Dr Philippa Martyr: The Novus Ordo was meant to be a Latin Mass

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Vetus Ordo communities, those who celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, are growing at a healthy rate in the Western world. PHOTO: SHALONE CASON/UNSPLASH

There’s some concerns that Pope Francis might be planning to limit the use of the Vetus Ordo, or Extraordinary Form of the Mass (the Latin Mass).

I’ve never seen Pope Francis do anything quickly. But let’s just say it’s all true, and that from now on, a priest has to have an established congregation or chaplaincy to say this Mass in public. What might that mean?

It shouldn’t slow down the current Vetus Ordo communities, most of which are growing at a healthy rate in the Western world. Eventually they’ll get big enough to form new established congregations.

I’ve had people grumble to me about the Vetus Ordo, saying that its persistence is ‘divisive’. I can only assume these people don’t know anything about Church history, because there’s always been multiple official forms of the Mass, even in the West.

I also know these people belong to dying parishes and think gay married women priests will save the Church. I generally don’t take them very seriously.

But this strikes me as a terrific opportunity to start talking about the Novus Ordo Mass and how it should be celebrated.

Did you know that the Novus Ordo is actually a Latin Mass? It was first written in Latin and was always intended to be said in Latin.

The most terrific part is knowing that a priest can’t ad lib during Mass in Latin …He’ll be concentrating so hard on declensions he won’t have time for dad jokes.

The local language was meant for the readings and things like the prayers of the faithful. All the main prayers of the Mass, from the ‘In nomine Patris’ at the beginning to the ‘Ite missa est’ at the end, were meant to be in Latin.

These Latin texts form the basis of our current English translation. They’re alive and well, and in current use.

When I lived in Oxford, my local parish church celebrated many of its Novus Ordo Masses in Latin, and they were usually packed. By contrast, the solitary Tridentine Mass had very few attendees.

And I loved it. I’d never really understood the Novus Ordo before I heard it said in Latin. And the final piece of the puzzle fell into place when I first attended a low Mass in the old Tridentine Rite.

I could see the continuity between the low Mass and the Novus Ordo: I could see clearly what had been changed, and how the whole structure had been simplified.
Attending a Novus Ordo Mass in Latin is truly amazing. Especially if the priest chooses to say the Eucharistic prayer silently.

Did you know he was allowed to do that? I didn’t, but Cardinal Ratzinger – as he was then – explained it to me in a conference paper in 2001. Your parish priest could be doing this right now, even in English (ring him up and tell him).

The most terrific part is knowing that the priest can’t ad lib during Mass in Latin. In fact, he’ll be concentrating so hard on those declensions that he won’t have time to make dad jokes.

We owe it to the Novus Ordo to celebrate it the way Vatican II really intended. Dominus vobiscum!

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