Re-Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium: Article 54

Vatican website translation:

54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and “the common prayer,” but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution. Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them. And wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Art. 40 of this Constitution is to be observed.

Latin text:

54. Linguae vernaculae in Missis cum populo celebratis congruus locus tribui possit, praesertim in lectionibus et “oratione communi”, ac, pro condicione locorum, etiam in partibus quae ad populum spectant, ad normam art. 36 huius Constitutionis. Provideatur tamen ut christifideles etiam lingua latina partes Ordinarii Missae quae ad ipsos spectant possint simul dicere vel cantare. Sicubi tamen amplior usus linguae vernaculae in Missa opportunus esse videatur, servetur praescriptum art. 40 huius Constitutionis.

Slavishly literal translation (kindness of Jonathan Day):

54. A suitable place may be allotted to the vernacular language in Masses that are celebrated with a congregation, especially in the readings and “the common prayer” and also, according to local agreement, in those parts which pertain to the people [‘look at’ the people], according to the norm in article 36 of this Constitution. It should, however, be arranged that the faithful may be able to say or sing together those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass that pertain to them, in the Latin language. Nevertheless if in any place a greater use of the vernacular language within the Mass seems desirable, the regulation in article 40 of this Constitution is to be followed.

The Council Fathers apply the general permission to employ the vernacular in Catholic worship found in article 36.2 to the particular case of the celebration of the Eucharist. There “readings and directives, … some … prayers and chants” are mentioned; here readings in the vernacular are reiterated and “the common prayer” (which had been restored in the preceding article) is also proposed to be prayed in the vernacular. Note that determining the extent of the use of the vernacular (as well as the translations to be employed) is the responsibility of the territorial bishops’ conferences with confirmation by the Apostolic See according to arts. 36.3 and 36.4. The final sentence of article 54 suggests that the Council Fathers foresaw situations in which territorial bishops’ conferences might request greater use of the vernacular than that listed in this article.

The Council Fathers also direct that worshipers should be prepared to say or chant the Latin texts of the Order Missae appropriate for assembly members, although they do not suggest the means by which this is to be done.

Pray, Tell readers may wish to discuss: 1) the wisdom of these directives in the light of fifty years’ experience; 2) how these directives have or have not been fulfilled and how that is to be interpreted (the “reception” of these directives); and/or 3) the practical processes by which the directives have been implemented.

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83 comments

  1. This passage:

    “It should, however, be arranged that the faithful may be able to say or sing together those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass that pertain to them, in the Latin language.”

    It always struck me that this was to prevent “concertizing” of the Mass Ordinary, and less an explicit prescription that Latin be retained for its own sake. That was certainly how liturgical praxis worked out after the revision of the Roman Missal.

    That said, some parts of the Ordinary lend themselves better to Latin than others, perhaps the shorter pieces. If so, then what’s the point? Agnus Dei/Lamb of God: we’re not really losing any important distinction there. And as for the Credo, a few things: it’s not a musical piece by genre. It’s a deliberate expression of one’s faith. And such a thing should be professed, if not only by one’s actions, certainly in the language one ordinarily knows and uses. On that score, the nuances of spoken communication are that of the believer, not the Latin tradition of someone else’s belief.

    I’m glad that bishops, pastors, and liturgists moved beyond the Latin language, and implemented participation in the Mass Ordinary in the vernacular. The Church is stronger for it, and the ability to sing the Mass instead of singing at the Mass has been much the better for it.

  2. One felicitious consequence of the frequent use of the vernacular for the Ordinary is that the people are better formed for understanding the Latin text when it is also used. The vernacular makes the use of the Latin for such texts more plausible in terms of FCAP.

  3. There is definitely wisdom here. If the average experience of a congregation is indeed singing or saying the Ordinary in the vernacular, while at the same time they are not at all unfamiliar with singing or saying it in Latin, then the use of Latin for parts of the Ordinary at international, multicultural events should be a no-brainer in terms of instant FCAP.

    I don’t know why such suggestions are seen as a lightening rod – I find it abundantly practical.

    1. @Richard Skirpan – comment #3:
      For extraordinary events, yes, I would agree. I remember a very vocal minority in my home diocese in the late 70’s through the 80’s, advocating Latin, and largely associated with schismatic fringe groups–this was before Ecclesia Dei. Unfortunately, the association of the Latin Mass and by connection, the Latin language ordinary, did have very negative associations for many Catholics of the former generation.

      Thanks to Taize and even the occasional contemporary composition, that association has been somewhat mellowed in the past 20-30 years.

  4. I suspect that it’s just possible the participants in Vatican II had a pretty good idea that the world was changing far more rapidly than in previous centuries.

    This section acknowledges that Latin was no longer a language common to many places, so using the vernacular would make it more understandable to the ‘common man’. At the same time, recognizing the increase of internationalization, they thought it advisable to keep the Latin for some of the common elements of the Mass in order for people to actively participate as they traveled.

    The lightning to seems to stem from the polarization of groups who demand all/no Latin. Our congregation can parrot the Kyrie and sing the words ‘Agnus Dei’ but have no clue about ‘qui tollis…’. The kids who participated in WYD were equally clueless in Portuguese as they’d have been in Latin. I think that’s where we have failed them in their preparation for international Catholicism.

    1. @Sean Keeler – comment #4:
      *No* clue to imagine that the “qui tollis” somehow corresponds to the English they are familiar with? I don’t think “understand” means “able to parse/diagram” the text word-for-word in the other language (be it Latin or other vernacular).

      1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #5:

        We currently sing the Mass for Our Lady, in which the words to the Lamb of God are “Agnus Dei, Lamb of God, you take away…” If the kids hear “Agnus Dei” they might – might – recognize it, but if it was in a different musical setting, or spoken, they’d more likely not; it would just be part of the babble. Nor would “Pater Noster” or “Credo in unum Deum” ring any bells. “Dominus vobiscum”? “Per omnia saecula saeculorum”? Huh?

        I think that the idea of incorporating some Latin, particularly during the preparations for international liturgies, would be a benefit for all attendees. But the all-or-nothing crowds on both sides have lost sight of the wisdom of SC Art 54.

      2. @Sean Keeler – comment #7:
        But, if they hear the Agnus Dei where they would otherwise hear the Lamb of God, none of them would have a clue it’s the same text? That is easily remedied, and not a good excuse. Ditto for other parts of the Ordinary.

      3. @Sean Keeler – comment #13:
        Simply tell them the Latin means what they say or sing in that same place in the Mass in the English. It’s not necessary to know each word in Latin (though if they want a walk-through, you should be able to do that, i would imagine), any more than most Americans know each word behind RSVP…

  5. Latin is useful not just in big international gatherings like WYD or Lourdes. For those who do not speak the language of the country they are visiting or for countries where only foreigners go to Mass Latin may be the best choice. When we lived in Ankara the Italian embassy chapel had one Mass in Italian and one in Latin with readings in English or French. Turkish would not have been a sensible option.
    As Sean Keeler points out the “all or nothing” approach is damaging and divisive.

    1. @Peter Haydon – comment #9:
      On the other hand, I’ve been to Mass in French Canada. It was in the vernacular. And the people sang pretty well. I’d rather go to a Mass and muddle through what I could if everybody else was singing and responding with gusto. If I were travelling abroad, I think I’d avoid the tourist mainstream in order to find a really good local community.

      But that’s not everyone’s chalice of tea. So to speak.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #15:
        Thank you Todd
        You are quite right about it being good to join in with the locals. That presumes that there is a local language service and that you can follow the language up to a point: you will understand that was not the case in Ankara. I think that Bill de Haas (end of comment 14) is right that SC 54 was not written primarily with these circumstances in mind but they are surely of some relevance as considerations.

        As a side issue it does strike me that, when attending Mass in a language that is not your own, but that you understand, does make one think about the test. The new translation in English has had a similar effect which, quite apart from the disputes about its quality, seems a good thing. Similarly an attempt to use the Latin should help one think about the meaning of the words.

  6. Regarding the Missa Cantata MS clearly states “different degrees of participation are put forward here for reasons of pastoral usefulness, so that it may become easier to make the celebration of Mass more beautiful by singing, according to the capabilities of each congregation.

    These degrees are so arranged that the first may be used even by itself, but the second and third, wholly or partially, may never be used without the first. In this way the faithful will be continually led towards an ever greater participation in the singing.
    29. The following belong to the first degree:
    (a) In the entrance rites: the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people; the prayer.
    b) In the Liturgy of the Word: the acclamations at the Gospel.
    (c) In the Eucharistic Liturgy: the prayer over the offerings; the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon, the Lord’s prayer with its introduction and embolism; the Pax Domini; the prayer after the Communion; the formulas of dismissal.
    excerpted…
    30. The following belong to the second degree:
    (b) the Creed;
    Isn’t it odd that the praying of the first degree “movement, the PN” and the 2nd degree Credo are by custom the primary two that celebrants, even in an otherwise wholly sung Mass are deigned to be recited? Not to at all comment upon the manner and earnestness of Todd’s parish practice, his dialectic from premise to conclusion is distinctly contrary to the canons of the post-conciliar legislation cited above. I’ve not known Todd nor anyone here particularly to disagree with the maxim, sing THE Mass, but that seems a skosh incongruent.

