Wednesday, January 12

Your first Latin Mass

Below is an excerpt from a letter sent to a friend who was "parish shopping" recently.

As their background was Roman Catholic, I suggested a visit to my parish in Indianapolis, Holy Rosary.

All names have been removed to protect the innocent...and the guilty.


Now then, the Mass is performed with full choir on Sunday morning. Note I said "choir" and not trio, band, troupe, ensemble, combo or posse. The choir is accompanied by an organ -- not a flute, harmonica, banjo, drum, maracas, rainstick, tin whistle or didgeridoo. Buy a Windham Hill sampler if you want to listen to that kind of music.

Once the priest starts, the choir will respond and the people will chime in at various points, too, but much of the Mass is said by the priest himself in secreto. Don't sweat it, you don't have to say anything if you don't feel comfortable doing so. Nobody will look at you like you're a loser or crazy, they're too busy praying, watching the priest, etc. to have time to worry about you! And, everyone's kid will cry at some point, so don't worry about that, either.

Ten minutes into it, you'll be like, "What the &^@! is he saying?" because it will be exclusively in Latin, except for the Epistle, Gospel and sermon. (which are initially said in Latin, but repeated later for further consideration of the flock) You may also think, "Hey, why's his back to me?" That's normal, don't sweat that, either.


Latin is used for several reasons, listed in no particular order:

1. It's the "official" language of the church and has been for centuries. The Second Vatican Council's constitution on the sacred liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, advises -- in multiple instances -- that the use of Latin in the Latin Rite is to be preserved.

2. It manifests our unity as Catholics (Catholic comes from the Greek "katholicos" meaning "universal") with:

a. Rome, whose Bishop is the apostolic successor of St. Peter, and the historical Church of the Martyrs and Saints who died during the persecutions under countless Roman emperors.

b. Other Catholics, regardless of their race, culture or language. A Mass prayed according to the Tridentine Missal will be, like Dove soap, 99 44/100ths identical in theology and form as when offered in any other location. Respectfully, this can generally not be said of the Missal of Paul VI, which is celebrated with great local latitude. And for those who would accuse me of speaking against "the Council" (see November's entry below) I will state that the Missal of Paul VI is, without a doubt, legitimate and, more specifically, the Missa Normativa of the Latin Rite.

3. The "bugs" have been kept out of the Church's core theology over the centuries thanks to Latin. Organic development has assuredly occurred over the centuries and as dictated by the numerous ecumenical councils, but "Credo" means "Credo" (I believe) whether it's 313 at the Council of Nicea, 1545 at Trent or 2005 in Indianapolis. That's a small, simple, silly example, but when dealing with complex theological concepts that are handed down from generation to generation over time, which are proclaimed as divinely revealed truths, having a language that does not change as readily as the vernacular is wont to do, especially in our current time, is more than advantageous. It's a prerequisite.

With regard to "why the priest has his back to us"...he really doesn't have his back to us. Rather, he is facing God, to Whom he is offering the sacrifice of the Mass. Personally, I go to Mass to focus my attention on God, rather than my neighbor. If I want to spend quality time with my neighbor, I'll help him clean out his garage or mow his lawn.


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