We’ve recently started offering Mass in Latin here at Our Lady of Lourdes for our monthly First Saturday Mass, which is at 8:00 AM. This is the normal, Novus Ordo, or New Rite, Mass from after Vatican II. It uses the same readings and follows the same calendar as the ordinary Mass the we celebrate; in fact, the readings and homily are also in English. If you want to experience Mass in the Extraordinary Form, as it was celebrated before Vatican II (and I think every Catholic should at least once), it’s celebrated every Sunday at St. Patrick’s Church in New Orleans at 9:15 on Sundays, 7:15 AM on weekdays, and 8 AM on Saturdays. The difference is that all of the prayers are in Latin, and you’ll have Latin and English translations of the prayers side by side to help you follow along. In some ways, it’s just like going to Mass in Spanish or Vietnamese, because you’ll still recognize everything, you just might not understand the language. Since people have asked, this Mass doesn’t count for your Sunday obligation. You can fulfill your Sunday obligation at any Mass on Sunday or after 4:00 PM on Saturday. So, why offer this to the parish?
I celebrated the Mass in Latin regularly at Visitation of Our Lady and Divine Mercy Catholic Churches, and I found out that some people were under the impression that the Church had done away with Latin in the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. However, Vatican II actually said, “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. 2. But since the use of the mother tongue… frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down in subsequent chapters” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, para. 36). So, they wanted to allow Mass in the languages of the people while still retaining some Latin. Imagine if every Catholic could still pray at least the Our Father in Latin, then you could pray with a Catholic from anywhere in the world, even if you don’t speak one another’s languages.
Second, in the Roman Churches the Mass has been celebrated in Latin since at least the 4th century. It’s true that there have been changes and developments to the Mass over the centuries, but they kept using Latin. This means that most of the saints celebrated or attended Mass in Latin. This is part of the life of the Church, part of our heritage, and part of history. If you feel like you’re stepping back in time, then that’s a good things. The Mass doesn’t belong to you or me, it’s an inheritance of the entire Church, and when we celebrate Mass we should see that this isn’t an ordinary, normal thing, but that we’re entering the Mystery of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Latin helps us to see that we don’t fully comprehend everything that’s going on, but that we have to really make an effort to enter into it more fully. This is true of every Mass, no matter what language it’s celebrated in, but we tend to see it more easily when we don’t understand every word that’s being said.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.