Your thoughts please regarding particular and "ethnic" liturgies
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,117
    Some help from this esteemed forum:

    I am preparing a paper regarding "particular" liturgies (pardon the word usage), that is, liturgies for a particular "ethnic" group. In these cases, ethnic groups (African Americans, Filipinos, Mexicans) are allowed to "take over" a liturgy for their own purposes. These purposes include, presenting their own music (Gospel, Tagalog) and their own preachers or priests that reflect "who they are." You might imagine where I am, but rather, I would appreciate some thoughts from someone not in the middle of these liturgies.

    Thank you,
    Kevin (exhausted by the latest "particular" liturgy)
  • G
    Posts: 1,389
    Wow. Have a brandy, and take a nice nap. Maybe a massage (is it only I whose posture at the console is so horrible that a Holy Day of Obligation on either a Saturday or Monday leaves me nearly crippled?)

    My recent experience of this is, if the ethnic group has the pull to get this on the schedule, (the people wheedling for the "Polka Mass", for instance, received stony silence from the pastor,) they provide their own mari... well whatever musicians, or sometimes, I am not kidding, the CDs.

    My thoughts, (which are not deserving of your esteem,) is that the whole dang Church tends toward liturgies that are too parochial, and needs to think more universally, and bring back DEVOTIONS for ethnic/particular/weird musical and prayer preferences.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • In some ways, most every Sunday Mass across the country is a "particular" liturgy in the sense that it is designed to appeal to a middle-American, white-bread, pop-tarts and twinkies, value meal, pre-fab, loose credit, wash-n-wear sensibility. If I were an "ethnic" I would feel alienated too! so while the answer isn't ever more ethno-centric experiences, the best way to head this stuff off is to universalize the experience for everyone.
  • I have to say, and I may be castigated for it, that I would rather the ethnic groups celebrate in this way than for the entire parish to be subjected to mixed Masses for the sake of making the ethnic groups feel welcome. While I applaud the feeling behind the latter, I rarely get the sense that this sort of thing really works. Only the "diversity" crowd seems to like singing a chant and then a conjunto hymn. I don't think the old idea of ethnic parishes was a terrible thing. It allowed immigrant groups a place to feel at home until their children joined the mainstream. The only potential problem is that the sheer number of Latinos in the country may create a more permanent situation than existed in the Polish, Irish and German congregations. I imagine that in some California churches, the mixture of Latino, Asian, and New Age cultures creates quite a kaleidoscope of music. Some probably love that. I lean towards Latin and chant as the glue that holds us all together.
  • I don't know how helpful this is, and I can only speak for myself, but as one of Filipino ancestry (and isn't particularly ashamed of it), I steer clear of the ethnic Filipino liturgies as much as possible.

    And as much as possible, I steer clear of the "middle-American, white-bread, pop-tarts and twinkies, value meal, pre-fab, loose credit*, wash-n-wear sensibility" liturgies, too.

    *loose credit indeed!
  • A friend of mine (also of Filipino descent) made the point that for Filipinos, the language barrier isn't a factor in this desire for 'ethnic' liturgy, since most if not all Filipinos who migrate to North America have at least moderate ability in English. For other ethnic/language groups, the language barrier may be a factor.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I am from Korea. When I came to America. I came to live in this country. I try hard to learn English and try to contribute to this society. Whenever there are any talks or events where I can share my beautiful culture, I do. (there are many things Americans like about our culture, such as reverence :) But I don't insist that I have to be treated differently from other Americans. The language is very important to unite this country as one. The language is very important to unite the Catholics. If you start to pick certain ethnic groups, how about other ethnic groups who are not selected? How many different languges we should have in the Liturgy in this country. Almost limitless. This will divide the country and the Church more than uniting people. We can help immigrants to learn English and the Church's language as much as we can. They will learn eventually. I had a period time, I couldn't understand most of the conversations. I had to work hard to learn English if I wanted to live here.

    My in-laws (white Americans), they sometimes go to daily Mass to Vietnamese church nearby if they couldn't go to their parish morning Mass for some reason. They don't understand the language at all. But they go to Mass to receive our Lord in the Eucharist. They can pray together with the priest and the people there silently. They can follow the Mass with their English missal, because the Mass is the same whatever the langauge is. They can supplement the readings further at home, if they need to. Actually they became good friend to them (some of them speaks English). My in laws end up sposoring and fostering a Vietnamese boy who wanted to come to America. They helped him to learn English and send him to a Catholic school here. (they are not rich people at all after raising their 11 kids) I think there are many things we can do to help immigrants in a more personal level than just have different languages in public affairs here and there randomly.

