This Week’s Discussion Question: What does multicultural liturgy look like…and does it even matter?

I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on this question this year. In June, I presented two keynotes on the topic of multicultural liturgy at the Collegeville Conference on Music, Liturgy, and the Arts; at this week’s conference of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, I’ll lead two workshops on multicultural skills for liturgical leaders; and this October in San Jose, the national conference of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions will examine the topic on the diocesan level.

As a person who grew up and lives in California, being “multicultural” is simply a way of life, and it seems natural that our liturgies would reflect to some extent our multicultural population. We succeed in some areas and fail at others when it comes to authentic intercultural expression of the liturgy, but it’s usually never a question of whether or not the liturgy will be multicultural. It simply is because of who is there.

So in the communities I’ve worked at in California, here are some of the overarching questions we’ve had to struggle with before we could even tackle the mechanics of how to do multicultural liturgy. What are your insights to these questions?

  • What does multicultural liturgy look like?
  • What do we even mean by “culture”?
  • How do you avoid tokenism?
  • How do you avoid making cultural expression the central focus?
  • Can worship even take place outside of culture?

Finally, does it really matter? As much as this topic is slotted into conferences and publishing schedules, multicultural liturgy seems to be the least popular of liturgical issues. Attendance at workshops on multicultural liturgy tends to be low, and editorial surveys find the topic at the bottom of readers’ lists of concerns.

I don’t hear it too often these days, but as recently as six or seven years ago, I heard from some colleagues who live and work on the East coast that the issue of multicultural liturgy has nothing to do with them and their experience of Church since their communities are typically homogenous, that is, of mostly European descent with very few immigrants from other parts of the world. Is that really true? Is this really just a concern of those on the West coast, in the Southwest, and in communities with more recent immigrants and indigenous peoples? Do these “white” communities really have, as one woman said to me, no need for cultural expression in the liturgy since she herself didn’t have a culture? And more importantly, are communities homogenous because the demographics of their area reflect that or because they do not provide liturgical opportunities for those from other cultures and who speak other languages? For example, as diverse as my diocese is, we still have entire deaneries that are home to as many Spanish-speaking people as there are English-speaking people. Yet, many of the parishes in these areas provide no liturgical or pastoral ministry in Spanish, but those that do find their Spanish-speaking assemblies growing to the same number (and often outnumbering) their English Mass attendance. It’s a kind of chicken and egg quandary.

So, what is your experience in your part of the world? What makes for true multicultural liturgy? And does it really matter?

Diana Macalintal

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57 comments

  1. Here in South Africa, everything is multicultural. We have eleven official languages at federal level and at least four on every state level. Other than those languages, because of migrant labour and the refugee situation French, Portuguese, Swahili and several scores of other African languages feature on our horizon. Among European immigrants several places also have significant Italian speaking presences.

    With every language a culture, with every experience of church from other parts of Africa either deeper or more surface inculturation. All of which is negotiated for every occasion. The simple key is that whoever forms a significant presence at the liturgy should feel some sense of “being at home” in the Body of Christ. The Hymnody and reading present the best opportunities and the Canon can also have varied languages among the concelebrants. I regularly celebrate in five languages, or in mixtures of those which have become custom in the various parishes I serve.

    This is one of those things that grows organically and too much thought gets in the way of symbol. What is important is to evaluate the experience of worship and adjust the parts of the contributing cultures in the light of that experience.

    On a related thread, but I cannot resist the temptation, the EF is bound to a certain cultural matrix in which it makes sense and can be appreciated. When presented to people outside of that world, without warning, it is not understood. I have shown a video of a well-executed EF Solemn High Mass to seminarians as part of a course. It was simply greeted with embarrassed hilarity. It does not speak for itself across many cultures and it is not perceived as beautiful by those not educated in it. It thus fails in being a significant symbol of faith – as the most profound symbols are drawn from universal human experience.

    1. @Martin Badenhorst OP – comment #1:
      “I have shown a video of a well-executed EF Solemn High Mass to seminarians as part of a course. It was simply greeted with embarrassed hilarity. It does not speak for itself across many cultures and it is not perceived as beautiful by those not educated in it. It thus fails in being a significant symbol of faith …” This may speak to their formation & experience of the liturgy as carried out locally more than anything else. We know that the ceremonial of a solemn high Mass is not too distant from the ceremonial of a solemn mass in the OF – my guess is that some of the seminarians you mention would not be able to tell the two apart. I think a video of an OF Mass celebrated in Latin (per SC) with celebrant & people facing the same direction & the full ceremonies would be greeted similarly. Do they realize that the EF is their liturgy as well? Do the know that it evangelized most of the western world and sub-saharan Africa? The OF is only forty years old. No other liturgical form has seen the same kind of success in evangelization with the Byzantine rite coming in as a close second. The fact remain that best practice would see to the seminarians formation in the EF along with the OF since priests of the Roman rite should be well formed in the liturgy of their own rite and our rite now has two forms.

  2. Universal human experience? How could that EF participate in that any less than any other culturally specific ritual — which is to say all ritual? If students laugh at it then they should be challenged by being asked how what strikes them as silly could have profoundly nourished their ancestors in the faith. Non-Europeans should not get a free pass on cultural insensitivity.

    To return to the topic, it seems to me that there is some delicate distinguishing needed in figuring out what we mean by “cultural expression” in a religious context. So, for example, the presence of drums as an expression of African Christianity seems entirely fitting to me, since in many African cultures drums have a sacred association. The presence of Mariachi music in Mexican worship or polka music in Eastern European worship seems forced to me, since these forms of music did not have sacred associations in these cultures, and indeed these cultures had developed distinctive traditions of sacred music. In seeking to make worship multicultural requires an “insider” understanding of the cultures involved in order to avoid a quaint folkloric grab-bag of cliches associated with particular cultures.

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #2:
      Ah, but it was exactly the point to then look at the reactions and to reflect on them. Coptic liturgy engenders the same response from non Copts, and it is all food for reflection.

