Converting Protestants - A Secret Method

A Eucharistic Procession in Springfield Missouri
Feast of Corpus Christi 2012
Seeking photo credit please.
I have a secret.  I know how to get more Protestants into the Catholic Church.  Would you like to know?  It's guaranteed to work with shocking effectiveness.  You'll get more Protestant converts to the Catholic Church than you know what to do with.  They'll come in small numbers at first, just a trickle really, but that will slowly grow into a torrent.  You won't know what to do with them all.  You'll probably have to build bigger parishes or add on to existing ones.  From these converts you will find the most faithful and passionate Catholics in your whole diocese.  You'll even get an increase in vocations, as Protestant ministers will convert too, many of whom will seek ordination to the priesthood under the terms of the Pastoral Provision that allows for married priests.  Did I peak your interest?  Well, sit down and read because I'm not just going to come out and tell you.  No.  Now that I have your attention, you'll have to read through my article.

You see I am a Protestant convert to the Catholic Church myself, and not just any type of Protestant, but three types to be exact.  I was raised as a nominal Baptist.  As a young adult I became a passionate Evangelical, and a staunch Fundamentalist one at that.  It was here I was instructed on how to be an anti-Catholic, that the Church of Rome was really the "Whore of Babylon" written of in the Apocalypse, and the Roman Catholic Church was a counterfeit Christian "cult."  I was part of the fastest growing Evangelical movement in the United States during the 1990s -- Calvary Chapel.  I even studied to become a pastor in this movement, and nearly gained a pastoral role at my local affiliate before turning it down to pursue a more traditional form of Protestantism.  You see my pastoral studies of Church history and the Jewish roots of the Christian faith led me to understand that the early Christians were much more "catholic" than I was comfortable with.  So I decided to study and experience these "catholic" practises in a good safe Protestant environment.  That's why my wife and I joined a local Episcopal Church.  We spent some time as Episcopalians, learning how to genuflect and make the sign of the cross.  We learnt the meaning of liturgy and that church "services" were really supposed to be an act of worship that is a sacrifice, not just a fellowship for mutual edification.  In time however, we had difficulty accepting the liberal practises of the national province (female priests and acceptance of homosexuality).  My wife also wanted to be part of a larger church that was in communion with a larger number of Christians.  I agreed with her on this, and so, on the Easter Vigil of 2000, Penny and I were received into the Catholic Church.

Our story is not so unique really.  Lot's of Evangelicals become Catholic, and a good portion of those who find the Roman Road do so by following the Canterbury Trail, just as Penny and I did.  It's because our story is not so unique that I happen to know the secret of winning Protestant converts to the Catholic Church.  It's not hard really.  Any Catholic can do it with virtually no practise, no drills, no study and no experimentation.  In other words, it's really no problem.  Curious?  Stay with me.

Ever since the Second Vatican Council there has been this notion among Catholics (both clergy and laity) that in order to attract more Protestants to the Catholic Church we need to be more like them. We need to make our churches look more Protestant, get rid of excessive icons, and make them more "trendy" or "modern" in appearance.  There is been this notion that if we dispense of traditional Catholic music and bring in more protestant-style hymns and praise music, we will attract the Protestants.  Likewise, it has been assumed that if we scale down the mass, get rid of the incense and bells, reduce the chanting, and dispense of many of our time-honoured customs, we will certainly get the Protestants' attention.  Whatever we do, of course, we should never upset the public with fiery homilies that touch on controversial issues.  Or so it was believed, that Protestants desire a more "touchy-feely" kind of worship and message.  Like the Protestants, many Catholics began to focus on the mass as more of a "fellowship service" aimed at mutual edification and community.  Some parishes also introduced rock music into the mass for the younger generation along with all sorts of goofy innovations.  Now to be clear, the Second Vatican Council never called for these things.  In fact, I think it's safe to say the bishops of that council never even imagined them.  This was more of a trend that occurred after the council, and was not necessarily sponsored by the council.  I think it was something that just sort of happened on its own.  Perhaps we could say that people were just caught up in the spirit and emotion of the times, rather than faithfully administering what the conciliar fathers had in mind.

Well, if you're a Catholic who has bought into any of these things, sit down (if your aren't already) because I'm about to burst your bubble.  Here it is.  Brace yourself.  

Protestants do it better.  That's right, Protestants do it better.  When it comes to acting like Protestants, the Protestants do it better.  They have always done it better, and guess what?  They always will do it better.  You, as a Catholic, will never even hold a candle to them.  Their traditional hymns are better.  Their contemporary prayer and praise music is better.  Their pop and rock bands are better.  Their Protestant-style music always has been better than our imitation of it, and it always will be.  It really should be when you think about it.  After all, they invented it.  When it comes to worship, that is a central part of it.  They generally don't focus on the solemn contemplative nature of worship.  Their focus is primarily on community and fellowship, coupled with praise to the Lord, so naturally that genre of music is going to sound better in their churches, not ours, because for them it's much more natural to their understanding of what church is about.  We, as Catholics, can try to imitate them if we want, but we'll never be as good as they are in that area.  The truth is, if all I ever wanted to do was go to church solely for contemporary praise and worship music, I would head down to the local Evangelical mega-church on the other side of town.  I certainly wouldn't go to a Catholic church!  In the 1970s it was nuns singing "Kumbaya."  Yuck!  While today it's praise bands singing the latest from Michael W. Smith, and that's not a whole lot better.  The acoustics are usually bad in Catholic parishes, with all that marble and wooden pews, while Evangelical churches are designed more like sound stages with padded chairs, thick carpeting, track lighting and insulated walls.  When it comes to putting on that kind of environment, the Evangelicals have got us beat, and they always will.  Face it.  Nobody can be as good at Evangelicalism as the Evangelicals themselves. Why would I want to go to a knock off at a local Catholic church? When I could go to the very people who invented that genre of worship thirty to forty years ago?  Duh!  Sorry, but this is how I see it.  If I ever desire to go back to church just for the contemporary worship music and feeling of community, I'll let you know, because my "goodbye" letter of self-excommunication will be lying on my bishop's desk, and I will be sitting in the soft comfortable chair of an Evangelical mega-church while clapping loudly, raising my hands in the air, and singing at the top of my voice, just as I did twenty years ago.  I left that behind for a reason.  Think about it.  I'm not saying that there is something wrong with that style of worship.  On the contrary, I'm saying that if I (as a former Evangelical) wanted that, I would go back to where it is offered best.

Here is another bubble to burst.  Sorry, but the truth is painful sometimes.  When it comes to teaching like Protestants, again, the Protestants do it better.  They have always done it better, and guess what?  They always will do it better.  You, as a Catholic, will never even hold a candle to them.  You want a feeling of "inclusiveness?"  You want a theology that doesn't offend?  Hey, the Protestants literally invented that stuff!  You can go into thousands of Protestant churches today, both traditional and evangelical, and there you may find an assortment of different teachings to fit your personal beliefs.  In one church, you may find a woman standing behind the pulpit as the head pastor of the congregation.  She's the boss, and she's running the whole show.  Some of these churches are fairly "conservative" and some are fairly "progressive."  In fact, you've got a whole range to choose from all across the moral and social spectrum, ranging from left to right, in virtually any city of any relatively large size.  If all I ever wanted was a church I could go to for the purpose of finding an institution that fits my own theological ideals, and not be "offended" by something that disagrees, then I have a whole range to choose from.  I could return to my ancestral Lutheran heritage if that's all I wanted.  Heck! I could even find a couple of Baptist churches in my area who cater to that mentality.  If I like traditional catholic-style worship, without all that commitment to Catholic doctrine, I could just go back to The Episcopal Church.  The point I'm trying to make here is that if adhering to the full and complete teaching of the Catholic Church were not a priority for me, then I have an assortment of other churches to choose from, most of which will cater to exactly what I want.  I could just as easily, and in some cases more conveniently, go to one of those churches instead.  I've always found it amazing that most so-called "Cafeteria Catholics" never do this.  They would, after all, be more honest with themselves if they did.  Why stick with a religion you don't believe in any more?  Anyway, this isn't about them.  It's about me and why I became Catholic in the first place.   The truth is, if I wanted a church that didn't morally challenge me on all levels, even on areas I feel uncomfortable with, then once again my "goodbye" letter of self-excommunication would be laying on my bishop's desk, and I would be comfortably sitting in the chair (or pew) of any number of Protestant churches to my liking.  I left that kind of "freedom" behind for a reason too.  Again, think about it.  I'm not attacking or criticising Protestant churches here.  On the contrary, I'm saying that if I (as a former Evangelical) wanted that, I would go back to where it is offered best.

