Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Roman liturgy in the Native American Missions?

I was recently pointed to the following link which caught my interest: The Indian Mass (by which is not meant East Indian, but Native American).

When thinking upon the variations found in the liturgical West, we are of course accustomed to thinking of the varying rites distinct from the Roman, and of course the mediaeval uses of the Roman rite -- particularly those found in mediaeval England, such as Hereford, York and Salisbury.

We perhaps not so accustomed to think upon the liturgical variations/indults which may have been permitted in the context of mission territories in the Far East or new world, or even Eastern Europe. It's for this reason I thought it might be of interest to share this site which states as its purpose to provide "resources for the study of Catholic liturgies of the Northeastern Indian Missions."

Now, it seems worth noting that the source materials for the liturgies that the author quotes seem quite rare, so it is difficult to confirm the information, that we might ourselves dig into the history and summation presented. If any of our readership has any further insight to offer either in concert or in contradiction with what the site presents, I think we would all be most obliged.

That caveat aside, we certainly know that there have historically been such precedents as regards the ancient Roman liturgy in its texts and rubrics; indults to the norm.

Looking now to the website itself, it presents what it calls general characteristics of these variants upon the Roman rite:

"In the Indian Missions of Northeastern America and Eastern Canada—predominantly those areas first explored and missionized by the French—the Mass had developed along its own distinct lines beginning in the late 1600s.

"The first major difference between Mass at these missions and elsewhere was that the missions had a very special and rare permission to use the vernacular instead of Latin for the parts sung by the schola: the ordinaries and the propers. The actual vernacular used, of course, varied by whatever tribe happened to predominate at the mission: at Kahnawake it was Mohawk, at Lorette it was Huron. Less commonly, multiple languages were used, such as at the Lake of Two Mountains (Kanesatake/Oka), where both Mohawk and Algonquin were used liturgically, sometimes even within the same Mass.

"The second major difference was in the system of propers. The missions dramatically simplified the complex Latin propers by reducing their number and by simply substituting native-language hymns. The Introit was one of the only propers that was always retained, but typically, the Indian Mass used a very small set of them (anywhere from 2-6) which were repeated throughout the season. The rest of the propers were typically replaced by hymns; so there would be a hymn between the Epistle and Gospel replacing the Gradual and the Alleluia/Tract, a hymn for Offertory, and a hymn for Communion. Some of the liturgies show true Graduals and Alleluias, but this was not the case generally. Most, however, do show true Sequences in the few Masses that call for them."

They note however that the Requiem Mass retained all of the Latin propers. It is worth noting that a break down of these general characteristics can be found on the site itself in a handy diagram format.

Perhaps most interesting, the author of the site gives the texts of the Ordo Missae of the following liturgical variants from the Native American missions:

Akwesasne (Mohawk)
Source: Kaiatonsera Teieriwakwatha (1890) for the mission of St. Regis or Akwesasne

Kanesatake (Mohawk)
Source: Tsiatak Nihonon8entsiake (1865) for the mission of the Lake of the Two Mountains or Kahnesatake, which used both Mohawk and Algonquin in the liturgy.

Oka (Algonquin)
Source: Niina Aiamie Masinaigan (1898) for the Algonquins of Temiscaming, D'Abitibi, Grand Lac, Lake Timagaming, Metadjiwang and Weymontaching

Lorette (Huron)
Source: Manuscript "Recueil de Chants Hurons", written by Paul Tsa8enhohi for the mission of Lorette

Old Town (Penobscot)
Source: Vetromile's Indian Good Book (1858)

The site lists two others which they don't have texts for:

Listiguj (Micmac)
Saguenay (Montagnais)

Again, comments and discussion would be most welcome.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: