(During our penitential procession described below, portable loudspeakers (above) enabled us to listen to readings, join in singing psalm responses and answer various prayers of intercession.)
It was a powerful experience to be with 1,800 Franciscan men who didn't converse in the same language literally but who gladly sang in Latin (Psalm responses, Mass parts and hymns such as Adoro Te Devote). Many of the Taize chants that we used were also in Latin.
The friars were also willing to sing in languages that they do not normally speak but could pronounce in Italian, English or Spanish.
Polish was also one of the official languages used in readings, general intercessions and announcements, but I don't remember that the whole group didn't sing anything in Polish.
Our four-day Chapter of Mats began with the singing of verse one of Psalm 133, "How good, how pleasant it is when brothers live as one." On the third day, we had a pilgrimage from St. Mary of the Angels (the Portiuncula) to the lower basilica of St. Francis. It took an hour and 45 mintues, most of it on flat ground, but it got a big steep as we neared the medieval city.
Four friars had portable loudspeakers slung over their shoulders. This enabled us to hear various texts and prayers read in Italian, interspersed with some very simple Latin chants.
On Saturday, our group was waiting in the courtyard at Castelgandolfo for the pope to arrive. We sang in several languages, but the sheer number of Italian friars present meant that they had a pretty easy time finding enough people who knew the words and melodies of hymns popular there.
(While we were waiting in the courtyard at Castelgandolfo, friars sang in several languages.)
Several hymns had a great combination of words and music. I remembered some of the Italian ones from my years there (1985-92) and picked up other ones.
Everyone had a special prayer manual printed up for this International Chapter of Mats. Prayer services, Mass readings, petitions, etc. were printed up in Italian, English, Spanish and Polish. Page numbers would be announced for the hymn section of the prayer manual. Sometimes we sang verses in different languages. The overall effect was very unifying.
Father Cantalamessa, mentioned in an earlier blog, knew that the group had been sitting for a long time before he began his presentation. At one point, he stopped, asked everuyone to stand, raise their hands and sing "Laudato sei, O mio Signore" (Praised be you, O my Lord). Several rounds of that enabled us to listen to the rest of his talk, which he concluded with the hymn "Come, Holy Spirit" (sung in Latin).
Music is indeed a universal language!