  7. Another article of Sacrosanctum Concilium that, in nearly all places for nearly all of the post-conciliar period, has been a dead letter from start to finish. The liturgists believed they knew best, and acted accordingly.

    Todd remarks: “Unfortunately, the association of the Latin Mass and by connection, the Latin language ordinary, did have very negative associations for many Catholics of the former generation.”,

    Very sad – but, undeniably, true.

  8. Peter Haydon : Latin is useful not just in big international gatherings like WYD or Lourdes. For those who do not speak the language of the country they are visiting or for countries where only foreigners go to Mass Latin may be the best choice.

    This brings to mind a passage from Patrick O’Brian’s The Fortune of War, where Irish ship’s surgeon Stephen Maturin finds himself attending Mass abroad during the War of 1812:

    “He hurried into his clothes, but even so the priest was on the altar by the time they reached the obscure chapel in a side-alley, and crept into the immensely evocative smell of old incense. There followed an interval on a completely different plane of being: with the familiar ancient words around him, always the same, in whatever country he had ever been (though now uttered in a broad Munster Latin), he lived free of time or geography, and he might have walked out, a boy, into the streets of Barcelona, blazing white in the sun, or into those of Dublin under the soft rain.”

    I have had much the same experience myself attending TLM’s in Europe.

    Here, of course, we are discussing the OF. But this notion can apply not just to international gatherings, but also bi-cultural parishes. Fr. Weinberger at Bless Sacrament parish in Dallas had some success bringing together both Anglo and Latino worshipers with one Sunday Mass that had much of the Ordinary in Latin. Such might not eliminate the need for different language Masses in such parishes, but could at least provide one main Mass where most can feel on the same footing. It need not be “all or nothing” – to the extent that such people exist among Latin advocates, they are likely in TLM parishes or communities anyway. The real opposition, I fear, has long been among laity or chancery who are opposed to any diminution of vernacular. They are the ones with the power.

    1. @Richard Malcolm – comment #12:
      Mr. Malcolm – your reference to Fr. Weinberger is inaccurate. He was transferred by the former bishop of Dallas, Charles Grahmann, because of his repeated attempts to force the TLM on parish catholics (long before SP); specifically in the parish of the Blessed Sacrament. Father has been in Greenville, Texas at St. William’s parish for years now – a very small parish that allows Weinberger to practice his pre-Vatican II leanings.

      In fact, all parishes in the Dallas Diocese utilize latin – and yes, some bilingual parishes have tried to use latin to lessen the english/spanish tensions. As I said above, though, the people themselves appear to want something else – there are constant requests for either more english or more spanish. The *ideal* as outlined by the NPM speaker is rare and does not appear to work in every parish (for multiple reasons – some cultural).

      Blessed Sacrament is in south Oak Cliff – two religious order priests have served there for 10+ years. Only one mass on Sunday is in english – everything else is spanish. More than 10 years ago, a noted conservative, Rod Dreher, no longer a practicing catholic, wrote about visiting the parish of Weinberger. He detailed how it was the TLM (before SP); the church lights were dimmed at the consecration with incense and candles so, as Dreher stated, Weinberger could *confect* the eucharist. His elevations lasted at least one minute each.
      Sorry, Mr. Malcolm, your bias and latin mantra grow tiring. You confuse and misplace the principles of SC with later SC articles that were suggested directives but allowed conferences and bishops to implement the SC principles (and, no, latin as the primary principle was never articulated by SC). And pretty sure that SC was not written and approved with large international liturgies that might occur every once and a while as the focus.

      1. @Bill deHaas – comment #14:

        Hello Bill,

        Mr. Malcolm – your reference to Fr. Weinberger is inaccurate. He was transferred by the former bishop of Dallas, Charles Grahmann, because of his repeated attempts to force the TLM on parish catholics (long before SP); specifically in the parish of the Blessed Sacrament.

        This is little short of calumny, Bill, and I’m saddened to see this canard repeated here, by you. This is an outrage.

        The “TLM” was not celebrated at Blessed Sacrament during Fr. Weinberger’s tenure. What was offered was the Novus Ordo, with much of the ordinary in Latin, for one of the Sunday Masses (at 10:45). Spanish language (9am) and English language N.O. Masses were also offered. Fr. Weinberger was removed from his parish two years before the end of his second six year term at Blessed Sacrament, with no reason given; letters from Fr. Weinberger and his parishioners to the chancery went unanswered. Perhaps Bishop Grahmann was too busy doing damage control over Rudy Kos; but we can only speculate about that.

        Fr. Weinberger was sent to Blessed Sacrament when it was in dire shape, with an expectation that he would be presiding over its closure. Instead, by the time he left, the parish was thriving, the debt was paid off, and major repairs to the church were completed.

        I hate to drag this discussion down into a side issue over Fr. Weinberger’s treatment, however, The point is that we have a growing number of bi-cultural parishes in America, where different vernacular Masses are offered. It poses a tremendous challenge for building parish identity. I don’t think anyone here is advocating an entirely Latin OF; but an increased use of Latin, especially in the Ordinary, as plainly called for in Sacrosanctum Concilium 54, could be one way (but not the only one) of creating a liturgical bridge in such parishes.

        Sorry, Mr. Malcolm, your bias and latin mantra grow tiring.

        So does your Latin phobia, Mr. deHaas.

      2. @Richard Malcolm – comment #17:
        Don’t know where you are getting your information from but again, you don’t know the facts.
        I was no fan of Grahmann and his behavior with the Kos event was deplorable and would have gotten him sacked except for his friendship with Benedict.

        That being said, can remember many internal diocesan concerns about Weinberg. He did not *save* this parish from debt or from closure (that is a myth spun by his loyal supporters); yes, some folks did protest to the bishop (but that happens in every situation such as these…so what and Grahmann gave very few explanations of his behaviors/decisions no matter what side of the liberal/conservative split you find yourself); and yes, his loyal supporters did contribute so that church repairs happened but, again, the narrative that the parish was thriving is part of a loyalist myth.

        Yes, technically guess you could say he did the NO in latin but it was much more than that. He pushed the boundaries (always amused that when one takes TLM liberties with the NO that it is okay but any other liberties are seen as *clown masses*)…..examples – he insisted on giving out communion only if kneeling at the communion rail. Grahmann repeatedly tried to work with him but was rejected.

        Calumny – no; please provide documentation of your claims (and this has to go beyond repeating what the TLM supporters that flock to Weinberg post on select blogs – less than 50 folks attend St. Williams).

        Again, SC did not call for latin (increased or otherwise) – that is your opinion that historians and experts have explained in terms of what and how the council fathers voted on that article. My experience is that this *solution* in bilingual parishes does not succeed (wish it did but it doesn’t).

      3. @Bill deHaas – comment #27:

        Hello Bill,

        I was no fan of Grahmann and his behavior with the Kos event was deplorable and would have gotten him sacked except for his friendship with Benedict.

        You were doing so well there until you included the swipe at Benedict.

        Look: I don’t know how friendly Ratzinger and Grahmann were – certainly they read from different pages in their theology, so it must have been an odd friendship if in fact it existed at all. But decisions about removal of bishops belong with the Pope, and we both know how deeply resistant John Paul II was to such things – because they almost never happened. I don’t see how Grahmann is any different from other scandal-plagued bishops like Weakland (no friend of Ratzinger!) who were allowed to serve until retirement age.

        He did not *save* this parish from debt or from closure (that is a myth spun by his loyal supporters)

        It’s not a myth according to people in that parish. It had a million dollars in debt; Fr. Weinberger retired the debt. Attendance was up dramatically over his ten years; Fr. Weinberger accounted for over 15% of all baptisms in the diocese by the end.

        (but that happens in every situation such as these…so what and Grahmann gave very few explanations of his behaviors/decisions no matter what side of the liberal/conservative split you find yourself)

        Indeed. But are you defending that? God knows, Bill…you and I disagree on an awful lot (obviously). But surely we agree on the need for bishops to be responsive to their flock, no matter who they are, yes?

        He pushed the boundaries (always amused that when one takes TLM liberties with the NO that it is okay but any other liberties are seen as *clown masses*)

        What liberties? Saying the Mass in Latin is *entirely* and explicitly permitted by the GIRM. (See also GIRM 42, reiterating SC 54).

        …historians and experts have explained

        More like “explained away” the plain words of the text.

