Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: Obedience School?

Welcome to this installment of "New Translation Tuesday."

As many of you know, I am a "spinner." Three or four days a week, I am in a spinning class at the gym. This means that around 6:00 A.M. I begin the day in a dark room, on a stationary bicycle and, urged on by a trainer, spin the big wheel on the bike for 50 minutes. I described the experience on one of my posts last year. Here's the link. During the class, I usually pray the rosary, remembering those who are most in need. I go through my prayer list. For a few years now, I have been praying for the wife of a colleague here at WLP. Judy Novak, wife of WLP's own Michael Novak, lived with cancer for the last several years. Judy passed away ten days ago. Many of us attended a wake service for Judy on Friday night. Our hearts ached for Mike and his children.

When I got on the spin bike yesterday morning, I began my prayers and Judy immediately came to mind. I told Mike yesterday how frustrated it felt to have prayed for healing for Judy for so long. Mike simply looked at me and said, "Your prayers were answered." I wish I had that depth of faith. Mike's comment reminded me of a prayer we pray often at funerals: "Dispel the doubt that comes from grief."

This got me to thinking about the new English translation of the Missale Romanum. As many have said, the Mass itself is not changing; it is the translation of the texts that is changing. At the celebration of Mass on Sundays, it is God who is constantly at work on us, through the person of the Risen Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit. At Mass, God wants to work a miracle of transformation in each one of us. I know that there will be a period of time when I will stumble through many of the prayers, forgetting to say or sing "And with your Spirit," and feeling embarrassed when I slip into "And also with you." It's just my nature, but I know that I will be listening to opening prayers, prayers over the gifts, prayers after communion, and the eucharistic prayers with a critical ear. I'll enter into conversations with people, many of whom will lament the awkwardness of the new translation. There will be moments when all will agree that there are inspiring phrases in the new translation. It worries me that I will remain in this kind of critical stage for too long. Folks, I need the grace that God pours out at Mass. Life is too short and there are too many people suffering. The liturgy is, first of all, God's work. I don't want my critical methodologies to set up a wall around me, nor around my community of faith.

Sure, there will be a time of transition, a period of liminality. It will just be natural for many of us to get all worked up about the new translation. And, if the newly translated texts become a wall of impenetrability—if they truly become a block that prevents God's action in the liturgy from reaching our hearts and minds—we will need to speak up; we will need to talk with our pastors and bishops about this. The hope, of course, is that, in time, the newly translated texts will be assimilated into our "Catholic DNA." I don't know; I don't have any direct experience to which I can refer. I want to be honest. I want to be an adult with a brain and a heart. I don't want to be like a little dog at obedience school: "OK, Jerry boy, roll over; play dead; go fetch the toy; give me your paw; don't chase that cat."

I want to enter this very exciting and challenging time with all my senses at the ready. Why? Because I cannot go for an extended period of time without my faith being deeply nourished at Mass. There will be times in the coming years when I will be faced with the kind of things that Mike Novak and his family have faced in these last few years. I need to be open to whatever work God has planned on my own heart and mind. This is at the core of what it means to be Catholic, at least for me.

The prayer that I am praying these days comes from Psalm 95:

"If today you hear God's voice, harden not your heart."

I am praying very hard that I will, indeed, hear God's voice when newly translated texts are prayed. Please keep this servant in your own prayer.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

No comments: