11 July 2007

Puff asked me to blog on this, so I did

The recent MP has many people in a dither. Some are happy, some not. I have seen many complaints about the return of the TLM and they always include the following two points:

1. The TLM is said in a foreign language.
2. In the TLM, the Mass is said by the priest with his back to the people.

My response:

1. When one travels abroad to another country, one does not (or at least, should not) complain about how many foreigners there are in that other country. One also should not complain that those "foreigners" speak in a foreign tongue. Strictly speaking, the traveler is the foreigner, not the people who live there. And, if one travels abroad a lot, learning the local language is a good thing.

Now, the Church is not a foreign land to Catholics, but its official language is Latin. As members of that Church, we should learn a little of its tongue, or at least recognize that Latin is not a "foreign" language but its own proper tongue.

There are many responses to this: Church should be intelligible, the congregation should know what is going on, Vatican II permitted it, etc. I will say only to the Vatican II objection. The council did permit the use of the vernacular language, but it also strongly recommended the continued use of Latin. The places specified for the use of vernacular language are missionary churches, to help ease the new converts into the faith, until such time that they could be educated in the prayers of the Church in the proper language.

Furthermore, there are practical reasons for using one language at Mass. One can be witnessed in one of the Churches I attend. It offers Masses in English, Italian and Portuguese. Other parishes nearby cover those languages, plus Eritrean. In the jet age, Catholics often find themselves traveling far lands with tongues unknown to them, and a vernacular Mass there would be utterly unintelligible. But the Mass were said in one language, and all parishioners were encouraged and taught in that language, it would help in this regard. We could attend any Mass, anywhere, and join in, saying the proper responses in unison with the person beside us, though we may not be able to speak any others words to each other, we could join together in our praise and worship of God.

That said, I am not against vernacular language as such, nor would I banish it from all Masses. I just want to reiterate my point: Latin is not a foreign language in Mass. Nor should it be.

2. As for the priest saying the Mass with his back to the people: yes, that is one way of looking at it. But you could just as easily say that everyone is facing the same way at the TLM. Or you could say that the priest is facing God, and all his attention is upon God. So is yours. If you can find a flaw with that, let me know.

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