    2. @Richard Malcolm – comment #12:

      This brings to mind a passage from Patrick O’Brian’s The Fortune of War, where Irish ship’s surgeon Stephen Maturin finds himself attending Mass abroad during the War of 1812: […] I have had much the same experience myself attending TLM’s in Europe.

      I wouldn’t go overboard here. The Low Mass I attended at the FSSP “flagship” church in Rome two years ago was said slowly and well, but was not a liturgical epiphany by any means.

      I sense that some segments of the American EF community think that Mass six to nine time zones ahead is somehow better because it’s in the Old World. I don’t get that sense at all.

      1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #18:

        I sense that some segments of the American EF community think that Mass six to nine time zones ahead is somehow better because it’s in the Old World. I don’t get that sense at all.

        Perhaps it’s the setting. A 17th century baroque church can have that effect.

        But that was precisely why the O’Brian passage struck me. The character Maturin finds himself in a humble side alley chapel, nothing particularly impressive about it; but it was the very same Mass, in the same ancient language. (And no, I’m not romanticizing the way that Low Mass was regrettably celebrated in some places in the decades before the Council.)

        It’s wonderful to find yourself in a historic and beautiful edifice for Mass, no question. But it’s the Mass itself that counts. I don’t find myself so alien, so apart, in a TLM (even if I don’t grasp the homily) abroad as I do when I find myself in an Italian or Polish or Spanish vernacular N.O. Still the Mass, to be sure; Christ is there; so are my fellow Catholics, members of the Mystical Body; but the vernacular has come at a price. Perhaps it’s a price we had to pay, many of you will think; but we should recognize that price, just the same, and ponder whether Sacrosanctum Concilium 54 and 36 didn’t have some wisdom in insisting upon some retention of Latin in the ordinary of the Mass. We have greater intelligibility now, but it has come at the price of universality – sometimes, even in the same parish. The curse of Babel is still upon us.

  9. Todd Flowerday :Unfortunately, the association of the Latin Mass and by connection, the Latin language ordinary, did have very negative associations for many Catholics of the former generation.

    Just for context, my first experience with liturgical Latin was around 1990 in the fifth or sixth grade – Pange Lingua on Holy Thursday. I was fascinated. I had no negative associations!

    I’m going through a phase right now of being really frustrated with the either/or mentality on both sides of the liturgical spectrum.

  10. I don’t think it can be argued that, since Vatican II, we have singularly failed to take the “steps” necessary to make sure all the faithful know their parts in Latin, as SC 54 quite clearly asks of us. Worse still, it seems that (at least in the UK) not many bishops, pastors or liturgists are particularly interested in doing what the Council asks them to do in this regard.

    The rapid vernacularisation of the liturgy hasn’t helped in this regard. I appreciate that SC 54 opens the door to a “more extended” use of the vernacular (referring to art. 40), but my opinion is that it has been unwise for bishops to extend its use to the entire liturgy, and it was just as unwise to do it so quickly.

  11. Re travellers and Latin……
    I remember being on holiday with my family in Alsace. There was a group of German boy scouts, a handful of French residents and we five Brits. When the priest realised he had a polyglot congregation he decided to celebrate in Latin, the one language that the fewest present (him and me alone) understood.
    I am still trying to understand that decision.

  12. The use of Latin in the Mass is seen by many laity and priests as idiosyncratic simply because it is left up to a few individuals to decide if it will be used or not and in what setting or season. If it is done, it is because the music director or the priest likes it to be done and it is based upon their interpretation of SC or subsequent documents or their link to the various camps that promote Latin or disregard it altogether. Until the Church collectively embraces Latin as a neutral language that liberates Catholics to be of one language from the many present in a liturgy, it will be argued over and over again that Latin is a vestige of the Church’s past desire for uniformity and thus should be disregarded in the present context of the desire for unity in diversity.
    I think the only valid argument for Latin is that it unites. All languages have their own beauty. Pope Benedict gave a template for what could once again become universal, but Pope Francis’ practice isn’t to eliminate Latin, but he doesn’t present a clear template for its use. For my part, I’d be happy if just the Gloria, Sanctus (perhaps Pater Noster) and Agnus Dei were mandated to be in Latin and all the rest left to the discretion of the local Church. At least then, it would be a norm not a idiosyncrasy.

  13. Fr. Allan J. McDonald : For my part, I’d be happy if just the Gloria, Sanctus (perhaps Pater Noster) and Agnus Dei were mandated to be in Latin and all the rest left to the discretion of the local Church. At least then, it would be a norm not a idiosyncrasy.

    I’ve always been struck by the fact that the first part of the Mass beyond the readings to be put into the vernacular was the Ordinary. From my perspective (having not become Catholic until 1982), what would have been preferable would be to have put the priest’s prayers said on behalf of the people in the vernacular and leave the texts of the Ordinary in Latin, since it wouldn’t be all that difficult to explain their meaning to people, plus you could preserve the musical heritage associated with those texts.

    This did not happen, and it occurs to me that the reason it did not happen was that (some) priests had been trying valiantly for years to get people to participate in the Ordinary, with what seems to have been limited success, from what my informants tell me. Progress was made in some places, but it was a mighty uphill struggle. So when the opportunity came to have the Ordinary in the vernacular, it seemed the obvious solution for achieving what many had for years struggled for. In hindsight it might seem more sensible to retain the ordinary in Latin and translate everything else, but clearly at the time having the Ordinary in the vernacular was highly desirable as a way of effecting a massive shift toward vocal participation of the congregation.

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #24:
      Also the reformers under Pope Paul VI sent mixed signals about the use of Latin and the vernacular. The 1965 missal which is a very, very mild reform of the 1962 missal mandated Latin only for the priest’s quiet prayers including the Roman Canon and maintained the rubrics for the Canon as in the 1962 missal except for the Per Ipsum. But everything else, all the people’s parts had English/vernacular as the primary choice and Latin in smaller letters in the margin. So the bishops who approved this were driving the bus. Even today, Catholics of my age and older continue to think Vatican II did away with Latin. And in a sense they are correct by the praxis which did not evolve but happened over night and was written into the liturgical books even with the slight revision of the 1962 missal in 1964.

      1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #25:
        I’m not sure that’s true – my understanding is the 1965 interim missal was rushed through by the sacred congregation for rites in an attempt to circumvent and limit the concillium. There was a lot of resistance and power plays going on. The SCR thought that by making the minimal changes as decreed by SC that they could stop further change being pushed and demanded by the world’s bishops. It also explains the rushed implementation and how the reform played out. Nobody except the curia thought that the 1965 was anything but a stop-gap.

      2. @Andrew rex – comment #35:

        I don’t know if what you say is “true” or not (nothing in life falls into a dichotomous “true” or “false” judgment), so I’ll take your word for it. Still, it is interesting to ponder what would happen if the Consilium did not get “papal assent” and a constitution for the 1970 Missal.

        Let’s say that liturgical reform ended with the second interim instruction (Tres Abhinc Annos) in 1967 and the introduction in 1968 of EPs II, III, and IV in the vernacular or Latin. By 1968, the external ritual of the OF as most know it today had been completed. Full vernacularization had been completed in many (most?) places. Besides the loss of the multi-year lectionary, which I agree is a triumph of 1970, what would be effectively different, especially from the position of the laity, if liturgical reform were to end at the Tridentine missal as revised by 1968?

        I do think that the 1968 rubrics would have been acceptable for many in the Church. The 1965 rubrics would probably not satisfy as many laypersons and clergy(i.e. silent Canon, some of the propers in Latin).

        Perhaps this thoughts are rhetorical, but I think it’s important to work our way through this contrary-to-fact but retrospectively possible mind-experiment.

      3. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #38:
        I’ve often wondered the same myself. I have a hard time not seeing the 1968 version of the Tridentine Missal as the being the ultimate win-win situation with no downside. Aside for the lectionary, it pretty much allowed everything advocates of the OF prefer, but was grounded enough in tradition that it could more or less be celebrated in continuity with what came before by traditionalists (I suppose some of the folks here would consider that a downside). The liturgy wars would still be with us, but it would be centered more on aesthetics and music rather than on what Missal is superior. It’s my understanding that even the SSPX used this version of the Missal before fully switching back to the 62 edition later, and it was this version that people first requested indults for (such as the English indult). I have a hard time seeing what the benefit of the Novus Ordo really was regardless of the reasons behind their changes. Intentions don’t always translate into results.

        In regards to Latin vs. Vernacular. Count me as a “both/and” person. There’s really no reason why every single parish on Earth can’t fulfill this part of SC and still have active participation and mostly Vernacular.

      4. @Jack Wayne – comment #48:

        As you note, 1968 was for all intents 1970 without the multiyear lectionary, the new prefaces, and the significantly revised propers. Notably, 1968 preserved the medieval calendar (pre-Lent, Sundays after Pentecost), a definite plus in my view given the long history of this calendar and also its shared use with some Reformation traditions.

