latin mass

Not being Catholic (although considering) I don’t understand many things . One that confuses me is the use of the latin language in the mass. Some use it, some don’t. When I watch it on EWTN they do just part of it in latin. That’s always the part my mind wanders because I don’t know what they’re saying. Isn’t that a problem with using a language different than the one people speak?? Thank you for your response.

Not really. You see, back in the day when I was young and dinosaurs roamed the earth, we attended Mass (which was mostly all Latin) and we had these books called missals. They had the Latin words on one side and the English (or French, or Spanish, or whatever) on the other. You followed along. Also, a lot of English words are cognates. . .they have Latin roots. Spiritu and spirit are pretty close, for example. When you think about it, as a young child going to Mass you don’t necessarily understand the words (even if they’re all in the vernacular) but you learn the more you go.

Now today at a OF (ordinary form) Mass, you might have a priest who, before Mass, has somebody come up and give some announcements. You might have a priest who, at the start of Mass, asks people to 'greet the person standing next to you." You might have Mass start in silence, with an antiphon, with a hymn. You might then have one of THREE penitential rites, in the third of which the words will always be different. The priest has a choice of two prayers. You might hear the Kyrie; you might not. You might have a sung Gloria and you might not.

During the readings, you might have a cantor doing the responsory. . you might not. It might be exactly as written; it might be a ‘setting’ which differs slightly.

There are four different ‘main’ offertory prayers, plus many licit (and more than a few non-licit) options, so you never know which one you’ll hear. There are hundreds of different settings of the Sanctus (which may be in Latin or not), of the Eucharistic Acclamation, of the Lamb of God. . .you may get a sung Our Father or not. You may see people Orans, or hand hold, or do the wave dip. You may have a long and noisy, or a brief and quiet, sign of peace–or nothing at all. You may have a communion antiphon, a communion song, a meditation. . or nothing at all. You may have communion offered only by the priest, by priests and EHMCs, by EMHCs only. It may be only the host; it may be host and chalice. You may receive in the hand or on the tongue, kneeling or standing.

Now compare to the Latin Mass. The prayers are there to follow in the missal. No ad libs, no surprises. No doing THIS at Mass in parish A, and something completely different at parish B. Not even something completely different at each different mass time in parish A!!!

Unity and conformity. "say the black, do the red’ (that means, say the words which are typed in black type, and follow the postures which are set out in red type, according to said missals).

When I think of all the incredible ‘diversity’ that goes on with all the above at the OF, I wonder that people ‘shy away’ from the EF. They seem perfectly willing to sing Spanish songs (even if they don’t know Spanish), or to do ‘ethnic dances’ (even if they aren’t of that ethnicity). . .why fuss about Latin?

<<Now compare to the Latin Mass. The prayers are there to follow in the missal. No ad libs, no surprises. No doing THIS at Mass in parish A, and something completely different at parish B. Not even something completely different at each different mass time in parish A!!!>>

Ohhhh… I don’t know about that.

There are quite a few Gregorian settings of the Mass in the Liber and Kyriale… There are I don’t know how many choral settings of the Mass from 14th century onwards by composers we know about…There are several different ways of chanting the Collect, Epistle, and Gospel in Latin, all sanctioned by the Liber and Graduale…

So, it’s entirely possible for even a Missa Cantata do be done one way in Parish A and another way in Parish B, even BEFORE Vatican 2.

I can understand your confusion and will try in my small way to help.
Also some of the answers above might be confusing if you are not aware of the difference between the Ordinary Form of the mass (OF) and the Extraordinary form of the mass (EF), also known as the Tridentine mass (TLM). For now we will keep it simple and talk about the OF.

Latin has been the language of the Mass, and of all vatican documents, for many centuries. In fact the official language of the Ordinary form of the mass even today is Latin, though most parishes use the vernacular. There are advantages to both. Of course in the vernacular most people in attendance hear it all in their own tongue. However, if one travesl to another country it can be a problem if you don’t speak the local language. The Holy Father has been encouraging the greater use of Latin in the mass which is why EWTN has started using more of it. I think do it quite well.

