Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Translation Tuesday - Caring for All

Welcome to another installment of "New Translation Tuesday."

This past Saturday, while waiting in line for refreshments during a break in my presentation to ministers of care at Addolorata Villa here in suburban Chicago, a woman in line with me began to ask some questions about the upcoming translation changes. Her first question: "How do you think the regular people in the pews will react?" I told her that my hopes were that there would be solid preparation and explanation of the changes beforehand so that people would not be caught unaware. She then began to comment about how she thought that people would generally react negatively to the whole thing. She explained that she has been involved in some kind of parish ministry since the early 1970's. She said that in the past few years she has witnessed a series of backward steps, unravelling the intent of the Second Vatican Council. She mused that this new set of translations is another backward step.

I did not have the time to engage in a conversation about such deep issues. I wanted to ask her what she perceived as the "backward steps." I could guess that she was talking about the restoration of hierarchical terms in Roman documents and documents we receive from the USCCB. She may have been talking about the tightening of rubrics around the celebration of the Eucharist. She could have been talking about the whole issue of reporting "liturgical abuses." In a sense, it doesn't really matter what issues have led her to come to her conclusions. The fact is that she has come to the conclusion that, in her view, there has been a so-called "retrenchment" taking place.

Folks, we have to be prepared not only to implement a new translation of the Missale Romanum. We have to be prepared to engage a person like this woman; a dedicated parish minister whose viewpoints may differ from our own. For her, it's not just about a translation change; it is something far deeper. She sees the Church going in the wrong direction and sees the new translation as symptomatic of that change. I know there are some who would simply brush her perceptions away; telling her that she is the one who is going in the wrong direction. There are others who would agree with her wholeheartedly; people who would organize picket lines in front of parishes denouncing the new translation and calling for a return to the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. Those of us entrusted with the pastoral care of all of those God entrusts to us have a difficult job ahead of us. We need to care for those who will see this new translation as a move in the wrong direction; we need to care for those who will see this new translation as move in the right direction. And, we will need to care for those whose viewpoint falls somewhere in the middle; these are, I believe, Catholics whose engagement in liturgical matters does not mean as much as perhaps our own engagement does. My great hope is that the new translation will be a time to wake up those who have settled into the great malaise. Perhaps this will be the opportunity to help them engage in what is actually being celebrated week in and week out: the paschal mystery.

Well, enough of my musings for now. Feel free to comment.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Anonymous said...

I just read this post on Pray Tell and want to thank you for it. What puzzles me is that so few have been doing catechesis on this. When I was diocesan director of Liturgy for the Diocese of Savannah,1985-91, I was given "would-be" re-translations of the Mass by my bishop to review all the way back to 1989. These were preliminary. The first ones shocked me, for they were very much in the vein of the second collect in the sacramentary. There was even a move to change the order of the Mass a bit, eliminate the Gloria during the Easter Season for an Easter Festival hymn (which I think the Lutherans do) and some other silly things. But when I became a pastor in 1991, I began telling the people that change was coming. I thought a lot sooner. Then since 2004 I continued to do so in my new parish.
I've always presented the changes, even if I personally wonder about some, in a positive light. I've printed all of the changed people's parts in one of our monthly newsletters and I have (illicitly) experienced with the priest's parts of the Mass at both daily and Sunday Masses, asking for feedback--all of which has been positive except for one person who didn't like "and for many." The bishops' website on the new translation is in our bulletin for them to reference.
For the two past weeks we have begun to elimnate the lame duck English parts of the congregation in favor of Latin, for the greetings and preface dialogue. I've told them that as soon as we are "licitly" allowed to implement the new English ones we will. But in the interiim, we're using Latin. They already know one Latin setting of the Sanctus and Agnus Dei, which we have done for several years during Lent and Advent. So during Lent we'll return to these for the interim and during the season of Easter we'll teach them the Latin Gloria in the "People's Mass Book "revised" which we use. So far, so good and the people seem good with it, although there remain those who simply don't understand. But we are not giving up on the catechesis and then reflecting the following week on what we did the previous week and why. Fr. Allan J. McDonald, Pastor, St. Joseph Church, Macon, GA

jdonliturgy said...

