lördag 29 september 2012

Why say Mass in the vernacular?

Went to Mass this morning. It was concelebrated in Swedish by a Polish priest and another from somewhere in southern Europe, possibly Croatia. As a foreigner myself, it is no criticism of them to say that I had great difficulty in understanding what was being said. I could barely understand the reader either, who had a strong local accent. Matters were not helped by an indifferent sound system. Since more than half the congregation were immigrants, they probably also had trouble understanding the words.

Having the option to say Mass in the vernacular is beneficial - given an accurate translation, it should lead to better catechesis, amongst children, for example. But the use of the vernacular was only ever permissive, as is clear from the text which states that "Mass may be said in the vernacular" - in other words, that it normally would not be.

It is also the case that when the use of the vernacular became prevalent forty years ago, people were less mobile than they are today. But it makes no sense to say Mass in the vernacular when the neither priests nor a large proportion of the congregation are 100% fluent in the local language. It was presumably for precisely this reason, amongst many others, that the use of Latin became and remained the norm for so many centuries.

This is surely a situation where the Extraordinary Form should be used, with priests celebrating largely in silence and with the congregation following in printed translations in their own languages.

måndag 3 september 2012

Singing Latin in church

We had our monthly Latin mass today, so it was easier to join in the singing. Some people in the row in front turned round to me at the end of the service and said how beautifully I sung. It turned out that they were visitors so perhaps they will come back, having liked what they heard.

People have said that to me before but of course I haven't the foggiest idea what I sound like when I am singing. It is probably more to do with the Latin. The language is unusual in having open vowels alternating with simple consonants. All you have to do is open up your mouth and vocal cords and let the sound come out. Which means that the sounds are clear and travel well - an important factor in the days before microphones and loudspeakers.

It is a good reason why the Catholic church authorities should make a determined effort to promote Latin and overcome the prejudices against it.

The death of civilised debate

The Guardian has been steadily reducing the number of articles on which comments are allowed. On the newspaper’s web site, which used to ap...