50 Years in the Vernacular

Last weekend, at the Roman church of Ognissanti (All Saints – the titular church of German theologian Cardinal Walter Kasper), Pope Francis commemorated the 50th anniversary of the first time a pope celebrated Mass in the vernacular language (in this case, Italian). The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, while still encouraging the use of Latin as the official language of the Church’s liturgy, permitted the celebration of Mass in local languages. This was to encourage a clearer understanding of the mystery of the Mass as well as to also build up greater participation among the lay faithful.

Pope Paul VI, 50 years ago, at the Mass in Ognissanti declared: “Across the world this date marks the first time a new way of praying, of celebrating Holy Mass has been inaugurated.”

It is important for us to recall that, in the U.S., we were already celebrating Mass in English a few months early, beginning in November, 1964 and that, even though the Mass was in English, a great part of the Mass that was celebrated then still was in Latin. This Mass was a “transitional Mass” used for a few years between the Tridentine Rite Mass (now known as the Extraordinary Form) and our current Mass, in 1969 (which now know as the Ordinary Form).

Many, many graces have come from the celebration of Mass in the language of the people. Just look to our Diocese, with churches in Brooklyn and Queens offering Mass and the other sacraments in English, Spanish, Polish, Creole, Italian, Chinese and the list goes on and on! And for those who enjoy the celebration of the Mass and other sacraments in Latin, we offer that, as well!

Thank God for the gift of the Mass in the vernacular. For a half century, we have had the joy of understanding the words of Eucharistic institution as they are spoken, of hearing the readings in our own language and of being able to more actively participate in the sacred liturgy.

One thought on “50 Years in the Vernacular

  1. The grace of increased attendance is not one of them, however. Nor is the balkanization of the now-ethnic parish churches.