Latin, Liturgy, and Tradition

When I arrived in Rome for the first time in 1999 a brother from my community took the new arrivals on a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica. At one point I asked him if St. Pius X was buried there. The Gregorian Chant choir that had been instrumental in my spiritual conversion five years earlier was the St. Pius X Choir of the Pajaro Valley (some of whom now form part of the Latin Mass community at Sacred Heart Parish, Hollister). The brother replied, “I’ll take you to him.” It wasn’t the response I expected. St. Pius X is incorrupt and actually buried in an altar in the main basilica. You can actually see him (see the photo below). After that realization I’d always wanted to say Mass at that altar, but it was usually first come, first serve in the morning at the Basilica and I never got the chance. During Christmas time it was blocked by a Nativity Scene.

One of my brother priests asked me to help him edit an English text, and one day I’d mentioned to him in passing that I’d always wanted to celebrate Mass at that altar. Little did I know that you could reserve the altar. Thankfully, he did, and he made a reservation for us to concelebrate at the altar on Monday, May 29th and surprised me with it as a small thank you for my help. I prayed for Traditionalists, for everyone who loved the Latin Mass, and for all the schismatic Latin Mass groups to return to full communion with Rome.

I love celebrating Mass in Latin. The thought of it raises many peoples hackles. The generation that preceded me was very hurt and polarized by what happened during the liturgical reforms after Vatican II, and much of it raged concerning the use of Latin in the liturgy. They either lament its loss or become angered at its mention. I was too young to remember if I ever heard a Latin Mass as a child, but in 1992 or 1993, as an adult, it captivated me and quickly became a devotion.  Thankfully under Pope Benedict XVI a provision was established for those who wanted to celebrate the Mass in Latin to be able to do so unhindered in full communion with Rome.

When in Rome I frequently have an opportunity to celebrate the Ordinary Form (aka the Novus Ordo) in Latin, the same Mass Catholics of the Roman Rite celebrate in the vernacular throughout the world. I respect the Extraordinary Form (aka the Tridentine Mass), but the Ordinary Form has always been enough for me, and in centers for formation we Legionaries usually celebrate solemnities in sung Latin (Ordinary Form). For me it evokes the mystery we participate in every time we celebrate the Eucharist.

Whatever language the Mass is celebrated in, remember that you are partaking in a profound mystery.