In early November, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops met in Baltimore to discuss social media and Catholic bloggers. The meeting was called “An Encounter with Social Media: Bishops and Bloggers Dialogue,” and one of the issues that was addressed during the conference was the gap between Spanish language blogs and English blogs.
To address this issue in his own way, Catholic blogger, Sam Roca, has started writing a Spanish language blog once a week with no Spanish translation for English readers. The essays and blogs are meant to reach out to the Catholic community and are an attempt to bring Catholic bloggers of all languages together, but not just to understand each other’s language.
Bilingual Liturgy Hard to Communicate
Sam Rocha was advised to also post a Spanish to English translation of his Spanish posts. At first, Rocha was agreeable to the idea of also posting a translation, but as he started to translate the essay, he ran into problems. In the past, Rocha has served as a bilingual music minister in western Texas. During his time in the bilingual parishes, he found that translating liturgy is often awkward and doesn’t work all that well. In fact, Rocha says that the one language that really works well for a multilingual congregation is Latin, since many Roman Catholics consider it their official language.
For bulletins, signs, and welcomes, Rocha says that bilingualism and multilingualism works just fine, but when it comes to liturgy, often the message is stilted and isn’t imparted well. Having English or Spanish translation services disrupts the sacred dance of Catholic liturgy.
The Value of Being Bilingual
Rocha knows the value of being bilingual and even multilingual, but he says that an official Spanish translation during liturgy is not the answer to the divide between English and Spanish-speaking Catholic bloggers or even the solution to the divide between English and Spanish-speaking Catholics. There are differences that make liturgy unique in both English and Spanish, says Rocha.
For one, not all Latinos speak Spanish and that is a problem that can’t always be fixed with a bilingual service. Also, Rocha addresses an important issue that Spanish-speaking Catholics have a different idea of how Catholic liturgy should be conducted, and it can clash with the often secularized and protestantized Catholic liturgies of the U.S.
Is Language the Real Issue?
In his blog, Rocha isn’t advocating for a split between English and Spanish-speaking Catholics, he merely says that doing liturgy bilingually in any other language but Latin has some unique problems that need to be sorted out. That point was also one of the reasons for the USCCB conference.
Rocha suggests that the conference was not designed to reach out the U.S. Latino Catholic culture in order to be nice to them or to include them, but to tell all other U.S. Catholics to pay attention to them because they have something other U.S. Catholics don’t: Catholic culture.
It was Spain that originally brought Catholicism to the U.S. and they have retained the original Catholic culture better than anyone else. They have a lot to teach to other U.S. Catholics about what Catholic culture is. Rocha says that we need to forget about bilingualism and learn to be in proximity for other reasons besides language.