Latin Mass?

Hi all! I’m a new Catholic, so I forgive me if I misunderstand this.

I keep hearing all these things about having the Mass in the traditional Latin. Why is this? I know it used to be that way and was changed, but why should we change it back now?

(I’m honestly not sure I’d have come back to the Church if it had been said in Latin. It would have really discouraged me.)

Why do so many want it all back in Latin now? I don’t see anything wrong with that at all, but I fail to see what’s wrong with having Mass in any other language.

Can anyone enlighten me on this issue?

Personally, I don’t care one way or the other about the language.

Some people like it because it’s the same mass that was heard by the great saints like Thomas Aquinas. Even going back a 1000 years you could count on hearing about the same mass. That’s kind of inspiring!

Some people genuinely prefer the rhythm and sound of the old Latin Prayers. Each language has it’s own pace and rhythm and Latin’s is different from English.

Some people think that Latin, by nature of it’s unfamiliarity, leads to a greater sense of mystery, but I’d disagree. In a big city most people could go to mass in any number of languages for that.

A High Mass is a thing of beauty that is rarely matched.

Mostly, though, I think the appeal of the old mass is that it’s not the Novus Ordo. The web is replete with tales of liturgical abuse and creativity on the part of the Pastors and Liturgists. Some of the hymns from the past 20 years are… less than inspiring. Some border on contradicting the faith (I won’t use the H word because I don’t think it’s correct). The fact is that many of the composers also composed hymns for Protestant churches and so some of the has crept into the hymns used for Catholic mass.

For my own part, I think the Mass and Missal go together. My personal experience is that the Missals that were in use for the old Mass are much better now, since they had the duty of explaining something to an audience that otherwise wouldn’t know what’s going on. So a lot of good theology is present. The Missals for today don’t really have to do that, as it’s presumed that the faithful can understand the language, and therefore understand the mass. Therefore, before the priest says a word, I’ve gotten more out the the Latin mass because of the superior books.

That’s not really a knock on the N.O. nor a benefit of the Old Mass per se. It’s probably just how it worked out. The new missals can be beefed up if someone wants to.

Though myself and many other regular attendees of the Traditional Latin Mass find Latin to be a beautiful language in which to worship God, the primary reason for attending the “Old Mass” or the “Tridentine Latin” Mass for most of us is actually in the liturgy itself, not the language in which it is celebrated. You see, the Old Mass contains a wealth of prayers not found in the new. Many of these are contained in the Offertory (after the Creed but before the Consecration) which really ground a person in the sacrificial nature of the Mass; the fact that what we are doing is not some social event about sharing spiritual testimonies, or some kind of celebration of what nice people we are, or even, primarily, a lesson in Scriptural Theology. The Mass is the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, re-presented (or “renewed”) upon the altar in which Christ is immolated in an unbloody manner, this being possible only because of the eternal nature of His passion, death and Resurrection 2000 years ago.

As I said the prayers that stand out the most are perhaps those of the Offertory and of course the words of consecration, but in fact they begin with the beginning of the Mass with the Judica Me (Psalm 42) and continue until the words of dismissal. Many of them are psalms from the Old Testament that prefigure the Sacrifice of Christ or that otherwise drive home to us the inexpressable dependency we have for God for our lives, for forgiveness and all good things.

While the Novus Ordo Mass can be celebrated with much beauty, splendor, solemnity and reverence (sacredness), and while it is indeed a valid Mass, it simply does not measure up to the Old with its veritable wealth of deep and profoundly beautiful words of praise, adoration, petition and impetration before the Holy Trinity. Worse yet, in many places it is subject to horrible abuses-total abandonment of the rich tradition of Catholic liturgical music such as gregorian chant and turning it into a folk music concert with guitars, tambourines and aisle-swayers to having costume Masses in the Halloween season or having the priest dress up as a clown, or even instances where the priest tosses the rubrics out the window and makes up the words of the liturgy (including the Consecration) as he goes.

One of the reasons we enjoy the TLM for the same reason you find your signature funny–Latin is an old, traditional language. As a new Catholic, you are aware that the Mass is the summit of Catholic prayer/life, and all of our spirituality flows from the liturgy, that is, the Mass of The Ages. Many of us “traditionalist” Catholics also find comfort in the TLM because it is the Mass that the Saints attended–the lowest common denominator between ALL (Latin Rite) Catholics. Again, the TLM is were a great deal of the Catholic idea of quiet, contemplative prayer originated. Now, you could argue for temporal precedence, but I don’t think it matters because Catholic spirituality is quiet and contemplative, and (in my opinion) so is the TLM (more so than the NO).

