The CAPG's Blog
Why does the Catholic Church make use of the Latin Language at her public services?
The Rev. Thomas F. Conkley, D.D. answers this question in a manner that ought to satisfy anyone anxious to know, he says:
Almighty God understands the Latin language, and our prayers are said to Him, not to the congregation.
The Catholic Church is ruled by the most learned and most brilliant intellects in the world. Consequently, they must have a good reason for everything they do or believe. Hence in advance, we ought to assume that if there is anything in the Catholic Church we do not understand, the fault is our own, not the fault of the Catholic Church, and that more education on our part will reveal the reason for such belief or practice of Catholics.
The Catholic Church has been in the business of saving men's souls for nineteen hundred years. She has had more experience than any other institution in the history of the world. She must, therefore, have a good, solid reason for everything she does, otherwise she would not continue the custom. Therefore, when she uses the Latin language in her public and official religious services we know that a very wise motive lies behind the use of Latin.
The Catholic Church uses the Latin language because Latin is NOT a foreign language. The use of Latin makes the Catholic Church the only international cosmopolitan, universal Church, and prevents it from being a mere national church.
The Catholic Church uses the language because Latin is stable, permanent, unchangeable. So is the Catholic Church fixed, stable, permanent, unchangeable.
A Catholic learns in his earliest years to follow the services in the Latin language, ans wherever he roams over the broad earth, he finds the same holy Latin tongue, the same sonorous Latin phrases, the same unchangeable Latin sentences, the same century old Latin diction, saturated by the blood of martyrs, and consecrated by saints and sages. This is one of the things that makes a Catholic feel at home anywhere in the world.
Every Catholic prayer book contains an exact translation of the Latin prayers at Mass and at all other public religious services, so that every Catholic is quite familiar with everything that is said. Ask your Catholic neighbor for a prayer book and see for yourself.
The Latin language is used only at the official, public religious services of the Catholic Church. In private devotion, Catholics can say their prayers in whatever language they please; and prayers said by the priest with the congregation are always in their own language.
The Catholic Church is the Church of all nations; therefore it uses a language intelligible to educated people in all nations. It would be difficult to think of the Catholic Church as the universal, world-wide Church of Christ if it used the English language exclusively!
Modern languages are changing continually. The unchanging Catholic Church cannot use a changing medium as the vehicle of its expression.
The Catholic Church uses Latin because priests and vast numbers of people know the Latin language. The possession of such knowledge should be a badge of distinction, rather than an object of complaint.
To assist at religious services in the Latin language no more interferes with our devotion than assisting at grand opera in Italian, French, or German interferes with our appreciation of the music.
If you want to know what Shumann-Heink or Tetrazzini is singing, you must take a libretto with you; if you wish to known what the priest is saying at Mass, take your prayer book with you.
The use of Latin beats down national and racial barriers, and tends toward the universal brotherhood of man, since all nation kneel side by side, and recite the self-same prayers, in the self-same Latin tongue.
Objection to the use of Latin comes, not from Catholics, who appreciate the verbal dignity of Latin, but from non-Catholics who do not know Latin at all. Catholics do not bother their heads about what non-Catholics do; they have quite enough to do to attend to their own business. This would be a good rule for every one to follow.
Source: Our Your People, 1916