Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Living Enculturation in the Liturgy

We had Confirmation last night at my parish, St. John the Baptist, Joliet, IL. 85 young people celebrated the sacrament. I had the privilege to serve as cantor and guitarist with a small but hardy bilingual choir, and the music director on piano and organ.

While most of the young candidates spoke primarily English, their parents may speak little English, or simply prefer to worship in Spanish, so the entire celebration was bilingual. The level of participation at this Mass was high. The music was pretty singable - some of very familiar from years of sharing these liturgies with the two cultures... and the people sang. (Even with my clumsy "Canta, por favor" -- and I still can't get used to having to not only gesture them in, but to say "Todos!" - that's even harder when playing guitar!)

The language in which we prefer to pray is important - and it says something about the culture our heart identifies with. In the case of a bilingual celebration, the identity is in the unity of the gathered community. Anyone who has attempted to say the "Our Father/Padre Nuestro" at the same time - "each in the language he or she prefers" know that it sounds for that minute or so like we have all ended up at the Tower of Babel. Yet there is a harmony in that conglomerated murmur of voices, blurred together into a wall of sound.

The Spirit was certainly present at that celebration last night, in the reverent joy of those celebrating, no matter which language they prefer to use at worship. This is in no small part due to a certain easiness and acceptance of the whole bilingual thing as a matter of course on the part of the Bishop, the concelebrants, the musicians and the director of religious education. There is simply no question of any big celebration in the community, such as Confirmation, being in one language or the other. It must be in both - all must be made to feel accepted and welcome to the Table of the Lord.

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