Thursday, May 21, 2009

More On the New Translation of the Missale Romanum






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. 

10 comments:

Chironomo said...

The USCCB document on liturgical music, Sing To The Lord, was released in November of 2007. Many of the changes that will accompany the new Missal translation, particularly the singing of the dialogues and prefaces using the specified tones in the Missal, are strongly encouraged in SttL. Further, the singing of the Ordinary of the Mass using the traditional Latin chants is also strongly urged in SttL.

The only "changes" that will occur with the new translation will be the actual texts to be sung. If you are already singing the dialogues (as we should be), then it is a very minor change to insert "and with your spirit" in place of "and also with you". Most of the change is in the Priests parts, and that is a distinct issue from the reaction of the assembly.

If you are already singing the Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei using the Latin Chant (as is very clearly indicated in SttL), then the adaptation of these chants to the new English translation using the modified melodies that will be in the new Missal is really a very minor issue and can be done over time since it will not be an "urgent" matter as the assembly already knows the Latin versions and can use them in the meantime. Clearly the Bishops were aware of what was coming and were attempting to prepare us for it. Take note of a comment made in the USCCB introduction to the music for the new Missal concerning the English Chant melody given for the Sanctus:

But it was decided to imitate the Latin with its displaced accent more closely here, in part because the Latin setting is likely to be sung with great frequency by congregations in the future, which argues for similarity between the Latin and English settings.Why would the USCCB think that the Latin chant is "likely to be sung with great frequency" in the future? Are they maybe assuming that we would take the hint in Sing To The Lord?

The point is...these "changes" will only be sudden and disruptive if they are not properly prepared for. The USCCB document was issued with an eye towards readying parishes for these coming changes. It is incumbent on us to take heed and prepare accordingly. If we don't, then whose fault is it that the changes are disruptive?

Anonymous said...

This past December, in Chicago we held a study day for the anniversary of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. In my break-out group, there was much negative critique of the new translation (some of the strongest came from people who'd not even read any of it); I will admit I agreed with some of it. But what struck me most was the comment made by a young woman in her late 20s/early 30s - who had no living memory of the previous English translations, much less the Latin Mass - who said "I hear all these stories about how people objected to the Mass in English and how closed to the Holy Spirit they were. But now we're here with a different translation and it sounds like nobody is prepared to let the Holy Spirit work. I don't want to be one of those people. I don't want to be one of the ones everyone else talks about as not being open to the Spirit. If you expected people to be open to the Spirit back then, shouldn't you be open now?"

It reminded me (though I was in elementary school at the time) that there was a lot of pain, anger, frustration, and much uncharitable action taken in the late 1960s and early 1970s over the translation of the Missal. But in the end, the Holy Spirit was at work. How much moreso will the Spirit be at work this time if we all do our best to cooperate?

Scelata said...

"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."

I agree, but we need to ask where that sad ignorance is coming from.
Several years ago in this translation process, one of the American bishops who opposed what others saw as a heightening of the language, or an increase in the langauges sacrality, complained that the new language was "too British."

What kind of silly jingoism is that?

When one of our Cardinals looks at a new and authoritative Instruction and says, well, it's working out fine the way we're already doing it in Los Angeles, we don't need to implement that, what does that do to an American Catholic's chance of understanding himself as a member of the UNIVERSAL Church?

"I am praying that people will not be alienated from the community"

I think such "alienation" may be a little bit like hell -- anybody separated from God and His Church chooses it of his own free will.

And woe unto musicians, or bishops, or priests, or catechists or liturgists or theologians who try to take other people with them in their alienation.

I receive a newsletter/liturgy planner, (not from your company, another of the major publishers,) and I read their site online; for months now they have been made or quoted snide remarks and little digs, as well as some very misleadingly edited quotes from authoritative documents.
Will they not bear a certain responsibility for any alienation?

I showed some small children the actual Missal words, and then the various translations of what they currently say as, "and also with you."
Not a one failed to understand why were were now, (or rather within a few years,) going to
"get it right."

I think you're right that many of us musicians "on the ground" do see the impending change as arbitrary, and implemented suddenly and without warning or consultation; but those who do have their own willful (I use that word deliberately, though it may seem harsh,)ignorance to blame.

The process has seemed to be going on for a lifetime.
Modern communication methods make information about the process almost instantly accessible.

If they choose not to keep abreast of what's happening, perhaps they should not be in positions where they have liturgical responsibilities in their parishes.

"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."

I am not sure how I feel about the claim that there is a "right to be outraged."
Were hoards who defected in the wake of the reforms in the 60s and 70s, which seem NOT to have been organic, and NOT to have been mandated by the Council right to be outraged?

Terrific blog, by the way.

Is WLP going to be at the CMAA Colloquium in Chicago?

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

Chironomo said...

....what Scaleta said!

But let's not open up the giant can of worms about what people are free to choose...just keep in mind that when you disagree with the Church SO strongly that it would make you leave the Church altogether...that may be a necessary even if (hopefully) temporary remedy.

Jerry G. said: I am not advocating blind submission hereA serious question... how is this "blind" submission different from the submission which is required of us as Catholics? What "issues" are we free to disagree with? It's easy to pick and choose and submit to those things that you're on board with... the challenge is to accept and submit to the Church in her entirety. In that sense, I disagree that we have to "speak up" to our "Pastoral Leaders" (do you mean Priests/ Bishops?) about issues on which we disagree with the church, unless it is for the purpose of seeking a change of heart so as to come to accept the Church's position.

