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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

Editor’s note: The commentary “Why we should not attend the traditional Latin Mass” by Deacon James Toner in the Sept. 29 edition of the Catholic News Herald sparked a lot of comments on social media and several letters to the editor. Here is some of what readers had to say:

Read the original commentary.Read the original commentary.

Respect worship in either form

Deacon Toner’s comments are an excellent response toward Catholics who would not consider celebrating the traditional Latin Mass. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops references in an article “The Extraordinary Form of the Mass” stating that St. John Paul II in 1984 granted the ability to restore the celebration of the Latin Mass. In addition, Pope Benedict XVI issued another directive in 2007 which also supported the celebration of the Latin Mass for all those parishioners who request it. His directive exhorted the whole Church to ”generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith allows.” The USCCB’s article concluded in stating, “the Church hopes that the two forms (Extraordinary and Ordinary) of the one Roman Rite may provide a mutual spiritual enrichment for the faithful and promote the Communion of the whole Church as an expression of unity in diversity.” Hopefully, we can respectfully worship in either form and not be influenced to foster a “church within church” conflict over which form of Mass should be offered. There are enough outside influences in the world trying to undermine the Church.

Jim Healy lives in Charlotte.

Mass should be a simple celebration

I respect Deacon Toner’s experience of the Latin Mass. The push for this has become more than obvious to me. My understanding of the Mass is a celebration. At the first Mass, Jesus gathered with His friends for a final meal before His death. It was, as related, a simple meal with no missalettes, no silence, no Gregorian chant, no white gloves and torches – just bread and wine and conversation among friends. He took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them to eat – no ceremony, bells or ritual. He took the cup and gave it to them to drink – a cup, not a gold chalice. They spoke Aramaic, not Latin. How have we wandered so far from the beautiful simplicity of this “celebration”? I pray that those who enjoy celebrating in Latin, or French or Spanish, continue to join in their language of choice. As for me, I hope to celebrate with Jesus in English.

Jane Francisco lives in Charlotte.

Latin Mass should not be the norm

Deacon Toner’s column was very thought provoking. I believe his answers to the questions why we should not attend the traditional Latin Mass were right on the money, if you support the traditional Latin Mass.

I was an altar boy for more than 10 years in the 1950s and early 1960s, before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. I served at Sunday, daily, funeral and wedding Masses – all in Latin. To be honest, even though I knew the memorized lines (“Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam,” “I will go in to the altar of God; to God, the joy of my youth” – part of the prayers at the foot of the altar) how many people in the congregation did? Probably not many. In my opinion, the main change of Vatican II that affects most Catholics was putting the Mass in the vernacular. Sure, we can and should spend time preparing for Mass – in fact, since I am a lector at this evening’s Mass I will do just that (of course, in the Latin Mass I would not have the opportunity to read the word of God in English, or at all).

Many Catholics around the world are simple people who love and worship God based on what they are taught by missionaries, religious, etc., in their native language. Going to Mass in their native language reinforces that. Celebrating Mass in Latin everywhere would make the liturgy more “universal” but I believe it would leave behind those who do not have the opportunity or means to delve into a “foreign” language.

I for one would welcome the opportunity to attend a Latin Mass maybe once a year, but I do not want it to be the norm. While the Latin Mass is “incurably and eternally Catholic,” as Deacon Toner describes, so is Vatican II, thanks be to God.

Anthony Cichetti lives in Mount Holly.

Ignorance of Vatican II

Deacon Toner’s commentary about the traditional Latin Mass demonstrates a complete ignorance of Vatican II or, worse, a full rejection of its teachings. He appears to want to go back to a Church that Pope John XXIII instead wanted to open to the modern world.

H. Manfred Schellpfeffer lives in Charlotte.

Church encourages modernization of liturgy

Deacon Toner’s column serves as an advertisement for the Tridentine Mass, encouraging Catholics to attend.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist was first celebrated in the Greek of the first century, since that was the common language for the Roman Empire. It is also the original language of the New Testament. Along with Aramaic, Greek would have been the language spoken by Jesus and His disciples.
As the empire spread and became more inclusive in terms of nationalities, common Latin gradually became the usual language for Mass in Europe, and certainly the language of the clergy and the Roman hierarchy. The “script” for the Mass, including the canon, has undergone many changes throughout the centuries, in order to make it more meaningful to the faithful. Along the way, some practices were added and some went out of favor, including the posture for worship, musical choices, Eucharistic bread and wine, and so on. In the early Church there were no altars, people didn’t kneel, bells didn’t ring. Christians gathered around tables for a sacred meal.

