Tuesday, August 3, 2010

New Translation Tuesday: Ecclesial and Liturgical

Welcome to this edition of "New Translation Tuesday." I am getting the sense that Tuesdays and Thursdays on this blog are getting to be like "optional memorials." Thanks for your continued interest in these blog posts.

I want to begin today by publicly (at least in a virtual way) expressing my own gratitude to the good people at the Bishops Committee on Divine Worship in Washington. Both Monsignor Tony Sherman and Father Rick Hilgartner (as well as one of my favorite people, Sister Clelia Cecchetti) have always been so helpful to us here at World Library Publications. A word that comes to mind, a word that describes the work of that office, during this whole translation process is "transparent." I believe that the staff at the BCDW envision their work primarily as a real ministry to the people of the United States and beyond. While what is going on in Rome with the still-in-process English translation of the Missale Romanum is veiled in wonder and second-guessing, the people at BCDW have been transparent as they keep the needs of the worshiping community at heart. I just want them to know that at least this Catholic publisher appreciates their communiques, even when there is no news to report. It just helps keep us all in the loop. It also underscores the fact that we are all partners along this journey of a new translation.

While I was in Omaha last week, the Archbishop, George Lucas (picture above), delivered the keynote address to the RCIA teams gathered on Saturday. He did touch on the new English translation and asked the people to approach the entire implementation with the attitude of "reception." While he admitted that there will be many questions and that people will have a heightened sense of anxiety about the new translation, he urged the members of RCIA teams to help people "receive" the new texts with a sound pastoral approach. I was gratified to hear him say that this whole things is much more an ecclesial issue than a liturgical issue when it comes down to it. This is what I have been saying since day one.

Those seeking baptism or reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church will undoubtedly be hearing about the new translation during the initiation process, both from their parish and from various media outlets. Their questions will have little to do with the usual questions that will be surfaced, questions such as, "Why are they changing the texts of the Mass with which I have grown so accustomed?" For them, the implementation—or reception—will will provide a marvelous opportunity for catechesis. This will be a very practical example to show them the ways that a hierarchical institution like the Church actually functions worldwide. Becoming a member of the body of Christ in the Roman Catholic Communion is not the same as becoming a member of the First Church of the Covenant on Main Street in Assonet, Massachusetts. It points to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is not run like the local independent denomination nor like the town or city government. I believe that catechumens and candidates might just be fascinated by the whole new English translation issue. They may ask a legitimate question, such as, "What am I getting myself into here? This is not like anything else on earth!" What a great moment for catechesis! The approach will, obviously, need to be double-pronged, since they, along with everyone else, will need to be taught to sing and pray a new translation.

I am not suggesting that we in initiation ministry "use" the new translation as a moment to teach absolute blind fidelity to the magisterium of the Church. But I do think it provides an opportunity for us to invite catechumens and candidates into an adult discussion about how the Church "works." And I don't believe that we should cut off all their questions. Catholics should—and must—engage in a healthy dialogue about the new translation. Those about to enter the Church should not be shielded from this healthy dialogue. But, in the end, the way we approach them should be the way we approach all in our congregations; with honesty and humility. This is not an easy task for many of us (I count myself among this group). But I still hold that this is a great moment of potential renewal of the liturgy; not a "reform of the reform," but a continuation of the liturgical renewal inaugurated before, during, and after the Second Vatican Council.

Thanks for your comments yesterday. And please, feel free to add your own voice to this discussion by clicking on the comments tab below.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Anonymous said...

I don't think Tues and Thur are optional memorials at all. More like obligatory memorials.
Thanks for your work and example of patience.

Kathy Felong said...

I was at Notre Dame this past month with other musicians and liturgists, all of us working through varied emotions related to this revision of the Roman Missal -- confusion, doubt, fustration, anger, sadness. Our work with Fr. Paul Turner, who has been a witness to some of the grappling over the translation, was illuminating. Yes, there are some clunkers in there (some of which Paul adeptly termed "overtranslations"). But there are some Scriptural gems that have found their way back. And, while it's easy to get riled up over a specific word or phrase in print, speaking the texts yields a different experience -- and praying them 7 times 70 times will yield yet another experience. Jerry, I think you've got it right. We need to separate the ecclesial and liturgical, the Church issues and the prayer. I'm still disturbed by the lack of collegiality that accompanied this change, but I trust that good people (and the Holy Spirit) can guide this to a holy place.

Alan Hommerding said...

A recent liturgist bon mot: "There are three things that last - faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is ... obedience." seems to sum up the liturgical/ecclesial dilemma we can get caught up in.
To piggyback on yesterday's RCIA post, however, this is an opportunity for EVERYONE to be a catechumen about the liturgy, and how its greatest work is to bring us, as the Body of Christ, to an increase in faith, hope, and love.

Anonymous said...

As a new reader to your blog I always find something of interest to reflect on. Today I was surprised to find your reference to a fictitious church, located in my small town of Assonet, MA. There are not that many people who even know we exist. Did you just ramdomly use the name or are you familiar with the area?

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Hello Nancy,
Well you caught me. Your home town is not far from the town where I was born: New Bedford. As kids we always had little impish chuckles when we would drive to New Bedford every other weekend from the Boston area and see the sign that read "Entering Assonet." Don't even know why I used the town's name this morning; just came to me. I was thinking about using Acushnet, but settled on your town. And you don't need me to tell you that you live in a beautiful corner of this country.
A hearty welcome to Gotta Sing Gotta Pray!