More on Pope Francis’ Commemoration of Paul VI’s First Mass in Italian

paulvivernacularEarlier this month we first reported that Pope Francis was planning to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first celebration of the liturgy in the vernacular by Blessed Paul VI in March. Today the Vatican Press Office confirmed that the Mass will take place next Saturday, 7 March:

On 7 March 1965, Blessed Paul VI, on the 25th anniversary of the death of St. Luigi Orione, celebrated the first mass in Italian in history in the parish of Ognissanti (All Saints), Rome. “Today we inaugurate the new form of Liturgy in all the parishes and churches of the world, for all the Masses followed by the people. It is a great event, that shall be remembered as the beginning of a flourishing spiritual life, as a new effort to participate in the great dialogue between God and man”.

Fifty years on, to commemorate this historic date, Pope Francis will preside at a Eucharistic celebration next Saturday, 7 March at 6 p.m. in the same parish (Via Appia Nuova, 244).

In addition to the Mass, the Vatican also announced that a Congress is being planned:

The occasion will also be celebrated by a Congress on Pastoral Liturgy organized by the Vicariate of Rome, the Opera Don Orione and the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Rome, to open today at the Teatro Orione, adjacent to the All Saints parish.

The theme of the Congress is “United in giving thanks”. The works will be presented by Rev. Flavio Peloso, superior general of the Sons of Divine Providence (Don Orione), who comments that the event “will facilitate an understanding of the reasons behind yesterday’s liturgical reforms and today’s commitment to liturgical fidelity”. Following greetings from the auxiliary bishop Giuseppe Marciante, Archbishop Francesco Pio Tamburrano, metropolitan emeritus of Foggia-Bovino, Italy, will speak about “Tradition and renewal in paragraph 23 of the liturgical Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium. Archbishop Piero Marini, president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, will then consider the theme “The spoken language, tool of communion in the dialogue of the liturgical assembly”, and finally Rev. Francesco Mazzitelli, parish priest of Ognissanti, will examine “The liturgical formation of the laity”.

The full VIS announcement can be found here.

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55 comments

  1. The use of Latin is quite endearing, of course. More, please. But this persistent denial that (unwanted) liturgical changes led to collapse in Mass attendance is dumbfounding. Yes, sometimes an unrelated event can follow another event. But a causal event always precedes an effect, never the other way around. What does it take for the hierarchy to admit they have erred?
    Put another way, what metric can we use to judge whether or not the liturgical changes that Paul VI imposed on the church were a ‘success’ or a ‘failure’?

    1. @Tony Phillips – comment #1:

      Yes, sometimes an unrelated event can follow another event. But a causal event always precedes an effect, never the other way around.

      I’ve read this four or five times and am still at a loss as to what this has to do with anything.

      Put another way, what metric can we use to judge whether or not the liturgical changes that Paul VI imposed on the church were a ‘success’ or a ‘failure’?

      I’m not sure there is such a metric. Why should there be any such metric? Some things are not measurable.

      Plus, even if one could show that it was a failure, what would that help, except for assigning blame to people long dead? Would it mean that restoring the preconciliar Mass as the norm would bring people back to the Church? But what if the causal factor was not the change of language or particular ritual revisions, but simply the fact of rapid ritual change itself? Further ritual change might only make matters worse.

      1. Re no 2
        ‘I’m not sure there is such a metric. Why should there be any such metric? Some things are not measurable. Plus, even if one could show that it was a failure, what would that help, except for assigning blame to people long dead?’

        I’ve started to realise that liturgists & clergy alike struggle with the idea of measuring success or failure. It’s not in their culture, I guess. Let’s stick to the issue of the vernacular, for now, and avoid the slippery slope of Trid v. NO.

        Fritz: we need a metric here to assess whether the change to the vernacular was a ‘success’. The answer depends very much on what outcome we’re measuring.

        Example: some years ago the bosses at Coca-Cola decided their recipe needed to be reformed. Did their reform succeed? If we measure how many factories converted to the new recipe, it was a smashing success. But if we use sales figures as a metric, the reform was a disaster. New Coke flopped.

        Similarly, we can measure success of the vernacular in a number of ways:
        •Did the vernacular replace Latin? Yes, nearly 100%. Success!
        •Did the language of the Mass become as suggested by Sacr. Conc (ie, Latin ordinary, vernac readings & maybe propers)? Failure: target missed, as mass nearly 100% vernac.
        •Did mass attendance increase with vernac? No (but this may be confounded by other liturgy changes)
        •Did faith (eg in Real Presence) increase? No, it’s fallen, but again confounding factors. Now we’re probably moving into an area Fritz would find ‘unmeasurable’, but you know what? We’re not. Just need some good outcomes research. What about ‘engagement’ & ‘participation’? Yes, these are fuzzier metrics, but we can still try to assess them.

        You see where I’m going. The council fathers never thought about how implementation could be tested. It’d just…happen. The church isn’t used to considering, let alone admitting, failure. But you can’t run an organisation that way.

      2. @Tony Phillips – comment #34:
        This merely repeats the same mantras over and over again and again shows a misunderstanding of history, VII documents, etc.

