Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Celebrating both forms of the one Roman Rite as I do, causes me to reflect on both forms and why changes were made to the Roman Rite Mass following Vatican II.

As I've said, time and time before, the one change that I think was most widely approved was to the vernacular although initially Latin was not to be removed altogether. I think the mix of Latin and vernacular in the 1965 missal, which is still of the Order of the 1962 Roman Missal with all of its prayers in tact, was a good step that then went to far in the 1970 reformed Roman Missal.

What would be a good blend between the vernacular and Latin and make the Mass once again universal in language?

About two years before the revised English translation was official, at St. Joseph Church we jettisoned the old English greetings and returned to the Latin ones. By that I mean, "Dominus Vobiscum," the Preface Dialogue and "The Peace of the Lord..." with the Latin responses by the laity. At first there was a group that did not appreciate this change, but by the end of the first month, everyone was either singing or saying their Latin response with gusto and naturally. In fact, I was a bit depressed when we implemented the new English responses having to drop the Latin.

Why not make the Latin responses mandatory in the current missal?

Our parish also knows the Greek Kyrie and one version of the Latin Sanctus and the Agnus Dei. Many know the Latin Gloria we sing at the EF Mass along with the Credo.

Why not make the Kyrie (Greek of course)and the Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Pater Noster, and Agnus Dei mandatory in Latin in our current Roman Missal?

I personally like all the Eucharistic prayers in the Roman Missal except for #4 which I seldom use. Besides the typical four that most hear, there are also two for Reconciliation which are quite beautiful and four others for special occasions all of which I think are quite befitting for worshiping God. Because of the variety that are possible during the Mass, I personally think that the vernacular is good for the Eucharistic Prayer although I'm not opposed to the Latin versions. Perhaps a good compromise would have been to make the Epiclesis as well as the words of consecration the same in all of the Eucharistic Prayers and that these alone be in Latin with a quiet or "low voice" or always chanted--that would be a wonderful adjustment, no?

Certainly all the changing parts of the Mass should be in the vernacular like the Introit, Collect, Prayer over the Gifts, Preface, Eucharistic Prayer, and Post Communion Prayer as well as the Offertory and Communion Antiphons. But there is no reason why these can't be in Latin as an option which is possible even now.

In other words, I recognize that the personal idiosyncrasies of priests and parishes could have a hybrid of Latin and English now or all Latin with the modern Roman Missal. But the Mass shouldn't be built upon idiosyncratic good intentions but upon universal principles that I suggest above for the use of Latin exclusively.


Steven Surrency said...

Sacrosanctum Concilium mandated that the people know the ordinary of the Mass in LATIN. I think that what you are suggesting is in line with the council's directive.

Henry Edwards said...

My all-time favorite parish-bulletin "pastor's column" was written by my local pastor several years ago, shortly before he was elevated to the episcopacy (Bp. James Vann Johnston of Cape Girardeau-Springfield, MO). Apparently there had been some comments on his re-introduction of certain parts of the ordinary (Sanctus, Agnus Dei, etc) in Latin. This particular column was entitled "Latin and Lima Beans".

After quoting the requirement Sacrosanctum Concilium 16 that some Latin remain in the Mass, he made the point that, while you may not like lima beans either, they are still good for you.

Henry Edwards said...

In this connection, Fr. McDonald, let me suggest a look at the paper

by Msgr. Burnham of the Anglican Ordinate in England. In part 2 on the reform of the reform and a 4th edition of the Roman Missal, he says many of the same things as you do. For instance, about the variable parts of the Mass in the vernacular, but the fixed unchanging parts in Latin.

John Nolan said...

Can we try to look at things in a longer term? At the end of the fourth century the liturgy of the western Church became Latin rather than Greek. It then developed its own musical idiom, which we know as Gregorian chant, and which after various cross-currents emerged as largely complete by the end of the eighth century. The exigencies of uniform performance resulted in the adoption from the twelfth century onwards of a written notation on a four-line staff. This allowed the development of polyphony and western classical music - arguably the greatest achievement of mankind.

In the seventh decade of the twentieth century, the Latin tradition of over a millennium and a half was effectively swept away, and the iconoclasts responsible for this actually wanted the musical tradition to be abrogated. They had the support of the then Pontiff, Paul VI. Pope Paul realized only too late the damage he had sanctioned, and tried in vain to reverse the process.

