Mass in Latin post Vatican II
Many thanks for your shared knowledge. Once again I'm impressed (and
awed) with the the collective knowledge and experiences of those on
choralnet. The pasting below represents quite a variety of responses
that I'm slowly digesting. FYI the way we did it in the past. We used
the ordinary in the Latin of the composed Mass with the propers in
English. The Bishop of the diocese was the celebrant.
Here is the first half of your postings.
I remember the late 1960s well when the Bishops returned from Vatican
II with the misconception that vernacular masses were commanded by the
council. The council permitted masses in the vernacular, but these
folk, bless their hearts, were so hung up on the old ways that
"permitted" meant the same as "commanded" to them.
One of the other reforms, the suggestion that congregational singing
should be lead from the front of the church, led to a number of silly
things happening during mass that defied any bit of common sense. You
had cantors standing in front of the congregation, accompanied by an
organ located in a balcony half a block a way, and they just couldn't
figure out why they had such a hard time singing and playing together.
As a result of this same recommendation, there were a number of cases
where a perfectly good pipe organ was ripped from the balcony, taken to
the local landfill and replaced with an electronic substitute in the
Some Catholics are so accustomed to being given orders from above, that
the idea of choices is at best scary to them. You have a few there it
sounds like. You will need to bear with them, and try to explain things
to them, (or better yet, try to get someone with more ecclesiastic
authority such as the Bishop to explain it to them). In your favor is
the fact that the Pope himself has recommended the use of Latin in the
Congratulations on your courage and foresight in singing (not
performing) the great music of the Church in the Latin Mass! It is
something that we of the New York Catholic Chorale have been doing for
some seven years now. We do both "orchestral" Masses and polyphonic
Mass settings in both the Novus Ordo and Tridentine Latin Masses.
If your BISHOP is celebrating this Mass and your chaplain is behind it,
I would just keep on doing what you're doing. There are a great many
misconceptions and a still lively debate about the reforms of Vatican
II and their implementation - particularly on the use of the Latin
Are you acquainted with the work of Msgr. Richard Schuler of St. Agnes
Church in St. Paul. MN? Although retired now as pastor emeritus, they
still do between 25-30 orchestral Masses every year. Their website is:
Here is an interesting link about them:
I hope this helps. You will find immense divergence of opinions on the
"do's and don'ts" of liturgical music on both sides of Vatican II. More
often than not, those who will recite the "jot and title" of rubrics
and solemnly intone liturgical law denigrating traditional Latin
worship will think nothing of tolerating a wheelbarrow full of
liturgical abuses in their English liturgies. Go figure.
Again, congratulations! Please contact us if we can be of any help.
Youre most welcome to visit our own website: www.nycchorale.org The
2005 schedule isn't up yet but you can view our performance history and
find out about the choir.
Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963)
states "the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin
rites" but allows the vernacular to be used in some cases.
Keith, in order to add another Tridentine rite Mass to your schedule,
your best bet is to call the chancery and ask for permission. This is
standard practice worldwide. If your bishop grants permission, the
priest on campus cannot complain. If the bishop says, "no," then your
students can't complain. In either scenario, the decision is not yours
to make, but belongs to your diocesan ordinary.
Dear Keith, my name is Pietro Alviti, I'm public relation man for
Concentus Musicus fabraternus Josquin Des Pres of Ceccano - Italy.
Usually our choir is requested here in Italy to sing in a mass who is
celebrated in latin, without problem. Several times we sang in Vatican,
in Pope's celebration, completely in latin. When we are in tour in
foreign countries and we must sing in a mass, we sing usually in latin,
that is the universal language of Roman Catholic Church. What is the
problem? It's not in the language but in the mass rite: if you
celebrate in latin with the messal of Pope Paul VI, after the Vatican
II, there is no problem. But there are a lot of traditionalists who
contest the legitimate of that messal and want to celebrate according
to the messal of Pio V, of 1570. In the Catholic Church to celebrate
according this messal it needs to ask for a special permission by the
I can only give the recent experience I had helping to organize a choir
tour by Rochester Cathedral (UK) Choir to Rome. This is an Anglican
Cathedral and they sang a total of 5 choral masses in various Roman
Catholic churches around the city. The Mass setting they used was
Vaughan Williams in G Min.
