Non Solum: Spanish Resources for a Bilingual Mass

A year ago Pray Tell had a Non Solum discussion on Multi-Lingual Masses. Recently we received a similar question, this time concerning Spanish resources that can be used in the United States.

A reader writes in:

From time to time, I need to put together worship materials for bilingual celebrations (English and Spanish). For me, this usually involves begging, borrowing or stealing Spanish-language missals, lectionaries and breviaries from Spanish-speaking clergy whom I happen to know, and then retyping the texts into worship aids. I have never clearly understood: have the bishops in the US ever officially approved a particular Spanish-language translation of the liturgical texts? There seem to be different Spanish translations of the liturgical texts in use in the US; is any particular one to be preferred over the others? For people like me, what would be ideal would be Spanish-language texts and readings on the USCCB website, with the appropriate download technologies and reprint permissions. Have the bishops ever acknowledged that this would be a useful thing, as their church becomes progressively more Spanish-speaking with each passing year?

As more of our parishes and communities come to acknowledge their multicultural composition, there is no doubt that the need for more bilingual resources will arise. As an addition to our reader’s question, I am curious to know what Spanish resources (music, prayers of the faithful, etc.) people have drawn from when composing a bilingual English/Spanish Mass.

Please comment below.


    1. Respectfully, please stick to the topic at hand. This is about Spanish resources for a Spanish/English bilingual Mass. This thread is not to discuss whether Latin should be used in place of Spanish and English. If you want to discuss that, there are plenty of other thread you could comment on where that discussion would be relevant.

  1. Au contraire. it seems like the perfect solution. The more multilingual the congregation, the more reason to use the language which, according to the documents of Vatican II, should be preserved as the language of the liturgy. It’s actually an excellent opportunity to put into practice the directives of that council.

    Are Spanish-English masses even allowed? I’m not aware that any Vatican document permits the use of more than one ‘vernacular’ in a single Mass–though there may be one somewhere. (The Vatican website isn’t exactly state of the art.)

    I wonder how other countries handle this–Belgium or Switzerland, for instance? Or Quebec? Do people in such places feel the need to create bilingual vernacular liturgies? If not, why not?

    1. E contrario. The thread is about understanding in the Mass. Latin will help very few English or Spanish parishioners.

    1. @Carlo Argoti – comment #6:
      “Pope Francis just answered your question.”
      Yes, unfortunately the current pope thinks he’s above the law and can make up liturgy on the fly–washing a Moslem woman’s feet on Maundy Thursday, for example. As did Paul VI, whose committee made up a whole liturgy and insisted we all use it!
      But there are some who believe that the pope is not above the law, nor that he is the law.
      I don’t see any mention of language in the sections of SC quoted.
      Again, I’d be interested in the purpose of multilingual liturgies, and why some parishes in the US feel them advisable. And I’d repeat the question as to whether this is felt necessary in other countries.

  2. Have been to Welsh/English and Scots Gaelic Masses in the UK. It felt completely natural and normal. Once went to Mass in Alsace where the congregation included English, German and French speakers. Rather than use French which would have enabled all of us to take our part using the Mass sheets provided, he decided to use Latin, and I was the only person able to take part, and that imperfectly.
    Just saying.

    1. @Alan Johnson – comment #9:
      “…he decided to use Latin, and I was the only person able to take part, and that imperfectly. Just saying.”
      And well said. This is evidence (as if we need it) that parishes have persistently failed to maintain the use of Latin in the liturgy and led the faithful “ad plenam , consciam atque actuosam liturgicarum celebrationum participationem,” as Vatican II directed. Clearly the congregation had been deprived of this in their home parishes.

      I notice too that no suggestion that Alsatian might have been used as a vernacular. One of the casualties of the vernacularisation of the Mass has been local dialects.

      I’m still curious about the purpose of a ‘bilingual liturgy’. Are the congregations so small that it’s not feasible to offer 2 Masses? Carlo’s suggestion (no.10) that Pontius Pilate was the first liturgist is an interesting and perhaps an instructive one, but doesn’t seem relevant to the original enquirer’s situation.

    2. @Alan Johnson – comment #9:
      “he decided to use Latin, and I was the only person able to take part, and that imperfectly. Just saying.”

      And well said. I think this provides strong evidence–as if we needed any–that the faithful are not exposed to Latin in the liturgy in their home parishes, as was the expectation of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

      I get the impression that this was a ‘one-off’ Mass (for students?), not a routine weekly/daily Mass–am I right? I suppose the ‘German’ that was used (or not used) was standard German, not Alsatian–one of the casualties of bureaucratic post-conciliar vernacularisation has been the variety of local dialects.

  3. Whenever this topic comes up, I’m always reminded of what my bishop says from San Bernardino diocese.” The cross on which our Savior hung, was nailed with a multilingual sentence within a multicultural society”.

  4. There is a Spanish translation of the 1988 American edition of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, that was approved for use in the U.S. LTP was the publisher. The reason it was thought necessary to produce this is that the editions available from other Spanish-speaking regions did not have any of the adaptations that are included in the 1988 edition, which are licit for the dioceses of the U.S. But it went out of print a number of years ago and for mysterious reasons was never reprinted. I’d be interested if any of our readers know the back story on this.

