Most people know Mother Angelica (may she rest in peace!) as the spunky nun who founded EWTN. But did you know that she preferred the use of the Latin language for Mass?
Catholic journalist Raymond Arroyo, who wrote a popular biography of Mother Angelica, reports that she thought that “Latin was the perfect language for the Mass.” She explained: “It was almost mystical. It gave you an awareness of heaven, of the awesome humility of God who manifests Himself in the guise of bread and wine. The love that He had for us, His desire to remain with us is simply awesome. You could concentrate on that love, because you weren’t distracted by your own language.”
She also didn’t like how the priest faces the people, rather than the altar. She said this turned the Mass into “something between the people and the priest.” “Too often,” she continued, “it’s just some kind of get-together and Jesus is all but forgotten.”
Here’s the extended quote from Mother Angelica on Latin in the Mass:
“Latin was the perfect language for the Mass. It’s the language of the Church, which allows us to pray a verbal prayer without distraction.
“See, the purpose of the Mass is to pray and to be associated with the crucifixion and with that glorious banquet that we partake of in Holy Communion. He is there. But so much is spoiled in the vernacular.
“During the Latin Mass you had the missal if you wanted to follow it in English. It was almost mystical. It gave you an awareness of heaven, of the awesome humility of God who manifests Himself in the guise of bread and wine. The love that He had for us, His desire to remain with us is simply awesome. You could concentrate on that love, because you weren’t distracted by your own language.
“You could go anywhere in the world and you always knew what was going on. It was contemplative because as the Mass was going on you could close your eyes and visualize what really happened. You could feel it. You could look to the east and realize that God had come and was really present. The way it is today with the priest facing the people, its something between the people and the priest. Too often it’s just some kind of get-together and Jesus is all but forgotten.”
Note that preferring the use of Latin in the Mass does not necessarily mean preferring the Extraordinary Form of the Mass over the Ordinary Form. While the former is always in Latin, the latter can be done in Latin as well (though it is most often done in the vernacular).
In fact, it’s a popular misconception that the Second Vatican Council called for the Mass to be in the vernacular. In truth, while the council’s document on the reform of the liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium said that bishops could decide to make use of the vernacular more than they were, the council also said that generally speaking “the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.” (SC, 36)
Of course, today, both the use of Latin and the vernacular is permitted by the Church.
What do you think of Latin in the Mass? Should it be used more often, or do you prefer the vernacular? Let us know in the comments!
More on Mother Angelica:
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