As others have pointed out, one can aquire a missal with the Latin and English side by side. These were common for the EF mass years ago. I don’t know how easy it would be to get one specific to the OF. Using this and listening to the prayers is a good way to Learn the Latin pronunciations. Perhaps a google of Catholic missals or a chat with a local catholic bookseller would yield something for you.

I was born into the “Pre-Vat II church” up to about 11 years old and then they changed to English. Since I have been back to Church I find a special effection for the Latin personally (especially the EF).

I know my answers are not comprehensive but I do hope they help some.


Latin is the official language of the Catholic Church, and the language proper to the Roman (Latin) Rite of the Church. Even though there is permission for the use of vernacular languages in the liturgy, the norm is still Latin.

It’s a shame that many don’t, because Vatican II (the most recent Council of the Church) didn’t envision Latin getting eliminated from the Mass. The Council expected the faithful to know how to make the common responses in Latin.

The parts of the Mass they say in Latin are always the same parts – that is, they say the same things in Latin at every Mass. Thus, you only need to become familiar with that part of the Mass in your language, and then you’ll know what they’re saying.

I suggest you read Veterum Sapientia (translated into English, of course!), a document by Pope John XXIII (who convoked Vatican II). It explains several reasons why Latin is a good choice for the liturgy. It’s unbiased – it’s no one’s native language, which means that if the Mass is celebrated in it (or mostly in it), people from anywhere can vocally participate to the same degree: they only need to know their own language and the Latin words. Compare that to a Mass celebrated in English where some people from Germany, France, and China are present – if they don’t know English, what are they to do? Having a common liturgical language for the liturgy is a common bond.

Most Catholic Masses are celebrated in the vernacular (local language). Latin is fine, of course, and it’s important for the Roman Catholic Church to preserve some Latin in Masses, but the norm is to celebrate Mass in the language of the people.

If you’re in the United States, for instance, the Missal approved for use is in English (with the option to use Latin for some responses/prayers).

The essential importance, as the Second Vatican Council taught, is to ensure the full, active, and conscious participation of the faithful. This is usually accomplished best by celebrating Mass in a language people understand.

Ohhhh… I don’t know about that.

There are quite a few Gregorian settings of the Mass in the Liber and Kyriale… There are I don’t know how many choral settings of the Mass from 14th century onwards by composers we know about…There are several different ways of chanting the Collect, Epistle, and Gospel in Latin, all sanctioned by the Liber and Graduale…

So, it’s entirely possible for even a Missa Cantata do be done one way in Parish A and another way in Parish B, even BEFORE Vatican 2.

The various musical settings for the Ordinary, whether Gregorian or otherwise, are just that: musical settings. And yes, there are several standard variants in how certain things are chanted at “High” Mass. None of that, however, has a bearing on the Order of Mass in the the Latin Rite EF. The rubrics and prayers, Ordinary and Proper, are those of the Missal. (The variants in music are similar in their way to the Syriac usage, where one or another of the eight tones (ochtoechos) is supposed to be used depending on the season, day, etc. I’m not an expert in things Byzantine, but I seem to think the eight tones are used there as well in a parallel way.)

The OF is quite something else with its multiple options in the Order of Mass itself (plus, of course, the possibility of ad-lib “options” in the Order and even in the prayers). It seems to me that the comparison of the EF and OF that way is one of apples and grapes.

Just a couple of slight ‘addendums’ Digger.

OF (Ordinary Form) Masses are celebrated in the vernacular for the most part. However, in reading the actual documents of Vatican 2, one sees that said vernacular was never at any time planned to substitute for all Latin (and the Greek Kyrie) in any Mass. Therefore, the correct way to celebrate any OF Mass is for said Mass to be in the vernacular for the approved parts but also to have the Greek Kyrie, the Latin Gloria, Latin Sanctus, Latin Agnus Dei in their proper places.

That is the reason the OP is seeing Masses on EWTN which are celebrated that way. The fact that we have had around 40 years where Masses were celebrated without any Latin at all is unfortunate, for this was never what it was supposed to be.

