Participating in the Mass - Part 4

by Father Sean Danda on January 31, 2021

Recap.  The Mass is written in Latin which is the mother tongue of our Roman Catholic Church.  Our diversity seeks unity whenever we gather as a church, and using Latin aides this attempt at finding unity amongst the great diversity we experience. 

St. Malachy has grown in diversity of peoples coming from different cultures and languages like Polish, Latvian, Russian, Tagalog, Vietnamese, French, and Spanish just to name a few.  It is a great blessing to have so much diversity here, but it is also a call to find unity especially when we worship God at Mass.

“Universal” Principle.  The Catholic Church has been reflecting upon the globalization of the world—the expansion of peoples around the world and the increase of local diversity—over the past several decades.  The principles put forward on this topic by the 2007 Synod of bishops on the Eucharist (compiled in the Apostolic Exhortation Sacrosanctum Concilium) conforms to the outlooks of the Second Vatican Council which both propose that Latin is to be preserved and used in the Latin Rite Mass. 

This doesn’t mean that the Mass should be prayed entirely in Latin nor every time; however, it does mean that “the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 62).  This is already happening in seminary formation programs around the world as the next generation of priests is being taught the Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and multiple Marian hymns in Latin.

Expanding Horizons.  When I was a child staring at the broccoli on my plate, my parents used to say to me:  “Why don’t you just try it.  You might even like it.”  Over time, I did try it and found broccoli to be a very nutritious part of a balanced diet. 

That has been the goal of introducing some simple Latin Mass parts during Advent and Lent here at St. Malachy.  Just like learning to eat broccoli was an acquired taste for me as a child, learning prayers in a new language can have a similar effect.  It takes time, sometimes years, to appreciate what it can add.

At St. Malachy School, we teach the children the Agnus Dei and Sanctus along with a few other Latin hymns each year.  We have them sing them at School Masses and Benediction services.  This certainly broadens their horizons by learning a new language and the origins of the prayers we say at Mass. 

During Advent and Lent over the past few years, we’ve sung the Agnus Dei and Sanctus in Latin too.  It has been a seasonal effort to expand our horizons as a parish community.  I truly believe integrating this universal or “catholic” principle in our worship at special occasions will help us worship better in the long run.

Where do we go from here?  God only knows.  We’re NOT going to do Latin all the time, but once in a while, we will use Latin to remember where we come from and how diverse we really are. 

We will continue to seek out other principles that offer us an authentic participation, that is, one that involves “a greater awareness of the mystery being celebrated and its relationship to daily life” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 52). 

We will keep developing a deeper sense of reverence for God in our worship which Vatican II said that Gregorian chant is “specially suited” for in the Mass.  Of course, some use of languages we’re not as familiar with like Latin can also help us to stop and think about what we’re saying and doing, pulling us into the mystery of the Mass, which can never be fully grasped.

Conclusion.  In the end, having a better appreciation for any of these things is something we seek.  It is not the end-all or be-all, but an opportunity if we let it be. 

I hope these articles have helped open you to that in some way, maybe drawing you into a new perspective on our community, worship, and the Mass in general.  We are truly blessed.  Let us always dive deeper and deeper into the mystery of our salvation.

In Jesus, through Mary,

Father Danda



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