Hey Father! Is there any benefit to praying in a sacred language? Are exorcisms more effective when done in Latin?

Hey, Father! Is there any benefit to praying in a sacred language such as Latin, Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic? Is it true that exorcisms are more effective when the priest prays in Latin?

– Jake in Springfield

In answer to the first question as to whether there is any benefit to praying in a sacred language such as Latin, Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic, I would say yes, at least in part. When I say, in part, I mean that it is beneficial that some parts of the Mass are prayed in these ancient languages, such as the Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy) in Greek, the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) and Angus Dei (Lamb of God) in Latin, and the Amen (so be it) and Alleluia (Praise the Lord) in Hebrew. Saying these prayers in these ancient languages connects us across the centuries with the historical roots of our liturgy. Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, hence they are sometimes called the Hebrew Scriptures. Most of the New Testament was written in Greek, while the principal language of the Eucharistic liturgy became Latin as Christianity spread though the Roman Empire.

Since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has been celebrated primarily in local vernacular languages throughout the world. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, issued by Pope Paul VI in 1963, provided that “the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites,” but opened the door to the use of vernacular languages “since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 36). This is reflected in canon 928 of the current Code of Canon Law, which says, The eucharistic celebration is to be carried out in the Latin language or in another language provided that the liturgical texts have been legitimately approved.”

Some people find that participating at Mass celebrated in Latin, whether the traditional liturgy of the Council of Trent (Tridentine Mass) or the new order of the post-Vatican II Liturgy (Novus Ordo), to be spiritually beneficial for them, seeing Latin as a sacred language reserved these days for prayer. Others find the vernacular more beneficial to understanding what is being said in the prayers of the Mass. Hence, some combination of the ancient and the vernacular languages may be also beneficial in prayer.

With regard to whether exorcisms are more effective when the priest prays in Latin, there is some difference of opinion among exorcists about this. Some exorcists see Latin as more effective, saying that the Devil hates Latin because it is the universal language of the Church. Others argue that what is actually far more important is for the exorcist to be truly a man of God rather than focusing on the language used in the rite. Indeed, Latin is not taught as extensively to seminarians as it used to be. An exorcist with little training in Latin who stumbles through the rite using words he does not understand will be less effective than a priest using the vernacular who understands the nature of the spiritual battle taking place and is himself fighting that battle in the name of Jesus Christ.

The Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago on January 24, 2003, by Pope St. John Paul II. Bishop Paprocki was named the Bishop of Springfield in Illinois on April 20, 2010, by his Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, and was installed as the ninth bishop of Springfield in Illinois on June 22, 2010.