FOR THE tiny minority who love and understand Latin — who read and speak it fluently — it must have been a wrench when the Church recognised that for the overwhelming majority Latin was obsolete; but for most of us it was a God-send.
At last (450 years after our Anglican brethren) we too can understand what Christ — through the priest — is saying to us at the font, on the altar, in the confessional, at our weddings, on our sick-beds and our deathbeds. It was surprising that Latin lasted so long — after the rest of the world had abandoned it. The vast majority of Christians, from the first Pentocost — through the Middle Ages — to our own day, have never understood Latin; for them it was meaningless, and anything meaningless is useless.
Almost all of them, of course, were illiterate even in their spoken mother-tongue — as were all the teeming millions of common folk in Europe, South America and Africa during the
Even Shakespeare had, "little Latin and less Greek", and in, As you like it, mentions, "the priest who lacks Latin — and sleeps easily, lacking the burden of lean and wasteful learning."
If there were many such priests — as there were — then the poor plough-boys and milkmaids and other labouring folk in the Medieval congregations must have been even more bewildered by Church Latin.
Even before Vatican II no priest would have given his sermon, or read the notices, much less appealed for money, in Latin. If the Apostles had insisted on preaching the Word in Latin, I don't think they would have made many converts.
The Holy Spirit gave us the strongest hint at the first Pentecost when he made it possible for all the people to say, "we hear, in our own language, the wonderful works of God." Eddie O'Hara Heslington Road, York