Monday, July 26, 2010

What Will the New Translation Ask of Presiders?

Happy Monday to you all. I returned from Notre Dame on Friday evening, after having attended the concert given by the SummerSong students. All of the music was chant-based, and was quite lovely. With only two rehearsals, they did remarkably well. There were a couple of "this must be what heaven sounds like" moments, which fed my soul immeasurably. Thanks you SummerSong!

I have received and accepted an invitation to speak with a small group of priests in a diocese here in the Midwest. These priests meet regularly and, for the past few years, have been discussing the new English translation of the Missal. The priest who issued the invitation told me that these priests are now ready to move beyond the complaining stage regarding the new translation and to something more constructive. He said this, "Questions similar to these are the ones we are asking: What do we need to do to 'get on board?' What will this new translation ask of us as presiders? Is it asking for something different than we are offering now as presiders?"

I find the last two questions to be quite intriguing, especially the final one. Does the new translation ask something different of presiders? Of course, the simple answer here is no. One who presides at Mass is asked simply to use all of his gifts to pray the prayers, chant the chants, sing the hymns, proclaim the word, preach the word, lead the congregation—all of these elements and more—in as effective a way as possible. In all of these things, he is also asked to exhibit a certain kind of transparency, so that we in the congregation will experience the presence of Christ through him.

Perhaps the "something different" has to with a recapturing of the sense of the way a priest celebrates the Mass, the ars celebrandi.

My heart is filled with joy and hope that priests are asking these kinds of questions. I heard a priest a few years ago at my parish. He was an elderly Benedictine. When he invited us to pray at the Opening Prayer, he bowed his head in silence, and we followed his cue. When he began the prayer, I felt as if he were giving birth to the words. He prayed with such intensity and conveyed the meaning of the text so beautifully. I have not forgotten that Mass. A return to paying closer attention to the ars celebrandi could perhaps be one of the great gifts of the new translation. Unfortunately, some of the prayers will be quite difficult to proclaim; looks like the structure might inhibit the meaning from being communicated. Of course, we will need to see all these prayers before making this kind of judgment. I think the fact is that priests will need to work much, much harder with these texts. That is a good thing.

So, faithful readers, how would you answer the question these priests pose: "Is it (the new translation) asking for something different than we are offering now as presiders?"

Please feel free to comment. And for those of you new to this blog, a thousand welcomes!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


jdonliturgy said...

While I agree with you that the new translation will, just like the current one, simply ask for the best a priest can give, judging from what I have seen, they had better start recruiting more students of pre-20th century English literature into the priesthood... or providing courses on Ciceronian oratory. :-)

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Thanks for the comment; so much of this is "we shall see."