Gerry - so far every conversation I have had with non-liturgist people in the pews has pretty much been similar to the one you had with this woman. Across the board, and in more than one parish, people are not looking forward to the changes, for a variety of reasons, theological, emotional and practical. Since I worship in a very liberal Franciscan parish, where the last round of posture changes was pretty much ignored by all, including the clergy, there seems to be a consensus from many in the pews that we will simply continue to do our own thing and Rome can go fish.

From parish musicians, on the other hand, all I sense is fear of the unknown... that we may lose familiar Mass settings.

anne said...

Most people I speak with about this issue convey the same feelings as that women. I keep wondering (maybe hoping) if, after all, permission was granted for celebrating the Tridentine liturgy, would it not only make sense to petition for permission to continue using the present missal? I for one am not happy with this new translation. That being said, I would do whatever is best for my parish,even if I disagree. All communities are different. I would do my best to prepare people and stay positive with any instruction, catechesis etc.

Anonymous said...

there seems to be a consensus from many in the pews that we will simply continue to do our own thing and Rome can go fish.

With all due respect, and I mean this sincerely:

Why continue to consider yourselves "Roman Catholics" if "Rome can go fish"?

I could care less about what the Anglican Church decides to do...and I correspondingly don't consider myself to be an Anglican. Nor do I adhere to the requirements of Orthodox Judaism because ...well...I'm not an Orthodox Jew.

I don't follow the beliefs of the Catholic church because I'm Catholic... I am Catholic because I follow the beliefs of the Catholic Church. I would be interested in hearing how you set this right in your own mind. Is it just that you don't think these things are that important?

Chironomo said...

Anne said;

would it not only make sense to petition for permission to continue using the present missal?

Reality check...we will still be using the present Missal. The Missal hasn't changed, just the translation. The two situations are not really analogous.

Of course, and I tire of saying so, you are not obligated to use the new translation. You may, always and everywhere in the universal Church, use the Latin texts.

Geometricus said...

Thanks you for your thoughtful article. I think need to get going being specific with people about things like this:

LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Maiestatem tuam, Domine, suppliciter deprecamur,
ut, sicut nos Corporis et Sanguinis sacrosancti
pascis alimento,
ita divinae naturae facias esse consortes.

LITERAL TRANSLATION: (by Fr. J. Zuhlsdorf)
We suppliantly beseech your majesty, O Lord,
that, just as you feed us now
upon the provisions of the most holy Body and Blood,
just so you may make us to be the partakers of the divine nature.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Almighty Father,
may the body and blood of your Son,
give us a share in his life.

An article should start appearing in every bulletin pointing out the nature of the present translation and the rich language we are all missing out on in the experience of our worship. Not neccesarily with Fr. Z’s extremely literal translation, but possibly with the new translation, so people can start to get a sense of the difference.

I think once people see that the reason for the new translation is something new and exciting, something mysterious and beautiful, they will begin to come around. We should show pictures of the Sistine Chapel ceiling before and after the latest restoration, and make the comparison that we are getting the original intent of the Church (who has the mind of Christ) with this new translation. Yes, there are a few surprises, but it will take a vision the good, the true and beautiful to overcome people’s fear of the unknown.

anne said...

Thanks for the correction Chironomo but I'm quite aware of what "reality" is. Turning 60 this year and I have witnessed a lot as a Catholic, both good and not so good. Don't need a check thank you very much!

Chironomo said...

But Anne...

Why then ask for "permission" to continue using a Missal that you will still be using? I have seen this argument in a number of places and it makes no sense at all. The Motu Proprio of 2007 granted a specific permission to make use of a Missal distinct from that which is the norm for the purpose of establishing two forms of one Rite. The new translation is not a new Missal...it is a new translation of the Ordinary Form. There are already permissions to make use of a variety of translations of that Missal (English, French, Spanish, etc..) but as far as I know, there is only ONE translation of each official language allowed to be in use at any one point in time unless there is some sort of "interim period" established for purposes of implementation.

Please, I wasn't being disrespectful...if you realized that it is the same Missal, then why say what you said? If you didn't realize that to be the case, then I was pointing out the reality.

This is a serious issue and the language and terminology needs to be kept straight if we are to hope for any success in conveying the truth.

The Mass has always said "And with your Spirit", and that Christ is "consubstantial" with the Father and His sacrifice has always been offered "for many" (actually "for the many")....these are not new things, they are just accurate translations of what is actually there. To give the impression that "Rome" has somehow changed the Mass to say that the sacrifice is "for many" instead of "for all" is a misrepresentation. I'm not saying that you are claiming this, but this has been put forward by some critics.

In other words, and not to be obtuse, the changes are not really "changes" at all, but more like clarifications. As one who is relatively facile with Latin, the differences are striking and at times quite vexing since most of the faithful out in the pews are not fluent in Latin. If the purpose of using the vernacular is to allow the faithful to better understand the Mass texts, then the translations need to be of the Mass texts and not of some other texts. There is a difference between "pro multis" (for the many) and "pro omnibus" (for all). The Mass text says "pro multis", so why are we saying "for all" in the translation. These are two very different things, not only in terms of language but also in terms of theology.

And so the question would be, "should the Holy See grant permission to continue using a translation that is not accurate?". The answer would very likely be "no".

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Chironomo, ALL the Biblical scholars that I know (some of whom are well-known and highly respected) say that "for many" translates properly, given the Semitic background of the text, as "for all." This is just one example of an "improvement" in the new translation that is just wrong. If one goal is to bring the translation into closer alignment with scriptural texts, the translators should learn the nuances of Biblical translation and understand how certain terms are perceived in the receiving language. "For many" is understood in English as excluding some; this is not the sense of the original language in the scripture. "For many" is therefore both linguistically and theologically incorrect. Christ's blood was NOT shed "for many"; it was shed for ALL. We ought to be able to at least get the center of the Eucharistic Prayer right!

Chironomo said...


I don't think you mean that "for many" translates as "for all", I think you are saying that "pro multis" should be interpreted to mean "for all" in this context.

What you are saying certainly squares with the biblical scholarship, and even, although it is a really fine point of semantics, with the theological implications of which words are used to describes Christ's redemptive sacrifice. What it doesn't square with, however, is why the words used in the Canon of the Mass are "pro multis" rather than "pro omnibus"....phrases that are common, but not used interchangeably elsewhere.

In other words, if "for all" (pro omnibus) better describes the theology and intent, why has it historically been "for many" (pro multis) when both phrases are used throughout scripture and have specific meanings elsewhere. This doesn't make sense unless the argument is that it was mistranlated from some pre-Latin source and just "never caught", which is to then claim that nearly 1700 or so years of theology has somehow overlooked something that we see as glaringly obvious.

So in a sense, I agree with you about Christ's salvation being for all, but I'm not ready to jump in and "correct" something in a text with great theological impact as though we are somehow smarter and wiser than all who have come before us.

Kathy said...

It's very, very common to refer to the new translation as the "new missal." From the perspective of those in the pews, it is "new" in the sense that new words, new music, new responses etc. must be learned. That is good to the extent that this may inspire people to pay closer attention to the words and their meaning, but it is not a change without some cost. The familiarity of the current translation may cause some complacency, but it also inspires a sense of comfort, connection, and community--exactly as we would expect from any established and meaningful ritual. It's academic hair-splitting to insist that this isn't, in fact, a "new missal." For the worshipers, this translation includes much that is new, and phrases such as "new Roman Missal" and "new Holy Roman missal" are already in wide use by those who are thinking through the implications of the change Even on the USCCB website devoted to the new translation, it is called the "new Roman Missal" at several points.