        Instead of Rome’s heavy-handed and rather quick imposition of liturgical reform, other Christian traditions took a piecemeal and much more gradual approach to liturgical revision. During its introduction of worship based on the principles of the Liturgical Movement, the Church of England issued experimental liturgical pamphlets in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Each pamphlet series gradually introduced different reforms. In 1980, these experimental liturgies were compiled as the Alternative Services Book. The 1662 BCP remains legal. Parliament was quite wise to vote in favor of the ASB (and now Common Worship), but not abolish the 1662 BCP.

        Perhaps it would have been better to release the new lectionary and the expanded prefaces first as supplements to 1968. Later (1975? 1980?) a liturgical book very similar to the reformed missal would be introduced to circulate alongside the 1965/67 interim liturgies. What we now know as the 1970 Missal could have been introduced at a later time (perhaps a decade later) as an optional but equal liturgy to circulate alongside the celebration of Mass according to one of the 1960’s interim rubrics (choose one set of rubrics; don’t mix and match).

      5. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #57:
        Other more knowledgeable than I can chime in here to confirm or contradict, but I believe that at least some of the new prefaces, along with the three new EPs, were introduced a couple of years before the Novus Ordo Missae. I have a 1965 altar Missal that has a fascicle containing the new EPs and some of the new prefaces taped into the middle of the Ordo Missae.

        Also, the liturgy wars in Anglicanism, particularly in the Episcopal Church, which went through an endless series of trial runs on reform, are easily equal to those in Catholicism. They do seem to have died down in recent years, but this might have something to do with the dissatisfied having decamped for what they see as greener pastures.

      6. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #59:
        Fritz, I agree with your first paragraph. Evelyn Waugh’s letters and articles complaining about changes to the Mass were published as A Bitter Trial and are cited as an indictment of the Novus Ordo. But Waugh died in 1966, at least three years before the new Missal was promulgated. Changes such as the dialogue Mass, the priest facing the people and the universal prayer were beginning to surface as of the late 1950s. Music was changing — in many places not from glorious chant and polyphony but from the work of Nicola Montani and the syrupy St Gregory Hymnal. English hymns (in many cases doggerel translations of the Latin) had arrived decades before.

        In many ways the revision was more “piecemeal” and even “organic” than many suppose. Roman Catholicism being what it is, there eventually had to be an official promulgation of the new rite, with the apostolic constitution Missale Romanum appearing in April of 1969. But the changes had begun to spread long before then. It is not as though everyone went to the Tridentine Mass one day and a 1970s “folk Mass” the next.

        My only comment on the Anglican situation is that the Prayer Book is more than a liturgical text. It plays a big role in the cultural consciousness of many, Anglicans and Catholics, atheists and religious non-Christians and more. Many who insisted on retaining the 1662 book did so as a matter of culture and literature rather than of religion.

      7. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #59:

        Thank you for your information Deacon Fritz.

        I shouldn’t have painted such a rosy picture of the C of E. Still, there’s less of a moralist streak in Anglican liturgical traditionalism as compared to the EF movement (dissent is mostly over liturgical text and not socio-religious implications). At least this was true in the BCP Anglo-Catholic parish I attended for a few years.

      8. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #59:
        I’m not sure it’s fair to say that Anglicanism, at least in England, has collapsed. Attendance stabilised some years ago and is showing a slow steady increase since. Urban parishes are very multi-cultural with reasonable harmony. They have an excess of clergy with it taking quite a few years to gain enough pastoral experience for a parish appointment (which contributes toward stability and considered pastor-ship – helped also by female ordinands. Local churches can make use of an eclectic mix of worship styles from evangelical – modern rite – roman missal or 1922 rites. For the Queens recent anniversary of her coronation the CofE issued 2 versions of the prayer with Westminster abbey using the traditionalised language for the official state service.

        Perhaps this experience of liturgical plurality is a good model for the catholic church (at least in the UK) – everybody gets something they like, or at least they can live with, and the church lives on in reasonable harmony?

      9. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #57:
        Keep in mind that MR1 was intended by all to be an interim Missal. Maybe you blame ICEL for it lasting into the 80’s, the bishops for it lasting through the 90’s, and the curia that it took a full 40 years’ lodging in Catholic worship.

        My sense is that MR4, whenever it arrives, will be considered the real firstfruits of Vatican II liturgical reform.

      10. @Andrew rex – comment #35:
        I don’t know if that is true or not, but the point I was making is that Latin for the laity, at least in this country, was dropped in favor of English almost overnight and codified in a missal that was basically Tridentine. It was the Tridentine Mass in English that could be celebrated facing the congregation that was warmly accepted in a pre-Vatican II sort of way by the laity, but I truly think even old-time Catholics of that period liked the English and embraced it, but in the context of the Tridentine Mass. The only value to saving Latin is a common language amongst the diversity of nationalities when celebrating Mass but also an acknowledgement of our liturgical heritage that is common to Latin Rite Catholics. How much Latin or how little is the question.Evidently many parishes preserve it in some fashion, but there is no consistency.

      11. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #39:
        I was trying to make the following points, in response to you advocating a regression towards a kind of 1965 missal:
        – the 1965 rite of mass wasn’t actually a missal, it was a list of amendments to the 1962 missal. Arguably it doesn’t address the wider and more systematic revision of the liturgy which SC decreed. As such it was only really a stop-gap and I find it hard to see how we could go back to it ever again. Perhaps some aspects are interesting as an historical anomaly but it was fundamentally the tridentine rite in tact.
        – reading Peckler/Marini’s challenging reform book documents quite well the attempts of the sacred congregation to out-manoeuvre the consillium (and perhaps mislead Paul as to the extent of Bugini’s input into what was being presented) – a decision which caused the tensions to come to a head with Paul having to choose whose hands to place the work and governance of the reform to. The SCR were successful in getting the ‘1965 missal’ approved but Paul was not pleased at the position he was put in so gave Bugini the upper hand longer-term. From memory, my understanding was that Bugini was not in favour of the SCR’s minor reforms and the rushed timescale for implementation. My feeling was he wanted a more thought out implementation rather than the pragmatic and piece-meal approach of the SCR. Perhaps if Bugini had had his way then we would still be used to latin ordinary parts today.
        – it’s a while since I read the book but this description is my memory of the intrigues that happened behind the scenes. The consillium resisted almost each and every reform being suggested by the world’s bishops feeding into the consillium. The ‘1965 missal’ represents the hermeneutics of obstruction and/or regression which the curia represented then and now. It’s interesting that all of the old controversies and flash-points from that time are being replayed out again through the R of the R and continuity brigade almost…

      12. @Andrew rex – comment #43:

        The consillium resisted almost each and every reform being suggested by the world’s bishops feeding into the consillium.

        Andrew, you meant to say “The SCR resisted…..”

  14. Interpreting SC 54 is a nightmare! It brings out all the hermeneutical problems.

    On the one hand, it says quite clearly what should happen – laity should know the Mass Ordinary in Latin. On the other hand, everything has to be interpreted (by definition) in context, and SC also said that active participation is to be considered above all else, and (Fr. John O’Malley SJ has convinced me) there is a “spirit of Vatican II” in that it uses an innovative, unprecedented vocabulary (words of dialogue, pilgrimage, learning from others, collaborating with secular world, etc.) so that there is a dynamic already within the text of V2 suggesting that innovation will continue and advance beyond the text. And there is the whole church/world relationship and the dialogic relationship to contemporary culture set up in the last document of the Council, Gaudium et spes..

    So there you have it, a perfect storm: one side can keep pounding the table about what one or two lines say literally, and the other side can keep muddying the waters with contextual issues.

    That having been said, I’m impressed that the discussion here so far is pretty cordial and friendly and respectful, without people just singing the same old arias.

    Pax,
    awr

    1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB (#26):

      Is it against the principle of active participation that the faithful know their parts in Latin? Why would that not be something to be encouraged and cultivated?

      Even if I agreed with the “contextual” “spirit of Vatican II” hermeneutic – which you may not be surprised to know that I don’t, by and large – I don’t see any real reason to ignore, minimise or “muddy” what SC 54 says about the Latin language. As, unfortunately, happened in the immediate years after the Council.

    2. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #26:
      Fr. Ruff,

      On approach is to attempt to find the “true” meaning of the document, by a thorough dissection of all possible factors (context, original Latin, committee deliberations, etc.). In years of following the discussions, both in the academy and in the trenches of parish music, I have not seen a compelling “true” interpretation of these documents presented or argued for. It does seem to come down to what you describe – table-pounding vs. contextual issues.

      Is the result hopeless – will a “true” consensus emerge over time? Or maybe there is not one definitive interpretation. Maybe there was not one definitive meaning in the drafting of the document – a balancing act between different ideas and goals and factions.

