Monday, October 27, 2008


We went to the first Mass at St. Bernard's yesterday. This one is very sparsely attended, and yesterday was no exception. The eight o'clock Mass is a bi-lingual Mass, which means that all of the hymns were in Spanish, led by a group of five who face the congregation from the area immediately in front of the pews. As near as I could tell they were the only ones singing.

The readings, with the exception of the second and the gospel, were in Spanish, and of course the responses from the congregation were in Spanish. The Mass, itself, was said in English because my favorite African priest was saying it and he doesn't speak Spanish. The former pastor used to say the Mass in Spanish, and I've been told that the current pastor has mastered enough Spanish to do so as well, when he says the 8 a.m. Mass.

St. Bernard's also has a Spanish Mass at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

As I was sitting there listening to the Spanish and understanding not a word of it, I reflected on the changes brought about by Vatican II.

Before Vatican II, all Masses were said in Latin. I didn't speak that language either, but I had heard the Mass often enough, and used my bi-lingual missal enough to recognize the words that were spoken and have a good grasp of what they meant. Of course that was deemed not good enough at Vatican II, and the Mass was translated into the vernacular, ushering in all of the liturgical abuse, and also ushering in such phenomena as Polka Mass in the Cleveland Diocese with it's Polish congregation, and Gypsy Mass in some foreign dioceses, and Spanish Mass in a lot of places.

Yesterday's Mass was reverent. The language barrier gave me the opportunity to think about what I was doing because Spanish doesn't interrupt my thoughts. It was an almost welcome moment of quiet reminiscent of the old Latin Masses when it was possible to talk to God at church. But it was still Mass in a language I don't understand.

I glanced around at the congregation, seated in ones and twos mostly, like dots on a map designating cities in a country setting. There didn't appear to be many Spanish faces, and listen as I might during the hymns, the only voices I could hear were the voices of the song leaders. It would seem to be a Spanish Mass being said for non-Spanish-speaking congregants, which is rather odd, isn't it?

The bulletin published the statistics for the October count. Before giving them, I should note that St. Bernard's can seat at least 1,000 and probably more if the congregation squeezes together. According to the October head count the average attendance for the Masses is the following:

Sat. 4:30 PM - 221
Sun. 8:00 AM - 79
Sun. 10:00 AM - 260
Sun. 12:00 PM - 269
Sun. 4:30 PM - 219
Sun. 6:00 PM - 190
Sun. 8:pp PM - 222
Average total - 1459

Sort of gives a whole new perspective to closing churches, doesn't it? One thousand four hundred fifty-nine members of the congregation could probably be accommodated at one Mass in a pinch. There is a bit in the bulletin indicating that the Mass schedule is up for readjustment.

Another factor of note...there were three Eucharistic Ministers and the priest distributing commmunion to this average of 79 Mass atteendees. Communion was over almost before I had fully realized I needed to get in line. No wonder considering each distributed communion to approximately 20 people. What is the argument for the need of Extroardinary Ministers of the Eucharist, again? Didn't it have something to do with overworked priests? Hmmmmm.

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