Unfortunately, the press release created a larger problem: no one in the newsroom recognized the language as Spanish, and assumed the Church had restored the Latin Mass, whose use was liberalized by Pope Benedict XVI a week ago.
"Well, you can't blame us," said Cold Springs Register editor Jane McBride. "It had the word 'Latino' in the first line, and with all the news out of Rome, it seemed obvious the parish was going hog-wild with the new old Latin rite."
After running a front page story on the local parish "going Latin," Fr. Eduardo Gonzalez called the local papers, insisting that the language used in the release and the Masses was Spanish. After a call to a local high school Spanish teacher, verifying the language, the editors released a corrections statement, in English, on pg. B14.
In the meantime, a number of St. Teresa's Church members showed up in confusion at the Sunday morning Masses, some clutching old missals with dust on the spines, and some looking for the typical Latino devotions to Our Lady of Guadalupe. As long-time member and English speaker Maybelle Watson said waspishly, "I don't know what the heck language we're getting now, but I know I'm not going to understand a word of it."
The Ironic Catholic has been on break, but the (distant) Cousin of the Ironic Catholic, nom de plume "CIC," secured an exclusive interview with Fr. Gonzalez.
CIC: Fr. Gonzalez, it seems that we have two worlds colliding: renewed interest in a Latin Mass and the explosion of Spanish Masses in the United States. Should English speakers be concerned?
Fr. G: Not at all. We are the Mystical Body of Christ, and what unites us far outweighs our cultural and linguistic differences. Remember that at the Pentecost, the apostles were understood by people of different nations all over the region. God breaks through our humanly-made barriers, including language.
CIC: So the language the apostles spoke was Latin?
Fr. G: Um, unlikely. It is understood to be a form of speaking in tongues, and understanding the tongues was a gift of the Holy Spirit. Plus, no one said "By Jiminy, they're speaking Latin!"
CIC: So... Latin is special why? It's not from God? Isn't the Bible written in Latin?
Fr. G: No, the Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek. Latin is the traditional common language of the early Church.
CIC: Can't English be the traditional common language? It's as grammatically complicated as Latin. And I got Ds in both of them in high school.
Fr. G: Well, English has become the international language, pretty much. It's only right that the Church speak for an underdog language like Latin. Latin's a dead language; it doesn't get more underdog than that.
CIC: So why do the Latin Masses have any popularity at all if the language is dead?
Fr. G: It's a bit more than the language itself. Some people feel the Latin Mass conveys the mystery of God more fully.
CIC: But don't Church people want to know who God is? Can't you just tell them straight, in a language they know?
Fr. G: Look, we're talking about the Creator and Sustainer of the cosmos. Sometimes approaching Him "sideways" rather than straight on gives you a clue as to what we are talking about.
CIC: Um, I didn't get that. (Pause.) But back to Spanish Masses. If English is the real international language, and Latin the underdog international language, why are you offering Spanish Masses? Because it's linguistically closer to Latin?
Fr. G: No, most of our congregation is first generation Latino. It's their first language.
CIC: Don't they want the mysterious Latin Mass?
Fr. G: Not usually; our congregation is made of people who love living in the United States but miss their specific cultural piety and language. This is the language in which they first learned about their loving Savior and Friend. There is a precious quality to maintaining that linguistic connection.
CIC: How are the English-speakers in your congregation taking the increased number of Spanish Masses?
Fr. G: (fidgeting) Well, it's been tough. Most Americans don't know Spanish, and don't seem to want to learn. So attendance by Anglos has dropped 80%. Right now, we're trying to get English-speakers to come by saying "Love the Latin? Come to our other great mysterious Mass."
CIC: The Great Mysterious Latino Mass? How is that Mass a mystery, exactly?
Fr. G: Unfamiliar language, unfamiliar practices, unfamiliar devotions. It stretches typical American Catholics. I'm convinced they could love this as much as the 1962 Latin Mass. And it would be outstanding outreach to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
CIC: Buena suerte, Fr. Gonzalez. By the way, your English is excellent.
Fr. G: Gracias, but that's because I'm a third generation Mexican-American.
CIC: Sorry. Jumped to conclusions there.
Fr. G: Yes, well, lots of "jumpiness" these days.