This is true for the BIG issues (Divinity of Christ/ Real Presence/ Primacy of the Catholic Church) as well as for the lesser issues. WE need to constantly be praying for US to change...not that the Church change to fit us.

Anonymous said...

Chironomo said...
"We need to constantly be praying for US to change...not that the Church change to fit us."

We ARE the Church, Chironomo.

Church - Ekklesia - the assembly

I'm going to take this to the extreme. You say "I disagree that we have to "speak up" to our "Pastoral Leaders"...about issues on which we disagree with the church, unless it si for the purpose of seeking a change of heart so as to come to accept the Church's position."

Whose change of heart? The Church's? Ours?
They are one and the same - one Body, many parts.

So are you saying when the Church sins, we should be silent? Should the ekklesia have remained silent when those outside of the Church were killed in the name of 'conversion' or the propagation of the faith - or when the CHurch covers up sexual abuse - or when the Church is silent on racism and genocide?

Many of these are sins of the past - many of which the Church has apologized. I pray that you believe, as I, that we should not be silent in these cases. However, I question your logic. I don't think ANY issue in the Church is a black and white as you would like it to be. The Church is still a human-run institution. It IS the ekklesia, the people of God, of which you and I are members - imperfect and sinful.

It isn't that simple.

And neither is this argument.

Chironomo said...

Anon...

The examples you cite of very legitimate objections to immoral actions, and the concept of complaining to your Pastor because you are "upset" by the new translations of the Missal are very obviously worlds apart.

And no, I do not believe that WE are the Church in the sense that the church is imperfect as we are imperfect. That is, I believe, a form of heresy to suggest so (and I don't mean that in an accusing way, but rather as a factual one.).

The CHURCH is founded by Christ on Peter, and through the Apostolic succesion of Peter, and by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, perfect as we are not perfect. I don't believe that the Church teaches that it is a fully human institution, but rather a divinely rooted one.

Anonymous said...

Other Anonymous...

I worry that you seem to be claiming that the Church is an institution created by Man..or are you saying that we are the Church in the sense that we, together with the Bishops in union with the Pope make up the Church on earth? That, together with the Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering ARE the Church!

If what you mean though, is that the Church is what we decide it is, and it's beliefs are what we believe, and that the faithful here on earth are the Church in it's entirety...I would have to say no.

And there is a big difference between submitting to a teaching of the Church (we are so obliged) and cooperating with evil acts committed by others, even if they are Church officials (THAT we are obliged to speak out against!)

I don't think that going to your Pastor and arguing with him about the new translations rises to the level of speaking out against evil acts commited by others. That falls into the category of things we are obliged to submit to.

rorycooney said...

"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."

Jerry - this seems a little disingenuous even for someone with as sunny and optimistic an outlook as you have, rather like the folks who keep telling us that "full, active, and conscious participation" is an interior act, and all we really need to do is pay attention and watch the priest (and choir, and organist) do their thing, and that's full, active, conscious participation.

The issue isn't whether the changes are organic or not: the issue is what kind of organism it is. I'm certainly not in a position, no do I want to, block the implementation of this translation in a parish. If the pastor wanted to implement, I would cooperate. But the emperor has no clothes. The clunkiness of the latinate transliteration hangs itself. No amount of music, whether it's chant or Proulx or Galipeau or anyone else, can do any more than put lipstick on the pig (if you'll forgive the overused political metaphor.)

Chironomo said...

Rorycooney...

One person objecting to the new translations does so on the ground that "We are the Church" as though we decide the teachings and faith...but then you're saying that what happens in Rome is not coming from within the church of which we are a part. Just finding that a bit humorous...are we the church, or aren't we? The objection seems to be that we are being "made" to accept a translation by "the Church"...so clearly "WE" and "THE CHURCH" are two different entities...and yet the same argument goes on to say that because WE are THE CHURCH we should have a hand in these decisions. Does that make any sense? Or is the root problemt that WE are not THE CHURCH, but many of those objecting think that we should be?

I'm a bit curious about the wording in your comment above though... you say "IF the Pastor wanted to implement" the new translation. I don't think this is a matter of choice once it gets to that point in time. The new translation IS and WILL be the Missal in use, and it is not the Pastors choice whether to use it or not, and it's not the musicians choice either. The implementation is up to us to carry out, and we can do so well, or we can do so poorly. If the translation of the Gloria, for instance, seems "clunky", then use the Latin chant...it is decidedly not "clunky" and has a long history of successful use to demonstrate that being so. We use it in my parish, as well as the Latin Sanctus and Agnus Dei with no problem.

The complaint that the new translations are "too clunky" or use "too many unfamiliar words" and that the Latin texts and chants are "too difficult" really just sells short the intellect of the Catholics out in the pews. If you and many others making this claim are right, it is truly miraculous that the Catholic Church not only survived, but flourished for nearly 2000 years with clunky texts and musical settings that were too difficult for anybody to sing. How in the world did we manage!

Chironomo said...

Rorycooney said:

"...rather like the folks who keep telling us that "full, active, and conscious participation" is an interior act, and all we really need to do is pay attention and watch the priest (and choir, and organist) do their thing, and that's full, active, conscious participation."

Do you mean "folks" like Pope Benedict (Feast of Faith, Liturgy and Church Music), or the USCCB in Sing To The Lord(SttL #12)? And even there, what you're claiming is a bit of a stretch. The point to be made is that participation must first be internal. To put it in academic terms...the exterior participation must be "informed" by the interior participation to be "conscious" participation. Otherwise it is merely "active", and therefore not "full". The interior participation is a part of "full" participation.