Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Translation Thursday: Is the Soil Ready for Planting? Sadly, No.

It's "New Translation Thursday" once again. Thanks for all your spirited comments on Tuesday's blog posting.

Yesterday I had the privilege of driving Father Paul Turner to the airport here in Chicago. He had been giving some talks here in the Chicago area and had stopped by our offices here at WLP. He and I began a brief conversation about the state of catechesis with regard to the upcoming new English translation of the Missale Romanum. I told him about some of my recent experiences with this issue, as I have recounted on the pages of Gotta Sing Gotta Pray. I told him about something I heard just yesterday. The sister-in-law of one of my colleagues here at WLP is a choir member in a suburban Chicago parish. When my colleague asked her about how the parish is preparing for the new translation, the choir member said, "What are you talking about? What new translation?" When my colleague explained the situation, the choir member said, "Give me an example." My colleague said, "Well, instead of the Gloria beginning with the words 'Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth,' the new words will be 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.'" To which the choir member responded, "I'll never be able to sing those words." 

I am sure this choir member will, indeed, prove able to sing these words. The real issue here has to do with the level of awareness about these newly translated texts. When I shared this story, Father Turner wondered, since we have had the texts for at least the Order of Mass for a year and a half, why hasn't there been more widespread catechesis? Paul has been very, very closely involved with the entire translation process through his affiliation with ICEL. 

This got me to wondering. People like Paul Turner and me—people like you—are keenly aware of what has been going on with all of this. Let's admit that this has been for many of us a rather consuming issue for the past several years for a variety of reasons. But what about Jacob and Shirley McGillicuddy, who sit in the ninth row on the left hand side of the main aisle at Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted church? They don't read these kinds of blogs. They don't read their diocesan newspaper. They don't spend time on the internet searching for keywords like "new English translation of the Missal," or "Missale Romanum,", or Liturgiam Authenticam." Some would respond that "their pastor should get on this issue as soon as possible!" Well, what if their pastor is a roving sacramental minister, responsible for six parishes in an area the size of Delaware? What if their pastor simply doesn't want to "deal with all of this?" What if their pastor is so stretched in his ministry that he has honestly said to himself, "Oh, I'll deal with all of this when and if it actually happens."

I believe that this is the reality in many places in the United States, at the very least. And I would venture to say that this is the reality in other English-speaking countries as well. The sad thing is that, for Jacob and Shirley McGillicuddy, the awareness of all of this will most probably be filtered through the media here in the United States. Can you just imagine some of the headlines now? "New Mass divides Catholic Church members." "Tonight at 11:00 Anderson Cooper reports on a new development in the Catholic Church that has parishioners reeling; this is the most troubling issue since the clergy sexual abuse crisis." "Bishop of the diocese invites Catholics to embrace the new words at Catholic services with gratitude and humility; film at 11:00." "Catholics enraged over latest changes in the Church." "Local parish celebrates new Mass with strength and conviction." 

The catechesis on the new English translation of the Missale Romanum cannot be left to the media in this country which, by and large, is just waiting for the next opportunity to take jabs at the Catholic Church, given the media attention that the clergy sexual abuse crisis has generated. 

I want you to know that this is the fundamental reason why I believe that the release of the new translation is ill-timed, and not just here in the United States. Think about the Irish Catholic Church right now, suffering deep, deep pains over the abuse scandal. Church attendance in the Archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts, is said to be somewhere between 18 and 20%. Don't get me wrong. I want us to have texts that clearly and beautifully express our faith. I just don't think that the soil is ready for the planting of this new translation. Yes, there will be places—many, I hope—where the soil will be well prepared for planting. But, in some places, rocks still need to be removed. In others, the weeds have grown too thick. In some places, the soil is so hardened that it is barely penetrable. In other places, the soil has no nutrients. It is painful for me—and some might say unhelpful— as a faith-filled and committed Catholic to say these things, but I truly believe that now is simply not the time. I am not an advocate of the reasons behind the "what-if-we-just-said-wait" movement. However, I am an advocate of a delay given the reasons I have cited above. Some of you will say that there will never be a "right time." My retort: "Is now the 'rightest' of times?"

Will I be proven wrong? I hope so, because, gang, it's coming, and God is God and I am not, thank God. We just need to to everything we can right now to catechize, catechize, catechize. Let the Church do the catechesis, not the likes of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and the Boston Globe.

Thanks for listening. As always, comments welcome.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Liam said...

Some historical perspective may be lacking. The new Gloria translation will jog the memory of those of us who remember the interim postconciliar Missal (capitalizing words that have changed or been added/omitted/modified in the forthcoming translation). Somehow, the Catholic world in the USA managed to learn this very quickly, with virtually no transition period provided. There is no set date for implementation yet: it may be Advent 2012 for all we know.

