Question: Why is every Sunday Mass offered in Latin? I don't understand Latin, and have difficulty making the responses. I concentrate on the few words I recognize just to keep up. There's no time to look at the English side to understand what has been said. I would get more out of the Mass, and that the responses would be more audible, if the Mass were spoken in English.
I enjoy coming to the Old Roman Catholic Mass, and come away with the feeling that I truly have been to Mass. Working in West Palm Beach, I attend the 8:30 Mass [Novus Ordo] at St. X's on Holy Days and First Fridays, because it is most convenient for me. Unfortunately, I don't come away with te same feeling that I've truly been to Mass. I hardly recognize the Mass in any of the Catholic churches of today, it's been so "abbreviated" and drastically changed.
D.C. -- Boynton Beach
Answer: The questioner quite correctly points out that there is a world of difference between the Novus Ordo and the traditional Catholic Mass translated into English. Altogether too many less observant people think all that the New Order is nothing more than translation of the Mass -- how wrong they are!
Some traditional Catholics view having to attend Mass in a vernacular language with suspicion -- and fear that more changes will be in the offing, as they were with the Novus Ordo. At Our Lady of the Rosary, most of our people attend Mass expecting to hear it in Latin as it has been offered in the Western Church since about the fourth century. Their right to hear Mass in this way has been reiterated by the Popes and Councils of the Church over those centuries. In good conscience, Father could not ignore this right, nor the time honored traditions of the Latin Church.
However, the Church does recognize a place for the vernacular celebration of Mass as long as the use of the vernacular does not deny the legitimate use of Latin (cf. Trent, Session 22, Ch. 8). For this purpose, Old Roman Catholic priests must use an accurate translation of the traditional Mass. The use of the Novus Ordo, or "New Mass," is prohibited In celebrating the traditional Mass in English, Father observes the following norms:
1. The traditional Latin Mass must be available to those who wish to attend it, at least on Sundays and feast days.
2. The use of two languages must not divide the parish artificially into two sub-parishes, nor leave anyone in fear that Modernist changes are soon to come.
3. The vernacular Mass must be in response to a pastoral need, not a desire for novelty.
In practice, this means that Father would be willing to offer Mass in English for an individual or group requesting it during the week on an occasional basis, particularly for occasions like weddings or funerals where many in attendance may be unfamiliar with Latin. A good portion of the Holy Week and Ember Day Masses are already read in English. Virtually all of the Sacraments and sacramental blessings are administered in the vernacular.
Presently, we have only one Mass on Sundays at Our Lady of the Rosary. If we were required to add a second Mass to the Sunday schedule and it could be prudently demonstrated that having that Mass celebrated in English would not divide the members of the parish, Father would be willing to follow the will of the majority. (The Archbishop, having had personal experience with such division, has expressed skepticism about the prudence of scheduling a vernacular Sunday Mass on a regular basis.)
Sunday Mass is offered in English at St. Peter's in Miami because that congregation is made up entirely of people with a tradition of the vernacular Mass.
While we fully encourage all of our parishioners to become familiar with the text of the Mass in Latin, this may take some time. Those unable to respond in Latin may wish simply to read the English text inaudibly, until they are familiar enough with the Mass to "puzzle-out" the Latin. We have a audio cassette available, with a complete Mass read clearly aloud in English on one side and Latin on the other -- it may be useful in learning the Mass, and is free to parish members on request. Father would be happy to conduct a Latin "clinic" for those who would like some help with the meaning and proper pronunciation of the texts commonly used at Mass -- Anyone interested?