It was so well received that Cardinal Law, who was present at one
service, invited them to sing an additional mass in Santa Maria Majore
- possibly the centre of the traditiona of reverence to the Virgin Mary.
If they allow it in Rome - why not elsewhere.
I applaud you! Not an authority on this matter, I do want to direct you
to a web site for a parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit that regularly
performs/celebrates orchestral and Latin masses. Please visit
On this page you will find a nice discussion about the use of
orchestral music and Latin in the Latin Rite. You may want to consider
contacting the pastor for more information.
As a side note, our choir (Madonna University) had the privilege of
singing the Saturday evening high mass at Notre Dame Cathedral this
past summer. We sang all the ordinaries in Latin. We did not do a
Gloria, but the one lead by the priest was sung in Latin while the rest
of the (unsung) Mass was done in French.
My understanding is that there really isn't a restriction on doing the
Novus Ordo in Latin at anytime. I know I have come across more
information on the web and elsewhere, but I just can't think of where
at the moment. I think you will find that much of what has developed
into "tradition" in the years following Vatican II is actually illicit
and many well-intentioned priests were trained in seminaries that
taught the "spirit of Vatican II" rather than was actually put into the
documents themselves. I pray that you will be able to find the
information you need
Are you talking about doing a complete Tridentine Mass, with all
prayers and music in Latin, or simply using a Latin setting of the
Ordinary at a mass in the modern form?
The complete Tridentine Mass is supposed to be used only with official
permission from the local ordinary (bishop). There are several
locations around the country where it is permitted.
But the use of Latin musical settings at Mass has never been forbidden
in fact, Latin still remains the official language. Since Vatican
II vernacular settings have been allowed and encouraged, and in fact
are normative in most places.
But congregational and/or choral settings of the Greek Kyrie, or the
Latin Gloria, Credo, Sanctus/Benedictus, and Agnus Dei need no special
permission, although often individual clergy will forbid them.
Similarly, Latin motets need no special permission nor, for that
matter, do Spanish, French, German, etc.
The issue of providing adequate means of participation for the
congregation is a related one. The psalm, Gospel acclamation, Sanctus
(Holy), are primary points of congregational participation. But even
there, the key word is "normative." The principle that congregational
participation in certain parts of the Mass is to be the norm does not
rule out an occasional exception. But congregational involvement in
every Mass should be maintained in some form. So the balance you
indicate seems musically, liturgically, and "legalistically"
Some would say that the involvement of the congregation as only a
"listener" in some of the Mass parts is not sufficient. Others would
point to "informed and involved listening" as a legitimate form of
participation. Most Catholics know the form of the Mass well enough to
understand the meaning of the texts of the Ordinary parts of the Mass
by their position in the Mass, regardless of the language in which they
The occasional opportunity of experiencing beautiful music from the
treasury of many centuries of church repertoire is an important, and
largely neglected, function of our music ministries. We have allowed
cultural illiteracy to become the norm in much of the Church, and the
liturgical and spiritual experience of many congregations is
impoverished because of it.
Vatican II has been widely misinterpreted and misunderstood in many
areas, not just in regard to liturgical music. It was not meant to
impoverish or isolate, but to enrich and broaden. If you treat these
opportunities in that context, rather than as performance
opportunities, nothing should stand in your way except ignorance.
Make it clear that you're going to include the congregation whenever
possible - and that means essentially everything sung but the ordinary
- and if translations are printed (tho they know the trans already),
it's really like they're included even in the ordinary.
Plus, if this is an extra service, it's just MORE CHURCH, and the
priests should be happy, and get off their paranoid high horses -
Really, if you talk nice to them, with the points above (not the horse
bit), they oughta come around. But first, get some senior admin.
clergy on your side.
I served at the Cathedral of St. Jude in St. Petersburg Florida for two
years before returning to my previous job up in Cleveland Ohio. Yes, I
have experience with this.
Unfortunately, I have found the clergy for the most part not up on
what the church is calling us to. Hence, they will be a force to
"convert." Cardinal Arinze in his Redemptoris Sacramentum and the new
General Instruction of the Roman Missal have made it clear that chant
is the music of the church and we must return to it.
