Why the Latin Mass – A serious Answer from a Catholic Wife

21 May

20130518-112422.jpgI’ve got it! I finally get it! I mean… From the very beginning, I fell in love with the traditional Latin liturgy. There’s just something so incredible, awesome, and beautiful about it, but I couldn’t explain it aside from a handful of somewhat cosmetic things that I like about it. I think I finally fully understand it now, and I’d like to share.

First: The pomp and circumstance inherent to the Latin Mass is something to behold. Like the medieval churches that were built with vaulted ceilings, magnificent stained glass, and awesome spectacles of artistic wonder in sculpture above the altar were intended to inspire the soul and draw our thoughts up to God and heaven, the ceremony of the Latin liturgy was designed to do the same. There are many elements in this symphony of spirit such as the priest leading us in prayer facing God with us and humbling himself in prayer and worship on our behalf to the meticulous and continuous acts of reverence, but the ultimate effect is to remind us that God is God, and while we are certainly not, we’ve been invited into His glory, and Holy Mass is a bit of heaven here on earth.

Second: The language–I will be the first to admit that learning enough Latin, not having been raised Catholic or taken any in school, was a serious learning curve for me in participating in the Latin Mass. 110% worth it! No, that’s not a typo–I mean 110%. Latin is our Church’s heritage and many of her greatest traditional treasures are found in it. No, it’s not the only traditional language used for Mass–eastern rites celebrate in others such as Greek. But there’s something about learning an older traditional language for the worship of God. It makes that worship something special, a concerted effort of mind and will and spirit that we don’t find in our common daily language. Yes, I know–Latin wasn’t always the official language of the Church, nor was it always a formal tradition from history. It was once the vernacular for a great many people. In fact, the Latin Vulgate translation of the scriptures is so named because at the time, the scholarly language was Greek and Latin was considered common or vulgar. But it became the official language of the church precisely because it was no longer in use in common speech anymore, and would therefore no longer be subject to the steady march of adaptation across time. That’s, quite frankly, pretty cool! It means the same thing now as it meant 1000 years ago! Meanwhile, in English, that idiomatic expression you used five minutes ago may not mean the same thing or make any sense whatsoever by the time your grandchildren become high school grads.

Third: the active participation–in the documents of Vatican II, a reform of the liturgy was suggested with an eye to the allowing of the vernacular in some instances to increase active participation. See, fewer of us were learning Latin in school anymore and it was feared not enough of us knew what was going on. This is a valid concern, of course. When the reform came, active participation was the first and foremost thought. But what is active participation in the Mass? For centuries, the Magisterium, priests, theologians, religious brothers and sisters, and our Saints talked about this. They said things like “offer yourself up as sacrifice with The Lord at the Holy Mass.” Now this, as you might expect, is not so much something you physically do. No–it is an act of interior will done quietly and prayerfully at your pew. Active participation then was an act of the interior life of a Christian in a manner similar to reaching for contemplative prayer. The deeper we allow our minds to plunge into the great mysteries of the faith, and in particular, the mystery of the Eucharist and Christ’s salvific act on Calvary, as the Mass unfolds, the more successfully we have actively participated. Yes, it’s challenging, and your success at this spiritual exercise may well vary widely across time. But in the reformed liturgy? Active participation suddenly became singing along with the hymns, engaging in a banter of verses and responses, and mimicking the priest’s gestures (whether such was liturgically instructed or not). This is not to say we aren’t still supposed to participate interiorly, but fully participating becomes much more an external exercise. You may rightly suspect that the latter makes success at the former somewhat more difficult for some of us. It certainly does for me.

Now, mind you, I don’t want this to be about which is better. Each of us is different and are in different places along our journey. But I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked, “Latin Mass? Why the heck would you want to do that?” Well… I finally can give you a serious answer. 

Debra –


7 Responses to “Why the Latin Mass – A serious Answer from a Catholic Wife”

  1. Dave May 21, 2014 at 5:48 pm #

    Your post is spot on! But now I just gotta ask a related question or two. Do you pray the Divine Office, and if so, do you pray the current version or, since you prefer the Traditional Latin Mass, the old version? Although I prefer the Traditional Latin Mass, I find it’s easier to pray the current version of the Divine Office (although I don’t care for the current translation). I was wondering if there was anybody else out there who does like I do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Colin Corcoran May 21, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

      It’s my wife’s post so I have her respond as well – but yes I pray the divine office in latin. I’m not fond of the english translations and just find there is a difference for me which is palpable when I do so. I just thought I’d let you know you’re not alone in that.



    • Debra May 21, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

      I love the Divine Office, though I have been somewhat remiss theist two weeks. I have a very slim little book which is a much simplified version of the Divine Office for lay people (essentially, it contains a week’s worth of daily prayers at the various hours and then repeats) in Latin. I also have a similar Latin/English version of the Little Office if the Blessed Virgin Mary. I love them, and used both a great deal as I was learning Latin, and still get them out from time to time. However, I generally use the Laudete phone application for my regular praying of the Divine Office, which follows the current version of the four volume set (which I don’t actually own) in English.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Marc May 22, 2014 at 4:50 am #

    Well said!

    Among other things, the depth of the prayers of the TLM is one of the biggest draws for me…not to mention the quietness, especially of the Low Mass. It is so much more conducive for that interior active participation..

    I’ve posted my journey to the Latin Mass below. I’d invite you to read it when you have a few minutes.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Debra May 22, 2014 at 9:16 am #

      Yes! It is! Especially for an ADHD adult like myself. I can’t do both the verbal responses and the interior prayer at the same time. I just can’t. Now if you were finding yourself in a major dry spell and couldn’t muster it, I can see how the external responses might help keep one grounded, or that not fully understanding the Mass could pose a problem. But I really get more out of the quiet, and while making the responses in the Latin Mass is perfectly acceptable, it’s also acceptable to just let the servers do so on your behalf and let yourself just be absorbed into that prayer in silence.

      There are other things in play, too–such as the yoga pants and shorts quotient at the Novus Ordo. We are also raising three kids, the youngest being just 5 now. How exactly do you teach a five year old proper reverence and decorum at Mass when the adult around him display almost none?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marc May 22, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

        You must be a sanguine 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Debra May 22, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

        If you are referring the this thing. Found here regarding four basic personality types: “Sanguine people are boisterous, bubbly, chatty, openly emotional, social extroverts.”

        No. Not at all. I am generally introverted and reserved.

        If you mean cheerful, optimistic, and hopeful (as per the dictionary definition), I would have to ask how can you trust God and not be?

        Liked by 1 person

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