How Does Vernacular Help Understanding?
  • Latin is a tough sell now that we've lived with an all-vernacular liturgy for several decades. However, the Vatican II generation is passing (like all generations at some point), and those replacing them did not grow up within the reforms. Instead, since they are told about the reforms mainly by the previous generation, which "knows" them through experience, the new generation has to read the original documents. Only then, with horror, perhaps, do they discover the chasm between Vatican II and its "Spirit." Take carpeting, for example. I am sure the Spirit of Vatican II says it makes church more comfortable and welcoming, but, as CCWatershed recently pointed out, it destroys active participation in regard to congregational singing. Our discussion of Latin is a prime example. Vatican II says Gregorian chant has primacy of place, and that Latin should remain in place, and yet the abandonment of Latin renders the retention of chant impossible. The Spirit of Vatican II tried to kill its own soul. (I tried to avoid hyperbole, but, oh, well...)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,964
    Our discussion of Latin is a prime example. Vatican II says Gregorian chant has primacy of place, and that Latin should remain in place, and yet the abandonment of Latin renders the retention of chant impossible. The Spirit of Vatican II tried to kill its own soul. (I tried to avoid hyperbole, but, oh, well...)


    I think a big part of the problem is seminary formation. There was a time when priests were taught Latin, along with singing chant, and just music in general. Many priests are ignorant of the above. The people are largely sheep and aside from the noisy few, will follow whatever the priest is doing.
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,719
    "Only then, with horror, perhaps, do they discover the chasm between Vatican II and its "Spirit." "

    Keep that "perhaps" in mind. You might be horrified by how many young people are not horrified.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • I do wonder what the real numbers are. We find company in like-minded contemporaries, but seeing a Totus Tuus team at my parish this week, they speak in very different language (Christ-centered, to be sure), and LifeTeen, also devout, has a decidedly different liturgical take. How many are like us?

    I also wonder how many read Vatican II? They may not show horror because they don't know what it says. I watched an NPM plenum video (only part of it in a spare moment, that is), and it took as its basis Sing to the Lord. While this is an official document of the Bishops, I think one cannot reduce knowledge of its source documents to those passages that it cites, and I fear that is too often the case.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,437
    I think a big part of the problem is seminary formation. There was a time when priests were taught Latin, along with singing chant, and just music in general.


    Yes, but, fortunately, some seminarians are still being taught Latin and chant. An impressive demonstration is this group of seminarians on pilgrimage in Italy who filled a small mountain chapel and sang Vespers in the traditional rite:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srz62Gj5h_s

    Of course, this is the exception rather than the rule, but it is reassuring to know that somewhere in some corner of the world our ancient liturgical customs and traditional faith are being handed down to a new generation of priests which was the mission of a certain courageous and zealous French missionary archbishop.

    Now it goes without saying that I favor this being done in an approved setting by an order with full ecclesiastical approval. Nevertheless I think we can all agree that most, if not all of the approved traditional orders either spring from or drew much of their inspiration from the work of the French missionary archbishop in question.

    It can be said in a real way that most if not all of the good news in the Church in regards to the preservation of the previous tradition is inspired to a very large degree by that noble French prelate.

    Let us not forget that Pope Benedict XVI (and most recently, Cardinal Sarah) made clear that Sacrosanctum Concilium is "the magna carta" of all liturgical celebrations. As Josef Cardinal Ratzinger said in his magnificent speech to the Ecclesia Dei pilgrims in Rome in 1998, the "essential criteria" of the Constitution on the Liturgy need to be followed by all, among which are ad orientem celebrations of the liturgy as well as the mandate that the faithful "say or sing in Latin those parts" that pertain to them. It also states in SC that parish celebrations of Sunday Vespers should be revived.

    So, while certainly not a member of the Society represented in this video, I cannot fail to point out that they are in the forefront of the effort to carry out what was called for in SC and re-emphasized by Cardinals Ratzinger and Sarah.

    It's the irony of ironies that circumstances have us looking to this particular order for a practical model of implementing Vatican II's call for the renewal of the liturgy.

