Greetings Fellow Network of Love Lovers,
And now…the long awaited conclusion to my day in the hospital with Mama and Papa. I know you all have been waiting patiently to hear how it ends! (By all of you, I mean to say my own mother. So Mom, this is how it ends.)
The translator finally shows up. Yay! She is a newly retired French high school teacher who now works independently as a translator. When Barbara enters the room, a calm comes with her. I found it so interesting to see how Mama Collette’s mood shifted when she knew she had someone she could freely talk to about what her husband was going through. Mama could communicate. Mama felt the peace that comes with one of the most intimate ways we know how to express ourselves. Though our love for each other runs deeper than any word can express, it is through our words that we try to express what that love means or how it feels to us. By having a translator at her side, Mama could open herself and let go of some of the added stress of facing a language barrier.
While I typed the sentence “Mama could communicate,” an idea about the way in which we worship in the Catholic Church came into my head. (Sorry to get side tracked. It is sometimes my style to wander while writing and thinking. I apologize.) I thought about the Latin Mass. For those of you who don’t know what that means, I’m referring to the style of mass that was celebrated before Vatican II, that is before the mid 1960’s. Up until that time, the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church celebrated, as the name suggests, in the Latin language. One of the more progressive movements of the Second Vatican Council (This is the council that met in the early 1960s to update aspects of the Catholic Church. Councils consist of the Hierarchy of the Church. Bishops get together to discuss various teachings and ideas in their church and vote to make changes. This is an extremely basic summary of what the council is and what it does. For more information, maybe google Vatican II).
Anyways, I have reflected on the Latin Mass and the change that must have occurred when people could actually worship in their own language. What an amazing change for the largest body of Christians, to be able to actually understand what comes out of the mouth of a person leading in prayer! The doors that this change opened up for lay involvement in the church (those who aren’t ordained ministers are referred to as “lay” members of the church) moved the church forward toward a body of believers that could someday resemble the early Christians who followed the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.
This may sound sort of bizarre to people outside of the Catholic Church, but there is a minority of people within our church (though a growing minority, many of whom are younger people) who would like to see the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church implement more Latin into the mass. Some of these people would even like to see a universal change in which the Latin Rite would revert to Latin Mass.
It is hard for me to fully comment on this issue. I have yet to attend a Latin Mass. Does that make me a terrible member of the Latin Rite? (kidding). What I will say is this: the people who want to see a universal language used in the church have one argument that, on the surface, has some merit to it. They claim that using one and only one language throughout the world would unite Catholics. We would all worship in one language and would therefore be able to more effectively communicate with each other while we worship.
There are a few counters to this argument. The first begs the question of why would the church want to use a language like Latin to unite its followers? For one, Latin is considered a dead language. Second, Latin has no historical connection to the person Jesus Christ or the Gospels inspired by his life and resurrection.
The second counter to the argument of using one universal language moves to a more emotional ground. There is something special about going to mass in a different country and hearing people worship in a language they know and love and think in. There is something sacred about a group of people from an area bringing their culture into this group we call Christians. To keep the identity of each group of people from around the world who come to worship keeps our Latin Rite a rite that welcomes and cherishes the tradition and ways of each member in the group.
To bring Mama and Papa back into this rant about Latin Mass, something most of you probably don’t really care that much about anyways, I think of them when I look at the second part of the argument against someday reinstating one language into the worship of Latin Rite Catholics around the world. Mama and Papa have come to the U.S. and know little English. They come to mass and worship with our community at All Saints Catholic Church in a language they barely recognize. Despite that fact, as I sat by Mama last week in church, I witnessed her sway to the wonderful music of our choir and I heard her singing along. She had found a way to connect with a culture outside of her own in a particularly sacred place for a particular community of followers of Jesus Christ. The service was a time for her to feel rejuvenated and to connect with the Christ she calls her Lord. She (and hear comes the end of the story) could give praise to God for the care her husband now receives from a doctor in the Milwaukee area to help him cope with diabetes and to continue to make sure he stays in the kind of health that allows him to be as connected spiritually, emotionally and physically with the woman he loves and the son he cares deeply about.
Could Mama and Papa worship at our church in Latin if it was offered? Of course. Would they experience the diversity and spirit of a community that worships in a language they know and love and a language that allows them to, without barely thinking, sing and give praise to God? Would Mama learn to sing along in a language she desperately wants to learn so she can better help her husband and son? I think the answer to that question is no.
Who would have thought I would have connected Latin Mass and the story of Mama and Papa? I didn’t think so as I sat down to right this reflection. Ahh…where the Spirit takes our hands when we write! I leave the debate for Latin Mass up for discussion in this blog. Please, if you have any comments on the issue, to discuss them freely in the comments section right below this blog. I’d love to hear from anyone, Catholic or non-Catholic, who is interested in talking more about it.
One more comment on Mama and Papa before I finish this long blog. I was in their room a few days ago to go over a little bit of French before I leave for France on Saturday. (Oui, oui!) As I looked around their room, I noticed something near their bed that caught my eye. It rested on a side table. It was a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the same picture I gave Papa as I rushed Mama and him to the hospital a few weeks ago. I can only presume it is the same card. My heart sort of melted when I realized that the picture I had given Papa in a state of confusion on how to show that my thoughts and prayers were with him was still a small part of his life.
Even after I leave All Saints to return to school, Mama and Papa will stay in my memory. The smile of Mama while she cooks in the kitchen here where I live, or the smile on Papa’s face when we both happen to walk out of our doors at the same time. Sharing living space with these two people has given me an experience I never imagined I would have had. I never thought I would meet people from the Congo! It is interesting to see what and who the Spirit brings into our lives as we continue to live.
A Native American Spiritual idea goes something like this: all of the people in our lives our gifts from God, but gifts on loan. We don’t stay with anyone forever, but we stay united with everyone, we hope, forever in some mysterious way. I want to say Bon Voyage to Mama and Papa until the three of us meet again. Marcel and Collette will stay in my heart.
Today, try and cherish someone close to you as if they are on loan from God. Look into their eyes and see them as something you may not have with you forever, but someone you will be connected with through an Infinite Source forever.
Peace and blessings friends! Enjoy the day.
Your friend bob.