Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Multi-language mass

Multi-language mass,benefits no one

I had the privilege of attending a Palm Sunday mass celebrated by Archbishop Emeritus Soter Fernandez . The Archbishop appeared to be pleased to celebrate the mass in English. He commented that today it has become fashionable to celebrate mass in all three languages which he termed “Rojak” mass.He was skeptical as to the real benefit it brought to the congregation.

During the tridium services of the Holy Week that followed, it was not just the 3 languages, English, Mandarin and Tamil. Bahasa Malaysia was also included and as I see it, this may not end there. In time to come I just wonder how many more languages are going to be added to this multi-language mass?

We had to sit through more than 2 hours of the service, just to actively participate for about 20 minutes of service in the any particular language we are conversant in. Our minds are left to wonder for the remaining one and a half hours. One can imagine how difficult it would be for the parents to control the children who become restless and agitated.

Multi-language masses have become a regular practice on most Sundays in many churches throughout the country. Does it have the impact on the congregation as a mass used to have? Most Catholics seem to say no.

The readings, homily and hymns are very important in the meaningful preparation of one’s mind and spirit for the all important Consecration of the bread and wine. Unless one is actively involved in this preparation in a language he is conversant, he cannot fully benefit from receiving Jesus.

Moreover it is the message of Christ in the readings and homily that we carry back to apply in our lives for the rest of the week. To really have an impact on the congregation, the readings, homily and singing must be in a language we are fluent in. As for me, I can say for sure that whenever I listen to a all the readings and a good homily in English, it remains in my memory for further discussion in the week with the members of the family.

As such the mass must be monolingual to cater for a specific congregation. It is better to have a smaller group that is actively engaged in worship for a short time than a large crowd for hours, which hardly participates meaningfully due to the haphazard blending of languages.

Our church must seriously reconsider the system of multilingual mass and return to the older monolingual system. I am all for masses in English, Mandarin, Tamil, Malay or any other language for a particular congregation, but we should not mix them all up to become, in the Archbishop’s words,a “rojak” mass.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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