    America is a great country. And this is a Country, not a refuge center. True, it is founded by immigrants. But English has been used as the Language to unite the people as one here for this country. It's our duty to learn the culture and the language and help others to become good citizens here. In our county, there are free English classes offered to immigrants in the community colleges.
    And for the Catholics, it's our duty and right to listen to our Holy Church's teachings and learn her Mother language to be united as one body of Christ.
    Mia
  • My, admittedly limited, experience at 'ethnic' liturgies is that the music employed therein is not at all really Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, & cet., but is, rather, a somewhat 'ethnicised' version of highly debased Western music, 'popular' in its appeal, and therefore no more suited for liturgy than that found in the masses of most 'mainstream' ( how I don't like that word!) parishes. If one went to an 'ethnic' mass and encountered what was really genuine Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese, or African music, one would indeed be delighted and enriched; but, as it is, one is confronted only with more 'popular' music in an ethnic guise. ::: If I were a young man of Spanish heritage, I would wonder if the mariachi band was the best we had to offer at liturgy - why no Victoria or Morales, or masses written by educated Aztec converts: why no real Spanish liturgical music. (The mariachi band, incidentally, is a cultural borrowing from French military 'marriage' bands and, as such, is Napoleon III's last laugh.) ::: As Jeffrey so colourfully observed above, we have all to a large extent lost our true, genuine, cultural bearings. In a mis-guided effort to be 'modern' we have been victimised by music which is only timely and debased, wholly secular and cheap in nature; and, is NOT modern. If we wanted truly modern music, our choirs would be singing Howells, Poulenc, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Matthias, and a host of our contemporaries in Britain and America who are writing superb and very Catholic church music, much of it in Latin, which is being sung by everyone but Catholics. ::: As the Psalmist said (I don't remember chapter & verse): 'We have a goodly heritage'. It is past time that we all, regardless of our 'ethnicity', reclaim it!
  • I was born and raised in Hong Kong and I grew up with Chinese liturgical music. They are played by organs (at least for the 2 parishes I grew up in) and they are pretty decent for liturgical use (though they will never be better than Gregorian chant, although some people in Hong Kong try to sing Gregorian chants in Chinese). The translation is very accurate and I have rarely heard 'pop' melodies at Mass. Things may have changed a little bit in the past couple of years. I heard there is LifeTeen Mass in Hong Kong now (probably for English-speaking teenagers from the US). Well, I don't know how relevant this post is to the topic...but I just thought I want to share with you all about this....
  • G
    Posts: 1,389
    a somewhat 'ethnicised' version of highly debased Western music, 'popular' in its appeal, and therefore no more suited for liturgy than that found in the masses of most 'mainstream' ( how I don't like that word!) parishes.

    Well observed.
    I once heard a testy music director reject for use in a bi-lingual Mass, an "Hispanic" setting of the Ordinary (the composer had a suspiciously Celtic sounding surname,) from one of the big publishers, saying, "It sounds like trunk songs from the guy who wrote Man of La Mancha."

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • a1437053a1437053
    Posts: 198
    Michael: I lean towards Latin and chant as the glue that holds us all together.


    I lean that way too.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    One of the interesting things I've noticed in my exposure to both "white bread/bourgeois" liturgy in the USA and its "ethnic" subvariants is the generally poor artistic level of the music.

    All I've heard in a variety of languages is folk pop, ballad, or enthusiastic "Up with People" types of writing. We're not hearing music from the Mexico City cathedral of New Spain or even traditional devotional music from earlier times at a "Hispanic" Mass. Likewise (though my exposure is more limited) with Masses targeting Asian immigrant communities. The difference is primarily linguistic with some incorporation of favored instruments. I don't know if this is music produced in the USA for use by non-"Anglo" populations,if it indicates that liturgical music worldwide fell into the style after the liturgical changes of the mid/late 20th century, or if our pop liturgical music was exported successfully (clearly the worst form of cultural imperialism).
  • Once when I was told by a member of staff that we should start putting more "Hispanic" music into our Masses, I told her that the choir wasn't capable of singing Guerrero.

    (Of course, she meant Donna Pena.)
  • My experience with hispanic Masses has been with the ethnic ensemble of guitars, bass, violin and any other instruments that are available. It's usually quite loud and very "mariachi" or conjunto in style. For many hispanics, this is all they know. But other immigrants have had their musics (polka for the German and Polish Catholics in the Midwest is the closest example) so I'm reticent to speak against this, but it is my hope that Spanish-speaking Americans will eventually discover Guerrero, Victoria, Morales, Lobo, Vivanco, Esquivel and the many other Spanish composers of the Renaissance.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    If you select certain ethnic groups and give them preferences, (because there are more voices than other groups), isn't it really a discrimination to 'minorities' of the minority, which is actually against the original intention of the whole thing? The ethnic groups who don't have big voices are the ones who need to be recognized and need help. Most big ethinic groups already have lots of social contacts and their support groups in America, including their own liturgies and churches. (I really think America is a generous country. I don't think this kind of thing can happen easily in the country where I'm from.)
    I wonder what the real intention of the whole thing, 'liturgies for a particular "ethnic" group', is?

    Save the Liturgy and Save the World (I love this qoute. I
    hope it's not copyrighted)
    Mia
  • It's a natural effect of group size. The large ethnic group will get attention because numbers equal resources in a parish. It's a simple matter of politics and finance, no matter what anyone will claim.

    The papal Mass in DC, however, showed us that we should celebrate the musical styles of groups that may not even be present, or in significant numbers, in the U.S. There is still a philosophy that espouses unity through diversity, rather "E pluribus unum". America is a funny place. This country evolved as a nation of an ideal rather than a culture. Selling the idea of a Catholic culture (especially based on white European music and feudal government) to such a group is always going to be a hard one.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    I think a lot of this long ago passed the point of being ridiculous. In many parishes, we have the morning hootchy-kootchy liturgy for the hootchy-kootchy crowd, the hour later non-hootchy-kootchy liturgy for that crowd, followed by the afternoon liturgy for the lesbian midget hootchy-kootchys, etc. Where does it end? At the local Hispanic mass, they have an actual bar band which plays. They know as much about church music as my sister's cat. As I have said many times before, it's a lack of leadership on the part of our bishops. They could enforce Pope Benedict's musical desires, if they chose to do so.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Well, it's too bad that Jesus wasn't born in somewhere in China or somewhere in South America. We cannot change it, no matter how great the politics and finance a particula ethnic group has. The Christianity also spread in Europe before it came to China or Japan, or my native country, Korea. We had Buddhism. My aunt in Korea do not want to believe Christianity, because it's from Western culture, not Oriental. There are many who still think like that. But Christianlty is still spreading very fast there, thanks to brave missionaries and martyrs who came from Europe. Selling the idea of a Catholic culture is not easy, not only in America, but many other places too, especially to countries where their cultures are totally different from those of Western countries (although Catholic culture in European countries seem to have different problems these days.) Do we really need to focus on different ethnic groups, whose number are almost limitless, or should we focus on Glorifying God in our Liturgy and try to unify us as one body?
    I think the focus of the Papal Mass in DC was more on 'us' and showing who we are to Pope than on God. It was more distracting than anything else. We have plenty of event and fairs to share different cultures and ethnicity outside the Liturgy

    Save the Liturgy and Save the World
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,593
    " Do we really need to focus on different ethnic groups, whose number are almost limitless, or should we focus on Glorifying God in our Liturgy and try to unify us as one body?"

    I agree with you completely.
  • " Do we really need to focus on different ethnic groups, whose number are almost limitless, or should we focus on Glorifying God in our Liturgy and try to unify us as one body?"

    I hope we can agree that this is everyone's goal. It's the "manner" in which this is done that causes the battles. In most churches in the U.S., there are not limitless minorities, but only hispanic and African-descended minorities. Some very well-intentioned clergy and laity feel that offering music from those traditions says "you are welcome here". It's hard to argue against that. Also when you mention Latin as a unifying principle, then they say "Sure, choose a language that NO one understands." We must reach these people somehow.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    As miacoyne and Michael point out, we could improve the situation by focusing on God. However, the overwhelming trend of the last 40 years has been to focus on the "us" in the congregation. Every different "us" needs something that marks its specialness from the other groups and has a unifying effect.

    (I commute to my current organ gig and have been listening to Huxley's "Brave New World" on CD. Way too many contemporary hymns can be reminiscent of a distopian "solidarity group" meeting. Look in your current hymn resource - EF directors skip this part - and see how many songs begin with the word "we.")

    Changing the understanding of liturgy and worship away from group self-affirmation and back to the glorification of God and the sanctification of the faithful is a massive task, requiring efforts coming from all directions at the faithful out in the pews. And of course, that presupposes that architects, designers, liturgists, clergy, musicians have already been successfully catechized themselves.

