Latin Mass

Word has reached us here in the village that Pope Benedict is going to sign what is called in the Roman Church as a Universal Indult. Since the suppression on the Latin Mass after Vatican II, bishops have had the discretion to allow the Latin Mass to be said at certain times in certain places. Many of the diocese have at least one Latin Mass a week. Now, the discretion will be held by the individual priest. I find this very interesting. As a child, the Latin Mass had already gone out of style and the Novus Ordo, the New Order, had taken hold. I have never been to a Latin Mass but as one who constantly advocates for the use of the vernacular in all this liturgical I find this move very troubling.
Since most people did not understand Latin, private devotions become the thing at Mass. You could see people saying the Rosary or reading from their prayer books. Is that what we are trying to get back too? As Orthodox, look around our churches and see how many young people there are in our churches when the liturgical language is not the vernacular. Of course if the parish is strictly an immigrant parish it would be different. I look at my own parish. We are in the third generation here and if the language were to switch back to Romanian I believe that the third generation, as well as the converts, would slip away.
As an outsider I think the church needs to look at liturgical reform and how we can make the church relevant in the world today. What can we do in this regard? One of the reasons the Orthodox Church spread as far and as fast as it did in the east was that the early missionaries learned the language of the people and did not force them to learn a new language. Then we come to America, and bring our church with us, and force people to learn a new language. This needs much more thought and discussion than I am giving it here so please be patient.
So that’s the ramble for now. Blessed Sunday to all.


  1. I think when in america speak english, i remember the catholic mass being latin up until the time i was about may have been beatiful but what good does it do if you can not understand whats being said. the purpose of a service is to celebrate the word of God has a family. to come together and be one in unity. you can’t do that when you dont understand the words.alot of times when the priest is saying his longer prayers alone i close my eyes and try to concentrate on the words he is saying this can be very spiritual for me.

  2. It is a mistake to think the Latin Mass is not present: it is still the norm – especially in less progressive areas outside of the US! The Novus Ordo Mass can be said in Latin without any special permission at all by any priest. It’s easy to find it in some cities. (NYC, SF I know, Boston, maybe.) The universal indult is not about the “Latin” Mass but rather the Tridentine rite served according to the 1962 Missal – but even that was not suppressed in Vatican II, if Cardinal Arinze is correct.

    Many of my older RC friends report not having issues understanding the mass when it is served in Latin and many of my younger friends – who are more attached to the Latin mass – are fluent in enough Latin to get through the mass. The congregational parts – especially the sung parts – “everyone knew”. The prayers were printed in the book if one wanted to follow along, although the Rosary and other private devotions are also served.

    The educational issue is service books: the RCC did bilingual service books for quite some time – other than the GOA, I’ve yet to see anything of the kind in Orthodoxy. I have some of these RC books and they are *very* helpful. It is also helpful that Latin is rather closer to English than, say, Greek or Slavonic.

    Having said all of that, given Vatican II’s preference for education I would imagine that some 1962 Missal services would be issued in the vernacular. The Anglo-Catholics and Western Rite Orthodox have many useful resources for this!

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