    In fact, I'm going to tiptoe out on a limb to say I believe that the founders of the original Liturgical Movement would have strongly endorsed what is shown in this video.

  • Liam
    Posts: 3,719
    "I also wonder how many read Vatican II? They may not show horror because they don't know what it says. "

    Or it may not matter when they do. Sacrosanctam Concilium said a lot of things, and they would also learn that it didn't limit what the pope could ultimately decide to do. Et cet.
  • mahrt
    Posts: 508
    A beautiful discussion of the style of liturgical Latin developing ideas from Christine Mohrmann is in The Genius of the Roman Rite: Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives on Catholic Liturgy by Uwe Michael Lang. I commented on his article there in an editorial in Sacred Music, c37, 2 (Summer 2010).
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,545
    wonder what the real numbers are. We find company in like-minded contemporaries, but seeing a Totus Tuus team at my parish this week, they speak in very different language (Christ-centered, to be sure), and LifeTeen, also devout, has a decidedly different liturgical take. How many are like us?


    There are a lot of them. When I mingle with friends who are more socially invested in their parishes than my hermit self, I meet a lot of folks who would embrace a more solemn liturgy, if it were an option. They don't know where to turn, who to talk to or who to encourage... And they don't care nearly a much as we do, they have other things to worry about. BUT they get excitable if the topic comes up. "Oh I wish we did THAT at St Apathy! How do we do that? Why don't we do that? Wait, what? Why did it never happen before?"

    The comments about education and engaging the PIP's are spot on. The CMAA's work is desired by many. Most don't even know it's an option.
    Thanked by 1SarahJ
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 751
    This is not a universal argument, but let me take a shot on why I prefer the mass in Latin.

    Fundamentally, it reminds me that the mass is not a lecture or seminar or bible study but an action - an action not (primarily) of the community present in the church, but of Christ as head of the Church. More than this, it is an action that I enter into, not one that is made by the priest or the people. As such, it is not necessary for me to "understand" every syllable or every word. The understanding necessary for participation is not on the level of rational cognition so much as the heart.

    Looked at from the other way round, having every syllable of every word relayed to me at full volume not only does not lead to full comprehension, but actually inhibits it by forcing me work almost exclusively on the rational, cognitive level. There's usually no where to escape from the priest's voice!

    Having everything in the vernacular gives the impression that the mass is comprehensible since everything is so explicit, so "out loud" - there's little room left for subtlety, mystery, and, dare I say, contemplation. Is this the way people in love communicate with one another?

    A similar argument could be made for the silent canon. After going to mass a few dozen times, most people can "get" what's going on in the eucharistic prayer without it having every word be broadcast to them over and over.

    I think it's true to say that the modern Roman rite is the only one in history that consists of one hour of one person talking almost non-stop, and in the vernacular. Has anyone else worshipped in this way in history, or did we finally discover the ideal way to worship God? Is it now the only way?
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    My experience (which is limited) of Latin Mass is quite the opposite of the "I don't have to understand everything" anecdote mentioned above.

    When I have attended Mass in Latin, or partly in Latin, I generally spend the entire time either mentally translating (when I already know the text) or trying very hard to remember enough Latin (when I don't know it already) or follow along in the program (if the translation is given).

    My experience of Latin Mass has been ALL ABOUT THE WORDS.

    Of course -- that's just me.

    I find Prayerbook English (Cranmer, King James, Coverdale) to more effectively move me past the language issue --- it requires a single mental shift in register, rather than an ongoing process of running translation. I can understand it, but it is beyond my immediate experience. (

    I have a similar experience with Shakespeare, BTW -- somewhere around the middle of the first or second scene my brain shifts and I'm in a different world - no longer trying to translate the goings on)

    I suspect that this experience is closer to the experience of vulgar-Latin speakers in the original liturgical Latin context. It isn't foreign, just elevated.

