August 15, 2010

First Spanish Mass

This morning I offered Mass in Spanish for the first time. I had concelebrated at Spanish Masses a few times before, but had never been celebrant until today. I was fairly nervous this morning as I paged up my little Spanish travel ritual and reviewed the orations in my Spanish hand missal.

Though I'm very out of practice, I think my several years attending Mass in Spanish on Sundays carried me. It's all in the ear even if I'm not used to pronouncing the words myself, or looking at them in the missal. I also had a deacon to preach, for which I was grateful.

I've always felt a gratitude for hospitality in the Lord when I've had a chance to pray or work with communities of another culture or language, but today I felt it even more. To be received in the role of priest, a role that sets me both below the community as servant and at its head as presider, put a sharper point on the graciousness of the people's welcome to me. It's very humbling.

Maybe it was Br. Matt's reflection on itinerancy that had an effect on me, but I was also seeing the Mass as a moment in the homelessness of my own mendicant life. Pronouncing the Lord's words in a language-home not my own, I felt something deep about the itinerant, mendicant vocation: we are meant to live the truth that are home is not here, but in heaven. (Latin doesn't count as a foreign language in this regard; as Roman Catholics Latin is everyone's mother tongue and nobody's at the same time.)

As a Franciscan my home is everywhere, but also nowhere in this world. It's a gospel challenge, but it's also a gospel freedom.


Mark in Spokane said...

First, after Latin, Spanish is the language that suits the Mass the best, IMHO.

Second, the Novus Ordo translation in Spanish is much better than the current translation into English. I never really understood how powerful the prayers of the Mass could be until I sat down and read the Spanish translation. Much better, particularly in the Gloria, I think, and in the collects.

Third, congratulations on getting a little bit of Spanish-language experience under your belt, Father. Fantastic!

As Charles V once said, "I speak Spanish to God, French to my men, Italian to my women, and German to my horses."

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

After Padre Julio went back to Colombia, we have had two native speakers of English with pretty good Spanish celebrate the Spanish Masses, Fr. Greg for one year and Fr. Milich, who also celebrates the Latin Mass, currently. I imagine the homilies have been difficult for them. Fr. Milich uses simple language and lots of repetition, which is good for me since Spanish is not my native language, either. Padre Julio heard confessions in both English and Spanish; the same is true for Fr. Greg and Fr. Milich, and a visiting priest from a nearby parish who hails from Spain. What I have seen among my fellow parishioners is not only incredible tolerance for linguistic limitations but extraordinary pride and gratitude that our priests are willing to handle bilingual needs. I imagine the same was true for those present at your Mass. (Like Mark, I find certain aspects of the Spanish Mass more powerful than the English one, which is why I attend Saturday in English and Sunday in Spanish -- being a member of both worlds is a treat, as you have mentioned.)

Good luck in the continued development of your Spanish skills.

Sara said...

At daily Mass at my parish, about twice a week the celebrating priest is not quite comfortable in English (more often this summer when we had visiting priests). I am always moved by this display of courage and humility. Also it is so nice how people participate in the Mass when the priest is nervous. There is a lot of tenderness in their responses.

Mark in Spokane said...


Like you, I struggle with Spanish. I'm not fluent by any stretch of the imagination. But the beauty and grace of the language is undeniable, and I find that the Spanish masses I have been to are a wonderful experience, not simply to experience some of the diversity of God's Church in this world, but also simply to luxuriate in the magnificent language of the Spanish translation of the Mass itself. Understandable to someone like me (far from fluent) but still powerful and evocative, much more moving than the current English translation of the Novus Ordo.