Q — I was wondering, if unity is an important part of catholic teaching, why is it that we do not see the traditional Latin Mass offered more generously? In the past, anywhere you went to a Catholic Church the Mass was exactly the same (only the homily was in the vernacular). So, with an increasing number of parishioners who speak Spanish and other languages, why do we not offer this Mass more often so that we can come together and celebrate Mass without either group (the English speaking and the non-English speaking) feeling lost?

A — This is a very good question, but a complex question, and it shows a real sensitivity concerning the unity of the parish and, indeed, of the Catholic Church as a whole.

Latin has traditionally been the language of the Western Church, and it seems to me that in some respects Latin may be understood as a badge or a symbol of our catholicity.

That’s one of the reasons why various parts of the Mass are often sung in Latin, e.g., the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei. At the same time, the church has judged that celebrating in the vernacular languages better enables the active participation of all the faithful in the celebration of the Mass.

Having access to the words and their meanings throughout the entire celebration, including the liturgy of the word, helps us to be more spiritually disposed for the reception of Holy Communion. This access becomes even richer when one considers the more expanded repertoire of theological meaning in the new English translation of the Roman Missal that goes into effect on the first Sunday of Advent 2011.

The more generous availability of the older Latin Mass by Pope Benedict was not intended to supplant the various vernacular translations, and it was not intended to address the multicultural nature of parishes and dioceses. In his letter to the bishops on the occasion of the publication of the apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum the Pope wrote: “The use of the old (1962) Missal presupposes a certain degree of liturgical formation and some knowledge of the Latin language; neither of these is found very often.”

We need to find other ways to deepen the unity of our multicultural parishes beyond the actual celebration of the Eucharist, even as the Eucharist remains the bedrock of our unity in Christ.