If I wanted to be more "protestant" in my worship and doctrine, I could easily go back to any Protestant church, and believe me when I say they would welcome me with open arms.  Oh the tales I could tell them, of how "Catholicism failed me" and so forth.  They would just eat it up.  Of course I have no desire to do that, because you see, I love Catholicism.  I love everything about being a Catholic.  I love Catholic worship.  I love Catholic teaching, even the hard stuff I find difficult to put into practise.  I am thankful to be part of a Church that leads me into sacrificial worship and challenges me morally.  By failing some of the moral teachings of the Church, I know God is challenging me.  By going to confession for these sins, I know God is reforming me, and rebuilding me the way HE wants me to be (not the way I want to be, or the way the world says I should be, but the way GOD wants me to be).  By approaching our Eucharistic Lord in the sacrifice of the mass, I know I am having direct physical contact with the Lord, and that it's not just about having a local community get together with good prayer and praise music.  You see, I really dig Catholicism for Catholicism's sake, and that my friends is the secret to winning more Protestant converts, or converts of any type really.  Just be more Catholic!  

Protestants don't convert to Catholicism to be more protestant.  They don't convert because they kinda-wanta-sorta be Catholic.  No!  They convert because they want to BE Catholic, totally Catholic, and fully Catholic in every way.  I'm not talking about the fiancĂ©es of Catholics who are converting for marriage sake.  (Though they could be just as passionate about becoming Catholic too, and many of them are!)  I'm talking about regular Protestants who convert to Catholicism on their own, or as a couple, because they have simply found an interest in the Catholic Church.  I guarantee it wasn't the contemporary worship and feel-good homilies that attracted them.  That I promise you.  No, it was a more traditional-style of Catholic worship that caught their attention, and it was the staunch moral theology of the Catholic Church that challenged them in a way that was refreshing.  This is what draws Protestants, and anybody really, into the Catholic Church, this and nothing else!  Once they get interested, then they learn about the sacraments and sacramentals.  That's secondary to them.  It comes later, as they enter the Church through the RCIA process or some other method.  That isn't what draws them in at first.  The initial draw (the "hook" so to speak) that brings in more converts is so simple really.  Just be more Catholic.  Bring back the traditional style of worship, the Gregorian chants, the old hymns, the sung liturgy, the incense and bells, and by all means, bring back the Eucharistic processions, adorations, and public vespers. Pastors, challenge your flock to LIVE the faith and teach it fully from behind the pulpit -- especially the parts that are difficult to keep.  Ladies, by all means, wear head coverings again, like they used to not so long ago.  Ladies, you have no idea how much a simple hat, veil or mantilla can affect a Protestant (both male and female) who has read the scripture in 1st. Corinthians 11 dozens of times but never understood its meaning.  You have the opportunity to give Protestants a visual testimony that the scriptures are living and breathing within the Catholic Church.  Men, start dressing up for mass again, and for heaven's sake, wear a scapular or bring a rosary with you.  Don't you know that all of these are visible signs that help Protestants see there is something different about you?  Don't you know these things give testimony to a visible faith with material manifestations.  This is something many Protestants are missing in their Protestant churches, some of which put an over-emphasis on spiritualising the Christian faith.  When you show them visible manifestations of the Christian faith, this peaks their curiosity, and it gets them to start questioning things.  I'm not just talking about questions concerning Catholicism, but also questions concerning their own Protestantism.  

Protestants don't seek modernity in Catholic worship.  I guarantee, if that's what they want, they will remain Protestants, and there is nothing you can say or do to attract them.  The ONLY Protestants that will ever seek out the Catholic Church are those who are looking for an anchor to the past.  They want something that is solid and unchanged.  They want a connection to their ancient Christian ancestry.  They want to worship the way their ancestors worshipped, and they want to be morally challenged in a world that is morally fluid.  People seek modernity in shopping malls, automobiles and the workplace.  Where they don't want modernity is in religion.  The only people who want modernity in religion also want modernity in doctrine, and to provide that is to cease to be Catholic.

