Mass was in the vernacular with a few Latin parts (just Agnus Dei, actually). I admire these people for learning even little bits of a language that must seem totally foreign to them.
The music....well, it was no Gregorian chant. There was quite a bit of percussion with instruments native to the people, as well as some strings and lots of voice. It's very important to this society that each person has an equal dignity, so everyone in the congregation sings and says as much as possible in the Mass (they might have stuck in an extra "Amen" in the Eucharistic prayer?). This includes the hymns, so sometimes quality is sacrificed for participation. Theologically, there's better stuff (Adoro Te, Christus Vincit, O Sacred Head are some favs of mine) and even musically, there's better stuff, but they use hymns written by their people and I think they might be better for it, at least until they grow into the Chuch's rich musical heritage.
The people sit in family units, which I think has to do with this culture's historical foundation on the family in agriculture. Or maybe they sit in family units just because they travel to Mass that way from home. Who knows! But either way, it's a quiet and helpful way to reinforce the sacredness of the family.
There is a great understanding of the sacredness of space in this culture, so it's natural for them to have LOTS of space between the people and the altar, and for this to be totally cool. (In contrast, some Africans or Hispanic cultures love to go right up to tabernacles and monstrances to touch and pray.) Here, there's a definite "holy of holies" and something untouchable about the Blessed Sacrament. That attitude in their culture (that everyone has their space and you don't trespass) is probably from their history, but it's serving them well at Mass!
Everyone is quiet during the homily. Academic achievement is prized in this culture, and I suppose that's probably helping them. On the other hand, they love partying, so perhaps a third of them are dozing off or distracted, bored. I wonder which one will win out as this little community continues in faith!
Hmm, there are female altar servers and women on the altar. Don't get me wrong, I love women. But I don't think this culture has a huge understanding of priestly celibacy and the otherness of Holy Orders as alter Christus capitis. There hasn't been much interest amongst the young men in vocations to the priesthood, either. Could it be that the female presence on the altar is a sign or symptom of this misunderstanding? I hope the gentle teaching of the Church can help the whole community understand the value of celibacy and the value and uniqueness of the priesthood.
After Mass, there was an enormous hubbub as everyone talked about life, children, schools, activities, and everything else. What a vibrant community! There are flowers at statues of our Lady, the Sacred Heart, St. Joseph, and St. Anthony. I think I'll go back soon.
This might not come as a shock to you, but I am describing my home parish in the post-Christian west. Does your home parish impress you when conceived of as a small and newly-converted community in a deeply pagan culture? In some ways, that is what we are. So two pieces of advice:
- To traditionalists: do not worry. Our culture is now mission territory; don't be shocked that we have primitive churches. Instead, sweetly nurture the poorly catechized and see the good in them to help increase it.
- To those who have no idea what a "traditionalist" is: you might also not know how amazing the Church's history, liturgy, and theology can get (not to mention the art). Strive for maturity in the faith and dig into the patrimony of our Church.