Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: A "Book" that Will Foster Conversation

Happy Tuesday to you all, and welcome to "New Translation Tuesday."

I am blogging today from Times Square in New York City, where I am attending a publishing conference. This morning we listened to Arianna Huffington, of the Huffington Post.

The way this conference is set up is quite innovative. Keynote speakers get 25 minutes max of speaking time. Arianna was given 15 minutes. One of the things that Arianna said, which is really sticking with me, is that "books are conversation starters." If you think about this, books have always had this innate ability to foster conversation. Think, for example of Jim Frey's much maligned book A Million Little Pieces.

As I think about the fact that what we are facing in the Roman Catholic Church in English-speaking countries worldwide is the release—simply—of a book. The new English translation of the Missale Romanum, perhaps more than any other Catholic "book" published in my own lifetime, will foster conversation. Just think about how much conversation has already been generated, years and years before we even have this "book" in hand. Today's and tomorrow's conversations about this new book will take place on avenues we didn't even have say, five years ago. Just take Tuesdays and Thursdays of this humble blog. These are days that we focus on a conversation about an upcoming book. Unlike the latest piece of fiction or non-fiction, this upcoming book will affect the lives of Roman Catholics for decades to come. No wonder that this book has exhibited that innate ability to foster conversation.

I recall checking Facebook a week or so ago while the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics were occurring in Vancouver. I was nowhere near a television (I was in a small dorm room in a seminary on the grounds of the University of Notre Dame). Yet, checking in on Facebook gave me the opportunity to experience the opening ceremonies through the direct experience of my Facebook friends, as the ceremonies were actually unfolding live. My brother John said something like this: "I am so proud of my French-Canadian heritage tonight." Just imagine what kinds of conversations will be found on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and whatever new kinds of virtual communities will emerge in the next months and years. This is a very exciting time to be a part of the release of  a new "book." Every English-speaking Catholic—unless they are sound asleep—will have something to say about the new translation. Conversations will emerge in small parish groups; over coffee after Mass; in open fields in Tanzania after an outdoor Mass; in the gathering spaces of suburban parishes in the United States and Canada; over breakfasts, lunches, and dinners in Catholic homes around the world, etc., etc., etc.

My guess is that many Catholics will turn to the virtual world to share conversations about this new "book." Everyone wants to have a voice and the internet gives virtually everyone the opportunity to make their own voice heard in the ongoing conversation. As I said, what an exciting time for English-speaking Catholics worldwide. Some would say that this is potentially dangerous. There were times in the past when those in power would try to prevent open conversations about Church issues. Look today at what is happening in Iran, where the current government is attempting to block cellphone and internet access. The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church will need to listen carefully to the conversations that unfold during the implementation of the new translation of the Missale Romanum when it occurs and in the months and years to follow.

Books foster conversation. I want you to know how much I am looking forward to the unfolding of the conversation.

Thanks for listening.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

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