Latin Mass Homily

I understand that the Tridentine mass (Latin mass) is in latin, but the Homily/sermon is in the vernacular and the gospel is reread in vernacular before the homily.

My question is, was this the case back in the 16th century, when the latin mass was formulated? (I assume the answer is yes, because the mass didnt change until Vatican II and the Novus ordo, I have heard)

If in fact the gospel was reread in the vernacular, how was this done? Did the Church have vernacular translations? I imagine that during early Christianity, when the bible was only in latin, there was no vernacular, so did the priests just translate on-the-fly? To do this the priests would have to know latin pretty well, to read and understand and translate it - I know that my priest doesnt know latin, so when exactly were priest no longer required to learn latin?


If you look at it, the Church has had vernacular translations of the Scriptures for a long, long time. For example, in English, the Douay is several decades older than the famous KJV version for Protestants.

But if you actually look in the 1962 Missal, there is not a call to perform the readings in the Vernacular. I realize that this is done in many/most parishes, but there is not a separate spot in the Ordinary for the Mass of the Catechumens for this to happen. (I believe that it would be considered a part of the homily)

The reason the Epistle and Gospel readings are in Latin, intoned and not facing the people is because they are not meant for the people but are a prayer. The Church prays, repeating God-given Scripture back to God (this is also what we do when we sing the Psalms at the Office).

In the Old Rite, the homily is not part of the Mass, therefore we can have announcements, readings of the Epistle and Gospel in English (or Swahili, etc) and a sermon. When the Scriptures are read before the homily they are meant for the people’s edification and then there is a commentary on it (or another pressing issue), which is the homily. Homilies are adjunct to the Mass itself. There is no requirement to re-read the Epistle and Gospel in the vernacular, I am not sure when this started but I wouldn’t be surprised if it started in the 19th or even 20th c.

I have only ever seen this done in SSPX masses, so I’m not sure whether that counts. It seems kind of superfluous to me considering that we can all read and have the translation in the flyer or in our missal. A summary of the readings is usually given in the homily.

As others have noted, this was never required, and there have been vernacular translations along the way. I don’t know when the practice became popular.

I wanted to note a little correction, though: the older form of Mass, now known as the Extraordinary Form, was not formulated in the 16th century. It would be more accurate to say that it was codified and made (pretty much) universal then. It had been around for quite a long time before that.

During early Christianity Latin WAS the vernacular. The mass was in Latin long before the 16th century but I presume the sermon (homilies are a different thing and are callled for in the current rite) always had to be in the vernacular.

That’s not what Sacred Scripture says about Sacred Scripture.

Using the time of the homily to deliver the Gospel and reading in English and make announcements makes a lot of sense. We have an opportunity to understand the readings in English. Announcements can be heard without disrupting the flow of Mass. I wish the Bishops would consider moving announcements in the Novus Ordo Mass to the homily. Announcements after the prayer after communion and before the final blessing and dismissal seems to be disruptive in my opinion.

Trent doctrinally called for explanations to the Mass and readings, not translations. Big difference. Yes, that would require the priest to be able to interpret the Latin for his parishioners, who could be of various tongues.

Be that as it may, the readings which were repeated in the English vernacular at the sermon were probably from the Douay-Reims version of the Bible. Today in the EF different versions are used at sermon time, although the Pope has allowed the actual Epistle and Gospel to be read in its translated form, given approval by the translator if necessary.

The Council of Trent declared that only the Latin Vulgata is authentic. Even later it was declared as error, that the everyone can/shall read the scriptures:

CLEMENT IX 1700-1721: Errors of Paschasius Quesnel
1430 80. The reading of Sacred Scripture is for all.

In the Medieval eves the first Scripture translation was made by John Wycliff in the 14th Century. The Church considered it suspicious.

Before the XIX Ecumenical council the Scriptures were not read in vernacular. However there were sermons, even mystery plays during the Holy Mass to explain the contents of the Holy Scriptures in understandable way to everyone.

The reading of the Gospel in vernacular during the Mass is protestant influence, and late, probably only in the 19th Century.

In Europe only the Gospel was read as the introduction to the sermon. When the dialog Masses came in (1920’s) the lector read the lesson in vernacular parallel with the priest.

I may be going out on a limb here, but I don’t think that’s what that poster meant–you took it wrong. I got that the poster was saying that in the context of Mass and when they’re pronounced in this manner, the readings are a prayer etc.

That being said, reading Justin’s Apology it is quite clear the readings were meant to be heard by the people and for all present, lay, ordained or otherwise. Hence the sound judgement of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in allowing the readings in the vernacular during the EF Mass.

Just my two cents!

At the parish I attend, the pastor has discontinued with the translations inside the Mass. Instead he hands out the entire Latin-English propers (Introit, Collect, Tract, etc.) for everyone to follow. This is in addition to those red Latin-English and white Latin-Spanish missalettes the Ecclesia Dei provides. Most don’t have handmissals so IMO it’s a very nice thing to do, and the Latin is retained.

Do you have any traditional reference for this, or is this your own modern interpretation? Note of course that it is quite permissible for the Epistle or Lesson and Gospel to be sung from ambos facing the people, see Caeremoniale Episcoporum II.VIII.40 & 45. Moreover, clearly the readings have neither the form nor the function of any kind of prayer, the Missale does not call them prayers nor follow them with “Amen,” and they were not put into the Mass in the first place to serve as a prayer. Recall that Justin Martyr speaks of reading from Scripture “as long as there was time.”

I’m curious who invented the idea that the readings are somehow supposed to function as prayers.

One should consider the reason why Scriptures were read aloud and homilies were given in the vernacular (not to mention various translations of the Bible), and then note that that may also be a reason why the Mass is now said in the vernacular as well.

With that, those who want a return of the Latin Mass should probably call for Masses in the vernacular but that are translations of the Latin Mass.

I’m sure St.John Paul II and Pope Benedict had their reasons for returning to the Missal of 1962 and in Latin (allowing for limited vernacular).

As one of the priests who held one of the indults under the previous provision, I would hardly call what happened “returning to the missal of 1962” but rather an allowance for it to be used…with both John Paul II and Benedict XVI expecting the usage would be narrow.

One really does not have to suppose or presume their intentions or expectations…they wrote about the why of it to those who would make determinations about locally facilitating requests regarding provision of pastoral care using the vetus ordo.

I have just realized that this is, in fact, a thread from almost six years ago that has been revived from dormancy.

I will advise a forum administrator so that they may proceed as they determine to be most in keeping with the protocols of the forum.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit