Although many people, even priests, don't know it, the Second Vatican Council clearly specifies that "the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites" (Sacrosanctum concilium 36) and again, "steps should be taken so that the faithful may be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them" (Sacrosanctum concilium 54). If, as a parish community, we haven't yet learned how to sing and recite the ordinary parts of the Mass in Latin (Dominus vobiscum, Kyrie eleison, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Pater noster, Agnus Dei and Ite missa est), we have not yet fulfilled the directives of the Second Vatican Council.
The celebration of vernacular Mass in 2013 is certainly better, that is, more in line with what Vatican II asked of the Church, than it was from the 1970s through the 1990s. Things had already begun to improve in the latter years of the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II, thanks to the Holy Father's efforts and to the efforts of Francis Cardinal Arinze, of Nigeria, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and, of course, the efforts of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and now Pope Benedict XVI. Indeed, the new translation promulgated last year marks a high water mark in the recovery of liturgy as the faithful faithfully worshipping Almighty God and a decisive movement away from liturgy experienced as the worshipping community worshipping itself. Theatre-in-the-round style modernist churches, bumbling, ill-clad extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, ill-prepared lectors, and sentimental homilies from priests and deacons are ubiquitous throughout the Church.
In an important work published at the end of the last century, The Spirit of the Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), Cardinal Ratzinger stated that "liturgical education today, both of priests and laity, is deficient to a deplorable extent." Any one who has been to a Mariachi Mass, or a Polka Mass, or a Mass with dancers in tights, or a Clown Mass, or a GLBT Affirmation Mass, or a Mass with nun "concelebrants," or a Mass where the priest spontaneously ad libs his way through the liturgy (and there are many of us indeed) knows precisely what Ratzinger was talking about. But even persons who have not themselves witnessed such travesties as kind cited above, have still been present where Mass is characterized primarily as a dialogue between the priest and the people, when in fact Holy Mass is meant to be an offering by the priest to Almighty God on behalf of the faithful.
The purpose of Holy Mass is not the self-fulfillment of the congregation. Indeed, there can be no genuine self-fulfillment of anyone at all, unless God is authentically acknowledged as the Supreme, Most High, All Good, Totally Good reality toward which the liturgical action is directed. Only one thing is acceptable to God and that is the sacrificial offering of His Only Begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, made present in the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Without making that awesome reality of God's Presence the primary focus of our worship, we worship in vain, no matter how delightful and uplifting we may find the Sunday church-going experience.
In order to remedy the problems acknowledged above, Cardinal Ratzinger proposed a threefold plan of action to reform the misguided implementation of the Vatican II. His plan consists in these elements: (1) greater attention placed by the clergy on the ars celebrandi, that is, the proper way of celebrating the Mass; (2) a re-examination of the new liturgical books "to see in what area...too much was pruned away, so that the connection with the whole history [of Christianity] may become clearer and more alive again [in the liturgy];" and (3) the lifting of all restrictions on the celebration of the traditional form of the Mass in Latin, so that the Catholic faithful may develop a true consciousness of liturgical matters and so that the two forms of the Latin rite may be mutually enriched by one another.
The Pope has laid out an ambitious plan for renewal, but here at Saint Thomas Aquinas Cathedral, we are most assuredly on board and are doing our best to renew the liturgy and the world through the authentic worship of the Most High God.
Fr. Francisco Nahoe OFM Conv, January 2013