April 23, 2005

Latin Lives!

When I was about 14 or so, the chaplain at Naval Training Center -- Great Lakes, Fr. R. Conway O'Connor (may he rest in peace) got approval to offer a Saturday evening Mass in Latin. No, not the Tridentine Mass, but the current liturgy promulgated by Pope Paul VI following the Second Vatican Council. I got to serve mass, along with my brother and a couple of buddies. I was entranced by a language that I didn't understand, didn't recognize, but knew carried with it a weightiness and sense of the sacred that was missing in the regular vernacular mass that I was used to. Years later, while a seminarian, I was one of the guys who struggled to learn Latin from Sister Dorothy in the afternoons, though I soon dropped out of the class because it conflicted with choir practice. Looking back, i would have done better to drop choir.

The advent of the papacy of Benedict XVI may send a lot of folks scrambling for Latin dictionaries and classes in the classical tongue (or its ecclesiastical offspring). Just as a knowledge of Polish was helpful in the Vatican during the pontificate of John Paul the Great, it appears that Latin may become an important means of communication in a Church that has practically abandoned the tongue outside of "official" texts of documents.

Latin may be considered a dead language today, but for many centuries it was the language of the Catholic Church.

Forty years ago the Vatican decided to drop Latin as the official language of the mass and switch to the vernacular.

In the 1990s, even bishops stopped talking to each other in Latin when they went to official meetings at the Vatican.

When he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI originally supported the idea of dropping the Latin mass.

Now he is Pope, he has apparently had a rethink and Italians are struggling to keep up.

Now I am certain that the Tridentine Mass will not be making a major comeback, though this pope will probably allow its more liberal use where tehre is a desire for it. Nor do I think we will see an end to vernacular liturgies. What I believe we will see, though, is a move back towards the teaching of Latin in seminaries and the revival of the use of the language for liturgical purposes. I would expect that Catholics will be able to find a Latin liturgy in a local parish, if not their own, as one more option. And I suspect that we will see more use of the Latin language in liturgical celebrations for international gatherings, to communicate the message that the Church is universal and timeless institution.

And besides -- if we are to see the continued internationalization of the Catholic Church leadership, there needs to be one language that is shared among those who work in the Vatican and those back in the local dioceses and parishes of the world. It needs to be a langage that doesn't change from pontificate to pontificate, and which is clear and fixed in its meaning. So unless the Church is going to adopt Esperanto, there is one obvious candidate -- Latin, which was the language of choice for most of the history of the Church.

|| Greg, 09:26 AM || Permalink || Comments (1) || Comments

Comments on Latin Lives!

Your assistance, please!! I was a convert in 1979 and NEVER saw a service in Latin until the late Holy Father, may he rest in peace, entered The Father's House last April - then I thought 'ohmygosh - now what?' I have noticed, in watching EWTN Catholic Network, that many parts of the various programs now are in Latin and I AM TOTALLY LOST...

Peace in Christ's Holy Name,
Marian H. Taylor

|| Posted by Marian H. Taylor, July 6, 2005 09:52 AM ||
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