In short, the reason for having the TLM is this:

  1. The Catholic Church is built on Tradition,
  2. Our Traditions are old and handed down through the generations,
  3. What previous generations held sacred, is therefore sacred to current generations,
  4. The TLM is part of our Tradition,
  5. Therefore the TLM is STILL sacred.

Just a quick reply, I’ll poke my head in later to see if I can add anymore/clarify if I created more questions than answers.

Also important is the fact that the priest faces ad orientam (“to the east”-that is, he faces the tabernacle) during the Mass instead of facing the people.

Many are put off by this and think of it as the priest offering Mass “with his back to us.” Well, we have to remember that the Mass is not first and foremost about us. Yes its true the Mass is for our benefit, so that we can receive Jesus Christ, so that we enter the state of being in Communion with Him and with every other member of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, but of course these benefits are only possible because of His Sacrifice.

Now, there are several good reasons for the priest to face ad orientam, and they include the fact that east is the direction traditionally associated with Christ (as the Sun rises in the east, there is a history both in the New Testament and in Tradition of the Sun as a metaphor for Jesus Christ: unconquerable, set over the whole world).

Also, it has been submitted that because the priest faces the direction of the crucifix set over the tabernacle, the drawing of the eyes toward the crucifix and not the priest, since one can only see his back, makes the Mass’s sacrifical nature more visible.

I agree with these but for myself the reason that has always stood out the most is that the ad orientam direction does away with any notions about the Mass as entertainment and the priest as Performer-in-Chief, rather, its gets one to concentrate on the prayers of the Liturgy and thus makes the Sacrifice of the whole Church more unified.


  •        -------             J.M.J.              ---------                   +

Dear Friend,
Welcome to the Catholic Faith…May God shower you with His blessings, and lead you through His paths for you…

    May people think that the Tridintine Mass is the best for of the Mass because it has been declared so by popes and saints...I personally agree, and would like to see it more widely used...
    The Tridintine Mass is founded on one thing, and its focus is one thing:  The Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross...and His coming down to us in the form of bread and wine...However, the Novus Ordo Mass is more of a participation thing; therefore, somewhat divirting (sp?) one's mind from the true reason (at least this is how it usually is...)
    The reason that Latin is often prefered is because it is "the language of the Church"...So, if one wishes to receive the fullness of the Mass...I particularly would advise attendance to the Tridintine Mass...

    May God bless you always!

Pax Christi,

Ah, but have you experienced it yet? If not, give it a shot. Go and experience a Solemn High Mass. My jaw was in my lap and tears in my eyes as I tried to comprehend what I had missed out on for 30-some-odd-years. And keep in mind I was someone that had already fallen in love with the mass. The TLM drew me in even deeper (or lifted me up higher - you get my drift). It’s not* just* the regular mass said in Latin - there’s more to it than that.

Alsok, my mother converted from Penticostalism right before all the changes of VII were implemented. She said one of the biggest influences was when my dad took her to mass the first time - it was so prayerful and so different from the “town hall” atmosphere she was used to…everything about it said, “He is here, really truly HERE.”

And finally, if ya look at statistics, you’ll see conversions are way, way down since all the “changes” in practice and discipline. It at least plays some factor in some folks lives. You may be the exception to the rule :wink: - praise God!

I think alot of the ideas behind the changes were a little over-optimistic. The thought being that if we just “tone it down a little bit” we won’t “scare people off”. Unfortunately, I think it’s had the opposite effect.

Of course God’s grace and mercy are still flowing - as is evident by calling you to His Church. To that I rejoice and say welcome home!!!

Peace in Christ,


Excellent post!!! :clapping:

Why do so many want it all back in Latin now? I don’t see anything wrong with that at all, but I fail to see what’s wrong with having Mass in any other language.

The language is such a small part of the Tridentine Mass. Even if the Tridentine Mass was celebrated in english, I would prefer it.

The Tridentine Mass is so rich in spirituality and history. It is totally different to the new Mass. The Priest even faces the same way as the congregation - he leads us in prayer.

Everything in the Tridentine Mass is symbolic. So much so that books have been written discussing this. I suggest you watch one on youtube and then do a bit reading to understand what it is all about.

I am a recent revert and I prefer the Extraordinary form of the Mass. I’m 20 years old so it’s not due to nostalgia. The Tridentine Mass is the Mass of All Times. I suggest that you look into this beautiful Mass and see why so many Saints and Popes have praised and endorsed its use.

I recommend that you read “The Holy Mass” by Dom Prosper Gueranger. It’s available at Baronius Press and is a classic piece of Catholic literature.

May more people discover the beaties, spiritual riches, and historical value of the Tridentine Mass. It was part of the Church’s life for fifteen centuries - let’s preserve it for the future.