    In other words, we have to be in this for the long haul.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    "choose a language that NO one understands,' First of all, I believe that God has a good reason to choose the language that doens't belong to one particular nation for His Church. We don't have to be an expert in Latin. But the local churches have to help and assist the faithful learn at least the simple Ordinary parts in Latin first. We cannot give in to the people who just want to do what they want to do (and the priests who go along with them. I think they are actually spoiling them I have seen enough kids who are spoiled by their parents ecome rude to their parents. And I've seen enough church people who are spoied by the priests become rude to their priests.) As a parents, I know I cannot let my kids make their own rules about their work and their life when they are young. This is not an act of charity. I set high standard and expectation. Of course it reqires lots of work on my part too. I need to really pay attention to how they work and help them. Jewish people are expected to learn Hebrew and say their prayers in Hebrew, even young people. They don't desert it because it's hard.
    It will take long time, but certain standards and the expectations have to be set in Catholic Liturgy. Latin prayers have to be taught in each parish, especially to young people, and the priests will implement what the Church asks them to do (I believe our Pope has already taken steps and continue to restore the sacredness in our Liturgy and unify the faithful more strongly than ever.)

    As for musicians, who really know and care about the Liturgy, we have great responsibility of keeping and restoring the sacredness by not comprimising with music what is less than the best. We might not reach the people who don't understnd the true meaning of the liturgy with our own words, but God will , becasue we can lift their hearts with music that is sacred, beautiful and spiritaul. Contemporary pop-sacro music that draws instant emotional gratification can only leave emptiness in their hearts when the feeling is gone.
    We might not see the results of our work on this earth, but we can only try our best and don't give up, and do everything in spirit of charity. (Sorry, I sound too lecturing. I meant to cheer for all the good musicians who struggle here.)
  • miacoyne, I'm with you, but I'm simply reminding myself how difficult it is to argue about matters of faith when the person on the other side has a completely different paradigm that I do. These people come to Mass to worship and in order to do that it has to be in their language or they won't understand their own prayers. That's a powerful argument and one that led to the biggest outward change in our Church 40 years ago. Now, I really don't have that big of an issue with the vernacular Mass, but every parish should have one Latin Mass each Sunday for people to "grown in to".
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,349
    Let us welcome sacred music that is truly beautiful to the Mass. The problem with mariachi music or polka music in church is not that they aren't in Latin, but that they are secular. At best, they may be pleasant to listen to, but they are nowhere near as beautiful as simple chants or noble polyphony.

    So I welcome the Chabanel Psalms site's ventures into Spanish service music.

    Does anyone know what styles of music the major churches in the Spanish-speaking countries use?
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,117
    Thanks to all for your comments. They have been useful and they point to the continuing problem of the visions of church that i referred to in other posts. I work in a parish that seems to revel in the "diversity, not unity question" and very horizontal understandings of the church. So that means the African-Americans sing gospel, the Spanish sing Hispanic music (there are definite division within that group) and everyone has to do their own little thing.

    Where is the universality? And lastly, is it more important to be _______ (fill in the blank) than Catholic?

    Ora et labora,
    Kevin
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I would differ with others and say there is SOME value in ethnic liturgy to an extent. The Church has always allowed variance in reason; hence the great number of uses and rites pre-Trent! In fact, everywhere but the Latin Rite a form of the vernacular (more or less) is used - it used to of course be that we were the lib'ruls for using the vulgar Latin rather than the holy Greek! So I think there IS room for legitimate liturgical diversity. In the present day, we may employ a hymn in the ethnic tongue after Mass, or gravitate towards settings by composers of one ethnicity, such as Guerro for hispanics or DeLassus and Bruckner for Germans. In heavily ethnic communities, it may be beneficial for the sermon to be in the relevant language. What's NOT ok is subjecting the whole LITURGY to ethnic demands.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Why is it so hard to learn simple Ordinary parts, Agnus dei , Kyrie.. in Latin. Do they even give a try, before whining about it, because the Church tells everyone to do it? They don't know the meaning of those prayers they've been saying in their language? Immigrants are brave people who decided to come to a different country to start a new life, risking everything including language barriers. They would be hearing their children complaining that they have to study in the language they don't understand. I'm sure they are ready to set an example for their children.
    I'm not saying the entire Mass should be in Latin. Just the Ordinary parts, as our Holy Church asks us to do. Catholic faith requires humility and obedience. The musicians can introduce them one at a time, starting with the most simple ones. Today, I've got the most encouraging email from a young priest who studied in Rome saying he has come to appreciate what unites the Church. There are priest out there who aprreciate our work. Someday each parish will have EF mass. But we can prepare for it by educating people by introducing them simple Ordinary parts in Latin. Then, people can truly choose which Mass, when the time comes.
    If you really want to recognize and appreciate different ethnic groups to make eveyone feel good, I have a suggestion. Christmas is coming. Why don't we suggest churches to have evening of 'Christmas around the World? where all different ethnic groups get together with different Christmas songs, food, costumes and get to know and appreciate each other in more personal way. That would be much more effective than try to accomodate these groups in different Masses, and don't even know who they are after Mass. Our Liturgy is definitely not a place for a culture show.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Also, Latin is the Church's language, (unfortunately not Korean, where I'm from, or Chinese...) Greek was used for a short time, but the Church decided to have Latin as Her language. It's not up to us, but up the the Church which language to be the universal one. If the Church has to change to something else (i'm not sure it will happen), we follow. Because they are not doinjg it randomly. God has reason for asking the Church to do it. Catholic faith askes humilty and obedience.

    Kevin in Atlanta, here's my humble fill in the blank.
    Is is it more important to be _diplomatic___than being a Catholic? (if my answer is yes, I have to vote for Obama. Otherwise, I'll be accused of being a racist. I shouldn't hurt any ethnic group's feelings.)
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,930
    Can't say I'm not in the middle of them. We have a parish that is split 50/50. It is like having two parishes under one roof. Oil and water. What happened to the universal church? Everyone is so concerned about "their own" culture that the two never meet! Up with the latin mass. Down with divisionity... sorry... i meant diversity.
  • Wouldn't Bugnini be so happy and so proud that his plan worked!

    What's left that makes the Catholic Church (at least the way we experience it in America) any different than any other Protestant denomination?

    I actually asked a 50-something-year-old aging hippie priest this one time, and would you credit it . . . he actually said, "Nothing."
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,930
    DA:

    I don't want to be standing anywhere near Bugnini on judgement day.
  • Yeah, Bugnini will have some talking to do.

    However, I'm more worried about my own soul just about now.

    (St. Theresa apparently had a vision of Purgatory. Something about folks with sharp tongues having molten lead poured down their throats. I guess I need to get used to the taste of lead.)
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,930
    What is her definition of sharp?
  • Hi, I'm from Malaysia and would like to get into the discussion about liturgy. This is really my first time joining a forum if that's any indicator that I am looking for some serious advice. Malaysia is an ethnically diverse country where Catholics are 3% of the population and the Liturgy is celebrated in English, Chinese (Mandarin), Tamil and the national language , Bahasa Malaysia. Recently, in recognition that Rome is not backing down on the use of Latin, the English section has started to introduce the chants in some Masses. This has led to some quarters which have been pushing for inculturation to oppose the change since Latin is a culture that is foreign to all of us. It's bad enough that the other language groups (who are in the socially poorer category), think that the English speaking community behave like snobs (who are the middle-upper class) but as each successive generation becomes more Western educated, does that mean that all ethnic-cultural diversity in Mass would be swallowed up in the English-Latin? Then what about inculturation? Our bishop has suggested that the English community recognise its ethnic-cultural roots (Chinese-Indian) and become the bridge for religious music of those cultures to enter into the liturgy ie Inculturated Liturgies. Comments?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,349
    Welcome, Malaysian Catholic!

    About the bishop's idea: I'm not sure I understand what benefit he seeks. If I knew more about it, I might agree, or might not. Inculturation is not a goal in itself. It is an effort to express the holiness and beauty of God, for the spiritual good of the faithful. It is not the same thing as a project of "cultural preservation" for its own sake -- worthy as such efforts are.

    The "inculturation" of the liturgy needs to run in both directions: to bring the Faith and the liturgy into the languages of many nations, and also to introduce the people of many nations to the common culture of the Roman Church. The heritage of the Roman Church belongs to us Roman Catholics just by the fact that we are members of the Roman Church -- in contrast to the various Eastern Catholic Churches: Byzantine, Coptic, Syro-Malabar, Maronite, etc.

    Of course, the fact that you and I are members of the Roman Church instead of being, for example, Byzantine Catholics, etc. -- this is a historical accident;. Or to say it in a positive form, it's just a matter of divine providence. It is a gift which we received at our baptism, just as we received the gift of our national identity from our parents.

    There is a wonderful heritage in each of these "particular Churches". They each have their liturgy, their characteristic languages, their tradition of music, their particular emphasis in theology. And to neglect this heritage is to cut ourselves off from roots that nourished the saints before us.

    Of course, it is permitted to employ the vernacular languages in the liturgy now, but the Second Vatican Council intended them to be added to the Church's liturgical life -- not to replace the Latin forms.

    It's too bad when people see the revival of Latin forms and of the Church's classic music (Gregorian chant, and polyphony), alongside vernacular forms, as a loss instead of a gain! It seems an unreasonable fear to me.

    Are people worried that the new music in vernacular languages seems inferior by comparison with the traditional Church music? If so, it is a challenge to the composers of vernacular music, to bring together the Church's musical heritage, and the best sacred music forms of their culture, and their own artistic skills into the task of inculturation.

    With best wishes...
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Thank you chonak, well said.

    Hi, Malaysian friend, do you have Readings and Homilies in your language? how about some good hymns in your language? (good hymns that are liturgical and beautiful)

    I think many people think of the whole thing as Latin vs. vernacular. I think it's about incorporating Church's tradition with natives' . There's a plenty of room to incorporate Church's Language and Vernacular in our liturgy. Ordinary parts can be taught in Latin, starting with sipmle ones. CCD and adult classes should require this. After they get familiar with simple Latin prayers, and when people find the beauty in Latin and traditional Liturgy ,they can choose to participate in Latin Mass,also. if you just do the Litrugy in vernacular language only, the faithful lose the signt of the bigger Church and eventually the bigger God. The Liturgy will be evetullay focusing on 'us', localized,and becomes just a social service. I think catholics who don't have connection with the Holy Church and her tradition is worse than being Protestants.

    Clergies, catechists, and church musicians have to work together to incorporate Church's tradition and vernacular in the Litrugy. This will take lots of time and lots of hard work with humility and obedience to the Holy Mother Church. But I'm sure God will help us those who do their best in this.
  • MIACOYNE!

    Would you please email me directly....noeljones@usit.net

    Thanks.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Thank you for your posting, MC. I think that your comments give us a great deal to think about.

    The Roman Catholic Church has indeed grown up in a predominantly Euro-centric environment. Here we are, arguing the value of Latin in our churches where many of us speak languages either rooted in or heavily influenced by Latin. But the reality is that there are close to 7,000 languages in the world, most of which are in no way related to Latin. Admittedly many of them are spoken by small groups of people. But 3 of the top 4 are Mandarin (over 1 billion speakers), Hindi/Urdu (>460m) and Arabic (>450m); English is in second place with just over 500m.

    It is realistic of us to examine a future Church with more diverse linguistic characteristics than ours today. It's not a bad idea to think of even planning a few additional Rites that fit the needs of tens of millions rather than the handful of people who use non-Latin rites today.

    Personally I was born into an English-speaking environment, learned Latin early on, and agree that Gregorian Chant is the appropriate chant for my rite of Catholicism. But it does border on being inappropriately ethnocentric to expect that view to be held by the whole world.
  • Thanks for the comments.

    Its a bit beyond my powers to even point out to the other language groups (Chinese, Tamil and Bahasa Malaysia) that they are to learn Latin. But I let me anticipate the problems. Firstly, they will slaughter the Latin (when they sing in English, their accents and pronunciation already makes me chuckle sometimes). Secondly and perhaps more importantly, the work of inculturation has been trying to remind the natives that Jesus was from the East, not alien to them as a White Man (in fact, some Bahasa Malaysia terms, because of its influence by Islam, are identical with the Biblical Hebrew). Introducing Latin is seen as reversing the efforts of inculturation, efforts which has brought with it numerous conversions to the Lord Jesus Christ among the non-Catholic peoples. As we just gained independence 50 years ago, there could still be some deep resentment against the white colonial master and intimidation of the educated, technologically savvy, powerful, wealthy, upper class English speaking community. Latin brings up all those associations.

    Our situation is complicated because the English-speaking community here actually feel more at home with Western culture- from Bach to Britney Spears - and we've become alien to our original Chinese or Indian culture. Particularly because we are an oppressed minority here, we, in our turn have resented the national language and many are not conversant in Bahasa Malaysia (can you imagine an American who does not prefer speaking in American English?).

    The challenge that Chanok has presented is daunting and the English speaking community cannot turn its back on it. If I can tweak it a bit, that role is: to bring together the Church's musical heritage, and the best sacred music forms of the various cultures present in Malaysia, and their own artistic skills into the task of inculturation.

    In practical terms, I don't suppose any of you have any experience with Gregorian chants in Tamil, Chinese or Bahasa Malaysia? I have a feeling it will sound weird. It's very hard to do a multi-cultural Mass....

    I will ruminate further
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,349
    If you do try to teach Latin (or Greek, in the case of the "Kyrie eleison"), you can start with something small. At least the text of the Kyrie is short enough, so that most people can sing it without a problem.

    But I like your idea about chants in Tamil, Chinese, or Bahasa Malaysia: some of us write and use English-language versions of Gregorian chant pieces. Usually the melody has to be adjusted slightly, by adding or removing a note here or there. Perhaps the English chants could give you and other musicians some ideas about writing the same chants in other languages.

    I often think that multi-cultural Masses are not very pleasant, because the musical styles of two or three communities can be very different. Is it possible to make the Gregorian melodies into a unifying element?
  • Some further thoughts as I reflect on the discussion in this thread from the beginning.