In truth, the biggest change the Catholic Church ever needed to make, to draw in more Protestants, and converts of all types, was already made over forty years ago.  That was the change of the liturgy from Latin to vernacular languages.  If that's all the Catholic Church ever did, and nothing more, it would have been enough.  Because you see, most Protestants are big on understanding what is going on.  As a tenet of Protestant idealism, worship should be fully understood and in the language of the people.  As beautiful as Latin is, and it is beautiful, its use should be limited in ordinary circumstances.  If for no other reason, just so the people can understand.  However, that doesn't mean we should scrap Latin all together.  Far from it.  It should be used sparingly in vernacular masses, so as to maintain heritage and mystery, while it should also be used exclusively in celebrations of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Tridentine Mass), so as to maintain a solid connection to the Church's past.  This is part of what Pope Benedict XVI refers to as the "hermeneutic of continuity."  Unfortunately, there was an attempt in the 1970s through 2000 to reach out to Protestants by adopting some of their ways, and I am sad to report that is a major "turn off" to most of them.  They watch our contemporary masses, with our contemporary pop music, and they say to themselves: "Well, that's nice, but I can get the same thing much better in my local Protestant church."  However, show them a high mass, with all of the chants, smells and bells of that ol' time religion, and I guarantee you that most Protestant guests sitting in your pews are not going to say to themselves that they can get the same thing in their Protestant churches.  

You see, the thing about the old Catholic traditions is that they're infectious.  Once people get a taste of them, they tend to come back for more.  This is why many Protestant churches historically would attack Catholic doctrines and tell wild tales (usually exaggerated or blatantly untrue) to scare their congregations away from Catholicism.  Today we call this a type of Protestant Fundamentalism, and it's popular in many Evangelical churches (not all, but many).  The pastors of these churches, many of them former Catholics themselves, know all too well that if you expose an Evangelical to ancient Catholic tradition, with homilies that challenge their moral sensibilities, there is a good chance that Evangelical may come back for more.   So they have to scare their congregations away from that by calling the Catholic Church the "Mystery Whore of Babylon" from the Apocalypse, a "cult," and the pope the "Antichrist."  They're not stupid.  They know this is the only way to keep many in their congregation from going back to Rome, and they employ this method frequently, especially if they are former Catholics themselves.  There will always be room for apologetics in dealing with these lies, but that is something that can be best left to the apologists.  On the other hand, the Anglicans figured this out early on, and simply adopted their own liturgy and rituals that mirrored Catholicism, knowing full well this was historically needed to keep people within their fold.  In the end, it actually led some Anglicans back to Rome.

As for you, the average Catholic sitting in the pews, the answer is simple.  Do you want to be an Evangelist?  Do you want to help bring Protestants back into the Catholic Church?  Do you want more converts, regardless of where they come from?  Then just be Catholic!  Encourage your priest to bring back the old customs and apply them to the new mass. Encourage him to challenge you from behind the pulpit by teaching the Catholic faith in its fullness -- even the difficult parts.  If you're a woman, dress modestly and wear a veil (or hat) of some kind to mass.  If you're a man, put on some slacks and a nice shirt and scapular, crucifix or carry a rosary.  Learn the catechism and teach your children the same.  Kneel for communion and receive on the tongue, if you are physically able, as this is the normal way Catholics receive communion all over the world and at all papal masses.  Take your Catholic Christian faith seriously, and start living according to its teachings.  For I promise, no Protestant was ever attracted to Catholicism by the testimony of a "Cafeteria Catholic" or one who didn't practise the faith seriously.

If Catholics will simply rediscover our tradition, and live according to who we really are, then I promise you, more Protestants (and converts of all stripes) will come into the Catholic Church.  By that I mean not just a little more, but a lot more, and you might be surprised just how many.

Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

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Having been down that same road of evangelical worship for over 31 years, I can really relate to this article. Yes , if we lived our faith, it would be so attractive they couldn't resist. I am not sure that the TLM is the answer, but I agree that any attempts to make our songs and liturgy more Protestant friendly only makes it more sappy soupy and non attractive. Thanks for the article. Yes, as a former worship musician, we really had that tight rock band sound down very well. We used to brag that it was the only bible believing church professional rock band every sunday morning. (now I regret that)
Aged parent said…
An enjoyable read.

About that Latin thing, though. There was never any problem with the entire Mass being in Latin. Never. And I don't know hy people keep saying there was. We had missals, you see, where the Latin text was on the left-hand page and the vernacular translation on the right. It was never a problem following or understanding the Mass. Not ever. That is an old hobby-horse used by the badly-instructed. But it holds no water.

So having said that I will say that one of the biggest catastrophes to ever hit the Church was the introduction of the New Mass which, in one fell swoop, demolished the unity of Faith and worship. The Mass which before those awful changes was the same sacrifice in London as in Timbuktu, now became a seat-of-the-pants production with no connecting link to the rest of the Catholic world. It utterly destroyed the oneness of the Faith.

