1987, the Instituto Nacional Hispano de Liturgia and the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical
Commissions collaborated to produce guidelines for multilingual Masses
. The USCCB Committee on Divine Worship's Subcommittee on Divine Worship in Spanish revised them in January 2013. The
purpose of these guidelines is to assist parishes and other communities faced
with multicultural and multilingual celebrations of the Eucharist. These guidelines arise out of the experience
of many parish liturgists, priests, and diocesan worship offices in their
planning and celebration of such liturgies, and from a respect
for the liturgical principles which comprise the rites of the
Roman Missal. With the permission of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, these guidelines are revised and reprinted as a resource of the USCCB Secretariat of Divine Worship.
The United States of America is composed of
multicultural and multilingual groups. This multiplicity is reflected in the Roman Catholic community,
especially when diverse groups assemble on significant occasions for liturgical
celebration. Such assemblies may provide
opportunity to employ the rich diversity of cultural and linguistic expressions
into one common act of worship.
guidelines for liturgical celebrations of multicultural and multilingual
assemblies are offered to assist in the preparation and celebration of these
special occasions. Such serious concern
for the diversity of culture and language should express the unity which flows
from liturgical celebration.
It is presumed that
liturgical planners understand that the goal of Masses which blend multiple
languages and other cultural expressions is to unite people of shared faith in
common prayer around the word and the Eucharistic table, and that the
extraordinary feature of such celebrations is that only some, not all, of the
elements of the celebration of the Mass will be understood by those assembled.
An explanation or understanding
of these special features will be occasion for those assembled for common
worship to enter more freely and deeply into the meaning and structure of the
rites of the Mass, respecting the order of worship with which they are already
acquainted, and respecting the linguistic or cultural expression of these rites
even when they may not be their own.
It is also presumed that,
on ordinary Sundays, multilingual parishes provide Eucharistic celebrations to
meet the linguistic needs of their people. Therefore, multilingual liturgies have
particular value in the celebration of major feasts, weddings, funerals, and
other important parish and diocesan events.
A. General Norms
- The cultural
and ethnic diversity of those assembled for Eucharistic celebrations should be
reflected throughout the celebration in the choice of gestures, postures,
vesture and environmental design, as well as in the choice of musical texts and
styles and in the determination of languages which will be used to proclaim the
scripture readings and prayers of the Mass.
- Multilingual celebrations may
require the moderate use of a commentator at appropriate points, provided they do not
impede the natural rhythm of the structure of the Mass:
the celebration, for instruction concerning the celebration;
b. before the Liturgy of the Word (cf. GIRM, no. 31 and no. 105b);
c. following the Prayer after Communion, for announcements.
B. Norms for Specific Rites during Mass
- The Introductory Rites – The
introductory rites of Mass have as their purpose "to ensure that the faithful, who
come together as one, establish communion and dispose themselves properly to
listen to the Word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily" (GIRM, no. 46). Therefore, every effort should be made
to create this disposition in those assembled.
choice of processional music, introductory greetings and of music for the
penitential intercessions and the Gloria can elicit an awareness of the
cultural and linguistic diversity of those gathered for the liturgy.
invitation to pray before the Collect can be given in the diverse languages
spoken by those assembled. The Collect
itself should be prayed in one language to preserve its integrity.
- The Liturgy of the Word – "When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to
his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel.
"Therefore, the readings from the Word of God are to be listened to
reverently by everyone, for they are an element of the greatest importance in the Liturgy. Although
in the readings from Sacred Scripture the Word of God is addressed to all
people of whatever era and is understandable to them, a fuller understanding
and a greater efficaciousness of the word is nevertheless fostered by a living commentary
on the word, that is, by the Homily, as part of the liturgical action" (GIRM,
In order that the Sacred Scriptures
can be heard with reverence and understood by all, attention should be given to
the language(s) in which they are proclaimed and commented upon in the homily.
a. One or both of the readings preceding the Gospel
should be proclaimed in the language understood by the majority of those
assembled. If two readings are to be
proclaimed, one may be proclaimed in another language appropriate to those
assembled. As a suggestion, since the first reading and the Gospel normally
have similar themes, these could be proclaimed in different languages so that
each group can hear at least some of the primary themes from the Sacred Scriptures
of the day.
b. Printed booklets which provide translations of
the Sacred Scripture readings have proved helpful and should be continued. Providing a brief commentary in these
booklets could be effective, such as the one-sentence that the Lectionary itself provides.
