Monday, March 19, 2007

Latin in typical parish liturgy

As a representative of the gradual effects that the apostolic exhortation can have (even with a less than stellar translation), Saint Florian Parish in Michigan has announced they will begin to increase their use of Latin in the modern Roman rite liturgy, beginning with the Easter Vigil. Kudos to the pastor.

Solely as a springboard to a discussion of this point (and most certainly not as a critique of the pastor, who can only be congratulated for taking immediate action in his parish) I should like to note that there is likely to be a perception out there (and likely fostered in certain "progressive" liturgical schools of thought) that the use of liturgical Latin is somehow only encouraged when there are multiple language groups present at a Mass -- such as international masses.

Aside from the fact that the average modern parish in the Western hemisphere would find this situation as a norm (with many people not being speakers of the native tongue as a first language) I believe it is important to understand the exhortation of the Holy Father in the light of that other "SC" document -- Sacrosanctum Concilium as well as the Popes from the post-conciliar era, who expressly encouraged the general use of Latin in the liturgy, particularly as regards the sung/chanted ordinary of the Mass.

Indeed, this only makes sense. After all, if Latin were excluded from normative parish liturgical life, it would not be terribly familiar to the faithful, thus making it yet still difficult and unfamiliar to use in "international liturgies". The use of Latin in international liturgies as fundamentally proper and right, presupposes that the participants in those liturgies would already be familiar with chanting or saying the "Pater Noster", "Agnus Dei", "Credo" and so on. If they had not experience of this in their typical parish life, this would be as unfamiliar to them as if the Mass were in Polish or Spanish -- at which point, why bother it might be fairly asked?

As such, when we read this encouragement to re-discover Latin in the sacred liturgy, it is quite clear that what it intended is what has always been intended, both by Sacrosanctum Concilium, under the encouragement of Pope Paul VI in Jubilate Deo and which is most certainly an aspect of a hermeneutic of continuity with regard to the liturgy, which is that the use of Latin in the liturgy would also form a common part of the experience of typical parish church liturgies.

Let us be clear then: Latin is not merely for international Masses, like World Youth Day, or at Shrine Churches in places like Fatima or Lourdes; it is also for small town parishes, be it on a Sunday or weekday in the heartland of the United States of America, or France, or Africa. This much is clear not only from a reading of all the pertinent documents that have spoken on this subject since the Council, not only from the perspective of a hermeneutic of continuity with regard our liturgical tradition, but also merely from the perspective of common sense.

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