And that oneness will only be restored when the banalities and stupidities of the New Mass enter the trash bin of history. Which, of course, it will, in God's good time.
Attia said…
You mention the need to be more Catholic and then you mention RCIA. That is not what used to be done. What used to be done is, if somebody was curious about Catholicism, one would meet with a priest for instruction. That is how it is done still today with the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), who follows the 1962 Missal & Rubrics. Interestingly enough, I decided to go to the Latin Mass a few years ago BECAUSE the Ordinary Form of the Mass (at different churches), was not Catholic enough to help me in life. Protestants can get the vernacular at their church's, too; if they want Catholicism, they should understand that for the Latin Rite, that means Latin. The first rule about the Mass (summing up the article, maybe?): It's not about you. It's about the worship of God Who is due worship, the part intended for the people is in their language.

And, for what it's worth, I agree with Aged parent, the Mass in Latin allows me to go to any Latin Mass and know what to expect and how to behave.
Your comments about music hit a home run with me. About a year and a half ago, Michael Voris upset many in the Catholic blogsphere, especially apologists Dave Armstrong and Mark Shea, by saying Amazing Grace should not by used in Catholic worship services. I agreed with Voris for that hymn is Protestant, and we have thousands of hymns from ancient times we can sing, so why even bother with Prot music at all?
The attacks against those who supported Voris were amazing. Armstrong called me a Pharisee for my remarks in his comboxes, and a lawyer named Hoffer said we would be musically impoverished if we didn't have Protestant music in our services. Huh?!
NancyL said…
What you have written is so true!

"The ONLY Protestants that will ever seek out the Catholic Church are those who are looking for an anchor to the past. They want something that is solid and unchanged. They want a connection to their ancient Christian ancestry."

That's what drew me. Baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church, raised an Episcopalian, then left church in my teens and 20's. Got involved in the "Jesus Movement" and was a non-denom Evangelical, then a Baptist, and finally a reformed Baptist. It was the question of authority that got me interested after our "community" disbanded for lack of a pastor.
After I came into the Church, I was a bit surprised to find how Protestantized she had become in many ways. Like you said, it was a big "turn-off". None of my Catholic friends could see this. It was all they knew. Three weeks after coming into the Church I found a traditional Catholic Church which had been started by our bishop. I knew I was finally home. We are exclusively Latin Rite and with missals easily available, there's no excuse for not knowing what is going on or being said.
I love how engaging and all-encompassing the Church is. Faith, Hope and Charity! The Crucifix, Holy Mass, Our Lady, confession, the Rosary, the Saints, the angels, incense, bells, the takes us in and holds us back from the lure of the world. This can't be found anywhere but in the one Church founded by our Lord!
NancyL said…
I forgot to mention that over 50% of our members are converts - mostly younger couples with families. said…
Just one small disagreement. I think our Catholic hymns are better. It depends a lot on which parish you go to, of couse, but the traditional hymns are glorious. A lot of the music at some Catholic parishes does nothing for me and even distracts me from the liturgy (which is something we certainly have right), and the hymns at Protestant services don't help me much either. The biggest difference is that everyone is singing. But what else are they there for??? Take that with a grain of salt and sorry if it offended anyone. But... That's how I've always seen it.
svent13 said…
Great post, very powerful.

With your permission, I would like to print this off (with your name, of course) and see if I can get them to print it in our church bulletin, or give copies to others.
Shane Schaetzel said…
Permission granted to copy and redistribute with appropiate credit given to the author.
Brennan said…
Really enjoyed and agreed with so much of this article. I too am a convert to Catholicism from Protestantism and even spent some time in the Vineyard movement and if you’re acquainted with them you’ll know the author’s assertion that Protestants do contemporary music better is absolutely true.

I have to agree with some of the other commenters however and say I don’t believe going from the Latin to the vernacular has helped evangelization one bit. As others have noted, people can certainly learn all about what is said at Mass by simply following along in a Latin-English missal. What is lost, however, particularly coupled with all the changes to the Mass after Vatican II, is a sense of transcendence and beauty which would actually draw Protestants in.