        Not to belabor points made by many PTB experts in this area:
        – cherry picking lower level paragraphs from one VII document does not establish some type of substantial church policy e.g. use of Gregorian chant, latin for commons, etc.
        – this ignores or misunderstands that each VII document is set up with a hierarchy of principles, goals, directives, suggestions (these are not all equat)
        – thus, SC had substantial principles of liturgy that are the focus and goals of the reformed liturgy (paragraphs toward the end of certain sections lay out suggestions)
        – SC can not be interpreted in isolation – it has to be read in the context of all the VII constitutions and documents.
        – SC laid out principles and per other VII constitutions left it to Paul VI and his appointed committee and then via subsidiarity to episcopal conferences to implement the SC principles, goals, and directives. Thus, within years of the conclusion of VII, the same bishops who voted on SC were asking for broader use of the vernacular.

        Allow me to apply this to your questions/answers:
        vernacular replaced latin – nearly 100% (in fact, any careful survey, study would indicate that your question/answer is inaccurate
        SC suggestion – you appear to miss the point again and repeat your first inaccurate statement……SC provided directives but left it up to Paul VI and his episcopal conferences to implement (you assume that a SC directive out of context is the highest in the hierarchy of the VII documents – it is not)
        Vernacular and mass attendance – another inaccurate statement. In fact, any studies and surveys done in the first decade after VII indicated an increased attendance and participation in the US liturgy (you need to go up and review earlier posts with CARA studies that shed light on your misinformation)
        Finally – the usual mantra and bugaboo – Real Presence. Sorry, CARA studies take into account the facts that what year, who you ask, and comparison to pre-VII studies/surveys indicate that the answer to this question is all over the place. Your statement is biased because you start by assuming that pre-VII all catholics had the correct Real Presence understanding. In fact, studies indicate that this is an incorrect assumption.

        Your statements would never pass a Critical Thinking course in which you posit a *theory* and then list *proofs* to substantiate your *conclusion*. In fact, you start with assumptions which are unprovable, untested (because you merely make opinions) but you claim as truth.

    2. @Tony Phillips – comment #1:
      To be fair to Bl. Paul VI, he did recognize problems with the reform towards the end of his life. Take for example, his speech at the consistory for the creation of new Cardinals in 1977:
      “to the dissenters who in the name of a poorly understood creative freedom have brought much harm to the church with their banalities, improvisations, trivialities, and even with deplorable profanations – we ask severely that they keep to the established norms…we ask for absolute fidelity in order to saveguard the rule of faith.”
      I’ve always found it interesting to compare the words of Paul VI from before and after the reform was conducted. While he certainly never abandons the reform nor doubts its goodness/overall success, he does acknowledge that severe problems have emerged in its wake.

      BTW, in that same speech Bl. Paul VI is equally severe to the so-called “traditionalists” but he does acknowledge that the reform involved only “accidental modifications” to the liturgical rites.

  2. I was blessed enough to be able to con-celebrate the closing outdoor Mass in front of St. Peters for the year of faith. At this Mass Pope Francis held in his hands the cask of bones of St. Peter’s as the Credo was chanted in Latin.

    Peculiarly, since so many were asked to concelebrate this Mass and from all over the world, the majority of the Mass that Pope Francis spoke was in Italian to include the Eucharistic Prayer. Latin would have assisted the priests of different languages.

    Nonetheless, the people’s parts were in Latin, the Kyrie (Greek), Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. The Latin propers were chanted to include the Introit after a processional hymn as the pope approached the altar and incensed it as well as the Offertory and Communion antiphons. There were additional motets sung as well at the offertory and communion.

    There were lay lectors at seperate ambos for the first two readings and psalm and the Gospel at the other ambo. This is common for the outdoor Masses there. Of course there was no need for Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. The concelebrants received Holy Communion by way of self-intinction from priests and/or deacons holding the ciborium and chalice as did the main concelebrants at the altar. The laity did not receive from the chalice.

    If every parish in the world could experience the solemnity, care and reverence of this very Ordinary Form Mass, then Vatican II’s vision for the Mass would indeed be experienced. Sadly, this is not the case and no one seems to want to get to the root of that corruption.

  3. From the VIS announcement:

    The moderator, Fr. Giuseppe Midili, director of the diocesan liturgical office, affirmed that “the congress offers various points for reflection on the reasons that led the conciliar bishops to introduce the spoken language into the liturgy. Indeed, one of the main aims of liturgical reform was full, active and conscious participation in the liturgy, so that the faithful moved on from their role as mute, extraneous spectators. In this sense, the change was historical and signified a turnaround. Indeed, when the liturgy was celebrated in a language they did not understand, the faithful sought more accessible forms of private worship and prayer to recite during the Mass. With the introduction of the spoken language, these individualistic forms slowly disappeared from the celebratory context in favour of the centrality of the community celebration”.

  4. Paul VI from the balcony of St. Peter’s on that First Sunday of Lent:

    “The church has made this sacrifice of an age-old tradition [Latin] and above all in unity of language among diverse peoples to bow to a higher universality, an outreach to all peoples.”

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #7:

      As Rita cites, Paul VI from the balcony of St. Peter’s on that First Sunday of Lent: the church has made this sacrifice of an age-old tradition [Latin] and above all in unity of language among diverse peoples to bow to a higher universality, an outreach to all peoples.

      I have noticed on PTB over the years that many of us carry burdens with regard to belief and faith. I cannot comment on other people’s burdens. These are private.

      My burden involves Pope Paul VI’s frequent reference to the loss of Latin’s primacy in the liturgical life of the Roman Rite. This he calls a “sacrifice”. Did he know, or care, that even subsequent generations would be wounded by his statements? I was not alive when he called for sacrifice. Still, I have not asked for this sacrifice. I do not want this sacrifice. I refuse to make this sacrifice by attending Mass in Latin as often as possible. And yet I am saddled with the sacrifice he placed upon my shoulders.

