Why is Latin used in the Mass?
excerpted from "What is a Catholic?" by Paul H. Hallet (New York: The Macmillan Company, c.1955).
Since this book was written before the Second Vatican Council , the opinion expressed first paragraph is interesting, and a bit sad, too...The reasons stated for using Latin in the Mass are still valid, and the consequences of the introduction of the vernacular are predicted by the following paragraphs...
Ignorance and poor formation of our youth, abandonment of traditional devotions, and ghastly experimental 'new' liturgical music are far too common. All this can not have as simple and single cause as the loss of Latin in the Mass, but it surely had a part to play.
The Mass is said in some eight languages or dialects by Catholics of the Eastern Rites. Latin was not introduced into the Mass in Rome itself until the late second century. The Holy See will never force the surrender of the ancient Eastern liturgies. But the great body of Catholics use Latin in the liturgy, and it is doubtful, despite the desires of some Catholics, that the Holy See will ever permit, as a general rule, any substantial part of the Mass to be replaced by the vernacular.
The Mass must not be judged like private prayers, which a person must understand in order to express his thoughts or feelings to God. In a sense it is less the prayer of the people than that of the priest, who usually says it in too low a voice to be heard. The retention of Latin is a magnificent affirmation that our beliefs are those of antiquity; we pray as our fathers prayed because we believe as they believed. The fixity of language helps impress this fact.
It is wrong, moreover, to suppose that Latin is gibberish to the people. Every Catholic knows and loves the words before the distribution of Communion: *Domine, non sum dignus,* "O Lord, I am not worthy"; and the other key words, pronounced in an audible voice, the *Dominus vobiscum, orate Fratres, ecce, Agnus Dei.* He is not ignorant of the meaning of the *O Salutaris Hostia,* the magnificent Latin hymn of Saint Thomas sung before the exposed Host. English is inferior to Latin as a language of liturgical song.