Comments, a Question, and a Poll

Comments, a Question, and a Poll January 19, 2010

Posted by Webster
My most recent post about the liturgy came back to mind this morning when I saw some British coverage about an American priest’s “plot to sabotage the new missal.” Old news? Yes. Tempest in a teapot? Judge for yourself. I, for one, got more out of the comments on my post. I’ll begin with a few excerpts then throw out a new question about the liturgy.

Amy wrote: “I think a crucial moment of understanding for me came a few years ago when I realized that the contemporary Catholic understanding of liturgy is that of a ‘prayer meeting’ which is not the same as the ancient understanding of ‘liturgy.’ Prayer meetings and gatherings are good and important, but the Mass is—and almost has been understood as—something different. Understanding that difference is key to discussing this intelligently.”

Several readers, including Michelle, picked up on an important theme raised by an Anglican friend in my original post: “Have I become an idolater of the words of the liturgy? This I’ve never thought of before.”

In what I might nominate as the comment of the week, Anne took Michelle’s thinking a couple of steps further: “Am I in love with the consolations of God or the God of consolations? It’s a lot to ponder. It fits in with, am I in love with nature or the creator of nature, am I in love with others or the God I see inside of them? I worry quite a bit about idol worship, feeling that I am extremely guilty of it. But when it all boils down, God made the people I love, God made the nature I love and God made the church I love. I know others could easily argue with me on this, but the reason that I love anything, is because I love God. Yes, I love the words. They are immensely powerful and beautiful. But nothing can surpass The Word, without which none of those words would mean anything. And if I happen to enjoy the words as a consolation from God, it’s all gravy!”

Warren and Frank both were, perhaps predictably, more on the side of, Stop worrying and worship! Tap agreed with them. Warren wrote: “I think that I have found the spirit-check (think ‘gut-check’ but much higher) one should get out of our highest ritual, the Mass, has more to do with my assisting at the Mass, no matter the liturgical rite. If I involve myself in the inspired Word, and adore ‘my Lord and my God’ in the consecration, and eagerly look to take His Body and Blood—all of which as has been meant for two millennia—I am with Him, and He is with me.”

Tap recalled the introduction of a new missal in the 1960s and his reaction: “I was one of the few that didn’t wander away from the Church just because a few ceremonies and words changed.”

Frank wrote: “I’m with Tap on this one. ‘Because of the Authority of the Church’ has more weight with me. I too love the Liturgy but changes to it would not be what brings me in to the Catholic Church, nor what would drive me away.” I suspect Ferde would agree. His e-mail signature reads: “If the Catholic Church teaches it, it must be right.”

So far, Fr. Patrick, a priest from Monterey, California, has the last word, and I think it’s worth noting. We lay people can sit around all day debating the liturgy, but our priests have to present it and bear the consequences. Here’s what Fr. Patrick wrote:

“A sociological survey in a three-mile radius of this parish in Monterey was taken some years ago; it was for all households, not just Catholic homes. When the word WORSHIP was offered, the word most chosen in connection with it was ENTERTAINMENT, 70 percent. As a parish priest this seems the most pressing problem. In a more progressive parish this may involve anything from rock music to the priest presenting as TV personality; in the more traditional approach, the ludicrous video of a Solemn High Mass in St. John Lateran with an orchestra playing to the left of the high altar. In either case—entertainment. Devout celebration of Mass involves a true selflessness on everyones part–a true challenge to us in 21st century USA.”

Here’s a question to further the discussion, and we’re going to post it as a poll, too. So you can give it a quick click or a longer comment here—

If you had the opportunity of regularly hearing the Mass in Latin, Would you do so? Would you go to a Latin mass sometimes and a vernacular Mass sometimes? Or have you become so accustomed to the Mass in English that you stay away from the Latin Mass?

Please vote above and/or comment here—

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Anonymous

    I am a convert, I don't think I have ever been to a Latin Mass. I would go to see what it was like, but doubt that I would give up on the Mass I have been with all my Catholic days.

  • Great question! I've only attended a Latin Mass once. It was extremely beautiful! But, I missed participating. I didn't like having to follow along with the written translation. I wanted to know the words I was praying, I wanted to pray and sing out loud. I wanted to see the priests face and feel as if we were all one community praying together. If I had the chance to attend a Latin Mass again, you bet I would! But, day in and day out, I love the Mass the way it is. It's what I know, I'm comfortable with it and I can easily find God there.

  • Allison

    I would go to a Latin mass sometime IF it were offered at my local parish during regular mass times. What concerns me is traditionalists who see the Latin Mass as better and then who make the jump that they are better Catholics because they worship at Latin Masses. Parish Life -building a Catholic community of believers who worship together, pray together, struggle and celebrate together, is an integral part of being Catholic. Let's not forget that in the quest for Liturgical purity.