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to MEN of good will.
We praise you,
we bless you,
we WORSHIP you, [note the switch in RM3 to a Latinate cognate]
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory.
Lord God, heavenly King,

Lord Jesus Christ, THE Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
Son of the Father.
You, WHO take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.
You, WHO take away the sins of the world,
receive our prayer.
You, WHO are seated at the right hand of the Father,
have mercy on us.

For you alone are HOLY.
You alone are LORD.
You alone, O Jesus Christ, ARE MOST HIGH.

With the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Folks, I received the following comment this morning. The writer asked to remain anonymous:

I read your blog this morning as I do every morning—thank you so much. I am not a writer so excuse my ramblings here. But today's GSGP REALLY hit home. I have been worrying about this very thing for as long as I have been aware of the new translation. I think the bottom line is that catechesis is sorely lacking in our church about everything! I think some of our priests are tired, bored, lazy, ill-informed, overwhelmed, too busy doing the work of 3 guys "by myself," poorly led by the bishops, poorly communicated with, poor communicators themselves, or some combination of the above. It is a sad state of affairs in our church and I really feel for the guys on the front lines. I went to seminary myself and some of my friends are still priests. I went to a reunion not that long ago; some of the priests were only vaguely familiar with the new translations. "Yea I have heard about them but that’s really gonna be a thing for you musicians" or "Our bishop doesn't really tell us anything; is it really gonna happen?"

A friend of mine in rural upstate New York (a fellow pastoral musician) wrote me recently very upset because her pastor told her he was not going to make the changes when they came. She asked me what is she supposed to do when people like NPM and the industry folks like you tell her that this is coming and we need to be teaching our folks, and then the pastor says he won't do it. I told her to do what I am doing—PRAY!

I hope we are wrong and that the Bishops will REALLY get behind this.
Thanks Jerry for your work in this & thanks for listening to the rants of a frustrated musician - however poorly stated.

Anonymous said...

The farmer knows that spring is time for planting. Spring comes no matter what else is happening, and the wise farmer has the soil ready for the arrival of the seeds. The Church has been waiting 21 years for these translation seeds, and it is not even definite that they will arrive next year. What farmer would prepare the soil year after year when nothing has been delivered? It is not surprising that many are waiting for delivery of the seeds before getting out the tractor this time.

Liam said...

It would also help remember that many American Catholics work at jobs that are so soul- and/or body-crushing that they are not likely to have a lot of sympathy with clerics and lay ministers who fret or whine too openly and too long about having to undertake this task; such fretting and whining will strike them as a sign of privilege, and incur some resentment. I don't think denial is the solution, but every person charged with this task has a choice whether to choose hope or not. Those who chose anxiety will find anxiety (behavioral studies bear this out in spades); those who choose hope will end up being more empowering for those they serve.

The Internet is an imprudent place to air anxiety out for long, as it begets more of itself.

Anonymous said...

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 really think that most Catholics, those who sit in the ninth row on the left hand side of the main aisle, will obediently, and perhaps enthusiastically, adapt. After a couple of months, we'll wonder what all the anxiety was about.

And, with all due respect, I'm concerned that your expressed reservations about the timing will inevitably get absorbed by those to whom you speak, and heighten the anxiety.

Gotta wholeheartedly agree with your emphasis on catechesis. In the Diocese of Columbus, the Catholic Times diocesan paper has been running columns for the last few months, and I have heard Bishop Campbell address the translation (with very favorable reactions) in at least one talk, and in his weekly Q&A call-in radio show.

To quote the title of another blog on this topic, "We've Waited Long Enough!"

Gotta sing, gotta pray the Mass as the Church asks!

Chironomo said...

There is a close analogy to those Priests who have undertaken introducing Latin into the liturgy these last few years. There is a general view that such a move is bound to be "widely opposed" by the folks in the pews and that it would be "divisive". However, when properly implemented, the evidence bears out that congregations accept it readily and enthusiastically as a whole.

Sing to The Lord uses quite strong language in saying:

Each worshiping community in the United States, including all age groups and all
ethnic groups, should, at a minimum, learn Kyrie XVI, Sanctus XVIII, and Agnus Dei XVIII, all of
which are typically included in congregational worship aids. More difficult chants, such as
Gloria VIII and settings of the Credo and Pater Noster, might be learned after the easier chants
have been mastered.

Following this directive will be difficult...they acknowledge as much in the following paragraph. The only difference between this and the difficulties presented by the new translation is that most clergy feel free to ignore the USCCB directives in Sing to The Lord, but know that they will be unable to ignore the new translation. It's going to take a level of commitment and attention to liturgy that hasn't been present in quite a while.

Gregg said...

Chironomo- are you able to back up your "evidence"? What studies are available? Please share.

CHarles said...

It seems a little premature for such handwringing. The translation is still more than a year away, and the preparation for catechesis is underway. Numerous written materials are being and have been prepared by USCCB, Leeds group, Notre Dame, etc. These will be available at various websites and for parish bulletins and the like. The workshops planned for the priests and music leaders should kick off nicely, and those leaders will then presumably catechize parishioners afterwards over the course of the year prior to implementation. The people's parts, which after all is all that the congregation is directly responsible for, can be set forth on four photocopied pages max, and the changes thereto are not overwhelming -- a lot of the wording will stay the same. I don't think the changes should be too difficult for people to absorb. What is required is good will, which should come if a pastor honestly goes through the reasons and nature of the changes over the year prior to implementation. I'm actually more worried about the resistance of uncooperative priests than the laity. I'm sure our young pastor and our choirmaster/organist will enthusiastically take up the challenge of the new translation. The pastor has already introduced the extraordinary form once per week on a weekday this lent, to much seeming success, so I'm sure the new translation will not be a problem for our parish. And this from a parish in the heart of the Boston area Catholic wasteland to which you refer.

Frajm said...

At St. Joseph Church in Macon, Ga, we've (I've!) been catechizing about this for about five years. But I fear no other parish in the Diocese of Savannah as done anything to inform parishioners about the impending changes. Some clerics and laity think it won't happen. Beginning two months ago, we eliminated the English dialogues to the Lord be with you, the preface dialogue and the Pax Domini. We have begun singing until Advent of 2011, these part and also the Sanctus. In late Easter we'll begin singing the Latin Gloria in the People's Mass Book. I gave a two week catechesis at all Masses during the homily on why were doing this and have directed them to the NCCB's website with the translations they can view and study.The website address is permanently printed in our bulletin. We've had newsletter articles on it for the last two years.
We've taught our chidren in our elementary school to sing and say the Latin at their Masses and they do so with gusto! Had a meeting with parents and second graders preparing for First Penance and began my opening prayer with "Dominus Vobiscum" and the second graders, much to their parent's astonishment, shouted back, "Et cum spiritu tuo!" So everyone here knows that the new English is coming in Advent of 2011, that we're doing the Latin until then. Those who don't like Latin have adjusted already in two months and everyone is looking forward to the new English with baited breath!

Anonymous said...


My personal opinion is that no such "study" would ever be undertaken for fear of what it would reveal. I am basing my conclusion on the success of parishes where a determined pastor has undertaken to restore Latin in the liturgy. Similar to the scenes related by "Frajm" above, the excellent talk given by Fr. Keyes at last year's Colloquium in Chicago details not a story of complaint and misery, but one of a parish embracing tradition. And in California at that...

In my own parish, we are gradually doing so...without any complaints. My experience in parish music has taught me at least that people will sing that which they feel it is important to sing. If that is a Latin "Sanctus" they will sing it without question.


Rev. Gene Vavrick, Diocese of Trenton said...

Jerry, I think that you have really been spot-on in your analysis of the current situation in the US. Professional liturgists like you and I, as well as members of FDLC, NPM, NAAL, etc., are aware of the upcoming changes in the translations.

However, "Mrs. Murphy" in the back pew has no clue about what's coming down the pike.

I often hear people complain that there was "absolutely no catechesis" offered when the Mass was translated into the vernacular in the 1960's. I hear many complaints from priests who were formed in the "Tridentine" rite who had to implement the "New" mass of Paul VI.

I really appreciate your analysis of the state of the Church in the US, Ireland, Germany today: we are all still dealing with the stress of the realization of the terrible impact the clergy sexual abuse scandal has befallen us.

As a pastor, I struggle with the issue of credibility in today's Catholic Church. I know that the issue of the credibility of the Bishops of the Church is deeply questioned by everyday, educated Catholics. I know priests have very little trust in the Bishops. I constantly hear my parishioners say they don't want to give any money to the Diocese or to the Bishop, but they do want to support local projects.

We're facing a real issue of parishes moving toward congregationalism. I've brought this up at national meetings of the FDLC and NPM, and the Bishops present think I'm overreacting. I hope I am. However, I suspect my experience is like a lot of other pastors.

I fear that this new translation will NOT BE RECEIVED in the U.S.

This may prove to be a bigger project of "non-reception of Church teaching" than the reaction to "Humane Vitae" in 1968! We're all aware of the stats of how modern, faithful American Catholic families have just ignored the official ban on "artificial means of contraception."

What do Bishops think they'll do when they find out one of their pastors is not using the new translation? Will they fire that pastor? Remove his faculties? Excommunicate him?

Jerry, I think you're right on target. Keep singing, keep praying! Come to Jersey!