    Kevin, I'm sure by the phrase, 'is it more important to be ___________ than to be Catholic' you were not identifying the Latin Gregorian chants as essential to being Catholic. Clearly they are not; they are essential to the Latin Rite. Eastern Rites are not bound by to pray in Latin with Gregorian chants but are equally as Catholic. It seems to me therefore, that we cannot argue for the use of Latin as a way of creating or expressing unity in the Catholic Church (correct me if I'm wrong).

    I have an awkward situation where as part of the World Youth day preparations, I asked the choir to introduce the Latin Mass ordinaries. Now our parish is singing it weekly at all Masses. However when I asked the bishop what he thought of this, he said, 'I understand Latin but do you and the rest of the Church?' Basically he's not in favour. So,when he is celebrating, no to Latin, yes to multi-cultural Masses

    Chonak, I think its a good point about diverse musical styles. Gregorian chant then plays a new role as a unifying element for Tamil, Chinese and Malay. If these work at multi-cultural diocesan events, they may eventually be picked up by the ethnic communities (of course, working on the chants in their language will already require their collaboration)

    One last reflection about 'ethnic' (I've never heard it described like that before this thread) Masses particularly M Jackson Osborn's experience of 'ethnicised' Western music. I don't know if it was done to make it more palatable to general sensitivities. I kind of did it as well. When we did a multi-cultural Mass for a youth event, I asked the Chinese and Tamil communities to choose songs which were translations from the English. Were these authentic to their culture? Probably not. Were more people happy that they could mentally get into the spirit of the song? Yes. I don't know how long we'll be 'delighted and enriched' at authentic ethnic Masses. Once the sense of quaintness and amusement fades, ethnic Masses may become something else. I understand that a regular Mass in Nigeria is 3-hours long. Maybe we should thank God we are saved from full-blown ethnic Masses.

    Lastly, I am reminded of St Paul's debate about circumcision for the Jews and non-circumcision for the non-Jews. Basically, the Jews wanted to impose what they considered a divine commandment on the rest but Paul argued that circumcision's late introduction into the Israelite faith indicated that it was not necessary for salvation. Correct? Can that same argument be applied in the issue of introducing Latin and Gregorian to the non-European/Western countries? How would you respond to that? Is the way forward, a different set of rules and possibly new Rites as suggested by Priorstf (I am well aware that none of us has that power to create new Rites but I mention it since it was suggested)?

    Thanks and God bless. Awaiting comments and discussion.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,117
    Yes, my intention was for the Western (latin) rite.

    I still return to my question. When is it more important to be cultural than Catholic? In other words, do we allow the culture from whence we come to dominate the expression of the tradition?

    And, here's one other dynamic. Do we "borrow" from other non-Catholic traditions to express our Catholicity (large C intentionally used)?
  • Regardless of past arguments, the Roman Church has stated clearly that Latin and chant are fundamental to the liturgy. We can only rely on what the Church asks.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,349
    It seems that M.C. has run into resistance from his bishop, and that reflects a problem we have here too.

    Priests and bishops of a certain generation fell into a misunderstanding typical of the 1970s: that the new way is always better than the old way; that everyone, down to the least child, must understand every word of the Mass, and the rationalistic demand for immediate verbal "accessibility" trumps everything else. It trumps antiquity; it trumps our aspirations for beauty, for universality, for historical continuity. For some, this demand even trumps a spirit of mercy, which would allow for a "both/and" accommodation instead of an "either/or" confrontation.

    Of course, the radical mood of the 1970s is not really the philosophy of the Church regarding liturgy. And as that era has passed away, we find that younger priests are often more open-minded about liturgical traditions than the old are.
  • I see here a discussion that circles around the importance of understanding by the people.

    This departs from the central core, the Mystery of the Mass. I would suggest that paring away elements that conceal the Mystery, such as Latin, Chant, Rubrics and Practices, result in making what's going on easily understood at the lowest level then also permits the parishioner to sit and say, "Well, we are here, talking in the language we use on the street, wearing the clothes we wear on the beach, the reader is wearing shorts and flip flops....and the Holy Blood and Body of Christ are not coming from the consecrated fingers of a man who has given up the freedom of life's pleasures, but by the pharmacist who hands me cream for my hemorrhoids...so what's the big deal about the wine, flour and water?"

    Take away all the protecting elements, the rungs of the ladder one must climb to understand and get closer to the Mystery, and the Mystery is cheapened.

    Grandmother's Ruby brooch hidden away and taken out only on Easter to wear to Mass has a perceived value higher than that of one worn to play Bingo.