      The potential of evangelization in the vernacular is the beneficiary of the sacrifice. This Church cannot stop evangelizing, for indeed this is central to its mission. What is my joy and pearl of great price is a burden of others; indeed the Latin language might pose a total impasse to evangelization. The insight that Latin is a burden to others is one which will touch me in time and introspection.

  5. Thanks, Rita – this post is also a response to the earlier post and refutes the *allegation* made by one commenter that compared the Pope’s discussion with the priests of Rome to the private letter to Marchetto – as if they compare. The commenter remarked that Francis’ *off the cuff* remarks about the *mistake of SP* were merely that.
    In fact, this was not an off the cuff remark – it was part of his planned discussion with the priests of Rome and now we know that this anniversary will include much more – a study event marking Paul VI’s 1969 missal and the transition to the vernacular. (would suggest that this is *explicitly* and *markedly* more than a private letter or an off the cuff remark.)

    To even posit that the decrease in catholics attending eucharist is the result of the Paul VI reform is either revisionist history, rejects available study data, or ignores the realities of the past 40 years and current expansion/increases in Asia, Africa, South America (despite, in some places, the active evangelical prostelzying and lack of priests)

    Let’s at least use reliable data:
    http://nineteensixty-four.blogspot.com/2011/03/sunday-morning-deconstructing-catholic.html

    Highlights:

    Today, CARA’s national surveys use a methodology that minimizes social desirability pressure on respondents to get the most accurate measurements of Mass attendance possible. Many cite our weekly Mass attendance figure in the low 20 percent range. Some also then cite Gallup’s figure from the 1950s and attempt to argue that Mass attendance has fallen from nearly 80% to just above 20%. This is misleading and inaccurate. First, as shown above, the Gallup numbers for the 1950s are inflated by over-reports just as they are in the 1970s or now. Second, CARA and most other survey-based estimates of Mass attendance measure general frequencies of attendance such as “every week” or “at least once a month.” Gallup’s church attendance question measures whether a respondent has attended in the last 7 days. Depending on the week in which this question is asked, one will get very different results. Thus, the best use of the Gallup data is in taking the average for the year in response to this question.
    ………the drop is not 80% to 20%. Instead it is from a peak of 62% in 1958 to about 31% now. This is still a remarkable decline. It means that the Mass attendance you see at Christmas and Easter is a lot like the attendance you might have seen in a typical week in the late-1950s.
    And any researcher would have to take into account at least some significant events that impacted this trend:
    Humanae Vitae
    Society transitioning from following to questioning authority
    Cultural transitions e.g. movement away from institutions
    Sexual abuse scandals
    Financial abuse scandals
    Parish closures/mergers
    School closures/mergers

  6. Here is another CARA study which also compares the attendance trends to other denominations (which also gets at weakening the argument about the liturgical changes)

    http://blog.adw.org/2010/12/is-the-bottom-really-falling-out-of-catholic-mass-attendance-a-recent-cara-survey-ponders-the-question/

    Note that this link goes to an article by an outside spokesperson who is using CARA data but doesn’t understand and continues to use the *discredited* and misleading mantra that there was 80% rate in the 1950s and only 20% today. (CARA states it is roughly 36% decreasing to 20% today)

  7. Finally, since this post highlights the anniversary of the use of the vernacular, this excellent Commonweal article by Rita Ferrone gets at the authentic and core reasons for why the council fathers and Paul VI opened the way to the use of the vernacular:

    https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/unity-not-uniformity

    Highlights:

    Although they remained respectful of Latin, they were not convinced by the claim that Latin is the great “sign and psychological agent” of the church’s unity. Bishop Franz Simons of Indore, India, for example, pointed out with merciless clarity that Latin, which was supposed to unite, had actually become a source of division: between clergy and laity, between East and West, and between the church and the world. Patriarch Maximos IV Saigh, leader of the Melkite delegation, famously refused to speak Latin at the council, preferring to use French as a reminder to the Latin Rite bishops that Latin is not the language of all Catholics. It’s not as though these bishops didn’t prize unity. They did. But they wisely looked to the Holy Spirit to provide it through many tongues, as the Spirit provided it on the day of Pentecost.

    (Please note #3 commenter – not exactly what your anecdote appears to say)

  8. Pope Paul VI some 9 years later did modify his initial pre-Vatican II triumphalism concerning the vernacular. I found the following at another source:
    “In April 1974 Pope Paul VI sent to every bishop in the world a booklet of some of the simplest selections of Gregorian Chant, much of it drawn from the Graduale Romanum. This booklet, called Jubilate Deo, was intended as a “minimum repertoire of Gregorian chant”. It is, in other words, an official Latin “core repertoire” for the Roman Rite. It was prepared, the Pope said, in order “to make it easier for Christians to achieve unity and spiritual harmony with their brothers and with the living tradition of the past. Hence it is that those who are trying to improve the quality of congregational singing cannot refuse Gregorian chant the place which is due to it” (Voluntati Obsequens).

    Pope Paul VI gave permission for the selections in Jubilate Deo to be freely reprinted. The booklet was accompanied by a letter in which the Holy Father made this request of the bishops:

    “Would you therefore, in collaboration with the competent diocesan and national agencies for the liturgy, sacred music and catechetics, decide on the best ways of teaching the faithful the Latin chants of Jubilate Deo and of having them sing them…. You will thus be performing a new service for the Church in the domain of liturgical renewal” (Voluntati Obsequens).