      Do not forget that the most extraordinary expansion of the faith has taken place on the African continent in the last fifty years. These students have no ancestors from what is now the EF. They are largely first generation or at most second generation Christians, they have survived genocide, civil war, and family disdain for their faith. They have been nourished by the flexibility and noble simplicity of the OF. The EF – OF conversation and, sadly, controversies, which so often arise here and elsewhere in the blogosphere is largely irrelevant to our experience of church.

      The gathering of the gifts given us in the work of our hands. The solemn sharing of food and drink which has significance far beyond its actual substance, these are understood and appreciated. These are timeless aspects of our liturgy which have nourished us and our ancestors. There are also the crusts of time which obscure and distract.

      I agree that Non-Europeans should not get a free pass on cultural insensitivity.

      No one gets a free pass to be insensitive to the fact the the OF, on African soil alone, has nourished as many martyrs and inspired as much self-sacrifice in the following of Christ as any age of the ancestors of our faith.

    2. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #2:
      “Embarrassed hilarity” resulting from engaging with that which is not understood is not unexpected.

      Artifacts from any culture or from the past often do elicit responses that appear to be judgmental but which in reality signify that the artifact is not at home in the culture of the living witnesses. Also signified is that the witnesses are at a loss as to what to do with such an artifact.

      After viewing Archbishop Raymond’s, formerly of St. Louis, recent video on the EF and listening to his soliloquy about its attributes whereby he upholds his personal views and experiences as normative I realized how very much divorced the EF is from the support and moorings of its founding culture, e.g., Rome ca 1560; quotes from current Archbishop of Rome notwithstanding. It is this divorce now that makes the EF an artifact rather than a vibrant expression of a living culture.

      In the end though it is good pedagogy to ask students to stand in the shoes of those who went before thereby exercising their own moral imagination. From such an exercise one hopes that the students would then understand how necessary it is to ground the experience of the first followers of Jesus during the 70 years after his resurrection in the living cultures in which they are being prepared to serve.

    3. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #2:

      there is some delicate distinguishing needed in figuring out what we mean by “cultural expression” in a religious context.

      I very much like Patricia Wittberg’s notion that “generations” are cultures and should be treated as an example of multiculturalism. When I asked myself (a classical music lover who listens to classical music stations) why I readily accepted folk music into the liturgy in the 60″s, the answer is that as I was growing up I always listened to the Top 40. and therefore thought it very reasonable that the liturgy should have a Top 40, that I should be able to praise God in “my” contemporary music. This concept can give both acceptance to contemporary music as well as limiting it by seeing the need of the parish to be multicultural in accepting various musical heritages.

      The many ethic cultural expression in the USA (Polish, Irish) are really American versions of the original cultures, no less valid than the originals. People has just as might a right to be whatever they and their friends think is Irish-American as the Irish have to be whatever they think is Irish (which all might not agree upon). Cultures are usually rich enough to tolerate a fair amount of diversity in their expression.

      Also I reject the notion that a cultural expression has to have an established track record of being “sacred” in order to get into the liturgy. Much of the music that came into the OF in the sixties was inspired by the civil rights movement. Granted it might not have the staying power of the music generated among African Americans during their much longer struggle, but it still had origins in what for many was a religious experience.

      All the issues Fritz brings up seem to have an “elitist” flavor to them. As a social scientist I see this as another example of certain “spiritualities” in the Church adopting a superior attitude toward other spiritualities.

      I also don’t think it is very important what my Polish, Lithuanian, German and English ancestors did, even if I could figure that out.

      I have been influenced much more by the Byzantine traditions of my native Pittsburgh and contemporary Cleveland.

  3. What Deacon Fritz writes hits the nail on the head and how difficult it is to take the principle of inculutration and then think you are implementing it. Is it inculturation to have youth Masses that uses their secular sounding music set to sacred words? Is it inculturation to use secular equivalents of bread and wine and force these into the Mass (as was suggested for some African countries I believe)? Does American dance made into liturgical dance inspire faith or mock it as typically Americans do not view dance as sacred, whereas Africans do. They know the difference between sacred dance and secular. If we as Americans bring even African sacred dance into our typical Mass, video it and then show it to seminarians here, they might laugh in embarrassment too with it out of context and not knowing that in Africa in many countries, dance has a sacred connotation which it doesn’t typically have here except perhaps in some African American communities but normally Protestants rather than Catholics in this country. Today African American Catholics have more movement in their cultural expressions of the Mass which seems legitimate rather than forced, but not all traditional African American Catholics appreciate that inculturation.
    What is interesting too in terms of the first comment is that it only took a short 50 years for Catholics to be embarrassed by their cultural heritage in worship so grand is the rupture between the EF and what most have experienced in terms of the Mass in the last 50 years. Our cultural heritage as Latin Rite Catholics is ridiculed. That’s sad!

    1. @Father Allan J. McDonald – comment #4:
      “Worship so grand?” That is definitely a matter of opinion. If you consider worship by the few with the many on the outside looking in …. and music more suitable for the symphonic stage … to be grand, the you and I have very different opinions of what is worship.

  4. Multicultural liturgy seems to be the least popular of liturgical issues.

    Regrettably the comments have already focused upon the EF, and are an example of when the focus on the EF has been encouraged by disparaging remarks about the EF.

    In the Diocese of Cleveland I suspect that there were more people in ethnic parishes that were closed by the diocese than there are at EF liturgies, perhaps even if we included the “schismatic” parishes that are not staffed by the diocese.

    This blog gives many opportunities on well constructed and moderated posts by the managing contributors for promoting scholarly discussion of the EF/OF and reform of the reform.

    I would really appreciate people who are commenting on posts would refrain from turning it into another discussion of the EF and the reform of the reform.

  5. We are becoming a global economy and a global church. Multiculturalism should be set within the context of globalization rather than viewing it as side issue for certain parishes and dioceses.

    Merton when he became a US citizen, affirmed that he was an American of both continents and that the cultural heritages of both continents were necessary for the future. JPII also encouraged seeing the Americas as one.