One could go on about the history of the liturgy, but the important point is that over the centuries, the Church has encouraged the modernization of the liturgy to meet the needs of the times. Pope Pius XII encouraged and oversaw a complete revision of the Holy Week Rites. He also encouraged more variety in the use of Scripture. At the time of Vatican II, common or “vernacular” languages were allowed and encouraged, in order to bring the faithful a more understandable experience. By the mid 1970s all of the sacramental rites were revised for this purpose. Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI encouraged and oversaw these changes.

So what reason, other than nostalgia, is behind the proliferation of dioceses in the United States that not only allow regular celebration in Latin, but encourage it? Surely, they cannot believe that the sacraments are better participated in when the language is obscure. Many say they prefer to worship in a quieter atmosphere, but that is for personal prayer, not for community celebration. Deacon Toner tells us that “effort and experience” will soon make participants comfortable with Latin. The fact is that most clerics and seminarians struggle for some time. It’s easy to memorize words in any language, but understanding takes time.

Observing the religious atmosphere that comes along with this desire to resurrect Latin in the liturgy leads one to acknowledge that motivations like a desire for a more conservative interpretation of doctrine and theology, a feeling for the need for separation of clergy and laity, and a movement away from ecumenism are also driving forces in this movement. Unfortunately, many reactionary forces in the Church have chosen the celebration of the Eucharist as their battleground.

David Galusha lives in Waxhaw.

There is room for all of us

I agree that the traditional Latin Mass should be offered in the Diocese of Charlotte, and I do not understand why both forms of the Mass cannot exist and why the form of the Mass has become a divisive factor among us. We are a Vatican II Church, and Mass in the vernacular is part of that. I have attended many moving ceremonies in languages I do not understand, or understand minimally, but it is not from those that I receive my “daily bread.”

These are some points in Deacon Toner’s commentary that I would like to address:

Quiet ought to be a part of Mass, surely, but complete silence by the congregation throughout the Mass makes spectators of the people, who are the Church.

Other-worldly worship is good. It takes us out of the mundane and into ourselves, where God rests. However, we must be spiritually fed in this world as well.

Rite and ritual are fine. The absence of spontaneity can be comforting.

Gregorian chant is lovely, lending to that “other worldly” atmosphere. However, it is not the only music that praises God, which, to me, is the purpose.

I prefer more Scripture readings. As an adult, I feel I can discern “higher things” just about any place I pick up the Bible. What speaks to me may not speak to another. I am grateful for the additional Scripture in the Mass and that it has been chosen to show the connections between the Old and New Testaments. I do not believe it is a merely a method to “get through the Bible,” but to demonstrate that God has spoken to humanity throughout time.

I think it is plain wrong not to have “extraordinary ministers” and dismiss the roles of the congregation as somehow “less than” that of the clergy.

I, too, am glad we have a Catholic tradition. However, while I am neither a theologian nor a Church historian, I believe the reason St. Jerome translated the Bible was to make the Word of God more accessible to the people. Latin no longer serves that purpose.

I believe the Church is truly “catholic” and there is room for all of us. We can be faithful in both traditions of the Mass. Whether we choose to attend a Mass in Latin should not be an issue to divide us.

Judi Sielaff lives in Charlotte.


Comments from our Facebook audience

Richard B. Reiling: Deacon Toner, while I appreciate your apologetics, I remember days of the Latin Mass where very few were paying attention. I remember older women praying the rosary during the Mass. I believe the current status is so much better and despite that you can get used to the Latin, few really will ever be able to translate it in real time – I still have trouble and I had a seminary background in the ’50s. Occasionally resorting to the Latin Mass is OK but should not become the routine.

Pat Jackson: Sorry Deacon Toner ... with much respect, it’s the wrong question. The bigger question and issue is how do we stop the waves of Catholics leaving the Church? If we think about that challenging question then we realize that nowhere in that debate is “we need more folks to attend the Tridentine Mass” as an answer. Sure they will be folks who will enjoy it and attend and that’s great. Let’s make Masses available for them, but let’s not in any way delude ourselves to thinking is “all we need to get back to our past and everything will be better.”

Justin Evangelisto: Thank you so much for this well-written article! The traditional Latin Mass has had a profound effect on my spiritual growth in the Catholic faith. My first Latin Mass taught me the virtue of humility that I needed. May God bless you!

Brian Williams: A thoughtful article, presented respectfully, and by a man, an ordained deacon, who is extremely familiar with both forms of the Roman Rite. The reasons given by Deacon Toner are exactly what is attracting so many to the traditional Mass despite vast driving distances and (often) less than ideal times.