      Meanwhile we must go ahead and make practical choices about what music to use tomorrow, and next week. I don’t know – maybe greater minds than mine will find the “true” meaning eventually. Until then, as a pragmatist, I simply see passages like this saying “Vernacular is good, but so is Latin”. The choice between the two is a pastoral one that, thank goodness, is up to the people who serve a particular community.

      I am very wary of a paralysis that can be caused by searching for the “true meaning” before formulating a direction and specific goals for the liturgy and music in a particular parish.

    3. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #26:

      So there you have it, a perfect storm: one side can keep pounding the table about what one or two lines say literally, and the other side can keep muddying the waters with contextual issues.

      This is why I believe both “sides” are missing the point. Why is there no way to be both/and instead of either/or? I consistently argue progressive liturgical viewpoints to traditionalists, and traditional liturgical viewpoints to progressives. It’s very tiring, but I also feel it’s very Catholic.

  15. They have five masses on week-ends (two masses at Quinlan, TX parish). One mass is in spanish; one is in latin.

    Sorry, my reference was to 50 folks who attend the latin mass and participate in the Semper Fi blog that writes about Weinberger.

    Don’t want to go down a rabbit hole but reacted to 10 yr old information that makes Weinberger out as a *victim* unfairly dealt with by the bishop. Wonder if either you or Mr. Malcolm have ever attended Blessed Sacrament parish; were you in the dallas diocese during the late 1990s and early 2000s? did you attend deanery meetings that had to deal with issues raised at Blessed Sacrament? Ask long time Hispanic parishioners at Blessed Sacrament about Weinberger? I could go on but was reacting to Mr. Malcolm’s claims that are more than 10 years old and reflected a narrow narrative. Yes, there are two sides to the story but Mr. Malcolm gave voice to only one small but vocal narrative (which documentation would show is not the whole story. And why use Weinberger as an example from ten years ago and with a history of problems and issues)

    Here you go – from his own bulletin in which he continues to repeat his version of history even today: http://www.stwilliamtheconfessor.org/

  16. I am growing weary of these endless conversations about the vice or virtue of Latin usage in the sacred liturgy. SC54 simply says: “It should, however, be arranged that the faithful may be able to say or sing together those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass that pertain to them, in the Latin language.” I believe the words “may be able” should be seen in the context of the 1960’s. Every Catholic accepted the fact that Latin was the official language of the Church and the only language they ever associated with worship. The people of that era would not have regarded it as odd in any way to be able to say or sing those parts other than the fact that they were certainly not used to doing so even when the Mass was in Latin. We said and sang the ordinary in my parish in a Boston suburb, but that was hardly the norm.
    Today, rank and file Catholics hardly think about Latin whether as an official language or a ritual language. For the vast majority who are not old enough to remember Mass in Latin, it is at most an item of curiosity. In my parish we can sing the ordinary parts in Latin, but that’s only because I’m part of that older era and it strikes me as a good thing to include Latin (and Greek) during Lent. The people sing out as much as they do in English so I assume they are alright with it. I do provide catechesis and the bulletins include translations. But, at most, its quaint.
    English is today the universal language that Latin once was and is likely to become increasingly so. If they chose to celebrate big Masses in the Vatican in English, there would probably be as many people who understood as did not. Certainly more than would comprehend Latin or even Italian. I realize we have members here who are seriously fond of Latin and who hold a different perspective. I believe they speak for a very tiny part of the church.

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #37:
      Father
      I suspect that you underestimate the resistance there would be to English being established as the principal language. If you listen to the torchlight procession in Lourdes you will feel that Italian predominates.
      Latin has the advantage of neutrality.
      It does seem that everybody joins in with the Salve Regina at the end (printed on many of the lanterns).

      1. Peter Haydon : @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #37: Father I suspect that you underestimate the resistance there would be to English being established as the principal language. If you listen to the torchlight procession in Lourdes you will feel that Italian predominates. Latin has the advantage of neutrality. It does seem that everybody joins in with the Salve Regina at the end (printed on many of the lanterns).

        That is my concern as well.

        I am a native English speaker. But I am well aware that English has become the de facto language of international discourse.

        The Church can’t change that – not easily – but were it to adopt it more formally as its own lingua franca (as George Weigel has proposed), more than a few Catholics from other linguistic communities would see this as one more instance of Anglo-American cultural imperialism on the march.

        And the Church so far has been at least somewhat aware of that danger – thus the eagerness with which it sets up multiple language Mass options in Anglophone countries in a diocese whenever a significant linguistic minority is present (Poles in England, Hispanics, Vietnamese, Chinese in America, etc.).

        I concede the powerful attractiveness of the vernacular to many Catholics – it explains at least in part (along with Catholic habits of obedience) the rapid acceptance of the vernacular in 1964-1968. But SC calls for Latin to retain some presence in the Mass, and it can’t be explained away by conciliar hstorians with adverts to regrettable back room compromises or subsequent sensus fidelium. Indeed, our experience since then reaffirms the wisdom of keeping some of the ordinary, where possible, in Latin, and formation of Catholics to participate in the same. It’s our heritage; and as a dead language, it’s neutral and immutable.

      2. @Richard Malcolm – comment #51:
        Thank you Richard
        I think it would be a shame if the use of Latin was reserved only for an élite.
        I further think that it serves as a link to the past, in particular those who were put to death whilst trying to stay loyal to the church and its worship in Latin.
        Finally I would agree that Latin has the benefit of a fixed meaning. English does not: “The Lord is my shepherd I’ll not want.” Indeed English varies in space as well as time. American readers would not use the English word for an eraser.

        Even if one rejects each of these points, and one is free to do so, the instruction in this paragraph seems to me to be explicit.

        Fr Michael asks about the practical process of implementation. I did see that Westminster offered a course in Latin language for the people. I suspect that this is very rare.

      3. @Peter Haydon – comment #52:
        Fr Michael asks about the practical process of implementation. I did see that Westminster offered a course in Latin language for the people. I suspect that this is very rare.

        I don’t remember receiving instruction in Spanish before my childhood parish began singing “Pan de vida”. Nor did I receive Tagalog lessons at the Metuchen cathedral to prepare me for the response to the Prayer of the Faithful (done, I think, in English, Spanish, and Tagalog).

        I don’t expect, or need, or even want, a course in Latin in order to participate vocally in Latin ordinaries at a Mass. I need, as far as I can tell, a primer on pronunciation, and a sense of what the words means. Since I already know what I’m saying in English in the Gloria and the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei, I can be pretty sure of what I’m saying if Latin is used for those parts of Mass.

      4. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #54:
        Jeffrey
        Thank you. I agree with you and other commenters have reinforced your point. But the case I noted was one example of an attempt to comply with SC54. It seems to me that, with just a little knowledge of Latin, one can at least know what each word means when you have the Latin and translation side by side.
        If I use the well known Turkish sentence:
        iki karpuz bir koltuga sigmaz
        Two watermelons will not fit under one armpit
        you may struggle to work out which word means which.
        How much easier is it when you know that bir means one, iki means two, the verb is at the end and the m in the verb means that it is negative.

        I wonder if we have lost sight of one part of this paragraph.
        If much of the congregation at Mass was praying the rosary, going to confession or saying private prayers they might not have been familiar with the ordinary text of the Mass. At least now the knowledge of the text is such that most can join in without the aid of a printed word.

  17. Gazing into A Sociological Crystal Ball

    Latin in many forms (classical, ecclesiastical, chant, polyphony, etc.) is such a strong resource that future “Latin” renaissances are very likely in many different forms both large and small.

    However, the position of Latin at the time of the Council as THE LANGAUGE of Roman Catholicism is gone forever (maybe a vestige of that past will survive in a rather small and largely irrelevant SPXX).

    Even if you give all Roman Catholics who have ever lived a vote, it becomes clear that so many people live now that the “Latin” Catholics would be outvoted. In 1900 there were only 266,509,000 Catholics whereas today there are over a billion. If the “non-Latin” Catholics have not already outnumbered the “Latin” Catholics of history they will likely do so within decades, certainly by the end of the century.

    Future multi-cultural Catholicism, especially presuming a reunion with Orthodoxy, will look at SC as a very mixed bag containing some very good general principles but also being the reform of a particular Rite at a particular time and place which is more the task of local Synods than Ecumenical Councils. The whole issue of Latin will look very dated and parochial.

    The future Renaissances of Latin will likely view the “reform of the reform” as a misguided attempt to turn the clock back that delayed rather than facilitated the future very forward looking Latin Renaissances.

    The Future will likely view the attempt to force English into a Latin syntax as particularly unfortunate at a time when The Americas had become the defacto New Christendom, something that was not well recognized until the pontificate of Pope Francis.

  18. I’m noticing many of us English speakers have a not-so-humble view of our language. I’d take the route of waiting for someone who natively speaks another language to tell me they’d rather use English than their own before presuming it upon them.

