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Experiencing the Mass in any language but English

I have always had an opinion ... well, yup that sounds about right - but today I wanted to reflect on the language of the Mass.  I attend the Novus Ordo in English on a regular basis.  Until a few years ago I would have no idea what that even was and would have responded with - "Um, you mean - Mass, in English, what else could there be?"  Well, many people would still say that ... there are only certain circles of Catholicism that would even have any idea what I'm talking about when I use those Latin words.

I always thought that going to the Latin Mass was terrible for one reason: "I cannot understand anything they are saying, and it's very difficult for me to participate when I don't know what's happening."  That is no longer why I don't attend (and in general I don't think it's 'terrible' ever - I mean, Jesus comes - body, blood, soul, and divinity so it can't be all bad!).  Why has my opinion about my reason changed?

Three weeks in the Congo and three days in Rome.  This Lent, as you may know, I took off for the Congo after the 8:30am Mass at my parish.  Fr. Winslow gave a great homily and then I didn't hear another homily for almost an entire month.  Over those three weeks, I went to Mass in Otetella, Lingala, and French in the Congo.  The language depends on the diocese and the region.  At my last Mass in Kinshasa we said the creed in Latin which was the only thing I understood and could say the entire time.  Otherwise I just had my Magnificat and said the responses in English as we went along.

In Rome, I went to Mass at St. Peter's - Yes, you read that correct - Mass at St. Peter's.  I do wish my life involved the opportunity to attend Mass in a beautiful Cathedral every day!  My parish is nice, but it's not St. Peter's, that is for certain.  Mass there was in Latin with the readings in Italian.

Then I came back to the States - and the next homily I heard was at the 5pm Sunday Mass from my pastor, Fr. Winslow.  It was fine - nothing so profound that I remember it now six months later, but it taught me some things.

  1. Mass is not about the homily.  If you don't understand it because it's in another language, over your head, geared toward children, you fell asleep, were preoccupied by your life, etc... - that doesn't mean that Mass was a waste of your time today.
  2. Mass is not about the music.  If you aren't able to sing the songs, if you don't like the songs, if the songs have terrible lyrics, it really doesn't matter about whether Mass was a waste of your time today.  It's great when the music is great, but the world isn't crashing down when it's not.
  3. Mass is not about you.  This is the hardest one for us to grasp in a society that tells us everything is about us, making us happy, what we get out of it, etc...  It's great when you are moved by the homily, struck by the prayers, or have this amazing experience during Mass.  However, it's okay if you didn't.  If you actively participated (which is a controversial term in itself) and you came to give glory to the Lord, then you lived out his Will.  But the Mass will go on if you aren't there.  Yup - it will be the same whether you are there or not.  Our presence (unless we are the priest celebrating the Mass) is not required for the Mass to be what it is.  I read a post (that I cannot find now, sadly) about how the fact that you are not needed there for Jesus to come is really the reason why you should be there.  To witness a miracle!
Anyway, back to the Mass - these three weeks of Masses were more meaningful than three weeks with homilies at Masses in English (and that's not a knock to the priests at my parish - I love them).  It's because I was focused on the Lord, on what He was telling me, who I was, why I was there, and where I was.  It's hard to explain how to do this - but for me, when the words weren't in my language, the Lord spoke clearly in English.  Maybe I had his full 'English Attention' since no one else there was listening in that language!?

So now, I still prefer to attend the Novus Order in English over a Mass in Latin - but it's not because of the language ... but that's a post for another day!


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