Dominus vu Biscum. Et cum spiritu tu. Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificaetur nomen tuum, adveniat regnum tuum, fiat voluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra. Panem nostrum supersubstantialem da nobis hodie; et dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris, et ne inducas nos in tentationem, sed libera nos a Malo”
For a moment you might have thought that the editor or the columnist was drunk, right? Or you might have thought that I have become inspired to speak in tongues. Actually the second is right. The above is in the Latin language, which was the tongue spoken in the early Christian church.
Actually when we became altar boys in the 1950’s our teachers and the priest taught us to pray in Latin. Trust me it took a lot of hard work, but we learned it, and we used to serve the entire mass in Latin. In other words, the priest would pray and the altar boys would respond in Latin. The only part that the priest did in Spanish was the homily or sermon that he used to deliver to the congregation. This was understandable because they would not have learned if he had preached in Latin. But as for the altar boys, there were some ten of us who learned the prayers by memory. A few of the students that went to Saint John’s College or St. Catherine’s Academy in the 1950’s also used to study Latin instead of Spanish in high school.
How was the mass different? Well, the altar would be against the front wall and the priest would face the altar; therefore he gave his back to the congregation during most of the mass. He would turn around occasionally to give blessings, and the homily etcetera.
Also, there used to be two kneelers at the front of the church where the congregation knelt to receive communion. It was the priest who moved along from one to another. Also in front of the church there used to be a confessional and the priest would sit there an entire hour before mass commenced. Therefore those coming to mass came early and took opportunity to go to confession just before the commencement of the Mass. The people saw you going to confession but the priest did not see you face to face.
There is another area that was very much different, especially for ladies and women. A female never entered the church without some type of headwear. Some wore a knitted cap just over the center of the head. Others wore a white handkerchief arranged in triangular form and this would be clipped unto the hair. The older ladies wore what was called in Spanish a “mantilla”. (mantle, shroud or veil)This was a larger headpiece made of lace that covered the entire head, the neck and fell down to the shoulders. In our tradition it was disrespectful for a female to enter the Catholic Church without this veil, and so quickly put on a handkerchief if that was available. I also remember that masses were a very special event probably because Father Raszkowski used to come only once a month and nobody wanted to miss that special privilege. Masses used to be at six a.m. and then at eight a.m. for the school children. After that Father used to catch the boat to Belize City.
Oh, by the way, the first line means, “The Lord be with you; And also with you.” And the next lines are the “Padre Nuestro” or the Our Father, who art in heaven…” I must mention that those who could not learn their prayers in Latin did not get a lashing at school because serving mass was voluntary. Boy, the fun of serving mass twenty five years ago.
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist