Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Father Dowling on Praying in Latin

Ralph McInerny, Lying Three (New York: Vanguard, 1979), pp. 33-34:
He continued to read the daily office in Latin, hoping it was not prideful eccentricity. Latin provided a connective thread in his priesthood, enabling him to track back through the years to the young subdeacon who had taken on the obligation to recite the breviary every day, reading from its seasonal compilations of psalms, passages from the Old and New Testaments, and the Fathers. And the beautiful hymns. He loved it. He derived an aesthetic as well as a spiritual satisfaction from mumbling the familiar words. Latin words. In English they lost something, something not merely aesthetic and sentimental. Roger Dowling had no objections to the new vernacular liturgy. It was right for people to pray in their own language. Latin was known by only a few and had perhaps constituted a legal barrier. But, dear God, the caliber of the English now used was itself a barrier. Ah, well. He himself could continue to pray in Latin.
The Latin Mass was never as much of a barrier as people now pretend. My grandmother, who didn't go to school beyond eighth grade, had no problem following the priest's and altar boys' words in her missal, which had Latin and French on facing pages. She knew exactly what they were mumbling up there.

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