Too Many Polish Masses In The UK? 

Comment: 

Some time ago, one of our English readers emailed to ask if I would consider posting a discussion thread on the fact that there are a lot of Masses in the Polish language in parishes across the UK:  this irks him, somewhat, because it seems to contradict the Vatican II concept of Mass in the vernacular, meaning the language of each country.  If there are to be Masses in Polish everywhere, where Polish is not the everyday language of a nation, why not other languages as well?  Should there be Masses in French, in German, in Gaelic – you’ll get the idea.  OR should those who move to the UK to live and work, simply “do what the Romans do” (so to speak) and attend Mass in the vernacular here – which is English?  Is it right to “exclude” those who do not speak Polish?   

It does seem to be the Polish community, uniquely, which requires Masses in their national language. Yet,  I’ve met quite a few Poles – all of whom speak fluent English, so why is it that they seek Masses in their native tongue?  And why do the clergy accommodate them?   

Being a regular attendee at the traditional Latin Mass, this is not an issue which affects me personally in any way, although I can see the contradictions inherent in the arguments for abandoning the Church’s official language (Latin) in order to make Mass available in the vernacular, only to find that parishes are providing Masses for the Polish community – in Polish.  IS there a contradiction? If so, does it matter?  

43 responses

  1. It is a contradiction, from one angle, being in a country where the standard language is English (even if not always Standard English). On the other hand Vatican 2 was about using the language of the congregation, and if that is predominantly Polish (or Gaelic) so be it. We can follow what is going on, mostly.
    I can remember when Edinburgh only had one Polish Mass, in the chapel in Randolph Place. Having attended school where a significant number of pupils had Polish names, the idea is not strange to me.
    (We learned Polish hymns in music.)
    We should understand that Polish immigrants who stay on in this country will become more and more of this country, and their children may not even speak Polish.
    If a parishioner is discomfited by Mass in Polish, they should speak to the parish priest and maybe arrange fore a programme of alternating Masses in English and Polish to suit everyone?
    Don’t we have more serious things to worry about, as some of the other threads make clear?

    (I was an altar server at Mass in a monastery. The priest was Polish and did not speak to the server. The person who gave me a brief introduction on serving was Italian and spoke no English. The Rubrics in the server’s Missal were in French.)

    • Antoine Bisset,

      “Don’t we have more serious things to worry about, as some of the other threads make clear.”

      There’s nothing more important than the liturgy, i.e. the worship of God, so the answer to your question is “no”, but if you think there is something more important to discuss, nobody is forcing you to discuss this.

      I don’t have particularly strong feelings about this topic but I do see that it is one of the many contradictions in the Vatican II experiment.

      I wouldn’t dream of moving to a country where I couldn’t speak the language, so it is strange that Polish people want to cling to their Mass in Polish, but I don’t think it’s because they can’s speak English, I think most of them can, which makes it even more puzzling that they want to have Mass in Polish.

      When you think that priests and bishops refuse Mass in Latin because they say it is “divisive” how come Polish isn’t “divisive”?

      I’ve never heard that the Mass should be “in the language of the congregation” – that’s new to me. Do you have a quote to support that?

      • Well, please do not read something I did not say. The Mass in Polish is entirely valid, and in fact, is worshipping God.
        I did not say that something was “more important than the liturgy”. Please don’t put up straw men as an argument. I did say that there are more important things to worry about than which language is used at Mass in a particular church on a particular day. I might list the supine response of the Hierarchy in stopping access to the Sacraments, their acceptance of homosexual and other perversions, their acceptance of abortion, their failure to block the corruption of youth in schools, their agreement to opening Catholic schools to muslims.
        I am suggesting that Mass in Polish is as valid as Mass in English, or Latin, wherever it is said. Would you suggest otherwise?
        It was the Mass in Latin that I first attended and served as an altar boy.
        As for your question regarding the “language of the congregation” that was the outcome of Vatican 2. At that time countries were far more homogeneous than they are now. In the sixties it was perhaps unforeseeable that there would be large numbers of people in countries speaking different languages, as there are now as a result of large scale, often sudden, migration.
        The vernacular is the language of the people. In conformity with the ruling for Mass in the language of the people it would sensibly be the language of the people who turn up at the church.
        As regards the “quote” you demand. Have a look at the Vatican 2 document “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”, Chapter 2 “The Most Sacred Mystery of the Eucharist”.
        Para 54 says “In Masses which are celebrated with the people a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue”.
        This would be with the approval on the Bishop, of course, and other considerations and safeguards. Please look at the complete document to put this in context.
        (I must say that the word “vernacular” should really not be tightly and narrow interpreted as “the language of the country”, as the documents don’t bear that interpretation, rather it should be taken as “the language of the people”, I would say. The word “country” does not appear to be used as far as I can see.
        The expression used refers to “the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority” being responsible for decisions as to the extent to which language may be used. (This really relates to the replacement of Latin in services. Remember that Vatican 2 ended in 1965, that is 55 years ago. As you know the Bishops have taken this as far as they could.)

