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Latin & Me, part 1

I work in the office at a Catholic Church, and although there are many complains about the style of our parish, one in particular comes forth most often and rubs me the most. I think it rubs me the most because I use to be the one on their side and have come to a great appreciation for the side I am on now. So in an effort to explain to me 5 years ago and all of those naysayers of today, I'm going to share about my relationship with Latin by writing about my experience of faith as I've grown in an understanding and appreciation of the use of Latin.

Do with it what you wish, this is my journey - rooted in the Catholic Church's law governing Liturgy within the context of my personal experience at my parish. I will be the first to say that no one's personal explanation would have swayed me nor do the Church documents serve to change my heart. It is well documented - and even beautifully explained by my pastor if you want to read it for yourself. Following is my personal account of how my heart was converted.

On the Feast of the Ascension in 2011, I experienced my first Mass in the Extraordinary Form. I had no idea what I was getting into, in fact, I had no idea that I was even going to be attending Mass in the Extraordinary Form (MEF from now on). I had just started at my new job as High School Youth Minister and was still trying to meet new people in Charlotte.  MG and I had been friends for less than a year and she asked if I would be interested in going to Mass at a local parish and then to some new acquaintances' house for dinner afterward. I agreed. She did not realize, or did not mention, that Mass would be celebrated in Latin and be a MEF, a Missa Cantata in fact, in celebration of the Feast Day. We arrived just in time for Mass to begin - maybe 2 minutes early, as we were both rushing after work in traffic. As we were walking in, she leans over and says, "I think Mass will be in Latin." I asked, "How do you know?" She had noticed the servers were wearing white gloves - a telltale sign.

We went in, found a seat, and prepared for Mass. I'm not proud of what I'm going to write next, but it is part of my journey, part of who I am, and so I will be honest. I was so upset. I had never been to a MEF before. Although I do know a fair amount of Latin for your average Catholic (not a ton, but more than most), I wanted to be a little more mentally prepared for the experience than I was on that random Thursday in May of 2011. I tried to follow along in their booklet, but couldn't really since there was so much to see that was different and nothing really but the choir to hear. I remember that for the homily the book read, "the priest exits the Mass" as he took off the stole on his arm before ascending the to the pulpit to preach. This infuriated me.

I also remember not going to communion because although I had been there, read along, and stayed awake, I did not feel as if I had actively participated in the Mass. Not because I didn't respond, but because I was so distracted by my own self, my own thoughts, my own prejudices toward the Mass that I could not prepare my soul to receive Our Lord. I had also never received communion on the tongue and was certain that I never would. No one was going to take away the right to receive Our Lord in my hand and then "take His body to my mouth" from me. I would always say, "however you want to receive is fine with me, but this is how I receive and always will - no one can regulate piety."

Oh, dear me ... the attitude I had concerning the Latin Mass was the exact attitude that I was so upset that people had - such a strong inclination against anything that resembled the traditional at all. I would say, "you can do that, but I will never do that." To illustrate that I was okay that it happened, and even better that it would happen and I didn't ever have to see it, be near it, or change my mind about it.

So this doesn't become unbearably long and I actually say what I want to say, I'm going to break this into a weekly series.  Next week I will write about the first time I voluntarily attended a MEF, at 6am no less. In the posts following, I'll write about: Requiem Mass, Kneeling for Communion, Latin in the Liturgy, and Why I think it's not only beautiful but necessary.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6


  1. I am really looking forward to reading the rest of this series on this topic! I have never attended a MEF (there aren't any in my area anyway), but I have had a similar growth in my love for the use of Chant in Mass (used to think it so boring, and now I think it so beautifully prayerful.). You are right that no one could convince me with words, it needed a change of heart.

    1. I'm so glad you're excited to read along! I was speaking with our associate priest yesterday and he also encouraged me to write about the journey - about 4 legs of the series are already written and it's been cool for me to reflect on the journey for myself too!

  2. This is so interesting to read, Katie! Looking forward to future posts.

    I can only imagine how startling of an experience that was when you didn't expect Mass to be in Latin. I've been a couple times out of my own free will and find it rather beautiful - but very hard to follow along when I don't understand the language. It's something I'd love to explore more.

    I grew up kneeling at an alter rail and receiving the Eucharist on my tongue, so it's weird to me to be at a school where that's not the norm. I miss it! I am more traditionally minded than a lot of Catholics I know (ie. only male altar servers, Eucharist on tongue, traditional hymns at Mass, etc.). It's hard because I'd love to be able to communicate the beauty of our rich historical traditions, but I don't really know how. I am so interested to hear how your journey unfolded!!

    1. Thanks for the kind comment Laura - in my mind I know it's been a great journey from the day I described to where I am today ... but actually writing it out has been an interesting task. I've written about half of it already - 4 weeks worth, and I'm startled by my own movement!

  3. I've read your blog before, but I think this is the first time commenting. I'm excited to read this series! I grew up in go to the extraordinary form of the Mass since I was a little girl. I will be interested to hear your perspective, since it has always been the norm for me.

    1. Elizabeth - so glad to have you reading along! I'm so interested in families/parishes who have been living with the extraordinary form for their whole lives. Such a different experience!


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