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Good Friday: A Bilingual Homily
- Rev. David Garcia


Bilingual Preaching is a real challenge for preachers.  It is not acceptable simply to prepare a homily in English and then translate it into Spanish and fulfill the obligation to communicate the message to Hispanic/bilingual people.  When one switches languages there is also a change of cultures.  Generally speaking, the North American culture is more of an individualistic culture while the Hispanic culture is more of a communal oriented one.  With a different culture, comes different meanings for words and phrases, as well as different images and stories meaningful to the people.

A preacher in a bilingual congregation needs to prepare two homilies, which can be related or distinct.  These two homilies, within the same Mass, can be six to eight minutes each in length.  The first homily should be in only one language and developed around one or more of the readings.  Finishing that homily, the preacher then delivers the second one in the second language. This homily could refer to a different reading or reflect on the same readings as the first homily.

Some bilingual preachers prefer to speak English and Spanish in the same homily, at times switching languages every few sentences or even every few words.  In the opinion and experience of many seasoned bilingual preachers, this approach can be confusing for those who are monolingual and irritating for those who are bilingual. Preaching two brief and culturally appropriate homilies is a respectful and effective way to reach everyone in the congregation. Monolingual people hear one culturally appropriate homily while bilingual people hear two. 





A Conversation with Rev. David Garcia



Questions for Reflection

  1. What is the challenge of bi-lingual preaching?
  2. Fr. Garcia describes his preparation for preaching: pray with scriptures, read commentaries, take notes, reflect, develop an outline, organize material, set the material and preach without texts or notes. Can you see yourself preparing to preach in this manner? What works best for the preacher?
  3. Express in your own words the three-part template for preaching: focus on peoples’ reality; illuminate it with the Word of God; help congregation take message home. 
  4. Do you read the “signs of the times” and relate them to the scriptures?
  5. Are all readings incorporated into the homily, or is there a limited focus?
  6. What are the reasons for selecting a single scripture text as the basis for the homily?
  7. Do you preach to people in light of their experience? Do you use examples that relate to family life, relatives, or friends?
  8. How are the people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds in your congregation
  9. different in their life experience? How are their contexts different? the same?
  10. Does preparing two different homilies make sense to you? Why or why not?