It is true that Jesus Christ probably did not speak much Latin. For those arguing against the traditional language of the Church, this seems to be a significant point–a bomb they can drop to end the argument over whether Latin is needed at all these days. But truth cannot be found in clichés or one-liners, truth takes a closer examination, truth requires looking to tradition. Why not take the time to do that?
We’ve assembled some of the sources for you right here. Read through it and click any portion you may find interesting. But first a note about both ends of the history.
First, Jesus Christ clearly founded the Church in the Book of Acts, and He then sent his disciples to the “ends of the Earth.” In that age there was only place where all roads led, where a Church could be central and universal, and that was Rome. Peter and Paul were there, and these facts gave Latin all the credibility it needed to become and last as the lingua franca of the Latin Church for over a millennium.
At the other end of history, even the documents of Pope John XXIII and Vatican II call for Latin’s respect and preservation. Regardless, the modernists left the council crying for a level of unprecedented change that swept Latin right out the door with many other great traditions of the Church. This treatment was not called for, as history reveals and tradition requires.
Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum expanding access to the Traditional Latin Mass (2007).
Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to the bishops accompanying the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum (2007).
The formation of the Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Petri (FSSP) as a traditionalist Catholic society for priests interested in promoting and protecting the Traditional Latin Mass, which broke off from the SSPX and is in communion with the Holy See, occurs (1988).
Bl. Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution Scripturarium Thesaurus promolgating the Nova Vulgata (1979).
The Nova Vulgata, or new Vulgate, the official modern version of St. Jerome’s Vulgate Bible, is published (1979).
The Ottaviani Intervention, a famous letter by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani to Pope Paul VI stressing that the Traditional Latin Mass should not be replaced by the new mass (1969).
Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, is promolgated by Pope Paul VI, allowing for Mass in the vernacular instead of Latin when a territorial decree permits the exception, see p. 36. (1963). (Permission for the change was obtained by U.S. bishops in May of 1964.)
Bl. Pope John XXIII’s Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia on the Promotion of the Study of Latin (1962).
Pope St. Pius X‘s Motu Propio Tra le Sollecitudini stresses the majesty and importance of Gregorian Chant as a part of the liturgy (1903).
Following the Council of Trent, Pope Clement VIII issues the Papal Bull Cum Sacrorum accompanying the issuance of the Clementine Vulgate (searchable text), the revision of St. Jerome’s Vulgate Bible, which stands until the 1979 revision (1592).
Pope St. Pius V‘s Apostolic Constitution Quo Primum is issued, implementing the decision of the Council of Trent to require the use of the historic Latin liturgy in perpetuity, and foregoing any other which did not have 200 years of consistent use by that date (1570).
Pope St. Gregory The Great formalizes the Mass in Latin and, tradition states, begins Gregorian Chant during his pontificate (c. 600).
St. Jerome writes a letter to Pope Damasus prefacing his translation of the Gospels into Latin (c. 377).
St. Irenaeus describes the “Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul” at Book 3 Chap. 3 Para. 2 of his work Against Heresies (c. 180).
St. Paul arrives in Rome, Acts 28:11, later martyred there (c. 64).
The saints, the sinners, more than likely your ancient ancestors knew the Mass in Latin, as Jesus no doubt knew would happen. You do not need to speak it to attend the Traditional Latin Mass, but you do need to know that it is a part of you, your Church and your tradition.