Who's Afraid of the Latin Mass?

There are at least nine rites in the western Catholic church, which define the order and conduct of mass. Some of these rites are best in vernacular languages, some in Latin. Latin is the language of the Roman Catholic church.

In England and Wales, there has been extraordinary resistance to the idea that some masses could be conducted in Latin, according to common or older rites. This also seems to have spilled into resistance to the use of the most common modern rite in Latin as well.

I always thought this somewhat pointless (as, no doubt, do you reader). There is a straightforward, hymn-and-handshake type of a mass which I am used to, which is--what would be the phrase, spoken-choral or Borg, depending on you point of view--and of great comfort. I've found it in churches of great racial and class diversity in London and elsewhere, and it is repeated all over the world. I love some of cheery mixes of traditional and modern hymns and stand-up routines from popular priests that make up that sort of a mass, and the equality and humility of all before the altar and in the procedure.

Yet, if you did want diversity, wouldn't you also allow something as beautiful as the Latin Mass at the Oratory? I've had occasion to be working in Imperial college over the past two weekends, and have taken to going there.

The choir, which uses masses by a series of great classical composers, as far as I can tell, is exceptional, and my Latin muscles, much, much underdeveloped, are getting a workout. The mass is minimally interactive, intellectually and aesthetically stimulating and, frankly, beautiful. This is an effect enhanced by the baroque and renaissance theme of the church, which is, well, just wonderful. I wouldn't do it all the time but I've been enjoying it lately.

So, why all the resistance? The English church hierarchy seems much more interested in enforcing a sort of over-rigid pseudoliberalism that has got it nowhere, and which has seen some offended and others deprived, without actually building numbers. I know that there was a destructive cultural revolution in the sixties and seventies, everywhere; why, though, are its clerical episcopal and administrative grandchildren still so obstructionist when something as beautiful as a Latin mass is on offer?

It's a mystery to me.


Martin: When I am in London I attend Mass at St. Ethledreda's in Holborn. The Mass has Latin chants but it is not the extraordinary form but rather a Latinized Novus Ordo - a hybrid of sorts but very moving. I served the Latin Mass daily as an altar boy for years into high school. There is nothing more beautiful or solemn in this world then a Solemn High Mass with a full choir singing a Mass of a great composer. It is as close to being in heaven while on earth. That being said, on Sunday to Sunday basis I prefer a a reverent said vernacular Mass. Latin low masses leave much to be desired and for the non-Catholic or recent convert it can be a turnoff. But in reference to your post, what is the hierarchy afraid of......more people in church? Patrick

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