Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Latin vs. Vernacular Mass

A big debate among strong Catholics is whether to attend the Tridentine Mass, which is celebrated in Latin or to attend the vernacular Mass which was made a possibility following the Second Vatican Council.

There are two extremes in this debate. One side is strong proponents of the traditional Latin Mass. They believe it continues a liturgical tradition dating back many centuries and is preserved to this day. They believe the new form of Mass, in the vernacular, represents an unnecessary novelty in Catholic worship. Some even go so far as to say the vernacular form of Mass is invalid.

On the other extreme are those who are strongly opposed to the Latin Mass. They see it as going back to the past and refusing to modernize. They believe the Mass hasn't gone far enough, and that even more changes need to be made, including the removal of priestly vestments, the inclusion of women in the priesthood, married clergy, and much greater lay participation. This is only talking about the liturgy. They also want the church to change on many moral issues.

Again, these are the two extremes. There are those in the middle as well, from both sides. Some people really enjoy the Latin Mass and believe it is the best form of liturgy or at least their preference, but they are also not against the vernacular service. As well, there are those who prefer the vernacular Mass, but think it's fine to have the Latin Mass as well.

I believe what has actually happened is that many have gone beyond what was promulgated in Vatican II.

For example:

- It is common for lay people to be present in the sanctuary during Mass, however this was not mentioned during Vatican II

- Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion have become "ordinary". In some churches, they are present at every Mass as a matter of course. In fact, these ministers are only supposed to be used as their name implies, in "extraordinary" circumstances. For example, the priest is injured and cannot give communion to all people.

- Everyone goes to communion. It is now common practice for every person at church to go to communion regardless. However, only those in the state of grace should go, and only Catholics.

- Latin was never forbidden in the vernacular masses. Many Latin and even Greek phrases can and often should be used in vernacular Masses.

- The Latin Mass was never replaced by the vernacular Mass. Many are under the false assumption that with the advent of Vatican II, the Latin Mass was relegated to history. This is not the case and the current pope is reintroducing the Latin Mass as a more common form of the Mass.

- Some of the language used in the vernacular does not properly reflect the Latin. This will be corrected very soon.

My personal opinion is that I generally enjoy going to the vernacular or common Mass. I can understand it better and take a lot from it. I believe they need to incorporate Latin elements because they can be easily learned and can add some history to the experience as well as reverence.

I also attend Latin Mass occasionally. I find it offers a different perspective and reflects the fact that we are offering a sacrifice to God which is eternal and it's not about the priest's homily or the good music or "having fun", it's about celebrating God as well as Jesus in the Eucharist.

I think our best approach is to come to an appreciation for both forms of the Mass.


  1. don't know if it's just me, but I've only got the title of the blog, no content.

  2. As catholic Christians our focus should be on Jesus of Nazareth, not on other things and places. Any thing that distracts us from this focus should be avoided. It makes sense to hear mass celebrated in that language known to the believer.
    Today there is so much peripheral stuff that draws our attention away from Jesus and His gospel message.
    What makes us "universal" as Christians is what Jesus did for us in dying on the cross, and then in His Resurrection, declaring victory over death.

  3. Since Mass is already scheduled multiple times each week, I suggest that some be in the vernacular and some in Latin. I once preferred 8:00 a.m. Mass on Sunday, my preference then changed to 10:00 am, to 7 pm Saturday, then back to 10 Sunday, I think at one point I preferred 6 pm Sunday, then finally back to 8 am Sunday--so long as I had all of my weekend chores done by Saturday night. I see no reason that both sides, as well as those that are indifferent, can't be accommodated by continuing Mass multiple periods--some in the vernacular and some in Latin. The majority would probably feel they have the best of both worlds.

  4. YOU WRITE: "Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion have become "ordinary". In some churches, they are present at every Mass as a matter of course. In fact, these ministers are only supposed to be used as their name implies, in "extraordinary" circumstances."

    That actually is not true, but is an easy, simplistic reading of the term, but it misunderstands the principle.

    "Extraordinary" is not in reference to frequency but to the nature of ministries. It is the nature of the priestly and diaconal ministries to distribute the Eucharist. It pertains to our theological and sacramental understanding of what these ministries are. Just like our theological and sacramental understanding of the nature of the Office of Bishop is one who rules over and shepherds a particular part (diocese) of the faithful. An Auxiliary Bishop is an extraordinary function of episcopacy.