Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday

Last night we attended the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at my parish. I have come to really appreciate high feasts and solemnities in my parish these past few years because we now have a Spanish apostolate. The apostolate ministers to Spanish-speaking immigrants who live mainly in the Point neighborhood of Salem. The vast majority of them have come from the Dominican Republic. The community used to worship at St. Joseph’s parish, but when it closed they moved to Immaculate Conception.

On Sundays, there is a separate Spanish Mass, and they also have separate Spanish-language religious education. But on the important feasts of the year we have bilingual liturgies. So last night we had the first reading and the Gospel in Spanish while the second reading was in English. We have bilingual missalettes for those who speak one or the other language. And we have two homilies, one in English and one in Spanish. There is also music from both the English-language choir and the Spanish-language musicians. It’s a nice opportunity to experience something of the universality of the Church and how it crosses national and cultural boundaries. It’s also nice to see the church packed full for a change.

I expect the Good Friday Stations of the Cross and Lord’s Passion to be very well-represented from both Spanish and English speakers, but less the Easter Vigil. Apparently, most of the Spanish community prefer the Easter Sunday Mass.

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  • Bilingual is normal around here,  except it’s French/English.

    If nothing else it improves the music.  smile

  • And don’t doubt that I bring that fact up to my pastor every time we begin preparing for the liturgies. He’s not opposed to it, but it takes time to get everybody on board.

    Hopefully, Pope Benedict will speed that change along.

  • “Why not bring everyone together and worship in one language where it is foreign to everyone?”

    Let’s see if I understand this correctly.  Rather than have two language groups in one parish learn each other’s language (consider the possibilities for growth in parish life!), it would be better to have both language groups learn a language neither one of them knows, a language not in use in society at large, a language they would not use outside of worship?

  • A language that has been the common language of worship for all but the last 35 out of 2000 years or so. A language that until the current generation every Catholic could pray in. A language that an American serviceman living in Boston could worship in and then travel overseas to the Philippines and enter a Catholic church and feel right at home with.

    Yes, that language.

    Incidentally, learning Latin would be an excellent educational language tool for all children and adults. But that’s a bonus, not the reason to do it.

  • I visited Montreal in the late 60s.  Driving into the city I discovered that road signs were in French, a language I can’t read.  After going in circles for a while and asking for help of a stranger who spoke to me in French while knowing full well I didn’t understand him, I somehow managed to drive into the English speaking section of the city quite by accident.

    Mass in French would have been a further alienation, but this was the late 60s and Mass was in Latin.  It was one place in the city that I felt at home.

  • The languages of the Church have the commonality of both singularity and universality.  The Holy Thursday mass locally here in Niles, Illinois is celebrated in several lanuguages.

    First, there is English; then more Latin responses and hymns than before.  Finally, there are the readings and hymns that reflect the ethnicity of the parish:  Tagalog (Filipino) and Polish along with, on occasion, Spanish and Italian.

    No matter what language and whether uderstood or not, if done with profound reverence, the effects are the same.  It’s as if one intuits the meaning of prayer.

  • No matter what language and whether uderstood or not, if done with profound reverence, the effects are the same.  It’s as if one intuits the meaning of prayer.

    Interesting comment, John.  There has been an emphasis on the spoken words of Mass since Vatican II.  Full participation is taken to mean speaking—saying prayers and singing songs.  But we can do that with half a mind after we’ve done it a few times.

    In order to have full participation, our thoughts must be engaged.  We must have our attention focused on what is taking place. 

    We can participate by listening.  By watching what the priest is doing.  By forming our intentions.  By changing posture from standing, to sitting, to kneeling. Full participation incorporates much more than just saying prescribed responses.  In fact a person who has lost the ability to speak can still fully participate in the Mass.

    I think, though, that there is one requirement that must be met.  The Mass must not be “creative”, because even if we don’t understand the language, we must be able to understand the actions.  Ritual, by its very nature, is repetitive.  When Mass becomes novel, we depart from reverent participation and move into critical thinking.  If something is new, we spend our time deciding whether we like it or not.  And doing that is just the opposite of full participation.

  • John and Carrie,

    I was just thinking along the same lines yesterday afternoon when I attended the bilingual stations of the cross. Every other station was in Spanish and since we were using the Stations Pope Benedict used, there weren’t booklets for anyone but the readers.

    At first I was annoyed just standing there with nothing to follow along with. The meditations in English were so good, I wished I could read the ones we were “skipping”. But on the other hand I did understand what was going on. I know the stations and just listening to the meditations in Spanish had a prayerful quality. I especially loved the Spanish singing.

    I remembered going to the Stations when I was in Paris for Easter and just letting the words flow over me as I opened myself up to God.

    There is an understanding that goes beyond words and in fact sometimes the words can get in the way of our really listening to God. Sometimes the Spirit speaks to us directly even when we don’t understand the words.

  • At our bilingual (Spanish/English) Easter Vigil Liturgy, we had 35 who entered the Church and it was truly a spirit filled moment to watch 6 people get baptized and 35 make their first communion and confirmation.