Furthermore, in my audition in the wonderful place of St.
Petersburg (not really a wonderful position), one of my close friends
was also applying for the job. We were both asked, we have several
Spanish masses during the year, how would you accommodate that. I gave
several examples of 15 and 16th century Spanish music that would be
appropriate. My colleague replied with the correct answer: "Latin is
the music of the church, so I would do everything in Latin."
Unfortunately, I got the job...
Dig your heals in and go for it. There is a resurgence of Latin in
our church and good chant. Please keep me apprised of your success.
Sounds as if you're dealing with a couple of unimaginative
Sorry I don't know much about the exact text of Vatican II, and I am
not a Catholic. Nevertheless I have not in recent years found the
Catholic Church to be absolutely inflexible in regard to its liturgy.
Seems to me that the intent of Vatican II is that the norm is for the
Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular. As an outsider, it is
incomprehensible to me that an occasional deviation from this practice
should be prohibited - especially in an academic setting where there
ought to be some sense of, and concern for, history. The underlying
concern, I think, is that the congregation understand what is being
said and sung. If Mass is sung in English throughout the year, there
should be no question of the congregation's knowing what the words are
and what they mean when from time to time Latin is substituted.
The other piece of it, of course, is the desire for congregational
participation, which both for you and for us Protestants seems to have
become somewhat of a fetish in recent years. I think we have come,
albeit with good intention, to confuse doing something with
participating. I doubt that liturgy was ever intended to prohibit
variation, and it seems to me that occasional use of a different
language encourages greater mental involvement and engagement with the
text than the habitual rote singing of the same old same old week after
week. Couple that with the evangelistic outreach noted by your
chaplain, and the community-building of an annual event, and it appears
that the arguments for St. Andrew's Day Latin far outweigh a slavish
adherence to a perceived rule.
You will, of course, want to check the actual wording of the Vatican II
text, but my understanding is that they did NOT forbid the saying or
singing of the Mass in Latin, just as Luther did not forbid it 400-some
years earlier. They simply authorized the saying or singing in the
vernacular, again just as Luther did. In Luther's case, he recommended
retaining Latin in communities where that language was studied and
spoken, as in university communities. In the case of Vatican II, I
don't know exactly what they did say.
But bottom line, you can certainly perform services with the texts sung
in Latin, even if your priest speaks them in English. Although it's my
understanding that the final decision in such a matter is up to the
Keith A. Haan, PhD
Chair, Department of Music
Director of Choral Activities
St. Ambrose University
518 W Locust St
Davenport IA 52803-2829
Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.
Here is the second half.
I'm Director of Music at St. Joseph, Detroit, where we have been doing
Mass in Latin (novus ordo) every Sunday since 1971. Which is to say,
we hardly stopped. During the season, every other Sunday, roughly, is
choral, and the others are sung by the congregation. Four times a
year, Christmas, Easter, the parish anniversary in mid-November end
usually the first weekend in June (end of season) we do Mass with
orchestra; usually November and June are strings only, with Christmas
and Easter including at least trumpets and timpani in addition.
Now to your problem: first, let's (unnecessarily, perhaps) get the
Latin issue out of the way. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
firmly states that Latin is the liturgical language of the church. It
then states that the vernacular may be permitted. The fact that this
has led to general use of the vernacular, which may well not be what
the drafters of that language had in mind, does nothing to change the
obvious meaning of that language. I cannot imagine how any Latin Rite
Catholic, clergy or lay, can object to Mass in the language which a
general council, with Papal approval, has stated to be the liturgical
language of the rite.
(This, of course, is not the same as the reluctance of some priests to
say a Mass in Latin, which can be a mercy when they were educated at
seminaries that taught almost no Latin.)
Then the key phrase is the famous "full, conscious, and active
participation." This does not mean that people have to be speaking,
singing and moving all the time and repeated statements from Rome make
this point: "full, conscious, and active participation" is clearly
present in silent attention. What priest would advocate physical
activity and/or vocalization during his sermon?
