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.