Posted by: rbbadger | September 21, 2008

Latin Mass in Korea

Once a month, Seoul’s Myeong-dong Cathedral dusts off the chant books and celebrates the Mass in Latin.  The marvelous Schola Gregoriana de Seoul, a women’s choir which specialises in Gregorian Chant, chanted the propers and ordinary of the Mass according to the Graduale Triplex.

The form of the Mass that was used was the ordinary form of the Roman Rite, namely the Roman Rite as it exits following the reforms and renewal of the Second Vatican Council and promulgated by Pope Paul VI (1963-1978).  The extraordinary form, namely the 1962 version of the Latin Missale Romanum, is not used here, lamentably.  It is good to see the Latin still used, as it is part of the patrimony of the Universal Church.  Latin has the capacity to unite peoples across all languages and cultures like no other language.  When the late, great Pope John Paul II was laid to rest, the Mass was in Latin.  When Benedict XVI celebrated his inaugural Mass, Latin was also used.  The days before the vernacular, unless you were in Croatia or in an Eastern Catholic parish, you could reasonably expect to hear the same Latin used around the world.  (Croatia used Old Church Slavonic in the Mass until after Vatican II when they switched to Croatian.)  Granted, there were places like Braga, Milan, Toledo, and parishes staffed by Dominicans where the form of the Mass would be a bit different from every place else, but by and large, the same form of the Roman Rite was used most everywhere.  While having the Mass in the vernacular has certain advantages, all the popes from Paul VI to the present have urged pastors to teach their faithful the Mass responses and some of the easier chants in Latin to maintain a connection to our history and tradition.

The people sang the Misa de Angelis (Kyriale VIII), the one chant setting of the ordinary which is the most familiar to most Catholics.  It was indeed beautiful to hear everyone, foreigners and Korean alike, singing the Latin ordinaries.  The priest who celebrates the Latin Mass at the Cathedral has an exceptionally beautiful voice, so he chants everything.  Eucharistic Prayer II (by far the most common here) was chanted in Latin, but the collects were chanted in Korean.  Additionally, the readings were done in Korean as well.  So, I suppose it was a sort of hybrid celebration.

As far as Gregorian Chant scholas go, the Schola Gregoriana de Seoul is one of the finest that I’ve heard.  Their devotion to the Church’s heritage of sacred music is impressive and their voices are angelic.  They would rival Alberto Turco’s In Dulci Jubilo ensemble. 

It would be good for other Gregorian chant settings of the ordinary to be used, but owing to the fact that the Latin Mass takes place only once a month, I don’t see how this would be possible.  The faithful of Hong Kong’s Mary, Help of Christians Catholic Church seem to be able to sing other settings of the ordinary, but that is because they have the Latin Mass at least weekly, but in the extraordinary form.  (I would urge those interested in the Latin Mass in Hong Kong to visit this site.  I would also urge anyone in Hong Kong to visit them.  The people are quite friendly and it is a chance to see what Catholicism in China was like before the Council.) 

All in all, it is nothing to complain about.  The singing of the congregation is admirable and many of us would be delighted to see American congregations chanting the Misa de Angelis in Latin, too. 



  1. Eucharistic Prayer II (by far the most common here) was chanted in Latin, but the collects were chanted in Korean.

    I suspect that this was because the proper prayers for the feast as celebrated in Korea don’t exist in Latin. Quite often, the local church’s propers for their patrons differ from the Latin editiones typicæ approved for universal use. In the case of American feasts, more’s the pity.

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