Saturday, June 25, 2011

What Language Barrier? We are One!

Music and the Mass are universal languages. You don't always have to understand to get the gist. Last night, my parish, St. John the Baptist in Joliet, celebrated our patronal feast with a bilingual Mass that brought our aging Anglo population and our vibrant young Hispanic people together.  The event was celebrated by our bilingual Anglo pastor, Fr. Fred Radtke  and our recently ordained Hispanic (bilingual) associate, Fr. Rommel Perez, a combined choir featuring members of our frankly aging English choir and one of the very young and energetic Spanish choirs, and a small but hearty crowd of about 125 people from both language communities. (OK, it was a Friday night.. you had to be really committed to be there)

Beginning with a sprinkling rite around the outdoor statue of St. John the Baptist and ending with a rousing rock-and-roll Spanish praise song: "Eres Todopoderoso" (translated so we could do it in both languages) it was a celebration of who we are: a community that is coming together, more and more, around the sacraments and the concept of community, despite our differences.  Both priests preached separately - not translated - but the homilies were really more or less about the same thing. Fr. Fred talked with passion about his vision for a unified community.  Fr. Rommel, from what I could understand with my barely adequate Spanish, preached with great enthusiasm about what a wonderful community San Juan Bautisto is and how we are one.

The music, as is usual at these combined celebrations, featured both groups at their best. As I said, Oscar's Spanish choir is definitely younger, but it, too, holds a mystery - the seeds of the future. The youth in the choir all speak and sing perfect English. In time, the music in this parish will become even more bi-cultural, I suspect, as will the parish, since we are beginning to see a few more young Hispanic families at the English Mass. We will always, for the foreseeable future, need celebrations in both languages.

For the present, we are definitely at our best when we gather both cultures around one table for liturgy. The energy, youth and future  is definitely on the Hispanic side, but the older Anglos have vision, stability and a deep understanding of Church to offer. It's a great combination.  Today, when we come together to celebrate our parish festival with games, music, food and fundraising, we will also be at our best. We are One Body. We all need each other. Together we will build a future that looks very different from today's reality. What is clear is that we will do it together - because nobody is going anywhere.

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