  • Anonymous

    We offer the Latin mass at our parish. I've gone several times.But maybe because I am a convert, I like it better in English.Our priest often uses the Latin for certain parts of the mass and I really love that. Can't wait for the new translation though.Miriam

  • Anonymous

    I would definitely love to have the mass returned to Latin. Missals were set up with Latin on the left side and the English translation on the right, so for those who did not understand Latin, they fully knew what was being said. Responses in Latin were said by the entire congregation and were very simple, Priest: "Dominus Vobiscum." Congregation: "Et cum Spiritu tuo." ("The Lord be with you." "And His Spirit with you too.")

  • Webster Bull

    Julie Davis at Happy Catholic e-mailed me the following comment: "I don't care about the Latin Mass really. If there were translations I suppose I'd be fine with it. The more formal Mass at our church is the one we attend and some of the responses are sung in Latin. I continually mean to bring my Magnificat so I can sing along but just as continually forget it. So I hum. I'm always mentally translating anyway so it works out."I'd like to recommend that before we get into big arguments about the new translation we take the time to learn just what the revisions are and why they were made. I'm currently reading a very good book "Praying the Mass" by Jeffrey Pinyan. It goes through the Mass piece by piece, not only explaining the translation changes, but the entire Mass itself. Truly an excellent book. (Skip the intro if it seems rather dense; the rest of the book is much more simply written.)"

  • EPG

    I'm curious . . . Wouldn't the answer depend on (1) the quality of the English translation, and (2) the rite used (e.g. Tridentine v. the current one)?

  • I like all three options (Tridentine, Latin Novus Ordo, and vernacular Novus Ordo) for different reasons. I am a student at Catholic University, and I sometimes attend the Tridentine Mass at St. Mary Mother of God, sometimes the Latin Novus Ordo at St. Matthew's Cathedral, and most often the solemn (vernacular) Novus Ordo at the National Shrine. All rites have their advantages and disadvantages. And don't forget the Byzantine Rite!

  • Jan

    The closest parish that I know about that celebrates the Mass in Latin is 200 miles from me. Would I attend? In a heartbeat! I would still attend the Mass in the vernacular though, since I attend Mass as often as I can – mix things up a little:-)

  • Anonymous

    I'm from the JPII generation and have never been to a Latin Mass outside of watching it on EWTN, but I think I would totally switch over if it were available. Of course I wouldn't understand what was going on right away…but there's nothing wrong with LEARNING what it all means and expecting it to take some time to do that.

  • Love your post today!!I definately would attent a Latin Mass at my Parish. As it stands, a lot of our responses are in Latin and sung. I have a Magnificat which I use for liturgy, and my daughters use Magnifikid — the latter is a wonderful way to introduce youngsters to the traditions of Catholic litugy. Whether English, Spanish, Latin, Haitian Creole, Italian or French — the Catholic Church is wonderful because it is in the worship of the Eucharist which goes BEYOND words!!! Basically I'm saying that, as long as one prepares ahead of time, the Mass is there for us to receive. While "entertainment" at mass is a bonus (I sang for 8 years in a Catholic black Gospel Choir at St. Martin De Porres Church in South Carolina) I love that I can approach our Catholic Mass in a variety of ways. "It's all good" as long as the centrality of the Eucharist remains.

  • EPG

    And (if only to confuse the issue further), one could consider Mass in Spanish, Haitian Creole, Vietnamese, or French — all of which are regularly offered at one parish or another here in the Tampa Bay area (and I am sure that there are others of which I am not aware).:)

  • Warren Jewell

    As one old enough to be not merely a Tridentine child, but a student of Latin, I'd 'go back', so to speak. There is a certain 'familiarity breeds [BOR-ring] contempt' in the dull responses to vernacular Mass, even as there as there are struggles to grasp the Latin of the Tridentine. But, ad orientem and the more formalistic movements and gestures of the Tridentine yield more the sense of mystery the Mass should have.In line with EPG's note that 'there are vernaculars, and there are vernaculars', I once had to get to Mass where my one late-Sunday-afternoon 'option' was in Tagalog! Add in that I was by far the tallest person in a heavily attended Mass, and it was one strange experience. However, the celebrant had to constantly interpret his homily to English for much of the young set. The rest of the actual Mass I just sort of 'recognized'. (But, Filipino people can be so very sweet in trying to be congenial with 'this lost Anglo' among them.)However, now, remember, the mark of greatest freedom is in obedience. Give me the Mass (and Sacraments) as the bishops in communion with the Pope see fit, and I'm good-to-go (. . . to Mass, silly!)

  • Hi all. My thought on this is that the language of the Mass is really the least important aspect of the liturgy. I am open to celebrating the liturgy in whatever form the church approves. I personally feel though that sometimes people get really caught up in the external aspects (i.e. sticking to the rubrics) of the Mass and forget why we are really there in the first place. I have seen a number of Catholics who have the very best of intentions but have acted with a sort of elitest attitude because they attend a Latin Mass. I personally doubt that Latin is spoken in heaven. I am guessing we can't begin to imagine what the language of heaven is, if spoken words are even required. I believe that God sees what the intent is in our hearts and that is what is important when we come to worship. Latin, English, Spanish, French, or even African tribal languages. I think the language spoken is not so much what matters but the language of the heart that counts. God is going to accept and be pleased with our worship as long as we do it with the correct intent no matter what language it is in.