ICEL are responsible for the English texts, but are also pushing hard for more Latin. The Executive Director, Mgr Andrew Wadsworth, has made this clear on more than one occasion. Last Saturday he celebrated his private Mass at the Birmingham Oratory in the Usus Antiquior.

There's no point being nostalgic for 1965; apart from anything else the first things they put into the vernacular were those parts of the Ordinary which everyone knew in Latin anyway. If a church has a schola they will want to sing the GR Propers in Latin which according to the GIRM is the preferred option; if there is a polyphonic choir they will want to sing Palestrina, Victoria, Byrd et al.

Andy Milam said...

I know I'll be sticking my neck out a bit here, but with all due respect, I think that the use of the vernacular has NOT helped the Church at all. I think that a return to the exclusive use of Latin is not only warranted, it is necessary. Here is my reasoning.

1. The vernacular was supposed to bring about a "springtime" in understanding with regard to the Mass. I disagree. I think that it didn't bring about any more understanding, but rather took that which was sacred and mysterious and made it accessible. Once that happened, people became bored and quit going to Mass. If there is nothing inherently mysterious in the mysteries, why bother? Fail #1.

2. The use of the vernacular didn't really help in understanding the mysteries in and of themselves. Again, in a different way, it made the Mass more accessible. Now the laity who did remain could start taking over the various roles, because there was nothing holding them back, linguistically. They could become cantors and lectors and they could participatio activa themselves to their heart's content. And they have. Fail #2.

3. The sacred became profane. The Mass is not primarily a dialogue between the priest and the faithful. It is a dialogue between the priest and God. The use of the vernacular did not enhance that for anyone. At best, now the faithful were like the nosy neighbor next door. They could hear what was going on, but didn't really get it. The priest, in the sanctuary was offering to God in a Sacred language that which was proper to God on behalf of the faithful. To change the language so that Holly Hotpants and Suzy Snodgrass could "understand" helped the cause not at all. Fail #3.

In my estimation, the return to the full use of Latin and the abandonment of the vernacular IS putting the horse back in the barn. There is a great opportunity to re-introduce the idea of mystery and to back it up with a "mysterious" language can do a lot to re-commit to the idea that the Mass is not primarily a dialogue with the faithful, but rather a dialogue with God.

Bottom line in this regard, the great language bait-and-switch was an epic fail. It didn't bring about a "springtime" or a "renewal." It simply made the mysterious banal and Catholics walked. EPIC FAIL!

Ryan Ellis said...

The mix can best be identified, I agree, with the 1964 principles. These are found in "Inter Oecumenici." This proposes a tiered system of the vernacular.

The first tier is the Liturgy of the Word and the Prayer of the Faithful. Makes sense.

The second tier is the chants of the Ordinary and the Propers. The former makes little sense from our vantage point, since S.C. said that people should know in Latin the parts of the Mass that pertain to them. Since most people don't know these (unlike back then), this is no longer good advice.

But the propers make sense. That's what "Simple English Propers" is all about. By extension, in a modern setting it makes sense to include the orations (collect, prayer over the oblation, prayer after communion) and the preface in here.

The third and final tier is the "acclamations, greeting, and dialogue formularies, the Ecce Agnus Dei, Domine, non sum dignus, Corpus Christi at the communion of the faithful, and the Lord's Prayer with its introduction and embolism." I read this to mean the more dialectical areas of the Ordinary Form--the parts where people make responses. This is the least convincing to me, but might be necessary for parishes less advanced on the "reform of the reform" track.

What does that suggest for what should absolutely be in Latin? The private prayers of the priest is one area. The Eucharistic Prayer is another.

Anonymous said...

Andy Milam's saying that the Mass - i.e., its text - is, in its own denotative essence, boring and banal, and that it must be clothed in an unknown tongue in order to have that mystery which is necessary to obtain the attendance of hoi polloi, boggles the mind.

Ancil Payne of Saint Paul and occasional happy and reverent attender at Saint Agnes

Gene said...

So, we'll have a "tossed salad" liturgy...

John Nolan said...

Andy is quite right. The point of Latin is not that it is unknown or obscure (it is anything but), rather that it is the sacred language of the western Church, and the normative language of her legislation and liturgy. Not to mention the priceless treasury of her sacred music. This year is the 50th anniversary of John XXIII's Apostolic Constitution 'Veterum Sapientia'. The liturgical iconoclasts of the 1960s chose to ignore it.

Andy Milam said...

