Old Latin Mass Finds New American Audience, Despite Pope’s Disapproval
Mass in the Americas for the first time was celebrated in English in 2016. The event was the culmination of the two years of outreach work, beginning with the founding of the Latin Mass Institute that grew into the Latin Mass Society.
The Institute, based in Baltimore, is a network of parish and dioceses interested in promoting liturgical renewal in the diasporas of the United States and Canada. In its early years, a key goal was to “to bring the language of the liturgy into the everyday conversations people are having with Pope Francis,” said Roberta Wahl, director of communications for the Latin Mass Institute.
“The Latin Mass is that language of the liturgy,” she said. “That was our goal in the beginning. And you have to be at a certain level of acceptance that you can speak the language of the liturgy. But if the language is not being spoken, well, even the Pope doesn’t speak the language of the liturgy, but I will speak the language. I can use that to communicate with the people, and to communicate the message of the pope.”
The Latin Mass is, even for Pope Francis, an unusual experience for some American Catholics. After all, the church’s official language is Latin, and although that’s the language Francis often uses, English makes up the majority of the prayers in the Roman Rite Masses.
The Latin Mass Society, which began as a Catholic news blog, began with a phone call from a Catholic archbishop in Maryland asking whether there were members of the Latin Mass. “If not here, who else? If you’re a priest, you probably haven’t received this call,” said Brian O’Neill, a Catholic priest in Washington. The call from the archdiocese and the launch of the society led to many parish groups, dioceses and priests starting meetings with each other to discuss and learn more about the Latin Mass.
“The liturgy of the Latin Mass involves an incredible community of believers who are praying together. It’s one of the great experiences when you connect with other believers,” O’Neill said. “We’re a community of prayer and we pray together, and that’s part of what makes liturgy such a great community experience.”