If you want to attract people to Mass, get rid of Latin!

Almost every Catholic parish you enter in the US, it would be a slight miracle to hear the least bit of Latin. During Lent and Advent, you might hear a Sanctus or Agnus Dei, but that is a far as it goes. Any pastor will tell you that Latin will chase people away. If you want people to come to Mass, you have to give them what they want. Young people want music that sounds like their music. Guitars, drums, keyboards and a good base will create the atmosphere that everyone wants. Besides, if you have Latin, people don’t understand it and they will go elsewhere. The kids and young people want their culture.

We all know this has been a big success. Our churches are much fuller than they ever where. This is not the case at all. Contemporary “Christian” music doesn’t hold a candle to what our young people listen to. It is a poor imitation of the “real” thing.

Besides, who says that our young people hate Latin? It’s only the older people who for the past 50  years have been told that Latin is outdated, impractical, and not with the times who reject it. Priests, and Liturgists have told the Catholic faithful that our young people can’t relate to Latin chant and sacred song. But I want to tell you, they are dead wrong. Every Sunday, the voices that I hear belt out the Latin Mass parts the loudest are those who are the closest to me, my altar boys. Below is a clip of Tommy singing a solo. He only had a small sheet of paper with words written on it and no music notation. Tommy also serves most of my funerals. He sings the Requiem, In Paradisum, all the Mass parts, and many of the Sacred humans and chants from memory. Tommy is 10 years old and has been doing this for years. Everyone that sees and hears him sing is moved and inspired. Meet Tommy.

I say if you want to attract young people to Mass, challenge them and give them something that will help them enter into the sacred and not what they have in the world.



32 thoughts on “If you want to attract people to Mass, get rid of Latin!

  1. I had 2 yrs of Latin in high school and was an altar boy prior, so knew all the Latin responses to the Mass prayers. I liked Latin, found it not difficult. Is it even taught today in high school?

    Incorporating it into Mass today? Sounds fine with me, but there has to be translation available to people in the pews.

    • My son does not have the option of Latin at his high school. He can choose Spanish or Chinese for foreign language. Fortunately we homeschooled until this year and he has had 3 years of Latin. We attend a Latin Mass at his urging. He is 14 and has been learning to serve the TLM. We have only had a local TLM for about a year.

  2. Latin or no Latin is not the basis of the reduction in Mass attendance. People need to have their hearts set on fire by the Holy Spirit and develop a personal relationship with Jesus. Then the Mass becomes real and it doesn’t matter if it’s in Latin or not. And, as a 64 year old, I prefer not.

    • That was not the point. The point was that people claimed that if we rid the Church of Latin we will attract young people, but they are the ones who have no bias and love it today. “And, as a 64 year old, I prefer not.” Point well made. The young are not biased as are those right after Vatican II which said to retain Latin.

    • well said! And people are humans, not labels on boxes to be fitted into! All with different experiences throughout life…which can also affect their opinions, just as much as being told to like something because they should/the priest says it’s best/a blogger loves it and promotes it etc etc!

      Plus, where Latin has not been used for decades, a new Priest wanting to introduce it should be sensitive to the will and likes and opinions of his new Parish and not just steamroller through changes according to HIS preferences regardless.

      • You mean, he shouldn’t steamroller through changes according to his preferences in the same way that the liturgical revolutionaries of the late 60s/70s steamrollered their preferences and faddish innovations through? Because that would be, what? Upsetting to the aging boomers who did exactly the same thing to the faithful of parishes around the globe from 1968 onwards?

        Of course, the best approach for any priest would be to patiently catechize the faithful of his parish as to genuine nature and purpose of the Mass, the meaning of authentic liturgical rituals and symbols, and the illegitimacy of the liturgical innovations made in the late 60s/early 70s, in that the immense majority of them were neither sanctioned by nor called for by the Council Fathers or the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Then he would gently re-orient things toward their proper end and re-establish the proper forms. But, let’s face it, no matter how patient, gentle, charitable or clear the priest, the members of the parish with a modernist agenda will immediately begin to raise hell and scream that he is “trying to turn back the clock to the pre-Vatican II Church”, when in fact all he is trying to do is set the correct time and get the hands of the clock moving again, rather than stuck in the 60s and 70s where most U.S. parishes have remained for the past 40+ years.

        An excellent post, Fr. Finelli. And for the record, I was born in 1963, became a teenaged convert to the Catholic Faith in 1980 and, while well-catechised by the priest who prepared me for reception into the Church, at 51, while I usually attend the NO, have long since concluded that the NO liturgy to which I was introduced in 1980 is a poor substitute for the traditional Roman rite of the Mass, and regret that I do not have more frequent access to it.

    • “and develop a personal relationship with Jesus.” Dave Snelting

      How much more personal can one get than receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ?

      Dominus vobiscum, David.

      • I think that is the point- we need to realize that we are receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, and can have a personal relationship with Him, rather that simply going through the motions or seeing the Eucharist as “just a symbol”. It is possible to receive the Eucharist and still not really have a relationship with Jesus. As this article says, adding more Latin will not make me run from Mass; I think Latin is beautiful, but I think Dave made a good point.

    • A strong case can be made that a loss of reverence and a sense of the sacred has contributed to the reduction in Mass attendance. And the use of Latin, with its dignity and solemnity, was for centuries an integral part of the Church’s celebration of the Holy Sacrifice that brings heaven down to earth, sets hearts afire with the Holy Spirit and brings believers into the most intimate communion with the Lord Jesus.

      Ultimately, it’s not about our individual preferences. It’s about the constant teaching of the Church (even Vatican II!).

  3. I’m 35 young man that attends TLM to me I find its reverent and its pleasing to God. Latin Mass is attracting allot of young people.

  4. I am going on 52, born February 1963, the second year of Vatican II still in session (1962-1965). I prefer the Traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form) over and above the Novus Ordo (Ordinary Form) Vernacular. The Latin/Gregorian Chants draws the Soul into that Spiritual Worship, and it does not matter if I knew the Latin or not, though I know just enough to follow it in the 1962 Missal. The Novus Ordo Latin/Gregorian Chants helps lots more than the Novus Ordo Vernacular. Contemporary Christian Music does not belong in the Mass, as it is very distracting. The Piano and guitar strummings are also very distracting. Please note that this of my own opinion and by way of personal experiences.

    • It’s not just your opinion. Instruments such as the piano are forbidden, but used anyway. From Tra le Sollecitudini – Instruction on Sacred Music, Pope Pius X (1903) Section VI. Organ and instruments #19. “The employment of the piano is forbidden in church, as is also that of noisy or frivolous instruments such as drums, cymbals, bells and the like.”

      Several other more recent Church documents state that secular instruments should not be used.

      In 2003, the 100th anniversary of Tra le Sollecitudini, JPII issued, “CHIROGRAPH OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF JOHN PAUL II FOR THE CENTENARY OF THE MOTU PROPRIO “TRA LE SOLLECITUDINI’ ON SACRED MUSIC” which praised and confirmed it.

      Some may say that it has some broad statements that would allow for the use of the piano such as “Nonetheless, it should be noted that contemporary compositions often use a diversity of musical forms that have a certain dignity of their own. To the extent that they are helpful to the prayer of the Church they can prove a precious enrichment. Care must be taken, however, to ensure that instruments are suitable for sacred use, that they are fitting for the dignity of the Church and can accompany the singing of the faithful and serve to edify them.”

      The problem with that line of thinking is that “Tra le Sollecitudini” has already stated very concretely and specifically that it is not suitable for “sacred use” (forbidden) and can not be used. I would think that a new statement would have to be issued that stated specifically that it IS NOW appropriate for liturgical use and no longer “forbidden”.

  5. The conventional mass in Latin had dignity and allowed us to speak to our God in something different and a cut above the street vernacular. Vatican II ‘protestantized’ the mass and did great harm to Catholicism! The days when the priest put the communion wafer on the communicant’s tongue has been replaced by a continuous line in most churches with lay people passing out the body and blood of Christ in a fashion appropriate to a fast food restaurant rather than serving as would be appropriate in an elegant dining place!

    • Many blame Vatican II, but it wasn’t. If they would have followed Sacrosanctum Concilium, things would be much different. It was the Concilium led by Annibale Bugnini that took great liberties in re-wrighting, suppressing and creating prayers that led to the Novus Ordo Missae.

  6. Yes yes and yes. The beauty of Latin and chant was my doorway into the Catholic Church when I was an agnostic goth/punk college student.

  7. Pingback: Want to attract people to Mass? Get rid of Latin! (NOT!) | Fr. Z's Blog

  8. I know Uber-Calvinist fundamentalist Christians whose children all know Latin. Because it’s part of Western Civilization. Plus, it’s even more comprehensible to Spanish speakers.

  9. The choir that sings all the Gregorian chant at our TLM is a group of youngsters, some started as young as 10! And we are in Las Vegas, not exactly a moral stronghold. There would be more Tommys out there if only they were given a chance. We should pray for more widespread use of TLMs.

  10. I should also add that Tommy is a pretty great singer, not to say he isn’t something very special, because its clear God has graced him with a special talent. But we’d find others like him with their own special talents that glorify the Lord if we gave people the opportunity. 🙂

  11. I am an ageing boomer (69 yrs old) and I love Latin. I attended an Ursuline Convent boarding school in the early sixties and we had a daily Latin Mass where we sang all the responses. I was not Catholic but the beauty and reverence first attracted me and began a lasting conversion at 14 years old. If it had been a Novus Ordo Mass, I may have remained an Anglican with no fervour.

  12. “If you want people to come to Mass, you have to give them what they want.” This is the sort of illiterate, illogical nonsense that has rendered American Catholicism a joke.

  13. The video (the boy sings beautifully) would have been more edifying if the adult choir in the background were not fidgeting endlessly, and the background noise were not so distracting. Does no-one in church have the courtesy to listen to him, and pray?

  14. Thank you so much for your service to God and his people. You will be added to my daily prayer for priests.

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