  19. Millions of people voted for the vernacular over Latin when they created French, Italian, Spanish, English, Portuguese etc. Latin moved from being the highly structured vernacular of its day (3rd century) to a language of the elites. It was used in Universities as well as the Church, a habit that died out as sciences became more prominent and diversified. Mathematics replaced Latin as the highly structured mindset that required discipline to master.

    In the Church, Latin had an added significance as the language of Rome, esp. The bishop of Rome. It is no longer the language spoken by the Pope, even if he uses it occasionally. Because the Popes have largely set Latin aside, it lost its reason to persist. It is no longer an elite language in Church or University, so another leg was cut out from underneath it. ( that leg was disappearing anyway, as elitism itself lost significance.)

    Latin cannot return to its recent status as a “universal” language. It cannot become a vernacular again. It simply has no real place in the world, except among a small group that is trying to find a new place for it.

    1. Latin cannot return to its recent status as a “universal” language. It cannot become a vernacular again. It simply has no real place in the world, except among a small group that is trying to find a new place for it. [my emphasis]

      A numismatic tangent. I now hold a British 10p piece, issued 1970. In 1971, Britain and Ireland converted their currencies from a Roman-Carolingian, pounds-shillings-pence based system to a decimal system. Some denominations of new decimal coins were minted to identical specifications as pre-decimal coins for dual circulation in order to ease transition.

      Sentimentality deceives, perhaps. 10p, previously the two-bob-bit or florin (two shillings), was introduced as recently as 1849. The 10p’s downsizing in 1992 marked the not only the end of pre-decimal circulating coins, but the last hurrah for a relatively young coin.

      What do anorak ramblings have to do with Latin in the liturgy and life of the Church? Plenty. The “old” British monetary system appeared superficially ancient and unchanging to many. While the accounting system remained mostly intact for centuries, coins appeared and disappeared at the whim of monarchs and later parliaments. £sd retained a strong syntax (accounting) but weak semiotics (coinage). Ecclesiastical Latin retains both a strong syntax and semantics, as evidenced by the permanence of its linguistic influence over secular writings of the Enlightenment as well as theological writings.

      Jim, I cannot charitably guess why you believe that a near-abolition of the Latin language would be pastorally sensitive or inclusive. You certainly reserve the right to believe this, but no vernacular, with its extreme linguistic malleability, can capture the timeless nuance of Latin liturgy. The so-called venerable British monetary system rested on bricks of straw easily moved about by the whims of parliaments for economic expediency. The Mass rests on even the slightest movements, the et ideo and nobis quoque of the Mass, which represent solid cables of liturgical heritage and the well-worn ruts of Catholic liturgical and cultural identity. A vernacularization without reference to a Latin substratum will render liturgical praxis devoid of staying power, as language cannot be divorced from ritual action. Pure liturgical vernacularization will render what is relevant now jejune a decade in the future.

      The deo gratias of a shopworn coin? Rather, est nefas.

      1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #46:

        Jordan, I do not believe in the near abolition of Latin, that is far from my mind. IMO Latin as a universal language is gone. Latin as an elite language is gone. Latin as a vernacular is gone. Latin as the language of the Pope is gone. Latin as the language of Empire is gone. Any Latin used in the future will be none of these things.

        Perhaps it will have a role in precise expression of ideas, as you hope, but I have my doubts. That cedes too much to too few. You have only to read the discussions here to see how difficult a role that is. The expression of ideas demands poetry, not precision, and poetry demands a mastery of language that is almost impossible for Latin in our world.

        Latin is not what Latin was. Dante’s Italian, Cervantes’ Spanish, etc have replaced it, and mostly been replaced in turn by newer languages. I cannot see Latin becoming a universal language because it is universally not understood. It needs another justification for it to persist. I do not know what that might be.

      2. @Jim McKay – comment #53:

        Jim and the comboxers: I apologize for going off on one of my many bizarre tangents earlier.

        I have misunderstood what you have meant, Jim, and now I think I understand a bit better. Yes, Latin as a language of interpersonal and corporate communication is dead.
        Consider the Vatican at this moment: Latin is the ideal language of court, even if in practice Italian is the language of mundane transaction.

        So, why preserve Latin as the ideal language of solemn pronouncement, even if it has been superseded many times over by diverse living vernaculars? Despite many Catholics’ incomprehension of Latin, the ancient language is the undeniable underpinning of our liturgical universe. Vernacular translations are a distorted mirror through which to glance at the very ancient metaphor, prosody, and verse below.

        The expression of ideas demands poetry, not precision, and poetry demands a mastery of language that is almost impossible for Latin in our world.

        You are quite, quite mistaken Jim. Latin still contains the power to express the truths of the faith in succinct and beautiful verse. Pentecost is wonderful as it is the formal commencement of the Church. The solemnity is crowned by the Veni Sancte Spiritus, the Golden Sequence, whose economy and pun cannot be captured in English save for tangled doggerel. The truths captured in the Golden Sequence are eternal, and certainly can be recaptured through similar literary constructions.

        A postured linguistic egalitarianism is false charity. True charity and empowerment of the clergy and laity lies in Latin education. I have often offered to teach Latin gratis, only to be spurned. If Latin cedes too much to too few, why then do not more want to learn the ancient tongue? I might be perceived as the haughty Austrian princess who offered cake flower to starving sans-culottes. Perhaps I am altogether dense and cannot understand that many people can’t understand Latin. Is it not worth the attempt to bring Latin to many, than curse the darkness?

      3. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #55:

        A vernacularization without reference to a Latin substratum will render liturgical praxis devoid of staying power, as language cannot be divorced from ritual action. Pure liturgical vernacularization will render what is relevant now jejune a decade in the future.

        Jordan,

        This quote from an earlier note leads me to wonder if we are far apart. Latin, once relevant, is now jejune IMO. I cannot grasp why you think otherwise.

        Liturgical praxis IS devoid of staying power because language does not stay the same. If liturgy is to be true to its purpose, everything must be contingent on God and the people God loves. Language should not undercut ritual by changing while ritual remains the same. The pragmatic Latin vernacular of the 6th century cannot be passed off as a sacred, mysterious language in the 21st without changing the ritual.

        We disagree, I think, on the nature of Latin, and whether it is immune to the problems of other languages. It is a terse, persuasive language that can be beautiful, but it should not be passed off as something it is not, IMO.

      4. @Jim McKay – comment #66:

        I’m not quite sure what you mean Jim by “The pragmatic Latin vernacular of the 6th century cannot be passed off as a sacred, mysterious language in the 21st without changing the ritual.” No liturgy must be changed to accommodate Latin — the language already has an ancient liturgical tradition. From Pope Damasus (late 4th c. CE) until 1962, the Roman liturgy evolved with Latin language as its only reference point. The order of EF worship is not immune to change, but its change will continue with Latin as the primary linguistic and philological lens. This same lens interpreted all liturgical change until the 1960’s liturgical revolution.

        If liturgy is to be true to its purpose, everything must be contingent on God and the people God loves.

        Am I not a child of God, a beloved of God, because I can understand Latin? I have held this anger in for quite some time, but I am now fed up. While the liturgical aspirations of diverse backgrounds and cultures are rightly respected and celebrated by many clergy and lay ministers, the aspirations of Latin language worshipers and even the identity of persons well read in Latin are often denigrated. Latin is indelibly woven into my cultural fabric, especially because of a saintly elder priest in high school who (gratefully) required us to memorize O Antiphons and Office hymns alongside Caesar’s journals and Cicero’s orations. The Latin phrases of centuries are soldered into my mind and written on my heart. If this does not constitute a legitimate cultural heritage, then i do not know what one is.

        Please wield the scythe a bit more carefully when mowing down flowers by the hundredfold.

      5. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #69:

        Let me add one final point, one which I have desired to state for quite some time.

        Not a few liturgists have decided that the only path to a false social equality between believers is a rigidly enforced vernacularism. A oxymoronic state of enforced voluntary unity can never last. Christians are equal in baptismal and indeed basic human dignity, but the disparagement of Latin language and worship as a pretense for social equality cannot be forced due the inevitable militation of the human intellect against artificially imposed constraints.

        The best antidote to the imprisonment of the intellect inherent in the new liturgical order is also most straightforward. Those who understand Latin should teach any adult Catholic, regardless of background, gender, or social status, enough Latin to understand Vulgate and the propers of Mass. This education is most crucial for many of the clergy, as many have been denied a proper Latin education. This education should always be given without cost. The abundant harvest is an individual Catholic’s ability to understand Catholic liturgical heritage and worship according to his or her informed conscience. In turn, Latin education forms an alternate, and vibrant, consciousness rooted in most ancient ritual expressions.

