The use of the Latin -- or Tridentine Mass -- has been a source of confusion and controversy in the Catholic Church for more than 40 years. Contrary to popular belief, the second Vatican Council of 1962 did not ban the Latin Mass. In fact, that Council said flatly that the use of Latin in worship and liturgy is to be preserved. The Council only wanted to open the door for the use of local language in celebrating Mass. Pope John Paul II reaffirmed that declaration in 1984. Even so, the Latin Mass has almost disappeared over the years, but not completely. It's still around for those who know where to look for it. Archbishop Joseph DiNardo of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston says one Houston parish has done the old Tridentine Mass for years.
"Bishop Fiorenza years ago allowed the Tridentine Rite at Annunciation Church in downtown Houston. It is celebrated every Sunday at 8 AM."
Annunciation Church also does the modern Mass in Latin, and a second parish -- Holy Rosary -- also does the modern Latin Mass. DiNardo says the controversy over the use of local vernacular has come mostly from European Catholics who rejected Vatican II's forward looking theological thinking, and who cling to the Tridentine Mass as a way of distancing themselves from that renewal. He says he hasn't seen that kind of strident opposition in this country. DiNardo says he would love to have more parishes using the modern Latin Mass, and the older Tridentine Mass, but for that to happen, it has to begin at the parish level.
"Part of it would depend on the schedule of masses in that parish on a Sunday. If there was another priest to help him, because if he does that then there may be other masses he needs to have and there wouldn't be a priest available. In other words much of this depends Jim on the availability and willingness of a priest, and a sufficient number of people to grant it."
DiNardo says finding priests willing to learn the Latin masses is also a problem. He's an Archbishop and he grew up with the Tridentine Mass, but he's never celebrated it. In any event, DiNardo says this is a wonderful subject to talk about during Holy Week.
"Certainly because the Mass, for us, is the re-presentation of the death and resurrection of the Lord. It's the center of Catholic life. It's good to talk about the Mass. I think that's great."
There's more information about the Tridentine Mass in a link on our website KUHF dot Org. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.