  • As a longtime member of Anglican church choirs I've sung many wonderful settings of the Latin Mass (Mozart, Haydn, etc.), therefore much of it is already familiar, and I would love to attend Latin masses on a regular basis. On the other hand, I'm also looking forward to the upcoming revision of the English version. I agree with Anonymous that it shouldn't be that difficult to follow the Latin mass if there is an English translation side-by-side with it; I also agree with Julie that, with the new English version, we ought to learn just what the revisions are and why they were made. Above all, what is important is the reverence and devotion with which the service is offered.

  • I stand right beside Matthew on this one. And Bones too. If the Catholic Church said I had to go to mass and endure the field sobriety test during it, I would still go. What a blessing that there are so many options, and times! Our Lord is being very accomadative here. As He said in todays' reading:“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)

  • EPG

    Well, Frank beat me to it in quoting Mark 2:27 et seq. I was thinking along those lines, and mulling over the thread, and it came to me: The quality of the liturgical language may not matter to God, but I am weak, and bad liturgical language can distract me. And humans in general are weak, and bad liturgical practices (above and beyond the language) can delude people into thinking of church as spiritually themed entertainment. Which, as the main post points out, _is_ a problem (and is a problem for me. Although my vision of spiritually themed entertainment may run more to Bach, it really doesn't make me any different in motivation than those soaking up contemporary Christian music at the non-denominational mega-church out by the interstate — just different in taste. It's kind of sobering to realize that.)So liturgy does matter. And language does matter. Not because it matters to God, but because it shapes us. And the manner in which it shapes us does matter (I think).

  • I have been to a Latin Mass once and it was interesting, but since I am a novice, I found it very distracting. I voted "English only" because at this point in my life I am not as well versed in the Liturgy.I have, however, experienced Mass in French as well when I spent some time in Switzerland. I think I was at a different state spiritually and was awed that I could worship with these people even though I couldn't interact with the Mass. I was still able to follow the story.That's one thing I love about the Liturgy and one thing especially that intrigues be about the Catholic church – I can go anywhere in the world and pick out a church and know what's happening and STILL be led to the alter of Christ. That wouldn't ever happen in the churches I was raised in for they all required "getting something out of the service" in order to be "good", so I'd have to be able to understand the language of the service and the music. Like I said on the last liturgy post, I learned truly how to worship through the Liturgy.

  • Anonymous

    I grew up with the Mass is Latin and served Mass for quite a few years, learning the responses as a child phonetically. While attending a Latin Mass would be nostalgic and I would do so occasionally, I don't feel it could replace the more intimate involvement I've come to experience in English.

  • Anonymous

    While I prefer the personal involvement of the Mass in English, I do miss the accompanying Gregorian Chant.

  • James

    I envy (is that allowed?) 'forbidden topics'- the CU of A student (the only true Catholic University in the U.S. in that it was directly established by the Vatican) his ability to walk a few blocks to attend Latin Mass at the magnificent National Basilica of Our Lady. The only Latin Mass I've attended since Vatican II was in the Crypt Church at the Basilica while on a vacation with my wife and then 12 year old son in D.C. For him it was a turn off as the Latin was just an impediment, for my wife it was a thing of the past and she greatly preferred the vernacular but for me it was something of a homecoming and an opportunity to more closely connect with the 2000 year tradition of Church worship. If available I would attend the Latin rite probably once a month or so and the the current liturgy the rest of the time. Vatican II caused a great deal of upheaval, consternation and some initial resentment (myself included) but recently I've been changing my perspective from the short term to the long term. After all, could it be possible that JPXXIII and the Church Fathers possessed greater wisdom and knowledge not to mention guidance from the Holy Spirit than me?! In the context of the 20 centuries of Church History a few decades of adjustment is nothing. Furthermore I'm starting to realize that it's probably not a coincidence that this Council and its initiations and changes was held at the onset of the new millenium. It seems to me that the pendulum this event set into motion is beginning to swing a bit less wildly and when the dust settles( probably well after most of us are gone) the One,True, Catholic, and Apostolic Church will endure,grow and flourish for yet another millenia.

  • Anonymous

    I would attend Mass in the vernacular and in Latin. The Latin Mass is beautiful. It is a profound reminder to me that the Mass and the Euchariest are truly mysteries and that the priest is much more than a homilist and "consecrator of the hosts" (so to speak). Also, instead of listening to every word during the Eucharistic prayer, I find that I make an offering of my life to the Father with Jesus and am now reminded to do this also at Mass in English. Also,Gregorian chant touches my "heart" in a way other music either doesn't or can't.

  • Anonymous

    I have attended latin mass but I would prefer the English one… anyday, cos I understand and listen and become part of the words (We give you thanks – I give my thanks there.. ). We have a different rite in one part of in India – I like that but its not the same as when I attend English. However, if the Church decided that we would be having mass in Latin, I would go ahead completely with it. BECAUSE – when it comes to Communion and receiving Him – nothing should come between that and me! It is TOO precious. Rose