    Again - that's just me.
  • But, living with Latin every week would allow for that immediate shift, rather than an over-focus on translating.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    Possibly.
  • MarkThompson
    Posts: 768
    The Cathedrals in Lyon and Avila used their respective vernacular tongues, and made it virtually impossible to participate in prayers at each mass,


    Why don't you just learn French and Spanish, then? They're not that hard.
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • MarkThompson
    Posts: 768
    I suspect that this experience is closer to the experience of vulgar-Latin speakers in the original liturgical Latin context. It isn't foreign, just elevated.


    Yes, this is right. When we say the Mass was in the vernacular for Latin speakers, we mean it in the same sense that, say, a presidental proclamation or a speech by William Jennings Bryan is in the vernacular for English speakers. Obviously you don't talk that way around the dinner table, but we do not say that they are in a "special language." Then again, neither did William Jennings Bryan; and Cicero did not sound like In Catilinam when he was flirting with Terentia or scolding Tullia. Incidentally, anyone who is familiar with Ciceronian Latin and then reads the text of the Mass will know what we mean when we say that the Mass is in vulgar, not classical, Latin: the difference is about equivalent to the difference in English between one of Addison's essays in the Spectator and a well-written piece in The Economist today. Maybe greater.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • Would it be fair to say that 'liturgical Latin' might be likened unto a 'Cranmerian Latin'?
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,719
    Differences in rhetorical structure. Folks with lots of otium can devote more effort to building complext rhetorical figures and counterpoint. The ear can tire as quickly of that as it can of overly simple rhetorical structures.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,735
    Adam, I hope you'll get to the point where you're not mentally translating the Latin text, but simply singing it with intent as an utterance which happens to be in Latin.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    When I'm singing something I know well (the Ordinary, the Marian antiphons, a few hymns like Pange Lingua) - yes, I can.

    Mostly the translating thing is when other people are saying or singing things.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,593
    I remember my first time attending the Tridentine Mass.. I didn't like it and thought I would never go back. It seemed unnecessarily confusing and whatnot.

    Then by Tuesday I was wishing there was a daily TLM in my area.

    By Thursday I began getting irritated that Sunday wasn't here yet.

    2pm on Sunday afternoon became my favorite time of the week.

    When I became the music director it was even better.

    Then I decided I wanted to... you know... have money to live and eat and have peace of mind...

    So I moved to another country and worked in various places with varying levels of having beauty as part of my Sunday. None compared to the 2pm TLM until I ended up at a very ROTR sort of place. Here, even only with the OF celebrated in English with plenty of Latin music, I've found the solace and beauty that I used to find at 2pm on Sunday afternoons.
  • johnmann
    Posts: 175
    This is not a universal argument, but let me take a shot on why I prefer the mass in Latin German....

    All the same reasons. I'm not being facetious. I occasionally attend German Mass for those reasons. If I knew German, those reasons would not hold. Ditto Latin.

    But comprehending the words has its benefits too. I wouldn't want Latin or the vernacular exclusively. Vernacular propers, always. Everything else in Latin except for at least one Sunday Mass entirely in the vernacular, not only to appease but also for the benefit of children and catechumens.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,181
    Latin is not a choice or a preference... it's a tradition and lifestye.
  • Chonak's admonition is lucid - it is best to approach other languages, especially our Latin, not as 'foreign', but simply as new vocabulary with a somewhat different syntax. When one sings every word and clause of Latin as purposefullyas if he understood fluently every word and shade of meaning, one begins, slowly but surely, to comprehend.
  • (The same goes for reading Shakespeare or Cranmer or Coverdale.)
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,358
    An aside; Cranmer was content to have the BCP available in Latin for use where Latin was understood, eg Universities. In 1698 when Thomas Wilson was inducted as Bishop of Sodor and Man, the service was conducted in Latin because that was the only fluent language of both the bishop and the archdeacon, a native Manx speaker. (Sodor and Man is a diocese in the province of York in the Church of England, confusingly the diocese only covers the Isle of Man, which is not in England though it is a crown dependency)
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 751
    Point taken, johnmann.

