Sounds of a Mass in Nairobi

Catholic News Service international editor Barb Fraze is attached to a group of US diocesan mission staff members visiting Kenya. In this post, she files a short audio report about what a Mass sounds like at a parish in the slums of Nairobi.  She has also blogged about her trip.


    1. Really…. I mean, if you think the new translation will pose some comprehension problems, wait til you hear the Mass in Kiswahili ! Maybe they have a side-by-side English /Kiswahili Hand Missal available.

  1. I am impressed with the dedication of the liturgical musicians who practice three times a week. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. I am likewise impressed that the Sunday liturgy lasts three hours. It is clearly something they find so rewarding that they wish to prolong the experience. Wonderful.

  2. “liturgy can last three hours and is punctuated with the sounds of bongos, keyboards, shakers and the spontaneous shouts of congregants. The choir practices three times a week to ensure that the liturgy is a true celebration.” For me, this very vibrant and explosive expression of faith, connected so intimately to the liturgy seems to be an excellent example of just what the German theologians asked. One of their points was an active and lively, cultural diverse celebration of the liturgy, not one stubbornly frozen on time. Our God is big enough to handle and accept one form of the Mass. I just also wonder sometimes though if our and Rome’s paternalism towards the African continent simply views this as a unique and separate liturgy which is colorful enough for the African and other “third/second” world peoples, but cannot in any way enhance Western worship. Regardless, very beautiful!

    1. The question of inculturation is a very sensitive subject given the colonialism, racism, and paternalism that has often accompanied missionary work. Catholic and other Christian missionary efforts towards indigenous cultures throughout the world have created wounds of emotional and physical violence that have yet to be addressed, let alone mended.

      There is paternalism and then there is patronization. Cross-fertilization of indigenous liturgies requires the participation of Catholics from all the participating cultural traditions. The unilateral and facile use of others’ indigenous traditions often misinterprets and disrespects the millennia of philology, music, and fine art that gird every society of humankind. A “enhancement” of any Mass with plagiarized culture demeans rather than uplifts the original owners of the stolen cultural expressions.

      No “type of” Mass is right for any discrete group of Catholics or an individual Catholic. We do not worship at types of Masses. We worship the Mass. We worship the Lamb that is slain before us for our salvation. Any Latin-rite Catholic has a right to worship at any Mass so long as that Mass follows the rubrics of one of the two approved missals. Any Mass must be open to all who profess the Catholic and apostolic faith. Herein lies the challenge of inculturation. We are Catholic, but often unable to be catholic.

    2. Take a step back – are we not listening to liturgical tradition in the making? This is by no means unique to Kenya; similar non-Latin liturgical effort is found all over Africa.

      How do we reconcile such expression with the so-called “Mass for/of All Time” a.k.a. Tridentine Mass?

      Surely the wonderful thing about the reformed liturgy is that there is space for everyone’s culture?

      The Catholic Church is becoming a truly world church (Rahner) using its reformed liturgy to bring the Gospel to people in words and actions they understand. It’s sometimes very difficult to see what’s going on or where we’re headed when we’re in the middle of events – and we’re only 45 years on from Vatican II.

      1. Certainly, the EF liturgies are not the “Mass of all time”. Many in the EF movement are not well educated and easily misled by ideological manipulation. Many educated Catholics who attend the EF know that the liturgy is but one step in the history of Roman worship..

        The reformed rites are important in that they lend themselves well to organic and approved inculturation such as in Nairobi. Inculturation that is planned and lived by a people intimately steeped in and knowledgeable of their culture and its context is beautiful, valuable, and quite worthy of respect and honor.

        The EF (and the OF celebrated with Tridentine ceremonial and piety) is also a native cultural expression for many Catholics. While the EF is not the “Mass of all time”, its liturgy and praxis must be respected as a deeply historical cultural expression through which many best express their adoration of the eucharistic mystery.

        I do not truly know how the Catholics of the Nairobi parish experience their Mass, as I am not of their background. The recording suggests an intense and powerful jubilance before the sacrifice of the altar. I felt that same ineffable joy in the silence of the EF low Mass I attended last night. Though no one in attendance made a sound, the strength of the divine presence was inestimable.

      2. “How do we reconcile such expression with the so-called “Mass for/of All Time” a.k.a. Tridentine Mass?”
        Why is there a need to reconcile the two? Both should exist.

        My preference is strongly geared towards the EF, but I loved the audio clip that inspired this thread. While I think it is wonderful that the OF easily allows for such inculturation, I don’t think there is anything about the EF that inherently makes it unsuitable for people in other cultures were it allowed in the vernacular with an allowance for native music and instruments – something that did occur in some missions prior to the council.

  3. This is very much like the Masses celebrated by the Haitian community at my former parish. Very genuine and very beautiful.

    I’ve always wondered….what would be the American mainstream eqivalent of this? The music they are singing isn’t commercial popular music, but rather in the style of their ancient, indigenous music. Sometimes I think we reach really hard to be authentic and genuine but fall short of the mark because we have no common heritage in that sense. Or do we have a common heritage as Catholics? It’s a question worth asking.

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