I am reminded of this quote from Fr. George Rutler, who has experienced the liturgy both before and after Vatican II, and which I think backs the author’s assertions:

“A Liturgical Parable

The Hard Truth

...We seem to slip out of that golden sense of ultimate truth in two ways. The first is by losing any real awareness of the holy. The second is by denying that it has been lost. Without lapsing into criticism that would be out of place, suffice it to say that the worship of holiness is weak in our culture, and the beauty of holiness has been smudged in transmission through the revised liturgy. For without impugning its objective authenticity in any degree, its bouleversement [Complete overthrow; a reversal; a turning upside down] of the traditional Roman rite marks the first time in history that the Church has been an agent, however unintentionally, in the deprivation of culture, from the uprooting of classical language and sensibility to wanton depreciation of the arts.

...It is immensely saddening to see so many elements of the Church, in her capacity as Mother of Western Culture, compliant in the promotion of ugliness. There may be no deterrent more formidable to countless potential converts than the low estate of the Church's liturgical life, for the liturgy is the Church's prime means of evangelism. Gone as into a primeval mist are the days not long ago when apologists regularly had to warn against being distracted by, or superficially attracted to, the beauty of the Church's rites. And the plodding and static nature of the revised rites could not have been more ill-timed for a media culture so attuned to color and form and action.”

("A Crisis of Saints", Ignatius Press, pp. 107-108).

I am reminded of taking a person who grew up in and attended what I would call “low-church” Protestant services (mainly with contemporary music) to a Dominican rite Latin Mass with sung Gregorian chant (and the people sang parts in Latin as well). Anyway, she told me afterwards that she had tears streaming down her face because of the beauty of the liturgy and the way it touched her soul and has been back to the Latin Mass a number of times and is still desirous to go (though it is difficult as there is not a regular service of that type anywhere near where she lives).

I do hope this article gets in the hands of as many Catholics as possible. There seems to be so many Catholics today who simply regard the liturgy as irrelevant to evangelization when in actuality it is the key. Apologetic arguments are all fine and good but it is really the beauty of the liturgy which is capable of touching the heart and soul of a Protestant and making them more open to Catholicism.

I have to admit that whenever I engage with a Protestant I feel as if I am working with my hands tied behind my back because I simply don’t readily have anyplace I can take them where they can see Catholicism in action. And the banal liturgies so many parishes have today is simply not going to attract them (if anything it will do the opposite).

Thanks again for a great article and God bless.
okey said…
I find this post very interesting and helpful. I have been catholic all my life, and i love the church.
A some people on this blog seem not to be very comfortable with using other languages during our liturgy. I innocently ask: what is the spiritual benefit of using Latin in our liturgy when most people in the congregation don't understand what is being said? Even if you have a missal that translates to other languages, do we consider that there are those who cannot read a language but they can speak and hear that same language? How would they go through something as important as the Mass without understanding, the prayers and the words being used to praise and worship God?

For many years, I heard the Exultet sung in Latin. I loved the tune but couldn't understand a thing. I never bothered until i saw the English version, and i felt cheated. You mean these where the words of the Exultet, and most people in the church can communicate with it? It appeared the Lord felt my pain and by the next Easter Vigil, the Exultet was sung in English, and it made so much difference.

I don't think the bishops at the second vatican council made an error by permitting the translations; if we believe the church is directed by the Holy Spirit, then we should accept that it was the right decision.

However, since a lot will happen in these last days and there shall be many errors, it could be that those of us who see the translations as beneficial could be wrong; as such i ask again: What is the spiritual benefit of using Latin in our liturgy when most people in the congregation do not understand what is being said?
George Kocan said…
Latin is the universal language of the Church. It has more than beauty to offer. If every Catholic could speak Latin, he could travel around the world and easily communicate with any Catholic he ran into. That is a priceless tool with which to build a universal community.
Shane Schaetzel said…
If I may remind everyone, the original mass was not in Latin. It was in Greek. It was translated to Latin in the fourth century for one reason - so the Christians in the West could understand it. The common use of Latin eventually fell away, but the ecclesial use of Latin remained until modern times. I would never even suggest the Western Church give up Latin, as it is part if who we are in the West. However, I think the conciliar fathers were wise to authorise the translation of the liturgy into vernacular languages. This was the same reason why the Greek liturgy was originally translated into Latin 1600 years ago.

