon me. It was deeper and more profound that what I experience at every mass (which is my witness of the Real Presence of the Eucharist, the peace I experience at Adoration and at the part of the Mass each time when the Eucharist is held up by the priest). I was glad to go back to the familiar English mass the next day but I will attend Latin mass again if I ever get the chance. (We live in the rural midwest and the nearest Latin mass is over an hour away.)

  • Anonymous

    I didn't respond to your first poll, but since you're still curious, I'll weigh in here.I was born in the fifties to a large Irish Catholic family in Boston – and had a premium parochial education. Mass was in Latin (until I was ten) and Gregorian Chant was sung every week. I loved it! The smell of the incense, the enormous mystery of it all.. the sense of belonging to something so HUGE. Back then, there were 150 children in each grade, with one nun for every 50 students. Lots of reinforcement at school for what was taught at home about religion, morality, spirituality… But our family had a second home in NH, so I also grew up experiencing Mass in a ski lodge – a far contrast! This – and my youth – probably made it easier for me to embrace the changes after Vatican II. I LOVED folk Masses, Mass on our lawn for special family events and Mass at college in a dorm room, when requested. In short, what mattered to me about Mass (and still does) is the opportunity to participate in the service and feel connected to the larger family of believers.I'm nostalgic about the Latin Mass because it was a big part of my life when my faith was more innocent – but I do not feel deprived of it today. It would be a treat to experience it once in awhile – but I'm very happy with Mass as it is celebrated in my beautiful parish church. The incense, the music, the liturgy (of course), the impressive community of believers – still remind me of what has remained the same over all these years.

  • I'm 26, and I converted to Catholicism in 2004. When I had the opportunity, I intended Latin Masses quite regularly (now that I live in northern Ontario, things are no longer so simple – even to go to an Adoration chapel, I would need to drive 4 hours; I'm not clear on the location of the nearest Latin Mass).As others have said I loved the history of it, and the "smells and bells." I found it a more prayerful atmosphere than what I was used to in the Ordinary Form of the Mass. It was always so much easier to remain recollected, to remember what the Mass *is*, and to have my heart and soul lifted up to the transcendent. After I first converted, I struggled a lot when I looked at the way church played out around me. I converted from reading things like St. Augustine's works, and only even met my first priest long into the RCIA process (which was dreadful – I had catechists try to convince me that things like tarot cards were appropriate for Catholics!). I often wondered what had happened to the Church I had fallen in love with. Of course, things generally aren't so simple, but when I attended EF Masses… well, I found her. It was nice, too, to avoid the banal use of the English language we see so often in the Ordinary Form.

  • I'm a 28-year-old man, convert from atheism, and I always attend the EF when it's my own choice. (For the sake of my family, or when travelling, or with scheduling conflicts, I will happily go to an OF Mass). Why do I strongly prefer the EF?1. I am convinced that, as a matter of history, there were simply too many beautiful liturgical actions and prayers that were truncated or thrown out in the development of the New Mass (though I never doubt its validity).2. Finding a new mass celebrated the way it should be is possible but difficult. I have never been to an EF where all involved did not strive to worship Our Lord with the mind of the Church.3. The Church, especially in Vatican II, emphasizes the priority of Latin and Gregorian Chant. The EF always respects this. 4. I love to serve at the altar during the EF.5. I strongly prefer the traditional set of readings. Two weekday cycles and three Sunday cycles, and Catholics' Biblical knowledge has been plummeting over the last decades. I think it's because hearing more words is not better. Hearing the most important parts of the Scriptures and hearing them repeatedly, and prayerfully reflecting on them, is a psychologically and spiritually more reasonable way of learning the Scriptures.6. I pray the traditional office, and I like it when Mass matches.7. I prefer the EF calendar. I like to commemorate saints. I like Septuagesima. Etc.8. The Catholics I have met who also love the EF are without exception devout and great examples for me. I have met great Catholics attached to the OF, but hardly "without exception"!

  • Sandy

    When I have attended Mass or watched on TV on holidays, I have reacted well to both Latin and English. They provoke different reactions within me. The English allows me to drink in the meanings of things when parts of the mass are unfamiliar; the Latin allows me to feel the grandeur and the majesty of the event, which is what Mass feels like to me in Latin. It's an event. I am a hall dweller, and get something from both that feeds my soul.

