Are Sign Language Masses Valid?

I found this topic pretty fascinating. A friend of mine from highschool, Noah Buchholz, is deaf, and gave a sermon at a Baptist church that I went to. Watching him express words and thoughts physically and visibly, while a translator assisted those of us who can’t understand sign language was pretty fascinating. He’s a really passionate speaker anyways and was speaking on a topic which he cared about (if memory serves, it was about creating Romanian sign language Bibles for the deaf in Romania, since deaf syntax is usually really different than non-deaf syntax), so it was almost like watching “living words,” if that makes sense.

The Catholic Mass is a different animal, of course. While empassioned homilies are nice, they’re not at the center of our worship. And more importantly, for a valid Mass to occur, the priest must speak the words of Christ, “This is My Body…” and “This is My Blood…,” in the language that the Mass is said in. But what if the priest is deaf, and speaks only in sign language? Can that constitute a valid Mass?

This isn’t just some ivory tower hypothetical. There are deaf Catholic priests, like Fr. Paul Zirimenya. Matthew Hysell, himself a deaf Catholic, summarizes his Master of Theology thesis why sign language counts as a valid language, and thus, why signing the words of consecration validly transubstantiates the Eucharist.


  1. As a languages student, topics like this fascinate me. Thanks for putting this up.

    By the way, just to let you know your blog is definitely one of my favourites. Interesting topics with often tricky issues or problems, with the solution (which is perfectly Catholic) explained with utmost clarity. Fantastic stuff!

    God bless

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