    Jubilate Deo contains simple chant settings in Latin of the parts of the Ordinary of the Mass: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Agnus Dei. It also provides musical settings for the dialogues between priest and people, such as before the Preface, and the Ite Missa est, the response to the Prayer of the Faithful, and others.

    An, expanded edition of Jubilate Deo was later issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1987.
    Its Latin selections, since they form a minimum repertoire of Gregorian chant, would allow us to finally fulfill the provision of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, which said that “steps should be taken enabling the faithful to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass belonging to them” (§54).
    Unfortunately, the faithful were not taught these chants, and it is rare to hear any music from this collection sung in parishes today.”

    1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #11:
      Father Allan,

      I’m glad that you bring up the fact that Bl. Paul VI strongly desired that latin chant have popular use. Many people like to quote his audiences from 1969 about losing Latin and Gregorian chant but fewer seem to remember words like this:

      “A new epoch for Sacred Music rises. It is asked of many that for all countries will be conserved, the Latin Gregorian chant of the Gloria, the credo, the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei: May God will that it be so. ”
      -Bl. Paul VI General Audience August 22, 1973

  9. Bill deHaas, thanks for gathering and commenting on that fascinating set of information and insights. It made reading through the comment string well worth the time. Your list of “other factors” that must be taken into consideration by anyone wishing to “blame” the reformed liturgy for the decline in Mass attendance is especially important. I think a rise in the secular character of Western society should be included in it.

  10. There was and is a perfect storm in terms of what has led to the hyper-secularization of Catholics. However, not to acknowledge the first generation of Catholics who experienced the immediate aftermath of Vatican II and some zany experimentation with religious life, the Mass, parish life/catechesis and morality, especially in the 1960’s early 70’s time frame and the subsequent handing on of this confusion or alienation to the generations since this period, doesn’t serve well the proper diagnosis of the problems we have today.

  11. Not to acknowledge World War II, and the immense impact it had throughout the world, but especially in Europe, also doesn’t serve the proper diagnosis of today’s problems.

    The dissolution of European monarchies and empires, and the rise of democracy as the de facto political system, was behind the decline in allegiance to the Church and probably a driving force in the liturgical changes as well.

  12. One effect of the near disappearance of Latin as a liturgical language is the Balkanisation of the liturgy in many English parishes today. Instead of being something that unites a diverse group of people into one worshipping community, the liturgy becomes a source of strife and division. I can think of one parish which has an English mass, a Polish mass, a Spanish mass, an Italian mass, a Portuguese mass every Sunday. In such a situation, the church becomes merely the building in which the liturgy happens to take place and each congregation owes its loyalty, and makes its financial contribution, to the particular ethnic chaplain who comes and celebrates in the particular vernacular that happens to be theirs. The result is (usually) that the English speaking congregation bears the cost of maintaining the building which others use, more or less free of charge, It is not difficult to see the resentment that this can give rise to.

    In the (North London) parish I was in before joining the Oratory, we had no less than 96 different nationalities amongst the congregation. If each had had their “go”, one would have had one’s vernacular about once every 18 months. I read chapter 9 of “Bugnini’s Confessions” this morning in the hope of finding some kind of acknowledgement of this problem, but I was disappointed. Perhaps he lived in a more ethnically homogeneous society than I do, in which case he can hardly be blamed, but the problem is there all the same. A greater use of Latin would be an obvious solution to the problem, but it would require a lot of people to eat their words.

  13. Fr Richard Duncan CO : One effect of the near disappearance of Latin as a liturgical language is the Balkanisation of the liturgy in many English parishes today. Instead of being something that unites a diverse group of people into one worshipping community, the liturgy becomes a source of strife and division. I can think of one parish which has an English mass, a Polish mass, a Spanish mass, an Italian mass, a Portuguese mass every Sunday.

    I had occasion to go with my mother to the tiny, tiny, tiny coal mining town where she grew up. We attended Mass at her old parish. In her day it was the Polish parish; the Italians went to Mass down the street. The two groups never attended each other’s parishes even though in those days all the Masses were in Latin. Today we separate ourselves in other ways but we still haven’t fulfilled Christ’s prayer that we might all be one.

    1. @Andrea Duda – comment #16:
      A perfectly fair point to make, but the riposte is that had a Pole wandered into the Italian church by mistake, or vice versa, he would have found the same words being used accompanied by the same ritual gestures as in the Church he normally went to. That could not be said of an equivalent ethnic divide today.

      In the North London parish I mentioned earlier, the solution adopted was to sing Credo III in Latin every week. The effect was telling. Whereas the dreary English mass settings would be lucky to get a sullen murmur from those whose first language was not English, the Latin was sung with full throated gusto by everyone, often with improvised harmonies which were quite alluring. It was once explained to me that this was due to the fact that because Latin wasn’t the exclusive possession of anyone in particular, it belonged to everyone.

  14. Does anyone know what parts of the 1964 Papal Mass were in Italian and what remained in Latin? It had to be the Tridentine Mass, similar to the 1965 Interim Missal. It wasn’t the Normative Ordinary form of today. So I suspect the quiet prayers of the priest to include the Roman Canon remained in Latin.