Why should your average Roman Catholic read this book, if they will most likely never see it in their parish in their lifetime. Still the majority of Roman Catholic priests , bishops, cardinals, etc… refuse to incorperate the TLM in their parish. They even refuse to address the Reform of the Reform. The Pope has placed the Gregorian chant on the top of the list for music, but the clergy still refuse to use it. They feel their mass is good enough. This is the major problem today!. Getting it implemented!. To much resistance. Roman Catholicism here in the US is to Protestant in it’s worship for me. Excluding the TLM of course, which I will only be able to watch via the internet, thanks to the resistance and ignorrance of many Roman Catholic clergy and lay catholics. Like given the chance to drive a Ferrari but prefering to stick with a Toyota. I wouldn’t be surpised if the US Catholic Church seperates itself from Rome in the future. The US Catholic Church prefers Protestantism, and it’s ways!. It thinks it’s Catholic, but it’s far from it. My opinion!

The Tridentine Mass is a beautiful and much more reverent form of the Mass in most cases. It is the Mass that was used since the beginning of Christianity, that had undergone only slight changes as it progressed through the centuries. It is beautiful and mystical and allows much more time for personal prayer. The priest/vestments/congregation all add to the atmosphere of reverence.

I heartily agree to the rest of your post, but would you please explain the bolded part?

Those who love the Latin Mass, in my opinion, don’t usually prefer it because it’s in Latin, though it’s very important as it fosters unity. Anywhere you go in the world you will understand the words being said. Anywhere, there are many other differences. Attend a TLM when you have the chance, I’m sure you will be taken with it’s holiness, reverence, worship…It’s so beautiful, I honestly can’t understand why anybody would seriously not want it said that way.:slight_smile:

Thanks for your honesty on this issue. I saw a similar issue brought up once, would people have converted had the Mass still been in Latin, and the poster was positively savaged. He was called everything but a child of God for even thinking that conversions would have been affected by something as relatively minor as the Mass being in Latin. That being said, I can only speak for myself.

The Priestly prayers in Latin were extensive, extremely reverent and left not much to the imagination. They were beautiful. Maybe a bit repititous, maybe, but beautiful and heartfelt. Now, well, I won’t go so far as to say those in use now are irreverent, but nothing that even comes close to the old prayers by and large.

I guess the main reason we desire the Mass in Latin could be that Latin was and is a living link to the earliest days of the Church, a language which while probably not normally spoken by Jesus, would no doubt have been used at his trial and in all dealings with the Roman authorities. Greek possibly may have been used on occasion but Latin definitely. Beyond that, Latin is the official language of the Church and ALL documents, past present and future are in that language initially and require translation into other languages.

So having the Mass in a language that was in use by those intimately associated with Chrits life and death and which is still used by the Church at large makes perfect sense to me. Is it really such a sacrifice to have to spend a bit of time learning a few lines of Latin. I mean I was able to do it. It didn’t bother me.

But then again, I am just an old altar boy. Nothing more or less.

And that’s why for 300 YEARS after Christ’s death the liturgy was actually in Greek, not Latin. The change to Latin didn’t happen until around the time Christianity became tolerated rather than persecuted in the Roman Empire.

Latin wasn’t used by anyone intimately associated with Christ’s life and death except Pilate who condemned him. Even the crowd baying for his blood would’ve been speaking Aramaic, being Jews.

I think the entire point of having the liturgy in Latin is that it ought to be in a sacred, set-apart, non-changing language. Most Churches (such as the Orthodox) which have ancient liturgies do not put them in the present day vernacular, but keep them in their ancient language, whatever that might be.

So, perhaps we could have kept the liturgy in the ancient Greek it was originally celebrated in; fine. It would of course by now be an ancient unchanging language. I consider it Divine providence that it was put in Latin, and then wherever the liturgy went it was kept in this language regardless of whether the countries Catholicism spread to ever had Latin as a vernacular language or not.

Here is a quote from Fr. John Parsons on Latin:

Liturgical Language Set Apart

For what are the facts? Historically the liturgy, like the Faith, has been received by cultures as a sacrosanct whole at the time of conversion, and has never been put into another language thereafter. Whether that language was the vernacular or not, seems to be utterly arbitrary and a matter of historical accident. In Italy, Gaul and Spain, the Latin liturgy was initially vernacular, but ceased to be so within five hundred years; the language however remained sacrosanct precisely because it was used for sacred purposes. In Russia, the liturgical language now known as Old Church Slavonic was used for the vernacular version of the Greek books; it is now old Slavonic precisely because it differs from the current language; but because it is sacred, it has been left undisturbed. In Ethiopia the liturgical language is Gheez, which centuries ago was replaced by Amharic as the vernacular; again no change was made to the liturgy. On the other hand, among the Irish, English, Dutch, Germans, Basques, Poles, Swedes, Ceylonese, Bantus, Vietnamese, Finns, Norwegians, Lithuanians, Hungarians and so many others, the liturgy had never been in the vernacular up until the 1960s. And are we to say that these great peoples and cultures were never Christian, never properly evangelized as a result? In South India the Faith had been quietly flourishing for a thousand years prior to the arrival of the Portugese in the sixteenth century, but the liturgy had never been translated and was still celebrated in the Syriac tongue in which it had arrived. English Catholics from St Augustine of Canterbury until the 1960s never used the vernacular for Mass.

