Why Latin (the language)?


I love the Catholic Church and love the liturgy and sacraments! I am a Roman Rite Catholic, and my church does most of the Mass in English. However, some prayers and chants, including the Gloria, Sanctus, and Pater Noster, are said in Latin.

I never really thought about this until I was asked to explain it to someone, and discovered that I myself did not understand why we use Latin sometimes during Mass.

So…why do Roman Rite Catholics say some prayers in Latin? How is it drawing us closer to God if we do not understand fully what is being said? Is there any church documents or books or websites that explain the reason for Latin in worship simply and well?

Thank you!


Why does Judaism use Hebrew? Why does Islam use Arabic? Why do Greek Orthodox use Greek? Why does Hinduism use Sanskrit? If anything, Protestants are the odd ones out for not having a sacred language.


Craisin - I would say that you are actually very luckly to be at a parish which does the Gloria, Sanctus & Pater Noster in Latin. I wish more would do so.

God Bless.


All I know is that it has been the language of the Church for millennia. I think that is why we have little remnants of it in the Mass.


My college’s Newman Center does that during Lent. We do the Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and Memorial Acclamation in Latin chant.

Also, another explanation: Unity. Before, no matter where you went, even the language was the same. Now it’s only the meaning that’s the same, even if the words differ language-to-language. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m a post-V2 baby)


The language hasn’t always been Latin. Early on it was in the local language or the “lingua franca” of the day - Greek. Over time, Latin displaced Greek in the region and the liturgy followed. Eventually it was decided Latin was THE language for the Roman church and liturgy. The Second Vatican Council returned the option to use the local language, but did not suppress using Latin.



Sacred language? What makes any language sacred?

It’s a stylistic preference and that is all… 100% subjective. Many prefer Latin because of it’s connection to the ancient Church, but the bible says that we will have truth in every age, so I’ll trust the Church’s authority on the matter


I love the Latin, as anyone on the site that recognizes my rant can attest…Latin is very precise…there is no confusion with meaning… note the recent change made in the liturgy regarding …in the venacular…and with your spirit…rather than and with your spirit…an attempt to more acurately express what was the original expression…I hear all the time…well what If I can’;t understand what is being said. it’s usually written in English, or the venacular, directly under the Latin …so…PAX


I agree with you. Even if they kept the Ordinary Form, I’d be fine with it, but I’d love to keep those prayers in Latin. Even better if they were sung and chanted. In my parish, it’s only the Agnus Dei, and it’s not every Mass.

I particularly love the Credo, it’s beautiful when sung. Very spiritually uplifting. As all prayers should be.


From the Baltimore Catechism:

Q. 566. Why does the Church use the Latin language instead of the national language of its children?

A. The Church uses the Latin language instead of the national language of its children:

    To avoid the danger of changing any part of its teaching in using different languages;
    That all its rulers may be perfectly united and understood in their communications;
    To show that the Church is not an institute of any particular nation, but the guide of all nations.


It’s more titular than anything. It’s just what it’s called when a religion has a language they use in prayer, even when it’s not the vernacular.


Completely agree…it is titular… meaning purely ceremonial or honorary and carries no authority… which reinforces my point that it is an attachment based on personal preference.


See Veterum Sapientia on this.


It’s also one of the three languages Pilate used to identify Christ. That INRI you see on most crosses is an acronym for Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rēx Iūdaeōrum


One really cool thing about having our prayers and text written in a dead language is that the original/true meaning will not change over time. While there are obvious perks to mass in the vernacular, words in “living” languages can change in meaning over time.

Also, I really appreciate OF Masses with the Mass parts/propers in Latin. I feel like it adds a bit more mystery. =)


A lot of the Latin was written by Greek scholars (Cicero, Jerome et al) themselves, once they realized it was the best way to preserve liturgy, moral code, documents, scripture, and/or Roman Law.


We still use Latin during the Mass because some of our members were born before 1960. Imagine that. We actually have old people in our pews.

It wasn’t until sometime between 1965 and 1969, depending on the diocese, that the Mass was changed over from Latin to the vernacular. Anyone who received their First Holy Communion before or during those years learned the Mass in Latin, and probably developed a sincere fondness for proclaiming the prayers in the language the church used for almost two thousand years.

Using Latin appeals to our sense of sacredness and longstanding tradition, unified for all time over the centuries.


:ehh: I wasn’t saying it’s not important. I was just saying that calling it “sacred” doesn’t mean it’s holy. We’re only saying “sacred” to mean “important to a religion”. Whether or not a religion actually considers the language itself holy, it’s still called a sacred language.


Latin should be safeguarded as a precious inheritance of the Western liturgical tradition. Not by chance did the Servant of God, John Paul II recall that:[INDENT]“The Roman Church has special obligations towards Latin, the splendid language of ancient Rome, and she must manifest them whenever the occasion presents itself” (Dominicae cenae, n. 10).

In continuity with the Magisterium of his Predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, besides wishing that there would be a greater use of the traditional Latin language in liturgical celebrations, especially during international gatherings, wrote:
“Speaking more generally, I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant” (Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 62).



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