It's important to keep in mind that the constitution also demands that
the church's treasury of sacred music be preserved. That means singing
it, folks. I've heard liturgists say that this means that old Latin
music should be performed in concert, not at Mass. That's specious on
the face of it. Why would a general council insert a phrase concerning
concerts into a document whose subject is liturgy and not even tell us
in that document that they were, for the moment, not discussing liturgy
and also not tell us that they were discussing concerts?
Then, there's the issue of variability of liturgy. One of the chief
thrusts of the council was to take the liturgy out of the
straightjacket of Trent and permit legitimate variation. There are
many people, and it sounds like you've got some, who want to put it
back in a straightjacket of their own making, largely based on the
false assumption that participation requires physical activity and that
all liturgies must meet some unstated minimum standard for, especially,
vocalization, spoken or sung.
So here's the underlying principle on which we operate: one liturgy
does not have to be and should not be like another. Having one service
when congregational singing is less than usual does not constitute an
affront to Vatican II even if a regular diet of liturgies with limited
congregational singing would.
Take our example: On usual choral Sundays, the choir sings the Introit
(usually to psalm tone); a Kyrie or an Asperges/Vidi aquam; Gloria (in
season); Responsorial psalm with congregational refrain); Gospel
acclamation (again with congregational response); Credo III (with the
congregation; ordinarily the choir does not sing a choral Credo); the
Offertory Antiphon with psalm verse, or an Offertory motet; the
Sanctus, Anamnesis (with the congregation), Great Amen (elaborated
after the people's simpler Amen); Pater Noster (with congregation);
Agnus Dei; and Communion Motet. Normally there is a closing hymn by
In alternate weeks, the introit is sung by a cantor, the people sing
the ordinary (but the Credo is recited); the psalm and acclamation for
the readings are led by a cantor with people's responses; there is an
offertory hymn (in Latin); the people sing the anamnesis and Great
Amen; communion is organ music (except in Lent) and there is a closing
So if the choral Sunday involves less congregational singing than some
would find desirable, the alternate week is wholly congregational and
quite "physically" active. That seems to us to create a fine balance,
especially since it seems to us that proper and active attention to the
music sung by the choir is of great value to the congregation in their
I am a founding member of the Society for Catholic Liturgy, which came
to Detroit for its annual conference in 1997. The society chose to come
to St. Joseph's for Sunday Mass. The celebrant was an auxiliary
bishop, a classmate of the then-president of the society. He used the
original high altar "ad orientem" (we do that for Latin every Sunday)
and preached from the hourglass pulpit in the nave (church of 1873,
unaltered). We sang and ordinary by the Mannheim-school composer Franz
Xaver Richter with strings and oboes. Big opening hymn, our usual
responses at the readings, choral offertory and communion music, big
closing hymn. When I left the church I was greeted by the
then-president of the Pontifical Liturgical Institute at Sant' Anselmo
in Rome, who shook my hand and said, "That WAS Vatican II."
Now, he's a somewhat conservative man, not by any means rigidly so, but
still... this is the head of the premier liturgical school of the Roman
Church. I had a local priest respond to that story by saying "Well,
some are trying to change Vatican II." My reaction? Some never
understood it in the first place. And if Rome chooses to make some
adjustments according to its own understanding of that which was
intended, well, we're still called the Roman Catholic Church. I find
myself uncomfortable with Rome's liturgical decisions about as often as
I find myself in accord with them, but this is one church, and we're
all part of it.
In short, some common sense is needed. It would, indeed, be wrong to
set up a liturgical program in which Mass after Mass assigned the
Sanctus to a choir or cantor. It would be wrong to take the Credo away
from the people more than on rare occasions. But it would also be
wrong not to preserve, through use, the musical hertiage of the church,
and that most certainly includes Sanctus and Credo. And the
performance within liturgy of fine music is a source of inspiration
which might just be more effective than some sermons....