As Western Christians we could probably learn a thing or two from the Jewish community on this one issue. Synagogues require all of their youth to have a basic functional understanding of Hebrew by age 12. However, Synagogue services are generally not conducted exclusively in Hebrew, but rather the vernacular language of the community. (Unless that community happens to exist in Israel.) The only time Hebrew is used is during specific times and usually such things everyone is familiar with. I imagine if a Catholic priest or bishop wanted to do the same thing for his flock there is nothing stopping him. All Catholic youth could be required to gain a functional understanding of Latin by the age of confirmation, then use Latin sparingly during designated parts of a vernacular mass that everyone is familiar with. I think this would be a reasonable solution for some.

Back to the gist of this article though, as a former Protestant I can testify that the use of vernacular languages is necessary to facilitate easy conversion. However, I don't think catechumens and candidates are given enough instruction of basic Latin. They should be given at least a primer course if for no other reason than just religious heritage. It might come in handy at times should they ever visit an Extraordinary Form mass, or hear a priest do the consecration in Latin during a vernacular mass. Even just knowing it for the Agnus Dei would be a good idea.
Shane Schaetzel said…
As I notice this article is now making its way around the Internet, (it's actually going viral), I've been reading comments from various individuals on other media outlets.

The reactions were somewhat expected to me depending on the audience. Of course, the intended audience of this article is Catholics, and in particular those Catholics who mistakenly believe that acting more Protestant will bring in more Protestant converts. The article points out how misguided that notion is.

The article is also advice for Catholics to act more Catholic, and to stop trying to act like Protestants. Based on the number of "hits" this page has received so far, I think I'm getting that message out and it is starting to resonate.

What this article does not do is tell Catholics to go out and actively try to convert Protestants to Catholicism. In fact, quite the opposite is true. What I have laid out here is a formula that "if you build it, they will come." Indeed, this is exactly what happened to my wife and I, as well as thousands of other Protestant converts to Catholicism. There is no need to actively go out and evangelise them, knocking on their doors, standing on street corners with a megaphone, or putting flyers on their cars while they unsuspectingly worship in their churches. No, that's what they do! And that is not our way.

We, on the other hand, have our hands full trying to evangelise the third-world, the Middle East, and communist China. That's not to mention trying to re-evangelise an entire generation of Europeans who have gone the way of secular atheism, and a growing number of Americans who are doing the same. That is where our evangelistic efforts lie, that is where they have always been, and that will continue to be our focus as Catholic Christians -- sharing the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.

The subject of converting Protestants has come up in recent decades precisely because a large number of Evangelicals are entering the Catholic Church. The question arises as to "why" and what can be done to naturally attract more without actively seeking them out. I can attest, that nobody sought my wife and I out for conversion to the Catholic Christian faith. We came on our own, and it was for no other reason than what the Catholic Church already had -- namely her ancient traditions.

The title of this article was meant to be provocative, but to understand it, one must read the full article. The mission of the Catholic Church is to seek and save the lost, and that is what she does. As for Protestants, who already have a portion of the gospel, I have made it clear in other articles that they are our Christian brethren whether they like it or not. It is not our business to seek them out and convert them, and I've never suggested that, but if on the other hand you want to attract more of them to the Catholic Church naturally, on their own initiative, then I have above laid out a formula that has proved to work. Just be more Catholic.
I made a promise to myself when I started this blog to rarely repost. I will grab a quote and credit it. However, I don't want a blog of reposts. My blog is my blog. Then I read this article by Shane Schaetzel. His blog is here. I really enjoy blogging and am aware that I do a good job. If I had a bar in which to reach for, Shane has definately set it. Please note, the article really isn't about actively converting protestants. Its about why some protestants have actively converted. There is much here that resonates with me.

Thanks Shane. And here is a link to my blog.
Thanks for permission to share this.
Shane Schaetzel said…
You're welcome and thank you for the kind words.
Brennan said…
Okey said: "as such i ask again: What is the spiritual benefit of using Latin in our liturgy when most people in the congregation do not understand what is being said?"

Good question. First, certain parts of the liturgy, like the scripture readings and the homily, can be in the vernacular. Most of the liturgy is unchanging. And people can see what is being said by reading their missal. Now, if some people don't want to bother reading a missal, that's up to them. But I don't think the decision on whether or not to use Latin should be predicated on the actions of people who can't be bothered to read. And even if not every word is understood you still have the symbolism and the gestures throughout the liturgy, particularly in the traditional Latin Mass. And people can be catechized as to what is really going on at Mass.

As far as further benefits one can turn to some quotes from Pope John XXIII's Apostolic Constitution "Veterum Sapientia":

"The nature of Latin

Of its very nature Latin is most suitable for promoting every form of culture among peoples. It gives rise to no jealousies. It does not favor any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all and is equally acceptable to all.

