The opportunity to study as a seminarian in Rome was a life-changing experience for me. One of the things that most impressed me was being in a huge lecture hall with Catholic men and women from all over the world. All of us were together, studying our shared Catholic faith, and it opened my eyes to how the Faith transcends while embracing different cultures, ethnicities, and languages of the world, unifying us in a family of grace. I was also impressed by the city of Rome itself. During my daily walk from the seminary residence to the university, I never tired of looking at the grand ruins of ancient Rome and how they had been integrated into the buildings from the Medieval period, the Rennaisance, and the Modern Era. It became a habit for many of the seminarians to stop into the many churches we passed on the way to school and visit the tombs of saints who lived in these different periods, from the martyrs of the ancient Church to Pope St. John Paul II.
Life in Rome as a seminarian revealed to me how our Catholic faith stretches through both space and time – encompassing every place and culture on earth, as well as spanning 2000 years of history. Our contemporary age is a strange one in that it tends to neglect the past, fixating on “moving forward” into the future. But it is important to have a healthy appreciation of the past, because it gives us a sense of rootedness that helps us to understand who we are. Acknowledging and loving the wisdom that we have received from those who came before us, we will want to share this sacred patrimony with those who come after us as an act of charity. One of the most important aspects of our identity is that we are Latin Rite Catholics, which means we are the heirs to the Faith as it grew and developed over the centuries in the West, where Latin was the common language. A number of parishioners will remember learning Latin in school and hearing it at Mass growing up. With the liturgical reforms of the Latin Rite in the 1960s, it became common for the Mass to be said in the vernacular (in our case, English). But according to the Second Vatican Council itself, the Latin language was to be preserved in the liturgy, since it had been the language of the Church’s prayer in the West for 16 centuries. It is part of our shared heritage, connecting us in a tangible way through time to our brothers and sisters in Christ who came before us, living in ages past yet confessing the same Catholic Faith we do today. Recently, Bishop Caggiano told the priests of the Diocese that every Catholic should at least know and be able to pray the Latin parts of what’s called the “Ordinary of the Mass.” The Ordinary of the Mass consists of those prayers of the Mass that remain unchanged throughout the year, such as the Gloria, the Creed, the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), the Mysterium Fidei (Mystery of Faith), and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).
To foster a deeper appreciation for our identity as Latin Rite Catholics and for the Faith we share with our ancestors, starting next weekend we will begin singing the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei in Latin. The words will be provided in the bulletin, but hopefully we will be able to learn them quickly enough to sing them together by heart. The vast majority of the liturgy will remain in our English vernacular, of course. But by praying some of the Mass in Latin it will give us a greater sense of our sacred bond with our ancestors, who confessed the same Catholic Faith as we do, handing it down to us as an act of Christian charity.