Our Universal Church

Our Universal ChurchIn the midst of the Second Vatican Council, Pope John XXIII wrote the often-missed apostolic constitution Veterum Sapientia (On the Promotion of the Study of Latin), reminding the Church of the many benefits of the language. Quoting Pius XI, he notes that Latin is beneficial because it is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular. Recently, I’ve become more convinced that Latin can be a unifying force in our universal Church by the witness of high schoolers.


In February, Our Lady of Peace high school students attended Winter Faith Camp for the first time. Winter Faith Camp is a weekend retreat organized by a team of youth ministry staff from around the Archdiocese. These staff members work for parishes with a variety of different expressions of Catholic worship, and one of the goals of this year’s retreat was to give the high schoolers a taste of the broad spectrum of Catholic prayer.


On Sunday morning, the teens began their day with an optional time of personal prayer. They could participate in a rosary, Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, or praise and worship. After breakfast, the entire camp participated in a “Praise and Worship Workshop,” in which they learned some of the different postures of praise rooted in the Jewish tradition and the Psalms. These postures include bowing, clapping, and raising one’s hands; each was practiced using contemporary worship music. Next came Sunday Mass, which was celebrated almost entirely in Latin. 


For some teens from other parishes, participating in Mass in Latin was comfortable and familiar. For the Our Lady of Peace crew, praying in Latin was a brand-new experience. I wasn’t sure they’d enjoy this form of prayer, but I told them I appreciated their trying something new. Based on their feedback after Mass, I assumed I was correct in guessing that Mass in Latin would not be their cup of tea.


However, after a Lifeline Mass in March incorporating primarily contemporary music, I learned I was wrong when I asked one of our teens about his experience that evening.


 “It was okay, but I prefer when Mass is more traditional,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked. 


“You know, like at Winter Faith Camp when Mass was in Latin. I liked that”. 


One of the greatest joys of my work in youth ministry is that the Lord is unpredictable in how He’ll speak to each heart. Sometimes, He even speaks in Latin.


Jocelyn Johnson

Director of Youth Ministry


Photo credit: Catholic Youth Summer Camp