Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Translation Thursday: English as a Second Language

Happy Thursday to you all.

I am safely back at our offices here in Chicago. O, the joys of travel!

Welcome to this edition of "New Translation Thursday."

On Sunday evening, I attended the 5:00 Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan. Here is a photo of the interior of this magnificent church:

WLP's recording artist, Meredith Augustin, is the director of music at this richly diverse parish. If you have never heard Meredith sing, have a listen to this snippet (Give Me Jesus) from her album Deep River. I am one of Meredith's greatest fans—I could listen to her for hours. Her rapport with the community gathered at St. Francis displayed a side of Meredith I rarely see: the parish music director. Her obvious care for the singing assembly drew me right into the liturgy.

And, it got me thinking. Not unlike my parish here in Chicago, St. Francis is a culturally diverse community. As I looked around, it was evident that English was not the first language of many who were in attendance. I have always had empathy for people whose language of prayer—the language they use to pray to God in those deeply personal and contemplative moments—is not necessarily the language they are asked to pray when parishes recite and sing the liturgical texts at Mass. What effect will the new English translation have on people whose first language is not English? Some of you would respond that there is an easy answer: sing and pray in Latin. This might be helpful in large multicultural gatherings of people who do not share any common language. Does replacing one "second " language with another "second" language really address the issue?

When we get to the implementation phase of the new English translation, we will need to be sensitive to those whose "prayer-from-the-heart" language is not English. For Spanish-speakers, it might be an easier adaptation, since the Spanish translation of the Missale Romanum is already much closer to the Latin text. For others, especially those who struggle with their own speaking of the English language, we will need to expend much time, effort, and pastoral care.

I want to recommend once again to readers of this blog a great new series of pamphlets published by Liturgy Training Publications here in Chicago: Revised Roman Missal: Understanding the Revised Mass Texts. This is a good series of pamphlets that will help your assembly gain an understanding for what is about to take place. You can contact the great folks at LTP using this toll free number: 1-800-933-1800.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

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