    The future is here and now even if we do not recognize it. The Americas have replaced Europe as the new Christendom, we have the largest Christian population and the highest percentage of Christians vs. non-Christians. Perhaps one day in the future we will lose our place and Africa will become the Next Christendom, but this is now and we should make the best of it.

    The USA will in a few decades become a majority of “minorities”, and USA Catholicism will have more Hispanics than Anglos.

    So we should all be looking forward to what globalization is bringing us as a nation and church in each and every parish.

    For at least all parishes that have Catholic schools, even if there are less than one percent of Hispanics in the diocese, they should be teaching Spanish to everyone and should have a children’s choir that regularly sings one song e.g. the Gloria, in Spanish in such a way that the parish could easily implement a Mass in which the Kyrie, Gloria, responses to the Prayer of the Faithful, the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei could by understood and sung by the whole parish.

    While many people have fears of minorities moving into their neighborhood or their parish, most Americans view integration and multiculturalism as a long term positive since our ancestors were almost all immigrants. Most parents love to experience their children singing, and would be happy to know that their children are being given the skills to deal with a more Hispanic USA, and Hispanic American Church nationally and globally (e.g. a Latin American Pope).

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #9:

      Herbert #25 The concept of multiculturalism is a difficult one to define in the United States

      Sanchez #29 Why no mention of our great American Culture and it’s celebration?

      MJO #36 What is an insult to all is a so-called multicultural liturgy in which every culture represented is inevitably a token within an absurd pastiche. There is no cultural integrity of any kind in such a liturgy.

      The culture of the United States is a blend of cultures. Defining “American culture” and the “American tradition” is not all that difficult:

      1. For Catholics liturgically the tradition was mostly in the Latin language, chant and polyphony, for the most of the years that our country has existed. However our ancestors in Europe were not Americans, the Middles Ages do not get weighted into our tradition and culture.

      2. America has been predominantly Protestant, and therefore music from Protestant Churches deserves an important, perhaps even predominant place in our current liturgies.

      3. Slavery, the civil war, and the civil rights movement have been a major force in shaping the USA.. Fritz # 11 sketches what to me is a powerful argument for including black church music Actually, almost all of the music of the civil rights movement originated in the black church, so in that sense it was “sacred” even prior to its association with that noble struggle

      4. Hispanic culture deserves a major place in the definition of American Culture since in many cases it was here before our country expanded, and will become increasing strong in the future,

      5. The USA is the largest home to Eastern Christians outside their countries of origin. Some things, e.g. the Creed and Our Father that I sing in English at the local Orthodox Church are part of the classical music repertory, and easily included.

      We need to rise from the parochialism of our generational cultures of music ( Rakosky #6) and move forward into the Global Multicultural World (Rakosky#9) based on this solid foundation of our American culture.

  6. Martin Badenhorst OP : These students have no ancestors from what is now the EF.

    That is why I specified “ancestors in the faith.”

    But on the whole I agree with much of what you say. I have long thought that those who want to argue post hoc ergo propter hoc with regard to the advent of the OF and the decline of religious practice in the west should also have to account for the connection between the OF and the explosion of Catholicism in Africa. What is sauce for the European goose should also be sauce for the African gander.

    Of course I am dubious that the OF can be credited with growth in Africa, any more than it can be blamed for decline in Europe. I do think (to return somewhat to topic) that the flexibility of the OF might make it more “user-friendly” for non-westerners, but I presume that inculturation in some form would happen even if we were still using the EF.

  7. Jack Rakosky : Much of the music that came into the OF in the sixties was inspired by the civil rights movement. Granted it might not have the staying power of the music generated among African Americans during their much longer struggle, but it still had origins in what for many was a religious experience.

    Actually, almost all of the music of the civil rights movement originated in the black church, so in that sense it was “sacred” even prior to its association with that noble struggle.

    I used to go to a predominately African-American parish where we sang “Christ has died etc.” to the tune of “We shall overcome.” In that context, it was quite powerful. In an all-white congregation, it might have felt silly.

  8. Where in the world are the people from the East Coast for whom multicultural realities are not present in church? Wow. Diana, I am really flabbergasted that someone said this to you. Multicultural realities in church are everywhere in New York, I can tell you, unless a particular parish is located in a particularly homogeneous community. And the multiple backgrounds are felt within groups such as latino communities, whose members hail from different parts of the globe, as well as black congregations whose members are from many nations and peoples, and so on.

    Of course, gone are the days of the national churches from the earlier waves of immigration, in which Italians and Irish and Polish communities (etc.) kept up their own cultural / religious patrimony. Though there are still strong ties to such churches in various places, assimilation into the American mainstream has meant mingling with multiple ethnicities at church by and large. But the necessity of some distinctive ministries for recent immigrants remains strong. The current website has not made it easy to find this information, but I believe that Mass is celebrated in scores of different languages in the Diocese of Brooklyn, for example. Of course multicultural liturgy is not the same as multi-lingual liturgy. Nevertheless, the many languages in which Mass is celebrated gives a clue to the existence of multi-cultural ecclesial realities.

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #12:
      Rita, yes, it’s surprising, but true. At FDLC meetings several years back, we in Region XI (California, Nevada, Hawaii) heard these kinds of comments…made by a few people in side discussions, but surprisingly I also recall hearing one such comment made on the floor during a general discussion.

      Thankfully, that is no longer the case. I do believe that those who might have made that kind of observation before no longer see that as true.

      Here are some interesting stats I gathered regarding language use in the U.S.:

      According to the American Community Survey of the US Census Bureau, in 2010, 79.4% of the US population spoke only English at home; 20.6% spoke a language other than English at home; of those who reported they spoke another language, an average of 61% of them also reported that they spoke English very well.

      The number of people age 5 and older who speak a language other than English at home has more than doubled in the last 3 decades.

      After English and Spanish, the next most spoken language at home is Chinese; Vietnamese use increased by 511% in the last 3 decades.

      The largest group of English-only speakers are those age 41 to 64.

      Of those who speak Spanish, as many were native born as foreign-born (about 17 million each).

      Italian, Yiddish, German, Polish, and Greek were spoken in the home by fewer individuals in the US in 2007 than in 1980.

