February 1, 2010

Y Con Tu Espiritu

Before I came here to my first assignment, my Sunday Eucharist was in Spanish for several years. In the parish where I served as deacon I used to do the childrens' liturgy of the Word during the Spanish Mass, and in the parish where I lived during studies I had the ministry of monitor--the one who reads the pious (and sometimes awful) introductions to the Mass and the readings of the day. I was also entrusted with the solemn demand that everyone turn off their mobile devices at the beginning of Mass: favor de apagar los beeperes y celulares. 'Beeperes;' that still cracks me up. In most places I've lived in the Order--with the exception of the year of novitiate--the Spanish Mass was the most vibrant celebration. I also appreciated the language practice, so the choice was clear.

I mention all of this because of a telling experience I had this morning. At our little, intimate early Mass (6:45 am in the small chapel) there was someone among us who was clearly more accustomed to Mass in Spanish. It wasn't words that gave it away, but gesture: the waving of the arms back at the priest at the 'also with yous,' the insistence on hand-holding at the Our Father, etc.

I was really struck by how foreign such behavior had become to me in less than three years in a parish of German- and Irish-American history (and sensibility) and with Mass only in English (although there is a little Latin mixed in when I do it, though in the vox secreta.) Gestures of prayer that were an ordinary part of my life for many years--though I may not have participated in them myself--had now become foreign to me.

It just goes to show how much we are formed by where and with whom we choose to pray, or where the Holy Spirit puts us.


penny ante said...

In my ethnic parish, we do those hand gestures that you are speaking of; except we no longer hold hands at the Lord's prayer. Orans instead...

The gestures are as natural to me and others as the air we breathe.

When I am elsewhere for Mass, I still do them... as I explained, they are as natural to me as the air I breathe... :)

However, I can see that it would be easy to forget them depending on which parish you become a member of.

Rachel said...

Very true. When I became Catholic after being evangelical all my life, it was all unfamiliar to me and a lot of it really rubbed me the wrong way. I prayed to God to grant me a Catholic sensibility. Now Catholicism feels completely natural and my old denomination seems strange.

Qualis Rex said...

Father Charles, I don't get the waving arms at the "y con tu espiritu". I'll look out for that one should I ever find myself (saddly) at a Novus Ordo parish (I would generally opt for Spanish mass in that case). The hand holding during the Our Father is "Right Out!" as the Monty Python monk would say. Last NO mass I went to was Christmas Eve (not Spanish, but VERRRRRRY touchey-feely). When the guy next to me reached for my hand I put it on my heart and gave him a head nodd and a smile, then proceeded to say it as I always do in the ancient form of supplicance.

I only get to Ethiopian or Syriac/Malankara divine liturgy maybe once a year these days. But when I do, the clapping, jumping and arm swaying does come as natural as riding a bike. I think the pavlovian response kicks in.