        The liberal availability of Latin education for the adult Catholic faithful is a most revolutionary act. Should I only instruct one or two persons in my life, I have sown a sufficient intellectual and spiritual yield.

      6. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #71:
        A few problems with your final point:

        “Disparagement” is an exaggeration.

        However, it might well be that some of those who favor the vernacular in the liturgy might phrase it in terms of a “liberation” of sorts. And if that is your perception, have you yourself not engaged the Latin debate on a political level, not so much a theological one?

        Speaking for myself, I see the value in my own training in Latin in terms of logic, structure, grammar, vocabulary, and the opening of the Romance languages, including the mélange known as modern English. An Asian or an African might find somewhat less benefit. As for the matter of faith, we do know that God shows no partiality in his offering of grace. And the Holy Spirit is as likely to inspire a seeker or believer to offer praise in a profound way be that in a dead language, a living one, or even in a backwater tongue … like first century Aramaic. I don’t see Latin as having any inherent advantage over any other language. And perhaps for Christianity, Greek is a better choice.

        And if Greek isn’t a better choice, we might well ask why Latin is, given the lack of any further developing patriarchates beyond Europe and the Middle East. But that’s another theological issue with no small number of political landmines to navigate.

        Another problem with your thesis is the description of faith formation so heavily in terms of “education” and “instruction.” I do applaud your observation that literacy and knowledge are revolutionary developments. However, the essence of Christianity, even Christian worship, is not schooling in a limited, rational, Enlightenment, English boarding school sense, but an apprenticeship. A lifelong one at that.

        The premise of educating people may be an obstacle to evangelization. And if Latin is at any time or in any way an obstacle to faith, even a political obstacle, then it must be discarded for the sake of the Gospel. A language of human construct, however well-used and well-regarded as a tool, is just a tool.

        And finally, our age is not without shades of gnosticism. The reactionary embrace of Latin may well be caught up with that ancient indulgence of hazing, that special knowledge is somehow needed to get the full spectrum of faith.

        Lumen Fidei speaks of the exercise of theology as less a matter of believers mastering subject material. It is more about cultivating a listening ear for God. Divine revelation may be helped by the “mood” of Latin. But that might be less an honor than “disparagement,” in that some people have relegated the traditional language of the Roman Rite to something little better than soothing elevator music.

        “Should I only instruct one or two persons in my life, I have sown a sufficient intellectual and spiritual yield.”

        An honorable point. But as Christians we are more deeply obligated in the sowing. It’s about the Gospel, not the language used to transmit it.

      7. @Todd Flowerday – comment #73:

        Thank you for your response, Todd. It is very perceptive and incisive. Editors, please forgive my decision to post two posts in response to Todd’s post.

        I. Liturgy is politics. Indeed, in some places the dis/order of law rests in the hands of organizations which closely identify, or even conflate, worship, religious law, and secular politics. The recent civil war in Mali between Salafists and Tuareg Sufis comes to mind. Quite fortunately, the debate between Catholic postconciliar progressivism and postconciliar traditionalism is not physically violent. Rather, we, of any persuasion, have engaged in a cold war for fifty years. Both ‘sides’ have invented a parallel track of terms for the same actions or offices (e.g. presider/celebrant, assembly/congregation, consecrated bread/host, hospitality minister/usher, et al). This division in ideology and even vocabulary has almost severed the liturgical worlds on either side of the primary ideological division.

        Without question, God’s grace is an unmerited gift (no pun on ‘gift’). All who are baptized and participate in God’s life through the sacraments are promised salvation. Also, you are entirely correct Todd that a believer’s testimony of his or her faith need not be in a liturgical (dead) language, but whatever is conducive to the Spirit. It is not correct, however, to presume that the Church has sequentially proceeded through liturgical languages akin to a driver’s selection of a discrete transmission gear to match torque with velocity. The Hellenistic age was a marvelous babel — the Gospels demonstrate the fluidity of ‘semiticisms’, Koine of the street, Attic pretension, and Latin transpositions. Similarly, early Roman Christian movement between Greek and Latin was likely not antagonistic but complementary. I will one day write an article to dispel the myth of sequentialism in ancient and liturgical languages.

      8. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #76:
        I would have hoped to have some more of Paul’s nuance in my last post. It is indeed wrenching to be moved, or pushed toward a worshiping spirituality that moves against one’s grain. And for you, Jordan, I have no reason to doubt that grain is a deeply spiritual one.

        Your comments on English vocabulary are also interesting fodder for discussion. Some of the vocabulary on both sides is embraced in church documents. I saw a piece several months back from a well-respected chant musician, William Mahrt, who in my thinking, rather disparaged the opposing ideology–and I’m not sure he realized some of the vocabulary he vilified is what the Church chooses for its rites.

        The desire for Latin is, perhaps unfortunately in some eyes, a most decided minority among Catholics. Some vernacular folk are probably testy that y’all haven’t been left behind yet. But if it’s at all an encouragement, I have a friend, a recent grad heading to law school after spending a year in a Catholic Worker House, who formed himself to pray the Office in Latin and read the New Testament in Greek. All on his smart phone.

        I do not know the way out of the present tangle. The lack of unity, or at minimum a basic respect, is a very serious concern to me. And while I believe that the issue of ordaining women is one of administration and has nothing whatsoever to do with doctrine or faith, I also see that this day is not the right time for us to be moving down that path. And I know I would catch hell from my good feminist friends for that thought.

        When I visited St John’s recently, Fr Ruff preached and relayed the observation at the Hymn Society that a curious unity seems to have re-formed across denominational lines, and that in many ways conservative Catholics had more in common with conservatives in other traditions. The same true for liberals. That saddens me, for personally, I think we need each other. To keep things honest, if nothing else.

      9. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #70:

        Jordan,

        I really do appreciate that Latin is woven into your cultural fabric. I grew up with the Latin Tridentine Rite; it has been a very formative part of who I am and continues to be so. But I think there are other factors in play today, and I have moved on.

        All I can ask you to do is put yourself in the position of those for whom there was an equally painful transition into Latin in the 3rd-4th centuries. Greek was undoubtedly part of their cultural fabric, and yet the move to the vernacular was inevitable. The only difference this time is that the Latin language perdured for considerably longer than Greek, which is why it is more painful for people like yourself.

        The same thing must have happened with the transition from Aramaic to Greek, Coptic, etc, even earlier on.

        Objectively, there is nothing purer or more authentic about Latin per se It is an accident of history which just happens to have lasted for rather longer than some would say that it had any right to. A living Church with a dead language is an anomaly. The same would be true in the case of the Glagolithic liturgy in the Slavonic, to give another example.

        So, I empathize greatly with you, but I also know that fifty years ago I had to undergo the same transition that you are struggling with now. I’m sure everyone here supports you with their prayers in this. There is a resting place, but it takes a while to reach it.

  20. Newbie here, so forgive me if I am intruding, but here are some thoughts of a young lay Catholic on the matter.

    1. If it is best to translate all Latin and Greek in the Roman Liturgy– why stop there? Alleluia, Hosanna, and Amen, are all Hebrew, a language as or less comprehensible to the average layman as Latin or Greek.

    2. I come from the Byzantine tradition, and have worshiped in Melkite, Greek, and Ukrainian parishes (though being neither Arab, Greek, nor Ukrainian). I have never found it that difficult to comprehend that “Hospodi Pomilui,” “Yarab’urham,” and “Kyrie Eleison” all mean “Lord have mercy,” though I do not know Ukrainian or Arabic. Likewise, even before I started studying Latin, neither I nor any Catholic I’ve know (Byzantine or Roman) was deer-in-headlights confused when “Kyrie Eleison” or “Agnus Dei” has been introduced (which has usually been with an accompanying music sheet with translation). I really don’t see the compelling reason for thinking Byzantine Catholics are perfectly capable of recognizing “Hospodi Pomilui” and “Yarrab’urham,” and yet it is assumed Roman Catholics are too intellectually deficient to recognize “Kyrie Eleison” and “Agnus Dei.”

    3. There can be an argument that Vatican II and it’s liturgical elements were meant to evolve. However, why not start with just doing what the documents themselves say? Once we start doing what they say, then maybe we can then get to the evolution part. It seems, most especially in the Latin Rite, that the implementation just skipped what the documents say themselves, and went straight (and perhaps prematurely) into the “development” the documents envisioned. It just seems odd to my mind.