  9. While on sabbatical at CTU in Chicago in 2004, the African community prepared one of the “big” liturgies for the house. One particular element I recall was the manner in which the Book of the Gospels was carried in – in a decorated pouch on the back of the “book bearer.” This practice made me think about what it means to “bear” the Gospel in every day life.

    As evidence of the great variety of cultures and languages in the house, at the time for the Our Father, the presider asked us all to pray quietly in our native language. My guess is that there were at least 15 different languages represented in the community there.

    As we began I had an overwhelming sense of 1) the universality of the Church and 2) what our existence in heaven may be like. To this day, I can be moved by recalling that experience.

  10. Thank you for the comments.

    I am also a little worried about tones which emerged regarding the reaction of young men who love Christ, the Church and the Priesthood. One cannot address obstacles unless one knows what they are and that was one of the reasons I showed a video – and did not in fact arrange a celebration – it allowed the necessary perspective and freedom.

    One of the major puzzles the students had was, if the Eucharistic prayer, especially the Epiclesis and Anamnesis of the Consecration, is so central to our worship and sacramental theology – why is it hid behind a veil of chant?

    The dualisms of sacred and secular, transcendent and immanent are not experienced the same in our cultures. Even though I have some European ancestry the founding father of my surname came to South Africa in 1693, my cultural heritage includes nothing of the enlightenment, secularization under Napoleon and all the other thousand shocks European culture has been heir to in those 300 and some years. Nor does the heritage of my students.

    All of that translates into a liturgy which is essentially the same as every Catholic liturgy and may have marked formal differences. Loud and Vibrant is as transcendent as solemn and silent. Compare the riot of harmony and instrumentation and utter impact of silence in any of great classical Mass settings. Hear the throat clearing, coughing and nose blowing which is a part of any normal celebration of the office – whether with modern settings or in latin using Gregorian, those are as gloriously a part of harmony as any transcendent tone. All of that was clinically absent in the video – and that more than anything lead to the discomfort which manifests as laughter – which is generally not used for ridicule in our cultures.

    That quality that allows shows that our human splutterings are a part of the Divine harmony is central to liturgy and crosses human experience.

    1. @Martin Badenhorst OP – comment #14:
      One of the major puzzles the students had was, if the Eucharistic prayer, especially the Epiclesis and Anamnesis of the Consecration, is so central to our worship and sacramental theology – why is it hid behind a veil of chant?

      This is confusing. The Anamnesis of the consecration is not hidden behind a veil of chant in the EF. And there is much debate about the Epiclesis, it’s nature, location, existence etc. in the EF making it hard to say such a thing about the Epiclesis.

      The dualisms of sacred and secular, transcendent and immanent are not experienced the same in our cultures. Even though I have some European ancestry the founding father of my surname came to South Africa in 1693, my cultural heritage includes nothing of the enlightenment, secularization under Napoleon and all the other thousand shocks European culture has been heir to in those 300 and some years. Nor does the heritage of my students.

      Frankly that is not really possible. The idea of “nationalism” for instance, has had a profund impact in Africa in the 20th century. Whether we like it our not, this is part of the culture… even if it’s an alien import.

      1. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #15:
        The Anamnesis of the consecration is not hidden behind a veil of chant in the EF. And there is much debate about the Epiclesis, it’s nature, location, existence etc. in the EF making it hard to say such a thing about the Epiclesis.
        ———————————————
        I can well remember the elevation of the host coming immediately following the Sanctus and Benedictus. In the Sarum rite the singing of psalms by the choir in a Solemn Mass was used as filler for the recitation of the canon. I don’t know if the same was true for the liturgies of the religious orders, i.e. the Dominican, Carthusians, etc.

      2. @Dunstan Harding – comment #24:
        “Anamnesis” here is referring, I beleive, to the prayer “Unde et memores…” which follows the Consecration.

        In your recollection (and in my current expereince) there isn’t chant at this time, because (per the current rubrics of the 1962 rite) a chant Santus and Benedictus is sung before the conseceration. There si silvence during the “Unde et memores”. A polyphonic Benedictus is different… but the kind of judgement that says, “covering this moment with music is wrong” I find difficult after it’s been done for hundreds and hundreds of years.

      3. We did slavery for 1500 years, so a few hundred years of covering the EP with lovely music can be equally problematic…..dare I say wrong?

    2. @Martin Badenhorst OP – comment #14:

      Fr. Badenhorst: The dualisms of sacred and secular, transcendent and immanent are not experienced the same in our cultures. Even though I have some European ancestry the founding father of my surname came to South Africa in 1693, my cultural heritage includes nothing of the enlightenment, secularization under Napoleon and all the other thousand shocks European culture has been heir to in those 300 and some years. Nor does the heritage of my students.

      This is an excellent point. Many of us across the world who are of European genetic background do not even tangentially identify with a specific European national identity. I certainly don’t, given that I am at least five generations removed on both sides of my family from the shores of the Atlantic opposite Long Island. Even so, my religious heritage is steeped in centuries of European-influenced worship, before and after both 1570 and 1969. I cannot seek a multicultural liturgical expression without constantly examining the socio-political ramifications of the worship tradition I have inherited. These ramifications not only include the colonialism, prejudices, and strife of European cultures, but also the social inequalities, prejudices, and racism of American history that have been added atop the former. I have a responsibility to encounter, even if only internally, that which is painful and difficult before, during, and after my worship with fellow Americans of diverse backgrounds. Otherwise, my worship together with my brothers and sisters would not be unconditionally open and receptive to their needs.

      I do wonder how clergy who are asked to say Mass or another liturgical service for an assembly not of their native tradition accommodate and respect the traditions of the community they are visiting. Certainly, if I were a cleric, I would simply do what is asked of me. Perhaps this is not always sufficient.

  11. Friends, let’s keep the comments focused on the main topic. I’m grateful for the discussion on the EF as a kind of “culture” and response to it from those unfamiliar with that culture. But let’s broaden the comments beyond just EF.

