by Cynthia Millen at CATHOLIC STAND
In principio erat Verbum … (John 1:1)
In Irish, it is said: Cuimhín an tír na Manaigh (pronounced “quivin on tier na monig”), translated roughly as “the land knows the monks.” It infers that the prayers of the early Christians, since the great conversion by St. Patrick in the 5th century, saturated the ground throughout Ireland’s holy places, so much so that they are felt by those who tread it today. Anyone who has walked on the grounds of an old abbey can attest that this is true.
Embedded in the Church
Saint Patrick wrote in Latin and taught in Irish, and soon, the first language in Ireland after Irish was Latin. It was in Latin that prayers were made, and the Mass was celebrated in all areas where the Church grew—in small village chapels, upon hidden Mass rocks, and in the great Cathedrals soon built in each county and townland. In place after place, the same occurred throughout Europe, Asia, India, China, Africa, and the New World, wherever the Roman Catholic Church spread. Latin was the common language that was used for nearly 2,000 years.
Returning to Latin
Latin was the Mass of the great Doctors: Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales. It was also the Mass of the courageous martyrs: Maximilian Kolbe, Teresa Benedicta, Damien of Molokai. The simple holy ones: Thérèse of Lisieux, André Bessette, Martin de Porres. And the joyous reformers: Francis of Assisi, Benedict of Nursia, Phillip Neri. All of our favorite saints, and each of our Catholic grandmothers and grandfathers, no matter where they originated, heard the Mass in Latin.
I began to attend the Latin Mass last year and found it difficult, deep, powerful, and unbelievably beautiful. It drew me back to the solemnity of my faith, and it joined me to the saints who still inspire me and to early childhood memories of Mass with my dear grandmother. It has made me love my Catholic Church even more. I belong to a parish dedicated to preserving the Latin Mass in our diocese. (Thank you, Bishop Daniel Thomas!) My church was built in 1854 and carries the echoes of over 100 years of Latin Masses.
While the other parishes are now in Ordinary Time, we are still in Christmastide until Septuagesima Sunday, three Sundays before Ash Wednesday. We celebrated Epiphany on January 6, in which Father blessed water and chalk (to chalk our doors) for our homes. We look forward to Candlemas on February 2, celebrating the Purification of our Blessed Virgin Mary, in which we will have candles for our home blessed. Traditions of the past serve to deepen our faith and our children’s for the future.
In this 12-part Love Letter to the Latin Mass, I hope to share aspects that make the Latin Mass so precious and vital to our Church. I am excited to share more with you and pray that these writings will be a blessing to you.
… et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum. (John 1:1)
It’s Epiphanytide now. Yes till Septuagesmia Sunday.
And the blessing of chalk/candles described above is not exclusive to traditional parishes, even if it’s been dropped in a lot of places…