@ Ancil;

I'm saying that the language of the Mass is not relevant to the faithful in the pew. Latin is the language of the Church and therefore it should be the language used.

Just as other Christian Churches have a liturgical language, so does the Catholic Church and it ought to be employed because it is most perfectly suited to vocal conversation with God the Father.

Surely, you remember this from Monsignor's catechesis on Latin.

Anonymous said...

We never hear E.P No 1. Does any one know or have guess why priests would avoid it?

Henry Edwards said...

When and where I attend OF Mass, I hear EP I (the Roman Canon) as often as not, but EP III frequently also.

However, I've heard of other priests saying that they could not say with a straight face the following prayer in EP I:

"In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God: command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty."

It is commonly assumed that others prefer EP II both because of its brevity and because it omits explicitly sacrificial language.

Dan Z said...

In my irrelevant opinion, the EF should remain as is, the 1962 Missal with the pre-Vatican II lectionary.

I agree with Fr McDonald, the OF should be revised to be a Latin-vernacular combination, based on the 1965 Missal, itself a streamlined version of the pre-Vatican II missal, adapted for the current lectionary.

May it happen during this year of faith, and may there also be more guidelines for mass settings, sticking closer to chant, and supressing the pop-folk style settings.

John Nolan said...

My objection to 1965, then and now, is that the parts of the Mass which went into the vernacular were those parts of the Ordinary which the congregation already knew in Latin. In most parishes the familiar chants from the Kyriale were junked along with the Latin, and replaced by new vernacular settings which were fairly minimalist (because the congregation had to pick them up quickly) and not overwhelmingly popular. Furthermore, since translations did not become uniform across the English-speaking world until the mid-1970s, these settings could only be for local use. The Creed (and everyone, young and old knew Credo III) was now merely recited.

In England there were no available translations for the Proper orations, so what would have benefited from the vernacular remained in Latin for another two years. Priests, relieved of the requirement to sing, ceased to do so. Introit, Offertory and Communion chants were replaced by hymns and a new concept, the Offertory hymn, made its appearance; congregations, sitting down and fumbling in their pockets for change at this point, were now expected to join in a little ditty about what they were doing. Music directors, even at cathedral level, struggled to keep their choirs going and fought a running battle with clergy to retain a bare minimum of Latin and traditional liturgical music.

Last week at the Birmingham Oratory and under the direction of Philip Duffy we sang Vespers in a mixture of Latin and English. Plainsong Office hymns usually have singable English versions, and the psalms, being syllabic, can be sung in English to the Gregorian tones (although English doesn't quite flow in the way that Latin does). The antiphons we sang in Latin. As soon as you move from syllabic to even quite simple melismatic chant you run into problems if using the vernacular. And although the vernacular Salve Regina is wonderfully poetic, if you are singing it, simple or solemn tone, it has to be in Latin.

The co-existence of Latin and the vernacular is preferable to having no Latin at all. If your schola is any good they can manage the GR Introits and Communios, which are the GIRM's first preference. In the case of the latter, there is no reason why the psalm verses can't be in English. The Lux Aeterna of the Requiem Mass is a case in point; the antiphon can be repeated as many times as you like, and is short and simple enough for the people to join in, and if the cantors sing the verses in English the congregation doesn't need a crib.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks to Andy Milam for his response. I was and am an "occasional" worshipper at Saint Agnes - an All Souls' Day here, a Good Friday there, sometimes a "suspended" Monday Holy Day of Obligation when Mass at my parish was only at an inconvenient time, a Sunday Latin Mass perhaps every two or three years, a Sunday vernacular Mass once or twice - and did not hear Monsignor's (r.i.p.) catechesis on Latin. My best memories of Monsignor are from the confessional.


In Andy's original point 1:

The vernacular . . . "took that which was sacred and mysterious and made it accessible. Once that happened, people became bored and quit going to Mass."
That seems to me to say - not imply, but say - that the verbal denotative content of the text of the Mass causes people to be bored.

Final paragraph:

[The change to the vernacular - "the great language bait-and-switch"] "simply made the mysterious banal and Catholics walked." If Andy is talking about things like "and also with you" (which I always thought should be, if that was the way we were to go, "Same to you, Buddy"), I accept the judgment "banal," but I don't think that most of the translations, even the old ICEL dynamic-equivalent ones, were banal as a matter of English style. In any case, Andy seems to mean something more substantive than English style. If this is so, then Andy is saying that the verbal denotative content of the text of the Mass is banal.

Ancil Payne