Good day all. My recent posts on microphones and choirs, as well as the issue of the new translation of the Roman Missal generated some great comments from you. Thanks for those. jdonliturgy said the following regarding the new translation:
"Most non-liturgist Catholics I have spoken to about the changes not only think they are another pointless burden from Rome, but are mildly nervous about having to make the changes at all. While it certainly is a laudable idea to create all this new music, even in a singing parish this may well create an added burden for parish musicians. They will be perceived as the "bad guys" introducing the new texts as what appears to be a musical change."
This is a sentiment I have heard over and over again from musicians. I have come to understand at least two ways that people react to change. If they perceive change happening organically, from within, they are much more willing to embrace it. Think, for instance, of a company that decides to change the way they do business. They name the problem, bring many people around the table to discuss ways to better serve their customers. They then map out a plan of action, set timelines and goals, as well as options for the future. Employees are brought on board throughout the process. When the change is implemented, some resistance is there, but it is very low. Think, also, of another company that takes a different approach. Employees arrive at work one day to be told that a major change will be implemented the following week. The decision was made by the senior management team, with no consultation. Even if the change is the very best idea in the world, most employees will react negatively.
I have asked musicians how they perceive the impending changes in the translation. Do they see what is about to happen reflecting the first company example or the second? The vast majority say "the second." The sentiments are reflected in this statement: "What is Rome doing to us?" I think the real issue here is an ecclesiological one. Catholics here in the United States often times do not have a sense that we are connected with over a billion brother and sister Catholics around the world. Rome is far away and perceived as dictatorial. In a democratic society, we balk at the suggestion that someone is going to make a decision that directly affects us, without our having had a "vote." The way the Church works appears to fly in the face of this kind of thinking. Whether we want to admit that we like it or not, decisions made in Rome do affect us, as well as the rest of the Catholic world, most often without our "vote." But I do believe that the challenge is for Catholics here in the United States to remember that what does occur in Rome is actually occurring from within—from within the same Church of which we are a part. I am not advocating blind submission here, because I do believe that Catholics should speak up to their pastoral leaders when they have strong feelings about an issue. As a Catholic publisher, we certainly hear from Catholics with strong feelings on liturgical issues, and we try patiently to direct them to the appropriate pastoral leaders to listen to their points of view.
My hopes for the new translation have more to do with the opportunities the change affords us rather than the challenges. There will be challenges, though. When the changes begin, I think that many Catholics will be outraged. Do they have the right to be? If the change is one that creates alienation, a decline in faith, or a decrease in Mass attendance over time, then I think people have the right to be outraged. If the new translation is not easily proclaimed, or if it is not intelligible to clergy and those of us in the pews, we will have a very difficult time. My hope is that the period of catechesis leading up to and during the change will help all to appropriate the new texts and help weave them into the fabric of our liturgical prayer. Without catechesis during this time, we will be dealing with a critically difficult problem. Herein lies the opportunity: good catechesis.
The initial period will require lots of listening on behalf of pastoral leaders, especially clergy and musicians. And I know in my Catholic heart that we will get through this initial stage. I am praying that people will not be alienated from the community they love. As a Catholic publisher, we will do everything we can to provide the very best musical settings for the new texts. Folks, this is going to happen. When we emerge from the initial phase of the change, we, hopefully, will be stronger in faith, because we all know that as Catholics, we gotta sing and we gotta pray.
Listen to this snippet from Steve Warner's All Will Be Well. This is my prayer for all of us.