    The questions were:
    What does multicultural liturgy look like?
    What do we even mean by “culture”?
    How do you avoid tokenism?
    How do you avoid making cultural expression the central focus?
    Can worship even take place outside of culture?
    Does it really matter?

    Jack at comment #6 responds to the idea that true cultural expression appropriate for liturgy must have sacred origins. Perhaps I’m wrong, but aren’t there enough examples of music written for secular purposes that have become some of the most beloved of sacred hymns (e.g., Hymn to Joy, Finlandia, Thaxted)? Should these tunes be removed from our hymnals because they do not have sacred origins?

    Rita at comment #12 asks about the difference between multicultural and multilingual. We should also include into that mix the term “intercultural.” That is becoming more widely used as a way to describe the process of sharing of cultural expression rather than just each cultural group “taking turns” within a liturgy, for example, musically, the Hispanic choir sings a song in Spanish, the Vietnamese choir sings a song in Vietnamese, the “traditional” choirs sings a hymn. Rather, intercultural expression strives to have those fluent in a culture lead while all serve together to learn, experience, and integrate it into their own repertoire. This latter method takes longer and requires forming relationships across cultures. But I believe is a better goal in the broad spectrum of multicultural liturgy.

  12. Diana,

    Sorry if I helped get things off track.

    One question I have is whether any particular “multicultural liturgy” should only reflect the cultures of those actually celebrating the liturgy, or whether there is a value to having a liturgy that represents various cultures even if the congregation is more or less monocultural. For instance, should my Anglo congregation sing African, Latino, Filippino, etc. music? Would the “diachronic multiculturalism” of the presence of Hebrew, Greek and Latin in our liturgy be an argument for this sort of “synchronic multiculturalism,” or is there something inauthentic about picking through other people’s cultures for things to spice up our liturgies?

  13. I guess the question is when does inculturation divide the Church rather than unite, especially in the regions of the world where there are multi-cultural communities that have to live together and at times worship together, such as the West and East Coast, not to mention the south. Might it be a good thing to have a common expression of the Mass in terms of a common culture for all Latin Rite Catholics and allow for greater diversity and inculturation for devotions.
    The biggest problem I see is in a multi-cultural congregation, how do you unite rather than divide. In our diocese the recent influx (past 20 years or so) of migrants from Mexico who are now permanent residents (in our diocese) has changed the face of traditionally small rural Anglo parishes and caused a great deal of strife as the Anglos become the minority and there is resentment on both sides if the Mass has too much Spanish or too much English and too much “ethnic” either way in terms of music and style.
    Is there room too, for, let’s say, Latin when more than one language group comes together for the main parts of the Mass, and tokenism for the readings and intercessions and filler music? I think the total loss of Latin as a common denominator in the post Vatican II Church needs to be reexamined even in the context of legitimate inculturation for specific ethnic communities.

  14. For the sake of furthering the discourse, let’s assume we’re talking about the OF, please.
    What does multicultural liturgy look like?
    Diana, for me, this question is a non-starter. Perhaps it is the “look like” criterion I can’t fathom. If the question was “Do multi-cultural liturgies by necessity show attributes that are visual, aural, environmental (and so forth) that ought to be integrated into the normative and licit elements and rites of the Mass?” And for everyone who would respond to these questions you’d likely receive a different answer from each. For what’s its worth, being a neighbor to the south of you in the San Joaquin Valley, those attributes have seldom been seamlessly integrated into our very diverse ethnic diocesan Masses. On the other hand, I distinctly recall the Mass of Sanctification of S. Juan Diego televised from Guadalupe, celebrated by Bl. JPII as being an exemplary manifestation of enculturation. One could likely recall Filipino-influenced OLPH Masses that are exquisitely performed. As it’s been since 1987 that I left my beloved Oakland diocese, I know that the chancery there instituted events such as processions that celebrate cultural diversity. But down here, such efforts have been clumsily pastiched mélanges. I think that liturgy suffers if the display of cultural attributes overshadows and overwhelms the universality of the two principal rites contained in the Mass. So, the Guadalupe Mass was only multicultural in the sense that the native traditions of the Nahuatal/Mexican culture were in accord with the native elements of the Roman Rite.

    What do we even mean by “culture”? Unfortunately, we can hypothesize about synthesizing ethnic traditions, eg. some commonality such as revering the Dead on a special day, which have their origins in animism from all over the globe, etc. But I think in planning and practice, “culture” means some sort of “nationalism” or “tribalism” that folks think it necessary to accrete into the celebration of Mass.

    How do you avoid tokenism? Use the primary lingua franca as much as possible of the host country. Avoid liturgical Babels at all costs. The Mass is its own raison d’etre; Though I do completely sympathize with situations such as described in South Africa, if I visit Buenos Aires one day, I expect to hear Mass sung in Spanish, I’m not listening for any nod to German ex-patriots. If the next I’m in Rio de Janeiro, Portuguese and so forth. Ideally, Latin should be the silver bullet, but that too was once just a lingua franca that took strong root. Polyglot in a liturgy has the effect of a leaky faucet where the incessant drip drip draws attention away from whatever restorative acts one is engaged in.

    How do you avoid making cultural expression the central focus? By agreeing upon whatever elements are in concert with the over-arching Latin/Roman Rite structure of the Mass. Chanting of most of the clerical orations, congregational responses and at least the Ordinary movements, whether in European modalities or other native chant forms, would bring coherency throughout. The integration of hymnody and song that seems to have been inculcated around the globe (like the “Ave” hymns of LOURDES and TREZE DE MAIO) or Gabarain songs, Berthier songs, and yes, Latin Gregorian chant metrical hymns would mitigate cultural dillitantism.

    Can worship even take place outside of culture? Again, I think the question’s a tad obtuse. If you mean outside of the myriad of anthropological culture, yes. If outside of the licensed culture specific to the Roman Rite, no. I would think that the political circular firing squad convened over the issues of cultural territory concerning the MR3, the LA document strictures, the clashes over ICEL/Vox Clara competence and duties, show that adherence to the Roman in the Roman Catholic milieu still is driving the liturgical bus. I’m not saying that’s ideal or permanent. I’m simply saying everything’s conditional.