    Pax et bonum omnibus. 🙂

  21. Yes, the folk music began with the Tridentine Mass (or 1965 missal), just watch Elvis Presley and Mary Tyler Moore’s 1966 movie, “A Change of Habits” and you’ll see Elvis singing, entertainment style, music at a Tridentine Mass, but 1965 missal. But for the most part it was applied to the Low Mass, as the three distinctions of low, sung and solemn sung still existed. So there was the four hymn Low Tridentine Mass–and the Introit, Offertory and Communion antiphons still had to be recited in the Low Mass and chanted in the high and solemn high. This four hymn folk Mass for the low Tridentine Mass, albeit the 1965 missal, which was primarily in the vernacular, continued with the 1970 missal but now without the official Introit or offertory and communion antiphons and a hodgepodge, pick as you will, whatever else you will sing dependent upon the worship committee plans or simply the priest or the music directors power and control.
    Deacon Fritz is correct, sometime around 1967 an insert was placed in the 1965 missal with the revised rubrics for the Roman Canon in English and the addition of Eucharistic Prayers II, III and IV. The Latin Roman Canon spoken quietly and exclusively in Latin with its Tridentine rubrics was to be cut out of the book. By 1970 when the new missal was promulgated, I don’t know if most laity realized that the texts for the Mass’s collects, prayers over the gifts and post-communion had been reworked and new ones added, although with the 1965 missal new prefaces were added to it but more to the 1970.

  22. In my opinion, the use of some Latin has 2 benefits 1) The sense of sacredness and tradition that it engenders. 2) The possibilities for use as a cross-cultural, unifying factor. 1) Latin still inspires and makes people feel connected to the past. People hear chant and associate it with the traditional and the holy. 2) More than ever, more than one culture must meet to worship together. I think that the optimal arrangement is to circulate the music of the ordinary frequently enough that people here it in their vernacular, but know it well enough to sing it in Latin. Then, they can fully and consciously participate whenever Latin is used. I would do this by perhaps using one Latin setting at every mass and rotating them- the Gloria one week, the Pater noster the next, the Angus dei, then the Creed (sung), the greeting dialogues, etc. Mix it up so that it doesn’t feel that you have some all Latin masses and some all vernacular ones. People will hear the vernacular enough to understand it, but they will hear the Latin enough to repeat it. Then, when Holy Thursday, Chrism or Midnight mass roles around, everyone can sing the whole Ordinary in Latin. For the readings and propers, of course, you will still have to pick a language (with bulletin inserts for readings), but the vast majority of the people will be able to participate in the traditional language of the Church. Moreover, I have found that on these most solemn occasions, people usually like the Latin (Adeste Fidelis…) . Again, it feels holy to them. While I know, using Latin in no way makes the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass more holy than it would otherwise be, Latin is an outward sign of how ancient and how set-apart the rites are. This is the best solution, in my opinion.

  23. I think it would be very condescending to the laity of yesteryear and those who are engaged in the EF Mass today to think that their “engagement” in an all Latin Mass isn’t true actual participation in the Mass even though they may not understand all the Latin word for word. In the 1950’s our family and most families I witnessed, brought to Mass each Sunday their hardback St. Joseph Missal or some other. We knew how to follow the Mass of the day in that missal and we used it normally for the English translation of the changing parts of the Mass, such as the propers, collect, secret and post-communion prayers and the preface as well. Over the course of time, most of us knew the basics of the silent canon and the actions of the priest and did not need to have the Roman Canon written in English before us and most of us knew basic Latin words because if we went to Mass every Sunday and some every day, one simply learned these. Not everyone in those days and certainly not today spaced out or prayed adjunct popular devotions such as the Rosary during Mass, although some did but not the majority in my experience.

  24. Knowing how the prospers read in Latin is way outside the experience or interest of the ordinary people who comprise the body of Christ. The more schooled among us may have an abstract appreciation of how these prayers expressed the beliefs of the clergy living during the time of the decline of imperial Rome. But ordinary people conversant even a little with the NT know how to pray as the disciples were taught by the Master. They are also able to give their assent to the prayers offered in their name by those presiding at the Eucharist especially when they make grammatical sense. Orthodox and Protestant faithful certainly have no interest in Latin. Can you even imagine a topic like the role of Latin in ecumenical dialogues? Jordan, your enthusiasm for Latin puts you in the company of devotees of Baroque motets. When such people are among their own it must be heavenly, but when advocating your passion in the presence of ordinary mortals, isn’t it more like purgatory? English speakers, as those of every modern language, will be better nourished by liturgical prayer that springs from ancient roots but is expressed in the language they speak everyday. After all, Jesus spoke in Aramaic but there’s never been any movement to pray in the language he spoke.

    1. @Jack Feehily – comment #74:

      After all, Jesus spoke in Aramaic but there’s never been any movement to pray in the language he spoke.

      The Universal Church incorporates worship in Arabic, Coptic, Ge’ez, Slavonic, Syriac (a later dialect of Aramaic), and yes, Latin. Parts of Holy Qurbana (e.g. the Maronite liturgy) are sung in Syriac.

      Jordan, your enthusiasm for Latin puts you in the company of devotees of Baroque motets

      Father, I already forgive you for this insult, and will pray for reconciliation. Nevertheless what you said is insulting, especially because I have devoted my life to the study of Christian sacral language.

      Your sentiments about Latin betray strike me as not an anxiety about the language, but rather the cultural, liturgical, and theological memory encoded within the sacral language. I am quite convinced that a mixture of the belief and faith of centuries handed down to us with an idealized historical Jesus is not necessarily a matter of Gospel or Law. Rather, this desire might, intentionally or not, attempt to cloak humanism or psychotherapeutics in a simulacrum of sacrament. Should some of the clergy find the collective memory of Catholic belief and faith mostly irrelevant or even worthy of derision because of its Latin expression, to what should the laity hold other than emotion and commonweal? Either of these can be achieved without Christ or his Sacrifice.

  25. II. (please cf. #76) Todd wrote earlier, However, the essence of Christianity, even Christian worship, is not schooling in a limited, rational, Enlightenment, English boarding school sense, but an apprenticeship. A lifelong one at that.

    The question you pose is necessary, but also difficult and painful to answer.

    I attended a Catholic boys’ day school which was similar in atmosphere to some boarding schools save the aspect of residence. Accordingly, the education I received might be rightly characterized as a highly rote and literary education. Some also, rightly, might consider this education highly non-culture-fair (eurocentric or ‘western-centric’, even if the term ‘western’ is not definite). Some cultures might rely on unique combinations of written, oral, and even kinesthetic educational methods. The methods of an 18th century French order (in my experience) and many similar teaching orders which grew from the Tridentine era are likely not as relevant for the diverse cultures of our world Church today.

    Still, regardless of a culture’s folkways of education, basic catechesis is crucial for all believers. The “apprenticeship” only begins after the “raising (or leading) up”, the ex-ducere, of the mind with the very fundamental tenets of belief and faith. I find the holistic catechetical model of postconciliar liturgical thought inadequate for this reason. Hymnody is certainly didactic in part. Even so, a substratum of basic knowledge must be inculcated in a believer so he or she can grasp scriptural metaphor. Attending Mass alone is not sufficient education in the faith. The failure of the experience-alone catechetical model is in part adult Catholics who cannot easily recall basic dogma and doctrine.

    As seen, the question of EF celebration and even Latin education rests on layers of more primary concerns. On this point I heartily agree with you.

  26. Jordan,

    My apologies if you felt excluded by my remarks about the people God loves. My intent was the opposite of that.

    I do not object to Latin, or its use in liturgy. I do object to treating it as a sacral language. It is a simulacrum of a sacrament, a cultural symbol taking credit for the realities it expresses. Latin enabled many things to be expressed where other languages could not. Perhaps it can still do some of them. Treating it as a sacral language impedes those abilities.

    Latin reigned as the language of conquerors, emperors, religious elites and educational elites. It no longer prevails among any of those and no longer is capable of transmitting the messages associated. Its use as a sacral language tries to replicate this lost cultural authority, making it the language of God rather than the language of the educated person or the emperor. As the latter, it flourished when expressing the sacraments they endorsed. As the language directly of God, it fails that task.

    This, of course, is just my opinion.

  27. Jordan, I intended no offense by pointing out that your understanding of the need for and significance of Latin places you in a community of interest that is very small. I was not disparaging how this interest so deeply affects your own spiritual journey.

  28. Given the disdussions about the relevance of Latin, in particular for Africa, may I paste in the information from the Kamuzu Academy founded by the late Dr Banda, an elder of the Church of Scotland?

    Its wide-ranging curriculum covers English (Language and Literature), Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Latin, Greek, History, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, ICT, French, Geography, Religious Studies, Economics, Business Studies, Law, CDT, Art and Design, Music and Physical Education. The Classics form an important part of its ethos, and one Classical subject is compulsory at IGCSE.

  29. I am so pleased to follow the discussion about Latin in that it is such delight that Latin is once again in the Catholic consciousness. Up to now it has been a Unitarian preserve in the United States as I have mentioned in July.

    Again I must state that the teaching of Latin is going through a quiet revolution. The young teachers, mainly Unitarians, believe strongly that Latin should be a spoken language and are teaching accordingly. The surge in their enrollments indicates that they are on to something valuable.

    The times are changing and those verba volant all over the place.

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