Vatican II fathers OK’d languages people use daily

The first session of the Second Vatican Council ended Dec. 8, 1962, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, with a closing Mass and speech by Pope John XXIII. You read the speech and the CNS report on the closing congregation of the first session at our council daybook blog, Vatican II: 50 Years Ago Today.

What may surprise you is that one of the very first actions of the council fathers was to approve the use of the vernacular in Latin-rite liturgies. This surprised many Catholic around the world, too, because of the speed with which the fathers made this change. It seemed like overnight, the exclusive use of Latin in the Western rites had been supplanted with the languages people actually used in their daily lives.

Two of the entries in the blog discuss this change. One is the article explaining the approval; the other is a very good analysis by one of the council periti or experts in sacred liturgy, Benedictine Father Cipriano Vagaggini, who died in 1999.

A woman uses a hand missal in Swahili during a Mass in Kenya. (CNS Photo/Nancy Wiechec)

A woman uses a hand missal in Swahili during a Mass in Kenya. (CNS Photo/Nancy Wiechec)

As Father Vagaggini noted in his article, the approval did not spring like Athena from the head of Zeus, from the minds of the council father or Pope John. Liturgical reform had been well under way for almost 50 years by the time the council had begun. Missionaries had been pressing for the use of the vernacular for many years, especially in Asia and Africa, since Latin had almost no resonance with people on those continents.

The Benedictines were among the most prominent of the liturgical reformers of the first part of the 20th century. Nowhere was liturgical reform more studied in North America than St. John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., with its renowned School of Theology and Seminary. Today St. John’s is home to Liturgical Press, a pioneering publisher of liturgical resources since 1926.

6 Responses

  1. The intransigents are still the Tail wagging the Dog and still seem to have no clue their atttitude is a flat-out contradiction of the Heart of Eucharist, and the Incarnation, which is JESUS COMING DOWN FROM THE MOUNTAIN as a human being.

  2. I wonder who those “intransigents” are. If the reference is to episcopal conferences refusing to permit vernacular liturgies, then I don’t know of any such. If the reference is to those still preferring the Latin, then I see no problem with their making choices for their own use. If the reference is to a few “lone wolves” decrying the use of the vernacular, then I can only say “So what?”

  3. I don’t think anyone has ever argued that the Council Fathers didn’t approve the use of the vernacular language in the liturgy but reading the council documents and writings carefully, all too many failed to acknowledge that their intent was never to have it become the “primary” language of the Mass and that Latin was to have retained a privileged place. All that was pushed aside as reforms came about that had little to do with what the Council Fathers wanted and everything to do with the so called “spirit” of the Council.

  4. about +anthony farr

    Holy Redeemer Mission offers valid sacraments and spiritual guidance to all who are in need. We are an Independent Catholic Jurisdiction having a valid and sacramental ministry through the Petrine Roman Catholic Apostolic Succession in continuous unbroken lines.

    Perhaps, we may be called “traditional” or “conservative”, but we believe it is essential that we reach out to all by visiting the sick, ministering to hospitals, nursing homes, residences, anywhere we are needed and whenever we are needed. YES, we do make housecalls!

    The Sacraments are ministered employing the rich and full ritual of the Church in English or Latin upon request in accordance with the pre-Vatican II rites.

    The Tridentine Mass is celebrated from the prayers at the foot of the altar to the Leonine prayers after Low Mass using traditional English. Latin still holds primacy of honor and is used on all solemn feasts and whenever requested.

    This bishop is not in communion with Rome.

  5. Yes now we never use Latin and avoid it like the plague- I highly doubt this is what the Council fathers wanted either.. I have no problem with vernacular but my problem lies in people’s aversion towards what is still the Church’s official language.

  6. Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church says this in chapter three:
    “Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of
    infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly
    whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining
    the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter,
    and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in
    agreement on one position as
    definitively to be held. This is even
    more clearly verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council,
    they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal
    Church, whose definitions must be adhered to with the submission of
    faith.”
    (http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html)

    The 20 ecumenical councils before it are still infallible, like
    the ecumenical council of Trent that declared that Catholics with faith
    can lose salvation from unrepented mortal (grave) sin. And that baptism or the implicit desire of baptism is necessary for salvation.

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