    My reasons also had to do with the way the mass is celebrated, the fact that typically everything is amplified, etc., so it can't be reduced simply to the language. In fact, I'm about 80% there if the mass is sung as much as possible, done ad orientem, with little or no amplification, reagrdless of language. I used to go to a mass in Vietnamese with many of these features and found it an oasis from the non-stop talking at the typical mass in English.
  • A_F_Hawkins,

    Thank you for the charming details about the diocese of Sodor and Man. I can almost imagine Sir Topham Hat having to greet the bishop from the tender of a steam engine.

    Cheers,

    Chris
    Thanked by 1JulieColl
  • My experience of Latin Mass has been ALL ABOUT THE WORDS.


    Why, yes, grasshopper. The Mass has always been about the words. You are growing in knowledge. There are those that think that they MUST have music, not matter how bad it is...but not when it takes away from the words or becomes more important than the words.

    Chant has pride of place not due to some exalted reason, but because the words come first. Always.
    Thanked by 3Adam Wood francis dad29
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,437
    Ahem, Chris. That's Sir Topham Hatt, otherwise known as the Fat Controller. : )

    BEST children's show ever (the original series, that is) and best toy value ever, by the way, for any parents looking for great toys for their kids.

    Our Thomas the Tank Engind wooden railroad collection kept my six kiddies happy and busy for years, and my 13 year old daughter still makes elaborate layouts. Being the last of six she inherited the whole lot and has almost 90 engines and cars, many of them from Ebay. My 22 year old son has created amazingly authentic remakes of most of the music from the original TV series so Thomas the Tank Engine is still keeping my kids entertained two decades later!

    I loved them from the beginning since they were made of wood and didn't use batteries, and the original stories always brought home a good moral lesson, written as they were by an Anglican clergyman. I still read the Rev. Awdry's book to any of my kids who will still listen. (Please excuse the advertisement, but I'm a huge Thomas the Tank Engine fan!)
  • CGM
    Posts: 438
    I think the Latin-vs.-vernacular question is a very important one, and I see merit in many of the (serious) responses given here, even as they diverge.

    One important element is the musical tradition that has developed in most of the Catholic Church in the last 50 years: the Ordinary in the vernacular, and the replacement of Propers with hymns. While these aren't my preferences (and I've had the good fortune to work at parishes that generously allowed Latin in the NO Mass), sometimes I think that too much Latin, or Latin implemented too fast in a place that hasn't had any for decades, may turn people away. Two quick instances:

    1. I used to work as the music minister at an Ivy League campus ministry. I had a handful of students approach me over the years, and ask sincerely, "Why can't we do traditional Church music? You know, like 'Eagle's Wings'?" For how many millions of American Catholics does "Eagle's Wings" and its ilk constitute "traditional" church music, and just how far an off-putting leap is it from Joncas to Palestrina?

    2. I recently interviewed for a music position in a wealthy suburban midwestern parish with quite a good volunteer choir of three dozen voices. My experience is with chant, propers, and motets, as I understand the liturgy to be constructed, and for which I advocated in my interview; the pastor prefers hymns and hymn arrangements. "Your musical preferences don't match ours," he said, in what is a true statement but one which suggests very little interest in the history or traditions of the liturgy: Latin, musical, or otherwise.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    I think the most important reason to retain Latin is that language carries culture.

    Every immigrant group has realized this, and every native tribe after colonization --- when the children stop learning the old language, they abandon the old culture. When hegemonic political regimes want to control and subdue a culture, they forcibly remove the language --- think of Ireland, Native Americans, Native Australians, and Cantonese speakers in China.

    Deaf people have a culture because of ASL which is not at all analogous to a shared culture among blind people.

    Latin is the language of Catholic culture. If we lose it, we lose who we are as a people. Or perhaps we already have.
  • Julie,

    Please excuse the typographical anomaly.

    BEST children's show ever (the original series, that is)


    I grew up on the original books, which were index-card-sized. My boys have had access to these at my parents' house. In fairness, I think the books were much better than the television programme.