c. In multilingual Masses the Responsorial Psalm
may be divided into different languages, which could be an enriching experience. Including translation of the verses has proven effective. The language used would preferably (though not
necessarily) be the same language as the first reading, since the Psalm in some
way responds to it, and this would show the relationship more clearly. The
refrain used with the Psalm should be the same language as the Psalm or multilingual.
d. The Gospel, which Christ himself proclaims, may
be read in more than one language in its entirety. There is long and varied
precedent for this, from the Papal liturgies chanting in both Latin and Greek
because of the ancient bilingual character of the city, to various Eastern
Churches (some of which proclaim the Gospel in two or more languages), to the
Extraordinary Form in which the Gospel is chanted in both Latin and the
vernacular. If this is done, then the procession, introduction and incensation
should only be done once. At the conclusion of the proclamation in the first
language, a minister should immediately proceed to the proclamation of the text
in the next language. The conclusion is said only once and in the last language
used. A well-crafted bilingual/multilingual Alleluia verse could be helpful. It is not
recommended that the Gospel be broken into different sections for different
e. The homily, ordinarily, should be preached in
the language understood by the majority. A short summary may be given in other
languages. The homilist may reflect the
same theme in his summary while incorporating a different development or
f. Several options for the Universal Prayer are
i. The invitation to each of the petitions could be
given in the various languages understood by those assembled (e.g., "Let us
pray for the Church" and "Let us pray for the sick," etc.). Following each invitation, a silent pause will
allow for the assembly to unite in prayer for particular concerns. The
conclusion to each intercession could then be spoken or sung in the same
language throughout to allow for the consistent, flowing pattern of the
response among the assembled.
ii. Or, each petition could be said or sung in a
different language, each with a common response, e.g., Kyrie eleison or Te rogamus
audi nos or Domine, exaudi nos,
etc. This would eliminate the repetitiousness of the invitation in several
languages for each petition.
iii. Or, the first part of the petition
could be given in one language and the second part (the assembly's response) be
given in another.
- The Liturgy of the Eucharist
of the Gifts. "At the
beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist the gifts which will become Christ's Body
and Blood are brought to the altar" (GIRM, no. 73).These gifts of bread and wine, as well as
gifts for the Church or the poor brought by the faithful or collected at Mass,
Prayer. To preserve the integrity of the Eucharistic Prayer, the whole of
the Priest's parts of the Prayer (from Preface through Doxology) should be in
the same language. The acclamations proclaimed by the assembly could be either
multilingual or in the language of the Eucharistic Prayer.
the Lord's Prayer is common to all Christians, members of the assembly may be
invited to recite the prayer in his or her own language simultaneously with
others. Otherwise, to preserve the integrity of the Communion Rite, it should
be conducted in one language (different from that of the Eucharistic Prayer).
The Agnus Dei acclamation could be
either multilingual or in the language of the rest of the Communion Rite.
- The Concluding Rites – When
the more solemn forms of blessing are chosen, each of the blessing prayers may
be given in alternating languages appropriate to those assembled.
C. Norms for Music
of multilingual assemblies can join in the singing of short texts even if the
language is foreign to them (e.g., "Lord, have mercy," "Hosanna in the highest,"
psalm antiphons, etc.). Repetitious "ostinato"
styles of music, like Taizé, provide a style of music which allows for the
texts to become familiar and easy to sing; such a form of music can also foster
a sense of unity among those assembled.
When Latin chants or antiphons are known, understood, and can
be sung well, these can be an effective means of bringing about musical unity.
"Since the faithful from
different countries come together ever more frequently, it is desirable that they
know how to sing together at least some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in
Latin, especially the Profession of Faith and the Lord's Prayer, according to
the simpler settings" (GIRM no. 41).
languages of those assembled should be expressed in song. Music proper to each culture, however, should
be preferred to the practice of translating texts to accompany melodies which
express a different culture. An
integrity of musical styles is recommended. While a widely disparate style and instrumentation creates a disjointed worship experience, a harmonious blending of diverse cultural styles may be considered.
An effort should be made to
promote the expertise of poets and musicians of each cultural group toward the
development of original music which can be incorporated into these
familiar hymns are known in several languages. Alternating verses in each of the languages
represented by those in the assembly can be effective. Care should be taken to balance instrumental
accompaniment with the language of the culture, as well.
- Antiphonal selections of songs can be used effectively when the verses are song by cantor or choir in several languages, while the antiphon is sung by all present in a common language.
acclamations should reflect an integral musical style and may include a blend
of the diverse languages of those assembled. Composers must give special attention to the
blending of multiple languages in such musical settings. Should there be a multilingual setting that serves well, this should be considered.
- Choirs assembled for special occasions must work together in the development of a common repertoire and in the development of a unified choir for the exercise of music ministry.