However, EF Masses are celebrated almost completely in Latin (with the exception of the homily and readings mostly) and they are not only ‘the norm’ worldwide, they are also just as ‘norm’ (so to speak) as vernacular Masses.

It is not so much that it is important to celebrate Mass ‘in the language of the people’. After all, in many places you have people (at the same Mass) whose language is English, Spanish, French, Vietnamese, Polish, German, etc. So perhaps 50% of the people at the Mass (if in English) would be comfortable with that as their first language, but the others might not be. IF, however, the Mass were in Latin, these people would bring their missals and would be able to follow along easily. For example, I have missals in both Latin/English and Latin/French. The Latin is the same in both; obviously the French and the English are different, but both the French speaker and the English speaker could go to the Latin Mass and read along in their own language; whereas if the French speaker knew little English, and the English speaker knew little French, and since there is no such thing as an “English/French” or “French/English” missal, they would get little out of a Mass even though it is a ‘vernacular Mass’.

The ‘full and active participation’ of the people was always THERE in a Latin Mass. Still is.

I hesitate to say this, knowing I will sound either like an old curmudgeon or an elitist snob, but really, I am almost ashamed of the average American today wailing about how ‘useless’ Latin is and how ‘awful’ it is to demand that people try to learn a DIFFERENT language than their ‘own.’ (Even though we’re not demanding that they be able to speak fluent Latin INSTEAD of their own language). Great Caesar’s ghost, what is wrong with these people? Illiterate peasants were able to ‘understand’ the rudiments not only of ‘their’ language but of the neighboring countries–and Latin–and hungered to learn more only their circumstances forestalled it. We, living in unprecedented leisure and opportunity, seem hell-bent (so to speak) to do as little as possible and learn as little as possible. In one breath we bemoan how our students are ‘failing’ in school, in the other, we bleat that they are overburdened or given ‘useless’ standards. The average student today in high school knows less than the average 6th grader in some pioneer one-room school when it comes to basics. Sure, they might be able to use computers, but they can’t parse a sentence (for the most part), and while they’re cramming down fun facts about ‘multiculturalism’ most of them can’t tell you from whom the U.S. declared independence, or give the DECADE in the American Civil War occurred!!!

It would do people good to expand their vocabulary and to learn Latin, indeed to learn another language than their own.

Of course. But that’s not the purpose of liturgy.

Yes, but that was just a parenthetical.

What about the rest of the post, particularly where I point out that the actual documents of Vatican 2 (unfortunately my set is still at my mother’s or I could pull up the relevant quotation; I could look on line but I’m getting tired) did NOT CALL for removing ALL Latin from the 'vernacular Mass?"

See, I think the OP was referencing seeing the OF on EWTN which does indeed include the proper Latin which was meant to be retained.

And the thing is, if you listen (and read, all these prayers are available on various web sites and in various things like older missals or even in some of the newer things today like “Magnificat”) you will be able to learn these prayers. It is not difficult. And it is unifying. You already know, for example, the “our Father” in English, I’m assuming. So when you start reading and hearing the Latin, you aren’t coming into it cold, hearing words and having to try to translate them from the Latin. Pretty soon you get to where it becomes second nature.

And if ever then you go to a Spanish language Mass, at least at the Pater Noster you’ll be following along easily. Hey, I know that, you’ll say. I say that in MY church during my English vernacular Mass. (and vice versa, as the Spanish-speaker likewise will recognize the Pater if he is at an English’ speaking Mass).

It is important that we have SOME of the liturgy in the vernacular. The homily for example. The gospel and the readings. Some of the prayer of the faithful. For many it is important. There are still plenty of us who are drawn to the Latin, either because we still understand IT or for other reasons, and that’s why we have the EF. But there is nothing wrong with a nice reverent OF. That being said, that reverent OF needs to have the common ordinary prayers (as Vatican 2 intended) in the Latin still.

Time was when we were taught our Pater, the Ave Maria, the Gloria, the Credo etc. in school. If 7 year olds can learn to read it, speak it, and write it (and we did), most everyone can. Of course, some cannot. Some could not then. But we didn’t stop the 99.9% who could because 0.1% could not. And we won’t today.

