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Lecture examines Hispanic Catholicism

Natalie Bailey | Thursday, September 25, 2003

Timothy Matovina, associate professor of theology at Notre Dame and director of the Cushwa Center for American Catholicism, spoke on the topic, “Guadalupe and the Crucified One: Hispanic Ways of Being Catholic,” to continue Saint Mary’s Center for Spirituality annual fall lecture series, “There is more than one way to be Catholic.”

Matovina shared his experience of how the Hispanic culture practices the Catholic faith. He said he became aware of one difference in religious expectations just from delivering lectures.

“I got used to members of the audience coming up to me and telling me how I had a good insight or had made them look at something in a new way,” he said. “Hispanic audiences tend to tell me that I have touched their heart.”

Matovina noted the Hispanic emphasis on the crucifixion of Christ and the Virgin Mary, specifically Our Lady of Guadalupe. He also shared an observation that there is a difference in the focus of spirituality.

Matovina noticed this when he attended an English Mass and then a Spanish Mass in Texas on Easter Sunday. The difference became apparent when the English Mass closed with the song, “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today,” putting the emphasis on triumphant rejoicing. The Spanish Mass closed with the song, “We Are a People on the March,” emphasizing that although Christ has risen and redemption is in sight, we are not there yet.

In his time spent in San Antonio, Matovina also witnessed firsthand the relational Christology of the Hispanic population. The community was not especially receptive to the Vatican II call to make the church more Christocentric by removing statues of saints. Parishioners asked, “When was Jesus by himself in the Bible?”

Since venerating saints on the same level as Jesus causes a theological problem, Matovina suggested this is perhaps an opportunity for evangelization.

“The purpose of this lecture series is not that there is one way [to worship], though,” Matovina said. “The many ways of being Catholic are mutually enriching.”

One particularly beautiful practice Matovina believes should be implemented into the English celebration is veneration as a grieving process on the evening of Good Friday.

“The people accompany Jesus and Mary on their day of great suffering with hope that Jesus and Mary will accompany them in their deepest suffering,” he said.

This practice is indicative of Hispanics’ pull toward sharing directly in the suffering of Christ.

“It is not about trying to deny suffering,” Matovina said. “It is about trying to embrace life as it is and hope there is something more.”

The concluding lecture of the series will be Tuesday, Sept. 30, with Rosemary Carbine, assistant professor of Religious Studies at Holy Cross College in Massachusetts. She will speak on the topic “Breathing Lessons: An Introduction to Eastern Catholic Churches.”

Kathleen Dolphin, director of the Center for Spirituality, organized the lecture series.