  5. How does one decide which version of Spanish to use? And since in the USA immigrants come from many different Spanish speaking countries, what’s the “default” Spanish translation of the Mass and Holy Scriptures?

  6. Tony Phillips : I’m still curious about the purpose of a ‘bilingual liturgy’. Are the congregations so small that it’s not feasible to offer 2 Masses?

    I can easily imagine occasions when it would be undesirable or even inappropriate to offer 2 Masses: the bishop’s visit, a diocese-wide celebration, the celebration of a significant anniversary in the life of a parish, Holy Thursday, the Easter Vigil, etc.

  7. ### I can easily imagine occasions when it would be undesirable or even inappropriate to offer 2 Masses: the bishop’s visit, a diocese-wide celebration, the celebration of a significant anniversary in the life of a parish, Holy Thursday, the Easter Vigil, etc.

    These are exactly my thoughts. In my parish we always celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and the Easter Vigil bilingually, as it is forbidden to repeat these celebrations more than once in a parish. I’d also like to note that this is the custom in major diocesan celebrations as well, i.e. the Chrism Mass.

  8. I respectfully submit that not only do we have the media bashing Pope Francis, now it seems we have Catholics who frequent this blog bashing Pope Francis. Tony, perhaps you should ask for an audience with Pope Francis and tell him face-to-face what you write in this blog. As for me, I visit this blog to learn more about liturgy as it is ordinarily celebrated here in the United States. Thank you Stephen and Jeff for the helpful information. I look forward to reading other comments about resources for the celebration of bilingual liturgies, which I believe is the topic. (And I applaud Pope Francis for washing women’s feet. And the feet of Muslims… Pope Francis cares for all his sheep–and doesn’t mind a bit smelling like them.)

    1. @Jean Romain – comment #16:
      Jean, we’ve had people ‘bash’ Benedict (check the archives) and yes, we have people who ‘bash’ Francis–if that’s what you call criticism. To be Catholic doesn’t mean to refrain from criticising the pope–that’s an extreme and (in my view) un-catholic ultramontanism. You applaud him for breaking the rubrics. I don’t–I think it encourages other priests to do whatever they want with the liturgy, which is the worst type of clericalism.

      As for meeting with the pope–I’m in the book, he can look me up and give me a bell any time he likes.

      I agree the topic is bilingual liturgies, but I’m struggling to understand their purpose, and I don’t think we should shy away from asking that question. Fritz B (no. 14) offered some very good examples of when 2 masses would be undesirable, and I happen to agree with them–though I still think they’d offer an opportunity to follow the directives of Vatican II and use a Latin-rich liturgy. I no longer live in the US so it’s not my place to go down the ‘why don’t they learn English route’, but I am curious whether there’s been a need to conduct bilingual liturgies in other countries where there’s diglossia with stable (non-immigrant) populations. Which reminds me, I must reply to Alan J…

      1. @Tony Phillips – comment #17:
        The University Parish of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven brings together its three different linguistic communities (Flemish, French, and English) for a single trilingual liturgy on the feast of Pentecost. In my experience, it was quite well done (including a trilingual homily in which each of its linguistic parts could stand on its own but the entire thing held together as a whole without undue repetition–a rather remarkable achievement).

        Also, the liturgies of the Fraternités Monastiques de Jerusalem in Brussels (officially a bilingual city), through mainly in French, always included one reading in Flemish.

      2. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #19:
        Thanks Fritz. I think there’s a lot of places do multilingual readings on Pentecost, but a trilingual homily sounds pretty amazing.
        I’ve only been to Mass once in Brussels, but it was EF and thus in Latin. In fact, though I didn’t realise it until after I’d left, but it was an SSPX chapel.

        I was at an EF Mass in Ramsgate today and the priest (as has become his custom) read the Epistle and Gospel in English, which I think is kosher acc to SP. Not sure how I feel about that…don’t really feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.

        I’m curious about hymns at these Spanish-English Masses. I remember in the US we’d sometimes have that song that went ‘O Lord, you saw me at the seashore…’ or something like that, for which I think the original lyrics (which we never sang) were in Spanish. Not my favourite. Do Hispanic congregations have their own modern hymns, and do people complain about them like they do about English-language hymns? Or do they sing ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’ in Catalan? Surely it’s not like pop music, where everybody listens to English-language pop?

      3. Thank you Fritz for your comment. Often in Leuven and other places in Belgium we use bilingual or even trilingual liturgies due to the broad number of language groups represented in the country. In the English-speaking parish I usually attend here in Leuven, we often have a bilingual English-Dutch Mass when the bishop comes to preside.

  9. In my parish at bilingual masses, we alternate Spanish / English prayers, readings, etc. if its said in English It’s printed in Spanish and vice versa. Greek kyrie, Latin Sanctus and Agnus. Some resistance to pater noster, but shorter acclamations go well in Latin with both communities. I cobble together the lectionary and missal myself from current approved sources. Thank heaven for scanners!

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