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Why the Latin Mass?

What is the Latin Mass?
The Latin Mass is the Mass of the Roman Catholic Church as codified by Pope St. Pius V shortly after the Council of Trent (1545-1563). It is often called the Tridentine Mass in reference to the council. Pope St. Pius V did not issue a new Mass but simply unified the already existing liturgy.


Why is Latin used in the Mass?
The use of Latin in the offering of the Mass dates back to the second century when the fathers of the Church gathered elements formerly in Hebrew and Greek into a common missal.

Even after the use of vernacular Latin died (around the 8th century), the Church continued the use of Latin in the sacrifice of the Mass for the next 1200 years. Some reasons for the decision were:

  1. A common language is source of unity - With the spread of the Church into different cultures using different languages, a common language for the Catholic liturgy provided a common connection between Catholics. This universality allowed any Catholic to walk into any church in any country and assist in the same sacrifice offered in a familiar language. Not only does this provide a geographic connection, but a temporal one as well. One can be assured he is hearing the same prayers and sacramental formulas that touched the ears of thousands of saints throughout the history of the Church.


  2. Latin is a dead language - Far from being a detriment, the use of a language not part of a particular vernacular serves two very important functions. First, because the language is not being used, it is not developing. Unlike English or Spanish, Latin words cannot take on different meanings over time or across different cultures. This ensures the doctrinal truth and accuracy of the liturgical elements. The second advantage is by using an ancient language not commonly heard, the faithful are provided with an enhanced sense of the sacred. Young and old alike know when they're attending a Mass held in Latin, it is not a commonplace experience and is quite accurately, not of this world.

"The use of the Latin language... is a manifest and beautiful sign of unity, as well as an effective antidote for any corruption of doctrinal truth" (Pope Pius XII - Mediator Dei)

Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, has been working to provide for the spiritual needs of Catholics who share such an affiliation to the Traditional Latin Mass. In his encyclical "Ecclesia Dei", he called for the following directives:

"To all those Catholic faithful who feel attached to some previous liturgical and disciplinary forms of the Latin tradition, I wish to manifest my will to facilitate their ecclesial communion by means of the necessary measures to guarantee respect for their rightful aspirations. In this matter I ask support of the Bishops and of all those engaged in the pastoral ministry in the Church.

"By virtue of my Apostolic Authority I Decree ... respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See, for the use of the Roman Missal ... of 1962." (Emphasis added)

Read about what you can do to help support the Latin Mass to our Archdiocese.



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