  • I came here a bit too late to vote. I think I was 15 when the vernacular Mass began. I love the Latin Mass for many of the reasons cited: the mystery, the beauty of the prayers, the reverence–particularly the reverence during the reception of Communion. I also love the Novus Ordo Mass in Latin. My daughter attends Thomas Aquinas College in California, and all their Masses are at least partially in Latin.However, I attend weekly Mass at a small parish in Senatobia, MS. It's not very beautiful, but Our Lord is there. There is a Latin Mass about an hour away, but I seldom go. I think I have a job to do in my unlovely parish.BUT, I do have to shake my head that we gave up the Latin Mass at the very time when we were about to really need it. When I was growing up in Memphis, TN, I seldom saw anyone who did not speak English. Now, there is one parish in Memphis that has Mass in 5 different languages. Here in Northern Mississippi, a large portion of the congregation is Spanish-speaking. We have a bi-lingual Mass. How much nicer it would be and how much more in union we would seem to be if we were all praying in the same language.And I think all Catholics should know a bit of Latin. It's our mother tongue, you know.AMDG

  • Oh, I forgot one thing. About the Latin Mass dying off because it's old people who are interested. If you go to a Latin Mass, you will see that it's probably 75% young families–people who weren't born in 1965.AMDG

  • I didn't vote, but I'll give my perspective and how I would have voted.I am a 31 year-old cradle Catholic. I have had the Extraordinary Form regularly available to me, but did not regularly avail myself of it. My reasons come down to a handful:1. I really do prefer the liturgy in my vernacular. I think that Missal gazing is a problem in the vernacular and is especially a problem in Latin. I think that a Missal-bound participation is major obstacle to full participation.2. I think that many of the revisions after in the Pauline Missal are really quite good.3. I think that our Ordinary Form liturgies need people who truly love the liturgy. I think that apathy is the primary cause of the banality and heterodoxy that is woefully common in the OF. So I feel that I should stay rather than escaping to the ghetto of good liturgy that the EF often is. I desire good liturgies. I desire the optional parts that are so often left out. I desire traditional practices. I desire good preaching that actually contains theology. Although I prefer the vernacular, I desire more widespread use of Latin in the liturgy. I want smells and bells, I want the liturgy to engage all of my senses. And I don't want to go to an EF liturgy to get them.And this gets to what I think are the main reasons for attraction to the EF of the Roman Missal (there are others of course, but these are the primary that I have observed):1. Bad OF liturgies. I think that this is overwhelmingly the cause for attraction and excitement for the EF. It is an unfortunate reality that the abuse-burdened, banal OF liturgy is the norm, not the exception. 2. Good EF liturgies. The people who go to the trouble of getting to a EF liturgy are self-selecting. They actually desire good liturgy, so EF liturgies tend to be good by default. They typically have the alternate parts. They typically take their time. They typically only have music if it is really good.3. Exotic. It is different, different and exotic is always appealing.4. "More pious than thou." Unfortunately, many people have a less holy attraction to the EF. They almost certainly have other motivations, but many people are attracted to the EF because, we must be honest, it looks and feels more holy, more Catholic. This plays quite well into a desire to be superior or more holy than others. It plays to the "uber-Catholic."5. I really think that a genuine attachment to the EF is one of the least motivating reasons for people. There are people out there who like Latin. There are people who like the older Missal. But my experience puts the preceeding reasons as more common than this. Few people act out of a single motivation. But I think if you removed #s 1 and 2, the EF would find exponentially fewer people really motivated by it.

  • Turgonian

    I'm one of the young 'uns, and I voted "always" — with the understanding that I would still go to a vernacular Mass if the situation called for it.If my understanding is correct, the Novus Ordo Mass was drawn up by a committee which included Protestants and of which some members seemed to confuse aggiornamento and being conformed to the world. The Usus Antiquior, on the other hand, has grown organically over the centuries, out of the Catholic vision and way of life. I prefer organic growth to forced change.The Latin language reminds us that the Church extends all over the world (and yet is not of this world). The way of worship reminds us that the Church extends back through time.In matters like these, we should be formed by the Church instead of reforming the Church.