        I hope this helps.

        • Antoine Bisset,

          I made no mention of validity at all, none whatsoever, so it is not I who is setting up straw men.

          As for this not being an important subject- well, it was considered important enough for the Council Fathers (or rather their “experts”/periti) to try to chuck out the language which had been the norm in the liturgy for centuries.

          Frankly, I’m not interested in making a distinction between the country and the congregation. The congregation in any parish will be made up of people of different ages and backgrounds, all living in the same country. Also, the dictionary definition of vernacular is “the language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people in a particular country or region.” It doesn’t mention church congregations. So, it is disingenuous to try to make out that there is a difference between the two. We got by for centuries hearing Mass in Latin and nobody thought a thing about it.

          I don’t actually understand your final sentences in parenthesis, so, no that doesn’t help.

          • Josephine,

            Spot on. The dictionary definition of “vernacular” is very helpful, given that Antoine seems confused as to its exact meaning, so thank you for that.

        • Antoine Bisset,

          Well please make it clear exactly what you MEAN to say because it’s not remotely clear.

          And don’t do two things here:

          1) don’t question the topic which I choose to post. That is not your place, none of your business. If you don’t want to comment, don’t comment, but I’m frankly not remotely interested in your opinion about the topics.

          2) don’t talk down to the other bloggers. Your rather arrogant “I hope this helps” is just begging for my response – nope. Doesn’t help at all.

          Either conform your attitude to fit in with the spirit of this blog, which is occasionally poisoned by trolls and other idiots, or don’t blog here. The decision is yours. Well, actually, no, it’s not. Take the hint.

      • There is certainly nothing more important than the liturgy, but that alone is not a stopgap to prevent pointless and truly divisive discussions around the liturgy to arise. More often than not these pointless and divisive discussions are actually given fuel to cause real damage by people claiming the mantle of the liturgy. For example, see how long we’ve been fighting the form of administering communion within the church.

        Calling it the ‘Vatican II experiment” gives away the reality that no matter how many times you will try and tell us that you don’t really care about the issue, you really actually do care about it, probably more than any of us here do anyway. The least you could do is own that fact and not pretend to just a be casual observer in this discussion.

        Have you ever considered that the people who end up in countries where they do not know a lick of the local language feel the same way you do about living in another country they don’t know the language? More often than not these people are not there because they choose to be, more often than not a war, or political strive has caused them to leave their home and language and move to a foreign land. We have a lot of teachings reaching all of the way back to the Torah on how to treat strangers and foreigners in our lands.

        You are also clearly unilingual and unilingual people tend to think in a very one dimensional world. They ask questions like “why speak Italian in your home when you know English and use it outside of the home” or more related to this topic “why attend a Mass in Polish when you speak English at work and school”. Many multilingual people have a first or cultural language. It was often what they were taught by their own community and because of that they feel a particular affinity toward it. I feel this way about French, even though I am English and speak and converse in English the vast majority of time. My grandfather is French Canadian, he knows English and uses English in daily life but when we get together as a family we speak French. I’ve even *gasp* attended French mass with him on Christmas and Easter in a town that was majority English speaking people. It is the language of our family and our culture and strangely when I pray in the tongue of my ancestors I feel like I am honouring them a little more than when I use English or Latin.