    In terms of Andrea Duda’s comment, I grew up in a army neighborhood in Augusta, GA. There were war brides who knew little English from France, Germany, Austria and Italy. Then we had Koreans and Vietnamese and Puerto Ricans and Panamanians. The Latin Liturgy united us all. Today that same parish has a Spanish Mass, a Korean Mass and the neighboring Parish a Vietnamese Mass. None of the language groups relate to each other.

    1. @Father Allan J. McDonald – comment #17:
      ”In terms of Andrea Duda’s comment, I grew up in a army neighborhood in Augusta, GA. There were war brides who knew little English from France, Germany, Austria and Italy. Then we had Koreans and Vietnamese and Puerto Ricans and Panamanians. The Latin Liturgy united us all. Today that same parish has a Spanish Mass, a Korean Mass and the neighboring Parish a Vietnamese Mass. None of the language groups relate to each other.”

      Really? They all knew Latin? That’s amazing!

      Or, perhaps they were all equally ignorant. It’s easy to see how people developed a habit of saying a personal prayer rosary during Mass – there was really no other way to involve yourself.

      1. @Charles Day – comment #18:
        The Sisters of St. Joseph of Corondelet made sure that we knew how to participate by using our personal Sunday Missal. Many children and adults brought these to Mass every Sunday and used them. Others were taught Latin in our Catholic schools precisely to understand the Mass. Apart from that we were together, all the diverse language groups especially at the altar railing!

      2. @Father Allan J. McDonald – comment #19:
        I am sure that you believe that, but I am nearly 64 years old and was in my teens before V II was any kind of reality. As an altar boy, I learned the Latin responses before there were English ones. I had three years of AP Latin in high school. I still have the Missal I got from my mother in 1960 with Latin and English side-by-side, and I was not afraid of Latin or confused by it. So yes, in theory, if someone had a Missal in Latin with an accompanying Vietnamese, Korean, whatever translation it would be theoretically possible for everyone to be united by Latin.

        But the reality is that in 12 years of Catholic schools in Atlanta – not that far from your Augusta – and with four different orders of nuns, including your Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, we were not expected to use a Missal as you describe, and apart from myself I knew very few people who did. Your description of that unity was more a fantasy than a reality in my world.

      3. @Charles Day – comment #21:
        Charles, the EF Mass as it is known today has very few changing parts. I think most Catholics when the Mass was entirely in Latin knew the basics of the unchanging parts of the Mass to include the Roman Canon and its structure. Did everyone? No. The only parts that changed were the propers, collects and the preface as well as the readings. Just having those in one’s language helped one to participate.
        I don’t have a Latin Mass every Sunday in my parish except once a month in the EF form and we provide for the congregation those changing parts in English and a book with the non changing parts in English. Many participate in the chanted parts that pertain to the congregation. I’m not opposed to English but I agree with Fr. Richard about the divisions that the vernacular creates in the same parish with separate Masses for various language groups.
        You denigrate people of the past, like our grandmothers that Pope Francis speaks so highly of, because they chose to pray the Rosary during the Mass. And yet their lives as Catholics were exemplary. I saw many people praying the Rosary or contemplating other things back in the 1956-60 period of attending Mass in Atlanta’s West End at St. Anthony’s (Sisters of St. Joseph at the school there where I attended) and Fr. McPherson’s Catholic chapel. I saw many with missals also and I still have my St. Joseph Sunday missal from that period.
        Jordan Latin can be elitist to be sure, but the elitist attitude is that non-Latin speakers can’t participate in a Latin Mass because they are too dumb to follow and learn especially in a culture of Latin Masses.

      4. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #24:
        My last word; this is getting silly. I do feel the need to point out that I denigrated no one, least of all the people who managed to be prayerful in the Latin Mass against the odds. If anything, they were saints. The only thing I denigrated was your Camelot like description of unity, which I stand by from my own experiences.

        [okay, I have set you up so you can claim that the Latin Mass created saints by the hundreds – using the vernacular doesn’t let God see who’s really willing to hunker down and pray]

      5. @Father Allan J. McDonald – comment #19:

        Father Allan: Others were taught Latin in our Catholic schools precisely to understand the Mass.

        In my experience of teaching Latin very few students really “get it”. Most struggle greatly with the language. Latin is not only conjugated, but also declined. Subordinated clauses like ut are lost on many students. Then there are the vast number of verbs to memorize. It is not possible to teach most students to read the collects in Latin, unless they plan on taking an AP (ie A-level) or similar curriculum. Even then some of the advanced students might have no interested in medieval or ecclesiastical vocabulary and linguistics.

        I still sincerely contend that many parishes should say at least one Mass on Sunday with at least the entire ordinary in Latin, including the Canon. In this case many people would have to use missals and be instructed in their use, as the sisters did for you.

        I do not see this as discriminatory, but I can see how some here would consider Latin “elitist”, so far as it is in some respect reserved for the few who grasp it. However, vernacularization can also alienate and divide, as this thread attests.

  15. There’s one thing that strikes me when I hear people – both online and in person – explain how the typical person-in-the-pew should take the time to learn Latin. When I think of all the things I need to do and study and accept to closer conform my life to what Jesus desires for me, learning Latin comes in pretty low on the list.

    I can’t help but think that when people prioritize “learning Latin” the highest (or very high), that’s one aspect of what’s referred to as being self-referential church.

  16. I think it’s wonderful that the pope is making a special effort to commemorate the first mass in Italian by his predecessor so many years ago. That got me to thinking about how wonderful it would have been had the Italians heard with comprehension God’s word and His liturgy day in day out in their beautiful tongue not unlike their fellow Christians in the British Isles. Two books, the bible and the BCP, are credited with exerting enormous influence over the development of English.