  15. Diana and Rita – interesting post. Spent this weekend at the 25th anniversary gathering of my last college seminary graduation class. Most are married with families but a few are Vincentian priests serving in Africa or Central America. Posed this question to them and here is a brief response:
    – two seminaries in Kenya serving country parish outposts. For this culture, Sunday is an all day affair at the church or community hall. The liturgy can go on for three hours with cultural music, customs, etc. Given that most folks have no electricity, TV, computers, etc. this is the one time during the week when families can gather and share. The church becomes the focus of the community. The music, to a large degree, takes from the American 19th century southern tradition – with few books, they use lots of responses that folks can repeat over and over. There is no awarenss of latin or european, traditional liturgical history. And the CMs would not even spend time on things like EF, etc. Why?

    Guatemala – to a degree, very similar to Kenya but briefer and small towns do have structured church buildings and books, musical intruments, etc. Depending upon where you are, you may have multi cultural and lingual liturgies because of various ethnic dialects. Not unusual to split into groups for scripture/homilies.

    In terms of the Southwest US and rural parishes, Vincentians face many bilingual challenges. Noticed that the other post had a mass by Krisman that was english/spanish for bilingual parishes. My experience is that we continue to do this poorly – folks appear to be more comfortable with their own culture/language and we repeat the 19th/early 20th century experience of national parishes (e.g. you can find three catholic parishes/churches with a mile in Chicago, St. Louis, smaller Illinois towns – one German, Italian, Polish, Irish, etc. and even with separate schools.

    Am also reminded of our history in China and the Chinese Rite episode. Have we learned anything from that Jesuit vs. Franciscan/Domin

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #21:
      Guatemala – to a degree, very similar to Kenya but briefer and small towns do have structured church buildings and books, musical intruments, etc. Depending upon where you are, you may have multi cultural and lingual liturgies because of various ethnic dialects. Not unusual to split into groups for scripture/homilies.
      ——————————————–
      Outside San Cristobal in Mexico the locals have their own requiem liturgies and other ceremonies for remembering ancestors. I visited one of their sanctuaries, and abandoned church, in 2005.

      Strangely beautiful with the head of the household and his sons chanting prayers. The head of the household doing most of the chanting. The males went around the church incensing display cases filled with vested statues of the saints and the images in the reredos of the altar.

      We were told the local bishop forbade this ceremony in his diocese, but the people obtained this church themselves and continued to celebrate their traditional rites. This isn’t unusual in Mexico or other parts of Central America, and there’s a lot of friction with local bishops. It could help to explain the rising popularity of Mormonism and Pentecostalism in the region too.

  16. Find that trying to use/impose latin in multi-cultural parishes has not been successful. There are many reasons for this:
    – latin has no history, experience with the various groups
    – each group brings a specific culture and latin is foreign to this
    – yes, some success at large feasts with commons in latin but folks do not want to repeat this for 52 Sundays
    – was wondering if Jack can insert here from his social anthroplogy days……culture seems so embedded with our own religious practices that you almost can’t sperate them. Thus, we see division rather than unity
    – too often, given this; have seen dioceses basically go back to the 19th century *national* church models

  17. The first thing that has to be done is to identify what is essential to all Masses and what reflects local culture. The notion that Rome sets the standard and everything else is a departure from that norm to be tolerated or forbidden I think divides us more than it unites.

    We need to realize that culture is local and transient. For example, everything I’ve read suggests that the children of Latin immigrants will speak both Spanish and English. Whether the grandchildren will speak Spanish is a matter of debate. The use of languages other than English in the liturgy in the United States will require constant examination and sensitivity.

    By the same token, don’t lump all European American Catholics into the same pot. There are significant differences between my home parish in a small fading factory town and my new parish 10 miles away in a growing, prosperous suburb. There can be a significant difference among the groups that gather at 7, 9 and 11 on a Sunday. I think we need to honor those differences.

    The key point in any attempt to accommodate various cultures is to ensure that all are welcome at every Mass. That depends largely on the people in the pews. A parish of people who stake out their spot at the end of the pew and frown at new comers will find itself shrinking regardless of liturgy.

  18. The concept of multiculturalism is a difficult one to define in the United States, begging the question of what the dominant culture is in the first place. I can’t speak for the west coast as it is one of the few parts of the US in which i haven’t worked, but here in SW Florida, it is much as Diana has described… met with little interest. Sure, we have great ethnic diversity here… Whites from various parts of the world (and don’t for a moment think that THEY are a homogenous group simply because of race), hispanics from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Brazil, Columbia, Cuba and yes, even Spain! We have African Americans as well as Haitians, Cape Verdeans, Jamaicans and other Carribean islanders, Phillipinos, Koreans, Hmong…. you are right to ask what a multicultural liturgy would look like! So why is there little interest in multicultural liturgy in a place where there are so many cultures represented? In many instances, the cultural diversity is addressed through a liturgical balkanization….our “downtown church” here has Sunday Masses in English, Spanish, Haitian and Korean…a few miles away is the parish where you can attend Mass in English, Tagalog, Spanish and Haitian. Further south a few miles, and you can attend Mass in English, Spanish and Hungarian. Most parishes offer Masses in English and Spanish at least. Given such a diversity of entire Masses in various languages, what interest would there be in Masses said in several languages? And then there is the bigger question…what is the difference between “multicultural” and “multilingual”? With the exception of the musical selections, the Masses in Spanish are much the same as the Masses in English. The Hungarian Mass is much the same, perhaps more solemn but formally identical to the English Mass that precedes it on the schedule. Is a Mass where we employ different lanuages really “multicultural”, or are they merely multilingual?

  19. (cont’d)
    I recall a Christmas Eve Mass at my previous parish… a group from the Haitian Mass participated in our Midnight Mass, performing the offertory as they generally do every Sunday at the Haitian Mass, dancing up the main aisle with the gifts, a process which takes a considerable time. The priest began to be visibly impatient as they took one step backwards for every two steps forward, occasionally turning and going back several feet…you get the idea. After perhaps 8 to 10 minutes (yes, I’m serious), the priest stepped down off the step and went and TOOK the gifts from them, returning to the altar and proceeding to hurriedly say the Eucharistic Prayer as they continued to dance. It was awkward at least, but even more it was an example of how distinct cultural expressions of the liturgy do not always find appreciation outside of that culture.

