Monday, August 3, 2009

Pray for Our Priests: Meeting the Challenge of the New English Translation

Good Monday morning all. I hope your weekend was safe and relaxing. My Sunday began with the 9:30 A.M. Mass at St. James. Great music, great preaching, hospitality galore, and a cool breeze blowing through the hall (our church has been closed for several months now). Shown above is a flyer that details the summer happenings at St. James.

One of the strange things that occurs at Mass on Sundays at St. James has to do with the fact that when the city of Chicago built the elevated Green Line subway line, they ran it along State Street on the south side. The train tracks are about thirty feet behind our church and hall. When we were in the church and the trains rolled by, we could hear the rumbling pretty clearly. Now, in the hall, with all the windows open, we hear the train approach very clearly. Everything literally has to stop when the train passes by. Lectors stop reading. The homilist stops preaching. Ah, the joys of urban parish life!

One of the things I am going to miss when the new English translation of the Missale Romanum is released is the optional alternative opening prayer, or collect, at Sunday Mass. These were prayers that were composed using original material, hence they were not translations of the official Latin texts. The alternative opening prayer for this past Sunday, the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time is this:

God our Father,
gifts without measure flow from your goodness
to bring us your peace.
Our life is your gift.
Guide our life's journey,
for only your love makes us whole.
Keep us strong in your love.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The new English translation jettisons these alternative opening prayers, since they are not found in the Missale Romanum. I'll miss these. I'll miss a phrase like "only your love makes us whole." The new translations of the opening prayers—at least the ones I have seen—are going to take some getting used to. I am going to try my best to pay closer attention to these prayers, in an effort to be better prepared to open my heart to listen to God's word. I hope that priests who pray them will prepare them well. One priest recently said to me, "Well, it looks like I am not going to be able to just pray these prayers like I always have, first seeing them when the server opens the book in front of me at Mass." I know there are priests out there who prepare for the proclamation of these texts, like they prepare for the proclamation of the Gospel, like they prepare for the delivery of the homily. It's going to take some time for these new prayers to become a part of the fabric of proclamation. 

I watched my pastor this past weekend beautifully proclaim Eucharistic Prayer 3. After chanting the preface dialogue and the preface, and after we sang the Sanctus, he prayed the prayer by heart, addressing the prayer to God the Father. It's going to be pretty jarring for him when the new translations of these prayers are implemented. It's a good idea for us to be praying for our priests right now, because they are facing a challenging task. From what I have seen, there are some awkward moments in the prayers. I am sure it will be difficult at first, but, as in all things, we will hopefully grow into them.

I hope this new week is a blessed one for you. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Scelata said...

Priests do need our prayers.

"One priest recently said to me, 'Well, it looks like I am not going to be able to just pray these prayers like I always have, first seeing them when the server opens the book in front of me at Mass.'"

That's just sad.
I know priests are extraordinarily busy, but looking at the words you are supposed to be praying on behalf of the faithful, and making intelligible to them, ahead of time would seem like some kind of priority.

If the new translation will force him to do some preparation, that's a point in its favor, not a point against it.

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

catholicsensibility said...

The poverty of the Roman Missal is that it still stands on a one-year cycle, when the Lectionary is three. I'm in agreement that a little more preparation for liturgy by priests has the potential to be good. I only wish that the CDWDS had put more elbow grease into composing the original. It's a strange thing indeed to have the pope promoting Lectio Divina, the bishops' synod advocating a tighter link between the liturgies of the Word and Eucharist, and on the other hand, we can't even get a decent Latin-to-English translation out of ICEL these days.


FJH 3rd said...

CatholicSensibility, the new English translation doesn't affect the three year cycle of readings in the least.