    I wonder if what began fifty years ago may do the same for Italian, amongst other languages.

  17. Growing up in the early 60s I never viewed using the missal as a way of praying the Mass, it was more a way of following it. You tried to see how far the priest had gotten so you would know when to sit, kneel or stand. We didn’t participate so much as “hear” the Mass. It was almost like trying to follow the libretto of an opera. I don’t remember that the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught me ever stressed the idea of participating. And they didn’t teach Latin in our Catholic school.
    As for the non-vernacular, it seems that many people, when they hear something in a language they don’t understand, have a tendency to tune it out, unless they are provided with a translation. Our choir sang a beautiful piece in Latin today but I don’t think most people, including myself, have any idea what they were singing. So while for them it may have been a prayer, for the rest of us it was more like we were at a concert listening to an unfamiliar piece without the advantage of knowing what was being sung.
    If, as Rahner said, prayer is meant to change us and not God, then a text voiced in an unfamiliar language is not accomplishing its purpose.

  18. Bruce Janiga : If, as Rahner said, prayer is meant to change us and not God, then a text voiced in an unfamiliar language is not accomplishing its purpose.

    That seems to presume that words are the only medium of communication, the only thing capable of transforming us. I certainly feel changed by listening to Allegri’s Miserere, whether I’m following every word or not.

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #29:

      This is what I think too often gets lost in debates about Latin/vernacular – we are talking about fundamentally different forms of participation, and the fact that one does not (perhaps cannot) achieve the effects of the other is not necessarily a mark for or against either. Incidentally, this is why some people who are for Latin in the EF do not advocate its use in the OF – the new rites are designed to function far more exclusively through aural comprehension, so Latin is out of its element.

  19. I doubt that the switch to vernacular, by itself, would have done much damage. One has to take into account the other changes (e.g., introduction of guitar masses, reception of communion in the hand while standing, loss of altars and statues). Many parishioners hated folk Masses. And 40-50 years later many parishioners still are angry that the altars and statues they or their parents paid for were thrown away. The uniqueness of the old Mass was a strength of the Church. I’ve read bits and pieces of the liturgical week journals from 1940-68. What never (to my knowledge) was considered in these weeks were possible negative effects of the changes the liturgists wanted to impose.

    1. @Sean Peters – comment #31:

      Sean: And 40-50 years later many parishioners still are angry that the altars and statues they or their parents paid for were thrown away.

      Sometimes pastors were pressured by bishops to practice iconoclasm, even if the pastors themselves did not want to destroy altars and artwork. The beautiful and intricately carved altar and reredos of the gothic cathedral of my childhood were smashed and trashed, replaced with a stucco-plaster apse protrusion whose function I still cannot discern. What happened to that cathedral would make Cromwell blush. At least I was baptised in the innocent cathedral before the Lord Protector’s metaphorical soldiers arrived.

  20. I believe that all this romanticization of Latin very disedifying. The Mass would never have been celebrated in Latin had it not become the language of the people. Then traditionalism was born when popes and prelates began to believe that it had to be in Latin “as from days of old”. So much for “Mass” in Aramaic or Hebrew or Greek when and where those were the languages of the people. The latinization of Mass goes hand in hand with its clericalization. The Mass of Paul VI has as its starting point that worshiping God in spirit and truth for Catholics involves the priestly people and the priests of Orders. It is no longer a Mass that can be merely heard, seen, recited, or chanted. It belongs to every local church in union with the universal church whose bishop presides in charity at Rome. This is an ecclesiology which spurns a church whose prelates and clergy claim a right to lord it over their “subjects”. I submit that treating as an act of faith that genuine Christian worship must be based on Latin prayers is a form of idolatry. People may like, love or prefer Latin. The days of claiming its superiority must pass. No offense intended.

    1. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #33:
      I would be careful of lurching too far toward the other gunwale of the boat, Father, as it seems you are dangerously close to accusing a substantial chunk of the world’s apostolic churches of clericalism to the extent that they employ Koine Greek, Church Slavonik, Classical Armenian, Ancient Georgian, Coptic, Syriac, or Ge’ez (and, of course, to the further extent that these languages depart from the vernaculars of the peoples who use them). If we cannot treat the liturgical usefulness of Latin as an article of faith, we also cannot idolize the vernacular. Since we are forced to neither of these extremes, we ought to be able to agree that apostolic Christianity has sometimes considered vernacular worship most salutary, while at other times a departure from that vernacular, be it small or large, was also deemed most conducive to the Church’s health; ergo, non-vernacular worship should not receive universal condemnation as clericalist. We ought to ask our Eastern brethren why they chose to retain their liturgical languages when those became antiquated in early modernity, as I think that could only enrich the conversation, not only about Latin/vernacular in the West, but about vernacular translation strategies (a common theme on this blog).

      1. @Aaron Sanders – comment #40:
        With regard to the orthodox and Eastern Rite Catholics whose liturgies have retained ancient rites and languages, it would be hard to make a case for those communities as thriving. With some exceptions, they are all notably unevangelical and as a result are disappearing. But they sure are beautiful.

      2. @Fr. Jack Feehily – comment #44:
        Father Jack,

        Are these the same eastern churches that have been either crushed under communist oppression in eastern europe, or by islamic terrorism in the middle east? For me, the fact that the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine survived at all through those decades is testimony enough that they are doing something right.
        The Catholic Church in the America’s and in Europe, with its reformed liturgy doesn’t even have that excuse.
        Though I do have to ask you: why is it that lack of numbers can be linked to lack ofl iturgical change in the eastern church but lack of numbers cannot be linked to the reformed rites in the west?

