Latin mass, this could be wrong


I found out on some sources that the Catholic Church keep using Latin in masses. Doesn’t that prevent knowing the teachings of Jesus known by Catholics? It seemed to persist till the 19th century. Did I get it right? Isn’t it wrong because people wouldn’t understand it?


I’m not sure exactly what you are asking. First, the Tridentine Latin Mass was said until the liturgical reform after the 2nd Vat. Council. That was in the 1960s. I am told that the Epistle and Gospel were read in English. The Homily was in English as well. Second, people had missals that had both Latin and an English translation so people could follow along. I will say that children may have found it difficult, but I started learning the responses as soon as I started school. I had a children’s missal that helping me follow the Mass.


The Mass is a Sacrifice, not a theology lesson. People do not need to understand it. They just need to know that what they are witnessing is sacred. The Latin and the secretiveness of the TLM only increases its beauty and mystery. Plus, Latin is the official language of the Church, so having the Mass in the same language unifies us.

The Epistle and Gospel were first read in Latin, and it was permitted to read them in the vernacular during the Homily. Plus, even if it wasn’t read in English during the homily, there was the Bible in the vernacular.

19th century? The Tridentine Mass was in use until 1970. It was the official Mass of the Church until 40 years ago.


True, though they were read in Latin first. So the people received the same Gospel reading twice. :thumbsup:

Still receive it twice at most EFs.


It is not wrong, besides and hearing latin phrases over and over again must bring an understanding to the average mind. Besides, the Readings, Gospel and Homily are all in english or the language of the society.


Yes the mass continues to be said in Latin, either wholly or in part even today, although the most common practice is to say the entire mass in the vernacular.

Doesn’t that prevent knowing the teachings of Jesus known by Catholics?

Not at all.
First, the teachings of Christ in and through His Church take place in many venues, not just at mass. I attended Catholic grade school for 8 years plus CCD (Sunday school) classes while in high school.
Secondly my family lived the faith - parents, grandparents especially so we were fairly immersed in the teachings.
Third - as someone pointed out above, the mass readings were done both in Latin and then again in the Vernacular and this was followed by a homily in the vernacular and everyone owned a missal containing all the Latin and Vernacular for the mass.

It seemed to persist till the 19th century. Did I get it right? Isn’t it wrong because people wouldn’t understand it?

It did not stop in the 19th century. The official language of the mass is Latin. The Vernacular is used by permission of the Church. The Latin mass (usually in the EF) is still said in many places.
But for the reasons explained above, it is not wrong, and it does not prevent people from knowing the teachings of Christ.

One additional point - during much of the time that the mass was said in Latin as a matter of course, Latin was taught in nearly every school so that most people, if they had much education at all, would have at least a passing knowledge of the language.

Hope this helps.



If people “do not need to understand” the Mass, why was so much effort, retranslation, precision of language, and accompanying explanation put into the Third Edition of the Roman Missal?




Aside from everything everyone else said, I don’t normally attend a Latin Mass. I just have a few times and research stuff associated with it. And just in that time, I already can understand a good bit of the Latin in the service. I find it unbelievable that people could attend that there entire life and know anything else than the entire service. It’s pretty easy to pick up.


I was an altar boy growing up when the Mass was in Latin and I, for one, do NOT remember the Epistle and Gospel being in Latin and then English, I could be wrong, but I only remember them being in English since I am speaking about this happening in Maryland.

As far as someone saying that what is said at Mass is not important enough to even care about the words being understood, I totally disagree.

As an altar boy, I knew what to say that doesn’t necessarily mean that I knew what I was saying.

Has anyone out there that has heard the Mass being said in English or some other vernacular language ever heard when the priest says, “Lord, have Mercy on us ALL”?

What a beautiful statement “Lord, have Mercy on us ALL”, wouldn’t it be nice it more heard this and took it to heart?

Not just this statement during Mass but other ones when they are said in a language one understands can get one to thinking since they register with both the mind and heart.


Same could be said for the handmissals. There had been translations and retranslations of the Latin way prior to Vatican II but the Mass was still kept in Latin. Congregations who spoke dissimilar languages would be able to follow it, especially when they were taught enough Latin at early ages. There was effort involved there too, no?

Pope John XXIII wrote an Apostolic Constitution (the highest level of decree from a Pope) Veterum Sapientia, which cited previous documents and effectively banned vernacular in religious matters. No, it wasn’t infallible, it wasn’t unchangeable, it wasn’t doctrine but it was what he called it, “The Wisdom of the Ancient World.”


The Epistle and Gospel can be read in English after the Gospel reading in Latin, and before the Homily, but this was at the discretion of the priest. Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum also allowed the readings to be done in the vernacular during a Low Mass, or Missa Lecta.

This, however, did not keep Catholics from knowing the teachings of Jesus. Catholics were translating the Bible into the vernacular far before the Protestant churches even came into existence. Anyone saying that the Catholic Church hid the Bible from the faithful is blatantly lying.


When I was a child and all the Masses were in Latin, we always used a missal that was in Latin on one side and English on the other so we absolutely knew what was going on. I’m sure the people who attend a Latin Mass do the same thing today.


Living in an era where one can find the meaning of any Latin word on the Internet for free, or buy a Latin dictionary for <$10, or find even entire translations of the entire text of the Mass for free or for cheap, it’s not very credulous to think that it’s a major barrier to peoples’ understanding.

On the contrary. I often find that I have a much deeper reverence for the words of Christ if they aren’t in the plain and everyday speech. It’s the Word of God! It should be kept solemn on some occasions.

You don’t need to understand what’s being said to know what’s happening. But the older translation could mislead people because it wasn’t even really a translation, more like a paraphrase. Most notably was the words “for all” in the Consecration of the Most Holy Blood; one could mistakenly believe that all people will go to Heaven, when in reality, Jesus said “for Many” at the Last Supper.


Correct. :thumbsup:


I have great respect for the Latin Mass and I think that it has a very important place in the life of the Church. But as a convert who takes his faith very seriously, I have never understood this attitude by some that the people don’t need to understand what is going on. What?? I have always said, even before I became Catholic, how can the people be edified if they do not understand? I think using the Missal is fine to follow the Mass, but right now I am talking about the attitude. (Shakes head and shrugs shoulders).


You may have a point there about attitude, but I’ll bet many Americans don’t understand what’s going on at an English or Spanish Mass either. But as there are an estimated 7000 languages spoken, how in the world can you ensure everyone to be able to hear or spread the gospel in their own language? I understand it’s very costly just to maintain about 500 translations, with many of them out of synch with one another. And on top of that you have differences with the nuances of languages. Not to mention translation and reinforced cultural wars associated with them, even (or especially) at the parish level. These wars can be very intense. An unintended consequence of allowing the all-vernacular Mass perhaps?


The Tower at Babel really did us as a people of God in, didn’t it!


I think it’s also important to realize that Latin is still used in the Ordinary Form of the Mass, and this is encouraged by the Vatican in some scenarios, especially international gatherings. This is why when the Pope celebrates Mass, the Eucharistic Prayer is usually in Latin.


On the question of the Scripture readings, it has been my experience at our EF Mass that the priest always repeats them in English before preaching his homily. Though, before our present chaplain started, we did have one retired priest who only repeated the Gospel in the vernacular. We only heard the Epistle or parts of it in English if he preached about it.

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