We have a sizeable Hispanic membership in our parish: one of our five weekend Masses is in Spanish. So in most years my 6th-grade class has at least one child who speaks some Spanish. Having a Spanish-speaker is an asset, because Spanish words often express concepts in a different way than the equivalent English word. Here are a few examples.
“Honorary sons & daughters, what’s the business with St. Peter and the keys? Well, Jesus gave him the keys. Yes, to his car? Jesus didn’t have a car! Peter got the keys to heaven. Oh yeah, heaven. I bet they were huge keys, heaven being so big and all. They weren’t real keys. Well, put it this way, heaven is a spiritual place, so the keys would need to be spiritual not physical, but they might still be real. Anyway, before the key business, Jesus changed the name of the guy he gave the keys to. What was his name before Jesus called him Peter…y’all have heard this before….(on the board I spell in slow motion: ‘S’…’I’)… Simon? Yeah, Simon. What did Jesus say to Simon when he changed his name? Do come along, y’all know this: Thou art Banana and…ThouartPeteranduponthisRockIbuildmyChurch! Yes! What language is that? What language? Is it Chinese? Chinese? No, it’s English! Yes. Sometimes English doesn’t make things in the Bible as clear as other languages do. Like Simon’s new name…Peter! Yes…what’s Peter mean? Rock. Right. Do we ever say, “Peter broke the window with a peter?” What? Do we say, “I stubbed my toe on a peter”? Ha! We say rock. Right. We might also say stone. ‘Peter’ is just a name to us in English. But let’s see… ¿Quién aquí habla Español? Who speaks Spanish? Me! OK m’ija, digame, cómo se llama Peter en Español? How do we say Peter in Spanish (always repeat in English)? Pedro. Yes…who already knew Pedro is Spanish for Peter? Almost everybody, good. [I write Peter and Pedro on the board] Hija, when Jesus changes Simon’s name to Pedro, how does he say ‘rock’? Roca. Oops, sorry, how does he say ‘stone’? Oh…piedra! He says “piedra”. Yes, ‘piedra’ [piedra goes on the board beside Pedro]. Y’all see, it’s more clear in Spanish that Peter is the Rock, the Stone, the words are almost the same. And by the way, how do the French say Peter? Pierre? Yes, Pierre, which is also exactly how they say stone [Pierre goes on the board under Peter, Pedro, and piedra]. It’s perfectly clear to the French that Peter is the Stone. In French you can say, “Pierre broke the window with a pierre.”
For all you catechists, here are the translations:
In Spanish: “tú eres Pedro, y sobre esta piedra edificaré mi iglesia”
In French: “tu es Pierre, et que sur cette pierre je bâtirai mon Église”
Here are some more (not all) occasions that I seek assistance from my Spanish-speakers. Languages are never a separate issue, but part of the fabric of the lesson plan, so these bits don’t reflect their wider context:
Class, what’s ‘Christmas’ mean? It’s when Jesus was born. Yes, good, that’s what Christmas is…but what does Christmas literally mean? Oh, Christ’s Mass. Yes again. And you’re right, it celebrates Jesus’ birth. ¿Quién aquí habla Español? Who speaks Spanish? Me! ¿Cómo se llama Christmas en Español? Navidad. Yes [Navidad goes up on the board]. Does it mean ‘Christ’s Mass’? No, it just means the baby is born. Right. In English we say Nativity [on the board]. Somebody tell me, what’s a Nativity scene? It’s the little statues of baby Jesus and the 3 Kings and all. Yes…one reason I like the word Navidad is that it reminds me of Jesus being born in that little humble stable.
Who remembers the Hebrew word for Passover? It starts with a “P”! Yeah, that’s good enough, here we go: P-e-s-a-c-h [on the board], Pesach. And the Last Supper was a Pesach meal, but for the New Covenant…and who is the New Passover Lamb? Jesus. Yes. We call Jesus the Paschal Lamb: Pascha [on the board] is our word for Pesach. Was the lamb sacrificed at that dinner? No, on the cross the next day! Yes. We observe the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. The next day is….Good Friday, yes, then Holy Saturday, and then….Easter Sunday! Yes. What word does Easter have in it? Umm….east? Yes, and where does the sun rise? In the East. Yes. The word Easter refers to Springtime, it’s an old pagan word, but now we use it for a Christian holyday…we baptized it so it’s a Christian word now. You can’t baptize a word! You’re right, I don’t mean it literally. Hey, cómo se llama Easter en Español? What’s Spanish for Easter? Pascua! Yes, P-a-s-c-u-a [on the board under Pesach]. That’s how the Spanish say Pesach. Most countries say “Passover/ Pesach” when we say “Easter” because the whole 4 days from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday make the Passover, the Pesach, of the New Covenant.
So, it’s Lent. I notice there’s more daylight now when y’all get dropped off, why is that? The days are getting longer. Yes, it’s almost Spring, and the days get longer…they lengthen [on the board]. Sometimes we say Lent, sometimes we say Lenten season. Look now (I use my finger to erase letters in lengthen so it says len-t-en), why do we call it the Lenten season? Because the days lengthen! Yes, and Lent is short for Lenten. ¿Quién aquí habla Español? Me! Honorary son, what’s Spanish for Lent? Cuaresma [on the board]. How many days is Lent, Cuaresma? Forty. How do you know? Because cuaresma is like the word for forty. Which is? Cuarenta [on the board]. Class, what’s up with forty, why not 38 days? Because Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, yes, and the Israelites were in the desert for…forty years! Yes, good. Forty is an important number in the Bible. In these cases it signifies a time of preparation.
From the class on “keep holy the LORD’s day”:
We know from our Genesis reading that God created for 12 days, and… no six! yes six, and rested for three… no, one day! yes, right. Six and one. And Shabbat is how to say rest in Hebrew, so the day of rest is called…Sabbath [on the board]! Yes…what day of the week is that? Saturday. Yes. Who is Saturday named after? Oh, Saturn. Yes, a Roman make-believe God. Now I need a Spanish-speaker to tell me how to say Saturday in Spanish. It’s Sabado [on the board]. Yes, does it mean Saturn? No, it just means Sabbath. So is Saturday our Sabbath, our day of rest? No it’s on Sunday now. Yes, the Christian Sabbath is on Sunday. Jews have always kept Sabbath on Sabado, Saturday. And in Spanish, Italian and Greek, Christians still call the sixth day ‘Sabbath,’ even though Sunday is the Christian Sabbath day.
And from there we discuss why the New Covenant Sabbath is on Sunday.
There are other occasions that Spanish contributes to our class, but these vignettes should be enough to show how it can be done.
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