  21. Fr. Jack Feehily : I believe that all this romanticization of Latin very disedifying. The Mass would never have been celebrated in Latin had it not become the language of the people. Then traditionalism was born when popes and prelates began to believe that it had to be in Latin “as from days of old”. So much for “Mass” in Aramaic or Hebrew or Greek when and where those were the languages of the people. The latinization of Mass goes hand in hand with its clericalization. The Mass of Paul VI has as its starting point that worshiping God in spirit and truth for Catholics involves the priestly people and the priests of Orders. It is no longer a Mass that can be merely heard, seen, recited, or chanted. It belongs to every local church in union with the universal church whose bishop presides in charity at Rome. This is an ecclesiology which spurns a church whose prelates and clergy claim a right to lord it over their “subjects”. I submit that treating as an act of faith that genuine Christian worship must be based on Latin prayers is a form of idolatry. People may like, love or prefer Latin. The days of claiming its superiority must pass. No offense intended.

    Thank you Fr. Feehily. For the life of me I have never understood the absolute obsession with Latin some of my fellow Catholics have. Idolatry seems to be the best word for it.

    I am very glad that Pope Francis will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the gift of mass in the vernacular the Holy Spirit gave us and the call for it that Bl. Paul the VI answered.

  22. Fr. Jack and Mr. Borelli – a thoughtful response to the musings of some:
    https://hughosb.wordpress.com/category/liturgy/

    Points that appear to question the usual mantras:

    Ratzinger now moves, reversing the order of the objections, from the matter of the communal nature of the liturgy to the matter of its language, which is to say, its tongue. The argument that the Latin liturgy must be retained so “that the Catholic should be able to find it wherever he goes, even on Mars or the moon…” (NB Ratzinger is not being sarcastic; he is referring explicitly to Friedrich Heer’s critique.) This, says Ratzinger, “would amount to making the liturgy a museum piece, an artistic and aesthetic treasure from the past”. He makes a more positive argument in favour of the vernacular by referring to St Paul’s assertion that he would rather speak 5 intelligible words than 10,000 in a tongue (I Cor 14:19). Though St Paul had in his sights the practice of ecstatic speaking in tongues or glossolalia, nevertheless it is on the basis of this Pauline teaching that “the Greek liturgy, which by this time had become unintelligible, was translated into Latin in Rome in the fourth century, in other words, it was made available again in the vernacular of the time”. Ratzinger cites liturgical historian Theodore Klauser in agreement that the Roman liturgists in the fourth century were confusing the unintelligibility of glossolalia with the incomprehensibility of a foreign language. Nevertheless,

    St Paul would have had no objection whatever to this interpretation of his pronouncements; even if he was referring to glossolalic utterances rather than foreign languages, the one was just as much at variance with his idea of liturgy as the other.

    Ratzinger dismisses the idea of a language of mystery for the liturgy, as if the veiling of the liturgy in words not understood by the majority somehow safeguards, or even enhances, the mystery embodied in the Sacred Mysteries. The text of the Mass details an engagement, and even a…

  23. Aaron: If we cannot treat the liturgical usefulness of Latin as an article of faith, we also cannot idolize the vernacular.

    Both traditionalists and progressives have their shibboleths. It is best to leave them alone, as they are the glue which hold movements together. This is true regardless of their veracity.

    If we traditionalists wish to exalt the Roman Canon in its original, then we must give due recognition (but not necessarily assent) to progressive calls for novel contemporary liturgy. The opposite also applies. Neither group will convince the other; nor should they. I am firmly on your side, Aaron — I have a great love of our Latin liturgical heritage. And yet, both sides must live on the side of a great dividing wall often patched together with half-truths.

  24. The discussion around Latin versus the vernacular gets confusing, because people differ so much in what they want and in why they want it.

    All of the following assumes we are discussing the Mass of Paul VI.

    As to what they want: this ranges from everything in Latin, always, to Latin ordinary texts with vernacular collects and readings, to occasional use of Latin for, say, the Creed or the Our Father, to all vernacular. Many support a “mixed economy” within a parish: some Masses with more Latin, some with less, some with none. Those who call for all Latin, all the time, generally want the Tridentine Mass.

    As to why: lots of different stories here. I’ll only focus on the “why Latin” side, since the “why vernacular” story is generally simpler.

    Latin is said to be good because

    (1) it is a better fit for music that was originally written to be sung in Latin;

    (2) in a multi-lingual parish it is equally foreign and therefore fairer to all;

    (3) it is mysterious in a good way – this is the “verbal iconostasis” or “mystery language” theory;

    (4) it is an identity marker (“they’ll know we are Catholics by our Latin”);

    (5) Latin no longer evolves and therefore the meaning of the Latin liturgy is not subject to changing language uses;

    (6) it has expressive power superior to any vernacular – more precise, more concise, more poetic, etc;

    (7) The (Latin) fathers, scholastics, etc., wrote in Latin, so it’s helpful for us

    (8) full, conscious and active participation should not depend on comprehension of the liturgy; Latin remind people that they don’t need to understand the words.

    Note that several of these rationales for Latin assume that the congregation understands it (5, 6, 7); several assume that it doesn’t (3, 8).