    Bingo has such an aura (a parish I was at had Friday night Bingo, packed full of less-than observant Hebrew brethren who had to get the Bingo fix on a night when it was not on the boards at the Temple) I think because it is so much like the Mass....held in a big room often in the same building, hordes of people flocking in, quiet while someone is speaking (numbers caller) the major difference is that there is no trickle of people leaving a few minutes before it is truly over!
    The aura is due to something so unholy is going on in a holy place...

    Mass in a gym with out of tune guitars was the beginning of this mess.

    Forget all this trying to put stuff in the local language. Send all priests to a Billy Graham school of preaching, let them mesmerize peope in the vernacular in the sermon. Watch donations increase.

    Note to priests: When another is celebrating Mass, stand just outside the church door. As people make the "I've been to communion I'm gonna meditate in the car on the way out of the parking lot dash" you then:

    Smile, put out your hand, shake their hands repeating over and over again, "Thank you for coming to Mass."

    Watch. The shock of it all will get to them. As they turn from receiving Communion they will be thinking.

    "Hmmm. Sit....or head for the door. The door. Possible encounter with smiling, forgiving priest. He knows that I know its wrong. Think I'll sit today."

    Do the Latin. Sing the Latin. Novus Ordo in Latin. No ethnic group gets a preference. Except Dan Quayle who apologized in Latin America for not having studied Latin in High School so he could speak with them in their tongue.

    Does the Church have many Dan Quayles?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,349
    At least that's not true about Dan Quayle; the story was a joke by a congresswoman:
    http://www.snopes.com/quotes/quayle.asp
  • Ah...too bad, truth is usually funnier. Thanks for clearing that one up!
  • Obedience to Rome and to Vatican II means not being selective in its implementation. It requires a recognition that many things are held together in a dynamic tension. Are those who disregard the Church's provisions on inculturation (Inculturation and the Roman Liturgy #40) any better than those who disregard the Church's teaching on Latin and the Gregorian chants? The Church says that Inculturation is rooted in the logic of the incarnation. God, eternal and immortal, condescends to manhood in the most supreme way, even to death on the cross.

    Its not fair to lump Latin, chant, rubrics and practices together. Yes, proper rubrics remind us of the sense of the sacred. But we can do the Divine liturgy without Latin and chant and still have the profound sense of the worship of God. Asia is still a mission field where many earn less in a month than Americans do in a day. I remember a priest telling me that when he goes to the longhouses by the river (ok, I'll google 'Dan Quayle' and you can google 'longhouse Malaysia') and getting in the collection less than USD5. The petrol for the motorboat itself cost USD200. Now, the priest brings his vestments and vessels and lays it out for Mass. The believers bring their cleanest and the best; you can imagine its not very much by our standards. And yes, they probably sing VERY out of tune.

    Yet the Mass is celebrated no less validly and effectively and is appreciated by the villagers.

    Frogman, to a degree, I would disagree with your supposition. Take away all the protecting elements and the Mystery of the Mass is HEIGHTENED. The child who was born in Bethlehem, was the glory of God veiled. He had no form which marked him out from every other baby born, from every other man who lived. Yet, by faith, some did come to believe in him. Oh what a Mystery, meekness and majesty, come now and worship, here is our king!
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Dear MC, Your countrry seems to have lots of different languages. Just curious, what language does your president,( or whoever is in the equivalent position,) speak when he addresses to the public? Also, various groups of people with different lagnuages, how do they communicate? Do they battle over which language should be selected as a common language? Do they feel Malaysia as one country, or at least try to be one country?
    Mia (I'm from Korea)
  • The permission of Rome to use the Vernacular has divided the church unmercifully, as the poor immigrants in many countries are shunted off to their own Masses....causing the Locals to bitch and moan about spending all that money on their churches and "those people" are using it and giving nothing at all.

    And at a Cathedral I know there was considerable anger when Spanish was used for parts of the Easter Vigil.

    The pain and anguish this has caused has hurt people...while the publishers sock away money as does the Church by forcing the expenditure of money for copyrights for the use of Sacred texts. May I say that the moment that a penny is spent so that a "Holy, Holy" may be sung at Holy Mass that the Moneychangers have reentered the temple? And many of them are wearing cassocks...an even greater shame upon the Church.
  • Miacoyne, you are right, Malaysia does not have an united identity. The official language was Malay and it was promoted in a wave of 1980s nationalism but recently for economic and global purposes, English has returned. Our Prime Minister speaks both languages but more Malay. Its ironic that generally the ethnic groups identify their unity under English; like me, they cannot speak Chinese (or Tamil) fluently. We are called derisively, 'bananas', yellow on the outside but white inside. On the other hand, Chinese and Tamil insist on schools run in their own languages and some end up being quite deficient in Malay or English.