Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why is Latin used in the Catholic Church?

I must share with you an excellent essay which originally came from an old annual magazine from my home parish dated October 9, 1921. [my commentary added]



The celebration of the Holy Mass and the administration of the Sacraments in the Latin Language for some Protestants is a subject for surprise, for others of complaint; as there were something unnatural or wrong in the practice. Among Catholics it never excites surprise or complaint; they never think themselves in the slightest degree aggrieved by it. If strangers to the Catholic religion think otherwise, their complaints proceed from ignorance. The Church has wisely retained the Latin language as her language, for many reasons. [It is quite an eye opener to read this intro. in it's historical context. Back then, no one complained about the Latin or ever questioned why. It was expected. Nowadays, opposition comes not so much from outside the Church, but from within. Ignorance!]

1. Latin was the language of St. Peter when he first said Mass at Rome. It was in this language that the Prince of the Apostles drew up the Liturgy of the Church, which together with the knowledge of the Gospel, he and his successors, the Popes, imparted to the different people of Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, England, Scotland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, and Poland. [And eventually everywhere else...]

2. The Catholic Church, through an aversion to innovations, [meditate on that: "aversion to innovations"] carefully continues to celebrate her Liturgy in that same tongue which apostolic men and saints have used for a similar purpose during more than twenty centuries.

3. Unchangeable dogmas require and unchangeable language [this essay is just full of gems]. The Catholic Church cannot change, because it is the Church of God, who Himself is unchangeable. If Latin were not the official language of the Church, deliberations and discussions among bishops assembled at councils, the mutual exchange of opinions between theologians would be impossible. The use of a dead language is a safeguard against many evils [to name one evil- TRANSLATION ERRORS]; it is not subject to change, but remains the same at all times. Languages in daily use undergo a continual process of change. [...to name one...uhhh...English]

4. The Catholic Church is a universal one and therefore requires a universal language. The Catholic Church can be found in every clime, in every nation, all over the surface of the globe. Her language is therefore a connecting link binding them to Rome, and making One, nations which are separated by a diversity of tongues. [I've made this point before. Latin is not only a connecting link to Rome, but to God also. Professor Christine Mohrmann makes this point strongly in her book "Liturgical Latin- It's Origins and Character".
 To quote-
 "Latin is thus a vinculum unitatis [bond of unity], not only horizontally but vertically, and Liturgical Latin is like a living element of the Church which makes possible the survival of the vertical link. One might express this idea in a simpler and more concrete fashion. If the liturgy were to be celebrated entirely in the vernaculars of the various countries, and the prayers of the Breviary said each one by his own tongue, the Latin of the Church would automatically die out and our last links with the ancient sources would be irrevocably severed." (translation and emphasis added)]

5. The Catholic Church is a type of Heavenly Jerusalem, where a great multitude of all people and tongues stand around the throne, praising God in one language. [As Professor Mohrmann stresses the point above, she fails not to include the Breviary in her remarks. It is not only the Mass which should be said in Latin, but the Breviary as well.]

6. Variety of language is a punishment, a consequence of sin, it was inflicted by God that the human race might be dispersed over the face of the earth. The Holy Church, the Spouse of Jesus Christ, has been established for the express purpose of destroying sin and uniting all mankind in the Kingdom of Christ on earth; consequently she speaks the same language everywhere. [I think that point seals the deal.]


So there you have it, a complete vindication of the Church's use of Latin. It is a shame that one is needed, but the times demand it.

Divinum auxilium maneat semper nobiscum

Vigilate et Orate.



sam kim said...

To be fair, St. Peter probably spoke Greek. Greek was the first liturgical language in Rome. Ergo, "Kyrie Eleison."

Jeffrey Pinyan said...

"Latin was the language of St. Peter when he first said Mass at Rome. ... that same tongue which apostolic men and saints have used for a similar purpose during more than twenty centuries."

I agree with Sam Kim. As much as I love Latin and advocate its use in the sacred liturgy, romantic fictions like this are not a help in our cause.

Derek Bonnell said...


ROMMEL said...

Latin was not, probably, used by St. Peter but in the inscription above Christ's head, when he was hanging at Golgotha, Pontius Pilate had, previously, inscripted the INRI which is Latin. It is no wonder that Latin should be the official language the Church. Greek will do as well, also Hebrew.