Tan Publications has a book The Faith of Our Fathers by Father James Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore. It was originally published in 1876! That’s for the old school win! There is soooo much goodness in this book, but this is a blog and we’ll mention just one quote from the section on Latin.
Now, we have the obvious spiritual reasons for using Latin in the Liturgy, but there is also a practical one! To make a short story even shorter, it’s because the vernacular keeps changing on the daily! Even though my “on the daily” phrase is commonly said today, it would have been a big “no no” to use when I was a young lad. Other examples of changes in English are:
- gay used to mean happy (it still does if you’re old school like me)
- awful used to mean full of awe.
- naughty used to mean you have naught or nothing.
Furthermore, Fr. Gibbons wrote (on page 271):
The English language as written four centuries ago would be now almost as unintelligible to an English reader as the Latin tongue. In an old Bible published in the fourteenth century St. Paul calls himself the villain of Jesus Christ. The word villain in those days meant a servant, but the term would no be complimentary now to one even less holy than the Apostle.
We can have 99 problems in life, but 1 we won’t have to have will be worrying about constantly changing definitions in our English language thanks to Latin. Our ecclesial language is a place of stability. It may be a “dead” language in one sense because it’s no longer the vernacular, but in another sense it’s still “alive” in the hearts of many.
Keep it real my friends (what does “keep it real” even really mean?! oh yeah, it means savage. Wait a sec…)