"For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure to the end of time ... of its very nature requires a language which is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular."


Furthermore, the Church's language must be not only universal but also immutable. Modern languages are liable to change, and no single one of them is superior to the others in authority. Thus if the truths of the Catholic Church were entrusted to an unspecified number of them, the meaning of these truths, varied as they are, would not be manifested to everyone with sufficient clarity and precision. There would, moreover, be no language which could serve as a common and constant norm by which to gauge the exact meaning of other renderings.

But Latin is indeed such a language. It is set and unchanging. it has long since ceased to be affected by those alterations in the meaning of words which are the normal result of daily, popular use.


Finally, the Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular.

It is a general passport to the proper understanding of the Christian writers of antiquity and the documents of the Church's teaching. It is also a most effective bond, binding the Church of today with that of the past and of the future in wonderful continuity.

And as Fr. John Parsons notes on the historical use of the Latin language:

"Liturgical Language Set Apart

For what are the facts? Historically the liturgy, like the Faith, has been received by cultures as a sacrosanct whole at the time of conversion, and has never been put into another language thereafter. Whether that language was the vernacular or not, seems to be utterly arbitrary and a matter of historical accident. In Italy, Gaul and Spain, the Latin liturgy was initially vernacular, but ceased to be so within five hundred years; the language however remained sacrosanct precisely because it was used for sacred purposes. ...On the other hand, among the Irish, English, Dutch, Germans, Basques, Poles, Swedes, Ceylonese, Bantus, Vietnamese, Finns, Norwegians, Lithuanians, Hungarians and so many others, the liturgy had never been in the vernacular up until the 1960s. And are we to say that these great peoples and cultures were never Christian, never properly evangelized as a result?"

"A Reform of the Reform?"
Shane Schaetzel said…
THE LAST WORD: Yes, this is my blog, so I can have the last word.

I want to make sure readers of the above article understand who the intended audience is -- Catholics! This article was never intended to be a conduit for Protestants to learn a "secret way" of becoming Catholics. If you're a Protestant reading this, and this article has helped you in some way, than I'm glad it served some purpose in that regard. If it offended you in some way, then please know that was never my intent. It was in no way written for the purpose of disparaging Protestant worship, or attacking Protestant churches. Like I said, the article was intended for a Catholic audience.

The point of the article is to get Catholics to stop imitating Protestants and start acting like Catholics again. Let the Protestants be Protestant, and let the Catholics be Catholic! The title of the article is intentionally provocative, and it is designed to attract the attention of those Catholics who are actively seeking more Protestant converts. Unfortunately, Catholics who fit this description, are often the type more willing to change Catholic worship in an attempt to imitate Protestant worship.

I have asserted here in this article that such attempts are unwise and misguided. As a former Evangelical Protestant myself, I believe I have some credentials to comment on this.

Now that is not to say there is no place for contemporary prayer and praise music in Catholic circles. There most certainly is! I think, however, we have been going about it all the wrong way for the last 30+ years. Contemporary prayer and praise music would best be suited in smaller Catholic situations; such as youth group gatherings, private prayer groups, retreat camps, etc. An argument could legitimately be made for contemporary music before mass, used in such a way to gradually lead parishioners from the busy world outside into a more contemplative state just before the entrance procession.

I'm certainly not against contemporary worship and praise music by any means. I listen to it all the time while driving my car. What I am saying here is that these things have their place. In many Evangelical Protestant churches that place is right in the middle of their worship services. In a Catholic church however, that place is probably somewhere else. I don't want to be disparaging toward the good Catholic worship leaders, who I know work very hard, to try to deliver quality worship and praise music at mass. They should be commended for their efforts. Rather, what I am saying here is that while there certainly is a place for such music in the Catholic Church, I think it's time to re-think where we are putting it. We are not Protestants, and it's counter-productive to imitate their form of worship. I am by no means saying we should scrap this form of music all together. Far from it; rather, I am saying that as Catholics, we need to figure out the proper place to put it. That place is NOT in the mass. It's not in the Liturgy of the Hours, and it's not in Benediction. It could however be used before these things, as I said, to lead people from the busy world outside into a contemplative state before the liturgy gets started. It could be used to capture the energy of the young during youth groups and prayer retreats. The possibilities are many, but we really need to stop acting like Protestants and remember who we are.