    Perhaps the first question should be this: What is the PURPOSE of multicultural liturgy?

    1. @Jeffrey Herbert – comment #26:
      Interesting. Sounds like so many philistines I’ve seen in parishes with a totally different culture from the celebrant’s experience. However, to be fair, I’ve seen some join the dance “dance of the offertory”.
      Even dancing around the church with the book of the gospels amidst taper and incense bearers. In the case of the latter, it was a parish made up of former protestant converts and Irish and German Catholics. Nobody seemed to mind either and some seemed to be tapping their feet eager to participate.

  20. Why no mention of our great American Culture and it’s celebration? How do we avoid pushing aside good old Americana for other competing cultures? When ones old neighborhood changes from a neighborhood with a dominant American culture to one with a foreign culture one can’t help but fill ones own culture needs to be defended or it may very well dissaper. Is replacing the home culture with other alien cultures the answer? Or is it to belittle those who are living in their native place? Should I expect a host country to do the same for me if I move to their country or should I adapt? Is bringing these questions into the Sacred Liturgy more divisive? How does this fit into the need for the bishops conference to approve any cultural adaptations for the Sacred Liturgy? How are all Catholics to fill at home when they pray? Who gets to decided which culture trumps the others? Don’t we have a common haritage native to the Roman Rite? What are the answers? I don’t know.

    1. @Fr. Steve Sanchez – comment #29:
      Good points all – especially the question of a parish that is in a shifting neighborhood. How to make newcomers feel welcome without displacing the old guard is a major problem. The newcomers may even be of the same socioeconomic and ethnic group as the old guard, but if the old guard dominates all the parish functions, the parish splinters.
      I’m a nag on the subject because I’ve seen it happen all too often, but the worst situation exists when the new pastor comes in and imposes his culture on the parish. Sometimes the parish culture needs to be changed, but imposing change causes more harm than good.

  21. When I was an adolescent in the 1950s, my parents would drop me off at Mt. Macrina in Uniontown Pennsylvania (on their way to fishing for the day) for the celebration of the Assumption (I think according to the Julian Calendar since it was close to labor day).

    I would spend the morning wandering from altar to altar where the Eastern liturgies were being celebrated in various languages finally finding my way to the Latin altar celebration where I would receive communion. Then we would all gather from the separate altars into the large field where Pontifical Divine Liturgy was concelebrated by Bishop Sheen in English except for the words of consecration. (communion was not given out to most people at this Liturgy)

    I thought it was an anticipation of heaven.

    During the same period when I borrowed books from Saint Vincent’s Library, I would always spend some time with Gueranger marveling at the various Western liturgical traditions, and lamenting that liturgical diversity had collapsed after Trent rather than continuing to develop in the West.

    So when Vatican II came along I welcomed the opportunity of continuing liturgical diversity, a step closer to heaven.

    The Mt. Macrina practice (many different language Liturgies with communion followed by a central liturgy without communion) might solve some of the practical problems of large scale celebrations with communion. If I have gone to an English language liturgy and received communion it would be much easier to follow a common multilingual liturgy, especially since it would not have a long communion rite. Go to you native language or culture liturgy in the morning, picnic lunches and socializing in the afternoon, common multi-language liturgy without communion in the evening.

  22. Two thoughts:

    1. I appreciate efforts in this discussion to consider elements other than music.

    I notice that when music is tacitly expected to carry the entire burden of multicultural celebrations, the result is tokenism.

    Is it logical to conclude then that making an effort to consider elements other than music, in addition to music, is one way to avoid tokenism? Or at least, that we should be on watch for this element when trying to avoid tokenism?

    2. Is there some way to consider how the, um, “ethnic” group’s worship is affected by the, um, majority group’s worship? That is, that inculturation should work both ways. For example, a Filipino-American group would celebrate Simbang Gabi in many ways differently than it is celebrated in the Philippines … and of course, there would be many similarities. (Sorry, not a social scientist. Pardon my clumsy vocabulary.)

  23. I come from a multi-cultural nuclear family, my mother native Italian, my father native Canadian, Cape Breton. Both sides of the family are strongly Catholic, I grew up in Georgia since the age of 3, but as an “immigrant” from Italy. My father’s side of the family has a particular expression of Catholicism that is clearly culturally based with particular devotions, both private and communal and the home, the miniature Church has its own expressions of the faith too that is culturally based and not like Catholics in Georgia at all. My mother’s side has the same type of cultural differences expressed in devotions and the miniature church at home. The one bridge to all of this was the Latin Mass prior to the Council. With all the cultural differences, my mother and father shared common experiences of the Mass in its basic form, but not so much the devotional aspects, save the Holy Rosary. Today, even with the changes in the Mass in Italy and in Cape Breton, the cultural differences remain devotionally and otherwise, although the Mass is basically the same but in the vernacular (when I was little I thought the Mass was in Italian until my older sister said to me that it wasn’t Italian, but Latin and I said, it sounds Italian to me!) So from my perspective, the Mass shouldn’t be so diverse from culture to culture as to obscure its unitive features and when inculturation takes place, liturgical principles shouldn’t be thrown out, such as having the procession of gifts so long that it eclipses the Eucharistic prayer, or that the movements of the congregation become an end unto themselves rather than the means to worship God through bodily gesture. And finally, noble simplicity and the soberness of the Latin Rite should not be compromised by inculturation either.

