Friday, March 12, 2010

Let's Watch Our Language

It's a warm and sunny Friday morning here in Chicago. I hope that wherever you are, your day has dawned as brightly and as warmly as this day has dawned here.

Thanks to all of you who have posted comments over the last few days. You know, being a regular blogger is sometimes difficult. I want to be able to share my own perspectives with those who visit these pages and sometimes, like yesterday, I can sound "down on the Church" or a "seer of doom." These are difficult times for the Roman Catholic Church. One of the commentators in the last few days expressed the hope that our newly translated texts would address the growing problems in the Church, using these words:

Gotta disagree about the timing, Jerry. I fervently believe that, with all the troubles in the Catholic world, we desperately need these stronger, more uplifting prayers. Who knows if things two or three or five years from now might not be even worse! What better way to jar some folks out of their complacency than to force them to learn better prayers at Mass.

I need to be honest here and ask those who espouse this commentator's views if you think it is helpful to use the kind of language used here: "force them to learn better prayers at Mass." Seems to me that this kind of language and the approach that undergirds the language is quite similar to what has occurred in the past (and in the present, as well). I don't mean to sound like a broken record here, but take the ever-unfolding clergy sexual abuse crisis as an example. The employment of language that includes a phrase like "force them" is consistent with the language of abuse. Let's be cautious with our words. Let me also say that I share this commentator's sentiment about the power of "stronger, more uplifting prayers." It remains my hope that the liturgy's prayers continue to change the hearts and minds of believers; I just hope that the people in the pews find the new translation to be stronger and more uplifting.

Time will tell.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and that your celebration of the Fourth Sunday of Lent brings you closer to the Lord.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


no1 said...

"stronger, more uplifting prayers."

It seems to me that words like "stronger" and "more uplifting" are in the ears of the hearers.
I find the current prayers that are prayed at liturgy are very strong and uplifting - just saying that these kinds of judgments can be pretty subjective.
Jerry, I tend to agree with you about the timing of this - I have heard (in my little corner of the world) many of the same comments that you have heard. And also things like, "Why doesn't the church concentrate it's energies on living the gospel message, rather than trying to conform it's English speaking prayer to Latin?" And "Why is this mass (pun intended!!) confusion necessary"
And some of these comments (and more) come from the very people who will be charged with implementing these changes. So even if they decide to do the catechesis, there will be little enthusiasm in it.

Chironomo said...

"Why doesn't the church concentrate it's energies on living the gospel message, rather than trying to conform it's English speaking prayer to Latin?"

Can it not do both at once, perhaps even more? To reduce the Church to little more than caring for the poor and a vague sense of "living the Gospel message" is to really sell short the Catholic Church. These are certainly great aspirations, and are most certainly a part of our faith.

But I (and I will assume others) get tired of hearing the same old "until we do X, we have no business worrying about Y" can fill in the variables with any social concern replacing X and any traditional liturgical concern replacing Y as you see fit. The fact is, we are a liturgical Church, and there are particular practices and traditions that are an integral and necessary part of that faith. It is through these practices that we are nourished and given strength to DO the things that are asked of us. Some Catholics are OK with very loosely structured rituals to accomplish this. Others believe that the rituals handed down to us over the Church's history are more suitable to this purpose.

Those actions...caring for the the Gospel message....are things that WE are supposed to do, not the Church. The Church is there to give us the grace to go out and do those things as part of our lives, not do them for us or organize us into some kind of faith centered social agency.

Just today, Pope Benedict made a very strong statement about the role of priests in the life of the Church, warning against the all-too-familiar perception of Priests as Social Workers, a view derived from the perception of the Church as a "social agency". In the same statement, he continued on about the relationship of Priests,the Church and tradition saying:

"Just as the hermeneutic of continuity is revealing itself to be ever more important for an adequate understanding of the texts of Vatican Council II, in the same way we see the need for a hermeneutic we could describe as 'of priestly continuity', one which, starting from Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ, and over the two thousand years of history, greatness, sanctity, culture and piety which the Priesthood has given the world, comes down to our own day".

To tie this back to my original seems that "living the Gospel message" depends a great deal on the Church which Christ established to accomplish that task. The faith of that Church is contained and expressed in those texts which we pray. They are not there simply to be "inspirational" or "uplifting"...they are there to pass on that faith that was given us by Christ and which is, in fact, the Church herself. I, and many others, see the new translation as a considerable step towards a greater sense of fidelity to the actual texts of the Mass. There is really no need to wait until we have solved the problems of the world to begin solving the problems of the Church...

Anonymous said...

I think "force" might be an unfortunate choice of words, but perhaps "mandate" or "require" could be used here. Let's face it....if the use of the new texts wasn't "required", there would be much greater confusion than there is now.

Also keep in can't be forced to do something that you will do willingly...

Anonymous said...

Okay, I wish I had chosen a word other than "forced". But really, does everything need to be viewed in some relationship to the sex abuse scandal?

Chironomo is right on. The Church - all of us - is certainly big enough, talented enough, and filled with enough grace that she can "multi-task", don't you think? Indeed, the point I tried to make, and that Chironomo says more clearly, is that the improved prayers - and they ARE improved - will better fortify us for the struggles in the world in which we live.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

FJH3rd, have you seen today's news coming out of the German Catholic Church? I think the answer to your question in your first paragraph is, at least for now, and unfortunately, "yes."

John Black said...

I do believe that the new translation brings a needed, structural strengthening through the reconnection with our prayer and ritual roots. I look forward to the recognitio and hope for the Advent 2011 implementation. With our society's attention focused on ever-more-concise information, we do need to word our statements carefully to avoid misrepresenting our goals. People--for various reasons--don't seek out full dialogue on issues. There will be a resistance to this change, as with any, so we bear the responsibility of presenting the positives carefully in the few opportunities we will have.

Anonymous said...


I think the fact that the media connects everything to the sex-abuse scandal is quite a different thing from the question of whether or not WE need to make those connections. Should we really play into the media's rather successful efforts to defile the Catholic Church?

Not trying to be funny, but there was the rather prominent contemporary Catholic music composer in North Carolina arrested on child-porn charges....should we now put all future contemporary music on hold until we can resolve this scandal? Just asking...