Given from the Catholic Broadcasting Station 2SM Sydney Australia
Choose a topic from Vol 1:
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, V., I., you will find these words, "Every Priest is ordained for men in the things that pertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and Sacrifices for sins." A Priest has two chief duties: to offer sacrifice to God, and to sanctify men by his teaching and instruction. Now, when a Priest is speaking, not to men, but to God in the name of men, he speaks in the language of the Church—in Latin—a language God certainly understands, as does the Priest. When on the other hand he speaks to the people he speaks in their own language; in France, in French; in England, he uses English; in Germany, German. Sermons are always given in the vernacular, and not in Latin, because they are addressed to the people. Go into any Catholic Church, and you will never hear any sermons in Latin.
That is a sacrificial action offered to God. Latin is the liturgical language of the Catholic Church, just as Hebrew is the official language still used in the Synagogue.
Not all Catholics understand Latin, by any means. But they are all quite at home when assisting at Mass. They know what is being done, even though they cannot understand all that is being said. And it is not necessary that they should follow the sense of every word used during the sacrificial rite of the Mass. However, every Catholic can know what the Priest is saying, should he wish to do so. He has but to secure a prayer book containing the translation of the Latin into English. Most prayer books give the Latin and the English of the Mass side by side, in columns.
For one reason, precisely because it is dead! In modern and living languages, words are constantly changing their meaning whilst in a dead language, such as Latin, they do not. The essential doctrine and significance of Christianity must not change, and the safest way to preserve it intact is to keep it in an unchangeable language. Again, a universal Church must have at least her chief form of worship in a universal language. Christ came to save all men, and wherever a member of the true Church may be in this world he should be able to find himself at home at the central act of Christian worship. The Mass, being said in Latin, is the same in all lands. If a Frenchman, who could not understand a word of English, were to enter a Catholic Church in London, he would be at home the moment the Mass began. An English service would be a mystery to him. I myself have said Mass with as many as fifteen different nationalities present, and not all could follow my discourse when I spoke to those present, though I spoke for a few minutes in English, in French, and in Italian. There were still many who could not understand any of these languages, but being all Catholics, they were quite at home the moment I turned to the Altar and went on with the Mass in Latin. It brings out the wisdom and the universality of the Catholic Church. The Priest ascends the Altar to intercede with God on behalf of the people. Those present kneel, and in their hearts pour out their prayers for their own necessities. They feel no more need to know just what the Priest is saying than the Jews who knelt at the foot of the mountain felt the need of knowing just what Moses was saying to God on their behalf at the top. And here once again let me say that if anyone should complain of the use of Latin, it should be those who have to endure it. And I have never yet heard a Catholic soul complain that it caused difficulty, or that he or she would like it changed.
I have said that they can know if they wish, for they will find an English translation of the Mass in their prayer books. But even if they could not know, the Latin prayers could win for them the graces requested. If a German friend prayed for you in German, would that prayer be useless because you do not understand German?
No. The Catholic Church is the greatest Church of all, and has preserved her unity despite her vast expansion. Those smaller Churches, on the other hand, which adopted national languages are divided one from the other; are national in character; and are splitting up into innumerable sects as their doctrines change with every change in the sense of modern words.
We do not. Catholics may pray to God in any language they wish. It is only a question of the liturgical language in the official services of the Church, in which the Priest speaks, not to the people, but to God. In any case, at the Tower of Babel, men did not use their united language to worship God, but to rebel against Him, and it was that rebellion which God punished.
I am not surprised, for such a doctrine is nowhere taught in Scripture. Moreover, if any Catholic dared to worship Mary in the same way as he worships Christ, he would be guilty of a most serious sin, and no Catholic Priest could give him absolution unless he promised never to do so again. But that does not mean that one must deprive Mary of all honor.