    In any event, since I'm responsible for this sidebar, may I try to come back to the original topic? Here goes:

    In the event of multi-lingual geographical areas, how does one make the decision about whose vernacular to use, without creating dissent in the parish?

    God bless,

    Chris
    0

    Thanked by 1MatthewRoth
  • ChoirpartsChoirparts
    Posts: 143
    Worry Not...... Latin is alive and well ....
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    When I have attended Mass in Latin, or partly in Latin, I generally spend the entire time either mentally translating (when I already know the text) or trying very hard to remember enough Latin (when I don't know it already) or follow along in the program (if the translation is given).

    My experience of Latin Mass has been ALL ABOUT THE WORDS.


    I felt the same way for quite a while with the EF. Then I got comfortable with it and I learned to just pray, instead of focusing on every single word. I barely even look at my missal now, beyond the readings.
  • Chris -
    Well, since I am congenitally indisposed to tolerate more than one language at any given liturgy, they could -
    1. Alternate Sundays (and solemnities)
    2. Alternate months.
    3. Alternate years.
    4. Alternate, um, with the lectionary every three years.
    5. (The obvious choice) use Latin at all celebrations (for the readings, too!).

    (Oh, and that must have been some steam engine in 1698!)
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    This tennis match is tiresome.
    The shibboleth of using "OEW" as a vernacular whipping colt is irrelevant to the discussion. The shibboleth of "Latin Propers" being rendered at pre-conciliar St. Normal's parishes is as faulted a presumption as condemning OEW by guilt through association. Everyone of us here presumably has some measure of defining contemporary practice in sacred music used for worship, so choose wisely. If you program Propers or Opt.4's in English (or another vernacular) and then choose to reinforce those with an obvious, beautiful resonant Latin motet, then have at it. This MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY will never, ever catch on in worldwide RCCatholicism. If you dream otherwise, all good graces and providence I pray come your way.
  • Your point is well taken, Charles -
    However, I myself would think it a (far?) better thing to be insulted with what was supposed to be Gregorian chant crooned by some singer, or murdered by some 'schola', and to be assaulted with the most awful warmed over Palestrina-styled choral efforts in those non-Edenic pre-conciliar times than to cringe and squirm in my pew whilst being (cheerily, yet!) intellectually and emotionally raped by oew and its likes. With the former there was, at least, a goodly paradigm, though a rather butchered one. With the latter there is not even a semblance of The Church's paradigm; quite the opposite: the willful and boorish repudiation of it. (Actually, I'm fortunate to be able to say that I have heard oew only once, but I know well of it and its ilk, to which poor, costlily redeemed humans have been beastlily subjected - a trashing of souls, intellects, and emotions to which they have become inured. .........And if anybody's 'my way or the highway', it's the champions of this cultural poison.)
  • the most important reason to retain Latin is that language carries culture.


    And culture carries language! In this case, as Dr. Mahrt points out, Latin is carried by centuries of culture. OEW is at least scriptural, if schlocky (as was much pre-conciliar Latin music, I might add). It's the abandonment of Latin and thus the music that grew up with the liturgy that is so frustrating. Efforts to translate into the vernacular that body of music are valiant, and increasingly more successful, but there is no good reason, though obvious and understandable resistance, to the implementation of Latin music at church.

    Still, the Church envisions at least partial Latin in an entirely spoken Mass.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,701
    one which suggests very little interest in the history or traditions of the liturgy: Latin, musical, or otherwise.


    You said a mouthful. Can't imagine what G K Chesterton would say about these people, but it would not be kind.
    Thanked by 1francis
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,719
    "Can't imagine what G K Chesterton would say about these people, but it would not be kind."