        Priests and Bishops who say the Mass in Latin is divisive are just wrong. You clearly know this because it is obvious the statement doesn’t sit well with you, why not just call them out on this rather than take a bat to those who hear the Mass in their own vernacular?

        And lastly, the Mass should be in the language of the people. One can very strictly interpret that as being the national language of the people, or we can use our brains and understand it broadly as the language of the congregation, of those attending.

      • Actually that Mass was in Latin.
        To quote from the V2 documents on Liturgy: “The unity of the Church does not demand uniformity…”

        • Antoine Bisset,

          You take an alleged quote out of context, allegedly from a Vatican II document but not properly sourced (? paragraph/section] and you want us to take you seriously as a debater?

          Gerragrip.

      • Nicky

        I agree, that last paragraph sums up what we have been saying. We don’t need national languages when we have a universal language, which was the language of the Church until 50 years ago. The vernacular language in liturgy is from the Protestant Reformation, like the New Mass whose language it is.

    • Antoine Bisset,

      “Don’t we have more serious things to worry about, as some of the other threads make clear?”

      The answer to your daft question is “no – we do NOT have more serious things to worry about…”

      It’s not your place to effectively instruct me on which topics are suitable or necessary for discussion and which are not. Who CARES what you think?

      If you don’t want to comment on any particular thread – and you only appear occasionally anyway, so, as I say, who cares what you think – don’t do it. I repeat, who – i.e. nobody – cares.

      Got it?

  2. The video reminded me of Ireland – there used to be the same roadside shrines. It’s been a long time since I was in Ireland so I don’t know if they still have them, I would be surprised, TBH, the way it has become so secularised and even pagan. .

    I haven’t give any thought to Polish Masses, there are a lot of them, I know that, but it doesn’t bother me. I supposed it is a contradiction in a way. There are a lot of Polish priests here so that is probably one reason why.

    • Lily,

      That was my first thought as well- Poland is just like Ireland, or like Ireland used to be. The last time I was in Ireland I did see some roadside shrines, still there, that was in County Cork, but I suppose it’s only a matter of time before they disappear altogether.

    • Roadside shrines remain a feature of the landscape of the Uists/Benbecula.
      (As are signs saying “Otters Crossing”)

      • Antoine Bisset,

        That’s a smart alec comment – don’t do that. There is no equivalence between a religious roadside shrine (often paying tribute to Our Lady) and a daft sign such as you describe. I’m surprised you can’t see that.

  3. I don’t have a strong opinion about this, but I have heard that in Poland, the novus ordo Masses are much more reverent than they are here, and that the Polish Catholics still kneel at altar rails and receive Holy Communion on the tongue. I’m not sure if this is everyone, but that it is still more common than over here where it is almost non-existent. If that is the case, then maybe that’s why they prefer Mass in Polish.

    • Anne-Leanne,

      I’ve heard from Polish acquaintances that they do still receive Communion kneeling and on the tongue at the novus ordo so that might be a reason why they want to have their own language Masses. That would be a good reason, IMHO.

      I don’t object to the Polish community having their own Masses but I feel sad that they think it’s necessary. Again, it goes to show how divisive the new Mass is.

      • Why is it divisive that a group of people who speak a language that reflects their culture and aspirations as a people pray the Mass together? If anything that is the glorious Body of Christ working as a whole. It seems that greater unity is achieved when the faithful can gather in their vernacular and actually understand and digest the prayers and the meaning of Mass.

        • Eric James,

          I beg to differ. The only unity being achieved is between the Polish people, within the Polish community. There’s no unity with the rest of us. In the Latin Mass there are people of every colour and nationality all celebrating the same Mass. The creates unity within the parish.

        • Eric,

          It is, by definition, NOT “the glorious Body of Christ working as a whole” – it’s one group of Catholics attending Mass, not as Catholics – members of the universal Church – but as fellow-countrymen.

          There’s a difference. A big difference.

  4. You can see the idiocy and inefficiency in having vernacular worship, given it compartmentalises the faithful and puts a needless strain on resources. It is the precise opposite of what is Universal (Catholic).

    I remember discussing this with a Jesuit priest, who was dismayed at my interest in the traditional mass. Although he felt the TLM was “the past”, he did have to concede that vernacular worship divides up the body of the lay people into own-language groups which rarely, if ever, come together.

    It seems clear to me that this effect was not anticipated by those so eager to introduce the vernacular. The liturgical revolution was / is notably sloppy and slapdash. (Granted, national poputlaions of the 1960s and 70s were less mobile and less diverse than today.)

    The modern clergy are all about inculturation, which is a nonsense really. It provides no real benefit and has the problems mentioned above. I do wonder what value anyone sees in it.

    The Catholic community in Scotland is surely the most diverse and international, yet sadly we experience little of this because everyone attends Mass in their own preferred language.

    As well as Polish, I know the Church in Glasgow provides masses in Chinese and some African languages (Nigerian, possibly others), though I do not know how regularly. I think Gaelic rears its head at times too.

    There is also a sign language Mass in the Diocese of Motherwell. That impresses people, as if the inclusion of the deaf at Mass is a new thing – but, for centuries, deaf Catholics could easily follow the TLM by reading their Missal and watching the priest. At a low mass, the experience of a deaf person would vary only little from someone with good hearing.

    You can imagine some clergy would be happy for the Mass to be said in Klingon before Latin.

    I know the Polish masses are provided by Polish priests, who represent very welcome help to the local clergy and so I do not think we can complain too much about it! I can understand why an immigrant community would want to retain a sense of that community. However, it would be better if we were all attending the same Masses.

    For example, I have met a Polish Priest (Diocese of Motherwell) who is the Parish Priest of 2 parishes, which he manages due to being energetic and having excellent English skills.

    I have met a Polish family who attend the TLM however, and I believe Diocesan TLMs (while having smaller attendances) are probably more diverse proportionally than the typical novus ordo.

    Ultimately if would be better, for many reasons, if the Catholic community from all backgrounds worshipped together as one body. But for as long as the Church insists on permitting the vernacular, then Masses in Polish are one of the lesser issues with modern mainstream worship.

    NB I would not be surprised if income from Polish Masses is what keeps some Parishes afloat financially. And as Poland is a more strongly Catholic nation than Scotland,I expect the general standards are typically higher at a Polish mass – which may be another reason they are so prized.

    The genius of latin comes into its own when you go on holiday, and find your “home away from home” at the TLM. It’s perfect.

    Contrast to the experience of scratching around for an English language Mass, said by a priest using his 2nd or 3rd tongue, and which is often attended by mostly non-English speakers.

    On my honeymoon, I attended English language Masses in Sorrento and Venice which were full of French people, presumably because English was less alien to them than Italian. Sad to say, these Masses were often a shambles and very unedifying, due to language difficulties which made the central “lay participation” a joke.

    (There was even a power cut during one Mass, on top of the language problems, just to crown the experience. Everyone was milling around in the dark, unable to consult one another as to what was going on, or what we should do now.)

    The one exception was in Rome, where I attended an English language Mass with staff from the US Embassy. But that is obviously a very uncommon situation.

    But now I attend the TLM, its a breeze going to Mass abroad. I would struggle to have any conversation at all with my neighbours in the pews, but we can all worship together happily.

    • Gabriel Syme,

      I misread your first sentence and then realised I was not far off the truth. I first thought you had written “You can see the idiocy and inefficiency in having vernacular workshop” (instead of “worship”) but it reminded me that one of the priests involved in creating the novus ordo said something about the liturgy being a continuing workshop – I can’t remember his exact words, maybe somebody else will. I think these Polish Masses are evidence of that mentality. I didn’t know that Glasgow is providing Masses in Chinese and African languages, that’s incredible. So much for the vernacular making the Mass meaningful to the local people, LOL!

      You are so clear thinking about this – and I agree with all that you say, the whole reason for having Latin, or one of the main reasons, was to unite us all in a common language to worship God as one universal Church. It just mystifies me that priests would rather learn new languages to say the Mass in different languages rather than learn or revise Latin. One of the new Scottish bishops at the time, I forget which, but I think he was new to the diocese of Argyll and the Isles, said he would be willing to learn Mass in Gaelic if that’s what the people wanted.

      I think it all comes back to the diabolical disorientation. Everything in the Church and the world is upside down, the opposite of what it should be. We should all be hearing Mass in Latin, but instead we’ve been landed with a modern Tower of Babel.

    • Gabriel Syme

      You hit the mail on the head, the Novus Ordo Mass in the vernacular language is divisive as well as destructive. This isn’t just about Polish Catholics or Catholics of any other nationality requiring separate liturgical provisions, it’s about the loss of our common heritage, the Mass of the saints and martyrs, and the loss of that universal language that united Catholics in faith all over the world. In fine, it’s about the transformation of divine order and beauty into Babel!

    • Gabriel Syme,

      I’m not sure that Poles do keep parishes afloat financially. I have friends who count the collections in their local churches and they all say that Poles are tight fisted. In one church the collection at the 11.30am Polish Mass with around 400 attending, is only a quarter of that at the 8.30am English Mass with around 100 attending. Apparently the Polish collection is all coins and no notes.

      • LittleCharie,

        It’s very interesting indeed that you should say that because I know someone who gives a minimal contribution in the weekly collection because she distrusts the people in charge of the collections, knowing they are well in with the priests and believes they all gossip. She chose to give a minimal amount, and to contribute money to a good cause to make up. Isn’t that interesting? Maybe those Poles aren’t so “tight-fisted” after all. Who know? Dreadful, isn’t it, that those friends of yours who count the collections should make such an uncharitable judgement, the widow’s mite and all that….

        • Isn’t your friend breaking a Commandment of the Church? The Commandment is not to give to good causes, it’s to contribute to the upkeep of the parish. Awful that he or she boasts about doing such a thing.

          • JS,

            She DOES contribute, she does keep to the commandment. Why shouldn’t she also give to a good cause of her choosing?

            I have no knowledge of any commandment not to give to a good cause. Would you quote that, please, exact source. I know my friend would want to know that. Thank you.

            • I think Justinian is referring to a “precepts” of the Church, rather than a “commandment”. The fifth precept of the Church calls upon the faithful to financially support the Church. (Although it doesn’t say how much this should be.) I would suggest your friend perhaps contributes by standing order, rather than cash. She could direct her standing order to the parish, or to the diocese.

              • Chris McLaughlin,

                They were called the commandments of the Church when I was at school but I suppose precepts or laws does just as well.

                I agree with you about the standing order. If someone is bothered about gossips seeing what they put in the plate, then why not just take out a standing order. Good idea.

          • Justinian Smythe,

            How can she be breaking a commandment of the Church? The Church doesn’t say how much anyone should contribute. As long as everyone gives something towards the upkeep of the parish, it’s nobody’s business who gives what. I didn’t see anything about anyone “boasting” – what, are you here to pick a fight? I wouldn’t recommend it, going on Editor’s past form, LOL!

        • Editor,

          Funny you should say that because I have friends who are very well-to-do and who have given pots of money to the church over many decades, but they are so outraged at the lack of courage during the pandemic that they are also giving a minimal amount from now on (their minimal might be my maximum, though, I guess, LOL!)

          It’s disgraceful that the people dealing with the money in collections should gossip about who gives what, but nothing surprises me any more.

  5. I am concerned about such Masses even though I exclusively attend the TLM. I think they are divisive and don’t do anything to help integration. I know of a local Polish Mass and know for an absolute fact that the priest has been in this country for around a dozen years and his verbal command of the English language is very bad, also that some of his congregation don’t speak English at all, despite having lived here for a number of years. We’re encouraging a kind of ghetto mentality and I think it’s wrong. In post-Brexit Britain we should stop this kind of thing. I know that there is a similar mentality among ex-pat British who live in places like Spain or Cyprus but don’t integrate and don’t bother to learn the language – but to the best of my knowledge, no other country provides English Masses to the degree that Polish Masses are available here.

    • WF,

      You make a very good point about English speaking Masses abroad – that’s become quite an industry. I know of at least two Scots priests who have gone overseas to take up posts as chaplains (or whatever the title is) to the “English speaking community”, here, there and everywhere.

