Sacrosanctum Concilium 54

The council sets guidelines for the use of the vernacular, first for the readings and the prayers of the faithful. Second would be portions of the Mass in which the people say or sing their part.

In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and “the common prayer,” but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.

The Mass ordinary should be known in Latin. By the people. Not just the choir.

Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.

The presumption seems to be that the council bishops don’t expect the people to know them. This would also seem an argument against the use of a choir-only Mass setting. The bishops have the clear expectation that the people should participate vocally, by either speech or song.

And wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Art. 40 of this Constitution is to be observed.

Article 40 refers to more radical cultural or missionary adaptations.

Thoughts, anyone?

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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8 Responses to Sacrosanctum Concilium 54

  1. John Heavrin says:

    “Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.

    “The presumption seems to be that the council bishops don’t expect the people to know them…”

    The far clearer presumption is that this would in fact be done, and that every since Mass would feature the people “saying or singing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”

    So much of the presumed “directives” of this council were zealously observed, costs to the cultural patrimony be damned.

    Why wasn’t this explicit and unambiguous directive honored? Why was it completely ignored?

    Disgraceful.

  2. Todd says:

    Why wasn’t this explicit and unambiguous directive honored? Why was it completely ignored?

    Because the bishops requested more vernacular and the Vatican gave it to them.

  3. John Heavrin says:

    What the Vatican giveth, the Vatican can taketh away.

    Here’s hoping the implementation of the plain language of this directive throughout the universal Church will finally be gotten around to…it will be so beneficial, if not for all, for many.

  4. Liam says:

    The familiarity with the vernacular in the short term helps enable the fulflillment of the long term vision of the Council of the congregation becoming familiar with the Latin. The two are not opposed, pace the camps proclaiming the death of liturgical Latin or liturgical vernacular, as the case may be.

  5. Tony says:

    I agree with Liam. After 40 years or so of the vernacular, the introduction of Latin may make those latin prayers much more meaningful for people (even though most modern missals of the time contained facing pages in English).

    Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.

    Agnus Dei, quo tolis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.

    Now you know what the Latin phrase means, in a meaningful way.

  6. Gavin says:

    As Tony and Liam say, the fact that vernacular has been used for the past 40 years aids the comprehension of Latin. I’ve been to perhaps 2 Masses which used Latin ordinaries and I probably understood them better than if I had grown up in the 1920’s hearing Latin all the time. The question then, is how do we keep that comprehension? If we go back to Latin, then oops now it’s an uncomprehendible blurb in 80 years. What I myself intend to do, this may or may not be in the spirit of V2, is to go back and forth between Latin and English ordinary. Perhaps have 2-3 English settings on hand, 3-4 Chant Masses, and a plain Latin setting or two. Adventurous, but it’s something to perhaps aspire to.

  7. Gavin says:

    Oh, and I’ll disagree with you (the author) on saying that SC54 bans or discourages choral Masses in any way. It only says “steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.”

    “May be able” doesn’t mean that they do. I’m not a canon lawyer or a liturgist, so I’ll stay away from the “choral sanctus” issue. However, to say a congregation is able to do something and that they do the same thing are two different things. There’s a difference between doing Jubilate Deo’s Mass setting at a church where it’s just a progression of syllables for people and doing a Haydn Mass where 75% of the congregation can repeat back 50% or more of the words they just heard. In Latin AND English, at that!

  8. Liam says:

    Hey, don’t forget my suggestion in a previous thread about Adeste Fideles being interpolated in O Come All Ye Faithful for processionals at Christmas.

    Rotating various Latin-Greek ordinaries over weeks (Kyrie one week, Missa de Angelis Gloria the next, Credo III the next, the simple Sanctus the next, any number of simple Agnus Deis the next (or with the Kyrie), for example) can help facilitate familiarity over time without seeming oppressively forced. Don’t measure success by massive participation in the first, second or third instance, but wait at a year to see how the learning and familiarity curve develops. (If your music program takes the summer off, factor regression into that mix.) Prepare the people, but don’t feel the need to overprepares them, and tell them your plan so everyone can be patient about it. This is, after all, their birthright, and not everyone is eager to claim a birthright if it may involve risk or effort. Especially we Americans.

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