  24. I see no convincing point at all in what would are called a multicultural liturgies. As one who loves deeply his Anglican heritage and is deeply thankful for the Anglican ordinariate, I can say energetically that I would have an equally deep appreciation for a Chinese, Japanese, French, Swahili or any other liturgy celebrated with its own beauty and integrity intact. What is an insult to all is a so-called multicultural liturgy in which every culture represented is inevitably a token within an absurd pastiche. There is no cultural integrity of any kind in such a liturgy. (It is quite debatable, even, that it really is liturgy.) Choose any one language and any one cultural expression for any given liturgy and we can all be edified through its own rich honesty. (We all know, at any rate, what’s happening throughout the mass, do we not?) And: if you can’t decide on one, there is always Latin for inter-cultural assemblies… this WAS what Vatican II had in mind, wasn’t it! I would love to be part of an entire mass that was expressed through a culture other than mine; but, please do not make a farce of either one.
    Multi-cultural liturgy is not ‘inculturation’: it is no culture at all.

      1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #37:
        Now, now! Everyone knows that I am a man of few words. I just thought that I would give you some reinforcement. (Too, you probably noticed and wondered why I spelled ‘aedified’ inadequately!)

    1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #36:
      Agree with your post – the Mass I attended for my confirmation tried to be multicultural, but ended up suffering from “tokenism.” It made me wonder how much more progress could have been made had we all known the simple “Jubilate Deo” Mass setting rather than multi-lingual Mass parts knowbody could sing along with since it was the first time anyone would have seen or heard the music. Conversely, I once attended a very large OF Good Friday liturgy and was taken aback when the diverse congrgation was able to sing the Lord’s Prayer in Latin together. It was a very moving experience.

      As for Africans and the EF – I wonder how they would have responded to the EF celebrated in a more African context. The EF’s rubrics don’t demand European style vestments, music, or architecture, after all. I doubt the OF would have resonated with them any better if all they had seen were a typical European or American suburban celebration of it.

  25. Some of the comments regarding time also points to distinct cultural expectations which might cause friction. Of course we celebrate eternity in time at Mass, so it should not matter how long it takes. On the other had the symbol of the liturgy is finely wrought in all its forms. When the Sanctus become six or seven times longer than the Anaphora, how do we show the focus and weight of the Anaphora? In some places where the “sense of sin” has been encouraged the Kyrie can take longer than the rest of the Mass together. How with the different cultures and demands do we keep the timing of eternity together so to speak.

    The longest Mass I have attended took 8hours (not counting all-night vigils) and the shortest was by a venerable missionary who could do Sunday Mass, with sermon, in 20 minutes (weekday averaged six to seven – competing with the speed of light). Neither of these was a negative experience, the sheer holiness of the missionary and the sheer joy of eight hours of worship being equally uplifting.

    1. @Martin Badenhorst OP – comment #45:
      The longest Mass I ever attended or celebrated was about three hours and that was last year’s Easter Vigil. I can’t imagine a seven minute Mass or an 8 hour Mass. Setting aside the 7 minute version, how in the world does one celebrate an 8 hour Mass without lunch breaks, bathroom breaks and snack breaks? But seriously, what principles of Sacrosanctum Concilium are sacrificed in terms of “noble simplicity,” “useless repetition” and the soberness of the Latin Rite Mass? What does one add to the Mass to make it 8 hours long?

      1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #46:
        Father, I appreciate your point. In the Byzantine rite, they feed you bread and wine at the vigils. They seem to last at least six, maybe even more hours, but they also go in and out church for smoke breaks, get a cup of coffee, etc.

    2. @Martin Badenhorst OP – comment #45:
      The time it takes to chant the anaphora in the Coptic Church is as long as entire Latin low masses, but the time seems to fly by when you are swept up into the flow of the services, and not looking at your watch.

      One way to spot Catholics and Protestants at eastern liturgies. They’re the ones looking up at the clock or looking at their watches.

  26. This is certainly a fine review, and one which puts W4’s best foot forward. While I share to a degree the concerns and observations of Charles Culbreth, I am enough moved that any doubts I had as to my need for a reference copy have been allayed.

    One of the most profound and disappointing weaknesses of Catholic settings of the ordinary is their trite, ‘sing-songy’, dance-metred quality, which is both inapt and inept for liturgical, ritual song (and, one might offer here the observation that never was a book so cruelly, fiendishly mis-labeled and mis-represented as that one called ‘Ritual Song’). It doesn’t seem that the ordinaries in W4 have too successfully rectified this glaring deficit. Catholics are not born with any less musical aptitude than Anglicans and Lutherans, but one would never know it by looking at the music they are asked to sing with a straight face. If generations of Anglicans can sing the likes of Willan’s Gloria, Catholics can very well be better served than they have been.

    The presence of a specific hymn of the day for at least every Sunday and Solemnity is an admirable achievement. Also, the inclusion of hymns in an interesting variety of languages other than English is an admirable feature: one that should be of interest and enrichment to us all. Did I miss mention of plainchant hymns in both English and Latin? I should hope that such are well represented. There is a great body of excellent hymnody from the divine office which should be familiar to all Catholics, a repertory that is not at all appropriately represented in our hymnals, and which would be suitable at mass (both in English and Latin) as well as the office.

    I have heard it from others that there is an over-use of ‘familiar’ tunes with multiple texts. One can figure out why this is done, and considers it insulting. Many text-tune marriages, such as LAUDA ANIMA-‘Praise, my soul’ are as revered as ADESTE FIDELES-“O come, all ye faithful’. Not respecting this is a cultural loss. It is so very ,very easy to over use and spoil a fine tune – and, the text it brings to mind. These pairings are, of course, not set in concrete, but I have heard that not all the multiple pairings are judicious. Lest I be raked over the coals, though, I do need to have a copy to see for myself what I have (from reliable and competent witness) heard about. I pray that the last, the very last reason that I shall ever be asked to sing any hymn is that I already know the tune. Really!

  27. With apologies: I have just returned home and discovered that the above comment was mistakenly added to this, rather than the discussion about Worship IV.

  28. Great scholarly input on ritual, music and language. I would like to focus on the ENVIRONMENT of the worship space. Would it be liturgical and catechetical by utilizing native and indigenous fabric unique to the culture(s), artfully adorned and arranged in strategic places? Just a thought.

    1. @Roy Eco – comment #53:
      My father has often commented to me that a new pastor added statues to the parish church – but they were all European saints. It was a missed opportunity to recognize that many in the parish come from non-European backgrounds.

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