July 2019 Print

Questions and Answers

by Fr. Juan-Carlos Iscara, SSPX

Considering the present crisis of the Church, what does it mean to pray “for the intentions of the Holy Father”?

When, for gaining and indulgence, we pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, we are praying for four specific, objective intentions. The Raccolta (a collection of indulgences that used to be published by the Sacred Congregation of Indulgences) states that the pope’s intention always includes the following, very Catholic intentions:

  • The progress of the Faith and triumph of the Church.
  • Peace and union among Christian Princes and Rulers.
  • The conversion of sinners.
  • The uprooting of heresy.

These are the objective intentions for which we pray, those that correspond to the faithful discharge of his office. Whatever other personal intentions he may have, we pray for them also, as long as they do not contradict those already stated intentions—that is, do not pray for the pope’s subjective intentions if they contradict our Catholic Faith or otherwise harm the Church.

Can I fully participate at Mass by praying my rosary or doing my spiritual reading?

The question has been already magisterially answered by Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei.

First of all, “the faithful should be aware that to participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice is their chief duty and supreme dignity, and that not in an inert and negligent fashion, giving way to distractions and daydreaming, but with such earnestness and concentration that they may be united as closely as possible with the High Priest, and together with Him and through Him let them make their oblation, and in union with Him let them offer up themselves” (Mediator Dei, §80).

In consequence, “they are to be praised who with the idea of getting the Christian people to take part more easily and more fruitfully in the Mass, strive to make them familiar with the Roman Missal, so that the faithful, united with the priest, may pray together in the very words and sentiments of the Church. They also are to be commended who strive to make the Liturgy even in an external way a sacred act in which all who are present may share. This can be done in more than one way, when, for instance, the whole congregation in accordance with the rules of the Liturgy, either answer the priest in an orderly and fitting manner, or sing hymns suitable to the different parts of the Mass, or do both, or finally in High Masses when they answer the prayers of the minister of Jesus Christ and also sing the liturgical chant” (Mediator Dei, §105).

The chief aim of these methods of participation is “to foster and promote the people’s piety and intimate union with Christ and His visible minister and to arouse those internal sentiments and dispositions which should make our hearts become like to that of the High Priest of the New Testament” (Mediator Dei, §106).

Nonetheless, “many of the faithful are unable to use the Roman Missal even though it is written in the vernacular—nor are all capable of understanding correctly the liturgical rites and formulas. So varied and diverse are men’s talents and characters that it is impossible for all to be moved and attracted to the same extent by community prayers, hymns, and liturgical services. Moreover, the needs and inclinations of all are not the same, nor are they always constant in the same individual. Who then would say, on account of such a prejudice, that all these Christians cannot participate in the Mass nor share its fruits? On the contrary, they can adopt some other method which proves easier for certain people, for instance, they can lovingly meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ or perform other exercises of piety or recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are still essentially in harmony with them” (Mediator Dei, §108).

Why has the Church traditionally preserved the use of Latin in the Roman liturgy?

Although there is nothing in Revelation to prove the absolute necessity of a sacred language (that is, a language different from the vernacular and restricted to sacred functions), the Roman Church has chosen to preserve Latin as its liturgical language for the advantages it presents.

Latin, being a so-called dead language, has the incomparable merit of being at the same time unchangeable and mysterious.

It is unchangeable, while the languages of the people undergo constant improvement and remodeling, and liable to go on progressing and altering. If the liturgical books were subjected to perpetual change and reconstruction, if the liturgical formulas of prayer were incessantly remodeled and altered, the original text and context would lose not only much of their incomparable force and beauty, but often would be disfigured and spoiled by incorrectness, errors and misrepresentations. Hence it would be impossible to preserve and maintain uniformity of divine worship at different times among even one and the same people, much less throughout the world.

Since Latin has been withdrawn from daily life, it possesses a holy, venerable, and mystic character. Elevated above the time and place of everyday life, is a mystic veil for the adorable mysteries of the Mass, which here below we acknowledge only in the obscurity of faith, but whose clear vision shall be our portion in Heaven.

The use of Latin does not prevent the faithful from participating in the fruits of the Sacrifice.

The liturgy of the Holy Sacrifice contains much that is instructive, but instruction is by no means its principal object. The Mass is not primarily a doctrinal lecture or an instruction to the people. The Sacrifice is essentially a liturgical action performed by the priest for propitiating and glorifying God, as well as for the salvation of souls.

In this sacrifice the people should, in spiritual union with the celebrant, join in prayer and sacrifice. And this is not possible for them to do without some understanding of the liturgical celebration, but in order to acquire the requisite knowledge, various means are at the disposal of Catholics (oral teaching, books of instruction and devotion). For this purpose the mere recital of formulas of prayer in the vernacular by the celebrant would not suffice: the translations of the prayers would not always disclose their hidden meaning, and might often be the occasion of misconceptions, of misunderstandings.

As a universal language of worship, Latin is an admirable means of presenting, preserving and promoting the unity of the Church in worship, faith and conduct.

The unity of the liturgy for all time and place can be perfectly maintained only inasmuch as it is always and everywhere celebrated in the same language. By the introduction of the various national languages, the uniformity and harmony of Catholic worship is imperiled and, in a certain measure, rendered impossible.

The unity of the liturgical language and of the divine worship in the Church is a very efficient means for preserving the integrity of the Faith. The liturgy is, indeed, a channel by which dogmatic teaching is transmitted. Worship is developed out of the doctrine of Faith. In the liturgical prayers, in the rites and ceremonies of the Church the truths of Catholic Faith find their expression, and can be established and proved therefrom. The more fixed, unchangeable and inviolable the liturgical formula is, the better it is adapted to preserve intact and to transmit unimpaired the original deposit of Faith.