Spanish Mass: When the Mass Parts Aren’t

It is an extremely widespread phenomenon that Mass parts sung at Spanish Masses do not have the correct words – that is, the words printed in the Roman Missal; words which, in the case of the main parts of the Mass, may not be changed.

Usually what I have encountered is a paraphrase (set to a catchy tune or even to a secular tune). Here is one example: this is supposed to be the Sanctus — the Holy, Holy, Holy — and it has quite a fun tune; but the words are only… sort of in the ballpark:

My translation:

Holy, holy, holy, the heavens announce you;
Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord, Yahweh;
Holy, holy, holy, is the one who redeems us;
Because my God is holy and the earth is full of his glory;
Because my God is holy and the earth is full of his glory.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but your word will not pass away;
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but your word will not pass away:
Will not not not not not not pass away;
will not not not not not not pass away.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
Glory to Jesus Christ, the son of David.
Hosanna in the high places to our Savior;
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but your word will not pass away;
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but your word will not pass away:
Will not not not not not not pass away;
will not not not not not not pass away.

Compare that with what is in the Roman Missal (no substantial difference between English and Spanish, hence I’ll just copy the English here):

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord, God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory;
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

It is often “easier said than done” to eliminate these erroneous Mass settings or parts thereof that appear in Spanish-language liturgy. In my case, I have only been in one assignment (my first one) where I had any authority to do anything about it. Often I am just a guest priest, filling in by request.

The point of this post, in fact, is not to suggest ways to fix this problem; rather, it is to suggest what a visiting priest may and possibly should do when confronted with this.

He should recite the correct words while the wrong ones are being sung.

I got this idea after I started celebrating Mass in the Extraordinary Form – particularly, the High Mass, or Missa Cantata. In the High Mass there is a schola, choir, or cantor who sings the Mass parts, responses, and other pieces as appropriate for the day’s liturgy. But the priest-celebrant also must recite what they are singing.

Now there is not an apples-to-apples comparison between the situation I have encountered with Spanish Masses and celebrating in the Old Rite. No, there are various differences. For one, it is unheard-of for musical settings of the Extraordinary Form liturgy to have words that are at variance with the published texts. Two, the celebrant’s duplication of all that other ministers say or sing arises from a different liturgical theology.

But I think the application of the Old Rite principle in this case works: at least, even if the choir, cantor, or the congregation isn’t singing the right thing, the Mass is still being said properly — as the Church intends — by its principal celebrant. This is not clericalism (which I am sure some would allege). It is simply a way that a priest may take seriously his oath of fidelity to all of the Church’s laws and disciplines.

I feel sure I am not the first priest to think of and do this. I wonder if others do so also?

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