    Not that they'd particularly care.
    Thanked by 1dad29
  • Scott_WScott_W
    Posts: 453
    I'm surprised no one picked up on Viola's description of attending a Mass in German and unintentionally blowing the lid off:

    the priest's chatty remarks, appreciated by all the congregation also passed me by


    I'll bet I'm not the only one whose first reaction is, "probably a good thing". And there it is; one way is conducive to trivializing chattiness and the other isn't.
  • johnmann
    Posts: 175
    1 Corinthios 14:19:
    sed in ecclesia volo quinque verba sensu meo loqui, ut et alios instruam, quam decem milia verborum in lingua.

    In case you weren't able to comprehend:
    but in the church I would rather speak five words with my mind, so as to instruct others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,358

    13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray to be able to interpret.
    14 (For) if I pray in a tongue, my spirit is at prayer but my mind is unproductive.
    15 So what is to be done? I will pray with the spirit, but I will also pray with the mind. I will sing praise with the spirit, but I will also sing praise with the mind.
    16 Otherwise, if you pronounce a blessing (with) the spirit, how shall one who holds the place of the uninstructed say the "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?
    17 For you may be giving thanks very well, but the other is not built up.

    (1Co 14:13-18 NAB)

    I can imagine Cranmer using this to justify his demand for "language understanded of the people", and others using Cranmer's choice of words to argue for a fixed (dead?) sacral language.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,181
    in lege scriptum est quoniam in aliis linguis et labiis aliis loquar populo huic et nec sic exaudient me dicit Dominus

    1Cor 14:21

    In the law it is written: In other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people: and neither so will they hear me, saith the Lord.
  • Don't the Pentecost propers illustrate that the preaching of the Gospel can be in all manner of languages; on the other hand, other evidence tells us that the Last Supper would have been prayed in Hebrew, not Aramaic.
  • johnmann
    Posts: 175
    other evidence tells us that the Last Supper would have been prayed in Hebrew, not Aramaic

    What evidence? Though I'm not sure it matters. He spoke in a language understood by all. If everyone knew Latin, we wouldn't be having this debate.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,108
    Aramaic would have been the language of ordinary discourse, but wouldn't Hebrew would been the language of the liturgical prayers at the Last Supper? Then again, maybe Jesus was a Novus Ordo kind of guy.
    Thanked by 1dad29
  • johnmann
    Posts: 175
    My uninformed guess would be that he "gave thanks" in Hebrew but that the words of consecration were in common Aramaic. Then it was translated into common Greek. Then into Latin for the benefit of the non-Greek West. So for the first few hundred years, comprehension was important. That Tradition of comprehension was then lost until Vatican II.

    Of course, one could argue that the Church developed something better than comprehension.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • John,

    Which three languages were nailed to the cross? I don't think there's any reason why the words of consecration should have been in Aramaic, because it wasn't the language of the worship of the Jews.

    Comprehension wasn't, for that reason, less important or unimportant. Only in our current circumstances do we think that most of the rest of the world is monolinguistic.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,303
    Which three languages were nailed to the cross?


    Most (all?) of the words in the Gospels that are said to be "Hebrew" are actually Aramaic words. And the three vernaculars of the time in that area were Aramaic, Latin, and Greek. You may draw your own conclusions about what that might suggest about the languages on the roodsign.

    I don't think there's any reason why the words of consecration should have been in Aramaic


    Because that is the language that they spoke.

    because it wasn't the language of the worship of the Jews.


    The words of institution are not a part of the Jewish worship tradition. They are something wholly new.


    -----

    Both comprehension and tradition are important.

    The sane, sensible thing to do, which seems to have been supported by most of the pre-conciliar thinkers, and by the council documents, would have been a retention of most Latin, along with a renewed effort to educate both clergy and lay people in Latin, and also some use of the vernacular - especially in mission lands.

    Unfortunately the post-Conciliar era has not been notable for its sanity or sensibility.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • johnmann
    Posts: 175
    Which three languages were nailed to the cross?

    Relevant to the liturgy because? I'm not arguing that INRI should be changed to JNKJ.

    I don't think there's any reason why the words of consecration should have been in Aramaic, because it wasn't the language of the worship of the Jews.

    Because he wasn't worshiping at that point. He was speaking directly to his disciples.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar