May 06, 2007

Assimilation or Not?

A quick post as my mind is still racing at Richmond!

Yesterday, in addition to being May 5th and First Saturday, was also Cinco de Mayo. Many cities around the country, including the West Side of St. Paul, hosted events honoring Latino culture.

I've been thinking lately about how many Catholic parishes in my city have Masses in Spanish. In fact, there are more Masses in Spanish then Latin around here. It seems to be less "controversial" to start a Mass in any language other then Latin any place. Hmong? Sure. Vietnamese? Sure. Korean? Sure. Spanish? Sure. Polish? Sure. Latin? No way-too backward.


I know there is a lot of fear in the hierarchy that if we don't offer Masses in Spanish we are going to lose one of our fastest rising Catholic populations in this country to the Evangelicals or other Protestants groups. Shouldn't the hierarchy be worried about losing any of us and not just one group?

We are either all Catholics together or we aren't. What's the deal with all this dissimilation? Yes, there always have been culturally based Catholic parishes. But, I'm questioning whether that was ever a good idea or not. What's the point? Is this country the great melting pot or isn't it? Is our Church ONE or isn't it?

Is our Mass the same no matter what language it's in or isn't it? Do we need to just go back to Latin only? I'm starting to think that, yes, we do need Latin only. I think our church is becoming too segmented into the various cultures that make up the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.



Blogger Adoro te Devote said...

I do think it's important to have Spanish Masses in our community - they are the group most under attack by JW's and the like, and some of their catechesis has been worse than ours. Many are migrant families, they have no regularity in their lifestyles, and while they hold fast to their family roots (putting most of us to cmplete shame), they are letting go of the true faith in favor of a good sales pitch.

I know this because of an el Salvadorian janitor at my work. He's bought into the relativism and has described how "it's all the same" and if the JW's are offering Spanish and the locak Catholic church is not, what's the difference?

So yes, we need the Spanish outreach and Spanish Masses.

I think that there are a few different issues happening here. Yes, we're a melting pot, but this country is very segregated and has always been segregated for new immigrants. Always.

That's why ethnic churches developed, as a place of solidarity. They were not exclusionary to other cultures, but people like to worship and come together with a group that is comfortable, as a relief from their everyday lives of difficulty and exclusion.

The same can be said for the Spanish masses in our area, because they serve the same purpose. The Vietnamese, also, Hmong, also. Polish...that's just become the norm there.

Now, that said, I agree with you with regard to the Latin. It's a complete double standard, but from "their" perspective, that's because there isn't a culture associated with it. The detractors of Latin are forgetting that it is THEIR culture, and OUR culture, cohesively. In the Roman church, we have left our traditions behind in favor of the fad of the day, and we can look to Judaism and Islam as an example fo what it means to have a language all our own.

The pendulum is swinging back, and I do hope to see, in my lifetime, Latin incorporated in the Mass, no matter what the largest vernacular language happens to be. Latin/Spanish, Latin/Vietnamese, Latin/ beautiful. Because then everyone can attend, and will understand the most important moments in our shared Latin language. Then we would have true solidarity, not this fluff that the Social Justice crowd understands as such.

May 06, 2007 4:38 PM  
Blogger Vincenzo said...

"I think our church is becoming too segmented into the various cultures that make up the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church."

Ha! You read my mind. I was just thinking of this issue during the last week, particularly after seeing the following:

"Throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, liturgy and other services are offered in many different languages, cultural and ethnic traditions representing the diversity of one of the world's greatest cities. Truly, the Lord's command to "Go and make disciples of all peoples" is made real in the Archdiocese each day of the year..."

"African-American Cultural Focus...American Sign Language...Arabic... Aramaic... Armenian... Cambodian... Chinese (Cantonese).. Chinese (Mandarin) ... Croatian ... Garifuna...
German... Haitian...
(the list goes on and on).

May 06, 2007 5:39 PM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

Good post, Cathy, on an interesting subject.

Latin's problem is not that there are too many illegal Latin aliens in the country who won't learn English.

Latin's problem is symbolic. Latin to its relativistic and reformist, generally progressive opponents, means Rome, rules, and rigidity.

It is viewed as the first step in a return to all that they didn't like, rutabega, for example, when they were ten years old. Few of them have bothered to learn much about what the Church teaches since they were ten and they reject most of that.

I am inclined to favor a return to the use of Latin in the liturgy, mostly for uniformity. Priests using the vernaculars often prefer to demonstrate to their congregations how independent they are of their Bishop and of Rome by improvising the words of the Mass. Were it said in Latin, few in the congregation would recognize improvisation in that language.

It would take a long time to do this.

But it could begin with the simple responses in the "Common" of the Mass as we know it today: "Et cum spiritu tuo"; "Sursum corda"; "Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi etc."

It wouldn't take more than a few months to teach a congregation the simple Latin responses of the Novus Ordo Mass.

Every Catholic can speak some Greek, can't they? Kyrie Eleison.

But it might take a generation to teach more to the priests.

I'm confident that a Latin Mass could be devised that would work in the interim with the changeable Bible readings being in the vernacular language of a country.

Parishes are spending a fortune annually for missalettes. Missalettes with a vernacular translation of the Latin liturgical text would be no more expensive than what they are getting now.

May 06, 2007 6:48 PM  
Blogger Adoro te Devote said...

Aramaic ...well, that would be the Marionite Rite, and they've never lost their language.

I don't think there is really an easy answer to this, becuase after V2 everything exploded in all directions. We have to work first to bring things back to center.

My personal opinion is that it starts with catechesis of the laity, and reform in the seminary that teaches the priests how to celebrate the ancient rites properly. Our seminaries are getting better (some more so than others), but there's a lot for them to learn. Can they really learn the Tridentine mass effectively in current seminary without cutting out important theology?

Maybe my questions centers around whether seminary allows for particular specialties. It seems to me that it does but I don't know enough about it.

We need the languages, but it would really help if the social justice crowd would stop crowing long enough to bury their heads in a catechism and find out how their passions actually need the guidance of history, tradition, and solid theology.

May 06, 2007 7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your comments don't make any sense

it reveals your bias against hispanics and others different than you

latin is sure needed--for sure

but serving others is true love----and there you will find GOD!!!!!

May 07, 2007 12:27 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

anonymous: How is my post revealing my bias against others different then me? My point is, as Catholics, are we supposed to be different when it comes to our worship in the Mass?

I may have done a poor job of conveying my point. It was a rushed post.

May 07, 2007 4:30 AM  
Blogger Ma Beck said...

My grandparents went to a Polish Roman Catholic parish.
The Mass was in Latin.
They didn't seem to have any issues, though Polish was their native tongue. They knew the Mass was in Latin, and that was that.
I am a Roman Catholic first. Latin is the mother tongue of the Roman Catholic faith.
Everything else is secondary.
I LOVE hearing other languages. I often remark to my husband how much I love living in Chicago because I hear so many people speaking so many languages on the street. I love immigrants, I love ethnic festivals, I love the Polish Constitution Day parade, I love Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Loving Latin doesn't mean hating other languages, and certainly doesn't mean being racist!
I am Roman, you are Roman, we are ALL Roman first and foremost.

May 07, 2007 7:51 AM  
Blogger Ma Beck said...

(Although if the Mass had been in English, I'll bet my grandparents would have been delighted to have such a wonderful opportunity to learn their new language. As it was, they had to learn it on their own, with the help of friends and neighbors.)

May 07, 2007 7:53 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ma: You make the point I was trying to make better then I did. My Grandfather was from Poland (he lived in Chicago for many decades too! He loved Chi-town) and he remembered when they only spoke Latin in Church. They spoke Polish at home. He was so upset when so many churches removed Latin after VII that I don't think he ever went back. He learned English in school.

May 07, 2007 8:53 AM  
Blogger Histor the Wise said...

Anonymous: Uh, Cathy seems to want Hispanics to go to the same mass as her. Very racist, but there it stands.

In my parish, Latin is decidedly a better choice, since our priest distributes two (homemade) missalettes at the Latin mass - one Latin/English, the other Latin/Spanish.

One mass, three languages, two ethnic groups served simultaneously. Neat, huh?

And it's cheaper than adding Spanish-language masses. All you need is lots of paper, a bilingual priest, and some translators - and they're easy to get.


May 07, 2007 9:38 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Histor: I do want all of us Catholics at the same Mass. I'm trying to get race and culture out of the mix. It's the folks who insist on creating culturally based Masses that have made it about race and culture.

Going back to what Adoro said earlier. I'm not convinced that the effort to bring Spanish language Masses to Spanish speakers is resulting in more effective Catachesis for them then it is for anyone else.

May 07, 2007 11:10 AM  
Blogger Richie D said...

Unless you are fluent in Latin, are you able to fully participate in the Mass? At the end of Holy Thursday Mass, when my Chicago Parish started the Eucharist procession, my eyes tear up when the choir sings, in English,

"On the Eve of that Last Supper,
Breaking bread with chosen friends ...." I would miss that eternal link to Jesus and the Eucharist if it were sung in Latin.

May 07, 2007 11:17 AM  
Blogger Adoro te Devote said...

Unfortunately, at least in our area, the parishes that are offering Spanish masses are not offering good catechesis...if you know what I mean.

May 07, 2007 11:31 AM  
Blogger Richie D said...

Today's New York TIMES has a front page article about Liberation Theology in South America

May 07, 2007 12:20 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

richie: I don't think full participation necessarily means you have to always hear and understand what is going on. Sometimes the priests mic is bad or an infant wails right in the middle of something. This speaks to my point as well or maybe refutes it altogether. Does language matter? Isn't it the miracle that we all know and accept that is occurring before our eyes The Point? I should be able to go to a Spanish Mass (a language I am not fluent in) but still know what is going on, right? Similarly, a Spanish speaker should be able to go to a Mass in English and know what is going on,right? Doesn't active participation as stated in the documents of VII (I don't have time to look it up but I think it's Sacrosanctum Concilium) define active participation as more then just doing things but as an interior reflection? So, doesn't that go beyond language? At least to me it seems to suggest so. For me, there are no words adequate to explain the Mass. As I have just successfully proven here as I flounder about.

It could be that liberation theology is what I'm getting at with my comment to Adoro re: lack of catachesis at the Spanish Masses. I studied a lot of liberation theology 20 years ago and most of it is written by Latin Americans. I feel that most Spanish speakers are coming from that background and could use a good dose of orthodox catachesis. I'm worried that maybe they aren't getting it-along with their Spanish Mass.

But, liberation theology could be a whole other post.

May 07, 2007 1:41 PM  
Blogger Richie D said...

Our participation at Mass should be the same as our love for God-- with all our hearts, our minds, souls and bodies. The human heart searching for union with God does not need a "language," but our feeble human minds do. Vernacular language serves "Faith seeking understanding."

I've been to Mass in Switzerland, Andorra and Spain. I didn't understand everything, but I could follow along visually-- I knew when the Liturgy of the Word ended and the Liturgy of the Eucharist began. The beauty of our Church is I could look up the readings before or after the Mass.

I think your post wasn't rascist at all, but an arguement for the Latin Mass-- something the Holy Father is said to want to bring back.

I do not buy into the idea that "If it's not Latin, it's not sacred."

Imagine someone posing as a priest and saying the Mass in Latin. But it's not the Liturgy in Latin, it's The Aenid. He replaces the names of the heroes with those of the Trinity and Saints. How many people would realize what was going on?

May 07, 2007 3:58 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Richie: I don't buy the argument that if its not Latin its not sacred either. I'm just reaching for a way for all of us to enjoy the Mass as one as much as possible. Perhaps, a common language is one way?

May 07, 2007 6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

catholic======universal======================================================================================E PLURIBUS UNUM=====================OUT OF MANY===ONE======THIS IS AMERICA

May 07, 2007 7:03 PM  
Blogger Carolina Cannonball said...

if we are going be losing hispanic Catholics, let's take a look at what they 'contribute' to Catholicism and then decide it its really much of a loss ...

Roman Protestanism.

May 08, 2007 10:48 AM  
Blogger Ma Beck said...

Interesting comments, to which I will just add:

I. am. not. fluent. in. Latin.

However, I happen to choose to attend a Latin Mass.
The vocabulary of the Latin Mass contains (I'm making a rough guess here) maybe 200 different words, but probably 80% of it is the same 50 words over and over again.
Spiritu - spirit
Anime - soul
Pater - Father
Pretty basic stuff.
The best part? With a missal, one need not know Latin at all, because one can follow along.
It's not about knowing Latin.
I'm not a smart person, but I am able to follow ten pages of a simple little book for an hour on Sunday.
Having said all that, I'm not opposed to English Masses in an English-speaking country, or for that matter, Spanish Masses in a Hispanic neighborhood of that English-speaking country.
But I do think the prayers of the Latin Mass, no matter what language they are spoken in, have more spiritual depth and are generally more penitent and adoring than the prayers of the 'new Mass.' Which is, yep, a perfectly valid, licit Mass which I attend on occasion.
How's that for ecumenical?
I love everybody.

May 08, 2007 3:41 PM  
Blogger Richie D said...

ma beck: would you go to the opera and instead of watching and listening, buy a libretto and read along the translation? Don't you think you would be missing something?

May 09, 2007 8:17 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ma: I'm not fluent in Latin either but you are correct in that we tend to hear a lot of the same Latin words again and again. After a while, it is possible to get the gist if not all of what is being said. I've noticed this myself.

Richie: People take librettos to the opera all the time and read along and listen. Not only that, but many opera houses have screens with the translation up. People read from their Missalettes during the Mass now-even when it is in English. I see this in my parish at every Mass. Some people don't hear well and some Lectors don't read clearly.

May 09, 2007 8:21 AM  
Blogger Ma Beck said...

It's sort of not the same thing, because I go to the same Mass week after week, and pretty much have it down pat by now.
I imagine if I went to "Aida" over and over again, I would likely not need the libretto after three years.
But yes, if I did go to any opera, I would read along with the libretto, as most people do.
(I also read the missalette at English Mass - I find my mind wanders too much if I try to 'just listen', but that's just me.)
I went to "Carmina Burana" last year, and was happy to read along with the translation. I don't think I missed the beauty of the music.

May 09, 2007 9:18 AM  

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