The Use of Latin in the Roman Catholic Church

Posted: September 6, 2009 by piusranson in Uncategorized

Whether or not you’re an advocate of the use of Latin in the Catholic Church, do read the following excerpts from the different documents of the Catholic Church.

On the Importance of Singing (Take note of Section 41 of the GIRM)

In the General Instructions of the Roman Missal (GIRM), Section 39 to 41 states this:

39. The Christian faithful who gather together as one to await the Lord’s coming are instructed by the Apostle Paul to sing together psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (cf. Col 3:16). Singing is the sign of the heart’s joy (cf. Acts 2:46). Thus Saint Augustine says rightly, “Singing is for one who loves.”48 There is also the ancient proverb: “One who sings well prays twice.”

40. Great importance should therefore be attached to the use of singing in the celebration of the Mass, with due consideration for the culture of the people and abilities of each liturgical assembly. Although it is not always necessary (e.g., in weekday Masses) to sing all the texts that are of themselves meant to be sung, every care should be taken that singing by the ministers and the people is not absent in celebrations that occur on Sundays and on holy days of obligation.

In the choosing of the parts actually to be sung, however, preference should be given to those that are of greater importance and especially to those to be sung by the priest or the deacon or the lector, with the people responding, or by the priest and people together.49

41. All other things being equal, Gregorian chant holds pride of place because it is proper to the Roman Liturgy. Other types of sacred music, in particular polyphony, are in no way excluded, provided that they correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action and that they foster the participation of all the faithful.50

Since faithful from different countries come together ever more frequently, it is fitting that they know how to sing together at least some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, set to the simpler melodies.51

Source: http://www.usccb.org/liturgy/current/revmissalisromanien.shtml

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On the Nature of Latin and the Preservation of Latin by the Holy See

In the Apostolic Constitution of Pope John XXIII, Veterum Sepentia, on the Promotion of the study of Latin, it states:

The nature of Latin

Of its very nature Latin is most suitable for promoting every form of culture among peoples. It gives rise to no jealousies. It does not favor any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all and is equally acceptable to all.

Nor must we overlook the characteristic nobility of Latin for mal structure. Its “concise, varied and harmonious style, full of majesty and dignity”4 makes for singular clarity and impressiveness of expression.

Preservation of Latin by the Holy See

For these reasons the Apostolic See has always been at pains to preserve Latin, deeming it worthy of being used in the exercise of her teaching authority “as the splendid vesture of her heavenly doctrine and sacred laws.”5 She further requires her sacred ministers to use it, for by so doing they are the better able, wherever they may be, to acquaint themselves with the mind of the Holy See on any matter, and communicate the more easily with Rome and with one another.

Thus the “knowledge and use of this language,” so intimately bound up with the Church’s life, “is important not so much on cultural or literary grounds, as for religious reasons.” These are the words of Our Predecessor Pius XI, who conducted a scientific inquiry into this whole subject, and indicated three qualities of the Latin language which harmonize to a remarkable degree with the Church’s nature. “For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure to the end of time … of its very nature requires a language which is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular.”

Source: http://www.adoremus.org/VeterumSapientia.html

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On the Rites and Ceremonies of the Eucharistic Celebration. (Notice the Primary Language Emphasized)

The 1987 Code of Canon Law, Canon 928 states:

Can. 928 The eucharistic celebration is to be carried out in the Latin language or in another language provided that the liturgical texts have been legitimately approved.

Source: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P3A.HTM

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On the Preservation of Latin

In the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy promulgated by Pope Paul VI, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Paragraph 36 and 54 states:

36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and “the common prayer,” but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to tho norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.

Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.

And wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Art. 40 of this Constitution is to be observed.

Source: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html

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On the Latin Language in Servant of God John Paul II’s own words

In the Letter, Dominicae Coenae, of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II on the Mystery and Worship of the Eucharist, Article 10 states:

Article 10: [Latin] which in all the world was an expression of the unity of the Church and through its dignified character elicited a profound sense of the Eucharistic Mystery.

Article 10: The Roman Church has special obligations towards Latin, the splendid language of ancient Rome, and she must manifest them whenever the occasion presents itself.

Source: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_24021980_dominicae-cenae_en.html

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