Sunday, February 20, 2011

Worshiping as a Stranger in a Not-So-Strange Land

This morning, our parish pastoral council members (mostly Anglos) met at the 9:30 Spanish Mass to join our brothers and sisters in their worship - in a show of solidarity - and as a sign that the parish has lay leadership.  We have been trying to face our current reality as a mostly Hispanic parish by inviting increased representation from the Spanish-speaking community -- and this gesture seemed like a great idea.

So, nine of us attended, seated in a pew near, but not in the front. Of course, it was the Mass - and we all know the ritual and structure... it's universal, right? Well, mostly.  I tried to navigate the experience with my muy poco espaƱol and more than a little uncertainty.

I was determined to participate, since that is a high value for me... so I valiantly opened the missal, located the Ordinary of the Mass in Spanish, which enabled me at least to attempt the longer people's spoken parts. Of course sometimes they spoke faster than I could read! (muy despacio, por favor!). Many of the sung acclamations were familiar to me from having sung at bi-lingual Masses... although I admit I had to chuckle a bit when they got to the Memorial Acclamation and out came "Christo ha muerto, Christo resucitado... " which was NOT a choice in the missalette. (So, tell me again that in November we English worshipers won't be able to sing "Christ has died, Christ is risen..."?)

I was able to follow about half of what was said in the readings, prayers and the homily - it helped that  I had already heard the readings Saturday night because I had been cantor at the English vigil Mass.  What I think I heard, was pretty much a simple run-through and explanation of the meaning of the readings. No frills, but not bad. The straight dope, more or less.

As to joining in the singing, I learned I really have to get better at my numbers in Spanish - because it was hard for me to find the two selections the 15-member choir announced and led that were from the Spanish hymnal - the only time I had a hope of joining in the songs. I did locate one of them after the second time they sang the refrain, because I could pick out the first few words and find it alphabetically.

Most of the songs, however, including three they did at Communion, were not announced and not in the book - but that didn't stop almost everyone, from the children to the grandmothers, from singing along loudly... all the words by heart - and from the heart.  In the end, for the final song, all we Anglos could do was stand and clap along with the rhythmic clapping, having very little idea what was being sung so enthusiastically, yet somehow feeling a part of it all. Maybe I should do this more often.

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