In the 1960s, when mass literacy, cheap peoples’ Missals, and bilingual editions were more in evidence than ever before, and it was thus easier to follow the Mass than ever before, there was less justification than there had ever been for switching to the vernacular. Why then did it happen?

Because people could actually understand the words as they were being said? Because they no longer had to follow along in a book while their priest, normally a native speaker of their own language, addressed God in a language not native to himself or his congregation?

Pope John XIII confirmed at the time that he permitted Cyril and Methodius to use the Slavonic (a vernacular at that particular time) that God had created ALL human tongues to praise and glorify Himself.

People can understand Latin if they take the time to study it, particularly since in the Mass most of it is unchanging. And naturally it is somewhat ironic that you cite Pope John XXIII since he wrote one of the strongest defenses of the use of Latin in the Liturgy that exists with Veterum Sapientia:

However, since the question was from Fr. Parson’s article, I will quote his follow up to the question here:

**Secularising Liturgy for Secular Man **

In addition to the growing awareness of historical and cultural relativism I mentioned in Part I, and the rationalist temptations to which that gives rise, I think we must add the spirit of an anthropocentric liberalism as a crucial ingredient in the mixture; after all, did not Paul VI proclaim in his speech closing the Council that the Church too had now adopted the “Cult of Man”?

The whole aggiornamentist enterprise can, in lengthening retrospect, be seen as the moment when the Church at last gave in to that rising cult of human liberty which has increasingly dominated the Western imagination since the eighteenth century. Liberal Man wants an atomistic freedom to “do his own thing”. In this context, a binding, sacral, non-vernacular and theocentric liturgical ethos enshrined in ancient tradition, must be replaced by an option-filled, secularising, vernacular and anthropocentric approach, reflecting the aspirations and tastes of the human spirit in the present day. The authority of the Roman Church and its historic liturgy had to be taken out of the way as an essential precondition to the installation of the cult of freedom. It is the entry of this Zeitgeist into the temple of God, through the window thrown open by John XXIII, that is the fundamental driving force behind the liturgical revolution. The mass desertion of the liturgy among peoples of old Christian culture which began the instant the new anthropocentric rites appeared, shows not only that the renewal has been a failure de facto, but that, at the time of the changes, the bulk of the faithful felt no overwhelming attraction to the vernacular.

If it be argued that the needs of mission territories called for the abandonment of Latin, then it should be remembered that all the Christian cultures of northern Europe were once as barbaric as Ruanda, and that in the passage of centuries a Black Latin Christendom could have proved no more absurd or unattainable than a Teutonic Latin Christendom must have seemed in the age of Augustine and Boniface. The pressure for change did not in fact come from the missions but from European liturgical scholars, and European liberal Catholics who were losing confidence in their own traditions. I will never forget one Corpus Christi at Bolsena, when a sanctuary full of white priests could barely stumble through the Pange Lingua while the only black priest among us sang it perfectly from memory!

Medicine and science has been very good about not throwing out their Latin.

My husband is a pharmacist for the state of California. Dosages for medications are still given to pharmacist in Latin. I wonder if California is ever going to do away with Latin in their practice of medicine. How about getting Latin out of our Law and Courts. I don’t think so. There is very practical reasons to have a universally understood language that doesn’t change with the times.

Certainly, people could understand it well enough to follow along if they take a bit of time to understand it. It would take quite a bit more study (more like a major) to understand Latin the way in which we understand, comprehend, and reason in our own native tongues. Thus, you have to have an entire course of study to comprehend the vehicle in which your faith and worship is conveyed. This seems pointless when it already exists in another vehicle (all of it now exists in the vernacular and is readily accessible) and I really have trouble believing that the use of Latin in the liturgy is expressive of the will of God for our worship. I certainly think it lies within His permissive will, but it isn’t a part of the Deposit of Faith that our liturgy must be in Latin nor that we must believe that it must be nor that we cannot prefer it in the vernacular.

And I wasn’t referencing Blessed John XXIII, I was referencing Pope John VIII (the 8th). So it was a mistype. My apologies.

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