      It just makes a joke of the entire vernacular argument. A real joke…

      • Dear Editor,
        Good point. We spent an extended holiday in Paphos some time ago and there were 3 Sunday masses. One in Greek, the second in Polish and the last one in English. Then occasionally one for a fairly large Philipino group, in Portugese probably. Two saintly venerable English priests and a youthful American priest who was multilingual.
        None in Latin unfortunately.
        So obviously it appears that in most places where a substantial ‘foreign’ group exists, they wish to have mass in their native tongue.
        BTW in the ruins of the wonderful old buildings is the remains of a marble pillar where it is believed St Paul was scourged during his travels.

  6. The church in the video which he is stood in front off … I have been in that church! Częstochowa is a beautiful place, well worth a visit. There is also a Traditional Latin Mass offered on Sundays and weekdays close by to the Basilica of Our Lady. Imagine if we had the Traditional Latin Mass on Sundays and Weekdays in Carfin. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

    By the way, Jasna Gora was full of ordinary looking young people and families. It was very encouraging to see. Actually, after my visit, I contemplated moving to Poland.

  7. I think the English reader mentioned by Editor as the source of this thread is irked by the wrong thing. Said reader should be irked by the introduction of Masses in the vernacular and the disappearance of Latin, the language of the Church. Said reader should also be irked by the time bombs placed in the Vatican II documents, including the time bombs placed in Sacrosanctum Concilium, which paved the way for the liturgical revolution.

    As Gabriel Syme touches on in his excellent post, the introduction of the vernacular is but one of the strategies employed to foster disunity in the Church (though I disagree with his statement that “It seems clear to me that this effect was not anticipated by those so eager to introduce the vernacular.” Au contraire, mon frere, I think disunity was precisely the effect anticipated and intended.)

    There is a chain of sacred links forged from the start, and strengthened through the centuries, that facilitates the mission of the Church – the salvation of souls. Being unable to post a logic model of that, I’ll resort to something probably clumsy:

    Link 1: The Sacred Deposit of Faith: Divine Revelation & Tradition ==> Link 2: Enactment of Link 1 through the Mass, the Divine Office, contemplation ==> Link 3 : Catechesis of dogma and developed doctrine ==> Link 4: The strength and depth of individual and corporate Faith ==> Link 5: The strength and depth of the Social Kingship of Christ.

    What the marijuana-smoking Modernists of Vatican II accomplished at the Council was to lay the groundwork for the destruction – or at least the fatal enervating – of Links 2 and 3. The Mass no longer re-enacts Our Lord’s Passion and Death; the Divine Office became the “Liturgy of the Hours,” a thoroughly confusing and soporific assemblage of ecumenical prayers; catechesis became either nonexistent or was reduced to thinly disguised Marxism.

    If Links 2 and 3 are no longer capable of preserving and transmitting that which they have received, but instead transmit a revolutionary and alien virus, an apostate thought pattern, then the result is confusion, disunity, bitterness, and the loss of Faith. “The centre cannot hold,” as WB Yeats observed.

    And if the resulting shambles in the Church becomes an established pattern, then that condition will be reflected in society, creating a vacuum which Hell is quick to fill.

    • RCA Victor,

      I’ve obviously been unfair in my depiction of “said reader” (!) who is, absolutely, in agreement about the vernacular per se. He is a regular attendee at the TLM – in fact, I don’t think he attends the novus ordo at all these days.

      I think he simply gets irritated, as do we all, surely, at the contradictions within the novus ordo world, where they demand Mass in the vernacular, obviously understood as the native tongue of a particular country, and then bring division into parishes by introducing Mass in foreign languages, most notably Polish.

      All of which amounts to what you rightly describe as “the resulting shambles…”

      Hope the wedding music was a success – to even ask the question is an act of disloyalty ! I know it would be/was 😀

      • Editor,

        Glad to hear that about the English reader. Here’s another thought: since the Vatican II project was essentially the introduction of Marxism into the Church, under various disguises, then that means that the contradictory world of Communism will be its main feature. A new party line every week; a new re-write of history (Tradition) with every speech; the past no longer exists; everything is in continual flux.

        Same thing with the scam-demic, which is applied Communism, except that we get a new lie practically every day, that contradicts yesterday’s lie. Accept it, or else!

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