I thought that the "rule" was against continuation of the old
Tridentine mass. Anyway . . . . whenever I am in New York on a
weekend, I make an effort to attend the 11:00 a.m. mass at the Church
of St. Ignatius Loyola on Park Avenue. They have a marvelous 12-voice
fully professional chamber choir. They usually sing a Latin mass
(sometimes polyphonic, sometimes in chant or organum) in the context of
the rest of the mass being
in English as usual. It's absolutely beautiful. They also sing Latin
motets by Byrd, Tallis, Palestrina, etc. with texts that relate to the
reading of the Sunday. I haven't seen the Vatican police there ;o) The
Roman Catholic Church is the repository of the some of the greatest
music every composed but, since Vatican II, we have been condemned to a
purgatory of perpetual hootenanny. There! I feel better for having
said that. Have a blessed Christmas and don't give up the battle for
quality music in the church.
A lot of this depends on which Latin Mass you are doing...The
Tridentine Latin Mass common before the Second Vatican Council's
Constitution on Sacred Liturgy in 1962 cannot be done without a
bishop's permission...The revised Latin mass of 1967 can be done
anytime, I believe....You will want to verify all of this.
Unfortunately, I've been involved in some small battles to again have
Latin sung during Mass. In my previous Diocese (Greensburg, PA), it
was ruled by the bishop that any non-English, non-participatory Mass,
must be sanctioned by the diocese.
I find this to be quite appalling especially because I watched the
Vatican Midnight Mass this year and heard the mass said in Latin and a
non-participatory ordinary sung while other Vatican II elements were
implemented (presider facing the congregation). I am certain that
Vatican II in no way intended to eliminate Latin from the Church since
Latin remains the official language and all official correspondence
from Rome arrives in Latin. I think the premise is that the
congregation should (I believe the language is) take an active part.
That language is where interpretation enters. Isn't spoken prayer
active participation or spiritual reflection participation? I would be
much more inclined to worship every Sunday morning if Josquin or
Palestrina invoked my spirit instead of Marty Haugen and David Haas.
I have seen a book published that contains all of the music related
documents of Vatican II. I do not own a copy but believe it is readily
available. I am very interested in what you find because I intend to
begin my own endeavors of this realm in the very near future.
My hopefully brief thoughts as a 35 year RC choral/music director:
*First understand what constitutes a valid Latin mass, versus what
notions and nostalgias people express about "it."
*There are two primary canonical options: the mass of Paul VI, the
so-called Novus Ordo, that is celebrated in Latin/Greek virtually daily
and weekly all over the world; and the Tridentine order which requires
an episcopal indult for specific usage on a regular or eventual basis.
(I firmly believe you already know these things, so forgive me for
stating the obvious)
*Recent documents addressing the musical aspects of the liturgies
(from Pius X onward) clearly state that the chants and polyphony have
never been dismissed as valid forms, and in fact are owed a "place of
*That said, the use of chant and polyphony must be reconciled to
the mandate that congregants participate in all aspects of the liturgy
in a "full, active and conscious" manner. (Ask two people what that
means, get two answers! ;-0
*Should actual congregational sung participation be of utmost
importance (as it should be) when preparing a mass, the church herself
synthesized a Greek/Latin vernacular mass called "Jubilate Deo" which
blends authentic Gregorian plainsong with the "de Angelis" mass. This
mass setting is the most accessible to any congregation.
*Recognize the "pecking order" of certain musical movements by
consulting the General Instruction on the Roman Missal guidelines. For
example, when the choir may sing certain litanies and even ordinary
movements on behalf on the faithful (Agnus Dei versus Gloria in
excelsis.etc.) It can get dicey making these decisions. But if one
chooses to use the Jubilate Deo mass, it might be best to see that
through completely, rather than to graft in the Byrd Sanctus from Mass
for Four/Five voices just 'cause the choir does it really well.