Of course Vatican II did not call for that. It taught that Latin should be preserved in the Latin Rites.

But time and the Church did not stop with Vatican II. Latin is still preserved, but apparently the Church in continuity with Vatican II (and its entire Tradition) apparently decided that a more widespread use of the vernacular was beneficial. The Catholic Church has always celebrated liturgy in the vernacular, this is nothing new.

To some extent. As others have pointed out, it’s not tough to learn and understand the Latin words being used. It’s also the case that familiarity often breeds distraction, so it’s not hard for your mind to wander when hearing or praying the English text. Sometimes following attentively requires effort, and that’s true in any language.

I do believe the Pope mentioned in one of his books that VII “active participation” is more of “internal” than “external”.

The opposite happened. Latin was to be preserved. The vernacular was a option. A Priest did not need the permission of his Bishop to say the OF in Latin as he did to say the EF.

How many years was Latin the language of the Church in Rome? Yes, the Eastern Rite was in its native languages. The Mass was in Latin since 250 AD. The Latin Canon was finished 390 AD.

Why is The EF referred to as “The Mass of Ages”?

The EF is only in Latin. The OF can be celebrated in Latin or any approved language, so no further permission is necessary.

We don’t know for sure that the Eucharistic liturgy was celebrated uniformly in Latin since 250 A.D. (if you have data otherwise, please share). We don’t know for sure when the Roman Canon (not Latin Canon) was finally formed in the way it was authoritatively promulgated following the Council of Trent.

Please click and read the information from these links. These will give you an insight on why the E.F. Mass was said in latin for over 1500 years!

Also did you ever hear of the Latin Vulgate Bible and who translated it to Latin?

Also, please inform me of not the Eatern Rites, But, in “Latin\Roman Rite” when and where Pre VII when the Mass was in the vernacular? Do you have any references, websites, books, etc…? I will be intrestead!

Also, a important piece of information. When speaking of Latin in the Mass and church, we are speaking of the Roman Rite not the Eastern Rite!

Although not addressed to me, I’m chiming in with a comment:

This has been said many times in other threads, but the one thing that comes to mind was in parts of Dalmatia and Croatia, where the Roman Mass was said in Church Slavonic (and written in Glagolitic script) for quite some hundreds of years. Keep in mind, though, that Church Slavonic is not exactly considered a “vernacular” as such. Some background may be found here.

I enjoyed reading this! I did not realize that "It was a popular idea then, that as there had been three languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, inscribed over our Lord on the cross, it would be sacrilegious to use any other language in the service of the Church. " I never heard of that. Very traditional. This helps in the defense of Latin in the Liturgy.

I do believe this falls under when St. Pius V 1570 codified The Latin Mass. So that they can say the EF forever, “without scruple of conscience or fear of penalty”. Quo Primum.

Also, St. Pius V “allowed continued rites of Religious orders as any other rites as long as they were 200 years or more.”

Also there is “the Gallican Rite”
in the West as well.

The “EF” Mass as you refer to it was not codified until the Council of Trent, so it’s a bit of s stretch to say it’s been celebrated in Latin for over 1500 years. The Mass of Pius V (what you note as the EF Mass) was promulgated following the Council of Trent. It certainly codified and incorporated many ancient traditions. But it’s simply not historically accurate to claim that it was the same as what had been celebrated everywhere by everyone in the Roman Catholic Church for over 1500 years.

Yes. St. Jerome. So what? I am not sure I understand your point.

Look at the Ambrosian Rite, the Mozarabic Rite, and the Rites allowed by Trent that I’m less familiar with (e.g. I think the Carthusians and other similar religious orders who could demonstrate there Rites were at least 200 years old).

A very important consideration when using “Catholic.”

Read the links that I have posted. They are not long. They have very good information about the history of the Mass that will educate.

The point I was trying to make is, how long was the Bible in Latin before it was translated into English?

If any Religious order or community can prove that their service is 200 years or further back Pope St. Pius V said that they can continue their liturgy in their form. If not they have to use the Tridentine Mass. Read the links.

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