Thursday, March 3, 2011

Latin. And Why You Should Learn It.

The world's major religions have their sacred languages -- Judaism with its Hebrew, Islam with Arabic, Hinduism with Sanskrit. Christianity is no different, and benefits from a sacred language's ability to unify all in the common liturgy as Christ desired that we be as one. Another benefit is that Latin, aside from at Vatican City, is considered a "dead language" whose words can't change meaning over time (though actually it's not a "dead language," strictly speaking; new words are added to keep up with technology and it is the official language of a country). But that it is not commonly used in a profane way is an exceedingly important fact in light of the problems of politicized language and the absolute importance of Truth.

Latin is, contrary to popular belief, still the language of the Church, and the documents of Vatican II require it to be retained for the Mass (Gregorian Chant, too, is to be not only retained, but given "pride of place"! See Vatican II's document, "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy"; "Instruction on the Liturgy," Congregation of Rites, 16 October 1964; "Instruction on Music in the Sacred Liturgy," Sacred Congregation of Rites, 5 March 1967; "Iubilate Deo," Preface, Pope Paul VI, 14 April 1974; "General Instruction on the Roman Missal," Roman Missal, 1975, 3rd ed.; and "Fidelity to Doctrinal Foundations Must Guide All Liturgical Renewal," Address to US Bishops, 9 October 1998).

Sadly, we've lost much since the "reformers" with their "spirit of Vatican II" have tried to strip away our common language and cultural heritage. It used to be that a Catholic could go to Mass anywhere in the world -- China, India, Italy, Mexico, Australia -- and experience the same Mass in the same way. The American could look at the Chinese man in the pew next to him and know that both are "on the same page," hearing the Latin but each understanding in his own language. They might not be able to speak to each other after Mass, but both of them, during the liturgy, were participating in the same supernatural Sacrifice, praying with the angels in the same language and in a manner thousands of years old. If needed, each could have his Missal, the former his "Latin-English Missal," the latter his "Latin-Chinese Missal," and follow along. Now, in the Novus Ordo liturgy with its predominant abuses of Vatican II documents, the American and Chinese man would each have to have buy a different Missal for every parish he visited which had a different language than his own.

And consider a world where our priests are no longer trained solidly in the Latin language! Some will become Bishops and Cardinals. Some will have to meet in huge Councils with Bishops from other countries. Some will have to meet in Conclaves to elect the next Pope. How will the Bishops and Cardinals from Pakistan, the Netherlands, Malaysia, and Lichtenstein be able to even communicate to do the Church's business without a common language?

No, Pope Pius IX had it right when he said in Officiorum Omnium:

For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure until the end of time... of its very nature requires a language which is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular.

And so was Pope Pius XII, when he wrote in Mediator Dei:

The use of the Latin language prevailing in a great part of the Church affords at once an imposing sign of unity and an effective safeguard against the corruption of true doctrine.

Since even the documents of Vatican II have been ignored and Latin stripped from our liturgy, since dissidents have won a few generations and have denied us the luxury of growing up with our cultural birthright, we must make a conscious effort to reclaim our unifying heritage and pass it on to our children. Please, expose yourself and your children to Ecclesiastical Latin, to chant, to traditional hymns and Catholic art. Give yourself and your children what was denied to you and what makes life much more beautiful and rich. No layman is expected to make a huge study of Latin Grammar or to be able to carry on conversations in the language, but the ability to recognize a few basic prayers and phrases, to be able to recognize the Latin and chants of those parts of the Mass which never change -- these things are basic to our culture and bring on a flood of mental and emotional associations. Do your soul a favor and attend only the Traditional Latin Mass. Support the ancient liturgy at all times! And, by all means, encourage your children -- especially your sons -- to study Latin in school.

Also, next time you see our Bishop, ask him what he has against Latin.

And Tradition.

And the Old Mass.

And lacey vestments.

And altar boys.

And Gregorian Chant.

And communion on the tongue.

And veiling the chalice.

And, oh you get the point.

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