[left]The Latin is language is a beautiful thing, of that there is no doubt. It has a rich history and, at least in me, conjures up visions of the majesty of the middle ages. I even claim a very small ability in it. But, does it have a proper use in today’s Church (especially at Mass)? Especially given the majority of Catholics are not fluent in Latin which is, after all, a dead tongue?
For example, my in-laws go to a very conservative Parish in Northern Virginia. Last Christmas, the Midnight Mass was done almost entirely in Latin. As I followed along in my Latin missal, I could not help but wonder “Why are we doing this when hardly anyone hear understands Latin?” Sure it was beautiful, in its own way, but shouldn’t we understand what is being said at Mass?
Latin has no special powers, in and of itself. It is just a langauge. Why do we give such power to it? I think there are two reasons: 1) its historical or emotional appeal and 2) the sense of “holier than thou” that it gives.
Though it is harsh, I think many people like Latin Masses because they think it makes them “more” of a Catholic, more holy and more sanctified. And in this I see a trend toward gnosticism. I am not taking about gnosticism in the sense of false doctrine, rather I am talking about it the sense of a secret knowledge that is possessed only by an inner devout circle. The sense that Latin is spoken because it is a “purer” form of prayer. That because my prayer is in Latin it is somehow more devout than yours.
But how many of us actually are fluent in Latin? How many of us, without hesitation and not through memorization, know what a Latin prayer means? Shouldn’t we know what we are saying when we are praying to God? Shouldn’t the words resound in our heads and shouldn’t we reach a deeper understanding every time we say the prayers?
I do find it interesting that people (sometimes the same ones) complain about not having Latin at Mass and complain about having to speak Spanish at Mass. What is the difference? In both cases there is an imposition on people who do not speak the langauge in question.
Private dovations aside, I do not see a need for Latin at Mass. Unless the entire congregation speaks and understands Latin, why do it? For historic or aesthetic reasons? To me, it seems to be a movement towards gnosticism.