Latin

thPCDFFB2CWhat are your thoughts on the use of Latin in our Catholic Masses?

In the ninetieth century, Fr. Michael Muller defended the use of Latin this way,

“A variety of languages is a punishment, a consequence of sin; it was inflicted by God that the human race might be dispersed over the face of the Earth.  The Holy  Church, the immaculate Spouse of Jesus Christ, has been established for the expressed purpose of destroying sin and uniting all mankind; consequently she must everywhere speak the same language.  The Catholic Church is the same in every clime, in every nation, and consequently its language must be always and everywhere the same, to secure uniformity in Her service.”

I have only ever known the Mass to be said in English.  I remember hearing how wonderful it is that now Mass is celebrated in the vernacular, and I couldn’t help but agree.  I didn’t know a lick of Latin. 

As God would have it, in these past several years I have learned and now use Latin on a regular basis.  I began homeschooling my children and settled on a classical curriculum which teaches my children (and me) a variety of traditional prayers and hymns in Latin.  We regularly pray the Sign of the Cross (Signum Crucis), the Hail Mary (Ave Maria), the Our Father (Pater Noster) and the blessing before meals all in Latin.  In concert with this change, our parish welcomed a new pastor, an Anglican convert with a passion for high liturgy.  When the use of the new translation of the Mass was installed Advent of 2011, Monsignor also reinstalled the use of the Greek Kyrie (Lord have mercy…), and Latin Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy…) and Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).  Interestingly, had we persisted in the use of Latin in our Masses, over the vernacular, then there would have been no need for the English translation correction in 2011.  

In college my mother brought me on a three week bus trip through the countryside of France, where we tagged along with a group of retirees from our former parish.  Each town would have a breathtaking, centuries old, towering, stone and stained glass windowed Catholic Church.  We toured inside each of them.  Usually the church was empty, but in one town we happened to catch the beginning of a daily Mass, and we all stayed and received communion.  The Mass was said in French, but because of the standardized liturgy we were able to figure out exactly where the priest was in his celebration, and we followed along, saying our prayers in English.  I have always held this memory as a cherished example of our universal church.  How much more impactful my experience would have been if the prayers had been in Latin, and I had also known Latin.  In that moment inside that ancient stone church, we Americans would have been so united with our French Catholic brethren that for entire prayers we would have been speaking in one voice, despite our inability to converse well with one another.  Oh what an illustration of our One Faith that would have been!  Fr. Muller’s defense of Latin is spot on.

God made us in His image, and since the fall of our parents Adam and Eve, we spend our entire Earthly lives being transformed through His Son, to be who it is God meant for us to be.  By learning the language of the Church, we allow another way for God to transform us, letting go of yet another instance we are guilty of making God into our own image.  In Christ we find the remedy for Original Sin and all sin, as dispensed by His Bride, the Church, our Mother.  Let us learn the language of our Mother:  Latin Prayers.

 

 

 

5 comments
  • Alexis MauldinOctober 6, 2015 - 1:11 pm

    I have taught world history for nearly 30 years. Recently it struck me how Islam is lauded for making Arabic its universal language (one has to read the Koran in the original Arabic for truth – translations don’t count) yet the Catholic Church was derided for not allowing vernacular translations, Mass in the local language, etc. Quite frankly, I wish the Church had kept the Latin, that schools taught Latin (vocabulary scores would soar). There is a wonderful beauty and power in the Latin Mass and a universality in it. I grew up Southern Baptist and love that tradition but the Sunday service is more of a pep rally where as the Mass in general and the Latin Mass in particular feels more reverent and like true worship based on the Eucharist and not the ‘altar call’. Scott Hahn recounts how he realized the Mass was described in Revelations (Apocalypse).

    I think your essay hits the nail on the head. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Mary Ann MacLaughlan WeicherOctober 6, 2015 - 6:52 pm

    Great post. Thanks for sharing. Just curious as I am always exploring new curriculum for my children, what are you using? Thanks again!ReplyCancel

  • Adrienne TaylorOctober 6, 2015 - 10:13 pm

    Hi Mary Ann, thanks for stopping by! As it turns out, I wrote about our curriculum not long ago: https://www.catholicsistas.com/2015/05/05/classically-catholic-memory-review-homeschoolers/ReplyCancel

  • Christian LeBlancOctober 8, 2015 - 10:31 pm

    I think I was 10 years old when I first heard a Mass in English. Most folks in the pews of my childhood did not know enough Latin to understand more than the basic responses, so much so that many people prayed the Rosary instead of paying attention to what was said and read. Others, like my father, and his father, read the English translation on each facing page of his Latin missal. I am happy to be able to understand every word of the Mass in English, but am also happy that the Latin Mass is available.ReplyCancel

  • Ellen KolbOctober 16, 2015 - 2:28 am

    I was born in ’59, and “Dominus vobiscum” is all I remember of the Latin Masses from when I was a preschooler. I’m accustomed to Mass in the vernacular. Even so, I look forward to attending the one monthly Latin Mass in my area. The Universal Church once had that universal liturgical language, and I think I’d have denied my children part of their spiritual heritage if I ignored that fact.ReplyCancel