    Personally, I look for a mixed system, with a Latin Mass for those who wish it, but heavy use of the vernacular.

    My reasons are (1), (2), and, since the introduction of the new translation:

    (9) Latin is preferable to the gobbledygook of the new Missal. By using Latin itself, we can skip the entire botched translation.

  25. Many clergy follow the command-obey system. The laymen are there to obey blindly whatever the centers of power in the Church command. Old liturgy out, new liturgy in, no questions asked. I’m sure this tendency long predates Vatican II.

  26. Sorry – would like to hear from PTB composers on number one? Not sure this means that latin has center place.
    Number two: again, current experience (e.g. Hispanic population and Spanish)…..most bishops and pastors appear to use one of three approaches: bilingual liturgies; separate anglo/Hispanic liturgies in same parish (basically, operate as two parishes); direct Spanish speaking to a neighboring parish that uses Spanish. In many ways, one of these options continues the 19th and early 20th century bishops’ use of national parishes. Various pastoral and priestly study groups have found that *latin* does not work to bridge these differences. In fact, data indicates that the use of *latin* is an unsatisfactory resolution – most do not want that option – younger generations do not know latin or, are not comfortable with it. Face it, studies indicate that folks are most comfortable with liturgies in their own language (not latin).
    #15 echoes the above while ignoring that we had national parishes in most dioceses for more than 100 years prior to VII and vernacular. So, to posit that latin can bridge gaps is refuted by our own history – there is obviously much more involved and goes well beyond *latin*.
    Finally, Jonathan, appreciate your list but you skip over exactly what Rita Ferrone has strongly suggested in her article; you skip over even what Paul VI stated in terms of outreach to a diversity of cultures, nations, peoples; the ecumenical partnerships; and the focus on mission (rather than an internal focus that, as Ratzinger noted, can morph into the preservation of a museum piece.) In other words, unity is not uniformity.

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #45:
      Bill, I wasn’t trying to make a case for either Latin or the vernacular, merely listing reasons I have seen cited for using Latin.

      A longer list could be built around reasons for the vernacular. Also wanted to show that that some of the reasons given for Latin liturgy are mutually contradictory.

  27. One wonders if vernacular/Novus Ordo was so evidently superior to Latin/TLM, why TLM had to be so actively suppressed and NO had to be accepted under pain of obedience, for the faithful to offer up Latin/TLM as a sacrifice in the interest of “outreach to all peoples”? Vernacular makes sense on mission fields of Africa and Asia, but can anyone make the argument that vernacular has caused the Catholics of Europe and North America to take their faith out into the streets in outreach? Are more people attracted to the Catholic faith by vernacular liturgies that don’t look too dissimilar to liturgies in Protestant denominations or are/were more people drawn in by the unique experience of the Traditional Latin Mass? I argue some people are brought in by TLM, so in the interest of outreach we should keep both forms.

  28. It would seem that we should make a distinction between (at least what used to be termed) the Ordinary and the Proper. I can see a need for the proper of the Mass on Sundays to be in the vernacular – so that it can be more readily understood. But the Ordinary – I don’t see why that has to be in the vernacular when it is the same at every mass- how many times does a Catholic need to hear “Agnus Dei” before he or she understands that is will always mean ” Lamb of God”?
    And it seems that here is good reason for the canon to be in Latin – all cultures can equally understand it.

  29. The depressing reality is that liturgists did a hatchet job on the Mass and imposed the changes rashly without much regard to effects on the faithful.

  30. Nothing moves traffic like a little Latin vs. vernacular debate. Fwiw, an anecdote: my mother was one of those folks who wanted Latin. So, when a parish offered a Latin Mass near enough for her to drive to it, she and my mothe-in-law went, and they enjoyed it. But as they were leaving, someone pulled them aside and suggested they should not wear pants if they came back. So they didn’t go back. Sometimes, it really is just about Medieval control.

    1. @Charles Day – comment #50:
      Charles, I think your story illustrates the number 1 reason why the wider church should not be too afraid of traditionalists: more often than not, they are their own worst enemies.

  31. The thing about the Eastern Churches is that they are often about national identity – thats why the Uniates are such a problem, traitors AND heretics. When the country is under foreign domination things that uphold nationalism tend to be popular. Those in the diaspora are resolutely confined to descendants of immigrants, which must say something.
    Re Latin-v-vernacular. Its a great shame, to my mind that personal preference has become a badge of ecclesiology. I love to worship in my own tongue (or I did until my beautiful and expressive language was unforgivably violated) and I love to hear an excellent choir sing bits of Palestrina and Byrd during the liturgy. Does this mean I have reservations about Vat 2? I think not.

  32. This has been a nice academic discussion about what various people and ideologies think about the vernacular and Latin in the Mass. I don’t see any change in the status quo any time in the near future. Latin is allowed in the Ordinary Form of the Mass but its implementation or lack thereof depends completely on the pastor of a parish. It would be nice, if Latin is to be preserved in the Ordinary Form for there to be a minimal requirement, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

    Fortunately the EF Mass will allow our Latin heritage to be preserved in a smaller way, but again this all hinges on the pastor and his likes or dislikes.

    The greater issue, apart from the Latin or the vernacular, is how the Mass is celebrated in various places. There seems to be no real desire to measure this and to get to the real root of what needs to be reformed.

  33. Gee, I thought a that recent pope tried to resolve this dispute by nicely saying that you can have both, worship with your preference. Seems like a nice thing to do in retrospect.

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