*Purists/Traditionalists would cry from the rooftops that the
propers of the day be realized: the Introit, the Gradual (instead of
the Psalm Responsorial) and the Communion antiphon, etc. However,
history reveals time and time again that there were repeated efforts to
integrate congregational participation into sung worship from the
Counter Reformation, to the 16th century villancicos of the New World,
from colonial ethnic churches in North America and well into the famous
American 20th century hymnals (Piux X, Basil, Gregory etc.) Therefore,
one can reasonably integrate strophic Latin hymnody easily into the mix
with chant and polyphony as long as attention is paid to the feast day
Lastly, the only thing that troubles me when people express their
desire to implement a "Latin mass" is their motivation. If they bolster
their reasons with arguments that the vernacular mass (English,
Spanish, Hindi!) has de-mystified and demeaned the sanctity of the
mass, that is a reflection on poorly prepared and executed ritual
practice on the part of celebrants, other ministers and musicians. Such
"feelings" also betray a longing for liturgy within a "museum"
mentality. This doesn't mean that Palestrina is dead and buried, it
means that placing an art object in an otherwise utilitarian,
perfunctory environment won't guarantee the efficacy of "living,
I conducted a men's choir at a Catholic Church in upstate NY. As boy
choristers, they had learned about 12 Latin setting which are still
being performed today eventho the Tridentine Mass is long out of favor
(but not dead) at least in this diocese. St Mary's was one of the
regional churches in which festive masses were celebrated by the bishop
which lent de facto if not de jure approval by the diocese. About
twenty years ago a CD was published which feature Herbert von Karajan
and the Berlin Philharmonic perform a Mozart Mass for the very first
time a St. Peter's, the Pope was the celebrant. The Ordinary was of
course the Mozart and the Propers were in several different languages
including Latin but it was not a Tridentine High Mass.
The message I took from this: Latin Mass settings are fine but spoken
sections of the propers and ordinary should be in the language spoken
by the majority of the parishioners. This is a special, festive
liturgical event, not a concert event and thus, there should be certain
allowances made and the diocesan music director should be able to shed
light on this.
My rather jaundiced view on the whole Catholic Music thing is that the
what the Council of Trent did not do to Catholic music, Vatican II
completed and the joke of the nun with a guitar is an indictment.
Since Vatican II many have made the claim that the Latin Mass did not
do much for the participation of the people, but I remain unpersuaded.
Every so often I go to eastern Oklahoma, to the Monastery of our Lady
of the Annunciation of Clear Creek, (www.clearcreekmonks.org ) which is
a foundation of the Abbey of Fontgombeault in France, and where they
sing the mass and the office hours in Latin every day. My Latin is
strictly "church Latin", but I read the missal so I know what is going
on, and then I participate fully in the mass by praying and listening.
I think my participation in those Latin Tridentine masses is as full,
complete, and authentic as it is when I attend or participate in mass
in English, my native tongue (in its Oklahoma incarnation, of course).
For me, while I love my vocation, it is a blessing on occasion to go to
mass and not be responsible for the full music program.
If I understand you correctly, nobody is proposing that all masses be
done at your univerrsity in Latin with full orchestra. So my response
would be that just because most of our liturgical worship is now in the
vernacular, that does NOT mean that there isn't a place for Latin,
including the form of mass with orchestra and choral ensemble. I
wouldn't recommend it for every Sunday, but one or two times a year, or
even monthly would be fine by me. After Vatican II, a certain prejudice
against Latin developed, and this is maintained by people who are still
fighting ancient liturgical battles. There is no danger of a mandatory
abandonment of the vernacular mass, although to hear some people talk
even the use of a Latin response like the Agnus Dei means that
abandonment of the vernacular is just around the corner!
Perhaps you could suggest that those opposing this take a more nuanced
view towards the Latin choral/orchestra mass, and embrace a bit of
Christian charity (a virtue that all to often is lacking in liturgical
debates like this). You could also point out the evangelization
possibilities, as you noted in your original email, it can bring people
to church who haven't been in a long time. There is a very long and
honored tradition of contemplative prayer in the Catholic Church, and
the Latin mass lends itself very well to
Finally, a very ancient Catholic saying, often quoted by Dorothy Day
who founded the Catholic Worker movement, is "the world will be saved
by Beauty." So what you propose, as a work of liturgical beauty, has
salvific value in and of itself, besides of course the fact that it is
the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
One caveat, never refer to a mass such as this as a "performance". I
suppose in a way it is a performance, in the same way that any public
presentation of music in a worship service is a performance, but using
that term is likely to raise hackles and create unnecessary obstacles.
The mass is always an act of worship, whatever its musical background
Keith A. Haan, PhD
Chair, Department of Music
Director of Choral Activities
St. Ambrose University
518 W Locust St
Davenport IA 52803-2829
Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.