It’s all over the news, blogs, social media, the subject of conversations in the parishes, missions, dioceses, it’s everywhere. We can’t escape it. And, we are expected to have a position on it. If we don’t, then it’s oversimplified for us: Are you rigid or are you with the Pope on this? Of course, this hubbub is the Latin Mass. I think some background, here, is in order so we can understand the debate a bit before we are forced to choose a side. I only am going to highlight some important aspects that are often left out of the conversations on this subject.
The Traditional Latin Mass, also known as the Tridentine Mass, is known as Traditional because it had been the Mass for at least 1400 years. It was codified by Pope Pius V, in the Roman Missal of 1570, following the Council of Trent. This is why we know this Mass as the Tridentine Mass. What was ordered in this Roman Missal, however, was the Mass that was largely unchanged since at least the 7th century (1400 years ago), but also very closely followed the very Mass that St. Ambrose himself celebrated in the 4th century (1700 years ago). So, we’re not just talking about small “t” tradition in this case, we’re talking about the big “T” Tradition. This is the Mass that was celebrated by such beloved saints as St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross, St. Padre Pio, literally all of the saints from the 300’s AD to 1970.
Let’s think about this another way. The Mass has been celebrated in the Church in much the same way for about 1700 years before it was radically changed. Martin Luther protested the Church in 1517, just over 500 years ago. So this Mass was celebrated in the Church for 1200 years before Martin Luther came along. So, we can confidently say that the Traditional Latin Mass has some serious history in the Church.
With that in mind, let’s look at Latin. Why Latin? Latin is the official language of the Church. It is a “dead” language, meaning it does not change. The definitions of words in the Latin language do not “evolve”, the language is not “malleable”, it is precise and unambiguous.
Today we hear the phrase, “Latin Vulgate” and we might not know what that really means, especially when found in the context of a bible translation. The Latin Vulgate bible was translated by St. Jerome in the late 300’s, who famously said, “ignorance of scripture is the ignorance of Christ.” It was the language used by the common people of the Roman Empire, and later the Holy Roman Empire. It was the “commoners” language, the lingua franca of the time. Think about that for a moment. This was the language that was common to those who professed the Christian faith. This translation was used for over 1500 years. So, again, we have some serious Tradition with Latin.
You might be thinking I’m taking sides here. No, I just want to highlight the facts that get shoved to the side in the name of modernism or are omitted when the discussion gets underway. These facts ought never to be ignored.
It is the Latin Vulgate Bible and the Latin Mass that provided the foundation of faith for Saints to be made. That’s nothing we should ignore.
This hubbub about the Latin Mass is a huge deal in the Church. This isn’t about the pros or cons of Vatican II. This is about restricting the Mass that has been celebrated in the Church for 1700 years. It’s definitely worth discussing and the facts are worthy of understanding before jumping to conclusions.
Also, it is worth mentioning that the Traditional Latin Mass is not widely available in all dioceses. I attend the Novus Ordo Mass because when Mass is available in my parish and deanery, that is what is celebrated. On extremely rare occasions, the Traditional Latin Mass has been celebrated near my parish, and I have attended. If both were regularly offered, I would likely attend both regularly. I love the big “T” Tradition and the small “t” tradition of the Catholic Church. I love my Catholic faith. The more I learn about the Church, the more I love her, despite all of the infighting, backbiting, name calling, and hair pulling, even with the abusive clergy. We are a family, and we certainly act like it.
I’d like to make mention of one more thing before I sign off here. Whether you’re a Novus Ordo or a Latin Mass lover, we’re all Catholic. The Mass is a sacrifice, not a party, nor a social event, nor a concert, nor is it subject to fleeting secular scrutiny nor its norms. The attitudes of the secular world should have no influence on the holy sacrifice of the Mass. When we allow that to creep into our sacred place of worship, the sin of sacrilege often results. This is the serious sin of profaning the holy. Whichever Mass you prefer, worship God with reverence, with the proper disposition of repentance, remember the purpose of your presence there and don’t forget where you are at that moment. You are in the presence of God, in the Holy of Holies, and you’re there to worship Him, with praise and thanksgiving. Do it with awe, reverence and humility.
Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP