Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Translation Thursday: Renewal

Another "New Translation Thursday" has dawned. Welcome.

Thanks very much for your comments on Tuesday's post.

I want to share with you another comment placed on WLP's survey that is focused on the new translation. If you would like to take the brief survey, click here.

Commenting on how to approach the musical settings, one respondent had this to say:

My original plan was: learn one or perhaps two settings of the new texts, continue to sing what we already know (former text). 

Then I learned that the "extended preparation period" would preclude such a grace period, that the former texts are not to be sung anymore after the new texts are implemented. Fixing that idea in my head, I decided our parish could learn 2 new settings per year for a few years. 

Then a colleague suggested that, unless the archbishop was at my parish, who would know whether we were "grandfathering" in the former texts during an un-sanctioned grace period.

So I'm back to waffling.

If you regularly follow this blog, you know that I have commented on the issues raised in this response several times in the past. I post this particular response because I believe it is where many music leaders find themselves right now as they think about the implementation of the newly translated texts.

I think that the implementation will be uneven at best. Some directors have stated, for instance, that they do not have any intention of changing the current settings of the Sanctus used in their parishes. One person said, "this would be silly and foolish" since the changes are so minor in the new translation. Others are carefully measuring the ways they will phase out the old and phase in the new. Others are searching for cues from their pastors, only to find a certain level of ambivalence. Some are saying that they will deal with it all when it comes to that point when they will be forced to face the issue. Others are chomping at the bit to implement the new translation as soon as they can.

I think it will take several years for English-speaking congregations to finally land on some kind of field of uniformity. Here in the United States, we are more concerned about rules and regulations, for the most part, than in some other English-speaking countries. We are committed to strong catechesis. We have developed some very solid processes and models for adult learning. Our chief problem, of course, will revolve around the fact that what we are teaching, what we are catechizing about, is not something that many people, I believe, will find of any real significant value.

What do I mean? I think, for instance, about my own work in catechesis. I am so passionate about sharing my own relationship with and knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ. I jump up and down when I am teaching people new models for forming others in the image and likeness of Christ. When I stand before a group of elderly parishioners and I talk about the true meaning of their baptism and then find many of them weeping because of the power and difference that sacrament has made in their lives, I am filled with awe. When I catechize every-day Catholics about the many facets of the Eucharist—sacrifice, nourishment, reconciliation—I see eyes and hearts opening in new ways. These core elements of the Catholic sacramental life need to be catechized with passion because these are the elements that make the most difference. I just don't see how the catechesis around a new English translation of the Latin Missale Romanum can engender the same kind of passion. I hope that the new translation is a means to getting people to know what is actually happening at Mass and to grow in their love for the Eucharist and the Eucharistic Lord. But I just don't see the majority of every-day Catholics seeing the value and importance of the new translation, in and of itself, as having an impact on their faith.

Of course, in five years time, I hope that my own intuitions about this are proven wrong. We certainly need Catholics that are committed to the practice of their faith. And there are those who read this blog who have said in direct fashion that the reason why faith is luke-warm today is because of the deficiencies in the current English translation. (By the way, I find this reasoning quite misguided; it's like saying that several generations of English-speaking Catholics have somehow not been able to be touched as deeply by the work of the Holy Spirit as have others in countries where the translation of the Mass was more faithful to the original Latin in grammar, syntax, and word order—somehow suggesting that a translation of liturgical texts can limit our God's love and power just doesn't make sense to me.)

I hope that the new translation will be the catalyst for a renewal of the Catholic Church in the English-speaking world. Might that renewal come about through a period of further and deeper polarization? Quite possibly. Might it come about because there will be people who simply say, "I've had enough with the movements toward centralization of authority and I'm going to work for the recovery of the principle of subsidiarity." Also quite possible. Might that renewal come in the form of a much smaller Roman Catholic Church (at least in the English-speaking world) where those who remain are completely in accord with Rome and do not have an inclination to question Church authority? Might be possible. Or might that renewal come from the baptized and messy and sinful and redeemed mob that we Catholics seem to be?

And what is that renewal exactly? I think this is the heart of the question. And there is an answer to that question for as many as would try to answer it. My answer is firmly rooted in my own parish life, where I encounter the Church every week. Do we at Saint James stray from official liturgical rules sometimes? Yes. Do we sometimes not sing or say the exact words of the texts of the Mass? Yes (see yesterday's post). Are we on the path to discipleship? Yes. Are we feeding the poor? Yes. Is the neighborhood on the near south side of the city of Chicago a better place because Saint James Parish exists? Most definitely. Is this a faith community of welcome and hospitality that seems on fire with the love of the Lord Jesus Christ? Only you can be the judge if you visit us (I certainly think so). Do I feel that my journey from the baptism font to my hopeful place at the heavenly banquet is nourished and strengthened because of the Catholic life of prayer, worship, catechesis, community, and apostolic witness at Saint James? God, I hope so.

That's what I think Catholic renewal is all about. You?

This was a long post today. Thanks for listening and as always . . .

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


peregrinus_sg said...

Hi Jerry,

Considering that even after 40 years of the existing texts (which are way past their best-before-date) there is no uniformity in the US dioceses (with all the self-improvised alterations, whether towards 'archaic' or 'inclusive' languages), much less across the English speaking world, lack of ground uniformity when the new translation is implemented isn't really news, right?

And I appreciate how you try to catechise Catholics on the mysteries of the Faith. The new translation will provide us with words and phrases, drawn from the patrimony of our Faith, to deepen our understanding and living of these mysteries. And people will actually be able to use these words and phrases as part of their corporate prayer and divine worship as well as individual reflection and meditation. That is, I think, how the new Missal translation will contribute greatly to a renewed catechesis.

Different phrases and words found in the new translation will appeal to different people at various stages of their lives. We may never understand/appreciate every turn of phrase/imagery found in the new translation, much less plumb all their richness, and honestly, I don't think that is necessary. But by focussing on what God has gifted us to appreciate and understand, and by remaining within the communion of his Body, the Church, in fidelity, humility and joy, we hope that we will come, at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, into heaven where we will see God face to face as he really is, and all our words will give way to that ceasless hymn of praise which only the angels and saints can sing.

Chironomo said...

Somewhat on the same page as Peregrinus...

There has been no uniformity in the use of the OLD texts for the last 40 years....why would the appearance of a new text change things for those who are not going to follow the prescribed text anyway! And that is really the up and down of it.

Those who faithfully followed the old texts despite their shortcomings will faithfully follow the new texts despite their shortcomings. Those who made it up as they went along will still do so. And that's news?

But I think it's important to remember this: The people "out in the pews" may be divided on this issue...some want the new texts, some don't. And Priests may be divided as well....

But when the Priest makes the decision to go with what HE wants rather than what the CHURCH wants, he has effectively deprived those out in the pews of their right to worship in conformity with the Church. If he (the priest) follows the texts faithfully, he has deprived nobody of anything to which they have a right.

The "we'll just say no anyway" advocates should really think about how that works out in the real world.

Fr John Farley 81506 said...

Perhaps WLP could produce a product which, every week, comments on the eschatological, soteriological, ecclesiological, ontological, cosmological, biblical, patristic, and magisterial content and implications of the new texts for the coming week, than which nothing greater can be conceived?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the pastor refuses to make parishioners pay for things which will just upset the parishioners, and thereby endanger the mission of the parish in its outreach to the poor, its education of the young parish school and RE, and its care of the sick and homebound. Not to mention the diocesan appeal and national collections. DON'T MESS WITH MY RICEBOWL!

Ah, well, maybe Pinky and the Brain are pondering what I am pondering.